Paul and Justification by Faith: The Real Jewish Evidence

The New Perspective on Paul (NPP) has argued that Paul didn’t really disagree with Judaism in terms of what it meant to be justified by God, but rather disagreed on whether Gentiles were included in that justification. NPPers have charged the ‘old perspective’ folks (viz., the Reformers) with misreading the Judaism of Paul’s day.

At the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Milwaukee last November, I heard a very stimulating paper by Preston Sprinkle (a recent PhD grad from Aberdeen) contesting this view. Entitled, “Way Outside the Box: Why Paul’s Doctrine of Justification Was Risky, Offensive, and Unparalleled in Early Judaism,” Sprinkle argued, like his title suggests, that “Paul’s assertion that ‘God justifies the wicked’ would have been seen as risky, offensive, and is actually unparalleled in the world of early Judaism—yes, even among the Dead Sea Scrolls.” What a bold statement! He backs it up with some impressive evidence, too.

The paper that Sprinkle read is part of his forthcoming book, Paul and Judaism Revisited: A Study in Divine and Human Agency (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013).

Among his many points, Sprinkle notes that in the OT God did not justify wicked people, citing, inter alia, Exod 23.7 and Isa 5.23. In my class on the exegesis of Romans, which I have taught at Dallas Seminary for the past seven years, I have argued that these two texts are key to Paul’s thinking and that the Jews of his day would have realized this. Exodus 23.7 clearly involves legal language. It is this language which lies behind Paul’s points in Rom 3.23–24 and 4.4–5. In v. 7 we see δικαιόω used with ἀσεβής: ‘you shall not justify the ungodly for a bribe’ (οὐ δικαιώσεις τὸν ἀσεβῆ ἕνεκεν δώρων). This can only mean ‘you shall not declare innocent the ungodly for a bribe.’ Three things are significant here: (1) δικαιόω means, in this legal context, ‘declare righteous/innocent’; it does not mean ‘make righteous.’ (2) The person who might be declared innocent is in fact guilty (ἀσεβῆ), precisely the situation we have in Rom 3:23–24. (3) The word for bribe is δῶρον, a cognate of δωρεάν found in Rom 3:24. It would of course not do for Paul to say that God declares sinners righteous ‘for a bribe,’ so an appropriate substitute is needed—one that is a cognate of δῶρον, but does not use ἕνεκεν or imply anything except that God acts freely when he justifies sinners. δωρεάν is the accusative singular of δωρεά; as such, it is adverbial (always so in the NT) and means ‘freely.’ It is not insignificant that we again see in the LXX of Isa 5.23 the collocation of δικαιόω with ἀσεβής and δῶρον. And again, we see that δικαιόω must almost surely mean ‘declare innocent’ since the pronouncement is made on the ungodly who do not deserve it.

Sprinkle does not develop the points of contact between these two OT passages and Romans, but he does bring in other significant texts from Second Temple Judaism to show that the OT view has continuity into the time of Paul. In particular, he interacts with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Among the texts he discusses are CD 1.18–21; 4.6–7 (the Damascus Document), 4QMMT 26–32 (the Halakhic Letter), and 1QS 10–11 (Community Rule). It is this latter passage that is sometimes seen as in line with Paul’s view of justification. Sprinkle gives a penetrating analysis of the text, noting major differences that have been overlooked. In particular, Paul focuses on initial justification while 1QS focuses on final justification. It is a point not to be missed. Sprinkle began the section on 1QS by asking, “does Qumran anywhere affirm that God’s initial declaration of righteousness is unilateral—based on no measure of human goodness, obedience, or godly potential?” He answers with a resounding no.

In the conclusion to Sprinkle’s paper he states plainly: “The assertion that ‘Paul’s doctrine has exactly the same shape as that of MMT’ or other documents from Qumran, as N.T. Wright thinks, simply cannot be sustained.”

