This dissertation contends that in spite of the increasing trajectory toward a more corporate, covenantal understanding of justification within Pauline scholarship since the emergence of the New Perspective on Paul, there still remains significant evidence that justification, at its core, is concerned with the individual before God in need of grace, who is counted righteous apart from any human works. Chapter 1 provides a history of research that traces this corporate trajectory within modern scholarship, as well as noting some of the responses to it.
Chapter 2 examines the case for the presence of Jewish legalism at Paul’s time of writing, to which he responds with his doctrine of justification by faith. Though E. P. Sanders successfully showed that legalism did not define second-temple Judaism, his work does not rule out the possibility of legalism within elements of the religion during the lifetime of Paul. This legalism would be more subtle than in pre-Sanders caricatures of Judaism, and is intricately tied to ethnocentrism, since the works in question were often those such as circumcision, which separated Jews from Gentiles—hence, ethnocentric legalism.
Chapters 3 and 4 apply a framework that does not rule out legalism to three key justification texts (Gal 2:16; Rom 3:20; Rom 4:1-8). In these passages, Paul alludes to or cites a psalm text, each of which highlights an underlying anthropological approach to justification that denies the place of works, which was also timeless, though now fully revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Chapter 5 examines evidence in other places in Paul, including some of the disputed letters, that undergirds the idea that fundamental to justification and Pauline soteriology in general is a distinction between grace (through faith) and works.
Chapter 6 seeks to align the present argument with more corporate concerns in Pauline soteriology through exegesis of two passages that are often considered to be linchpin texts for the New Perspective (Rom 3:27-30; Eph 2:14-18).
Chapter 7 provides a summary of the argument, as well as implications of the present study, with further reflection on what it means for future work on the subject.