August 2009

I’m trying to finish up my chapter on 2 Cor 3-5, and one last bit of work is finalizing my stuff on 2 Cor 3:18, particularly how people work out the mirror metaphor.  One bit I’m not clear on is Hafemann’s take on the passage from Paul, Moses and the History of Israel.  This is my summary of his stuff as it stands, but I don’t think I’m getting his whole picture:

Hafemann argues strongly that the action of ‘seeing’ (as opposed to ‘reflecting’) based upon 3.13 is most determinative for Paul’s metaphor in 3.18 (409-411, esp. n.231 and n.239).  As a basis of his argument, only Moses and Paul have had visible experiences of God’s presence—Moses on Sinai (276-283) and Paul on the way to Damascus (415-417).  The use of the mirror metaphor means that the experience of the presence of God is indirect.  He notes that Moses’ seeing glory was indirect in 409n231, where he points to his ‘chapter 2′, but I don’t know where to find it there. (My guess is that it has something to do with the fact that God’s glory reveals him, but it also hides him). But as it was indirect for the people, it was mediated through Moses before, and it is mediated now through Paul (409n231, 412n.241).  While the implicit comparison between Paul and Moses is important to Paul’s discussion, to restrict the experience of all believers to this singular ministry of Paul is too limiting, even for the sake of the Corinthians.  It does not take seriously enough the comparison between Moses and believers, which Hafemann himself notes (409-10). That is, even if you take Moses’ experience as indirect on the mountain, believers now have a similar access to God by turning to the Lord, with an unveiled heart.

By ‘indirectly’ does he mean by means of a mediator?  If not, what does ‘indirectly’ mean?  Who/what serves as the mirror in his system?
Also what is it specifically that believers ‘see’ (κατοπτριζόμενοι) since I don’t imagine he is referring to the literal vision of the ‘glory of God’? I think he clarifies this last question on page 416, where he says they encounter Christ, who is the glory of God.

Any responses would be much appreciated.


Here are a few thoughts on why I think Protestants don’t like theosis as a soteriological category.  These are a few claims that I’ve heard about why it’s not good. Some are more difficult to overcome than others.

1) It is unfamiliar.

2) It unseats justification: As a competing soteriology, it impinges the sole place to be held by justification, especially because justification language isn’t really used at all to describe theosis.

3) It is synergism:  Not only does it replace justification, but it smacks of a works-based salvation. 

4) It is idolatry: It confuses the created with Creator.  That is, it repeats the sin of Adam and Eve.

5) It is mysticism: Closely related to #4, is the idea of fusion of the created with the creator (a la neo-platonism).  Whereas #4 is ideological, #5 relates to ontology. 

6) It sounds like Mormonism.

Gorman, Inhabiting the Cruciform God

As promised, I am posting an interview with Mike Gorman about his provocative new book on Pauline soteriology called Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology (Eerdmans, 2009). In it he challenges traditional readings of Paul by exploring, among other things, co-crucifixion, theosis, and non-violence. For a three part summary over at his blog, see here: part 1, part 2, part 3.  He also has a helpful exchange about an aspect of the book here as well.  He’s graciously responded to a variety of questions, and I think we’re in for treat. I’ve broken the interview into four posts to make it a bit more manageable.

1) Could you tell us a little bit about yourself—place of employment, denominational background, etc.?

First, Ben, thanks very much for the opportunity to talk with you and your readers about Inhabiting the Cruciform God. I greatly appreciate it.

About me: I am a native of central Maryland in the States and very blessed to be teaching in the area where I grew up. After my M.Div. and Ph.D. from Princeton Seminary and a few short-term positions there and elsewhere, in 1991 I came to St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore. It is the oldest Catholic Seminary in the U.S. and the only one in the world with a graduate ecumenical division, of which I have been Dean since 1995. I am a Methodist with earlier connections to several other traditions. My conversion to Christ took place in the context of a Methodist church, so I feel at home there, but I am theologically Anabaptist. As my readers will know, I am greatly indebted to the Barth-Yoder-Hauerwas-Hays trajectory, and ecumenical relations and church unity are very important to me.

2) After your work on Cruciformity, what led you to do this book?

Cruciformity grew organically out of the central insights of my dissertation, which compared the role of the self in the theology and ethics of Paul and the Stoic Epictetus. But Cruciformity was not just a revision of the dissertation; rather, it built on one of the dissertation’s central insights about Christ and about us in Christ. Similarly, early in Cruciformity I made the case that the cross does not just tell us about Christ and, by extension, us, but also reveals God. To be Christlike is to be Godlike; cruciformity is really theoformity. (“Theoformity” was in fact the new book’s working title for a while.) But I did not develop that point in Cruciformity. The more I poked around, the more I realized that very few people (present company being part of the exception!) had made this connection or considered that “theosis” might be an appropriate way to characterize what Paul was up to. I put out the basic ideas in some SBL papers and other essays, all deliberately interrelated, as well as in Reading Paul, though less academically there. The book took final shape when I realized that my contribution to the justification debate was unique (and controversial!) and was the center of my arguments about theosis.