It will be interesting to see the responses to Sprinkle’s forthcoming book. The debate will surely continue for some time. Meanwhile, N. T. Wright is busy producing yet another work on Paul’s understanding of justification (Paul and the Faithfulness of God). Whether evangelicals need to jettison the old perspective on Paul in toto, as if the Reformation got it all wrong as Wright seems to affirm, is still an open question for many. But Sprinkle’s treatment of the Jewish materials will surely have to be wrestled with. Perhaps Luther and the Reformers got it right after all.

48 thoughts on “Paul and Justification by Faith: The Real Jewish Evidence

  1. Thanks for the compliments, Dan! I hadn’t noticed the connection with δῶρον. And just to add–as you know from my paper–that CD 4:6-7 (Damascus Document) explicitly says, in a soteriological context, that God does NOT justify the ungodly. It seems that Paul’s statement to the contrary in Romans 4 was just as radical as Luther thought.


  2. Indeed NT Wright, has been “wrong” for quite some time on this subject, in both his suppositions and presuppositions. A great mind, but profoundly missing the real Pauline revelation of the doctrine of God, in both Law & Gospel! Here both Luther and Calvin, as the top-tier Reformers simply had the high ground Law/Gospel in Faith! And here the theological-biblical shape of Sola Scriptura came forth.


  3. I’m not sure about that NP myself, I am at the moment looking into it, do have my doubts about it for sure but it does have this going for it its leading me to Eastern Orthodoxy or rather confirming the EOC is the right path for me! I’ve been learning about EOy for the last year now and i’ve found that the EOC never took on “Original Sin” as dogma nor did they go the way of scholasticism nor did they take Thomism or Anselm into their theology, it’s funny because they kinda say the same thing as the NP do, namely that RC and the reformation are both two sides of the same coin, so I think that the NP are onto something although a bit misguided.


  4. the covering for the ark of the covenant known as the propitiatory, or place of atonement (the place where the High Priest would sprinkle the blood on the day of atonement). There it has the article on it for stress—Jesus is the mercy seat. But the context in Romans sufficiently expresses the means of propitiation as the point (and this is the only place Paul uses the word). So the idea in Romans focuses on the act (but one can hardly ignore its connections to Israel’s mercy seat where the blood was applied). There is some debate about the meaning of the word; but it seems to include both ideas of expiation (the removal of sin) and propitiation (the averting of wrath). Although there was the wrath of God against sin, it was also God in His love who took the initative against it. So the Greek term captures both the idea of appeasement of God’s wrath, and the expiation of sin. By this death there is satisfaction of God’s justice and holiness. The holiness of God is preserved by the need for propitiation; the love of God is revealed by the provision.


  5. Thanks for sharing this, Dan. I’ve heard that Wright’s book on Paul has now multiplied into 3 (!) volumes.

    Also, don’t forget Prov 17.15 which says, “He who justifies the wicked (ὃς δίκαιον κρίνει τὸν ἄδικον) and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.” It’s not as close verbally as Exod 23.7 and Isa 5.23 but its in the same realm of thought.


  6. Dr. Wallace,

    You wrote:

    ” It would of course not do for Paul to say that God declares sinners righteous ‘for a bribe,’ so an appropriate substitute is needed—one that is a cognate of δῶρον, but does not use ἕνεκεν or imply anything except that God acts freely when he justifies sinners. δωρεάν is the accusative singular of δωρεά; as such, it is adverbial (always so in the NT) and means ‘freely.’ It is not insignificant that we again see in the LXX of Isa 5.23 the collocation of δικαιόω with ἀσεβής and δῶρον. And again, we see that δικαιόω must almost surely mean ‘declare innocent’ since the pronouncement is made on the ungodly who do not deserve it.”

    The first sentence presupposes that God does not take bribes. I agree. But in light of your concluding surmise (“Perhaps Luther and the Reformers got it right after all”), it seems relevant to note that neither does God tell lies. I do not raise this point of theology by way of disagreeing with the point that God justifies the wicked by his free forgiveness and acquittal. Of course he does. Rather, I want to suggest that interpreters ought to consider whether God’s declarative word, as distinct from the legal declarations of human judges, is also creative, such that the divine declaration of righteous corresponds to reality; i.e., God’s speech-act is not merely forensic, it is also, after the pattern of Genesis 1, creative. If it is, then it would seem to oppose “making righteous” and “declaring righteous” would be a false dilemma, in cases where it is God who justifies.

