Matthew Thomas – Paul’s ‘Works of the Law’

Episode: New Perspective on Paul versus Old Perspective. The debate rages because a proper understanding of Christian salvation is at stake. Matthew Thomas has a novel angle that brings fresh evidence–the earliest reception history of Paul’s phrase “works of the law.” Also, you get to discover if you should believe in aliens. Or, embrace or avoid camping. Hosted by Matthew W. Bates.

Guest: Matthew J. Thomas is the author of Paul’s ‘Works of the Law’ in the Perspective of Second Century Reception (Mohr Siebeck, 2018), and holds a D.Phil in Theology (New Testament and Patristics) from the University of Oxford. He has served as Visiting Assistant Professor of Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s Seminary, and is currently a visiting scholar at Franciscan University and a distance instructor in theology with Regent College. Matthew and his wife Leeanne met as MCS students at Regent, and have two children. Prior to coming to Regent, Matthew studied at Pepperdine University and worked at Harbor House Ministries, an after-school program for youth in Oakland.

The Book:  Matthew J. Thomas, Paul’s ‘Works of the Law’ in the Perspective of Second Century Reception (WUNT 468; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018).  Paul writes that we are justified by faith apart from ‘works of the law’, a disputed term that represents a fault line between ‘old’ and ‘new’ perspectives on Paul. Was the Apostle reacting against the Jews’ good works done to earn salvation, or the Mosaic Law’s practices that identified the Jewish people? Matthew J. Thomas examines how Paul’s second century readers understood these points in conflict, how they relate to ‘old’ and ‘new’ perspectives, and what their collective witness suggests about the Apostle’s own meaning. Surprisingly, these early witnesses align closely with the ‘new’ perspective, though their reasoning often differs from both viewpoints. They suggest that Paul opposes these works neither due to moralism, nor primarily for experiential or social reasons, but because the promised new law and covenant, which are transformative and universal in scope, have come in Christ. (Publisher’s description).

The OnScript Quip (our review): Debates on the Old Perspective and New Perspective on Paul are log-jammed. Or, they were. Matthew Thomas shows that the earliest interpreters do not regard “works (of the law)” in Paul as good deeds or inappropriate moral efforts in general. The New Perspective on works is shown to be not new after all, but rather to recover earliest Christian teachings. This outstanding study promises to break a major impasse in Pauline theology. — Matthew W. Bates, Quincy University, OnScript

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2 thoughts on “Matthew Thomas – Paul’s ‘Works of the Law’

    • We are hoping it’ll get reprinted in paperback soon! Send your favorite publisher an email and tell them to pick it up 🙂

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