by Samuel E. Waldron

 

The new perspective on Paul is influenc­ing many in evangelical circles and, in my view, corrupts the gospel at its heart. My plan is to acquaint you with the new per­ spective and then evaluate some of its primary tenets in light of an exposition of one of the pivotal, biblical statements of justification by faith alone.1

 

THE LEADING SOURCES OF THE NEW PERSPECTIVE

 

Since elsewhere in this journal Guy Waters gives a detailed description of the new perspec­tive and its leaders,2 I will only briefly acquaint you with the three most important originators of the new perspective on Paul.

E. P. Sanders

In 1977, E.P Sanders, formerly professor of exegesis at Oxford, published a book entitled Paul and Palestinian Judaism that has gained a wider hearing. From a lengthy survey of ancient Jewish literature, Sanders argues that the Judaism of Paul’s time was not a religion in which one must seek to gain acceptance with God through acquiring personal merit or through good works. Instead the Jews of Paul’s day were taught to keep the law out of gratitude to God for his mercies. Their accept­ance and covenant relationship with God was understood as being freely bestowed upon them by God’s grace. The keeping of the law was in order to maintain that acceptance. Sanders calls this pattern of religion covenantal nomism. He adds, “An important interpretation of the first and last points is that election and ultimately salvation are considered to be by God’s mercy rather than human achievement.”3  Contrary to the history of Protestant interpretation, Sanders argues, Second Temple Judaism was not a reli­gion of works righteousness.

Yet Paul argues that the works of the law cannot justify. This raises the question: If the Jews were not trying to be justified by keeping the law, what was the point of Paul’s argument? Or as Douglas Moo frames the dilemma, “If no one in first century Judaism really believed that a person could be justified by doing the law, then why deny it?”4

Various answers have been given to this question by those who accept Sanders’ view. Some argued that Paul either misunderstood or deliberately misrepresented Judaism. Others took a more conservative position. They argued that the problem is a failure to under­ stand exactly what Paul means when he refers to the works of the law. The problem is not with Paul, but with the way Protestants have interpreted Paul. This leads us to a second proponent of the New Perspective.

James D. G. Dunn

Dunn, the Lightfoot Professor of Divinity in the University of Durham, actually coined the term “New Perspective” with reference to the study of Paul in a lecture that he gave in 1982. That lecture was later put into published form and is now reprinted in his book entitled Jesus, Paul, and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians. 5 Dunn believes that Sanders has conclusively proven that Judaism at the time of Paul did not teach a doctrine that salvation is earned by the merit of good works or law keeping. Thus he agrees with Sanders that the reformation understand­ ing of Paul’s doctrine of justification is wrong.

But building upon Sanders work, Dunn answers the question, “What then was Paul’s controversy with the Jews about?” Dunn argues that the answer to this question is found in rightly understanding to what Paul is referring when he speaks of the works of the law. The “works of the law” Paul opposed in Galatians primarily referred to circumcision, keeping the religious calendar, and observing the dietary laws that distinguish Jews from Gentiles. Dunn calls these particular “works of the law” the badges or boundary markers of Judaism. Paul opposed these practices because they functioned to separate people whom Christ died to bring together. Paul’s target was partic­ ular religious practices that differentiated Jews from Gentiles.

Finally, Dunn has no place in his understanding of justification for a righteousness imputed to the believ­ er as the basis of his acceptance with God. He also argues that the options of “make righteous” and “declare righteous” when it comes to justification are a false dichotomy. Quoting Dunn, “the answer is not one or the other but both.”6

 

N. T. Wright

N. T. Wright is the Bishop of Durham in the Church of England. He is a prolific writer and the most influ­ ential advocate of the new perspective among evangel­ icals. Wright styles himself as an evangelical and associates with evangelicals. His simple presentation of the new perspective entitled, What Saint Paul Really

Said has popularized the new perspective more perhaps than any other book. What are some of the character­ istics of Wright’s teaching about justification?

Wright agrees with E.P. Sanders’ basic interpretation of Second Temple Judaism. He says, “Judaism in Paul’s day was not, as has regularly been supposed, a religion of legalistic works-righteousness. If we imag­ ine that it was, and that Paul was attacking it as if it was, we will do great violence to it and to him.”7 Wright agrees with Dunn regarding the works of the law. He defines the works of the law both in Romans and Galatians as “the badges of Jewish race” (i.e., Sabbath, food laws, circumcision).

