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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Justification in the Second Century
Arnold, Brian J.

Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2017 pp. xiv + 219. $39.95

Description: T. F. Torranceís influential The Doctrine of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers (1948) relegated the collection of Christianityís earliest noncanonical witnesses to a fall from grace. According to Torrance, the Apostolic Fathers abandoned Paulís "justification by faith" and instead advocated for various forms of "works righteousness." Given the new perspectives on both Paul and first-century Judaism, Brian Arnold challenges Torranceís judgments of the Apostolic Fathers by assessing the clarity, prevalence, and importance of Paulís doctrine of justification one hundred years after Paulís death (ca. 165 CE). Arnold carefully examines the ancient writings of Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Justin Martyr, as well as the Epistle to Diognetus and the Odes of Solomon, providing close readings of key texts. Arnold concludes, contrary to Torrance, that Paulís teaching on justification is present, understood, and important in second-century writings. Arnold opposes arguments that claim the Early Church Fathers either misunderstood Paul or were uninterested in the doctrine. Arnold shows that Christianity, in its earliest practices, emphasized the virtuous life that must follow oneís baptism, while also contending that faith is the only prerequisite for justification. While second-century Christian literature may not mimic Paulís language at every point, Arnold shows that the essence of Pauline soteriology―the liberation and new life that faith in Christís atoning death provides apart from law―continues to be a dominant theme of Christian reflection, praxis, and worship.

Subjects: Early Christian Literature, Literature, Methods, Historical Approaches, Theological Approaches

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Review by Chris Kugler
Published 7/23/2020
Citation: Chris Kugler, review of Brian J. Arnold, Justification in the Second Century, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2020).

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