First comes the redemptive work of God on behalf of the people. This serves to ground their precarious existence in the deliverance from both historical and cosmic enemies that God accomplishes on their behalf. The elect people is now a redeemed people. Only then is the law given at Sinai. The law is a gift to an already redeemed community. The law is not the means by which the relationship with God is established; God redeems quite apart from human obedience.
Friday, 27 September 2013
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Friday, 27 September 2013
As I continue to read & write on Cyril of Alexandria, I have been reading through other Patristic works with Ben Blackwell and friends (including our own Jessica Parks and Michelle Mikeska). Thus, I recently re-read Athanasius’ On the Incarnation and was struck by the following sentiments regarding the relationship between the divine Word of God and the body of Jesus:
Saturday, 21 September 2013
It doesn’t get any better than this:
Here then the Christian faith stakes out its claim in the widest possible terms. It is no new fangled or minority cult, pandering to the special interests of a small pocket of humanity. Its truth is not one truth among others, nor its Lord a recent arrival in the world of many competing gods. On the contrary, Colossians lays a Christian claim on the whole of life, the whole of humanity, the whole of history and the whole of the universe, all in the name of Christ, the secret of all things. (John Barclay, Colossians and Philemon 92-93)
Thursday, 12 September 2013
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Professor N. T. Wright has agreed to give two lectures at Houston Baptist University March 19-20, 2014 as part of a conference entitled "Paul and Judaism." Professors Beverly Gaventa (Baylor University) and Ross Wagner (Duke University) will be presenting major addresses as well. The university will issue a call for papers soon to allow scholars an opportunity to join us for this two day event.
Monday, 9 September 2013
I am continuing my review of Matt Bates’ The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation. See my summary of the argument of the book in part 1 of the review. This post will focus on my evaluation of the argument.
Though the focus of Bates’ project is by far and away exegetical, he widens the field of vision beyond that of the first century by exploring later Christian use of biblical texts as a window into understanding Paul better. Those of you who know my own work on the helpfulness of the Wirkungsgeschichte of biblical texts (see my Christosis) won’t be surprised by my interest in and support of Bates’ project. In situating his project vis-a-vis that of Watson, he argues that we should understand Paul’s hermeneutics as thoroughly Christian rather than Jewish. I view this particular issue (and wider engagement with the Wirkungsgeschichte) as less either/or than Bates, but ultimately the shared Christocentrism of NT and post-NT texts does mean that the later texts might have more in common than comparator Jewish texts. That being said Paul’s Christian (or kerygmatic) hermeneutic arose specifically in a Jewish context and so this context should not be ignored. Of course, this is not a critique of Bates for not exploring it–there are only so many topics a book can address–but a caution about the rhetoric.
While his study of the Wirkungsgeschichte of these texts positively (and strongly) supports Bates’ emphasis on prosopological exegesis, I’m not sure the later Christians would be as supportive of his treatment of typology. Briefly, Bates deconstructs Hays’ and others’ use of the language of typology, arguing that typology is focused on the (Christ-informed) present, rather than working from the past to the present. See his clear discussion on pg 147-48. I accept his thrust that the Christ-event gives the present a hermeneutical priority, but I wonder what a more sustained interaction with Irenaeus (in addition to Barnabas and Justin) on this topic would have produced? For instance, in his application of this present-focused perspective with Romans 15.9 (p 301-2), Bates asserts that Paul is basically not concerned with David (Ps 17.50 LXX) as Hays asserts. I find Bates’ exegesis enlightening, but I don’t see the need to make David such a flat character and therefore I identify more fully with Hays: Christ has the precedence but his role as the Messiah makes sense in light of David’s substantive role as King. Irenaeus has a robust perspective on typological connections (e.g. AH 3.21-3.22), which would offer mixed support and critique of Bates: Irenaeus ignores the place of the virgin in Isaiah giving preference only to the Christ-informed present, whereas Adam’s and Eve’s roles as historical characters are very important.
On a related note, Bates’ inclusion of the steps in the process of developing an argument drawn from the rhetorical handbooks is enlightening for the topic of typology (and other tropes). He concedes that it wasn’t a rigid process and that we can’t be certain of Paul’s specific engagement with the method, but if the choice of the evidence preceded the method of employing the evidence with particular tropes (like typology), this definitely strengthens his case. Of course, Paul’s rhetorical training is highly debated, some will find the evidence more or less convincing. But it is definitely relevant to the discussion.
With use of these terms, Bates captures the heart of Paul’s hermeneutical practice in that the scriptural (OT) witness points to Christ (kerygma) and this witness forms the mission and practice of the church (apostolic). As I mentioned, this could be positively compared to Hays’ description of Paul’s hermeneutic as Christocentric and ecclesiotelic (a revision from his original ‘ecclesiocentric’ assessment). I particularly liked chapter 2 where Bates traces Paul’s larger perspective and puts this context of his support from the scriptures.
