Volume 1 addresses the various (variegated) views held by the Jews during the second temple period about the relationship of the Law (nomism) to salvation (justifcation). It focuses on the era before and right after the time of Jesus. Understanding the views of this era help us with understanding the background of the New Testament.
D.A. Carson, one of today's greatest evangelical scholars, has elicited the help of many scholars, some evangelical, others not; he is the editor of the two-part series, but most of the material is provided by the illustrious contributors. The overall purpose of this two volume set is to refute the "Covenantal Nomism" (the view that "you get into the covenant by grace, but you stay in it by keeping the Law") of E.P. Sanders. It also seeks to refute the "New Perspective" as to what Paul the Apostle really meant when he spoke of salvation "apart from the Law." Volume one shows that Sanders erred: there is no one view that dominated all Jewish thought before the time of Christ (or shortly thereafter). Volume 2 (I am still reading it) then completes the project by demonstrating that the "New Perspective" may be "new," but it is not correct. The Reformers really did know what they were talking about.
But whether you are debating the "New Perspective" or not, you will find this volume rich! You will sharpen your understanding of the thinking of the Jewish world from about 200 B.C. to about 100 A.D. You will delve into the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, the Talmud, etc.; those who want to better understand the Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith will also appreciate this volume.
This book is not intended for the average layman, but a trained pastor can understand this work (which is all I am; I am no scholar). Although a few parts are dry, other portions are absolutely fascinating.
Does the book accomplish its goal? Absolutely.