Theology of Paul the Apostle Paperback – 1 Jun 2003
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Honourable mention in 'The Interview' in Connexion, 1st June 2010.
"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." C. F. D. Moule "Dunn assembles his classic, distinctive handiwork in a format that is seamless in its flow, up to date in its scholarship, and (as ever) easily accessible in its presentation.... As a resource book for the study of what Paul had to say on any particular topic, this book is unequalled, as one of the most important of modern Pauline scholars assesses the texts in his own distinguished way." Anvil "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." Graham N. Stanton ..".provides valuable food for prayer and for thought...worth attentive reading from cover to cover." Priests and People "This careful exposition of the theology of Paul is a brilliant piece of biblical scholarship." D. Eduard Lohse "Paul has not infrequently had a bad press in the past century, and he has not escaped the current taste for deconstruction and the hermeneutic of suspicion. Once again we are hearing him dismissed as the Hellenistic subverter of the gospel of Jesus. Dunn's willingness to hear him on his own terms and to enter into dialogue with the whole sweep of his theology is an object lesson in how to deal with that sort of partiality; it can be recommended alike to waverers and to the committed." Affirming Catholicism "This present volume is sure to remain a classic on the theology of Paul for a long time to come. It is from the hand of a scholar who over three decades has produced outstanding studies on the New Testament, and on the writings and though of Paul in particular it is essential reading. It is a book for all libraries and individuals interested in Paul s messa
From the Back Cover
In this major work, James D. G. Dunn brings together more than two decades of vigorous and creative work on interpreting the letters of Paul into an integrated, full-scale study of Paul's thought.
Using Paul's letter to the Romans as the foundation for constructing a fuller exposition of Paul's whole theology, Dunn's thematic treatment clearly describes Paul's teaching on such topics as God, humankind, sin, christology, salvation, the church, and the Christian life. In the process Dunn engages in a concise way what other important scholars have said regarding each area of inquiry.
"The Theology of Paul the Apostle" represents a major contribution to the ongoing discussion regarding what Paul's theology is and what its continuing relevance is to the study and practice of religion and theology.See all Product description
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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.
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.
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