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White Horse Inn: Conversational Theology

The New Perspective on Paul

Release date:

January 3, 2021



Scholars such as James Dunn and N.T. Wright have argued that both Old and New Testament saints were members of one and the same covenant, and that believers are justified on the basis of their faithfulness to that covenant. But is this what the Apostle Paul really taught? Shane Rosenthal discusses this important issue with T. David Gordon, author of Promise, Law, Faith: Covenant-Historical Reasoning in Galatians.

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Advocates of the New Perspective on Paul tend to argue that since being in covenant with God is conditioned upon grace, Old and New Testament saints must all be part of a single gracious covenant. But those who think this way completely miss the argument that Paul makes throughout the book of Galatians since he makes a fundamental contrast between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. In Paul’s thinking, the Mosaic covenant served as a kind of temporary “guardian” until the true seed of Abraham, namely Christ himself, came to save us. “Now that faith has come,” Paul says, “we are no longer under a guardian” (Gal. 3:25). Obviously, people “believed in God” throughout the Old Testament period — they had “faith” in that sense. But they were still longing for the true seed of Abraham to arrive on the scene. So when Paul says, “now that faith has come,” he’s referring to the arrival of the new covenant. Whereas the old covenant was characterized by “law,” the new covenant is characterized by “faith,” since the object of our faith has now fulfilled all righteousness in our place.

T. David Gordon


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Promise, Law, Faith: Covenant-Historical Reasoning in Galatians

Author: T. David Gordon

In Promise, Law, Faith, T. David Gordon argues that Paul uses “promise/ἐπαγγελία,” “law/νόμος,” and “faith/πίστις” in Galatians to denote three covenant-administrations by synecdoche (a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa), and that he chose each synecdoche because it characterized the distinctive (but not exclusive) feature of that covenant.