The Future of the People of God: Reading Romans Before and After Western Christendom

Tue, 13/07/2010 - 13:22

[The Kindle edition is now available.]

I have just noticed that The Future of the People of God: Reading Romans Before and After Western Christendom is now available on the Wipf and Stock website (also available on Amazon). I haven’t actually got my own hands on a copy yet, but one should be winging its way to Dubai right now. There’s a description of the book below, along with the back cover endorsements, but basically, in a nutshell, the argument is that by locating Paul’s Letter to the Romans firmly and transparently in a narrative-historical framework, with the Jewish War, the persecution of the churches, and the eventual victory over paganism potentially in view, we not only gain a more cogent understanding of Paul’s ‘theology’, we also put ourselves in a better position to reconstruct our identity as the people of God in this brave new post-Christendom, post-modern world.

The title of the book echoes the name of a conference that I helped organize in 2004, at which Tom Wright addressed an audience that loosely identified itself with the emerging church. It was Matt Scrimgeour, in fact, who came up with ‘The Future of the People of God’. It highlights, for me, the fact that, much as Paul had to confront in Romans the question of whether the coming judgment on Israel meant that the commitment of God to the future of his people had come to an end, the church today is faced with the prospect of effective obsolescence and must ask the hard question of whether the Creator, who chose for himself a people in Abraham, will again be justified, shown to be right, shown to be righteous, vindicated before the nations.

If you feel well-disposed towards me, please buy a copy of the book, or at least pass on word of it by Twitter or your preferred medium of mass dissemination.

Book description

At a time when the Western church is having to come to terms – painfully and often reluctantly – with its diminished social and intellectual status in the world following the collapse of Christendom, we find ourselves, as interpreters of Paul, increasingly impressed by the need to relocate his writings in their historical context. That is not a coincidence. The Future of the People of God is an attempt to make sense of Paul’s letter to the Romans at the intersection of these two developments. It puts forward the argument that we must first have the courage of our historical convictions and read the text before Christendom, from the limited, shortsighted perspective of an emerging community that dared to defy the gods of the ancient world. This act of imaginative, critical engagement with the text will challenge many of our assumptions about Paul’s “gospel of God,” but it will also put us in a position to reconstruct an identity and purpose for the people of God after Christendom that is both biblically and historically coherent.

Endorsements

“The Future of the People of God: Reading Romans Before and After Western Christendom is clearly written and compellingly argued. Andrew Perriman probes the meaning of Romans, Paul’s most important letter, shedding light on the respective places of Jews and Gentiles in the redemptive plan of God. Perriman has captured the apostle’s thought and with impressive skill shows how it unfolds step by step. More impressive still is how the letter to the Romans is read in the light of the political realities of the Roman Empire in the middle of the first century and the dominical prophecy of Jerusalem’s impending doom. This is a great book. Highly recommended.”

— Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College, Nova Scotia

“Andrew Perriman here gives a fresh, highly stimulating reading of Romans rooted in its first century setting. His approach focuses on a soon-to-come historical crisis for Judaism and for the pagan world of Paul’s day, and provides new angles on passage after passage in Romans. This highly original book cannot fail to provoke thought, debate, argument, reflection and re-reading of Romans, both in its first century setting and for today.”

— Steve Walton, Senior Lecturer in Greek and New Testament Studies, and Director of Research, London School of Theology, United Kingdom

If anyone desperately wants a review copy, I’ll see what I can do. Use the contact form to get in touch.

Reviews

TallSkinnyKiwi: “Anyway, I highly recommend Andrew Perrimans’ new book. It’s well written, well researched, concise, original and brave. Its even better than his earlier books, possibly because of its bounded subject.”

Peter Leithart: “Since I started reading New Perspective writers, I have been frustrated by the implicit, unargued bifurcation of Jesus and Paul. For Wright, Jesus is all about the imminent coming of wrath, but when Wright turns to Paul he seems to forget what he said about Jesus. Perriman’s book begins to heal the breach, and points helpfully toward a necessary post-NPP re-reading of Paul.”

Matthew Montonini: “Many books one reads, especially in the area of biblical studies, are solid and sane, but very few have the potential to shift entire paradigms in the way we think about a figure or text. Andrew Perriman’s The Future of the People of God: Reading Romans Before and After Western Christendom… has this rare potential.”