Bates does not focus only on Christ in the study: I was surprised but not bothered by the fact that he regularly returns unapologetically to the specifically Trinitarian implications of Paul’s hermeneutic. (We’re fortunate that he’s got a forthcoming volume tentatively titled The Birth of the Trinity, which focuses just on this issue so we can see the argumentation developed more fully through the NT.)
I have a question related to his interpretation of 2 Corinthians 3 and this Trinitarian structure in Paul’s theology. If the Spirit as an equal member of the Trinity plays a central role, should there not be more emphasis on or more of place given to the Spirit’s role in Paul’s hermeneutics and not just the content of his message? A key place where Bates discusses this is his exegesis of 2 Corinthians 3. This is just about the only place in his monograph where I couldn’t see how it built towards his larger argument. He explained how his reading is moving beyond the “literal-spiritual” distinction, but in the end his employment of the verba-res distinction seemed to return partially to the literal-spiritual. As a New Covenant passage, a distinct emphasis is on the Spirit as the agent of transforming our understanding. As a result, the Spirit is fundamental to all forms of knowing, but particularly understanding the meaning of the OT. When combined with passages like 1 Corinthians 2-3, Paul imho has a strongly informed Spirit-epistemology. If we combine this with a larger Trinitarian perspective, the role of the Spirit could be seen as even more elevated. The later Christians made much of the Spirit’s role. See, e.g., Wilken’s Spirit of Early Christian Thought pg 73ff.
The heart of the volume is Bates’ engagement with the issue of prosopological exegesis, and this is where the work shines. Bates demonstrates the employment of this method in ancient literature in a variety of authors from various cultural/theological perspectives. He concedes that this exegesis is not used in the majority of Pauline uses of the OT, but it occurs enough to give an insight into Paul’s larger perspective. That is, it coheres with Paul’s apostolic kerygma. This conclusion is evident from Bates’ careful exegesis.
I highly recommend this to anyone working in the area of NT use of the OT. For beginners, Bates introduces you to all the right players and nicely interacts with them throughout and with substantive engagement in the concluding chapter. However, this does not mean that the monograph is just for beginners. Bates takes the discussion forward in new ways, which is an accomplishment in a field with so many world-class scholars.
Wednesday, 4 September 2013
The very latest issue of New Testament Studies is now available. It features the work of several Durham alumni (including me, Jonathan Linebaugh, Helen Bond, and Daniel Frayer-Griggs) and looks to be quite well rounded, with contributions focusing on NT history, exegesis, historical theology, onomastics, gnostic gospels, and textual criticism. My piece (“Sold under Sin: Echoes of Exile in Romans 7.14-25″) takes the baton from Marc Philonenko and others in arguing that Paul was influenced by his reading of Isaiah 49-50 in the latter part of Romans 7. Here is the abstract:
Although Romans has been heavily mined for scriptural allusions in recent years, the influence of Isaiah 49-50 on Rom 7.14-25 has gone largely unnoticed. Building on Philonenko’s work on the allusion to Isa 50.1 in the phrase ‘sold under sin’ (Rom 7.14), this study seeks to identify additional echoes from LXX Isa 49.24-50.2 in Rom 7.14-25 and to interpret Paul’s discourse in the light of the sin-exile-restoration paradigm implied by both the source’s original context and Paul’s own strategic use of Isaiah in his portrayal of the plight of ἐγώ. The identification of these echoes, it is suggested, aids in interpreting the story of ἐγώ by connecting the allusions to Israel’s early history in Rom 7.7-13 to images of the nation’s later history in 7.14-25, thus showing the speaker’s plight under sin to be analogous to Israel’s own experiences of deception, death, and exile.
Tuesday, 3 September 2013
Matthew Bates (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame), currently Assistant Professor of Theology at Quincy University, has provided us with a fine discussion of Pauline use of the OT in his The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation. I received a review copy from Baylor press a few months back, and I’m finally getting around to posting my thoughts.
Over the last few decades the NT use and interpretation has garnered a growing level of interest, and Bates wades into a discussion dominated by some of the biggest names in Pauline scholarship–Richard Hays, Francis Watson, Christopher Stanley, Steve Moyise and Ross Wagner. While not changing the whole tenor of the conversation, Bates contribution effectively widens the scope of evidence and provides a new lens on some of Paul’s uses of scripture.
