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My Guide to the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting 2009

Reviews of Douglas Campbell's The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul

Douglas Campbell's new book The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009) is perhaps the most talked about book in New Testament studies this year. 

The Deliverance of God

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A session will discuss it at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting November 23, 2009 (see below).  [Update Nov 24: I have recorded and posted it at Audio from SBL Deliverance of God session with Campbell, Gorman, Moo and Torrance].  

The book was released August 7, 2009.  Campbell is Associate Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School.  

I have first listed the the blurbs available at the publisher's page for the book and then some quotes from some other early reviews. 

Publisher blurbs:

John M. G. Barclay
Durham University
"Campbell's massive new work is startlingly original, sometimes brilliant in its insights, and always boldly provocative. His strongly antithetical vision identifies ‘participation in Christ' as the sole core of Pauline theology and produces the most radical rereading of Romans 1–4 for more than a generation. Even those who disagree will be forced to clarify their views as never before, and this theologically passionate attempt to rethink Paul at a fundamental level will make a considerable impact on Pauline scholarship for years to come."

Douglas Harink
The King's University College
"Will the thick, high walls of traditional Justification theory, erected on the foundations of centuries of conventional readings of Romans and buttressed by modern political and economic theory, finally ‘come a tumblin' down'? Will Paul's revolutionary apocalyptic message be delivered from imprisonment in that mighty fortress? Arming himself with an immense array of theoretical, historical, exegetical, philosophical, and theological weapons, Douglas Campbell launches a massive attack on the bastions of Justification theory. At times dismantling stone by stone, at times blasting out an entire section of the wall (such as the traditional reading of Romans 1:18–3:20 in his chapter 14), Campbell aims to reduce the city of traditional Justification theory to ruins. Only then, he believes, will Paul's gospel, thus freed from captivity, burst forth again in its original truth and power. The consequences for Christian life are not only theological but also intrinsically social, political, economic. The battle over Paul's gospel is engaged in this book with an intensity, passion, and breadth of learning rarely seen since the days of Luther. Will Justification theorists be able to defend the walls? Will Campbell triumph? Or does the outcome still hang in the balance? Any scholar with a stake in Paul, the gospel, and Christian truth will have to read this book to find out."

Alan J. Torrance
University of St. Andrews
"This immensely insightful and, indeed, courageous volume is the result of two decades of research by a New Testament scholar with unique theological insight. A work of profound significance for the theological world as much as for the world of Pauline scholarship."

Michael J. Gorman
Ecumenical Institute of Theology, St. Mary's Seminary and University
"Douglas Campbell's continuation of the quest for Paul's gospel is a bold exercise in deconstruction and reconstruction. One may disagree with parts of his analysis, or take a somewhat different route to the same destination, but his overall thesis is persuasive: for Paul, justification is liberative, participatory, transformative, Trinitarian, and communal. This is a truly theological and ecumenical work with which all serious students of Paul must now come to terms."

N. T. Wright
Bishop of Durham
"Campbell's massive book picks up the big ideas that dominate the study of Paul, spins them around, spreads them out in a novel way, and insists that we see them in an unusual and disturbing light. Even those of us who remain unconvinced by his bold and provocative proposals will have our breath taken away by the scale, the scope and, above all, the sheer surprise of this historical, exegetical, and theological tour de force."

Selections from some early reviews:

Michael Gorman, “A Foretaste of my Review of Campbell’s “Deliverance of God” (1),”  Cross Talk blog (Nov 3, 2009).  Gorman is a professor of Sacred Scripture and Dean of the Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, Maryland.

“I blurbed Douglas’s book and was possibly the most positive of the five who did so:

Douglas Campbell’s continuation of the quest for Paul’s gospel is a bold exercise in deconstruction and reconstruction. One may disagree with parts of the analysis, or take a somewhat different route to the same destination, but his overall thesis is persuasive: for Paul, justification is liberative, participatory, transformative, Trinitarian, and communal. This is a truly theological and ecumenical work with which all serious students of Paul must now come to terms.

This means, more bluntly, that in my estimation Douglas is both profoundly right (’his overall thesis is persuasive’) and simultaneously off the mark (’One may disagree with parts of the analysis, or take a somewhat different route to the same destination’). Fortunately, he is terribly right where it really matters: in his perceptive characterization of the liberative and participatory character of justification in Paul. Unfortunately, the relatively narrow topic of this panel’s review—the book’s treatment of Romans 1-3—is where Douglas is, I think, off the mark.”

A Foretaste of my Review of Campbell’s “Deliverance of God (2)," Cross Talk blog (Nov 5, 2009).

“One of the real gems in The Deliverance of God is an excursus entitled “The Case—Briefly—against Coercive Violence in Paul” (pp. 89-94) . . . It is about time that NT scholars start taking Paul’s perspective on violence and nonviolence seriously!”

Scot McKnight, “Book Comments: New Perspective's Fullness,” Jesus Creed blog (Nov 8, 2009). McKnight is the Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University in Chicago, Illinois.

“It would be a fantastic vacation read or summer read for pastors; it is a must for professors and I believe should be read by seminary students as a primary text on Paul -- whether one agrees with it or not.”

Loren Rosson III, “The Deliverance of God,” The Busybody blog,  (Oct 7, 2009).   Rossom is a librarian at the Nashua Public Library.

