Morna Hooker on Paul and Covenantal Nomism

morna1The ‘covenantal nomism’ which Sanders traces in Judaism is only one form of a more fundamental pattern, in which divine election and promise lead to human acceptance and response. Certainly Paul’s pattern is more complicated, since what is begun in Abraham is completed only in Christ. The covenant on Sinai and the Mosaic Law, which form the heart of Judaism, are now seen as an interlude, sandwiched between the promises and their fulfillment. But the election of Abraham, and the promises made to him — which cannot fail — are part of God’s covenant with Israel, and come to their conclusion with the ‘new’ covenant in Christ’s death. The pattern begins with Abraham, who believed the promises of God, absurd though they appeared; it reaches fulfillment in Christ, the true son of Abraham, and in those who live ‘in Christ’. In contrast to Judaism, however, what marks out this community as God’s people is faith, not acceptance of the Law, and what governs their behaviour is life in the Spirit, not obedience to the Law’s commands. This pattern of covenant/promise–>fulfillment/faith embraces both Abraham and those who are now, in Christ, his children and heirs.
“Paul and Covenantal Nomism.” Paul and Paulinism: Essays in Honor of C.K. Barrett: 52.

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