Wright argues that the traditional definition of justifi­ cation is wrong. He writes that what Paul means by justification “is not ‘how you become a Christian’ so much as ‘how you can tell who is a member of the covenant family.”‘8 Wright stresses in his writings that justification is not properly placed in the doctrine of salvation, but in the doctrine of the church.

Justification is God declaring that all who believe in Christ are in the church.

Wright argues that the “righteousness of God” in Paul’s writings is to be understood as referring to his covenant faithfulness rather than a righteousness that God gives to believing sinners. Romans 3:21-22, for example, refers to God’s covenant faithfulness. It should be read as follows: The covenant faithfulness of God apart from the law is revealed; even the covenant faith­ fulness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. Wright denies the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the believer. He says, for example,

It makes no sense whatever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or other­ wise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom To imagine the defendant somehow receiving the judge’s right­eousness is simply a category mistake.9

 

Faith, instead of being the instrument by which Christ and justification are received, is effectively the basis of our justification. Wright says, “Justification presupposes the work of the Spirit.” 10 It can, there­ fore, be said to take place on “the basis of faith.” He remarks: “But why should Christian faith be the reason for God’s declaration that the believer is in the right?… The answer is that Paul understands faith to be the true fulfilling of the law.” 1 1 Wright, thus, speaks of justifying faith as faithfulness. He writes: “Faith and obedience are not antithetical. They belong exactly together. Indeed, very often the word “faith” itself could properly be translated faithfulness.”12

In summation, the primary tenets of the new perspec­tive are these:

  • First century Judaism was a religion of
  • The problem Paul’s doctrine of justification addresses is Jewish exclusivism not how can a sin­ ner be right with God.
  • Works of the law in Paul’s epistles refer primari­ly to Jewish boundary markers.
  • Righteousness terminology refers either to covenant faithful­ ness or to covenant membership.
  • Faith because it is the true fulfilling of the law and faithful­ ness is the badge of covenant membership on the basis of which we are declared to be covenant members.

ustification has nothing to do with the righteousness of Christ being imputed to believing sinners.

In what follows three of these tenets-(1), (3), and (5)-will be exposed to the light of Scripture. The first tenet is important because, as we have seen, it is the root out of which the new perspective grows. The third and fifth tenets are important because they repre­ sent a drastic revision of the Reformation’s definition of justifying faith. Let me explain.

When we say that we are justified by faith alone and not the works of the law, the meaning of faith alone is defined in relation to the works of the law. Faith is the opposite of the works of the law. Hence, one’s under­ standing of the works of the law profoundly affects one’s view of faith. If faith is the opposite only of Jewish boundary markers, then it is not the opposite, for instance, of observing the moral laws found in the Ten Commandments. Faith, then, may be said to justi­fy because it fulfills Gods moral law and is equivalent to covenant faithfulness. Faith, then, is not opposed to all works. It is only opposed to some works.

The new perspective ends up taking substantially the same exegetical position that Rome took against the Reformers. Rome claimed that the works of the law were merely the works of the ceremonial law. The new perspective claims that they are the Jewish identity markers (the dietary laws, circumcision, and the Sabbath) or, in other words, merely the works of the ceremonial law. The views of Rome and the new per­spective on this pivotal and decisive exegetical issue are substantially the same and lead to similar errors regard­ing justification.

 

THE PIVOTAL BIBLICAL PASSAGE: ROMANS 4:3

In Romans 4:3 Paul appeals to Genesis 15:6, a passage clearly foundational in the Bible for the doctrine of jus­ tification by faith alone. What is the significance of Paul’s appeal? How does he understand it? A clear view of Paul’s understanding and use of Genesis 15:6 may be obtained by consider­ ing Paul’s use of Genesis 15:6 in contrast to a common approach of Paul’s Jewish contemporaries.

The Jewish Approach

Now when I describe this position as the Jewish approach, I do not mean that all Jews even in Paul’s day held it. Paul was a Jew, and he did not hold it. Indeed, it was not the view of any Jews who truly under­stood the Old Testament. I am simply saying that there was an important stream of Jewish interpretation in Paul’s day that assumed that Abraham’s faith was con­sidered righteousness, because it actually was righteous­ ness. Faith, according to this view, is credited as right­ eousness because it is by faith that Abraham and we ourselves obey God’s law.

