Category Archives: Full Reviews

Review: Congregational Concern (Dr. Chris Sinkinson)

Contours of Pauline Theology
Tom Holland
Mentor Press, Ross-Shire, 2004

There is, at present, a huge debate going on in theological studies over the interpretation of Paul and his letters. Among Protestants the massive influence of Luther and Calvin has established a widely accepted understanding of Paul, legalistic religion, the atonement and justification by faith. However, this orthodoxy has been significantly questioned through the present debate. E.P. Sanders provided evidence that first century Judaism had been badly misunderstood by Protestants. The Jewish background to the rise of Christianity was not a religion of works but a much more sophisticated “covenantal nomism”. Evangelicalism has been forced to rethink its understanding of these issues particularly with the influential work of N.T.Wright. To cap it all, at a very popular level, the new perspective has even had its bearing on the recent controversial book from Steve Chalke  – The Lost Message of Jesus.

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Review: Evangel (Dr. Stephen Dray)

Contours of Pauline Theology
Tom Holland
Fearn: Mentor, 2004
382pp, h/b, £14.99
ISBN 1-85792-369-X

The purpose of this important book is to demonstrate that, in contra-distinction to most contemporary New Testament scholarship, Paul was not the innovator who created Christianity but a faithful disciple of Jesus who never left his inherited religion of the Old Testament. The present reviewer, an Old Testament specialist, finds Holland’s arguments as largely compelling and would suggest that Holland has re-integrated the faith of Old and New Testaments in a manner that serves effectively to emphasise the unity of Scripture.

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Review: The Paul Page (Mark Mattison)

Contours of Pauline Theology
A Radical New Survey of the Influences on Paul’s Biblical Writings

Book Review

Tom Holland, Scotland, UK: Mentor, 2004, 392 pp.
Generally speaking, conservative Reformed criticisms of the new perspective on Paul strike me as lackluster and predictable. That cannot be said, however, of Tom Holland’s new book, which is bound to shake loose some long-standing presuppositions in Pauline studies.

The book is not without its weaknesses. Holland’s apparent anxiety about the contributions of liberal scholarship (a hallmark of conservative works) can be slightly distracting. One may also question whether Holland has adequately made his case that the literature of second-temple Judaism is too fragmentary to provide much insight into Pauline studies, while at the same time apparently presupposing that nothing stood culturally between the texts of ancient Israel and Paul’s understanding of those texts. The significance of intertestamental writings, many of us believe, is that they serve as reference points in recovering the way in which Jews of that time understood their Scriptures, and considering the fact that we know Paul only through a scattered collection of letters bearing his name, one could very well argue that understanding the apostle’s thought is actually more challenging than understanding the thought of other authors of the time, and quite frankly we can use all the help we can get.

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Review: Evangelical Times (Philip Eveson)

Contours of Pauline theology
Tom Holland
Christian Focus (Mentor)
382 pages

ISBN 1-85792-469-X

This is a book for scholars and those with a particular interest in Paul’s theology.

If Tom Holland’s conclusions are accepted, then it would mean a radical rethinking in the way we approach some of the well-known passages of Paul’s letters.

The author’s aim is commendable. He seeks to be rid of the old liberal idea that Paul was the creator of Christianity, that he introduced Greek influences, and transformed the original message into something quite different from what Jesus had proclaimed.

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Review: Evangelicals Now (Peter Misselbrook)

Contours of Pauline theology

Forced theology

CONTOURS OF PAULINE THEOLOGY
By Tom Holland
Mentor/Christian Focus. 291 pages + 90 pages appendices, bibliography and indexes
ISBN 1 85792 469 X

My verdict on this book? I really cannot improve on that of Dr. Peter Head, who, on the front cover, describes it as, ‘Challenging, unsettling and infuriating’.

