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Title: Early perspectives on works of the law : a patristic study
Author: Thomas, Matthew J.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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In Paul's epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, the Apostle famously opposes "works of the law" within disputes regarding Jews and the law. But what are these works, what do they signify, and why are they rejected? Such questions are widely contested in New Testament scholarship, with responses constituting an important fault line in contemporary debates between "old" and "new" perspectives on Paul. This study engages these debates by investigating the views of the earliest patristic sources on this issue, which carry distinct heuristic value due to their historical, cultural, and personal proximity to Paul. Part I of this thesis presents the theoretical basis for using early reception within a period of "living memory" to engage contested areas of interpretation. Part II outlines the "old" and "new" perspectives on works of the law, with Luther, Calvin, Bultmann and Moo presented for the "old" perspective, and the "new" represented by Sanders, Dunn and Wright. Part III presents a comprehensive investigation of early patristic writings, stretching from the Didache to Irenaeus, which evaluates each source's usage of the relevant Pauline texts and their understanding of the meaning, significance, and reasons for opposing works of the law. Part IV concludes with a synthesis of these early views, an assessment of how they relate to the "old" and "new" perspectives, and implications for what their testimony suggests about Paul's meaning in the biblical texts. While neither perspective aligns uniformly with the patristic sources, it is concluded that contrary to current nomenclature, the "new" perspective finds greater correspondence with Christian antiquity than the "old" on this issue, and given these sources' proximity to Paul and the consistent and uncontroversial nature of their interpretations, the burden of proof in contemporary debates should be carried by those who would run counter to these early perspectives.
Supervisor: Edwards, Mark ; Strawbridge, Jenn ; Lincicum, David Sponsor: Clarendon Fund ; American Friends of Christ Church ; Institute for Religion and Culture
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: God (Christianity)--History of doctrines ; Patristics ; New Perspective on Paul ; Justification ; Old Perspective on Paul ; Works of the law