The “New Perspective on Paul” Misconstrues Paul: Richard N. Longenecker’s New Greek Commentary on Romans

NPP Reading No.2

Related posts:

Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and New Perspective on Paul. Part 1/2
Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul”. Part 1/2

Richard N. Longenecker’s just published The Epistle to the Romans: A Commentary on the Greek Text in the New International Greek Testament Commentary Series (NIGTC) is the crowning achievement of the lifelong scholarship of an expert in Paul and Early Judaism. It is presently THE new standard Greek Commentary on Romans. Longenecker’s evaluation of the controversial New Perspective on Paul (NPP) demands careful consideration.
Summary. We must, therefore, conclude that “the new perspective on Paul” – despite its laudatory motivations, some very significant observations, and a fairly wide acceptance of that view today – actually misconstrues Paul’s use of the phrase “works of the law” and somewhat distorts his attitudes toward compatriot Jews and first-century Palestinian Judaism. For in its endeavors to highlight certain positive features within the “nomism” of ancient Judaism, it is somewhat blind to the “legalism” that was also present (as it is, sadly, in every religion, both ancient and modern). And in its attempt to restrict the definition of “works of the law” only to matters regarding prideful nationalism and cultural prejudice and thereby to minimize any connotation of “legalism,” it has run a bit roughshod over Paul’s argument in Rom 2:17-3:20. Continue reading “The “New Perspective on Paul” Misconstrues Paul: Richard N. Longenecker’s New Greek Commentary on Romans”

Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul”. Part 2/2

To read: Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul” Part 1/2 LINK

NPP Reading No.1

Was Paul a Covenantal Nomist?

An Evaluation of Sanders’s “Covenantal Nomism” by Peter O’Brien

Sanders found a common pattern in his treatment of Palestinian Judaism which he labeled “covenantal nomism.” He summarized it as follows:

The “pattern” or structure” of covenantal nomism is this: (1) God has chosen Israel and (2) given the  law. The law implies both (3) God’s promise to maintain the election and (4) the requirement to obey. (5) God rewards obedience and punishes transgression. (6) The law provides for means of atonement, and atonement results in (7) maintenance or re-establishment of the covenantal relationship. (8) All those who are maintained in the covenant by obedience, atonement and God’s mercy belong to the group which will be saved. An important interpretation of the first and last points is that election and ultimately salvation are considered to be by God’s mercy rather than human achievement.

Continue reading “Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul”. Part 2/2″

Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul”. Part 1/2

It is arguable that the most significant, but controversial development in New Testament studies in the last 30 years is the “New Perspective on Paul (NPP)” that is forcefully promoted by articulate scholars like E.P. Sanders, James Dunn and N.T. Wright.


The NPP represents a paradigm shift from the traditional view on the Apostle Paul inherited from Reformers like Luther and Calvin, who understood Paul’s epistles to be polemics against the legalism or work-righteousness oriented religion of Judaism of his times (variously described as 2nd Temple, Palestinian or NT Judaism). E.P. Sanders’ landmark book, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Fortress Press 1977), asserts that in reality Paul was in substantial agreement with Palestinian Judaism on the close relation between grace and work for salvation: “On the point at which many have found the decisive contrast between Paul and Judaism – grace and works – Paul is in agreement with Palestinian Judaism… Salvation is by grace but judgment is according to works’…God saves by grace, but… within the framework established by grace he rewards good deeds and punishes transgression” (p. 543). That is to say, Paul was not disputing with Palestinian Judaism which should more accurately be described as “covenantal nomism” – “the view that one’s place in God’s plan is established on the basis of the covenant and that the covenant requires as the proper response of man his obedience to its commandments, while providing means of atonement for transgression” (75). Continue reading “Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul”. Part 1/2″