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The Theology of Paul the Apostle Hardcover – 1 Nov 1997

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 1 Nov 1997
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 768 pages
  • Publisher: T.& T.Clark Ltd (1 Nov. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0567085988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0567085986
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 16.4 x 5.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,620,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


Christianity Today, "Number 10 on the Top 25 Books of the Year list"(1905)"Revue Biblique" "A synthesis of great power and beauty. Every page betrays the excitement of dialoguing with Paul. . . In the creativity of its approach, the elegance of its prose, and the passion of its conviction that Paul has much to say to the modern church, it sets a new standard against which all competitors will be judged.""Theology Today" "Dunn does what few since Bultmann have dared to attempt, that is, to provide a full-scale, in-depth exposition of the apostle's theology. While others have been intimidated, he boldly moves forward, with appropriate modesty and grace. . . It is clear that he has made a significant contribution to Pauline studies.""Journal for the Study of the New Testament" "The work is thorough, readable, and well-informed. Among its virtues are its impressive breadth of coverage, its wealth of citation of primary literature, and its judicious interaction with secondary literature.""Religious Studies Review" "Will no doubt function as the definitive book on Paul's theology for some time to come.""Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society" "No scholar since Ridderbos has tackled the apostle's theology as a whole. James Dunn has now risen to the challenge, producing a theology of Paul that will serve as a benchmark for the next generation of students and scholars.""Catholic Biblical Quarterly" "Dunn is ever provocative. . . It is hard to imagine a scholar in the English-speaking world better equipped to compose a theology of Paul. . . He brings to the task not only comprehensive knowledge of Paul, but also an encyclopedic grasp of the secondary literature and the flow of Pauline studies.""Theological Studies" "This book is the culmination of years of thought and study on Paul, and the results are worthy of those years."Graham N. Stanton King's College, London "Surely this is James Dunn's best book so far. His magisterial, lucid exposition of Paul's thought will be welcomed warmly by scholars, teachers, and students alike. This is a work of outstanding scholarship: there is no comparable book in English."Paul J. Achtemeier Union Theological Seminary in Virginia "This book is a serious attempt by a widely informed and careful scholar to point the way to finding in Paul's theology an integrated whole, using Romans as the road map for the journey. Using the 'new perspective' on Paul to look in a fresh way at the dichotomy between faith and works of the law, and finding in the apocalyptic notion of 'already/not yet' a key concept, Dunn proposes a way of approaching Paul's theological thought that enables him to find not only theological coherence but also ethical integration. Any such attempt is bound to provoke discussion both pro and con, but it is an attempt that all who are interested in Paul's theological thought will have to take seriously. Truly 'must-reading.'' "C. F. D. Moule "An exceptionally fine presentation of Pauline theology detailed yet clear, lavishly documented yet readable: a major contribution to clarification and order in this confused and controversial field of study."D. Eduard Lohse University of Gottingen "This careful exposition of the theology of Paul is a brilliant piece of biblical scholarship. In due respect to the broad international discussion, James D. G. Dunn opens new insights into Paul's way of interpreting the early Christian message. In demonstrating that the center of Paul's theology is to be found in his proclamation of the death and resurrection of Christ, Dunn explains how the Apostle at the same time remained always aware of his Jewish heritage. This book will be welcomed by all theologians for a deeper interpretation of what Paul has to say in his time as well as today.' "" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


This study of St Paul provides a detailed, yet readable work. Chapters include "humankind under indictment", "the gospel of Jesus Christ" and "the process of salvation". --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Format: Perfect Paperback
This is modern exegesis at its absolute best. It is evident that years of thought and reflection (if not a whole life!) have gone into producing this masterwork. Whilst I am very far from being an expert on justification by faith, it is apparent that Dunn's position is far removed from the extrinsic justification doctrine promulgated by Luther. Indeed, he seems to come very close to the Catholic position. At least, one would imagine his being comfortable in the company of the exponents of the protestant holiness movement. Dunn has been accused of Pelagianisn or semi-Pelaganism, but Dunn has simply avoided the "either/or" trap into which many protestants fall - is it all down to grace or is it down to us? It is all down to grace but we must play our part (animated by grace) by consenting to being moulded into an Ikon of Christ.
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as expected
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Great book, bought it for my theology course. Very readable.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.1 out of 5 stars 59 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some unconvincing points, but generally speaking suberb! 30 Oct. 2012
By Antti Laakso - Published on
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If one needs to get a good summary of Paul's theological thought, here is the one book which could be the very good choice. However, I considered long whether it is justified to give five stars. That's because some points in the book didn't convince me. The greatest flaw, I think, is Christology. It's not because I would be a "traditionalist". Dunn's argument seems just to strike against the meaning of biblical verses and my reason. He claims that, yes, Paul had the idea of preexistence of Christ, but he interprets this so that the preexistent Wisdom worked in Christ and so personally Jesus wasn't preexistent. Of course, there is some points here. Maybe Paul didn't think that the human person Jesus didn't exist before the birth of Jesus (it seems that the impossibility of this is what Dunn reads to the thoughts of Paul). Also, the good idea is to connect Wisdom and Christ. As always, Dunn strives also to present good argumentation for this idea. However, I think that this idea rather makes things more complicated. It seems that one tries to escape the most probable interpretation of Pauline passages, because he assumes claims like "surely Paul the Jew couldn't have the idea that Christ was somehow preexistent". But that doesn't make sense to me. Surely the emphasis on Jewish roots of Paul's thoughts is one of benefits of book, but that doesn't mean that one should read his assumptions to Paul. His idea of Christ was surely different than that in the gospel of John, there was more idea of subordination, but Dunn doesn't remark (I dare to say) that it isn't so easy to say that Christ as historical person is Wisdom (law as personification or imaginary metaphor about Wisdom as woman etc. are different things) . If you think that Christ as person is Wisdom, then it's difficult to evade the idea that somehow he - and not only Wisdom - was preexistent. Somehow his person was connected to Wisdom even before creation. Some other points can be questionable, too. One advantage in the book is, however, that Dunn takes the modest view at least in the end of his book and understands it as dialogue. Some of his ideas can be historically wrong, and then they should be rejected. But one can still grow through dialogue.

