Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Paul and Garry Wills

I am on a quest for Paul. I am doing a series of sermons on Paul this summer; his letter to the Galatians is the focus for this week.

Sunday a parishioner introduced me to Garry Wills, What Paul Meant. It is a great read, easy to follow, and a fine introduction to Paul. Wills suggests that Paul may actually be closer to the historical Jesus than much of scholarship has given him credit.

He touches on the same issues that Crossan does with a slightly different focus. I would recommend this book if you haven't yet read anything--or much of anything--on Paul.

Garry Wills is Professor of History Emeritus at Northwestern. He won the Pulitzer Prize for
Lincoln at Gettysburg. If you want to read a great article by Wills, try this--"The Day the Enlightenment Went Out."


  1. John,

    Have you heard anything in the scholarly world on the 'New Perspective on Paul?' I believe it was started with EP Sanders books, and now NT Wright and James Dunn also endorse it. What it says is that Judaism wasn't/isn't a work-based religion, in that one earns salvation. Rather, the works were a sign of being in the covenant, and gratitude for what God did. This would greatly call into question the Justification by Faith aspect.

    Given that you'll be researching Paul, I just wondered.

  2. Heather,

    I have not run across that phrase exactly, but certainly the concept. The Jesus Seminar has a Paul Seminar working on a translation of Paul's letters. I am not sure what they will come up with but I think the distinction you made critical. The Protestant Reformation interpreted Paul in a certain way and that way is being challenged. Garry Wills points that out.

    I think we have to ask what "salvation" means for sure. Further the idea of justification by faith is another area of debate. Faith in or of what?

    I know that those working with the Jesus Seminar are challenging the idea that the phrase has to do with being justified by faith in Jesus to being justified by [the] faith of Jesus. A simple preposition which carries a great deal of theological weight.

    The simplistic idea that Jews are a religion of works and protestantism is a religion of faith is just that, simplistic, and false, in my opinion.

    I recommend the Wills' book even though I don't think he does enough (in fact not much of anything) regarding both Paul's and Jesus's critique of Empire.