Dr. Tom Holland teaches New Testament and Hermeneutics at the Evangelical Theological College of Wales. He writes to demonstrate that Paul ‘never left the religion of the Old Testament’ and ‘never departed from the teaching of Jesus’. In this he follows in the footsteps of Tom Wright in What St. Paul Really Said and David Wenham in Paul and Jesus. But Dr. Holland believes that he has uniquely discerned the key to Paul’s thinking: he argues that no other scholar has paid sufficient attention to the way in which Paul’s understanding of salvation is modelled on the New Exodus promise of the Old Testament. In particular, Dr. Holland argues that the Passover is key to understanding Paul’s doctrine of redemption and provides the background to his use of the term ‘firstborn’ as a title for Christ.

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Review: American Journal of Biblical Theology

Theologians have been rather hard on the apostle Paul.  Many have accused him of taking the Christian faith in a direction of his own, changing basic teachings of Jesus to suit his own views.  Tom Holland presents a conservative, if provocative, thesis that affirms the consistency of Paul’s teaching with that of Jesus.  He does so by causing the reader to look into the mind of the Jewish Paul to understand how he views the Old Testament, his source of scripture.  Holland shows how Paul’s Christology was formed from Old Testament prophesies both in the prophetic writings and in the Jewish traditional rituals.  He shows how his theology was shaped by and formed for Jewish thought.  Those who would seek to discredit Pauline theology will appreciate Holland’s scholarship and the sound arguments on Paul’s behalf.  Those who ascribe to Paul as an apostle of Jesus Christ will appreciate Holland’s apologetic prowess and find Paul’s Jewish hermeneutic illuminating.  This text is a must read for a serious student of Pauline theology, and may be too technical for the casual reader.

Scholarship: 5/5  Readability: 4/5

Review: Themelios (Dr. Christoph Stenschke)

CONTOURS OF PAULINE THEOLOGY: A RADICAL NEW
SURVEY OF THE INFLUENCES ON PAUL’S BIBLICAL WR1TINGS
Tom Holland
Fearn: Christian Focus, 2004, 382 pages, £14.99, ISBN: 1-87592-460-X

Tom  Holland  of  the  Evangelical Theological College of Wales here offers an interesting thesis about the origin and centre of Paul’s theology. He sets out in section one with an exploration of the heritage of Paul. Holland argues rightly that the Scriptures of Israel are of prime importance, claiming that ‘Paul continually refers to the great themes of the promises made by the prophets when they spoke of a coming New Exodus’. Holland argues that early Judaism had a high expectation of a new exodus. In further chapters he describes his methodological presuppositions (including an interesting discussion of the role the Jewish pseudepigrapha play in NT research) and on Paul’s references to believers as slaves.

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Review: European Journal of Theology (Dr. Anthony Bash)

Contours of Pauline Theology
A Radical Survey of the Influences on Paul’s
Biblical Writings
Tom Holland
Genies House, Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2004, 384 pp., £14.99, hb ISBN 1- 85792-469-X

SUMMARY

The thesis of this book is that two important axioms have been missing from the interpretation of Paul’s writing. The first is that the story of the Passover and the exodus are the interpretive keys to Paul’s thought and, in particular, to the interpretation of Jesus’ death. The second lens is that the Pauline writings should be read as being implicitly corporate and covenantal their approach. Holland excludes the literature of Second Temple Judaism and the pseudepigraphal writings from the interpretation of Paul’s writings. The strengths of the book are its robust challenge to many scholarly presuppositions and an impetus to new research on Paul’s debt to the Old Testament.

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Review: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Michael D. Makidon)

Contours of Pauline Theology: A Radical New Survey of the Influences on Paul’s Biblical Writings.
By Tom Holland. Geanies House, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2004. 382 pp. Cloth. $22.99.

Many NT scholars in the past have tried to say that Jesus’ message was not the same as Paul’s. Others, in the last hundred years, have tried to prove that the Gospels were written by Christian communities who created these stories in order to teach Gentile believers what Jesus might have taught if had He lived among them. Holland reacts, “But if these records do not accurately record Jesus’ teaching, then we cannot possibly ask if Paul is teaching the same thing as Jesus” (p. 11). Both schools of thought have undermined the credibility of the Bible. In this new book, Holland sets out to map a new Pauline paradigm, which looks through the eyes of the Passover and a corporate reading of Scripture (i.e., a unified community rather than disconnected individuals).

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