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Tag: Matthew Thiessen

Review: The So-Called Jew in Paul’s Letter to the Romans

I recall my shock when a veteran teacher told me that Romans 2 was possibly the most difficult chapter in the letter for him to interpret. Upon my own study, I soon understood: though Paul’s rhetoric seems clear at first, there is a flow-chart-like abundance of exegetical options available to the interpreter. Change one small interpretation and the whole passage takes on a fresh meaning. As if there weren’t enough already, another branch in the flow chart is growing in popularity among scholarship today. This view questions the long-held tradition/assumption that Romans 2:17ff describes the Jew. The authors of this present volume have written on this question elsewhere, but The So-Called Jew in Paul’s Letter to the Romans presents a unified re-reading of Paul’s letter if this hypothesis were true.

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Review: Paul and the Gentile Problem by Matthew Thiessen (Part 1)

9780190271756Those who have seen The Sixth Sense will recall that bombshell moment, when everything we thought we “saw” was wrong, and we realized we would have to re-watch – or at least re-think – the entire movie. Suddenly, scenes that “clearly” communicated one thing are revealed to communicate another. A silent meal between husband and wife, on first viewing appeared to reveal marital conflict, but when re-watched becomes something else entirely. Matthew Theissen in Paul and the Gentile Problem recognizes that our reading of Scripture can be similar. We all have the same data, but changing one’s presuppositions, or sometimes simply the details of a single interpretation, may require a re-reading of the whole. This is seen clearly in the Old and New Perspectives on Paul, where the same texts are used to reach different conclusions. However, Thiessen believes both viewpoints are faulty! In fact, they are both faulty in the same way: both the Old and New “believe that Paul’s letters contain substantial criticisms of Judaism” (p8). In contrast, Thiessen believes Paul did not reject Judaism as legalistic (Old) or ethnocentric (New), but as “the wrong solution to the gentile problem” (p14). But what of Paul’s criticisms of the Law? This is where the movie needs to be re-watched, so to speak. When we recognize that Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, and as such, wrote specifically to Gentiles, all becomes clear. Paul’s polemical words regarding the Law are not a critique about the Law itself, but about the Law applied to Gentiles.

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My Digital Seminary in Books (2016)

For me (and many others), December is a month for retrospection. Every New Year’s Eve, Natasha (my wife) and I discuss our hopes for the following year and what we saw in the year now past. This seems a good place to do something similar with books and the ideas that have influenced me. Below are my 9 most impacting Biblical studies books I read this year. These are books that profoundly excited new interest in, opened my mind to, or deepened my love for, a given subject. I also think these are objectively great books, but since there are tons of great books, this list is entirely subjective.

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