Euangelion: “There is likely much in this book to critically assess and, truth be told, I have not read this book “analytically”, in Adler and Van Doren’s terminology. The best I’ve done thus far is a “superficial reading”. Still Perriman’s hermeneutical intuition is correct in my view and I think the following quote is worth the price of book…. Wow! Read that again. And again. Read it several times. Surely wiser words have rarely been spoken in contemporary Pauline studies.”

Scott Lencke at Theologica: “Many will be aware of the discussions revolving around the new Pauline perspective, especially in its more current rounds of debate between John Piper and N.T. Wright. I will say from the outset that, if people struggle with accepting the new Pauline perspective on justification and other theological terminology embedded in Romans, then I believe those same people will struggle even more with Perriman’s work. Yet, I do believe this work should be considered a worthy voice in the evangelical scholarly world on Pauline studies and, particularly, studies in Romans.”

Image of The Future of the People of God: Reading Romans Before and After Western Christendom

On Amazon:

Andrew Perriman
Wipf & Stock Pub (2010), Paperback, 188 pages, $22.00

Comments

I'm excited for you're book. I'll surely buy it. Do you know whether it will be released in e-book format (Kindle or whatnot)?

Oh my goodness. Your book. I'm so embarrassed.

So you should be. I don’t think Wipf and Stock release e-book versions.

Andrew - a copy of 'Romans - The Divine Marriage' has just dropped through my letterbox. I was one of many proof-readers for the book - and some of the sentences may even be my own work. It's by Professor Tom Holland, Head of Biblical Research at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology. The introduction establishes promising points of contact with your own approach in 'The Future of the People of God', but I don't think its conclusions will agree with yours! Nevertheless, it is bringing some genuinely new insights to Romans, and I thoroughly recommend it to Postost readers - to be read alongside 'The Future', of course. The book is available from Pickwick Publications in the US. I'll keep an eye open for UK distributors.

I was quite flattered and amused that an endorsement from me on the back cover of the commentary was taken from 'The demise of Sir Toby's' (opensourcetheology.net and 'The Sir Toby Chronicles' - Inside the Sauna). The full quote, referring to Tom Holland's previous book 'Contours of Pauline Theology' was:

Reviewers generally seem to find a mixture of illuminating insight and less capably worked through argument in Holland’s book. However, all agree that Holland has moved the debate on Paul decisively forwards, and that a significant counter proposal to the proponents of the New Perspective on Paul has been launched.

Tom took the latter part of the quote and omitted the former! However, it applies well to 'The Divine Marriage'.

I'm finding the detailed exegesis a bit ponderous, but the excursuses are brilliant. In particular, Tom Holland relates 'justification' language to both the Reformers and the New Perspective - endorsing and correcting both!

The relevance of the title of the book emerges in the excursus on justification, where Holland shows that 'justification' also describes, within its semantic domain, the establishment of the covenant, or marriage, between YHWH and his people. If you want to know how this is proved textually, you will have to read the book!

Sorry Andrew, I'm hi-jacking your blog again. The creation of my own blog seems to have rolled into the long grass.

By the way, I've just noticed two comments from you against two of mine. One I've read - on the intermediate state, which needs a reply sometime - though it involves going over all the arguments again, which may seem tedious and repetitious. Eg 'resurrection' as part of believers' experience before death in Ephesians and Colossians, a metaphor? If so, a metaphor of what? In my view, if it is a metaphor, then it is of the reality of the resurrection of Christ imparted to believers in two stages - the first being now, of the Spirit, the downpayment, the second being later- physical resurrection. Etc etc. Couldn't be clearer.

The second comment I haven't yet read, to do with my response about 1 Peter, the suffering servant, the audience addressed by the letter, the scope of the servant's actions. Everything takes time, and there is a time for all things. Though sometimes, it's a case of 'whereof one should not speak, thereof one should be silent' (Wittgenstein).

Retraction

Ooops! Apologies and apologies! I just realised that I lifted the aforementioned endorsement (of Tom Holland's "The Divine Marriage -  A Commentary on Romans") from "The Sir Toby Chronicles - In the Sauna" (opensourcetheology.net and lulu.com), where nobody will read it, to my subsequent academic review, where anyone can find it, appearing as it now does on various websites across the world. I hope neither Tom nor anybody else will find out about the scurrilous origins of this paean of praise. "The Divine Marriage" is worth reading, but only if you have first ordered your copy of "The Future of the People of God", of course.

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