Chris Tilling (ed.), Beyond Old and New Perspectives on Paul: Reflections on the Work of Douglas Campbell (Cascade, 2014), 341pp.
It is now five years since Douglas Campbell's mammoth The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Reading of Justification by Faith (Eerdmans, 2009) appeared. Campbell criticises both old and new perspectives on Paul, for what he sees as a commitment to particular renderings of justification by faith. He offers a fresh reading of Romans, in particular Romans 1-4. In the last five years a number of reviews have been published, many critical of Campbell's work (see here).
This collection of essays is an opportunity to engage Campbell's work from a number of perspectives, getting to the heart of many of Campbell's claims in Deliverance. For those put off by the length and complexity of Campbell's argument in Deliverance, Beyond Old and New Perspectives provides a different way of getting to grips with Campbell's thesis and its implications. It is fair to say that Campbell has some friends in this book, as well as those who want to test and ask questions of him as well.
Campbell is first and foremost a New Testament scholar, but he also has strong theological instincts and an eye for historical theology. Tilling has lined up a range of interlocutors - Alan Torrance (systematic theology), Graham Tomlin (Luther), Warren Smith (historical theology), Robin Griffith-Jones (Classics), David Hilborn (theology), Kate Bowler (church history), Brittany Wilson (New Testament), Scott Hafemann (New Testament), Curtis Freeman (evangelical theology) and himself. Great to see Freeman, a Baptist theologian, writing favourably of Campbell's thesis. Campbell himself contributes four chapters and offers short responses to each of the other chapters as well. The book also reprints in an appendix two of James Torrance's important (at least for Campbell) essays on covenant theology.
The book favours Campbell and his argument, at no point is he put on the ropes. Here perhaps it might have been different if Campbell was put up against his colleague at Duke, Richard Hays, or Tom Wright or three of his most critical reviewers Francis Watson, Barry Matlock or Grant Macaskill. As far as I know Hays has nothing in print that responds to Campbell's work. Wright on the other hand (I understand) will offer a response in Paul and his Recent Interpreters (see also footnotes in Paul and the Faithfulness of God).
The book demonstrates where Campbell has refined his argument in places in the five years since publication, perhaps most notably he now suggests Romans 1.18-32 is an example of parody rather than speech in character. Campbell has also since 2009 begun to situate his argument as Athanasius versus Arius (Campbell reading Paul Athanasiusly), contending that how we read Paul is not just matter of exegesis but of the gospel in its entirety. I would have like to see have seen Campbell respond more directly to Brittany Wilson's presentation of Beverly Gaventa's work (he chooses not to name Gaventa at all in his short response). The chapters by Bowler and Freeman demonstrate how pervasive particular presentations of the gospel that Campbell wants to challenge, are within Western Christianity. Campbell, Tilling and others who are supportive of his project have a huge task in shifting hearts and minds.
At the end of this year Campbell will publish Framing Paul, which sets out his views on how to construct Paul's biography from his letters and he is halfway through a theological commentary on Romans, tentatively titled The End of Religion.
Chris Tilling has put together an excellent book that sets out the Campbell stall and brings it under scrutiny in ways that help clarify and push the debate further. Long-term readers of this blog, will know I am big fan of Campbell's work. It offers to my mind the best construal of Paul's theology, especially of Romans. So for those who have never read Campbell, or who are yet to be convinced, I recommend giving Beyond Old and Perspectives on Paul a read.