All this is important to the understanding of Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:3 because it was especially with regard to their view of Abraham that this “legalistic” strain in the Judaism of Paul’s day showed up. Here are some of that view’s statements regarding Abraham and Genesis 15:6.

“With ten trials was Abraham, our Father proved, and he stood firm in them all; to make known how great was the love of Abraham, our Father (peace be upon him). (Aboth 5:3 in the Babylonian Talmud)

“Another matter: “His way is perfect” (2 Sam. 22:31) refers to Abraham, for it is written in his regard, “You found [Abraham’s] way faithful before you” (Neh. 9:8). (Genesis Rabbah, Parashah 44, comments on Genesis 15:1)

” … Who had second thoughts? Abraham did. He said before the Holy One, blessed be he, “Lord of the ages, you made a covenant with Noah that you would not wipe his children. I went and acquired a treasure of religious deeds and good deeds greater than his, so the covenant made with me has set aside the covenant made with him. Now is it possible that someone else will come along and accumulate religious deeds and good deeds greater than mine and so set aside the covenant that was made with me on account of the covenant to be made with him?” (Genesis Rabbah, Parashah 44)

“And in the seventh year of that week, she bore a son for him, and he called him Abram, after the name of his mother’s father because he died before his daugh­ter conceived a son. And the lad began understand­ing the straying of the land, that everyone went astray after graven images and after pollution. And his father taught him writing. And he was two weeks of years old. And he separated from his father that he might not worship the idols with him. And he began to pray to the Creator of all so that he might save him from the straying of the sons of men, and so that his portion might not fall into straying after the pollution and scorn.” (Jubilees 11:15-17)

“And the Lord knew that Abraham was faithful in all his afflictions, for he had tried him through his country and with famine; and had tried him with the wealth of kings, and had tried him again through his wife, when she was torn (from him), and with circumcision; and had tried him through Ishmael and Hagar, his maid-servant, when he sent them away. And in everything wherein He had tried him, he was found faithful, and his soul was not impatient, and he was not slow to act; for he was faithful and a lover of the Lord.” (Jubilees 17:17-18)

“For Abraham was perfect in all of his actions with the LORD and was pleasing through righteousness all of the days of his life.” (Jubilees 23:10)

“And all the nations of the earth will bless them­ selves by your seed because your father obeyed me and observed my restrictions and my command­ments and my laws and the ordinances and my covenant.” (Jubilees 24:11; cf. 24:10)

“Abraham was the great father of a multitude of nations, and no one has been found like him in glory; he kept the law of the Most High, and was taken into covenant with him; he established the covenant in his flesh, and when he was tested he was found faithful. Therefore the Lord assured him by an oath that the nations would be blessed through his posterity; that he would multiply him like the dust of the earth, and exalt his posterity like the stars, and cause them to inherit from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. To Isaac also he gave the same assurance for the sake of Abraham his father.” (Sirach 44:19-22)

“Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness?” (1 Mac­cabees 2:52)

“You, therefore, Lord God of the righteous ones, did not appoint repentance to the righteous ones, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the ones who did not sin, but you appointed repentance to me the sinner.” (Odes 12:8)

 

It is clear that the strain of Judaism represented in such quotations as these took Genesis 15:6 as descriptive and sees Abraham counted righteous because of what a wonderfully righteous man he was.13 That is, Abraham’s believing God is seen as a way of describing what a personally righteous and law-abiding man he was. Abraham by his faith obeyed the law. Because Abraham’s life was characterized by believing obedi­ence, God counted him righteous.

The Apostolic Alternative

The Apostle Paul’s interpretation could scarcely be in more striking contrast to the approach to Genesis 15:6 represented in the above quotations. Notice several things about it. It is clear, first of all, that in Paul’s interpretation of Genesis 15:6 he interprets it in terms of a basic contrast. Romans 3:28 states this contrast. It is a contrast between being justified by faith and being justified by works. Romans 4:4-5, upon which we will focus below, articulates this same contrast as one between a crediting according to works and a crediting according to grace. In other words, there is a reckoning that is according to what is due-debt-, and there is a reckoning that is according to favor-grace.

