The Chosen People: Election, Paul, and Second Temple Judaism
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The Chosen People: Election, Paul, and Second Temple Judaism

IVP Academic / 2015 / Paperback

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Product Description

In this careful and provocative study, A. Chadwick Thornhill considers how Second Temple understandings of chosenness influenced Paul and many of his key texts. Particular attention is paid to the social, historical, and literary contexts. Though the apostle moved beyond these ancient categories of a collective view of election, the author shows that he also followed them in The Chosen People.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 336
Vendor: IVP Academic
Publication Date: 2015
Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)
ISBN: 0830840834
ISBN-13: 9780830840830

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Publisher's Description

One of the central touchstones of Second Temple Judaism is election. The Jews considered themselves a people set apart for God’s special purpose. So it is not surprising that this concept plays such an important role in Pauline theology. In this careful and provocative study, Chad Thornhill considers how Second Temple understandings of election influenced key Pauline texts. Thornhill seeks to establish the thought patterns of the ancient texts regarding election, with sensitivity to social, historical and literary factors. He carefully considers questions of "extent" (ethnic/national or remnant), the relationship to the individual (corporate or individual in focus), and the relationship to salvation (divine/human agency and the presence of "conditions"). Thornhill looks at the markers or conditions that defined various groups, and considers whether election was viewed by ancient authors as merited, given graciously or both. Thorough and measured, the author contends that individual election is not usually associated with a "soteriological" status but rather with the quality of the individual (or sometimes group) in view—the collective entity is in view in the Jewish notion of election. While Paul is certainly able to move beyond these categories, Thornhill shows how he too follows these patterns.

Author Bio

A. Chadwick Thornhill (PhD, Liberty) is the chair of theological studies for Liberty University School of Divinity, and an assistant professor of apologetics and biblical studies for the School of Divinity.

Endorsements

In what may be the best book yet written on early Jewish and Christian concepts of election, Chad Thornhill provides clear and compelling evidence for the view that election in early Jewish and Christian circles was both corporate and conditional, and that the focus of election language was not on the salvation of particular individuals from before the foundations of the world. In short, election and salvation were not synonymous terms in either early Judaism or the writings of Paul. Thornhill covers a wide swath of early Jewish material and convincingly situates Paul's discussion - especially Rom 9-11 - within it. Thornhill's careful and compelling exposition should be a game changer in the age-old battles over the relationship of God's unconditional love and choice of a people and the issue of human freedom when it comes to the matter of individual salvation.
-Ben Witherington III,
Jean R. Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary

The welcome emphasis on Jewish backgrounds that now permeates the field of New Testament scholarship has rekindled a number of traditional discussions surrounding Pauline theology. Among the most illuminating developments is a renewed interest in the notion of corporate election. Based on evidence from the Old Testament and Second Temple Jewish literature, many scholars now insist that the time-worn debate over the relative importance of divine sovereignty versus human responsibility in God's salvific economy must be reframed in collectivist - rather than individualist - terms. The challenge, of course, is to appropriate these background materials in a way that (1) makes sense of the particularity of Paul's social location while (2) still supporting a close reading of the apostle's letters. Chad Thornhill's book is a welcome contribution to the conversation on both counts. Thornill thoroughly surveys Second Temple Jewish thinking about election and then interprets key Pauline texts against this background. Those interested in a fresh and intriguing solution to a familiar theological puzzle will find much to think about in these well-written pages.
-Joe Hellerman,
professor of New Testament language and literature, Talbot School of Theology

It is a distinct pleasure to recommend to the Christian reading public this book by Dr. A. Chadwick Thornhill. By a thorough examination of Second Temple and Pauline texts, Dr. Thornhill has demonstrated that the center of gravity of both resides in the corporate or collective dimension of ancient Israel and latter-day Israel (the church) as the elect people of God. Particularly as regards the Jewish materials, he has filled a gap in our appreciation of Paul's predecessors and contemporaries. This volume will serve as both a cover-to-cover read and a ready reference work for all who take an interest in this important subject.
-Don Garlington

Editorial Reviews

"Thornhill's work deserves consideration by pastors, Bible students, and anyone interested in the current debate on the election. . . . Thornhill's work is highly recommended for this subject."

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  1. John M Kight
    Michigan
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: Male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    A Persuasive and Challenging Examination of Pauline Election!
    December 6, 2015
    John M Kight
    Michigan
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: Male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    The Chosen People: Election, Paul and Second Temple Judaism by A. Chadwick Thornhill (PhD, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary) is an exploration assigned the task of carefully guiding the reader through the early Jewish literature of the Second Temple period, specifically to examin how it discusses the concept of election in relation to the people of God. Thornhill seeks to answer two foundational questions: (1) How did Jews during the Second Temple period understand the nature of their election? And (2) how does ones understanding of Jewish idea(s) of election influence how one might understand the key Pauline texts that address election? (p. 20-21).

    For Thornhill, the early Jewish literature of the Second Temple period (namely the Dead Sea Scrolls, Apocryphal, and Pseudepigraphal works) predominantly display an understanding of the concept of election that is firmly positioned both corporately and conditionally. Still, when the concept of election explicitly relates to the individual, Thornhill argues that the literature of the Second Temple period predictably emphasizes the character or role of the individual, rather than the salvation. Although Thornhill rightly acknowledges the artificial nature of distinguishing between individual and collective from the text itself (p. 28).

    Thornhill does an outstanding job systematically walking the reader through the literature of the Second Temple period in relation to the concepts of election. The reader will certainly learn a lot as the framework is being built to discuss Paul. Nevertheless, as someone who is not well-read in Second Temple literature, I often found myself wondering if any literature of the period actually disagreed with the central premise of the book. Of course, this may be the very point that Thornhill is seeking to bring to light. Still, the reader does not encounter much by the way of interaction with Jewish texts that seemingly oppose the argued concepts of election, nor is much attention given to opposing interpretive positions of the literature.

    Following the construction of the framework of the Second Temple period, Thornhill directs his attention towards a number of important Pauline election passages. If the reader is familiar with the soteriological debate that stands in the foreground of these passages, then Thornhills exegetical conclusions will be nothing newhow he gets there may be a different story. For example, Thornhill argues for a corporate election view in Christ of Ephesians 1-2 based largely on the verbal forms in vv. 1:3-12 (p. 180), as well as a corporate election view of Romans 9. Thornhill functions extremely well within the framework of first-century Jewish thought as he exegetes the Pauline passages, and argues quite persuasively for his intended position.

    To be honest, I was a bit surprised not to find any references or interaction with The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23 by John Piper (Baker Academic, second edition, 1993). This was one of the main disappointments for me. The judicious exegesis of Romans 9:1-23 presented by Piper in The Justification of God is in many ways definitive in the theological community Thornhill is arguing against. Thomas Schreiner is well-represented and engaged, and to Thornhills credit, but not a word is given about the important work by Piper. Nevertheless, Thornhills work is very well-documented and his interaction is admirable.

    The Chosen People has offered the scholarly community a unique and important contribution to the conversation within Pauline studies. Thornhill has effectively probed through the forest of an old theological debate with fresh and exciting lenses. Even someone, like myself, who disagrees with the many of the conclusions that Thornhill advocates will find great benefit in this book. It has helped me re-engage a seemingly stagnant discussion with a renewed perspective and desire to invest more time in the understanding of early Jewish literature of the Second Temple period for New Testament studies. Those interested in a similar fate will embrace this book with open arms. The Chosen People comes highly recommended!

    I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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