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Excerpt: "Recent debates over perfection, or better, Judaism and perfect law-keeping, took off with the publication of E. P. Sanders's Paul and Palestinian Judaism. As mentioned in the introduction, for Luther and most of the Protestant theological traditions in his wake, one of the chief problems with salvation according to the OT law was that no one had kept, or could keep, its commandments sufficiently to be considered righteous. Nearly all were agreed this was because the law required flawless or perfect obedience to all its commands. Since all are sinners, such a demand for perfect obedience returns a guilty verdict upon every single human being. The reformational reading of texts like Gal 3: i o or Rom 3:20 made Paul a further Jewish witness to this position. However, Sanders argued that this was a complete misreading of Jewish soteriology. For the most part, Jews did not think Torah required of them a perfect,unerring obedience. "Human perfection was not considered realistically achievable by the Rabbis, nor was it required:" In fact, as Stendahl had proposed earlier, Paul had no great problem at all with keeping the law adequately. "As to righteousness under the law," he thought he was "blameless" (Phil 3:6b)."


Originally published as chapter two of God and Human Wholeness: Perfection in Biblical and Theological Tradition, by Kent L. Yinger, Wipf and Stock Publishers 2019.