Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New Perspective on Paul

In summary: (a) It builds on Sanders' new perspective on Second Temple Judaism, and Sanders' reassertion of the basic graciousness expressed in Judaism's understanding and practice of covenantal nomism. (b) It observes that a social function of the law was an integral aspect of Israel's covenantal nomism, where separateness to God (holiness) was understood to require separateness from the (other) nations as two sides of the one coin, and that the law was understood as the means to maintaining both. (c) It notes that Paul's own teaching on justification focuses largely if not principally on the need to over-come the barrier which the law was seen to interpose between Jew and Gentile, so that the 'all' of 'to all who believe' (Rom. 1.17) signifies in the first place, Gentile as well as Jew. (d) It suggests that 'works of law' became a key slogan in Paul's exposition of his justification gospel because so many of Paul's fellow Jewish believers were insisting on certain works as indispensable to their own (and others?) standing within the covenant, and therefore as indispensable to salvation. (e) It protests that failure to recognize this major dimension of Paul's doctrine of justification by faith may have ignored or excluded a vital factor in combating the nationalism and racialism which has so distorted and diminished Christianity past and present.

- James D. G. Dunn, The New Perspective on Paul: Collected Essays. WUNT 185, Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005, 15.
HT: Metalepsis. One should quickly note that it is rumoured that this volume will be published by Eerdmans, so as to make it more accessable. That will be fabtastic!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Well, two years ago this blog began as an avenue to explore my research on Jesus and the Roman Empire. We've had some twists and turns, some unexpected events and even a marriage in that time. So here's to another few years exploring the blogosphere and interacting with the world of the 1st century Pagans, Jews & Christians. It's been fun and informative so far, may that tradition continue.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Christology in 2 Cor 3:16-18

Chris Tilling crosses exegetical sabers with his supervisor Max Turner in a fascinating discussion of 2 Cor 3:12-18, specifically discussing 2 Cor 3:16-18.

12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. 14 But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15 Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. [NRSV]

It's exegetical discussions like these that blogs are rather spectacular for. My ignorance persists as I try and understand the complexities of the issue and in a comment I've posed the following to Chris:
So how do you understand "The Lord is the Spirit"? Vs 18's "LORD" can refer to Jesus if Paul is arguing along the same lines as Rom 8:29 with regards to image. The question in my mind becomes, why switch from Christ in v14, to Spirit in v17, back to Christ in 18? This does appear to be a rather complex passage...
Matters are complicated for me by the fact that my commentaries on 2 Corinthians are all in New Zealand! (Martin & Barnett, and Witherington and Keener hardly deal with the matter in any depth and Harris is a tad expensive at the moment!) Keener does appear to suggest that image would naturally lead one to the image of Christ but does not engage in much discussion. Witherington notes the discussion, but argues that LORD refers to the Spirit (Conflict and Community in Corinth, pg. 382). Actually, Witherington's position seems likely, as likely as any other position! But now it appears that Gordon Fee has changed his mind in support of a Christological referent. This leaves us hungry for more: How will Chris [& Fee] argue that this has a Christological referent?
This is delicious side-track...
Looking through Plummer's old ICC Commentary on 2 Cor 3:16 and he is quite adamant that Lord refers to Christ (pg. 102). So Chris stands in good company. I wonder what the updated ICC, written by Thrall, does with this?

Witherington on Paul

- He is no armchair theologian pondering out the meaning of theological minutiae. He is, rather, doing his best pastorally to shore up the beliefs and behaviour of his converts so that they can endure as part of a countercultural movement under pressure and persecution. He deliberately draws on imperial rhetoric in his theological expressions and transferring it to Christ and the Lawless One because he believes that only Jesus is truly Lord and that the emperor has no right to command absolute allegiance, much less worship. Paul expects his letters to be read, indeed to be orally and rhetorically delivered in worship services, which is to say in the context of much prayer, singing, worship, and fellowship of various sorts. His theologising in these letters is surrounded by and indeed bathed in prayers of thanksgiving, wish prayers, prayer reports, benedictions, and the like. There is a profound theology of trust and reliance on the Almighty in thee sections of the letters which some have ignored as untheological. This is a huge mistake.
Paul is a pastoral theologian who lives what he preaches and believes what he says. Experience, not just understanding, is the basis of expression in so much of what he says. However uncomfortable some of us may be with this, it is still an essential feature to understanding Paul’s theology. Nor should we overlook how much worship and Christian experience was the matrix out of which much Christian theological reflection came…

Ben Witherington III 1 and 2 Thessalonians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Eerdmans, 2006) pg. 237. Reviewed by Mark R. Fairchild and by Craig L. Blomberg