The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology, by Jason C. Meyer
Nashville: B and H Academic: 2009
Largely because I was looking for the wrong thing, I was disappointed — and that's mostly my fault. If you know what to expect, and are looking for what The End of the Law delivers, you'll be glad.
Let me explain.
The issue of the relationship of the OT and NT is a large matter, looking over many subsidiarly concerns. It affects hermeneutics theology, preaching, and practice.
From the title, I had hoped that this book would delve in systematically and address that issue. I had expected help on the role of the law in Romans 7, the thorny issues related to that passage, and other related matters. I was disappointed.
Instead, what this reads like is a very detailed doctoral dissertation on a series of individual trees, with a brief overview of the forest at the end.
Meyer's "central question" is identified thus: "What is the character of the Mosaic covenant in the theology of Paul?" (268; cf. 1). His thesis is
Paul conceives of the Mosaic (old) covenant as fundamentally non-eschatological in contrast to the eschatologicalnature of the new covenant. Paul declares that the Mosaic covenant is now old because it belongs to the old age, whereas the new covenant is new because it belongs to the new eschatological age. ...The old age is transitory and impotent, and therefore the Mosaic covenant is both transitory and ineffectual. The new covenant is both eternal and effectual because it belongs to the new age and partakes of the power of the new age, the Holy Spirit. (1-2)Meyer's procedure is painstakingly detailed and primarily exegetical. He spells out alternatives, and closely reasons his way to his conclusion, always with thorough documentation.
The first three chapters are introductory, setting the stage in scholarship and identifying the questions. Then in chapters 4-6, Meyer takes a microscope to passages in 2 Corinthians 3—4, Galatians 3—4, and Romans 9—11. It is easy, in this section (to return to my analogy) to feel as if a guide has you by the hand and is pulling you up sharply to touch your nose to a tree, which he then describes; followed by a second tree, and a third, and a fourth... and pretty soon, you're lost.
My interests were better addressed in chapters 7 and 8, which returned to more synthesis (particularly in the latter). Meyer stresses his observation that the OT calls for what it does not produce, while the NT provides what it calls for through the Spirit's ministry. He does this in part by focusing on the OT themes of circumcision (of flesh and heart), and of rebellion. This is a helpful discussion, as is the final chapter's summary and synthesis. I would have liked to see this chapter expanded, and/or its elements spread more prominently throughout the book.
Summary: this is probably largely a reader-fail on my part. Meyer cannot be blamed for my mistaken expectations. I think he did what he set out to do. If that is what you are looking for, you'll find it a solid and helpful guide and instructor.
B and H provided me with this review copy.