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What Must I Do to Be Saved? Paul Parts Company with His Jewish Heritage

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How can one escape God’s wrath and gain eternal life? On this crucial theological question, Paul differs from other members of the second-Temple Jewish community. Their soteriology is synergistic: for them, though eschatological salvation is due to God’s merciful removal of human guilt, obedience to the Law is also indispensable. The divine and the human co-operate.

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SKU: 978-1-905048-82-3

How can one escape God’s wrath and gain eternal life? On this crucial theological question, Paul differs from other members of the second-Temple Jewish community. Their soteriology is synergistic: for them, though eschatological salvation is due to God’s merciful removal of human guilt, obedience to the Law is also indispensable. The divine and the human co-operate.

Paul however believes that under such a scheme anything less than perfect obedience to the Law is futile. In consequence, if there is to be salvation for sinful humans, it must be a salvation independent of all human effort and achievement, and thus solely through faith. Contrary to the recent consensus, Paul’s concern was not primarily the inclusion of gentiles into the church.

This non-synergistic soteriology of Paul’s may seem undermined by some of his own statements, that believers must submit to eschatological judgment and that the person without good works will be disqualified from eschatological salvation. But this conclusion is incorrect. For what he holds is that the good works indispensable for salvation are necessarily performed by the believer as manifestations of the indwelling Spirit present in those who have faith in Christ.

Reviews

  1. Gary W. Burnett, Journal for the Study of the New Testament Booklist.

    [I]n this well-written and researched book, the first two [chapters] consider ideas of soteriology in second Temple Judaism and Paul respectively . Paul’s Jewish contemporaries’ and predecessors’ soteriology is characterized as ‘synergistic’, by which Smith means that God saves on the basis of both his merciful removal of sin and Jews’ obedience to the Law. Paul’s idea of salvation, on the other hand, is based entirely on God’s grace, and repudiates any idea that a human being can make any contribution to salvation. Smith’s account of all this is unashamedly anti-New Perspective, and he is quite happy to characterize Judaism as effectively [a] meritorious works religion.

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Book information

Author
Barry D. Smith
List Price
£50 / $90 / €75
Series
New Testament Monographs, 17
Scholars' Price
£25 / $45 / €37.50
ISBN 13 hardback
978-1-905048-82-3
Format
Hardback
Page Extent
xiv + 285
Publication Date
April 2007
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