    I recognize that you were responding to NT Wright, whereas I am (pretty obviously) coming from a Catholic point of view. In any event, since you seemed to invoke theology proper as an exegetical criterion in the quote above, I would be interested in your take on my attempt to the same, re declaring righteous.

    (BTW, We used your Greek text books in seminary, and I still reference them a lot, along with reading this blog. I am very grateful for your work.)



    1. Andrew, you raise some good points. I think that Paul’s view of justification, however, is that God declares the ungodly to be righteous (this is clearly the case when you see how indebted Paul is to Exod 23.7 and Isa 5.23 in the sense that ‘to justify’ is ‘to declare innocent.’ That justification, which initially is forensic, is eschatologically creative (as you say). God declares believers righteous now, but will make them righteous in the eschaton.

      Further, Paul is not saying that God is a liar, nor am I. Rather, it is not that God has changed his ways ex nihilo, but rather that through Christ’s vicarious atonement God can now accept sinners into his presence.


      1. Andrew Preslar

        Dr. Wallace,

        Thanks for the reply. I think that the disagreement between Catholics and Protestants on justification has something to do with what constitutes the “truth-maker” for the divine declaration: “This person is just.” Even here, I don’t think that we wholly disagree, and certainly no one wants to imply that God is not being truthful. I wanted to suggest the possibility that a declaring can also be at the same time a making, especially when God is the one declaring. Granted this possibility, to know that an action is declarative/forensic would not suffice for knowing that that same act is not creative/factitive.



  7. Andrew Preslar

    A quick follow-up point, regarding God’s declaration that the ungodly person is godly/righteous: It is certainly true that God justifies the ungodly, but this does not necessarily entail the Lutheran interpretation of justification, because there are at least two possible ways to interpret the phrase, “justifies the ungodly.” One interpretation is that God justifies the ungodly such that they remain ungodly (simul iustus et peccator). Another interpretation is that God justifies the ungodly such that they become, by justification, godly. (This would be analogous to the way that a parent gives a dirty child a bath.) This leads back to the forensic /factitive question. If, as I have argued, a factitive interpretation of justification cannot be ruled out merely by noting the forensic dimension, then it is possible to understand “justifies the ungodly” in a factitive manner; i.e., God justifies the ungodly by making them godly (washing away the dirt of sin), while at the same time embracing the forensic aspect of justification (forgiveness, acquittal, adoption).


    1. In theory, your view could work. But it runs into major snags in Rom 3.21-26, especially vv. 23-24: While we are falling short of the glory of God, we are justified. And Paul’s whole point about initial justification is that there is this strong forensic element in which our status changes before our state does. His argument for assurance of salvation is based on this, too.


      1. Andrew Preslar

        Fair enough. I agree about the strong forensic element and the change of status in initial justification, but I think that this is simultaneous with a factitive, inward change of condition. (Its sort of like taking a fish out of water–that would be very unfitting and even cruel if one did not also give the fish the means to breath the air of its new country.) And I do think that my factitive view of justification works pretty well with Romans 3:23-24, since on this view we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (the problem) and it is precisely by being justified freely by grace through the redemption that is in Christ (the solution) that our sins are washed away (inclusive of, but not reducible to, forgiveness and acquittal) and we begin to participate in the divine glory.

        Although I agree with the point that Paul’s doctrine of the justification of the ungodly was, at least at critical points, “risky, offensive, and unparalleled in early Judaism,” I think that we might disagree about exactly what is scandalous and surprising (for first-century Jews) about the justification of the ungodly, at least with respect to the argument being made in Romans (and maybe Galatians). On this point, I think that some of what Wright (et al) has to say is helpful, e.g., for making sense of Romans 3:27-30.


