Dr JDG Dunn, British New Testament scholar, Professor of Divinity at the University of Durham. Born 1939 – died 26 June 2020

I have just heard the sad news that the great Jimmy Dunn has passed away! He was one the world’s greatest New Testament scholars and taught me more about the Bible (and especially Christology) than anyone else. A great loss!

Just a small selection of his seminal work: 

Baptism in the Holy Spirit, 1970

Jesus and the Spirit, 1975

Christology in the making, 1980

Romans 1-8, 9-16, 1988

Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, 1990

The Partings of the Ways between Christianity and Judaism, 1991

The Epistle to the Galatians, 1993

The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, 1996

The Acts of the Apostles, 1996

The Theology of Paul the Apostle, 1998

The Cambridge Companion to St. Paul (ed.), 2003

Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, 2003

Christianity in the Making: Vol. 1, Jesus Remembered, 2003

A New Perspective On Jesus: What The Quest For The Historical Jesus Missed, 2005

The New Perspective On Paul, 2007

Christianity in the Making: Vol. 2, Beginning from Jerusalem, 2008

Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels, 2011

Christianity in the Making: Vol. 3, Neither Jew nor Greek: A Contested Identity, 2015

Here he is in a recent video:

Categories: Bible, Christology, Death, Dr Jimmy Dunn, New Testament scholarship

15 replies

  1. That is sad indeed. He was not young. (81 years old.)

    I wonder if there are any conservative believing scholars who have done a thorough critique of his writings that demonstrate, as Geza Vermes said about Raymond Brown, that he is a scholar who wants to “have his cake and eat it” (p. 15, The Nativity) = agreeing with anti-supernatural presuppositions on the text, but also claiming to ascribe to orthodox doctrine (Trinity, atonement, resurrection, Deity of Christ) – claiming to be a Trinitarian Christian, but using scholarship to undermine the very doctrine he claims to believe in.

  2. This quote by James D. G. Dunn is excellent:

    “Here it becomes obvious that Paul was able to differentiate within the law . He maintains that some laws, here the law of circumcision no longer counted, but in the same breathe he re-asserts the importance of keeping the law of God.

    Does this not remind us of Jesus? . . .

    Paul drew his attitude to the law from Jesus, no other explanation makes such sense of the evidence available to us. It was Jesus’ teaching and example which showed him that in Christ neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision but faith operating effectively through love. [Galatians 5:6] It was no doubt this teaching and that example that Paul had in mind when he speaks of “the law of Christ”.

    Dunn concludes:

    “Should we then speak of a gulf between Jesus and Paul? NO!

    Should we deduce that Paul departed from or corrupted the good news which Jesus brought? No!

    Should we conclude that Paul transformed Jesus’ message into something that Jesus Himself would not recognize? No! . . . ”

    Jesus’ discriminating attitude to the law and the love command . . . ”

    (James D. G. Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels. Eerdmans, 2011, pages 114-115)

    Dunn demonstrated the unity of the apostle Paul’s writings with the Jesus Al-Masih of history, of the gospels.
    They are unified.

    • ‘the Jesus Al-Masih of history’ – what?

    • Paul taught:

      ‘In his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace.’ (Ephesians 2:14-15).

      Jesus taught the opposite:

      Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5:17-20)

      Two different religions. Paul was an apostate from Judaism.

      • Paul,
        You really think the apostle Paul meant “abolish the moral law” ?
        Romans 13 repeats most of the Ten Commandments.

        The key of Ephesians 2:11-22 , in verse 15, is “the hostility / enmity / hatred of the law”, not the law itself. It is the Jewish ceremonial and sacrificial, food laws that create barriers and enmity between cultures.

        The gospel and the cross of Christ has abolished the enmity and the hatred between cultures and peoples and has reconciled us in Christ.
        the cross destroys racism !
        the cross destroys hatred in the heart!

        Voddie Baucham explains it well:

      • 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
        8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
        9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,”
        “You shall not murder,”
        “You shall not steal,”
        “You shall not covet,”[a]
        and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to a
        neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
        Romans 13:6-10

        Paul quotes 5 OT laws.
        He affirms the moral law.
        Therefore, in Ephesians 2:15-16, and surrounding context, he did not mean “to abolish the moral law” and no contradiction to Jesus in Matthew 5:17-19.

  3. Dr James Dunn seminal works had a profound influence on me that partly was the reason me embracing Islam. Sad news. Both Dunn and Hurtado were my two favourite NT Scholars!

  4. Mr. Temple,

    1. Ephesians 2:11-14 abolished “the Law” (the Torah) with its commandments and ordinances”. The moral laws are the commandments and the ordinances.

    2. Romans 13 repeats some of the ten commandments but never say they should be kept. Paul claims that if you keep just one of the commandments then you fulfiled all the law! Perhaps he knew better than Yahweh who said ALL the commandments should be kept!

