Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Donfried on Paul, Luther and the New Perspective

The September 2006 edition of The Lutheran features the following article:

Reading Paul (& Luther) today
New learnings about the apostle and his world boost our understanding
Karl P. Donfried

The article introduces newcomers to questions surrounding the contemporary interpretation of Paul, including the new perspective, with special emphasis on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Much of the first half of the article is an excellent introduction to some of the issues connected with seeing Paul in the context of Second Temple Judaism, e.g.:
No longer can it be maintained that the core of Paul’s theology is primarily influenced by the philosophical movements of the Graeco-Roman world. Rather it was precisely to Paul as a Jew that the Risen Lord revealed himself. It’s this Jewish Paul who addresses his Graeco-Roman congregations, as 1 Corinthians 10 illustrates. The coherence of Paul’s language and thought patterns with those found at certain points in the Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrates the “Jewishness” of his thinking.
But the second half of the article is much more controversial. I was a little struck with how dismissive Donfried was at several points, especially here:
Together with the emergence of credible re-evaluations of Paul, we must also be alert to readings of the apostle that are blatantly misguided. Some assert that the death of Jesus isn’t essential for our justification. Others argue that a text like Romans 3:22 shouldn’t be translated as “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” but rather as “the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ.” Both of these uncommon contemporary tendencies turn Paul’s theology on its head.
and here:
But the great weakness of Sander’s position is that in attempting to correct the “Lutheran” distortion of Judaism, he presents a warped view of Judaism. This view respects neither the internal diversification of the Judaisms of the period nor the conflicts and confrontations that existed among the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes with regard to their interpretations of the law.

Sander [sic] constructed an illusionary and artificial pattern of so-called Palestinian Judaism in which Rabbinic and Talmudic traditions of the post-second century are illegitimately thrust back upon the far more diverse and mutually antagonistic Judaisms of the first century.
Towards the end of the article, Donfried suggests that the new perspective is "perhaps, now, more appropriately the 'old perspective'”. I hope to find time to comment on the article later, and especially the quotation of 1QS 11.


Rick Sumner said...

The quote you offer regarding Sanders' failure to recognize the diversity of Judaism seems to be a pretty standard response, I could probably find ten articles in the last decade of JETS alone that are more or less verbatim copies.

gail dawson said...

I found the article distressing, not the least because Donfried minimizes--in order to reassure a mostly lay audience--the real scholarly issues raised by 'pistis christou.'