      2. Andrew, you make some good points. I wish I had time for more interaction but this will have to do. First, you mentioned Rom 3.23 as though it said that we all have fallen short. But the point I was making is that Paul puts this in the present tense: “we all are falling short.” And that state is juxtaposed with the present participle δικαιούμενοι in the next verse. Thus, while we are falling short we are being justified. The only condition that Paul lays down as necessary for justification is faith.

        Second, the analogy of changing a fish’s status and state simultaneously of course is just that—an analogy. And it works to some degree with Catholic views of justification. But even here it breaks down. One would have to completely and permanently change a fish’s state when changing its status or else it would die immediately. But that won’t do for the Catholic view of things.

        A better analogy, I think, is that of buying a slave from the slave market and setting him free. His status is immediately changed, and though his state is to some degree he will still act like a slave for a long time, only changing as he understands the nature of his freedom. And this analogy finds its roots in Paul’s wording in Rom 3.24. He speaks of ἀπολύτρωσις or ‘redemption,’ a word that has a long history of usage as the purchasing of a slave from the slave market for the purpose of setting him free.

        Third, the real question here is not what view we can make work in the text, but what Paul means, as I’m sure you’d agree. And the signs point in the direction of forensic justification being the change of status first (just think of Eddie Murphy in “Trading Places”: his new status as a stock broker in a very nice home did not initially prevent him from stealing from himself because his state as a petty thief was still true.) This is also confirmed, I believe, in Paul’s language about ‘in Christ.’ In Romans, he uses it of our redemption in 3.24, of what we should be in 6.11, 23 (at the end of each major section), and only when he launches full-blown into sanctification does he speak absolutely to the effect that we are in Christ (8.1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ”; cf. also 8.39). For Paul, being in Christ seems to be the result of being justified, not the other way around (even though both occur simultaneously). In one respect we can put things differently: If Paul had meant forensic justification in the Reformed sense, how could he have said it any more clearly?


      3. Matthew Enns

        Thank you Andrew for your thoughts. Thank you Dr. Wallace for your great contributions. I was inspired by your “college story”. I’m a former student of Sprinkle’s.

        I have no Catholic background, but I struggle to see how we are to think of ourselves as simultaneously just and sinner based on Ezekiel 36:27 and 2 Cor 5:16 and others. The new covenant is better than the old because we are founded on an eternal life, not an animal substitute. The expectation of the indwelling is that we will have the same life as Jesus because we are 2 Peter 1:4 partakers of divine nature.
        I think we would do much better to change the dialogue away from forensic justification somewhat and start meditating on the hope of glory, Christ within, and watch rivers of righteousness pour out of our bellies by the Holy Spirit.

        The layman struggles with sin, and all we can tell him is that he is a sinner, but shouldn’t think of himself as such. Do we have good news to share with him beyond “you are declared righteous, even though you are a failing sinner; buck up and hold out for eschatological hope”? I think we do, and I wish we would.
        Thank you Andrew for representing the creative work of God in the life of Jesus…apprehended by faith.


  8. My point was the NP itself, which is simply NOT Reformational or Reformed! I wonder how many have mounted a reply to the classic effort of Cornelis Venema’s book, ‘The Gospel Of Free Acceptance In Christ, An Assessment of the Reformation and the New Perspectives on Paul’? Funny how the more classic and conservative work’s get left aside! I don’t think I have seen a reply to Venema’s 2006 book?


  9. Andrew Preslar

    Dr. Wallace,

    Thanks again for the response. As you taught me, the present tense can indicate different things with respect to time, depending on context and other factors. In Romans 3:24, Paul is stating a general truth about “all” persons, both Jew and Gentile. It seems rather hasty to characterize this instance as a customary present rather than, say, a gnomic present. In any case, since it is the traditional Protestant view that justification is a punctiliar rather than an ongoing event, your appeal to the present tense in these verses would seem to prove too much for those who maintain the traditional Protestant view.

