Instead of reading the apostle Paul as if he wrote from a Gnostic influence, this article wants to take seriously the Jewish context of the apostle. The Jewish environment in which Paul lived had a number of sects, like the Essene movement, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, all of which had certain attitudes toward the law. The author considers Paul's attitude toward the law, and how that impacted his mission work and teaching.
The interpretation of Matthew 23:2-4 still vexes many scholars. Does Jesus not contradict himself when he expects his disciples to practice all that the scribes and Pharisees teach, while at the same time accuses the Pharisees of making the Word of God worthless? This essay suggests that Jesus does affirm the authority of the Pharisees. This, however, is not a blanket endorsement of all their teachings.
What do we know about the Pharisees and the Sadducees? Newman wants to characterize these two groups and gather information from Josephus and rabbinic literature. However, to understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees,” Newman argues that the New Testament must be the primary source. He uses the biblical text as an exhortation to the contemporary church.