A Brief Summary
Chapter 1. Bates thoroughly lays out the history of research into Paul’s use of the OT. In fact this is one of the most comprehensive reviews I’ve read in any dissertation/monograph. Though informed about the issues, I wasn’t previously aware of some of the nuances of various approaches, so this was quite helpful. He ultimately works towards two deficiencies in the field. The first, modeled by Watson, is focusing solely on Jewish comparators. The second relates to Hays’ limited employment of Bahktin, whose work calls for a consideration of the polysemous nature of texts in their original context and later contexts. Hays, he says, focuses on the polysemous nature of texts, but he doesn’t take into account later contexts. Accordingly, he calls for a “diachronic intertextuality” in which the interpretive methods of later post-Pauline interpreters are brought into the frame of comparison, rather than merely Paul and his contemporaries.
Chapter 2. Here the importance of scripture for Paul in forming his basic gospel narrative is the focus. Rather than picking Pauline passages that directly quote scripture, Bates chooses two passages where Paul summarizes his key message (in “protocreeds”): 1 Cor 15.3-11 and Rom 1.1-6. In both these passages, which receive detailed exegesis, Bates shows that the narrative of the Messiah is one that Paul sees as developing from his interpretation of scripture. He summarizes the details of his exegesis by developing a 12-stage narrative in two sections: stages 1-8 relate to the story of Christ and 9-12 relate to apostolic mission arising out of the Christ event. Though Bates doesn’t use these terms, it seems that he is detailing what Hays in his later revision of his work on intertexuality (see Conversion) would describe as a christocentric and ecclesiotelic model of interpretation. Bates uses the terms kerygma and apostolic to capture this.
Chapter 3. Bates next brings in the results from study of rhetorical handbooks to explain how scriptures would be employed to support Paul’s apostolic kerygma. Bates’ intention is to dismantle the emphasis upon typology as a means to describe Paul’s interpretation. The key to this argument is considering the stage in which scripture would be employed in writing (based on the rhetorical handbooks). Though he concedes these steps don’t happen rigidly, the order is important: 1) invention, 2) arrangement, 3) expression, 4) memory, and 5) delivery. The collection of material to use in an argument (for Paul, scriptural texts) happens with the invention stage (1), whereas the employment of that material to the audience through tropes (metalepsis, metaphor, allegory, etc.) would occur in the expression stage (3). That is, typology (a trope) would be just verbal dressing meant to convince, but this would not be the heart of his argument. Since Paul has a unified view of the divine economy he can use older texts to speak about current events, which can only be viewed in light of Christ and the apostolic kerygma. They don’t have to speak about the old event and then make a correspondence to the contemporary event (as in typology). They just speak directly to the contemporary event/issue. Bates goes through a number of Pauline passages to demonstrate this: Rom 5.14; 1 Cor 10.1-11; Gal 4.21-31; and 2 Cor 3.1-4.6.
Chapter 4. One central example of reading the Old Testament as speaking directly to or within the contemporary frame is through prosopological exegesis. That is, an interpreter encounters an inspired writing which has an ambiguous voice/saying, and the interpreter “resolves the perceived uncertainty by assigning a suitable prosopon to the speaker or the addressee (or both) to explain the text” (217). In this chapter, Bates does not focus on Paul but rather Greek, Jewish, and later Christian writers to show how this method of interpretation was employed. This is particularly where his “diachronic intertextuality” model comes into play. After establishing the existence and execution of the practice, he turns in the next chapter to explore how Paul employs this.
Chapter 5. Bates walks through several Pauline passages that meet his criteria for the possibility of prosopological exegesis: Rom 10.6-8; 15.3; 10.16; 10.19-21; 11.9-10; 14.11; 15.9; and 2 Cor 4.13. Of these passages, he cogently explains how Paul inserts/hears Christ (or others) as the ambiguous speaker in OT texts. Paul only explicitly introduces prosopological exegesis in Rom 10.6-8, but the other texts explored (besides 10.19-21) clearly show prosopological exegesis. While 10.19-21 may appear to be prosopological, Bates argues against seeing this employed in that passage. Importantly, Bates doesn’t conclude that this method of exegesis is the key to unlock every use of the OT (cf pg 326), but it does give insight into Paul’s perspective on the unified divine economy.
Chapter 6. In his final chapter Bates gives a gift to his readers. He revisits all of the major conversation partners in modern scholarship and explains how his research affirms, critiques, or refutes their work. He prefigures this in chapter 1, but having a clear discussion about each scholar’s work in light of his research is again very helpful for framing its significance in larger debates. I’ll note two here. In distinction to Watson’s decision to explore Paul in light of fellow Jewish interpreters, Bates finds Paul’s fellow Christians, especially those a century or so later, to be better models of helping us understand Paul’s methods. In contrast to Hays who finds a form of typology important for Paul’s exegesis, Bates argues that the method of selecting and employing texts doesn’t support that view and more importantly the contemporary Christ-informed setting consumes Paul’s vision such that a correspondence between past and present is not the focus, only the present is.
Hopefully, that is an adequate summary of the argument. It only scratches the surface of the exegesis and work put into the monograph. I will return in my next post to give my evaluation of the work.