    Regarding my analogy: In the Catholic view, justification does completely and permanently change the person who is justified, in the sense that the justified person is sealed with an indelible mark, and thereby ontologically changed so as to be able to participate in the supernatural life of grace, which is most fully realized in the sacramental life of the Church. This is partly what is meant by the affirmation that Baptism (the sacrament of faith) is the gateway to the (other) sacraments. Now, I realize that we won’t agree about how Baptism is related to the gift of faith and to justification, but I just wanted to point out that my analogy does work, from a Catholic point of view (even though we hold that it is possible to fall from grace, the sacramental seal of Baptism remains).

    I agree that the change wrought in justification is consistent with the justified person maintaining certain tendencies acquired before justification.

    You are right to suppose that I am not content to adopt a possible but on the whole implausible reading of a text. But it would be well beyond the scope of this post to get into much of “the whole” by which we rightly understand this or any other bit of Sacred Scripture. But I did want to point out that a factitive view of justification is at least possible. Determining whether or not it is probable would require a much larger discussion.

    Finally, I will answer your concluding question by comparing central elements of the Reformed understanding of justification (from Chapter 11 of the Westminster Confession) to what is explicitly found in Paul’s writings, and see what is affirmed in the former but not found (explicitly, at least) in the latter. For example: Paul never says that the righteousness by which we are justified is extrinsic to us (extra nos), nor that the obedience of Christ is imputed to us for righteousness (rather, it is faith that is imputed as righteousness; cf. Romans 4:5), nor that we are justified by faith alone.


    1. uspatriot55

      Andrew, this is not the place for a full-blown debate, but just a couple of clarifications on your last paragraph.

      First, Paul does, in fact, say that the righteousness of justification is extrinsic to us so far as the source is concerned. David speaks of the blessing of the one “to whom God counts righteousness apart from works” (Rom 4:6). The “works” in question are the blessed man’s works. So the righteousness cannot come from himself. It must come from outside (extra nos). And Phil 3:9 is quite explicit that Paul’s righteousness is not “his own” but comes “from God.” (Rom 10:3 also comes to mind.)

      Second, Rom 4:5 does say that “faith is counted as righteousness,” but 4:6 and 4:11 also says that God counts “righteousness.” So is this a two-step process? First God treats our faith as if it were righteousness and then he further credits that faith-counted-as-righteousness to our account? But what could be the point of this second step? It’s already our faith, so what would it mean to credit our own faith to us? Much better, I think, to read the imputation of faith as a short-form way of talking about the imputation of righteousness by faith. The reason for Paul’s ostensible imprecision is because he’s not contrasting what God imputes in this section; he’s contrasting how God imputes it (by faith or by works; cf. Gal 3:5ff) You have to look to other texts (e.g., 2 Cor 5:21), in my opinion, to find exactly whose righteousness we have imputed to us. But needless to say, I don’t think the old view that faith itself is imputed will work with Paul’s argument.

      Finally, of course Paul never says the words “justification by faith alone.” But that’s not really the question. The question is whether he teaches such a doctrine (say, in Rom 3:26ff). But I’ll leave that for another day.


  10. Pingback: Contra NT Wright, maybe the Reformers got justification exactly right « thereformedmind

  11. Andrew Preslar


    I agree that the source of justification /righteousness is outside of us. But none of the texts that you cite entails that the righteousness of God, which comes from God and not from us, does not inhere in the justified once it comes to us.

    You asked: “It’s already our faith, so what would it mean to credit our own faith to us?”

    To credit our own faith to us as righteousness would mean that the referent of God’s declaration /reckoning /imputation of righteousness (4:6, 11) is (living) faith.

    In citing some of the essential aspects of the Reformed doctrine of justification,the question that I was responding to was not whether Paul teaches those doctrines. I was responding to the following question, posed by Dr. Wallace at the conclusion of his previous comment:

    “If Paul had meant forensic justification in the Reformed sense, how could he have said it any more clearly?”