“Let me start by saying that I'm in awe of The Deliverance of God. There hasn't been a book of its kind since Sanders, pressing us to take a long look behind ourselves and then ahead again with new lenses. Parts of it need to be read at least twice for proper digestion, so don't expect to breeze through it curled up on the couch with a brandy snifter. In addition to the required mental exercise is the physical, which you'll get from lugging the damn thing around: it comes in at 936 pages, 1218 including endnotes. Is it worth all the effort? Unquestionably . . . Campbell has given us an out that works. It's unfortunately wrong.”

Chris Tilling, “Seven things to do to cheer yourself up,” Chrisendom blog (Oct 11, 2009).  Tilling is New Testament Tutor for St Mellitus College and St Paul's Theological Centre, London.

“. . . read Douglas Campbell's brilliant, I repeat brilliant tome, The Deliverance of God . . . I think it is the most important book to have been published since Sanders' Paul and Palestinian Judaism . . . Though this sort of thing is often said, I mean it most seriously: This one should become compulsory reading for any Pauline aficionados.”

The Deliverance of God – Doug Campbell’s new tome on justification in PaulChrisendom blog (Sept 29, 2009). 

“But to work through this book from beginning to end will require scheduling – it is over 1,000 pages. But it is deliciously provocative, a joy to read, filled with all manner of 'aha!' moments with many clever (nay, brilliant) twists.”

Bruce Lowe, Douglas Campbell, “The Deliverance of God,” Read Better, Preach Better blog (Oct 22, 2009).  Lowe is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia. 

“Douglas Campbell’s new book The Deliverance of God – An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul is a very substantial work likely to ruffle more feathers than a windstorm in a chicken coup . . . I do like the fact that he tries a new reading of Romans 1-4, which I think is overdue . . . I don’t like the way he relies on the fictitious dialogue throughout.”

Peter J. Leithart, Deliverance of God, Leithart.com blog, (Aug 14, 2009).  Leithard teaches Theology and Literature at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho.

“Wow. That’s my initial reaction to a quick perusal . . . Still, from an initial glance, Campbell is on the right track at many points, and the book appears to be bracing and challenging in all kinds of healthy ways.”

Jim West, “The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul,” Jim West blog, (Oct 2, 2009).  West is an Adjunct Professor at University of Copenhagen and Quartz Hill School of Theology.

“. . . he wants to excise from Paul the heart of his theology as to make him univocal and coherent."

Gavin, “Deliverance of God – 1,” Otagosh blog (Oct 24, 2009). Deliverance of God – 2 (Oct 29, 2009).

“This is an impressive book with an impressive argument to offer, but the feet of clay also seem to be clearly evident. Mind you, by the time the thousandth page has been clocked up, it might be necessary to do a volte face and offer up a paean of lavish praise, before prayerfully ordering the complete works of Barth and Torrance. But I doubt it.”


Update January 31, 2010:

Andy Goodliff has listed some more recent reviews at Campbell's Deliverance of God in Brief


See also an extensive interview Campbell did about the book. 

Michael F. Bird, "Pauline Soteriology Interviews: Douglas Campbell Part 1, Part 2, Part 3,” Euangelion blog, (March 12, 2009).  Bird teaches New Testament at the Highland Theological College in Dingwall, Scotland.


Society of Biblical Literature's Annual Meeting session on November 23, 2009. 

23-233


Pauline Soteriology
11/23/2009
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom C - SH

Theme: Book Review: Douglas Campbell, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Eerdmans, 2009)

Ann Jervis, Wycliffe College, Presiding
Michael J. Gorman, Saint Mary's Seminary and University, Panelist (20 min)
Alan Torrance, University of St. Andrews-Scotland, Panelist (20 min)
Douglas Moo, Wheaton College, Panelist (20 min)
Douglas Campbell, Duke University, Respondent (20 min)
Break (10 min)

Discussion (60 min)

____________________________________________________________________________

Please list any other reviews you find below in the comments. 

Name of reviewer, "Name of review," Link http://www_______, Name of blog or Publication, Date.  Author's position, school and location. 

Note too some other recent books on Romans and Justification:

Justification

N. T. Wright

Best Price $15.61
or Buy New $16.50

The Future of Justification

John Piper

Best Price $10.99
or Buy New $12.23

Inhabiting the Cruciform God

Michael J. Gorman

Best Price $12.77
or Buy New $16.32


Unlocking Romans

J. R. Daniel Kirk

Best Price $18.00
or Buy New $21.12


Romans

Craig S. Keener

Best Price $27.15
or Buy New $27.15


Romans

Leander E. Keck

Best Price $9.52
or Buy New $18.62


Michael Gorman has a lot of interesting discussion about Romans and justification at his blog.  Here's a sample:

Summary of Inhabiting the Cruciform God (pt. 1)

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Summary of Inhabiting the Cruciform God (pt. 2)

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Summary of Inhabiting the Cruciform God (pt. 3)

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Justification Jumble

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Romans Suggestions?

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

Unlocking Romans

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

N.T. Wright Justification Book Video

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

Romans Course Syllabus

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

SBL 2009 (part 1): Romans and Theosis

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Theosis and Mission: The Conversation Continues

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Craig Keener on Romans

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Scot McKnight also recommended Gorman's book at Paul: Theologian of Cruciformity

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