Volume 16, Number 1 (Spring 2005)

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  • by Robert L. Thomas

    Extending an earlier simultaneous comparison of the three Synoptic Gospels to determine the probability of literary interdependence among them, this study continues the investigation by looking at the Gospels two at a time to evaluate the same probability. The use of OT citations by these Gospels furnishes a standard for ascertaining literary interdependence when it reflects a 79% average of identical-word agreement between two Gospels citing the same OT passage. Application of that standard to two Gospel accounts of the same episodes discloses that their average agreement is only 30%, far short of the 79% standard for literary interdependence. The low percentage of identical agreements is a strong argument against literary interdependence, ruling it out on an inductive basis. Literary interdependence is not only improbable, it is also not worthwhile because it creates a portrait of a Jesus whose historical image is unknowable because of embellishments imagined by recent evangelical NT scholars. The Jesus resulting from an approach of literary independence is not only inductively very probable, but it supports historically reliable accounts of His life in the Synoptic Gospels.

  • by Simon J. Kistemaker

    Several literary features of Jesus’ parables are noteworthy. In some respects Matthew’s recorded parables differ from Luke’s in presenting colorless sketches. Luke’s parables, on the other hand, are vivid and full of color. Parables in both Gospels, however, are characterized by contrasts. All the parables demonstrate artistry in their unity, coherence, balance, contrast, recurrence, and symmetry. Jesus’ repetition of similar parables on separate occasions illustrates His goal of giving emphasis by way of repetition. By using open-ended parables, Jesus drew His listeners into real-life situations and presented them with the need for a decision on their parts. Allegory in Jesus’ parables brought people into familiar surroundings and highlighted the mercy of God toward sinners. All in all, the parables of Jesus were in a category all their own and were quite distinct from other parabolic teachings in their timelessness and universality.

  • by Matt Waymeyer

    Three major views of the identity of “all Israel” in Rom 11:26 have concluded that “all Israel” refers to the church, to the elect remnant of believing Jews during the present age, and to the ethnic nation of Israel. Romans 11:28 is an often neglected verse that helps in determining which of the views is correct, because the pronoun “they” in v. 28 refers to the same people as the “all Israel” of v. 26. Since context requires that the pronoun “you” in v. 28 refers to Gentiles, the “enemies” and the “they” of v. 28 must be ethnic Jews, thereby eliminating the possibility of “all Israel” being the church. The two clauses in v. 28 describe what is true of ethnic Israel at the same time, not one condition prior to Israel’s salvation and another subsequent to that salvation. That eliminates the view that “all Israel” depicts an elect remnant of believing Jews, because they could hardly be enemies according to the gospel after becoming believers. The view that “all Israel” is the ethnic nation of Israel has v. 28 speaking of Israel’s dual status: simultaneously they are enemies according to the gospel and beloved because of the fathers. In her current rejection of Christ, the nation still enjoys the irrevocable corporate election by God. That identification of “all Israel” is therefore correct.

  • by Greg H. Harris

    Scripture uses several Greek and Hebrew words to denote deception, particularly in relation to the future period of Tribulation. Second Thess 2:11 is of special interest in discussions of deception during that future time, because God is the agent who sends the “deluding influence” among unbelievers. Two OT passages which present God as in some way deceiving are analogous to God’s future activity of this kind, 1 Kgs 22:22 and Ezek 14:9. Romans 1:18-32 is partially parallel to that future action. Just as divine judgment of the rebellious was at the heart of God’s deceptive activity in the two OT examples, so it will be during the future Tribulation. His judgment on a rebellious world will take many forms with deception being only one of them. In all cases of His use of deception, He exposes falsehood by presenting His truth. His particular opponent in the future will be “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thess 2:3) who will offer “the lie” (2 Thess 2:11) in place of the truth. This agent of evil will have a very wide following because of his use of deceptive methods. God will then add to the deception of this man’s followers by sending them the “deluding influence” that will move them beyond the possibility of receiving the truth.

  • by William D. Barrick

    The blessings and curses of Leviticus 26 have eschatological significance because they relate to the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. Verses 33-45 speak of retributive dispersion/exile, the Sabbath rest, the stricken remnant, and the contingency of repentance. Repentance includes Israel’s acceptance of retribution, Yahweh’s acceptance of repentance, and a summary of the retribution. Chapter 26 touches upon various eschatological themes, one of which is its attention to the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Deuteronomic covenants. It also speaks of the land promised to Israel under the Abrahamic Covenant, of Israel’s exile and eventual salvation, of preservation of the covenant by Yahweh though breached by Israel, of the prohibition of idolatry, of Sabbath observance, of the Lord’s presence with Israel, of His promises to bless obedient Israel, of Israel’s obedience and disobedience, of retribution and chastisement, and of future exile and repentance. Though the NT has only one direct reference to Leviticus 26, application of the chapter to believers of every era is obvious: faith is the binding requirement for anyone to have a relationship to the God of Abraham.

