Bret James Stewart's Reviews > The New Perspective on Paul

The New Perspective on Paul by James D.G. Dunn
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it was amazing

James D.G. Dunn is one of the foremost proponents of the so-called school of the New Perspective on Paul (NPP). The NPP focuses upon Paul’s writing about the Law, with the concepts of “covenantal nomism” and “boundary markers” heavily promoted. This book may not be the best general introduction to the NPP because it has a narrower focus than the overall discipline, but it is a great introduction to Dunn’s own views, which are important in this academic niche. He has done top-notch work with this book, and I heartily recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about the NPP, Dunn’s views, or both.

To start out, I want to cover the basics. The cover design and colour scheme is attractive. The text is easy to read, and Dunn has included ample and often personable footnotes. There is a Scriptural index, author index, and subject index; the presence of indices is important to me as a scholar, and Dunn passes this area with flying colours.

Dunn has a warm and easy-to-understand writing style. He is less forceful than some others of his NPP proponents such as N.T. Wright (to whom the book is dedicated), but does not shy away from conflict or controversy. He fairly acknowledges differing perspectives and explains why he thinks these perspectives are inaccurate or incomplete. He also acknowledges the complementary perspectives, addressing the shortcomings of such work where appropriate, which I like as it is evidence of his credibility.

The work is a long academic treatise, so it is a little heavy, and some slogging is unavoidable. The primary gripe I have with the book is that it is a collection of individual articles based around the same theme. Dunn, in my opinion, does not streamline these as well as he could have. There is a lot of repetition as he explains the same concept(s) in most of the sections. This explanation is necessary for a stand-alone article or paper, but it is not necessary with a compilation. Although I find myself unpersuaded by the general NPP argument as proposed by some of its authors, I find that Dunn has narrowed his focus sufficiently and addressed common concerns in such a gracious and open manner that I find myself not disagreeing with the major tenets of the book. There are some grammatical/linguistic evidence he uses that I am unqualified to judge as I lack the appropriate knowledge and skills. For the things I do understand, I think Dunn is on target, even though he may give greater import to the “boundary markers” than I think they warrant. The NPP, though, in this case and prefaced with the statement that Paul is not referring to them in all cases, as promoted by Dunn provides a fresh insight into the apostle and his writings.

Overall, I rank this book 5 stars. The only real issue I have with it is the repetitive nature of the compilation. Dunn’s careful research and warm, gracious style more than compensate for this. I realize this book is not light reading and will not appeal to everyone, but I recommend it to any seeking to learn more about the subject.
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Finished Reading
June 14, 2014 – Shelved

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