    3. Ephesians 2:15 does NOT says “enmity OF THE LAW”. It just says Jesus “has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us”. Jesus abolished what divided the Jews and the non Jews – the keeping of the law!

    Ergo, Jesus and Paul taught different and contradictory things.

    • Everyone but Ken can see this.

    • There are 2 different words for “abolish” or “nullify” or “overthrow” or “set aside”, between Matthew 5:17-18 and Ephesians 2:14-16.

      Jesus and Paul do not contradict one another, because Jesus is speaking before the cross and Jesus clearly says that He came to fulfill. The Atonement of Christ on the cross ended the hostility / wrath of the law (guilt, payment, punishment) for those who are in Christ so that we are forgiven of our sins – in other words, it absorbed the wrath of God against our sin – for those that repent and believe in Christ – but it also set aside the “ordinances” / “decrees” / “dogmas” that created hostility between cultures. How we understand how the atonement fulfills the law is the key. Jesus’ death on the cross is the final atoning ransom sacrifice, thus ending the OT covenant laws that pertains to animal sacrifices and the temple and the separation of Jews and Gentiles, which also includes the food laws, as made clear in Mark 7:19-23 and Acts chapters 10-11.

      Romans 3:31 – Paul says he does not “overthrow” or “abolish” or “nullify the law”, rather he establishes the right use of the law.

      Another key in the Ephesians 2:11-22 context are the “ordinances / decrees” – the ones that create hostility between the Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles) – the NT is filled with principles or repeated the law of God as a principle of holiness – the moral law of God – in the church, the cultural barriers and external laws that create barriers between cultures and ethnicities – those are the ones that have been set aside and fulfilled in Christ. The very ones that Islam emphasizes – the external rituals that are the emphasis of Islam that set the culture above and separate from other cultures – food laws, washings before prayer – Vozoo / Wudu وضو , pilgrimages (Hajj and others), specific rules of bowing during prayer (Rakkats, etc.), fasting as a requirement, etc.

      Are non-Arabic speakers required to say the 5 Salat prescribed prayers in Arabic? (or can they translate into their own language)

      I have heard that after the prescribed ritual prayers in Arabic, only then can non-Arab speakers make dua دعا (requests, prayers) in their own language, etc. (like Farsi, Turkish, Urdu, Kazakh, Indonesian, Maylay, Kurdish, Uzbek, etc.)

      • Mr. Temple says:

        “There are 2 different words for “abolish” or “nullify” or “overthrow” or “set aside”, between Matthew 5:17-18 and Ephesians 2:14-16.”


        Yes, but the two words mean the same thing.

        In Matthew 5:17, the Greek word used is καταλῦσαι (katalysai) which means “destroy”, “overthrow”, “abolish” etc.while in Ephesians 2:15 the Greek word used is καταργήσας (
        katargēsas) which means “annul”, ” abolish “, ” abrogate ” etc.

        So, these two different words mean the same thing.

        Ken says:

        “Jesus and Paul do not contradict one another, because Jesus is speaking before the cross and Jesus clearly says that He came to fulfill”


        They clearly contradict themselves since Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish the Jewish law while Paul claimed that Jesus abolished the Jewish law!

        The claim that Jesus said this before the alleged cross is pointless. It will still be contradictory for Jesus to claim that he didn’t come to abolish the law and then after an alleged event said that he came to abolish the law.

        Before or after the alleged cross, Jesus never says he came to abolish the law (Torah) of Moses and the Prophets (neviim).

        So, still Paul contradicts Jesus when he claimed that Jesus abolished the law!

      • Do we then overthrow (or nullify, render powerless, make void, empty, of no effect – same word in Ephesians 2:15 – katargeo / καταργεω ) the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. Romans 3:31 (ESV)

        “Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” Romans 3:31 (NASB)

        Romans 7:12
        the law is holy, good, and righteous (just)

        “So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. ” Romans 7:12

        1 Timothy 1:8-11
        The law is good, if one uses is properly.

        There is no contraction between Paul and Jesus.

        Jesus fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17) in His teachings (5:21-48, etc. ) and His person and His work of redemption on the cross and the subsequent resurrection from the dead, which demonstrated the power of His substitutionary ransom atonement.

        The cross brought forgiveness and salvation for all nations (ethna ) all people groups, and broke down the specific laws contained in ordainances that but up barrier walls of separation and hostility between cultures. (not all the law, not the moral law – the context of Ephesians 2:11-22 shows this.)

      • Ken cannot with intellectual honesty win this argument.

      • The entire NT and history of how these passages are properly understood already won the argument. In the Church, the cultural barriers are broken down so that there is one unity and peace between the Jews and the Gentiles (ta ethna – the nations)

        The cross purchased and established reconciliation and peace between ethnicities and cultures. (Ephesians 2:11-22) See the video by Voddie Baucham.

  5. I don’t know why videos on You Tube sometimes start in the middle or not at the beginning when embedded in a blog.

    Rewind the video and watch and listen to the whole thing. A very powerful message that is needed in today’s climate.

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