Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JMAT 2:2 (Fall 98) p. 230
James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1998. 808 pp. Hardback.
In this massive tome, Dunn has given the reader a mixture of fine and welcome analysis on many points of Pauline theology while at the same time casting doubt upon some basic fundamentals of the Christian faith. This eclectic work is useful for anyone who would be interested in discovering the issues involved in understanding Paul’s writings. However, one must be cautious in accepting Dunn’s interpretive conclusions.
The good features of Dunn’s work include first and foremost his viewing of Paul from within the framework of his Jewishness. To be sure, he overdoes it as will be shown below. Nonetheless, it is a welcome corrective to many theologies of Paul which overemphasize his Gentile mission to the point of distraction from his Jewish roots.
Other good features would include (1) his fair and clear presentation of Paul’s descriptive terms for the functions and substance of the individual’s material and immaterial parts, terms such as sarx, soma, nous, kardia, psyche, and pneuma, (2) his seeming acceptance of a literal resurrection of Christ as taught by Paul, (3) the insightful presentation of the multi-faceted metaphors of salvation used by Paul, and (4) the clear presentation of a Baptistic view of water baptism as to its mode, manner, and meaning.
All of these positive traits are somewhat negated by several faults with Dunn’s approach to Pauline theology. First, he unfortunately follows most scholarship with his rejection of the Pastoral Epistles as written by Paul. This cuts him off from Paul’s thinking on a number of scores such as practical church function, ethical obligations in the family, further second coming issues, and the nature of Scripture itself as God-breathed, a term coined by Paul (2 Tim 3:16).
Second, Dunn’s method leaves much to be desired with his emphasis on “intertextual echoes.” By this he means determining the assumptions that are in the Pauline text which lie behind his overt teaching. The problems with this are the inevitability of exegeting what Paul did not write and/or making the “hints” of Scripture into the main points. In either
JMAT 2:2 (Fall 98) p. 231
case, this creates problems for a genuine biblical theology which should theoretically make the text itself supreme, not alleged features “behind” the text.
Third, Dunn falls into the common trap of overusing in his theology the phrase “eschatological now.” New Testament scholarship presently is enamo...
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