Tag Archives: review

Review: Reformation Today (Bill James)

Pauline Theology
Bill James

Tom Holland, lecturer at the Evangelical Theological College of Wales, has produced a welcome and important contribution to the controversial area of Pauline theology: Contours of Pauline Theology; A Radical New Survey of the Influences on Paul’s Biblical Writings (Mentor/Christian Focus, 2004 hc, 382pp).

The author’s thesis is simply that the roots of Paul’s theology are to be found in the Old Testament, and particularly in the prophecy of Isaiah. He rejects earlier scholarship which places too much emphasis on a Hellenistic cultural setting, and the reliance of recent scholarship on the Pseudepigrapha as the background to Paul’s thought. Rather he sees Paul’s theology as an exposition of the Old Testament prophetic hope of a New Exodus, now fulfilled in the coming of Christ. Paul quotes in particular from the prophecy of Isaiah, and Holland suggests that it is this prophecy that actually provides the skeleton of his teaching. He points out that ‘…if the letter to the Romans was laid out as a continuous papyrus, and the citations from Isaiah were raised out of the text and suspended at their point of use, those texts, in that order, would summarise salvation history. Such a pattern could not be anything but intentional.’ (p.31).

Continue reading Review: Reformation Today (Bill James)

Review: Trinity Theological Journal (Singapore) (Dr. Tan Kim Haut)

Trinity Theological Journal, Vol.13, 2005

Thomas Holland, Contours of Pauline Theology: A Radical New Survey of the Influences on Paul’s Biblical Writings (Fearn: Mentor, 2004). 382 pp., £14.99.
Reviewed by Tan Kim Huat

So much has been written on Pauline theology in recent years that one wonders whether a book that announces a concern with its contours has anything fresh to say. Often, what promises to be radical, fresh and creative does not live up to its claims. But the same cannot be said for Holland’s book. This is certainly radical and it boldly pushes forward an idea that has not really been discussed in Pauline scholarship. Holland’s central thesis is that the hermeneutical template with which to organize, and thus, understand, Paul’s theology is the Jewish Passover and the central ideas connected with it.

Holland’s book is divided into four sections. It starts with some necessary ground-clearing work through which he criticizes past attempts to situate Paul’s thought within a Hellenistic framework, and argues instead that the primary background for understanding Paul is the Old Testament He also emphasizes, rightly in my opinion, the importance of corporate perspective of Paul’s theology. The establishment of these key hermeneutical principles completes section one of the book.

Continue reading Review: Trinity Theological Journal (Singapore) (Dr. Tan Kim Haut)

Review: The Banner of Truth Magazine (Robert Strivens)

Contours of Pauline Theology: A Radical New Survey of the Influences on Paul’s Biblical Writings
Tom Holland Christian Focus, 2004, 351 pp. + bibliography & indexes, hardback. £14.99
ISBN 1 85792 469 X

This book demands a significant amount of concentration from the reader, but is both rewarding and refreshing in terms of the biblical thrust of its main thesis. It should be compulsory reading for any who feel in any way seduced by the arguments of either liberal or ‘New Perspective’ theologians on the origins and content of Paul’s theology. It presents compelling evidence that Paul’s theology was thoroughly rooted in the Old Testament.

Dr Holland has a number of goals in this book. Firstly, he challenges head-on the liberal idea that Paul’s theology represented an imposition of Hellenistic thinking upon the Semitic ideas of Jesus and so resulted in a departure from Jesus’ teaching.

Secondly, he wants to cut the ground from under the feet of those, from E. P Sanders on, who place great emphasis upon extra-biblical Jewish writings as an aid to the interpretation of the New Testament.

Continue reading Review: The Banner of Truth Magazine (Robert Strivens)

Review: Christian Witness to Israel Herald (Mike Moore)

This review appeared in the March-May 06 edition of the CWI Herald.

There is a Redeemer

How should we read the New Testament? Until recently it was thought that a thorough grounding in Classics was a prerequisite for anyone who aspired to be a New Testament scholar. Paul, it was assumed, borrowed ideas from the Gentile world in order to explain the gospel to his pagan hearers. An understanding of the world in which the apostle to the Gentiles travelled and worked is a great help to any serious New Testament student, but must we automatically assume that Paul’s teaching can be understood only or largely by reference to first-century Gentile culture?

Continue reading Review: Christian Witness to Israel Herald (Mike Moore)

Review: The Reformation Theological Review (Bill Salier)

The Reformation Theological Review 65:1 (April, 2006)

CONTOURS OF PAULINE THEOLOGY: A Radical New Survey of the Influences on Paul’s Biblical Writings
By Tom Holland (Fearn: Mentor/Christian Focus Publications, 2004), 392pp., hbk„ n.p.