    I agree that this is not the forum for a full-blown debate. But I do appreciate the opportunity for clarification of respective positions and interpretive options concerning justification, particularly with respect to the relation between the forensic /declarative and the factivite /creative.


  12. Andrew’s statement here is a close position to that of Augustine on Justification, see Alister McGrath’s book, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification. Would that all students “theological” on Justification, would this classic work!

    Btw, would too that students would read the Irish Articles 1615 (somewhat the work of the great Archbishop James Ussher), on Justfication also, for the Reformed position. Sadly today many Reformed theolog’s appear not to know of this great historic piece.

    Keep on trucking mates! 😉


  13. Brett

    Are there any Bibles out there that would make the cross references between Paul and those Old Testament texts or do we simply need to learn Greek and the Septuagint and find them on our own?


    1. Virtually all Bibles do some cross-referencing. But when it comes to Exod 23.7 and Isa 5.23, these texts seem to have been overlooked by most. Even in Campbell’s The Deliverance of God–a book with more than 1200 pages–he does not once mention either text. But if Paul is alluding to them, as I think he must be, then justification must refer to declaration of one’s innocence. By the way, Alister McGrath’s Iustitia Dei does have a nice treatment on these two texts, though brief.


  14. Pingback: Recommended Reading for January 4th, 2013 | Near Emmaus

  15. Andrew Perriman

    Dan, I don’t follow your argument about dōron and dōrean. In Exodus 23:7 and Isaiah 5:23 dōron refers to a gift that is given to the one who is in a position to acquit—ie., a “bribe”. In Romans 3:24 dōrean refers to a gift that is given by the one who is in a position to acquit. It can’t be said, therefore, that Paul uses dōrean as an “appropriate substitute” for dōron because the sense is very different, in fact the opposite. Also, I would have thought that eneken dōrōn qualifies dikaioō in such a way that the verb simply means “declare innocent”—there are, at least, strong overtones of injustice that are not brought out in Romans 3:24.


  16. Andrew Perriman

    Sorry, that last sentence should have read: Also, I would have thought that eneken dōrōn qualifies dikaioō in such a way that the verb cannot simply mean “declare innocent”—there are, at least, strong overtones of injustice that are not brought out in Romans 3:24. Now back to trying to cook dinner.


  17. The problem I have with saying Ex 23:7, Proverbs 17:15, and Isaiah 5:23 are exclusively what Paul had in mind when it came to his usage of Justify is that the term Justify is used many times in the OT aside from these three passages. In other words, I think a case has to be made rather than an assertion. In fact, I think there are some bigger problems that need to be addressed rather than appealing to those three texts.

    For example, Romans 3:4 uses the term Justify, but it is speaking of God being Vindicated, similar to how some say James 2 uses the term. Well, if that’s the case, then smack dab in the context of Romans 3 there is a clear example of Justify not being used in the sense of forensically [soteriologically] declare righteous. And if this is allowed to hold, then this means one must read Paul’s use of Justify in Romans 3B as more akin to a Vindication as well.

    Another detail I think is unfortunately overlooked is that Paul uses dikaioo clearly more synonymously with “to forgive,” than “to acquit,” or even pushing it more, “to declare [positively] righteous” (i.e. that one has kept the law perfectly). It is one thing for a Judge to say one’s charges are removed or they’re found innocent, but it is quite another for a Judge to say that one has (also) been perfectly obedient to the law. Consider Romans 4:6-8 where Paul is speaking of David being forgiven (even equating “reckon righteous” with “not reckon sin”), and in Romans 5:9-10 the phrase “justified [by his blood]” is paralleled to “reconciled [by his death],” and a similar dikaioo parallel is found in Paul’s preaching in Acts 13:38-39 where he says “forgiveness of sins” means “justified”. This sense of “forgiveness/reconciliation” also fits better with Romans 3:21-26 and 2 Corinthians 5:19-21 than “to declare [positively] righteous”.


    1. uspatriot55

      Nick, crediting righteousness sounds like more than the mere removal of sin does it not?

