The New Perspective on Paul is an important shift in how scholars have understood Paul over the past 40 years. This movement reads and interprets Paul primarily through the lens of first-century Judaism’s cultural context. New Perspective scholars have reacted to a reading of Paul through the lens of the Reformation—especially Luther, Calvin, and their followers.
Who are the important figures of the New Perspective?
- The movement began with E. P. Sanders, who wrote Paul and Palestinian Judaism in the 1970s. This book emphasized the importance of rabbinic writings in understanding Paul. Sanders argued that Paul’s concept of becoming part of the people of God had more to do with covenantal participation, and he argued against the prevailing Lutheran understanding of the atonement.
- In the early 1980s, James D. G. Dunn developed Sanders’ thesis and coined the term “The New Perspective.”
- Since then, N. T. Wright has written extensively on Paul. His magnum opus on Paul will be released later this year.
The New Perspective is controversial. The emergence of Sanders, Dunn, and Wright on the scene upended the way Christians have read Paul for generations. For example:
- The New Perspective deemphasizes a works-righteousness interpretation of the law in Pauline writings.
- The New Perspective places the covenant in a prominent role in Pauline writings.
- A classic reading of Paul favors a penal substitutionary theory of atonement, while the New Perspective doesn’t give this theory as much prominence
As you can see, this is a significant reframing of how Paul is read and understood. And whether or not you agree with the New Perspective, it’s undoubtedly important to understand—even if your goal is to understand why you may not agree with it. One of the benefits of having a large and robust digital library is that you have the resources and tools to adequately research both sides of controversial issues.
On the New Perspective in particular, there are books and collections to help you understand every angle:
- For the best deal, check out the Pauline Studies Bundle. You’ll get 46 books for $329.95 if you buy the bundle with a Logos 5 base package or upgrade, which amounts to around $7.17 per volume.
- E. P. Sanders’ Paul and Palestinian Judaism is widely regarded as one of the core texts of the New Perspective on Paul. (Please note that due to licensing restrictions, we’re only able to offer this to customers in the United States and Canada.)
- One of the best contemporary engagements with the New Perspective is D. A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid’s Justification and Variegated Nomism, newly posted on Pre-Pub at a nice introductory discount.
- For a more classic take, check out F. C. Baur’s books on the cultural context of Paul. Or, on Pauline theology, you couldn’t do better than Herman Ridderbos’ Paul: An Outline of His Theology or Geerhardus Vos’s The Pauline Eschatology.
- The most anticipated book this year in Pauline studies is N. T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God, which is the fourth part in his Christian Origins series. Although Wright would disagree with Sanders on some points, many people regard him as part of the New Perspective.
- The Baker Academic Pauline Studies Collection contains some of the best in recent Pauline scholarship, including works by Thomas R. Schreiner on Paul and the law and Gordon D. Fee on Pauline Christology. The collection is discounted for pre-order for a little while longer.
- The IVP Pauline Studies Collection contains Eckhard J. Schnabel’s works on Paul’s mission, as well as insights into Paul’s cultural context from Kenneth E. Bailey, Frank Thielman, and Ben Witherington.
- If you’re looking for more technical works, check out the Library of New Testament Studies on Paul, published by Sheffield Academic Press, and later T&T Clark. This series contains technical monographs for advanced-level study. These books are also included in Portfolio.