Having said that, there are very good reasons why I didn't give just four stars. Namely, the book has considerable good points. It isn't only very comprehensive with over 700 pages. Often Dunn writes in a way which encourages one to ask questions and read more. It's always a good sign when you almost can't leave theological book away but want to read the whole story to the end. Generally speaking, Dunn argues convincingly and profoundly, and although some of his ideas may seem to be not traditional, they can help one to find new aspects in the theology of Paul.

But, honestly speaking, one shouldn't call the book necessarily an unorthodox one. Leave the question of Christology without consideration, and there aren't much more problematic material for the main message of Christianity. Sure, of course Dunn doesn't follow traditional ideas always, but that is hardly problem for orthodoxy. If we emphasize the Jewish dimension in Paul's thought more and think that he had positive idea of law, that is hardly problem. In fact, Jesus respected highly law, so Dunn's book turns out to support the consistency of New Testament. Some Protestants could whine that Dunn seems to reject the idea of salvation by faith alone. As Lutheran, I don't think so. He explicitly says that Paul thought that one is saved by grace alone. However, Paul saw salvation with many dimensions, so that it wasn't only the moment when you are seen as justified but also the process of salvification and the eschatological judgment, when even believing people can face punishment because of their bad deeds even though they would be saved thanks to grace. Yes, the reason for Paul to "find" the idea of justification was that Jews had no privileges anymore compared with Gentiles. But at the same time, he was led to claim the idea about salvation solely by faith, and later generations then did no unjustice to him when they talked more about general attempt to save oneself by one's works. You can take both aspects; it isn't either-or but both-and.

These ideas already should explain why I considered Dunn's argumentation mostly very good. They made much sense both to the Bible and to reason. In fact, they developed my theological thought a lot. One additional good point in book, too, is that although Dunn skillfully avoids reading modern issues to the time of Paul, he remarks if some of his ideas have meaning for issues of our time. That's always the sign that exegete doesn't live in vacuum but wants that his argumentation will help one to understand God, His word, and theology more fully. To conclude, as one specific point, I deeply recommend one to check book if those commands for women to be silent in church have troubled your mind. Dunn's explanation is the best I have so far encountered. He argues that that passage in 1.Cor. 14 rejects only that wives would assess the prophecies of their husbands in congregation, because that would have been great shame for men in patriarchal culture. That would explain both why Paul said something like that when he generally even encouraged women to speak and had even female assistants, and why that command is told in the context of prophesying.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dunn that I read and I can recommend it in the highest fashion 13 Dec. 2014
By James H. Reynolds - Published on
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This was the first work of Dr. Dunn that I read and I can recommend it in the highest fashion. Dr. Dunn goes into substantial detail concerning Paul's beliefs as a zealot Pharisee/Jew prior to his conversion. These background beliefs to a significant degree carry over to his Christian writings and provide the basis for understanding his theology as expressed in the letters. Prior to studying Dr. Dunn's explanations I found some of Paul's key passages beyond my comprehension. Dr. Dunn straightened it out for me to my great satisfaction.
This is a magnificent work.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 1 May 2017
By bass_chic2001 - Published on
Format: Perfect Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this for a seminary class.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow 19 Feb. 2007
By Robert Jackson - Published on
Format: Perfect Paperback Verified Purchase
The depth of scholarship in this work is stunning - Dunn is a master of his field. But the true value of this work lies in its closeness to the text - it will have you diving for Paul's letters again and again. His systematic approach is well conceived and structured; he is careful never to over-conclude or run ahead with an argument: this work is clearly the product of careful laboring over the texts, with secondary sources used purely as aids, not drivers of discussion.

From the start his insights are profound, such as his observation that for Paul, 'sarx' (flesh) is very much an ethnic designation, and it is never directly blamed as a source for sin in Romans 7. The book leaves room for as much agreement or disagreement as you care to share - merely engaging with Dunn's arguments and analysis is the most rewarding exercise for truly encountering Paul that I have ever come across. I have never come across a book so erudite at reading between the lines of Paul, and investigating his unstated assumptions about God and humanity.

Take up this magisterial work - but keep your Bible, and preferably a notebook, close at hand: this is no mere rehearsal of the standard debates about Paul, but an earnest and scholarly attempt to make sense of a grand tapestry - an attempt which respects the fact that Paul wrote with a genius that has stupefied two millenia of great minds.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great summary 19 Sept. 2014
By Messieh - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dunn never goes beyond the evidence and has done a remarkable job of discussing the different levels of Paul's theologising, from the things he simply assumes about God, and the things he partly assumes about Jesus and partly unpacks, to the things he deals with explicitly in his letters. Comprehensive, fair, and sometimes surprising (in a good way!).
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