James Dunn on Galatians as “living theology”

Next week I am going to lecture on two early and important Pauline letters: 1 Thessalonians and Galatians. As for the latter, I resonated with this quote from James Dunn’s outstanding 1993 Theology of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

In no sense is Galatians an ivory tower tract remote from real life, the dispassionate statement of one high above the battle. Rather, it is a cry from the heart of one at the very front of the line of Christian advance, dealing with questions which determined the identity and whole life-style of those to whom he wrote. It is theology engaging with the challenge of competing interpretations of central beliefs and with the crisis of new adherents caught in the crossfire of whom to believe and how to act. It is itself theology under fire, theology in the midst, living theology.”

Ten New Books in Biblical Studies

In the past few weeks, I have received a slew of new and exciting books. Reviews will be coming, but here are some initial thoughts.

(in no particular order)

Common English Bible Study Bible  – I will have more to say next week, but for now I will share that I have poked around in Galatians, 1-2 Thessalonians, and Matthew, and I have appreciated both the translation as well as the scholarly study notes. I have already recommended this study Bible to my own students as something to tell their congregation about.

Paul and the Law (Brian Rosner) – I have long appreciated Rosner’s work on Paul and ethics and Paul and Scripture. Here he discusses the highly-debated subject of Paul and the law – is there anything new to say? Rosner offers a very sensible review of the key texts and avoids either/or paradigms or positions. He is neither NPP or “plain old Lutheran,” but somewhere in the middle (leaning old perspective in my opinion). He aims to retain the best of both perspectives, but he does so with exegetical finesse. I intend to use this as a textbook, so expect more to come.

John (Jey Kanagaraj) – This is the latest offering from the New Covenant Commentary series (Wipf & Stock). I will be writing a lengthy review for RBL, but let me say briefly here that John’s Gospel is so rich and deep and unique and complex – it deserves more and more study, so Jey’s commentary is most welcome.

From Creation to New Creation (Festschrift in honor of Greg Beale) When I was at Gordon-Conwell, Beale had already left, but he made an indelible mark on the faculty and seminary. He had (and, I assume, still has) such a high bar for academic work in seminary. His intro to exegesis course was legendary – especially for nearly killing students with lengthy and intensive word studies. While I don’t agree with everything Beale has said or promoted, I confess that his work on Biblical theology has been extremely helpful for me. His book We Become What We Worship was nothing short of life-changing for me. Here is a fun little anecdotal nugget from the foreword by colleague David Wells – Beale read Tom Wright’s 750-page resurrection book while brushing his teeth each morning and night (see p. x)!

Evangelical Theology (Michael Bird) – I nearly broke my back carrying this mammoth-sized volume home! All kidding aside, I have never had much of an interest in reading a systematic theology book. However, Bird’s approach is so appealing, I can’t wait to dig in!

Recovering the Full Mission of God: A Biblical Perspective on Being, Doing, and Telling (Dean Flemming). I reviewed Flemming’s Philippians commentary a few years back and it was brilliant. So I can’t wait to read this offering in missional theology that moves beyond proclaiming our faith either with words or deeds.

Sermon on the Mount (Scot McKnight) and Philippians (Lynn Cohick) – these are the inaugural volumes of the new Story of God commentary series by Zondervan. While I am not necessarily “sold” on its niche yet, McKnight has put together such an excellent line-up of authors and the book is aimed at both good exegesis and advice towards living out the testimony of Scripture. I have begun both volumes and they are loaded with great examples and illustrations. This will be a goldmine for pastors!

Romans (C. Marvin Pate) – This is a launch volume for the new “Teach the Text” commentary series from Baker. I haven’t opened it yet, but I know the idea is that these commentaries will help pastors and teachers discern the best way to…teach the text. Very much needed.

Gospel Writing (Francis Watson) – the word “tome” comes to mind. I am only a couple hundred pages into it and it is quite dense, but when Watson tips his hat at where he is going, it is electric and you can almost feel the ground move under your feet.