Book notice: Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith
Given my new teaching responsibilities, it has slowly become clear that I don't have the time to write as many proper book reviews as previously. Instead, I wanted to write a few 'book notices'. Besides, you can find coherence summaries of Watson's work in numerous reviews (cf. e.g. here for Mark Gignilliat), so I instead wanted to simply offer a few thoughts on why the book has impressed me.
I have postponed a review of Watson's book simply as it is one of the best books in the Apostle Paul part of my library. It is one of those few books that has challenged me to rethink my stance on fundamental matters, such as the much debated meaning of dikaiosu,nh qeou/ in Romans 1:17, the way Paul uses scripture and how this relates to the 'Christ-event', the plausibility of the so-called apocalyptic paradigm for understanding the Apostle etc (I will never forget his argument which runs that for Paul 'it is more important that scripture should shed a light on Christ than that Christ should shed light on Scripture' ! Not sure I would agree, but his point has buried under my theological skin forever). Apart from that, reading Watson is simply a delight. You know that you will learn a lot, and his close reading of the texts is a lesson in and of itself. I turn to the work of Watson when I want to digest serious scholarship, when a want my mind stretched and my flaky 'New Perspective' biases challenged! What is more, if anyone wants to engage with his more recent work, Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles: Beyond the New Perspective (Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2007), bear these words in mind (from the preface of the Eerdmans volume): 'this volume conserve to complement the argument of my Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith'.
Of course, if anybody is seeking to understand 'Paul's doctrine of righteousness by faith', one will need to engage with Watson's argument that claims it 'is an exercise in scriptural interpretation and hermeneutics' (76). And more broadly, if anybody wants to understand Paul's use of the Old Testament, this book is going to be essential. But because of the scope of Watson's argument, and the number of texts with which he engages, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith is a book worth having in your library for all matter of issues. As I said, it is one of the best books in my Apostle Paul library. This tome will take a while to work through properly, but he is a scholar with whom time is well, and enjoyably, spent.
Labels: Book Review