      On Friday, January 4, merely the removal o3, Daniel B. Wallace wrote: > Nick commented: “The problem I have with saying Ex 23:7, Proverbs 17:15, and Isaiah 5:23 are exclusively what Paul had in mind when it came to his usage of Justify is that the term Justify is used many times in the OT aside from these three passages. In other words, I thi” >


      1. The problem I have with your question is that it abstracts “crediting righteousness” from the context. If we take the text abstracted from context, then we could say “crediting righteousness” could mean various things. But in the case of Romans 4:6-8, Paul says “just as David speaks of crediting righteousness,” and proceeds to quote Psalm 32:1-2, which speaks strictly of forgiveness, describing it as ‘not crediting sin’. In other words, Paul has explained what he as Apostle means by crediting righteousness. As an analogy, I could ‘credit cleanliness’ to your shirt or I could ‘not credit dirtiness’ to your shirt, and I’d be saying the same thing (from two different perspectives).


  18. Simon Day

    I’m slightly concerned by Sprinke’s conclusion (which you quote glowingly) that:

    “The assertion that ‘Paul’s doctrine has exactly the same shape as that of MMT’ or other documents from Qumran, as N.T. Wright thinks, simply cannot be sustained.”

    I remember checking that quote of NTW when someone else (mis-)quoted it, and it (in context) *doesn’t* mean that MMT and Paul have the same doctrine of justification.

    In the paper it comes from, it follows immediately after a figure with two diagrams that are *exactly the same shape* but with different labels on the arrows. To conclude that Paul doctrine, when sketched in this diagrammatic form, wouldn’t coincide with any Qumran documents seems hard to follow.

    Certainly, to present the quote without reference to the accompanying diagram is pretty misleading – and makes you wonder whether the one doing the quote has ignored the context for effect or (worse?) never read the article to see it in context.


  19. Marvis Camat

    Interesting article, thank you very much for sharing, and good interactions/sharing of viewpoints too. I have been reading about judaism (Understanding Jewish Theology, classical issues and modern perspectives, edited by Jacob Neusner) for quite some months and had watched some debates between jews and christians and muslims on the subjects of justification and forgiveness. The article above should stimulate once more the importance of understanding God’s bounds on this subject, so that the Church may once again be restored to what it had been in its early dates, unlike what it become in the latter centuries due to papal dogmas and heresies for the sake of crusades. But as Jesus Christ said in his parables about the seeds, so is the Word of God spread among the Gentiles since the time of Constantine onwards, it would land on different soils/hearts and shall produce crops accordingly, that others were mistaught that the Gospel was referring to righteousness or justification through works (which Martin Luther ‘protested’ in his theses). That same God of Paul truly justifies the wicked, on the basis of 2 Chronicles 7:14.


  20. Marvis Camat

    If Judaism had been perfectly correct, then Paul would not have left it. The Gospel is the fulfillment of the prophecies of its shadows, that Judaism preached circumcision of the flesh, the Godspel preaches the maturity of it in the circumcision of the heart. That God chose the nation of Israel to be his people to show the kingdom of God on earth, and by physical demonstrations including the atonement of sins and the purging of sinners — this in its fulfilment in the Church is spiritual in nature, the forgiveness of those who repent, the atonement of sins through faith/applying the teachings of Christ the Word of God instead of the sinful acts, and the excommunication of those who shipwrecked their faith by following Satan and abandoning the faith for the sake of the pleasures of this world. God taught the Church in its baby days through physical ways to distinguish between foods which are good and which are bad, and later through the Gospel taught the Church to distinguish in spirit these foods and also the unclean animals which cannot be taken into the system, like dogs and swines – to depart from the companies of such for the purity of the Church. Paul was trapped into childish spirituality through Judaism but was given grace by God to pursue maturity/perfection through the Gospel, God saw his heart.


