Here’s a sane, measured, and helpful introduction to Pauline theology by Michael Bird. I remember being impressed reading his thesis The Saving Righteousness of God and this is equally balanced and informative. If you feel you’ve lost your mind in the whole new-perspective debate here is some very sensible scholarship. Here’s a few good bits:
“The story of Christ is really a story about the invasion of the future age into the present. The heavenly invasion brings with it a climax to these various substories, which results in the vindication of the covenant God and his new-covenant people”
“Paul is not given the thirty-nine lashes by his fellow Jews because he asks them to ‘try’ Jesus in the same way one mighty try a kebab. He is not executed for suggesting that Roman citizens may wish to invite Jesus into their hearts. No . . . Paul dares to defy an empire by claiming that the seat of judgment is occupied by Jesus Christ and not by Caesar.”
“The ekklesia, then, is the people of God, called to be the new Israel and the renewed humanity. The church was to be charismatic, multi-ethnic, Christocentric, unified, part of society but not a reflection of it.”
“The gospel is a royal announcement that God has become king in Jesus Christ and has expressed his saving sovereignty through the death and resurrection of the Son, which atones, justifies and reconciles. There is no gospel without the heralding of the king, and there is no gospel without atonement and resurrection.”
“Nero did not throw Christians to the lions because they confessed that ‘Jesus is the Lord of my heart’. It was rather because they confessed that ‘Jesus is Lord of all’.
There’s also a brilliant illustration about a peruvian peasant called Carlos (p163) which is too long to reproduce but illustrates how shocking the message of the cross would have been. Here’s looking forward to future work by Dr. Bird.