Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Triumph of Abraham's God by Bruce Longenecker

I have just finished reading The Triumph of Abraham's God: The Transformation of Identity in Galatians by Bruce W. Longenecker. It was very enlightening for me, making me see, not just Galatians, but Paul in a different light to before. I am in not very well read, so I do not know how distinctive his ideas are. But I wanted to share my enjoyment of such a great book. The blurb describes it as a 'scholarly yet accessible study', which I think is spot on; and to stop me having to think to hard about how to summarise the content of the book, Longenecker does the job for me:

The gospel that Paul proclaims but which is being perverted by the agitators is, as his letter demonstrates at key points, driven by a clear discernment of the implications of God's triumphal invasion in Christ. Divine sovereignty has penetrated an age of evil, provided a means of release from the oversight of lesser suprahuman forces and established a sphere marked our be unprecedented intimacy with God and multi-racial association. Those whose lives have been caught up in this sphere embody the triumph of God in their transformed patterns of life. By means of the Spirit, the pattern of self-giving that characterised the faithful son of God eradicates self-referential patterns of life that mark out the age of evil.

We have seen how Paul elaborates the intricacies of this perspective in relation to a number of issues in Galatians, including: suprahuman competitors of various sorts; the mechanics of participation in the eschatological age; the fulfillment of the law by Christians; the nature and purposes of the law; the enhancement of society by Christians; and presuppositions for reading scripture properly from a Christian perspective.

(Longenecker, Bruce W. The Triumph of Abraham's God: The Transformation of Identity in Galatians, p.173, Edinburgh: T&T Clark)

I found it particularly enjoyable because the New Perspective, for or against, was not the only question for Longenecker when interpreting Paul. My reading recently has been too dominated by that, and it was refreshing to read something where my thoughts were on what God is doing rather than the beliefs of Second Temple Judaism. That is not to say he has nothing to say on the NPP, or that he thinks it is unimportant.

The Triumph of Abraham's God by Bruce W. Longenecker


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