  • by Will C. Varner

    The Didache has attracted widespread attention among scholars interested in early Christian writings since being discovered in 1873. Of particular interest has been the way it uses the Old and New Testaments because it reflects the way earliest Christian leaders approached the same issue. The document shows a special familiarity with the Gospel of Matthew and cites passages frequently from that source. Evidence supports the conclusion that the Didachist had access to the canonical Gospel as currently known and not just to oral tradition about Jesus. His use of Matthew often followed very closely to the exact wording of that Gospel. His only use of noncanonical works was in a negative way. He also cited two OT passages and apparently followed the wording of the LXX most closely. He did not endorse an allegorical interpretation of the OT as came to be the practice in other early Christian writings. A personal translation of the Didache is included.

Volume 16, Number 2 (Fall 2005)

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An Issue Devoted to the Subject of The New Perspective on Paul

  • by F. David Farnell

    Recent decades have witnessed a change in views of Pauline theology. A growing number of evangelicals have endorsed a view called the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) which significantly departs from the Reformation emphasis on justification by faith alone. The NPP has followed in the path of historical criticism’s rejection of an orthodox view of biblical inspiration, and has adopted an existential view of biblical interpretation. The best-known spokesmen for the NPP are E. P. Sanders, James D. G. Dunn, and N. T. Wright. With only slight differences in their defenses of the NPP, all three have adopted “covenantal nomism,” which essentially gives a role in salvation to works of the law of Moses. A survey of historical elements leading up to the NPP isolates several influences: Jewish opposition to the Jesus of the Gospels and Pauline literature, Luther’s alleged antisemitism, and historical-criticism. The NPP is not actually new; it is simply a simultaneous convergence of a number of old aberrations in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

  • by Irv A. Busenitz

    For about two thousand years the doctrine of justification by faith has been the bedrock of Christianity, but recently the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) has proposed that such a teaching rests on a misunderstanding of Paul that was propagated by the Reformers. The NPP advocates a view of second-temple Judaism that was free from legalism and focused on an exclusivism based on racial privilege. Such texts as Acts 13:38-39, Luke 18:14, and Rom 9:30-32 show that Judaism of that day was definitely legalistic, however. Rabbinic writings of the same period confirm that fact. Writings of early church fathers such as Clement of Rome, Tertullian, Chrysostom, and Augustine reflect the church’s belief in justification by faith as a contrast with early Jewish legalism. Thomas Aquinas and other Roman Catholic sources of the Middle Ages show a belief in Paul’s picture of Judaism as teaching justification by human merit. Luther continued the tradition of the church’s belief in justification by faith and its antithesis, the works of the law. Though differing slightly from Luther’s view of the law, Calvin concurred with him that justification before God was unattainable without divine intervention in regeneration. Evidence is clear that the Reformers were not merely reacting to conditions of their day as the NPP contends, but continued a tradition of justification and faith alone handed down from the early church.

  • by Jack Hughes

    Scholars have not reached a consensus concerning Paul’s view of the law. Disagreement prevails even among those who believe in verbal plenary inspiration. Paul’s frequent references to the law come in many different contexts. Interpreting each reference accurately within its own context and synthesizing the interpretations into a systematic whole are difficult challenges. The New Perspective [NP] on Paul has amplified the existing problem. Founders of the NP take a historical, higher-critical, covenantal approach to interpreting Paul. Their low view of Scripture and their high view of extra-biblical literature have produced an entirely new way of understanding Paul’s view of the law and have led many to redefine key theological terms related to both law and gospel. The NP on Paul leads those who subscribe to it outside the limits of orthodox theology.

  • by William D. Barrick

    The New Perspective on Paul (NPP) differs from a traditional understanding of Paul’s references to the “works of the law .” Traditionally, Paul’s references to such works has been seen in a negative light, but the NPP takes a very opposite view of the works. Pre-NT references to works of the law show that they cannot be limited to circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and dietary restrictions the way NPP advocates propose. Broadly considered, NT references to the same works show the same impossibility. Two crucial passages, Gal 2:16 and Rom 3:20, when analyzed in detail, indicate the grave error in the NPP position. Three occurrences of “works of the law” in Gal 3:20 show that they are the direct opposite of faith in matters pertaining to salvation. The context of Rom 3:20 shows that “works of the law” refer to human deeds to earn merit with God and are not limited to circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and dietary restrictions. Rather, they simply demonstrate how guilty human beings are before a righteous God. Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone and not by the “works of the law.”

  • by Robert L. Thomas

    Recent changes in evangelical hermeneutical principles have opened a wide door for new-perspective (NP) proposals on Pauline literature and more basically NP proposals about second-temple Judaism. Setting aside the timehonored ideal of objectivity, the proposals have raised questions about longstanding views of Augustine and Luther and of the nature of first-century Judaism. E. P. Sanders has been a major figure in raising these questions. The questions arise in part through an allegorical versus a literal handling of God’s OT covenants with Israel, i.e., through devising a system known as “covenantal nomism.” The NP system also seeks support through a neglect of the established principle of single versus multiple meanings for a given passage and through disregarding the importance of immediate context in interpretation. The NP builds on an erroneous base of wrong-headed conclusions about first-century Judaism and commits multiple hermeneutical errors in its approach to Pauline literature.

  • by Dennis M. Swanson