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Reading and Writing about Paul

May 25, 2012

This summer I’m doing an independent study course with Dr. Michael Gorman on Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Perspectives on Paul, starting with an overview of the undisputed Pauline letters and then focusing specifically on the issue of justification. I’m particularly looking for conversation partners from Protestant and Orthodox faith traditions to chat with me about any of what I’m reading and writing.

Related to this, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend an informal colloquium given by N. T. Wright at the Ecumenical Institute of Theology on 10 May. He gave us a (necessarily, extremely compressed and) brief overview of the “big book on Paul” on which he has been working.

I’ve also written about Paul’s interesting literary figures involving faith, love, and hope in 1 Thess, and I expect I’ll be posting lots more about Paul this summer.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 26, 2012 3:50 pm

    Thanks for posting here at BLT what you are noting in two places at your other blog. Paul is extremely fascinating, to me, because of the self-identifications of his recorded in the NT. What seems absent from the studies of those you are learning from is Paul’s “Roman citizen” and “Hebrew of Hebrew Jewish” identities. Nonetheless, as you’ve described N.T. Wright’s lecture, I find this really really interesting:

    Wright sees 1 Cor 8:6

    yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

    as a deliberate reworking of the Schema, Dt 6:4

    Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

    He sees this as particularly obvious in the Greek text, because Paul uses exactly the same Greek words (εἷς θεὸς , εἷς κύριος) that are used by the Septuagint in Dt 6:4, and thus in a sense “discovers Jesus inside the definition of the one God.”

    Would Paul, writing to Greek readers in the major Polis of Korinth, be looking to the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures done in Alexander the Great’s great Egyptian Polis of Alexandria as something Jewish or resistant to the Roman empire? Does Paul see the above really as his re-working of the Schema? Or is he reading it, in Greek, as a legitimately Jewish way of conceiving the one God, in this one Joshua, i.e., in this Jesus?

  2. May 26, 2012 8:41 pm

    Hi Kurk,

    Gorman’s book does a good job of presenting the complex world in which Paul lived and the various social and cultural influences on him — I’d actually purchased it before I started this study precisely for that cultural background. I think it also does a good job of unpacking Paul-as-Roman and Paul-as Jew. (I’m not sure because I take that for granted, so it doesn’t necessarily register as present or absent in what I’m reading.)

    Paul’s writing certainly possesses elements that are resistant and even challenging to the Roman empire, and particularly the imperial cult which was an important unifying force in the empire: as Wright put it, Paul’s position is “Jesus is Lord (and by the way, Caesar isn’t). Does Paul think of the Septuagint, in particular, as something Jewish? I would assume, yes of course. As something that is resistant to the Roman Empire? Again I think this must be yes, because of Paul’s understanding that in Jesus (and by the way, not in Caesar), the great promises of the LORD for Israel and for the nations were being fulfilled.

    I don’t think that Paul saw that passage from 1 Cor as his creative reworking of the Schema. I think, and if I understand correctly Wright thinks, that it was much more as you say: that his text presents a legitimately Jewish way of expressing the experience of the early Jewish Jesus followers that in their encounter with Jesus, they somehow encountered the LORD.

  3. May 27, 2012 8:14 am

    Well, Gorman’s book sounds rich! Does he get into how Paul seems to write and to speak with such educated (conventionally logical and rhetorical) Greek, not necessarily just quoting the LXX? I’m looking forward to reading more about it from you, if you decide to post more on his work.

  4. September 4, 2012 11:36 pm

    Kurk, your question above stuck in my mind, so when I found an interesting discussion of Paul’s expertise in rhetoric on p2-4 of Craig S. Keener’s commentary on Romans, I thought of it. Keener notes that there’s no consensus as to whether Paul had formal training in rhetoric, or just absorbed practices that were common in his environment. His own assessment is that he probably had at least some training in how to deliver sermons in an acceptable Greek style.

    Translated into contemporary terms, he describes Paul’s training as the equivalent of “advanced study in Bible with a few homiletics courses. If so, Paul masterfully developed the basic skills he received at this level of training.”

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