3) A central aspect of this book is co-crucifixion. Could you briefly explain it?

Co-crucifixion is of course simply the noun form in English of the Greek verb systauroō. I take it as both the initial act/experience and the ongoing act/experience/practice of complete identification with Christ crucified, by the Spirit (hence the passive voice of the verb), that first effects, and then embodies, a death of the old self and the birth or resurrection of a new self. For Paul, this is what he means by “justifying faith,” as a close reading of Gal 2 and Rom 6 reveals. It is inherently both participatory and transformative. Why?

In chapter two, I also refer to co-crucifixion as “participation in Christ’s act of covenant fulfillment,” by which I mean his act of self-giving, life-giving faithfulness and love. Once we see that Christ’s death is constituted by these two things, much of what is distinctive in my reading of Paul falls quite naturally into place, especially: the inseparability of the “vertical” and the “horizontal,” or justification and justice.

See here for part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 of the interview.

Carl Sweatman just sent me an email with this link to the Maria Lectrix blog/podcast.  This blessed soul records portions of various works daily for a podcast, and as she finishes the religious ones, they get listed in the Completed Religious Books section.  From there you can download the mp3s for your ipods.  There are some excellent works there, and I noticed that one of her current projects is On Christian Doctrine by Augustine.  What a service, and thanks Carl for passing this along.

I’ve been doing some reading on resurrection for part of a chapter on 2 Cor 5, and a couple of things have been coming up that seem odd to me.

1. The standard interpretation of 1 Thess 4 is that they were seeing people die and so Paul had to respond to explain that it’s ok.  But several believers had died by the time Paul got to Thessalonica, namely Stephen who had been martyred in Paul’s presence.  How then can the death of believers have taken them by such surprise?  Now don’t get me wrong.  I have full faith that people can misunderstand what should be the simplist of things, but surely Paul spoke of his conversion and what his former life entailed.

2. For 2 Cor 5 the standard line is that Paul’s theology of the intermediate state developed because of his intense trials and near death experiences just before writing 2 Cor.  Again, Paul had seen believers die from the earliest post-resurrection time.  At the same time Paul seemed to experience physical persecution and struggle from the beginning of his ministry.  Did his theology develop? Probably.  Was it because he experienced suffering just before writing 2 Cor?  I find that harder to believe.  I think we shouldn’t so quickly jump to the development of theology train and to the search for ‘why’ but that we should accept the contingent nature of the letters.  That is, a different situation demands a new explanation, but not necessarily one that is a development.  Absence of evidence (in earlier letters) is not evidence of absence.

Each year we do a FF league (US Style) with Durham and other related people.  If any of you moving here this Autumn are interested, just let me know and I’ll pass along the sign-up details.  As a related benefit, I usually host a NFL watching party on Sunday nights.  If you are a FF player, you’re eligible for an extra bag of crisps…. Well, not really, but even more incentive to sign up with us though.

In my hunt for something to do for the next couple of years, I’m planning on applying for a postdoc fellowship to translate Cyril of Alexandria’s Pauline commentaries.  I was given advice that my chances of success would increase greatly if I have a publisher locked in and if I could say that I’ve already done some work on the project.  After trading a couple of emails with a publisher recommended to me by a professor here, I’ve gotten a positive response on the idea but they said they would need a sample of the translation before making any commitment.  I definitely don’t have enough time to translate enough to warrant a contract so they said they would make a formal ‘expression of interest’ if I can get a substantive pience done.  With just a month or so before the application deadline, that is all I could ask for, so I’m shooting to do 1000 to 1500 words by the end of the month. 

