Evangelical theology—that is, theology as it endeavours to ground the identity and purpose of the church today in the teaching of the New Testament about Jesus—has arrived at a fork in the road. There is the broad road of the Reformed paradigm and its derivatives, which leads to obsolescence, and many there are who walk long it. And there is the narrow, difficult, and still poorly marked path of the New Perspective, which leads to life, and until now only a small number of scholars and an intrepid advance party of enlightened believers have ventured along it. So any attempt to signpost and map at least the early stages of this new way is greatly to be welcomed.
Kent Yinger has provided a brief, somewhat limited, but otherwise excellent introduction to the New Perspective on Paul. But if you want really succinct and accessible, you should have a look at Michael Thompson’s Grove Booklet, The New Perspective on Paul, which is only 29 pages long and is available as a PDF download for only £3.95. Thompson, who is Vice-Principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge, takes a similar approach to Yinger. There are chapters on the difficulties with the old view of Judaism as an essentially legalistic religion, the three main proponents of the New Perspective (Sanders, Dunn and Wright), the impact that the new reading has on our understanding of Paul, the main difficulties that some evangelicals have had with the New Perspective, and the general benefits it brings—a new impetus to the study of the New Testament, an appreciation of our Jewish roots, a better sense of the text, and a more balanced and integrated faith.
The booklet also has the same limitations as Yinger’s, which are, of course the limitations of the standard New Perspective model. It gives an account of the controversy regarding the relationship of Paul to Judaism, with the focus chiefly on the issue of justification. It does not consider the relationship of Paul to Jesus. Nor does it bring into view the question of the relationship of Paul to Greek-Roman paganism. The imperial-critical work of people like Horsley, Crossan and Lopez has, to my mind, demonstrated the need also to take account of the non-Jewish context, but it has done so with little regard for the carefully described continuity with Judaism. N.T. Wright has gone some way towards mapping the narrative-theological pathways that lead from the dispute with Judaism to the confrontation with pagan imperialism—oh, and of course, there’s my book on Romans, which really does exactly that!