I well remember my first encounter with the work of Jimmy Dunn, on “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” (SCM Press, 1970). I was a young Jewish disciple of Yeshua, studying theology, and looking for a clear and detailed understanding of the Charismatic movement I was encountering amongst my Christian friends and how to interpret this in the light of the New Testament. As I read this sympathetic and deeply scholarly account of the teaching of Yeshua and practice of the early ekklesia I warmed to Dunn’s academic depth, encouraging tone, and general support for what was going on around me.
Later Dunn produced “The Parting of the Ways Between Christianity and Judaism and their Significance for the Character of Christianity” (1991, 2nd ed. 2006) in which he noted the significance of contemporary Messianic Jews:
“The parting of the ways was more between mainstream Christianity and Jewish Christianity than simply between Christianity as a single whole and rabbinic Judaism. Whether Jewish Christianity could or should have been retained within the spectrum of catholic Christianity is an important question which it may now be impossible to answer. Within two or three centuries it had ceased to be important anyway, once the Jewish Christian sects withered and died, presumably by absorption into rabbinic Judaism on the one side, and into catholic Christianity on the other, or just by the slow death of failure to regenerate. But it is a question which we need to address now with renewed seriousness in the light of the current phenomena of messianic Jews (Jews who believe in Jesus as Messiah) in north America and Israel.” (pp. 313-4)
Dunn’s scholarship over 50 years has stood the test of time. He pioneered, along with E P Sanders and N T Wright, what became known from his own original phrasing, the “New Perspective on Paul” (NPP), which gives a basis for contemporary Messianic Jewish faith and practice of Torah.
Jewish disciples of Yeshua and all who look to understand the Greek and Hebrew scripture are grateful for his life, learning and legacy, and will continue to study his work.
Prayer and Reflection.
Thank you, Lord, for the life and learning of this distinguished scholar, a man of intellect, integrity and deep humility. May we learn from his teaching, and grow in love and service for his Messiah, Yeshua. In his name we pray. Amen.
James Douglas Grant Dunn FBA (21 October 1939 – 26 June 2020), also known as Jimmy Dunn, was a British New Testament scholar, who was for many years the Lightfoot Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology at the University of Durham. He worked broadly within the Protestant tradition.
Dunn was born on 21 October 1939 in Birmingham, England
He had the following degrees:
BSc Economics and Statistics at University of Glasgow class II Honours, 1961.
BD at University of Glasgow, 1964, with distinction.
PhD at University of Cambridge, 1968.
BD at University of Cambridge, 1976.
Dunn was licensed as a minister of the Church of Scotland in 1964. He was chaplain to overseas students at Edinburgh University in 1968-70.
In 1970, Dunn became a lecturer in divinity at the University of Nottingham and was promoted to reader (i.e. senior lecturer) in 1979. Whilst at Nottingham, he served as a Methodist local preacher.
He became professor of divinity at Durham University in 1982, and in 1990 became Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham. He retired in 2003, and was succeeded as Lightfoot Professor of Divinity by John M. G. Barclay.
For 2002, Dunn was the President of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, an international body for New Testament study. Only three other British scholars had been made President of the body in the preceding 25 years. In 2006 he became a Fellow of the British Academy.
In 2005 a festschrift was published dedicated to Dunn, comprising articles by 27 New Testament scholars, examining early Christian communities and their beliefs about the Holy Spirit in Christianity. In 2009 another festschrift was dedicated to Dunn for his 70th birthday, consisting of two forewords by N. T. Wright and Richard B. Hays and 17 articles all written by his former students who went on to have successful careers in either academic and ministerial fields around the world.
Dunn is especially associated with the New Perspective on Paul, along with N. T. Wright and E. P. Sanders.
Dunn took up Sanders’ project of redefining Palestinian Judaism in order to correct the Christian view of Judaism as a religion of works-righteousness. One of the most important differences to Sanders is that Dunn perceives a fundamental coherence and consistency to Paul’s thought. He furthermore criticizes Sanders’ understanding of the term justification, arguing that Sanders’ understanding suffers from an “individualizing exegesis”.
Dunn, James D. G. (1970). Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Studies in Biblical Theology Second Series. 15. London: SCM Press.
——— (1975). Jesus and the Spirit. London: SCM Press.
——— (1985). The Evidence for Jesus. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press. ISBN 978-0-664-24698-3.
——— (1980). Christology in the making: a New Testament inquiry into the origins of the doctrine of the incarnation. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press. ISBN 0-664-24356-8.
———, ed. (1986). The Kingdom of God and North East England. London: SCM Press. ISBN 0334008379.
——— (1988). Romans 1-8, 9-16. Waco, TX: Word Books. ISBN 0-8499-0252-5.
——— (1990). Jesus, Paul, and the Law: studies in Mark and Galatians. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 0-664-25095-5.
——— (1990). Unity and diversity in the New Testament: an inquiry into the character of earliest Christianity. London: SCM Press. ISBN 0-334-02436-6.
——— (1991). The Partings of the Ways between Christianity and Judaism and their Significance for the Character of Christianity. London: SCM Press. ISBN 0-334-02508-7.
——— (1993). The Epistle to Galatians. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers. ISBN 1-56563-036-X.
——— (1993). Paul for Today. The Ethel M. Wood Lecture, 10 March 1993. London: University of London. ISBN 9780718711061. OCLC 877271473.
———; Suggate, Alan M. (1994). The justice of God: a fresh look at the old doctrine of justification by faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-0797-6.
——— (1996). The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon: a commentary on the Greek text. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-2441-2.
——— (1996). The Acts of the Apostles. Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International. ISBN 9781563381928. OCLC 36519627.
——— (1998). The Theology of Paul the Apostle. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-3844-8.
———, ed. (2003). The Cambridge companion to St. Paul. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-78694-0.
———; Rogerson, John W., eds. (2003). Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-3711-5.
——— (2003). Christianity in the Making: Vol. 1, Jesus Remembered. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-3931-2.
——— (2005). A New Perspective On Jesus: What The Quest For The Historical Jesus Missed. Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. ISBN 0-8010-2710-1.
——— (2007). The New Perspective On Paul. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-4562-2.
——— (2008). Christianity in the Making: Vol. 2, Beginning from Jerusalem. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-3932-0.
——— (2009). The Living Word (second edition). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. ISBN 978-0-8006-6355-1.
——— (2010). Did the first Christians worship Jesus?. London – Louisville, KY: Society for promoting Christian knowledge. ISBN 978-0-281-05928-7.
——— (2011). Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-6645-5.
——— (2013). The Oral Gospel Tradition. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-6782-7.
——— (2015). Christianity in the Making: Vol. 3, Neither Jew nor Greek: A Contested Identity. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-3933-6.