NT3-Study Paper

2007

Brendan Moar

Reading Paul: A brief introduction to the issues which must be addressed if we hope to interpret Paul correctly
1. Early Impressions of Paul
Early Description • The Acts of Paul c.190 contains an unflattering description of the apostle; small, bald, hooked nose and mono-brow. New Testament • Paul is mentioned by other writers in the NT. Most notably he is referred to by Luke in the book of Acts. Peter also calls him 'our dear brother' and notes the complicated nature of his teaching in 2 Peter 3:15-16. • There is also evidence of friction between Peter and Paul. 2nd Century to 5th Century AD • Paul is held in high regard by the Fathers. We find positive references to the Pauline corpus in the letters of Clement c. 100AD. • • • Irenaeus is highly positive about the works of Paul in the 2nd Century. Marcion glorified Paul and used him to affirm the NT and reject the OT in the 2nd Century. Victorinus and Cyprian use Paul as support for their arguments on Revelation in the 3rd Century. John Chrysostom loves Paul the 'most' out of all the saints. 4th Century. Conversely, Epiphanius wrote against Paul and vilified him in the 4th century AD.

• •

• Augustine (4th Century) deserves special mention. He is sometimes seen as representing a 'Lutheran' reading of Paul, some eleven hundred years before Luther. In fact, Luther saw himself as a 'recoverer' and not an 'innovator': he recovered the teaching of Augustine and others like him. Some argue that both Luther and Augustine projected their own spiritual struggle into their interpretation of Paul. Augustine had a wrong view of original sin, owing to a mistranslation of Rom 5:12. Middle Ages • The middle ages had a strong retrospective view of Paul, looking back to the Church Fathers, especially Ambrose, Jerome and Augustine. Luther 16th Century • Restored or distorted clarity of Pauline thought, depending on your view. Did he read Paul correctly or project his own thoughts onto Paul?

Reading Paul

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NT3-Study Paper

2007

Brendan Moar

Highlighted righteousness, righteousness of God and justification as central Pauline teachings.

2. Modern Impressions of Paul
2.1. 1800's: The Tübingen School
F.C. Baur thought that early Christianity was divided over the place of the Law. Paul and his followers taught freedom from the Law for the Christian, while those at Jerusalem upheld the obligations of the Law. For him, the test for Canononical Status in the NT is the presence of this tension in the work. The important questions raised by this School: What is the nature of the relationship between Paul and the Jews? How do we access Paul? How nuanced is Paul's theology? Is it Jewish or Hellenistic? What is central to Paul's theology? Who were Paul's opponents?

2.2. Early 20th Century
The Comparative Religions School Proponents of this school see Paul as taking over pagan thought, assimilating the 'mystery' religions into Christianity. The end result is that Pauline Christianity is the product of interaction with Pagan religions. For them, Paul has a Jewish background, but has a thorough Hellenistic education. Both these influences are reflected in his synthesis. The Liberal School Paul's religion is about ethics, not redemption. William Wrede saw little influence of Jesus in Paul's thought. He thought Jesus' teaching had been so modified by Paul that it was almost unrecognisable. In his thinking, for Paul; • redemption was not about forgiveness of sins, but relief from the powers of existence. • salvation was about humanity as a whole. • justification by faith was merely a polemical doctrine developed to fight against Jewish opponents. Rudolph Bultmann came from a Lutheran tradition. He was influenced by the History of Religion School and the Existentialists. For him, the Gospel is a call for existentialist belief, not about history. The Gospel allows us to break existence. As such, his theology is really an anthropology. Paul is Hellenistic. Not surprisingly then, he locates Paul's thought in the Gnostic religions: knowledge of the Gospel allows us to enter understanding.

Reading Paul

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NT3-Study Paper

2007

Brendan Moar

2.3. The Jewish Paul
• Albert Schweitzer describes Paul as a Pharisee, a Jew of Jews, with an apocalyptic Jewish background. His theology is shaped by this background, as he grapples with the non-appearance of the expected Kingdom of God in Christ. His theology asks; How has the Kingdom come? His answer is that the kingdom has come in Christ, in a mystical sense. This is the centre of Paul's theology. W.D. Davies and K. Stendahl locate Paul's background in Pharisaic Judaism. For them, Paul was never converted from Judaism, but merely called to be an apostle. To read Paul's calling as conversion is to make Luther's error and project something foreign onto the text. Paul is concerned with the role of the Law in messianic times, and the relationship of Jew and Gentile in that time [Rom 9-11]. The core of Paul's theology is salvation-history, Justification by faith is an apologetic for the Gentiles inclusion in the church. Ultimately, there are two ways to be saved; Jews are saved through the religion of their Fathers, Gentiles are saved through Christ. • E. P. Sanders [1977] thinks that to talk about Judaism as a works based religion is to create a caricature of Judaism. The concept of Judaisim as a works based faith comes from Jesus' attacks on a small percentage of 2nd Temple Jews. They are not a representation of the Jewish religion in its entirety, and it is wrong for us to paint it as such. He saw the role of works as a way of staying in the covenant, which was entered by faith. Saved by Grace, stay saved by works. He calls this Covenantal Nomism. J.D.G Dunn [1983] built on earlier thoughts of Davies, Stendahl and Sanders and coined the term 'the New Perspective on Paul'. N.T. Wright continues to develop this line of thinking today.

The New Perspective is dealt with separately in another paper.

3. Where to From Here?
What is the background we need to read Paul against? What is the main influence on Paul's thought system, Judaism or Hellenism? Who is Paul arguing with? How does Paul understand Judaism? With all of these questions and opinions surrounding the interpretations of Paul, how do we press ahead? These are the topics addressed in the Pauline Theology unit of NT3.

Reading Paul

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