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Paulus und das Judentum: Anthropologische Erwagungen.

The |new perspective' on Paul brought by E. P. Sanders has made a considerable impact on English-speaking scholarship. German scholarship has been much less impressed, and it is only recently that Sanders' work has begun to receive the detailed attention it deserves. The most obvious manifestation of this is the thesis by the Finnish scholar Timo Laato, for which the main research was carried out at Gottingen, under Professors Hubner and Strecker.

The opening Forschungszibersicht briefly retraces the ground of Sanders' devastating critique of |the Weber line' of interpretation which posed Judaism and Christianity in sharpest antithesis. Laato defends Bousset with good effect from some of the criticisms levelled against him by Sanders (and earlier by G. F. Moore), and brings into prominence H. Odeberg's claim that the contrast between Rabbinism and Paulinism culminated in the question of the freedom of the will. Otherwise he accepts Sanders' argument that the Weberian construction of Rabbinism and Judaism comes close to a caricature.

Sanders' own method, however, does not escape criticism. In particular, Laato questions Sanders' attempt to operate by comparing patterns of religion'. Was there a single pattern of Judaism? Sanders should not have condemned so quickly |motif comparison, but bad use of the technique; for his own comparison of religious structures is actually only a variation of comparison of individual motifs. Sanders has to decide which motifs constitute the wholeness, and in the event focuses on soteriological motifs. Again, Sanders' review of sources is incomplete, and he tends to assume the homogeneity of rabbinic sources. Most important of all for Laato, the anthropological dimensions of the comparison are not given sufficient consideration, that is, the question (posed already by Odeberg) of human ability so far as remaining within the covenant (|covenantal nomism') is concerned. It is this last issue which provides the focus for Laato's thesis.

The contrast Laato sees is straightforward: between a Judaism where the opinio communis is that the individual is free both to choose and to do good - anthropological optimism (the Qumran community is the only exception) - and the anthropological pess this latter point: Romans 2 does not presuppose non-Christian Gentile fulfilment of the law, but rather seeks to counter the covenantal optimism as found in the Wisdom of Solomon; and the sense that all have sinned in Adam cannot be escaped in Rom. 5: 12. Moreover, despite the continuing prevalence of Kummel's interpretation of Rom. 7: 14-25, the passage has nevertheless to be read as a depiction of man under grace. Laato even goes so far as to say that |Rom. 7 embraces nothing which does not fit the Christian, or, conversely, everything which Rom. 7 embraces fits only the Christian' (p. 163). In short, Paul seems never to have given up his anthropological pessimism.

The next question is how to integrate these anthropological insights into the larger Jewish and Pauline religious structures. Here the quality and detail of the discussion, which has been impressive thus far, begins to deteriorate. Laato takes his single assertions regarding the anthropological optimism of Judaism and pessimism of Paul and draws the deduction that in Judaism |Salvation requires human cooperation. It does not rest per se on the grace of God' (p. 190). |"Staying in" rests in the first instance on the decision of man in the strength of his free will', but 'in Paul's case on the inworking of God by means of the gospel' (p. 194). This is unfortunate. For one of the most valuable features of the debate sparked off by Sanders has been a deepening appreciation that the interplay between divine grace and human response is much more substantial and much more subtle in both cases. Paul's twin emphasis on the righteousness of God and the obedience of faith is Jewish through and through, indeed, a Christian variation of |covenantal nomism'. But Laato ignores such necessary qualifications and consistently overdraws the contrast, ignoring,, for example, the degree to which repentance in Judaism plays the same role as faith in Paul's Christianity.

Instead of grappling with the crucial issue of why soteriological patterns which were so similar in essentials should nevertheless have diverged, Laato instead falls back into traditional lines of exegesis in a sequence of too brief studies of the key passages in Galatians, Romans, and Philippians. What Paul is attacking after all is simply egocentric legalism. Against Sanders, Paul criticizes not simply Jewish unbelief but also the (narcissistic) self-boasting of self-righteousness. The alternative suggestion that Paul criticizes a boasting in Israel's (covenant) status rather than self-boasting is noted, but the evidence of Rom. 2: 17-23 and 3: 27-29 is lightly discounted, and supporting evidence in such passages as Rom. 10: 3 and Gal. 6: 13 ignored. In short, an oversimplified contrast between Jewish and Pauline anthropologies has resulted in a shallow restatement of the traditional polemical contrast between Jewish legalism and Christian grace.

It is important then that the challenge of Sanders is being taken so seriously on continental Europe. And there are not a few good points and examples of strong exegesis in the first half of Laato's monograph. But in the end Laato's work is perhaps most useful in reminding us that the reassessment of Jewish and Christian perception of each other in first-century terms still has a long way to go.
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Author:Dunn, James D.G.
Publication:The Journal of Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1994
Words:880
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