Paul is stating here in his own words a distinction between two kinds of reckoning or crediting that are present in the Bible. There is a calculation that is according to reality. That kind of reckoning is descrip­tive. It describes an obvious reality. There is also a cal­culation that is contrary to reality. The adjective reversal has been used to describe this form of reckoning. It is reversal reckoning. It imputes to something a quality that may not be present or that does not seem to be present. Here the reckoning in view seems to involve a reversal of the ordinary or descriptive way of reckoning.

First, consider an example of descriptive reckoning. When we read that Phinehas stood up against sin and killed the evildoers, we read that “it was reckoned to him for righteousness.” In Psalm 106:30-31 we have a reckoning that seems consistent with the obvious facts. Phinehas did what was right, and it was credited as right­eousness: “Then Phinehas stood up and interposed, And so the plague was stayed. And it was reckoned to him for righteousness, To all generations forever.”

On the other hand, there is an imputation that is obvi­ously contrary to the facts. Consider several examples of reversal reckoning. In Genesis 31:4-15 Rachel and Leah were in fact not foreigners, but they assert that their father was thinking of them and treating them as foreigners. This is reckoning that is contrary to the facts. Such a reckoning is found in a number of places.

Rachel and Leah said to him, “Do we still have any portion or inheritance in our father’s house? Are we not reckoned by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and has also entirely consumed our pur­chase price.” (Genesis 31:14-15)

When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, for she had covered her face. (Genesis 38:15)

So if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings should ever be eaten on the third day, he who offers it will not be accepted, and it will not be reckoned to his benefit. It shall be an offensive thing, and the person who eats of it will bear his own iniq­uity. (Leviticus 7:18)

“Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, ‘When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the LORD, a tithe of the tithe. Your offering shall be reckoned to you as the grain from the thresh­ing floor or the full produce from the wine vat.”‘ (Numbers 18: 26)

The major question we face in interpreting Genesis 15:6 is whether its assertion that faith is reckoned or calcu­lated to be righteousness is descriptive reckoning or rever­sal reckoning. Is Paul saying that faith actually is right­eousness? That would be the descriptive view. Or is Paul saying that faith is considered righteousness-even though it actually is not in reality? That would be the reversal view. Now I think you can already see where this is going. Reckoning according to works or debt is descriptive crediting. Reckoning according to grace or faith is reversal crediting.

Romans 3 and 4 clearly do not present Abraham as being credited with righteousness on account of the fact that faith obeys the commandments of God. He does not see Abraham as virtually righteous on account of his faith. On the contrary, the crediting of Genesis 15:6 according to Paul is not descriptive, but reversal reckon­ing. Faith is not Abraham’s righteousness. It is count­ ed as if it were righteousness. In Romans 4:2 he says that Abraham was not justified by works. In Romans 4:4-5 Abraham is viewed as one of those who is ungod­ly and does not work, but who is yet justified. In Romans 4:6-8 Abraham’s being credited as righteous is likened to that crediting described in Psalm 32. There a sinful man who is forgiven is said to be credited as righteous. His sins are said not be credited to him­ even though they should be credited on the grounds of strict justice. Clearly, here again we have to do (not with a descriptive crediting, but) with a reversal reckoning.

Paul asserts, then, that God graciously considers Abraham to be righteous, even though he is not. But is Paul-dare I even say it-properly interpreting Genesis 15:6? One of his opponents might say to Paul: I under­ stand what you are saying, but you have grievously misunder­stood the Old Testament!

 The Evidence He Assumes

Romans 4 makes two claims with regard to Abraham’s being counted righteous:

1. Abraham was ungodly when he was counted righteous. The fact that Abraham was considered ungodly when righteousness was credited to him is clearly implied by the connection of Romans 4:3 with 4:5. Paul cites the text about Abraham being credited as righteous and immediately speaks of the ungodly being justified. Clearly, Abraham is seen by Paul as the example of the ungodly man who is justified. But is this the way the Old Testament presents Abraham? It surely is.

First of all, what Paul points out in Romans 4:9-11 is indisputably the case. Abraham was uncircumcised when he was justified. Abraham was not circumcised until Genesis 17, but we are told that he was justified in Genesis 15. This means that when Abraham was justi­ fied he was an unclean and uncircumcised Gentile. As Galatians 2:15 says: “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles.” To point out, then, that Abraham when justified was equivalent to an uncir­ cumcised Gentile was for the Jews to say that he was an ungodly sinner.

