John M. G. Barclay – Paul and the Gift
Guest: John M. G. Barclay is Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University in England, one of the most highly regarded professorships in the theological world. Barclay is the author of an exciting and highly significant new book, Paul and the Gift (2015). Barclay’s early work on Galatians, Obeying the Truth (1988), remains a classic study. Barclay’s publications also highlight the diversity of Judaism in antiquity, such as Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora (1996), and a commentary and translation, Flavius Josephus, Against Apion (2007). In his 2011 published essay collection, Pauline Churches and the Diaspora Jews, Barclay brings his research on the social world of first-century Judaism to bear on the formation of Paul’s communities. In addition to this Barclay has contributed numerous articles, edited volumes of essays, and supervised 50+ doctoral students.
Episode Details: John Barclay undoubtedly can talk a good game about gift-giving–and he goes above and beyond expectations in this podcast. But what kind of a gift-giver would John be in person? If you happen to invite him over for a barbeque, expect something marvelous! In this episode, hosted by Matthew Bates, John covers a broad spectrum of topics related to gifts (and grace) in antiquity and Paul’s letters. John and Matt discuss how various interpreters, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, perfected different aspects of grace when interpreting Paul, sometimes taking Paul’s concept of grace in different directions than Paul himself took it. Moreover advocates of the New Perspective on Paul (e.g., E. P. Sanders, James D. G. Dunn, N. T. Wright), have argued that Judaism was not devoid of grace, so Paul’s critique of Judaism could not be that Jews were trying to earn salvation. Others disagree. John’s scholarly proposal, which offers a way to move beyond the New Perspective, is probed. John also speaks about his own personal journey, reflecting on how a formative experience in Pakistan in the 1970s helped pave the way for Paul and the Gift. Finally, John discusses his future research plans and gives a beautiful vision for how Paul and the Gift might contribute to the life of the church today.
Book Details: John M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015). This book presents a strikingly fresh reading of grace in Paul’s theology, studying it in view of ancient notions of “gift” and shining new light on Paul’s relationship to Second Temple Judaism. Paul and the Gift centers on divine gift-giving, which for Paul, Barclay says, is focused and fulfilled in the gift of Christ. He offers a new appraisal of Paul’s theology of the Christ-event as gift as it comes to expression in Galatians and Romans, and he presents a nuanced and detailed discussion of the history of reception of Paul.
Summary: Barclay’s Paul and the Gift is a stunningly important new contribution. You are definitely going to want to check it out!