This is a challenging and stimulating treatment of Pauline theology. Holland states that his desire is to show that the proper background for understanding Paul and his theology is the Old Testament and that Paul’s thinking is far more corporate than perhaps normally thought. His focus is that the matrix for much of Paul’s thinking about Jesus are the Passover and New Exodus themes found in the Old Testament and especially the prophet Isaiah. This leads to several lines of investigation all of which are stimulating to those investigating Paul and his theology.

Continue reading Review: The Reformation Theological Review (Bill Salier)

Review: Evangelical Review of Theology (Prof. I. Howard Marshall)

EQ 77.3 (2005), 270-272

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

by Tom Holland

Fearn: Christian Focus Publications
[Mentor], 2004. 382 pp. hb. £14.99
ISBN185792469X

By any account this is an extraordinary book! The scholarly endorsements of it describe it as ‘challenging, unsettling and infuriating’ and ‘radically new’. Yet, to begin at the end, there is a bibliography that is riddled with misprints, although the rest of the book is in better shape.

There are sweeping statements (‘most New Testament scholars’) sometimes offered with little or no supporting evidence, and there is a mixture of proposals that range from the dodgy to the brilliant. The way in which the argument is developed is not always clear, there is a certain amount of repetitiousness (cf. the citation from Nanos on 15 and 48f.), and there could be better signposting. The intimation that the author will ‘examine’ the view that the Gospels are not reliable heralds a single paragraph that does not really tackle the issue but simply asserts the opposite. But if the reader can set aside these shortcomings that better editing could have obviated, there is a remarkable thesis being presented here that demands scholarly attention.

Continue reading Review: Evangelical Review of Theology (Prof. I. Howard Marshall)

Prepublication reviews

It is refreshing to read something radically new in such a popular area as Pauline studies. So often what promised new perspectives, new insights, turns out not to be essentially different. Tom Holland’s original and creative approach to Paul does not fall into this category.Here Paul is not the innovator of Christian doctrine- he received his theological model from his Jewish upbringing in which he was taught that Yahweh would bring about the promised New Exodus. Paul came to realize that this had been inaugurated by the paschal death of Christ. Thus Holland maintains that there existed a common hermeneutical model for both Judaism and the New Testament church i.e. the New Exodus. Justification is not a declaration of being in the covenant, but refers back to the creation of a covenant between Yahweh and His people. This view of justification fits in with Paul’s doctrine of corporate baptism, the washing of the believing community accomplished by the Spirit through the death of Christ. Paul’s theology is not individualistic, but corporate, so it is believers collectively as the church and not the believer’s individual body which comprise the temple of the Holy Spirit. I anticipate that if it finds acceptance, the proposals of this book should provide a timely and fruitful alternative to some of the theological emphases that have guided the church for too long.

Dr. William S. Campbell
Reader in Biblical Studies
Department of Theology and Religious Studies
University of Wales, Lampeter


In his Contours of Pauline Theology Dr Holland argues forcefully that the main contours of Paul’s thought can only be understood when we understand Paul as an exegete and theologian of the Old Testament, with the hoped-for New Exodus, now fulfilled in Christ, at the centre of his reading strategy. This approach finds corporate and covenantal themes to lie at the very heart of Paul’s concerns. In constant critical engagement with the whole range of contemporary scholarship Holland maps out for himself and his readers new ways of understanding Paul and offers new insights into a range of absolutely vital issues from justification to Christology, and new insights into Pauline texts from Romans to Colossians. Challenging, unsettling and infuriating Dr Holland’s tour de force cannot be ignored.

Dr Peter Head,
Lecturer in Theology,
University of Cambridge, UK


Having watched Dr Holland developing his ideas over a period of several years, I am thrilled that his work is now available to a wider public. All who are interested in Paul’s theology will discover much that is stimulating and provocative here. He develops in detail his view that the Exodus events provide the vocabulary and imagery for much of what the apostle wishes to say about Christ, his salvation and his people. Apart from his novel interaction with the so-called “new perspective”, many will be fascinated by his work showing the influence of Passover themes in Paul’s understanding of Christ as “first born”, and in his theology of justification, covenant inclusion, baptism, etc. I warmly commend this work.

Dr. Paul D. Gardner
(Archdeacon of Exeter)


Dr. Tom Holland of the Evangelical Theological College of Wales has produced a significant contribution to the discussion of Pauline theology. He presents a Paul whose thinking is rooted in the Old Testament scriptures and developed within the framework of covenantal relationship. The two major lenses through which Paul’s letters must be viewed are a “New Exodus” paradigm and a corporate reading of the texts. When these lenses are used, it is clear that Paul’s theology is in full agreement with the teachings of Jesus and the other New Testament authors. Along the way, many of the new vectors in Pauline theology are explored and critiqued. Whether or not everyone will agree with Dr. Holland’s conclusions, all serious New Testament scholars must engage his evidence and his arguments in considering The Contours of Pauline Theology.

Dr. John D. Harvey
Associate Professor of New Testament and Greek
Columbia Biblical Seminary & School of Missions, USA