Matthew J. Thomas contributes to an ongoing discussion that surrounds the meaning of “the works of the law” in Paul’s writings. Thomas demonstrates how early Christians understood Paul through the reception of the apostle’s teaching in the second century. It is obvious that the apostolic teaching would have an immediate effect on Christians who presumably understand what Paul meant when he spoke to them. Not only that, but they also lived in a similar word with a shared culture.
Thomas quotes Lewis in this regard:
“The idea that any man or writer should be opaque to those who lived in the same culture, spoke the same language, shared the same habitual imagery and unconscious assumptions, and yet be transparent to those who have none of these advantages, is in my opinion preposterous. There is an a priori improbability in it which almost no argument and no evidence could counterbalance” (209, citing “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism” in Lewis 1977).
This seems to be an imminently sane conclusion. And Thomas pursues this line of thought throughout his work, Paul’s ‘Works of the Law’ in the Perspective of Second Century Reception. His study concludes that second century Christians understood Paul’s works of the law along similar lines to the new perspective(s) on Paul rather than the old perspective (i.e., the 16th century reformed view). [Read more…] about How Did Early Christians Understand “The Works of the Law” (A review of Matthew J. Thomas’s “Paul’s ‘Works of the Law’”)