Thursday, December 01, 2011

Cardinal Virtues in the Undisputed Paul

I'm currently reading James W. Thompson, Moral Formation according to Paul: The Context and Coherence of Pauline Ethics.(Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011).  It's a fantastic book, so far, but there is one small mistake that Thompson makes, that I'd like to correct here.  Thompson claims that, "unlike the undisputed Pauline letters, the Pastoral Epistles employ the language of the cardinal virtues" (205).  This is incorrect.  Paul does employ the cardinal virtues of phronesis (Rom 12:3; 1 Cor 13:11), sophrosyne (2 Cor 5:13; Rom 12:3) and dikaiosyne in the undisputed letters.  Just because the noun isn't used, doesn't mean that the concept is absent.  We may also add that Paul employs synonyms for andrea in 2 Cor 5:6; 10:1 and 1 Thess. 2:2. 

I also wonder about Thompson's insistence that Paul accommodates ideas from Hellenistic Judaism, and not directly from the Graeco-Roman world.  Perhaps I've overstated this feeling I get, but he appears overly concerned to locate Paul's ethics within the tradition of Hellenistic Judaism and not in the Graeco-Roman world.  I'm not sure why this is a problem, as Paul reframes his understanding of all virtues and vices through the story of Christ and the gospel.  Virtues and vices are not neutral for Paul but have to be understood with reference to the story of God and his climactic activity in and through Christ.  But perhaps I'm overstating my feeling thus far...  Time will tell...

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