A fresh scholarly reading of grace in Paul's theology
In Paul and the Gift, esteemed Pauline scholar John Barclay presents a strikingly fresh reading of grace in Paul's theology, studying it in view of ancient notions of "gift" and shining new light on Paul's relationship to Second Temple Judaism.
Paul and the Gift centers on divine gift-giving, which for Paul, Barclay says, is focused and fulfilled in the gift of Christ. He offers a new appraisal of Paul's theology of the Christ-event as gift as it comes to expression in Galatians and Romans, and he presents a nuanced and detailed discussion of the history of reception of Paul. This exegetically responsible, theologically informed, hermeneutically useful book shows that a respectful, though not uncritical, reading of Paul contains resources that remain important for Christians today.
John M. G. Barclay is Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University. His previous books include Pauline Churches and Diaspora Jews and Obeying the Truth: Paul's Ethics in Galatians.
What else can possibly be said about grace' in the letters of Paul? Quite a lot, as it turns out. John Barclay reveals just how little we have grasped the multitude of ways in which grace - the gift' - was parsed among Paul's contemporaries, including questions of reciprocity and the worth of recipients. The resulting bold proposal for reorienting Pauline theology is a landmark in New Testament scholarship. A must-have, must-read, must-ponder book!
-Beverly Roberts Gaventa,
In this exceptional book, John Barclay places Paul in the context of Jewish and Greco-Roman ideas about divine and human giving, arguing that - contrary to popular belief - Paul does not teach that grace is free' or unconditional.' Rather, divine grace is incongruous, given without regard for conventional criteria of status and worth, thereby questioning the legitimacy of those criteria. This hermeneutically sophisticated work opens up a range of new perspectives on key themes of Pauline theology, beyond the entrenched positions that so often characterize the debate in this area.
This brilliant book is a substantial and methodological tour de force. Barclay's fascinating study complicates the notion of grace' in Paul's thinking in terms of gift' primarily by threading together insights drawn from anthropological, ancient Jewish and Greco-Roman, and exegetical realms of analysis. Subtle engagements with classic theological figures and key modern Pauline interpreters further enrich the discussion. . . . A deeply impressive study by a superb scholar from whom all will learn a great deal. Indeed, future Pauline scholars are now significantly indebted to Barclay for this superabundant scholarly gift.
-Douglas A. Campbell,
Duke Divinity School
We have come to expect superb work from John Barclay, but that should not lessen our appreciation when it appears! . . . Barclay's magisterial analysis results in a powerful and compelling new understanding of Paul's theology of grace that cuts across traditional debates and disciplinary categorizations, remaps Paul's location among his fellow Jews, and manages to be both historically sensitive and theologically rich. This major work should - and no doubt will - be very widely discussed.
-David G. Horrell,
University of Exeter
Barclay has provided New Testament scholarship with a gift whose impact can hardly be overestimated. . . . You need not be a prophet to predict that this study will serve the efforts of understanding Paul's theology as a bright and far-shining lighthouse for many years.
University of Bonn
John Barclay's Paul and the Gift has the singular virtue of making seem self-evident a point missed in the extensive literature spawned by Sanders's Paul and Palestinian Judaism: modern understandings of grace - shaped by Paul - have prevented us from seeing aright the real but diverse ways in which grace functioned in Jewish literature of the Second Temple period. . . . This book as a whole represents a watershed in Pauline studies.
Reading Barclay's Paul and the Gift is a gripping and humbling experience. Gripping because it has a clear, original thesis that is pursued lucidly and tenaciously. Humbling because Barclay shows such a remarkable range of expertise across anthropology, Jewish literature, and the Pauline epistles, and exudes here both theoretical sophistication and sound exegetical good sense. If you are at all interested in Paul, block out two days, switch off your electronic devices, and digest this book.
University of Cambridge