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Paul and the Law [Paperback]

Frank Thielman

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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent work on Paul and the law 10 Dec 1999
By Justin Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Thielman's book is one of the most helpful treatments on this crucial area of biblical studies. His introduction, wherein he gives a thorough and concise treatment on the history of the debates, is alone worth the price of the book. He then takes the reader through all of the Pauline letters, examining their background, presuppositions, and arguments as it relates to Paul's both positive and negative view of the law. Thielman is a master at arguing convincingly for his position without wasting ink--and he is almost always a sure-footed guide through much rocky terrain. In my opinion, this is the best book available today on Paul's view of the law (with Tom Schreiner's _The Law and Its Fulfillment_ as a close second).
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting look at Paul's view of the Mosaic Law 29 July 2003
By theologicalresearcher - Published on Amazon.com
One of the perennial problems of Pauline studies for students and scholars alike is Paul's seemingly inconsistent statements on the Law. Thielman attempts to solve this inconsistency in Paul by combining traditional Protestant interpretations with recent interpretations of Paul. In chapter one, Thielman goes over the varied interpretations of Paul's view of the Law since Aquinas. Anyone wanting a good background on this debate should consult this chapter. In chapter two, Thielman argues that Paul approached his view of the Law through his first century Jewish background. He argues that the Jews (with references from intertestamental writings, Josephus, and the Gospels) during the Second Temple period believed that they were still receiving the covenant curses for disobedience--which is exile under Roman domination (N. T. Wright). This is a provocative thesis considering that most Protestant scholars believe that the Jews of that time did not hold to this view (the Jews thought they were "right" with God again). Chapters 3-10 deal with Paul's view of the Law in his epistles (1 and 2 Thessalonians [3], 1 and 2 Corinthians [4-5], Galatians [6], Philippians [7], Romans [8-9], and the later epistles [10]). Thielman argues that in all these epistles--though written with different situations to deal with--there are common themes that run underneath about the Law: 1) that the Mosaic Law was given to the Israelites out of God's grace and is gracious in character; 2) that the Mosaic Law is now obsolete and cannot confer salvation because ALL have transgressed its demands for PERFECT obedience; 3) that the ritualistic aspects of the Mosaic Law that separated Jews from Gentiles are abrogated in Christ; 4) and that the new covenant community is required to obey the moral aspects of the Mosaic Law to separate themselves from the pagan world (or as a means of sanctification). Thielman nicely wraps up his discussion with summarizing conclusions in chapter eleven.
However, some of Thielman's points may not sit well with advocates of the traditional Protestant view of the Law. Thielman follows too closely with the "letter-Spirit" approach to the Law (Daniel Fuller). He argues that the Pauline antithesis between Law and Gospel should not be understood as a fundamental antithesis between works and faith. Works are good and even required under the new covenant. In fact, according to Thielman, Paul's gospel has the same structure of promise-demand as the Mosaic covenant. One of the main differences between the two covenants is that in the new covenant the believer is enabled to obey the Law through the Spirit. Thus, the issue of Law vs. Gospel is merely a salvation-historical issue. Thielman argues this point based on the renewal-prophetic passages in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Though it is true that the Law will be written in the hearts of believers as prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34, Thielman does not discuss in detail what the implications of this is. Does it mean that redeemed people will obey God's Law because they are justified (Luther, Calvin, the Puritans, etc.)? Or is this new obedience to the Law a requirement for final justification alongside Christ's righteousness (New Perspective)? Thielman should have spent some time (perhaps several pages) discussing how his approach to the Law coincides with justification by faith and Christ's righteousness imputed to believers. In fact, one gets the impression that Thielman removes the wall between the Law and Gospel, a wall that traditional Protestants have always kept in place. Overall, though, this book is worth reading. Many students of Paul's theology will find this book quite interesting and resourceful.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book on the relationship of Paul to the Law 4 Aug 2003
By Shawn W. Gillogly - Published on Amazon.com
Many people would prefer Schreiner's work on this subject. But I would say that Thielmann's approach is far more convincing, IMHO. Because he starts by studying Paul's usages in the works that are less frequently examined, or less controversial, and then builds towards the most unusual usages, one can see what Paul's 'normal' practice is.
This is important because it makes an interpreter less likely to punt to a theological assertion if one has seriously examined the exegetical base Paul has built first. Thielmann's interaction with the so-called "new" view of Paul and the Law is also helpful. He does not automatically reject everything it offers. But neither does he uncritically assume (as many scholars today do) that everything before Sanders is to be forgotten.
All in all, even if one doesn't entirely agree with the author in the end (and on this subject, it's almost impossible to find an author one 'entirely' agrees with), IMHO, he does a better job than anyone else currently in print of both interacting with the relevant scholarship and defining a workable view.
5.0 out of 5 stars Meticulous Exegetical Quest 29 Sep 2011
By Eliot Lugo Hernandez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are at least three things that affect the proper understanding of Scripture; in this case, Paul's view of the Law: 1) cultural background, 2) educational background, and 3) a teachable spirit. There are other factors, no doubt, but I think these are the most prominent in present Christianity. Christians bring to Scripture their experiences and their denominational background. These affect greatly the proper understanding of Scripture but particularly, Paul's view of the Law. For example, when Jesus spoke to the religious leaders of His time who, by their own standards, follow the Law to perfection, there seems to be a feeling of pleasure when Jesus puts them in their rightful place because of their hypocrisy. "They deserve it", we reason. After all, they thought they were holier than anyone else because God chose them from among all the nations of the world and because they had the Law of God given by Moses.