Second, the Old Testament makes clear that until God’s call Abraham lived as a Gentile idolater.

“You are the LORD God, Who chose Abram And brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees, And gave him the name Abraham.” (Neh. 9:7)

Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him through all the land of Canaan, and multi­ plied his descendants and gave him Isaac.'” (Josh. 24:2)

 

Third, the Old Testament emphasizes that even after God’s call Abraham often sinned against God and stood in need of God’s forgiving grace and delivering mercy. In contrast to the glorification of Abraham as practically (if not completely) sinless in Jewish litera­ture, the sins of Abraham are clearly recorded on the pages of Genesis. For example, he is guilty of the ques­tionable stratagem of calling Sarah his sister and deceiv­ing others about the identity of his wife. This happened both early and later in his life (Gen. 13 and 20). Of course, Sarah was truly his half sister. Yet, the disas­ter that he almost brought upon those he deceived and the way in which Issac repeated(without his excuse!) this same stratagem (Gen. 26) seems clearly to indicate the sinfulness of this stratagem. Further, he is complicit in the unbelieving device of his wife when he takes Hagar as a concubine (Gen. a6). The grace of God is peculiarly evident in this event. God keeps HIs promise of a seed in spite of Abraham’s weakness in taking Hagar.

When Paul describes Abraham as ungodly and insists that he was not justified by his works, he is faithfully retelling the history of Genesis.

2. Abraham simply and only believed God’s promise when he was counted righteous. Paul is also faithful to the Old Testament when he insists that the justifying value of Abraham’s faith is not to be found in the fact that it does good works. Paul is correct when he traces the value of faith to God’s promise. It is God’s promise to Abraham and not the works that Abraham performed that is the secret of the justifying power of his faith. Genesis 15:1-6 wonderfully emphasizes the glory of God’s grace. Here is Abraham: the uncircumcised Gentile; the former idolater; the one who is so deceptive, fearful, and unprincipled as to be unwilling to tell others that Sarah was his wife; the one who is so fickle as to agree with Sarah’s fateful and unbelieving scheme of giving him Hagar; the one who even when God appears is presented as initially full of confusion, doubt, and fear.

But then there is God’s promise. God gives Abraham this glorious and undeserved promise of a seed so great that it will be like the innumerable stars. This is free and sovereign grace. But there is much more. God then confirms this promise by making a covenant with Abraham. Not only so, God then confirms this covenant with the marvelous act of swearing by His own life in order to assure His unbelieving servant of His gracious purpose towards him (Gen. 15:7f.).

The emphasis in this passage is clearly not at all on the virtue of Abraham’s believing works, but on the grace of God’s glorious promise. It is so clear, then, that Paul’s interpretation of Genesis 15:6 is based on deep and clear insights into the meaning and structure of the Old Testament account of Abraham!

Furthermore, Paul is not astray when he sees the prom­ise to Abraham as intimately related to the work of Christ. The seed of Abraham was not just a host as countless as the stars. It also embodied the Messianic Seed. So Paul emphasizes again and again that it is by believing God’s promises that not only Abraham, but we ourselves, are justi­fied. He emphasizes again and again in Romans 4 that it is the content of this promise and not the works of our hands that enables us to be justified (vv.13-25). Like Abraham, it is by believing God’s promises that our ungodliness will become righteousness and our weakness will become strength. This is true because the ultimate fulfillment of those promises is to be found in and through the death and resurrection of Christ.

 

CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS

 

Our study of Romans 4:3 has presented clear evidence that the pivotal passage, Genesis 15:6, and the pivotal figure, Abraham, were interpreted by Jews in Paul’s day in terms of assumptions which can only be called legal­istic. The passages cited from the Jewish literature of the period clearly refute the claim that Second Temple Judaism was a religion of grace. The fundamental premise of the new perspective on Paul is false.

Additionally, our study of Romans 4:3 shows that the works of the law with which faith is contrasted by Paul are not simply the Jewish boundary-markers. Abraham is not pictured in Genesis 15:6 as a righteous Gentile because of his believing obedience. His faith there con­sisted in simply standing there and doing nothing except trust God’s incredible promise. What is evident in Genesis 15:6 is magnified by the contrast by which Paul interprets the passage. This contrast emphasizes that Abraham did nothing in Genesis 15 for which he could be described as righteous. Abraham is the premier example of the ungodly man who is justified.

