Wednesday, April 04, 2007

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

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