See my review on 3/9/14.
Sprinkle’s thesis, in a nutshell, is that the OT depicts two different models or paradigms for the restoration of Israel after the exile: a Deuteronomic model and a Prophetic model. The Deuteronomic model makes Israel’s restoration conditional upon Israel’s repentance and recommitment to keeping the law. The Prophetic model views Israel’s restoration as God’s unconditional and unilateral act in which God, by his Spirit, transforms Israel and causes her to become faithful. Sprinkle then uses these two paradigms as heuristic lenses to compare and contrast the soteriologies of Paul and of the Qumran sect. (In Chapter 8, he also brings in other early Jewish texts like Jubilees, the Psalms of Solomon, 4 Ezra, and others.)
The main question is: “Does humanity possess the unaided ability to initiate a return to God and obey his laws?” (p. 128). The Deuteronomic model says yes, whereas the Prophetic model says no. Sprinkle argues that the Qumran texts are divided – the didactic texts follow the Deuteronomic model, but the hymnic texts (especially the Hodayot) follow the Prophetic model. Sprinkle also argues that Paul’s soteriology fits in with the Prophetic model.
Read this book if you want to get schooled in the ins and outs of Qumranian soteriology. Sprinkle added some wrinkles, nuances, and complications to my previous one-sided thinking. Before reading this book, I had focused too much on the Hodayot and so I had thought that the Qumran Community had an exclusively monergistic, predestinarian theology, without taking into account some of the other more “Deuteronomic” passages from the non-hymnic material.
Sprinkle has shown that the category of divine vs. human agency is an extremely important dimension of the continuities and discontinuities between Pauline and Jewish soteriology. However, I’m not sure that the “agency” rubric gets at the fundamental core of the difference between Paul and Judaism. That is important, to be sure, but I would say that the heart of the difference is over the source of righteousness before God -- does it come from doing the law (“the righteousness of the law”), or from the atoning/law-fulfilling work of Christ (“the righteousness of God/faith”). Of course, the agency question is part of this, but the Christological dimension needs to be highlighted more (which Sprinkle does mention at various points).
One final point, I appreciated Sprinkle’s interpretation of Romans 2:13 (pp. 186-191). That verse reads: “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers who will be justified” (ESV). Sprinkle says that he finds more merit “in the slowly dying hypothetical view,” although he makes a slight modification to it in light of our post-Christ redemptive-historical situation. He writes: “I do not think Paul believes that ‘if someone does the required works, he or she will be righteous before God’ but since ‘no one keeps the law ... the only pathway to a right relation with God is faith in Christ.’” I agree and refer to this as “the empty-set interpretation.”