Our study of Romans 4:3 also manifests that the Scriptures support the historic doctrine of imputation and refute the new perspective rejection of this doctrine. Romans 4:3 and several other passages provide exam­ ples of a reversal kind of reckoning. Such-a reckoning suggests the very kind of reckoning or crediting epito­ mized in the Protestant and Reformed doctrine of imputation. By itself this passage may not prove the doctrine of double imputation in which our sins are imputed to Christ and His righteousness is imputed to us. Nevertheless, a proper understanding of this pas­ sage is perfectly consistent with that doctrine and lays a wonderful foundation for it.

Our study of Romans 4:3 vindicates a passive view of justifying faith held by the Reformers and refutes the activistic view of justifying faith taught by the new per­ spective on Paul. What did they mean and what do I mean by using this word “passive”?  We mean that it is, as Calvin says, a passive work. It is a human activity that consists in receiving and resting on Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life.

It is not as an obedient man, but as an ungodly man, that Abraham is justified by faith. It is not through his works, faithfulness, or obedience inspired by faith that he was justified. It was simply by standing there, doing nothing, except receiving, resting on, and trusting God’s promise that Abraham is credited as righteous. This picture of justifying faith is consistent with the view of the Reformation, but it is not consistent with the view of justifying faith taught by the new pe ective. The views of justifying faith assumed by the new perspective are dangerously close to the views of the legalistic Jews of Paul’s day.

 

Dr. Samuel E. Waldron is professor of Systematic Theology at the Midwest Center for Theological Stuides in Owensboro, Kentucky, and one of the pastors of Heritage Baptist Church. He is the author of numerous books including A Modem Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, A Reformed Baptist Manifesto, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America and To Be Continued?

NOTES

1 I owe a debt of gratitude to Pastor Jeff Smith of the Covenant Reformed Baptist Church of Easley, SC. In this section I am borrowing heavily from his excellent, but unpublished notes on the new perspective.

2 See Guy Prentiss Waters, “What is the New Perspective on Paul?,” pp. 5-11.

3. Sanders, Paul And Palestinian Judaism, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), 422.

4 Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 212.

5 Along with the book just mentioned, his other works that promote and articulate the new perspective are A Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1993), The Theology Of Paul’s Letter To The Galatians (1993) and The Theology of Paul the Apostle (1998). James Dunn also authored the two volume commentary on Romans in the Word Biblical Commentary series which advertises itself as a repository of evangelical biblical scholarship.

6 Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 344.

7 N.T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said (Oxford England: Lion Publishing plc, 1997), 18-19

8 Ibid., 122.

9 Ibid., 98.

10 N.T. Wright, “Justification: The Biblical Basis and its Relevance for Contemporary Evangelicalism”, 2. This is an article that can be accessed from the Paul Page on the internet. It was accessed on March 12, 2005 and is an excerpt from The Great Acquittal: Justification by Faith and Current Christian Thought, ed. Gavein Reid, (London: Collins,

1980) 13ff .

11 Ibid.

12 Wright, What Saint Paul Said, 160.

13 Here are some additional statements from Second Temple Judaism that are of articular importance to the use of Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4:3 [Sources for these quotes are Hermann Leberecht Strack, Kommentar z\m Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch (Munchen: Beck, 1965) 4′.’186-201; Jacob Neusner, Genesis Rabbah: The Judaic Commentary to the Book of Genesis: A New American Translation (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, n. d.) 125, 128, 129, 134, 135; and Michael Thomas Irvin, “Paul’s Use of the Abraham Image in Romans and Galatians,” (Ph.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1985), 11]:

4 Ezra 9:7 has the rather ambiguous statement: “And it shall be that everyone who will be saved and will be able to escape on account of his works, or on account of his faith by which he has believed.”

The Apocalypse of Baruch 57:2 refers to Abraham and says, “And after these things you saw the bright waters; that is the fountain of Abraham and his generation, and the coming of his son, and the son of his son, and of those who are like them. For at that time the unwritten law was in force among them, and the works of the commandments were accomplished at that time, and the belief in the coming judgment was brought about, and the hope of the world which will be renewed was built at that time, and the promise of life that will come later was planted. Those are the bright waters which you have seen.”

