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The Nations in the Divine Economy
Paul's Covenantal Hermeneutics and Participation in Christ
Core to Paul's gospel is the relationship between Israel and the Nations in light of the coming of Christ. But historic Christianity, in claiming to be a new Israel, and in not recognising the purpose of God in Christ for Jews and the nations, has ignored its Jewish roots, the scriptures of Israel, and the Jewishness of Jesus and the apostles leaving a lacuna in its own identity, which Campbell argues, can only be overcome by a covenantal understanding of diversity in Christ. The denial of the covenant leads to a negation of God's revelation to Israel, and leaves Christianity with a deficient self-understanding.
Although covenant language is not prominent in Paul's letters it remains the basis of his thought in differentiated ways concerning Israel and the nations. The covenant remains God's covenant with Israel. But through the covenant re-ratified in Christ, non-Jews although not included in the covenant, participate through Christ in the Abrahamic promises. Hence participation language is prevalent in Paul's letters since these address non-Jews in Christ as representatives of the nations. Rather than being 'indifferent to difference', Paul's gospel is not anti-ethnic, but is focused on the continuation of difference in Christ. God's purpose is designed to relate to differing peoples, not in their becoming one and the same, but in reciprocal blessing among those who remain different. The corollary of this respect for difference is the call for reconciliation as an essential part of following Christ, a fundamental element in Paul's gospel. God created a diverse world so that his people will find blessing in its rainbow diversity.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Campbell's ambitious book critically engages Paul's own texts, the giants of twentieth-century Pauline scholarship, and the very latest research on ethnicity, diversity, and community in Paul's world. At once passionately felt and deeply irenic, The Nations in the Divine Economy champions both a nuanced historical portrait of the apostle and a morally lucid theology of his letters, bridging the religious studies/ divinity divide. -- Paula Fredriksen, author of Paul: The Pagans' Apostle This is vintage Bill Campbell. He fine-tunes and develops his long-held thesis of the positive place of Israel in Paul by emphasizing three major contexts: the historical context of Paul's epistles, the context of the history of interpretation with its inevitable impact on the interpretation of Paul, and our modern context in which Campbell demonstrates post-Holocaust sensitivities and resists anti-Judaism and supercessionism. He leaves few stones unturned in his comprehensive refutations of potential objections from other interpreters of Paul. -- Robert L. Brawley, McCormick Theological Seminary In this important and timely book, William S. Campbell, well-known for his insightful work on Paul, combines historical, theological, and socio-scientific approaches in a constructive way to shed new light on Paul's covenantal hermeneutics. A must read for all scholars of the historical Paul and the Pauline literature, the significance of the book is not limited to the scholarly world. Reconstructing the Pauline message, The Nations in the Divine Economy also speaks perceptively to issues of critical importance to those seeking mutual respect and understanding between Jews and Christians today. This is an eminently readable study engaging key questions related to continuity in the Jewish and Christian reality, written from a historically sound and theologically inspiring perspective. Highly recommended! -- Anders Runesson, University of Oslo