A Brief “Bonus” Chapter Summary from Books At a Glance
By Nathan Sundt
About the Author
Simon Gathercole is Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies and Director of Studies at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University.
Simon Gathercole states: “any contribution to the [New Perspective] debate . . . risks simply becoming part of the confusion,” notwithstanding the “noble aim of clarification” (148). For this reason, the scope of his essay is modest: “Romans 3:21–4:25 will be explored for what it shows about four key issues: first, the justification of Israel; second, the nature of justifying faith; third, God as the agent of justification and the object of faith; and finally, some reflections on the relationship between justification and atonement” (147). Each of these topics could be explored far more broadly, but Gathercole hopes to make a particular contribution by focusing on a few dialogue partners and a smaller range of texts. He puns, indicating that he knows his “boundary markers”! (147).
The essay breaks down, therefore, into four sections in accordance with the four emphases outlined in Gathercole’s own purpose statement. Sections 1 and 4 receive, however, by far the lengthiest treatment, and section 1 is likely the most important—due to its leverage in New Perspective debates.
As section 1 (entitled “The Justification of Israel as the Justification of the Ungodly Apart from Works of Law”) begins, Gathercole spirals onto his point of emphasis: he will examine “the place of justification in relation to Israel and the Gentiles,” which demonstrates that the Pauline doctrine is not about the inclusion merely of one—the Gentiles—but the salvation of both, as it answers “a Jewish over-confidence that is, in part, based on obedience” (147).
Gathercole’s observation is basic, but its implications are profound for the New Perspective discussion: too many scholars relate the doctrine of justification to the inclusion of Gentiles, without realizing its force in Pauline writing towards the inclusion of Jews themselves in God’s salvation plans.
Sanders related justification to “the issue of whether Gentiles need to come under the yoke of Torah for acceptance into the people of God” (148). For Dunn and Wright, “the Pauline alternatives of justification through works of the law and justification by faith do not denote alternative views of how the individual is saved, but rather different conceptions of the scope of God saving activity” (148). “If on the basis of works of the Torah, then it is confined to Israel; if by faith, then it is opened to the whole world” (148).
The New Perspective, therefore, requires this assumption that justification by faith is “principally a polemical doctrine, cast by Paul to legitimate the inclusion of the Gentiles within the people of God” (148). “By contrast, it will be argued here that when Paul speaks of the revelation of the righteousness of God apart from the Law (Rom 3:21-22), he refers as much to the salvation of Israel as to the salvation of Gentiles. When he talks of justification apart from works of the Law, he is opposing a Jewish position whereby obedience to the Law in a comprehensive sense results in final vindication by God on the day of judgment” (148).
The first main heading concerns how the justification of Israel is the justification of the ungodly, and it begins with a subhead treating the “polemic against Israel in Romans 1:18–3:20.” In this section, Gathercole argues, Paul “has to expend so much energy in persuading his Jewish dialogue partner that the nation is steeped in sin. The problem is not simply that a “minimal” repentance for sins is required; rather a maximalist repentance—the same as is required of Gentiles—represents the only possibility for final acceptance by God” (150).
The next subheading treats the righteousness “apart from Law” related in 3:21–22. Again “apart from Law” is often construed as “apart from the communal requirements of Judaism” (hence, “open to Gentiles”). “However, in Romans 3:19–22, Paul makes a series of contrasts which show that he is equally concerned with the salvation of Israel” (151). The Jews certainly are not the exclusive focus—but neither are the Gentiles. Therefore, this righteousness apart from law is indeed a “righteousness to Gentiles” but also is “righteousness to Jews apart from Law.” Gathercole cites his monograph Where is Boasting? and the Second Temple sources (particularly the Testament of Moses) to show expressions of. . .[...]
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Justification and Variegated Nomism: Volume 2—The Paradoxes of Paul.