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Approaches to Paul; a student’s guide to recent scholarship

Fortress Press Minneapolis, 2009

RRP: $44.95

Reviewed by Bruce Bartleet, minister at the Fassifern Uniting Church

Author Magnus Zetterholm attempts to focus on Paul’s relation to Judaism and on the question of whether he should be seen as a figure within Judaism or as somehow having made a decisive break with it.

Mr Zetterholm believes there are broadly three different schools in contemporary Pauline scholarship: a “traditional, Reformation perspective”; “the new perspective”; and the “radical new perspective”.

These arguments can be followed with relative ease provided the reader has a fair knowledge of Pauline scholarship.

My first criticism is that the author himself depicts his work as a survey of “major currents within the discipline”, but generally he is clear that this is a book about scholarly views on Paul’s relation to Judaism.

What this means is that many “major currents” and contemporary debates within the discipline receive little or no mention.

For example, there is no mention of Gerd Theissen and Wayne Meeks nor of any of the social scientific studies of Paul and the Pauline churches that have developed since the 1970s.

There is nothing directly on debates about the heart of Paul’s theology participation, justification, etc, on the meaning of pistis Christou, on the relationship between Jesus and Paul, or on the study of Paul’s ethics from Rudolf Bultmann through Victor Paul Furnish to the present day.

Mr Zetterholm’s book offers a guide to recent scholarship on Paul’s relation to Judaism, not to the discipline of Pauline studies as a whole and if this is what you as a reader are seeking then I would recommend the book.