Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Magnus Zetterholm and Approaches to Paul Initial Thoughts

Magnus Zetterholm, Associate Professor of New Testament Studies at Lund University provides an excellent overview to current Pauline studies in his new book, Approaches to Paul: a student’s guide to recent scholarship. This work offers a history of scholarship dealing with the Apostle Paul that focuses on many of the key issues within the field. For example, after a chapter that covers Sanders, Dunn, and Wright, he notes that ‘an increasing number of scholars are now addressing issues pertaining to Paul’s relation to Judaism from the basic assumption that Paul was as Torah-observant as any other Jew during the first century' (2009: 10). Zetterholm’s work summarizes key Pauline positions while allowing his view to slowly come into view in the final chapter. He fits into the category of scholars loosely referred to as ‘Beyond the New Perspective on Paul’. This group includes: William S. Campbell, Kathy Ehrensperger, Mark Nanos, Terence Donaldson, Lloyd Gaston, Peter Tomson, Stanley Stowers, Pamela Eisenbaum, and Caroline Johnson Hodge. This group does not argue for a binary relationship between Judaism and the early Christ-movement and argues that Paul continued to be within Judaism. Furthermore, Paul is understood to only be writing to gentiles and thus his rhetorical constructs are addressing gentile concerns and are not to be understood as offering instruction to Jews. Also, this group focuses on the Roman empire as Paul’s concern rather than seeing a preoccupation with Judaism (2009: 230). This group also calls into question Lutheran readings of Paul. Zetterholm ultimately suggests that ‘the truth about Paul…lurks somewhere within the radical new perspective’ (2009: 239); this last phrase is his description of the above mentioned scholars. Zetterholm also calls into question ‘the amalgamation of normative theology and historical scholarship’ (2009: 238). This is a highly contested position and he suggests that scholars such as Thielman, Das, Gathercole, and Westerholm seek to understand Paul in the context of ‘normative Protestant theology’ (2009: 192); which Zetterholm suggests is highly problematic (2009: 238). Interestingly, he also provides a summary of scholars that provide cross-disciplinary readings of Paul, these include: Jacob Taubes, Neil Elliott, Kathy Ehrensperger, Davina Lopez. I have reviewed most of these works over the past few months. This is an excellent resource for the person who is attempting to keep current or catch-up with Pauline studies. A work like this is by its nature selective; however, I would have liked to have seen some discussion concerning William S. Campbell's work on Paul.


Zetterholm, Magnus. Approaches to Paul: A Student's Guide to Recent Scholarship. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009.

Zetterholm, Magnus. The Messiah: In Early Judaism and Christianity. Philadelphia, Pa: Fortress, 2007.

Zetterholm, Magnus. The Formation of Christianity in Antioch A Social-Scientific Approach to the Separation between Judaism and Christianity. London: Routledge, 2003.

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