  21. Pingback: Notables (1/7/2013) « KINGDOMVIEW

  22. Have a look at the work of Michael L Brown, a Jewish Christian with a great perspective on these types of questions. Dr Brown recently completed a book entitled “The Real Kosher Jesus” as a response to a book by an orthodox jewish Rabbi entitled “Kosher Jesus”. He has also previously produced a 5 volume series entitled “Answering Jewish objections to Jesus” which I own. Its a great resource for all who are interested in the relationships between old testament judaism and christianity. He has also held many debates with rabbis on these topics. So have a look – his writings and debate appearances may add to the discussion.


  23. Reblogged this on Michael H. Burer and commented:
    Dan Wallace on his blog recently highlighted the work of Preston Sprinkle, who in a recent SBL paper and forthcoming monograph argues for the distinctive message of Paul’s soteriology. In other words, Paul’s claim that God in the contemporary soteriological moment was justifying the wicked was new and unparalleled in Judaism. Sprinkle’s thesis is an important one, and I look forward to digesting his book more carefully in the near future.


  24. James

    I praise the Father for the gift of the righteousness of his son, a righteousness not my own in any sense. The terrible burden of having to obey Him perfectly to stand before Him has been removed. To the praise of the Glory of His Grace! A total roll change is at the very heart of the “Good News”, both positively and negatively, anything less is not the freedom He promised. I am far from an expert in language, but I have been set free from sin, and am clothed in the white robe of my redeemer!


  25. Chris Mayeaux

    Well, let’s assume that justify means to declare righteous rather than make righteous. Paul makes it clear that the means of appropriating this justification is through faith. I think the fallacy of evangelicals is that they see this faith as a one time event where the early church saw faith as a lifestyle. Something that did indeed have a beginning but not an end. It was dynamic not static. Not an event but a process. Interestingly, in Rom 4 when Abraham’s faith is mentioned this connection is made clear as Abraham’s entire life of faith is emphasized rather than a moment in time aspect of that faith. This dynamic nature of faith is then explained by Paul in the following chapters. Thus, if faith is seen as as something that begins as a seed and flowers into love, most Orthodox & Catholics have no problems with sola fide. It’s only when an artificial distinction between faith/works is made that there is an issue and faith is seen in a pietistic and revivalistic context. It’s like separating the light from the heat of the sun. It’s not possible. They are one in the same.


  26. Pingback: The Apostle Paul was the anti-christ according to the first Christians - Page 5 - Religious Education Forum

  27. Jim Poulos

    Fact is looking like NT Wright’s is like the tortoise making it to the finish line while the many criticisms are the hares only making a good show.


  28. garegin

    I like the analogy with people. You can’t buy someone’s love with the good works of diamond bracelets and Porsches. That’s what Paul is talking about. This is what’s despicable about apostate Judaism and Islam. Even though they are similar in externalities, they completely miss the boat. That kind of faith is an affront to God. You can’t earn God’s favor by reading to homeless children. Because God ALREADY loves you.
    What the Book of James is talking about is a giant truism to normal people but controversial for extremist Protestants like Steven Anderson. He is talking about the fact that people have to “put their money where their mouth is”. In other words, their actions have to back up their words. He is not talking about “earning your way to heaven”.
    Behind the bombastic rhetoric what Luther was saying is that every Church father has said a thousand times over.


  29. garegin

    What Paul was saying was offensive to Judaism then and modern Jews now because they completely miss the point. Modern Jews always bring up the hypothetical example of Hitler who suddenly declares to believe in Jesus. They fail to realize that even “nice people” have fallen WAY short of the bar. Neither of them deserve heavenly glory, neither the nice guy nor the “believing Hitler”.
    This doesn’t even take into account the messed up Darwinian world view of the Fuhrer, which brings Luke 23:34 into the complicated equation.


  30. garegin

    Sorry to triple post, but I just remembered another thing. The Orthodox always rag on Western Christians for using legal paradigms too much (Augustine is the ultimate whipping boy for these people) They completely forget that much of the Bible uses legal paradigms, and also lot of the eastern church fathers were jurists and used analogies from law. Obviously sounding “anti-religious” and contrarian has a lot of cachet in an intellectual climate that has been anti-Christian since the 1800s.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s