Old and New Perspectives on Paul: A Third Way?

| January 6, 2016


John Barclay, professor of divinity at Durham University in England, has written a sizable contribution to New Testament studies in Paul and the Gift. His basic thesis is that gift is the proper first-century category for comprehending Paul’s term grace (2). His primary focus is examining the divine gift giving, which for the apostle Paul is God’s gift of Christ (4).

Barclay believes gift is the best way to understand Paul’s concept of grace for three chief reasons.

First, grace is a multifaceted concept that theologians frequently use but seldom define. Some stress the incongruity of grace (giving to an unworthy recipient); others the efficacy of grace. Barclay points out that these different “perfections” of grace (conceptual extensions) aren’t better or worse interpretations of the concept, just different aspects of it (6). He identifies six possible perfections of grace (70–75, 563):

  • Superabundance—the size or permanence of a gift
  • Singularity—the giver’s sole and exclusive desire to express benevolence and goodness
  • Priority—the timing of the gift, namely, that it takes place prior to the initiative of the recipient
  • Incongruity—a gift given without regard to the worthiness of the recipient
  • Efficacy—the effect of the gift, namely, what the gift is designed to accomplish
  • Non-circularity—the gift escapes reciprocity and…

To read the rest of this article, visit http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/old-and-new-perspectives-on-paul-a-third-way.