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The Word of the Cross
Reading Paul
Jonathan A. Linebaugh
Foreword by John M. G. Barclay

HARDCOVER; Published: 4/29/2022
ISBN: 978-0-8028-8167-0
Price: $ 45.00
292 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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A collection of exegetical, historical, and theological essays on Paul’s letters, including reception history and comparative readings in conversation with other texts.

This collection of Jonathan Linebaugh’s most important work on Paul explores the merciful surprise at the heart of Paul’s gospel: a grace that, while strange and weak in worldly terms, is nothing less than the power of God, full of comfort and promise. Through twelve essays—two of them new—Linebaugh contextualizes and interprets key Pauline passages, does comparative readings of Paul in conversation with early Jewish texts, and enters into dialogue with Reformation theologians such as Martin Luther and Thomas Cranmer. 

Thorough and multifaceted, Linebaugh’s work is at once exegetical, historical, and theological in scope. Accordingly, The Word of the Cross is a rigorous scholarly enterprise that takes seriously Paul’s claim that the good news of Jesus Christ, despite appearing scandalous and foolish, in fact contradicts and overcomes the conditions of the possible through the power of God.

Table of Contents

Foreword by John M. G. Barclay
Part One: Reading Paul
          1. Righteousness Revealed: The Death of Christ as the Definition of the Righteousness of God in Romans 3:21–26
          2. Promises beyond the Possible: Grace and the God Who . . . in Romans 4
          3. Not the End: The History and Hope of God’s Unfailing Word in Romans 9–11
          4. “The Speech of the Dead”: Identifying the No Longer and Now Living “I” of Galatians 2:20
Part Two: Reading Paul in Context and Conversation
          5. Relational Hermeneutics and Comparison as Conversation
          6. Announcing the Human: Rethinking the Relationship between Wisdom of Solomon 13–14 and Romans 1:18–2:11
          7. Debating Diagonal Δικαιοσύνη: The Epistle of Enoch and Paul in Theological Conversation
          8. Scandalous and Foolish: Defining Grace with Pseudo-Solomon and St. Paul
Part Three: Reading Paul with Readers of Paul
          9. The Grammar of the Gospel: Justification as a Theological Criterion in the Reformation and in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians
          10. The Texts of Paul and the Theology of Thomas Cranmer
          11. The Christocentrism of Faith in Christ: Martin Luther’s Reading of Galatians 2:16, 19–20
          12. Until Christ: Advent Again and Again in Martin Luther’s Interpretation of Galatians

“Those who have read or heard the scholarly work of Jonathan Linebaugh will know his trademark qualities: incisive analysis of texts, arresting turns of phrase, and a deep resonance with the theology of Paul. . . . There are few people today who can trace the contours of Paul’s theology with such sensitivity or utilize the history of theological interpretation with such creativity, and I am confident that everyone will come away from reading this book both enriched and provoked to think harder about the theology of Paul.”
— John M. G. Barclay
from the foreword
“There are books of biblical scholarship that are learned, knowledge- and discussion-advancing, even important. Then there are a handful that won’t leave you alone, like a plangent tune or a poem whose images keep needling you: books that are learned but also insightful and humane, wisdom-deepening and conversation-altering; books that are not just important but also vital and enlivening. This is such a book. It is deeply conversant with the best of historic and contemporary Pauline scholarship; it features ground-breaking exegetical, comparative, and reception-historical work; and it is utterly memorable in its summons for scholars—and preachers—to hear afresh the heart of Paul’s good news as it shudders to an end for us at and on the cross.”
— Wesley Hill
Western Theological Seminary
“Underneath Jonathan Linebaugh’s remarkable gifts as a reader and a writer lies a profound capacity for genuine conversation. Here he places the letters of Paul in conversation with voices as divergent as the Wisdom of Solomon, Thomas Cranmer, Miguel de Cervantes, and George Eliot. The results illuminate, instruct, and edify. Those determined to restrict Paul to a corner of the first century need to stay away from this compelling interpreter, who shows on every page that the word of the cross persists as ‘merciful surprise.’”
— Beverly Roberts Gaventa
Princeton Theological Seminary
“An outstanding set of studies that are not just about Paul but fresh articulations of Paul’s testimony to God’s revelation in Christ. Linebaugh navigates a remarkable range of literature—ancient, early modern, and contemporary—in the service of elucidating what is ‘of first importance.’ In short, these essays should be read by anyone interested in Paul.”
— Simon Gathercole
University of Cambridge
“This is a passionate and erudite exposition of Paul’s gospel. Biblical scholars and theologians will find brilliant exegesis that is deeply engaged both with Paul’s first-century Jewish context and with the history of interpretation. That alone makes this book well worth reading. But there is so much more. For those who long to hear the clarion call of Paul’s good news, here is hope in the midst of despair, courage for the faithless, the surprise of God’s scandalous grace for all—in short, the word of the cross.”
— Susan Eastman
Duke Divinity School
“No matter how many times you have read Paul’s letters, this book will teach you something about their purpose. A careful exegete and astute theologian, Jonathan Linebaugh offers something rare in scholarship. He goes beyond purely historical or linguistic analyses of Paul to convey the essential shape of Paul’s theology. Clearly and often beautifully written, The Word of the Cross gives readers new appreciation for Paul’s answers to profound theological questions.”
— Susan E. Hylen
Candler School of Theology, Emory University
“Linebaugh’s sparkling essays display great exegetical and hermeneutical skill and are the fruit of very wide reading. Few biblical scholars can match his knowledge of theology, philosophy, and literature, or bring it so compellingly to bear on the task of interpretation. Yet what really makes Linebaugh’s exegetical work distinctive is its powerful sense of address. In The Word of the Cross the academic essay becomes the unlikely vehicle through which good news is announced to the reader.”
— Stephen J. Chester
Wycliffe College
“In The Word of the Cross, Jonathan Linebaugh offers a master class in theological interpretation. These deeply learned, hermeneutically sophisticated, and elegantly crafted essays probe the heart of Paul’s theology and display the fruitfulness of engaging the apostle and his interpreters through a ‘relational hermeneutic.’ This book will repay careful reading by students and seasoned scholars alike.”
— J. Ross Wagner
Duke Divinity School
The Christian Century
“For Linebaugh, what is abidingly necessary about Paul is ‘the pattern of grace’ in his writings—the grammar of the gospel which emerges at the point where honest diagnosis of ourselves collides with and is overcome by the hope of mercy. Linebaugh’s shorthand term for the gospel could also serve as the dust jacket description of his book: it’s a ‘merciful surprise.’”