No doubt they were chosen and they had the Law but, because of their attitude and actions, they gave a bad impression about the Law God gave them at Mount Sinai. Christians, however, by looking into the lives of the same Jews in Jesus' time may arrive to the wrong/distorted conclusion that the Law was evil, unnecessary, and totally irrelevant to the New Covenant that Jesus inaugurated through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. This is far from the truth for stated that "We know that the law is good when used correctly." So the Law has a place in Christianity and it is relevant to Christian's understanding of it and of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.

In his book, "Paul & the Law", author Frank Thielman takes a meticulous exegetical quest into, and a contextual approach to, Paul's view on the Law. In the back cover of the book there is a statement that goes as follows: "No issue in contemporary Pauline studies is more contested than Paul's view of the law." This statement is really an understatement because the negative view Christians have, or have had, on the Law has caused incongruent conclusions because steps into proper biblical interpretation have not been taken. Paul, no doubt is not a novice in the interpretation of Scripture but a well-prepared expositor with great theological and doctrinal background that was also coupled with the revelation of the living Christ. How Paul addresses or views the Law is a matter of being wise and tactful. He uses the Law according to the issues encountered or as a preventive measure in the churches he has planted or has helped built. Reading this book has caused me to shift my negative view of the Law and see the Law as something, though obsolete under the New Covenant, necessary, revealing, intriguing, and important in understanding the concept of living under the New Covenant.

Paul, soaked in his knowledge of Scripture and seeing through the eyes of Christ, sees now that all the promises God made under the Old Covenant have come to pass in Jesus Christ. Abraham, for example, the father of many nations and a great patriarch for the Jews, was called by God while he was uncircumcised but was circumcised as a mark of God's covenant with him. Now Christians, have been circumcised but not with a physical circumcision but by having a circumcised heart. God promised that one day He will replace the stony hearts of His people with a heart of flesh and that He will put His Law on their minds and write it in their hearts instead of the stone tablets as in Mount Sinai when He gave the Law to Moses. Paul sees the fulfillment of these promises in those who, by faith in Christ, have received the Spirit of God who searches all things; even the deep things of God. What Paul is doing with the Law is using it to his advantage in order to propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Jews as well as to the Gentiles. Even in his view of the Law, and according to the way author Frank Thielman presented Paul's view of the Law, Paul sees that there is a new chosen generation; the new people of God. I believe that Paul is seeing both Jews and Gentiles under the New Covenant as the Israel of God in contrast to the God of Israel, which was a chosen people settled in a geographical place and separated from other nations because of the precepts and ordinances of the Law of Moses. Paul addresses his churches as the new people of God who are called to be holy, separated from the world system they now live in. I believe that Mr. Thielman did an excellent exegetical study of Paul's view of the Law. He took many of the diverse opinions and interpretation and dealt with them by letting Scripture, with the help of the Holy Spirit, interpret Scripture.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I learned a lot from this book 10 July 2006
By Mark T. Townsend - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I didn't find this book to be a theology to argue a certian point of view as a preacher would or even as a teacher wanting his students to accept his theology. Contextual is truly the operative word in my view. So each scritpure is dealt with in context and less so to create a theology.

This makes for a great reference book to get information about each passate were Paul mentions the law. Especially in how there are paralells to the prophets. I'd not read any writtings that did this to any where near this extent before.

My view is that the guiding princible for fulfilling the law in the NT is loving God and loving people. I'd love to read a book dealing with not being under the law but under grace that enables us to love people with an emphesis on the freedom we have in Christ. Since I've not found this idea developed very fully, I'm plugging along myself.

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