Paul Rainbow – The Way of Salvation, part 2

The first few chapters of The Way of Salvation have been no disappointment. Rainbow sketches the state of the current debate well. But the most intriguing chapter so far is chapter three, “Paul and James.” Rainbow lays out a chronology of Paul’s life based not on his missionary expeditions, but on his five visits to Jerusalem. This chronology sits better with me than, for example, Carson and Moo’s in their lauded Introduction to the New Testament (Zondervan, 2005, 359f.). So does Rainbow’s emphasis on apostolic tradition being an important influence on Paul. Carson and Moo reticently acknowledge that there may have been some influence, but they minimize its importance, along with that of the Old Testament(!) (370-375). Rainbow, on the other hand, places James at the center of the nascent faith – the head of a Christian Sanhedrin, as it were – with Paul and the Twelve abiding by James’s judgment in the Jerusalem Council.

One might wonder why some traditional evangelical scholars are so keen on separating Paul from James and the Jerusalem church. I don’t think it is the critical scholars who have made inroads. At the risk of sounding overly cynical, I think it may be to protect the Lutheran doctrine of justification against encroachment by James. It is telling that Rainbow places this chapter before his main argument, as if James’s words on justification are given the same weight as Paul’s (as Rainbow argues they should be, and I agree), the Lutheran formulation falls flat; Luther, as is well known, stopped just short of jettisoning James from the canon, calling it an “epistle of straw.” One who shares his formulation of justification must also share his view of James; they are indivisible, which is problematic for modern inerrantists – though the problem is not usually talked about.

Another high point of this chapter was Rainbow’s excursus on the authorship of the thirteen traditionally Pauline epistles. I found myself verbally cheering him on as he vigorously defended his contention that Paul was more than likely the author of the epistles ascribed to him by the ancient church. The eight points he makes in that single excursus were worth the purchase price of the book. Never have I seen a scholar poke such a stick in the eye of hyper-critical scholars regarding pseudonymous authorship in the New Testament – and Rainbow does it with class.

This is part two of a four part review: see also part 1part 3, and part 4.

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