As I have been reading "To the Jew First" I have also been looking into a some studies called the new perspective on Paul. These studies seeks to clarify the point of view of Paul, and through an understanding of first century Judaism, rethink how we view some of Paul's words. I recently had a discussion about the new perspective and I came out with a basic understanding that the reformers viewed Judaism as a religion of works, and Paul was thought to be preaching against the works. We can read in Ephesians Chapter 2 verses 8 and 9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”. This is where the old perspective stopped. Faith, not works. The new perspective seeks to establish a “works because of faith” theme in Paul’s writings. Especially when we read verse 10 of the same chapter: “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Because of the old perspective trying to escape the works end of Paul’s teaching, it called Judaism out on being works-based, and because of the many generations of thinking of Judaism as a religion of duties and deeds, the old perspective actually may have helped to breed some anti-Semitism within the church, not because of their rejection of Christ, but, because it then sets Judaism drastically apart from Christianity. When any religion views another religion as very different, hatred is a result, and, Christian’s view on Judaism is no different. Some Christians even feel as though the new interpretation undermines Jesus’ role in our salvation because it brings too much human achievement into the mix. Paul, however, was speaking of faith in a different way than most contemporary Christians do. Actions, to Paul and the Jew in the first century, were simply the result of faith. To say that one had faith was to imply that they were performing good deeds because they were a part of the faith. We all have the opportunities to do good works, saved or not, but what should separate the Christian from the non-Christian is how we look at the opportunities. Are they gifts from God to allow us to show his grace to a total stranger? Or are they just a happenstance that doesn’t hold any eternal significance? The Jews believed that good works were the fruit of their faith. In fact doing and intent are taught separately in orthodox Jewish circles. One must have the intent before their actions are truly significant. Without this understanding of Judaism, it can certainly seem as though they are simply living liturgically, without any spirituality in them.
Stay tuned for more on the New interpretation and also more on “To the Jew First” and please feel free to ask any questions or make any comments!!!