Aboth 5:3 in the Babylonian Talmud reads as follows: “With ten trials was Abraham, our Father proved, and he stood firm in them all; to make known how great was the love of Abraham, our Father (peace be upon him).”

Genesis Rabbah, Parashah 44, in its comments on Genesis 15:1 contains this typical view of Abraham: “Another matter: “His way is perfect” (2Sam. 22:31) refers to Abraham, for it is written in his regard, “You found [Abraham’s] way faithful before you” (Neh. 9:8). Later in this same Parashah there is this revealing comment: “A. “After these things” (Genesis 15:1): There were some second thoughts. B. Who had second thoughts? Abraham did. He said before the Holy One, blessed be he, “Lord of the ages, you made a covenant with Noah that you would not wipe his children. I went and acquired a treasure of religious deeds and good deeds greater than his, so the covenant made with me has set aside the covenant made with him. Now is it possible that someone else will come along and accumulate religious deeds and good deeds greater than mine and so set aside the covenant that was made with me on account of the covenant to be made with him.” Also note: “A. “But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” (Gen. 15:8): B. Rama bar Haninah said, “It was not as though he were com­plaining, but he said to him, ‘On account of what merit [shall I know it? That is, how have I the honor of being so informed?]” “He said to him, ‘It is on account of the merit of the sacrifice of atonement that I shall hand over to your descendants.”

Jubilees 11:15-17 reads this way: “And in the seventh year of that week, she bore a son for him, and he called him Abram, after the name of his mother’s father because he died before his daughter conceived a son. And the lad began understanding the straying of the land, that everyone went astray after graven images and after pollution. And his father taught him writing. And he was two weeks of years old. And he separated from his father that he might not worship the idols with him. And he began to pray to the Creator of all so that he might save him from the straying of the sons of men, and so that his portion might not fall into straying after the pollution and scorn.” As the following context makes clear (11:18), Abram is viewed as 14 years old at the time of the above description.

Jubilees 17:17-18 says: “And the Lord knew that Abraham was faithful in all his afflictions, for he had tried him through his country and with famine; and had tried him with the wealth of kings, and had tried him again through his wife, when she was torn (from him), and with circumcision; and had tried through Ishmael and Hagar, his maid-servant, when he sent them away. And in everything wherein He had tried him, he was found faith­ful, and his soul was not impatient, and he was not slow to act; for he was faithful and a lover of the Lord.” Irvin adds these rel­evant remarks to the above quotation: “Whatever might be offen­sive in the Genesis account was altered., No deception about Sarah occurred in Egypt (13:11-15), and when God told Abraham he and Sarah would have a son, Abraham rejoiced (15:17) instead of laughing (Genesis 17:17). At the age of four­ teen, Abraham rejected idol worship, rebuked his father for wor­shipping them, and then boldly burned the idols (Jubilees 12). Abraham also endorsed the Torah’s eternal validity and estab­lished cultic rituals. He reestablished the Feast of Weeks which had been discontinued since the time of Noah (6:18-20), he prac­ticed circumcision, an eternal ordinance (15:25, 26), and he began the practice of tithing (13:25). Abraham even celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles exactly as the Torah later required (16:31).”

Jubilees 23:10 also describes Abraham: “For Abraham was per­fect in all of his actions with the LORD and was pleasing through righteousness all of the days of his life.”

Jubilees 24:11 says of Abraham (cf. 24:10): “And all the nations of the earth will bless themselves by your seed because your father obeyed me and observed my restrictions and my com­mandments and my laws and the ordinances and my covenant.”

Sirach 35:24 reads: “He that believeth in the Lord taketh heed to commandment; and he that trusteth in him shall fare never the worse.”

Sirach 44:19-22 declares: “Abraham was the great father of a multitude of nations, and no one has been found like him in glory; he kept the law of the Most High, and was taken into covenant with him; he established the covenant in his flesh, and when he was tested he was found faithful. Therefore the Lord assured him by an oath that the nations would be blessed through his posterity; that he would multiply him like the dust of the earth, and exalt his posterity like the stars, and cause them to inherit from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. To Isaac also he gave the same assurance for the sake of Abraham his father.”

1 Maccabees 2:52 asks, “Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness?”

Odes 12:8 reads (my translation): “You, therefore, Lord God of the righteous ones, did not appoint repentance to the righteous ones, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the ones who did not sin, but you appointed repentance to me the sinner.”