Rarely do I sign up for Amazon's SEND-ME-THIS-BOOK-AS-SOON-AS-IT-COMES-OUT list. But with N. T. Wright's new book on Paul -- well, that's different. For those who don't know, Wright is a leading New Testament scholar. To get a feel for the breadth of his writing, check here. The book continues his ground-breaking work on Paul, offering fresh insight into the way in which his letters seek to form a people in the Way of the Messiah. Have you ever come across the phrase "the new perspective on Paul"? Most haven't, I'm sure. But here's a bit of a summary. The "old perspective" on Paul reflected the anxiety of Martin Luther over salvation. This view heavily impacted NT studies for centuries. It says that Paul was writing because of the problem of legalism: people trying to earn salvation by their works. So he writes about "the righteousness from God" that is given "by faith in Jesus." The "new perspective" goes a different direction, though--one that I think better reflects Paul's concern in his letters. This says that those concerns about legalism were Martin Luther's in the sixteenth century, but not Paul's in the first century. They involve a stereotype of Jewish religion that just doesn't fit. Of course every religion has some who seek to earn salvation, but that's not the view of the Old Testament nor of the best part of the Jewish heritage. What Paul was primarily dealing with wasn't legalism but inclusion of the Gentiles into the people of God. His questions (especially in Romans/Galatians) were more like these: Has God been faithful to his promises to Israel? Will Israel's faithlessness nullify the promises? Can Gentiles be included? If they can, how can Jews and Gentiles be one? If the Jews have rejected the Messiah, is there any hope for them? Part of the problem comes in translations that reflect the Lutheran perspective (like the old NIV, though there are significant improvements in the Today's NIV). E.g., rather than translating a Greek phrase as "the righteousness from God" it should likely be "the righteousness of God"--referring not to the way people become Christians but to God's covenant faithfulness. And rather than translating another Greek phrase as "by faith in Jesus" it probably should be (at least most of the time) "by the faithfulness of Jesus." (A good place to see the difference this makes is in Romans 3:21-25.) I.e., the Messiah is the faithful one who has made it possible through his life and obedience to death for the promises of God to be kept. In other words, the central issue isn't, How does one become a Christian? (Answer: by faith rather than works.) Rather, the central theme is, How has God been faithful to his covenant in bringing together one people in the Messiah? Sorry, this is shorthand. The book is brilliant. If you haven't done much work in this area, it will be slow, slow sledding. But there are pay-offs on nearly every page. By the way the full title is Paul: A Fresh Perspective. I doubt that the subtitle is an accident. In other words, it isn't the "old perspective," for sure. But not exactly the "new perspective" (as led by Sanders and Dunn). This is a "fresh perspective" in which he points to the missional impact of what God has done to bring together a people, the restored "Israel," through the Messiah. There are great sections on the Spirit, on the place of Israel today and in the future, and on the eschatology of the Left Behind books. I hope to get to those later. But honestly -- isn't this more than you want to know already? Whatever happened to guacamole recipes and how to teach a kid to throw a curve?