About halfway through with E.P. Sanders’ Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People. It’s okay. It is a good read and important in seeing where Richard Hays and NT Wright would later hone their arguments, but it isn’t as controvesial as people make it out to be. Sure, Sanders denies inerrancy and has a rather low view of the Bible by evangelical standards, but so do hundreds of scholars in North America. Quite frankly, given my background and training in New Testament studies, I don’t find Sanders all that remarkable. Yes, he denies certain Reformed distinctives, but so do probaby 90% of respected New Testament scholars today. What else is new under the sun?
Admittedly, his formulations on Second Temple Judaism represent a unique challenge to Reformed theology, but even given Reformed apologetics, the only other alternative to conservative Reformation readings of Paul were liberal Protestant readings–and Sanders’ reading is neither.
Is Sanders correct? I think so, but I don’t rest with his particular conclusions. I think he points in the right direction. Sanders often admits his conclusions run into difficulties–difficulties that his mainstream Protestantism unnecessarily creates. For example, given that it is likely St Paul contradicted himself on the Law, we must admit multiple canonical readings of Paul. My response: While this sounds honest, it also means we can take our thinking caps off. If we admit that Paul could not have contradicted himself canonically, and the received apostolic deposit isn’t up for grabs, then we have to work harder and come to deeper conclusions. (This is where N. T. Wright’s scholarship is obviously preferable).