So, I dipped my toe in Cyril’s commentary on Romans earlier this week.  After poking around my different links to sites that host copies of PG but without success because they were down, etc., I went to TLG.  I was happy to find that they use the standard critical text by Pusey.  I copied a chunk of the Greek into Word and tried my hand at it.  I made it through a bit, and fortunately it wasn’t too bad.  There were a few unknown words and a couple of optatives.  The nice thing about TLG is that it is tagged so if you turn on the links it will pull up parsing and basic glosses, though sometimes you have to look up a different version of the word yourself.  This TLG facility is quite helpful, and so it becomes a task of just putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

Roger Pearse notes that Charles Sullivan has a 9 page document giving tips on the basic tools and techniques of translating Greek patristic writers: Translation Tips on the Greek Church Fathers.  He’s got lots of detail, but let me boil down his argument and supplement it with the little bit of experience I’ve gained here at Durham:

  • Look at LSJ first for words.  He recommends Perseus for this, but I’ve got it on Logos/Libronix and it’s quite handy that way.  I use the Logos and TLG versions in tandem because Logos is so much easier to navigate.
  • If you have a particularly theological word, you may also want to look in Lampe.  But know that Lampe is not exhaustive.
  • Use electronic databases (like TLG, etc.) to find parallel phrases in other writers/texts that have already been translated.
  • Avail yourself of the Latin translation in PG to help if you can’t figure something out in the Greek.

HT: Roger Pearse

When we consider Paul and Culture, I see that there are two primary ways to consider the issue: sociologically and theologically, though obviously the two go hand in hand. I will address the sociological first.

Regarding culture, I’m not concerned to split hairs about different socio-historical definitions. I think the worldview paradigm that Wright uses is helpful for making aspects of it more specific: praxis, stories, symbols, and questions. Also, Meek’s First Urban Christians is a good place to start since he details the aspects of society in which Paul integrates.

Culture by definition is a social concept and thus it relates specifically to the way that people think and relate to one another. So that forces the question: which culture are we talking about? Palestinian Jews or Diaspora Jews (though this is in some ways a false dichotomy), Greeks or Latins, etc.? Since Paul styled himself the ‘apostle to the gentiles’, I would say Greco-Roman gentiles would be a good place to start. Barclay’s ‘Paul Among Diaspora Jews: Anomaly or Apostate?’ (JSNT 18 [1996]: 89-119) offers a helpful paradigm since he delineates 3 ways to interact with culture: assimilation, acculturation and accommodation.

Assimilation: Social integration, or becoming similar to one’s neighbours. This would include sharing meals, attending games, participating in worship, and the like, since they are all places to rub elbows socially. Barclay gives a spectrum from a Jewish perspective: solely Jewish community — commercial employment with non-Jews — attendance at theatre/games — gymnasium education — abandonment of social distinctives (95).

Acculturation: Non-material, and especially educational, aspects of cultural exposure, experienced especially in the mastery of literary and linguistic heritage. Thus speaking Greek is the first step. He again gives a spectrum: No facility in Greek — Acquaintence with common moral values — Familiarity with Greek literature, rhetoric, philosophy, and theology — Scholarly expertise (96)

Accomodation: How one uses the acculturation one has acquired, in particular how Jews use Greek acculturation they acquired. This may be integrative (e.g., Philo using allegory) or oppositional (3 Maccabees, Joseph and Aseneth).

4 Maccabees — High Acculturation, Low Accomodation, Low Assimilation
Philo — High(est) Acculturation, Medium Accommodation, Low/Medium Assimilation
Consistent Allegorizers and Other Cultured Assimilators (as noted by Philo) — High Acculturation, High Accomodation, High Assimilation
Joseph and Aseneth — Medium Acculturation, Low Accomodation, Low Assimilation
Conclusion: high correlation between accomodation and assimilation

Paul —
Medium Assimilation as evidenced by shared meals (Gal 2; 1 Cor 8-10), though he maintained boundaries from Greco-Roman worship, and we lack evidence that he participated in the gymnasia or political sphere. However, with his close daily association with non-Jews, other Jews probably viewed him as highly assimilated.

Medium Acculturation as evidenced by fluent, but not necessarily polished Greek. He uses rhetoric but apparently not up to Corinthian standards. He uses philosophy but not at a structural level.

Low Accommodation as evidenced by his condemnation of both Jews and Gentiles as under sin. He is thus counter-cultural in his views of the church in distinction to others.

Here are a few key quotes from Barclay:

‘He shows relatively limited acculturation and minimal accommodation, yet he applies the language of the most defensive Diaspora Jews to a Gentile mission which threatens their identities! Other Jews of comparable assimilation to Paul are those who stand at the top of the accommodation scale, who use whatever Hellenistic resources they possess to relativize or downplay traditional Jewish claims. By an extraordinary transference of ideology, Paul deracinates a culturally conservative expression of the Jewish tradition and uses it in the service of his largely Gentile communities’. (110)

‘There can be no doubt that his combination of high assimilation and low accommodation is socially effective in terms of mission: Paul’s stance encourages high levels of contact with Gentiles but creates hard-edged communities with strong ideological walls of protection’. (110-11)

‘Of the three scales we have reviewed, there is strong evidence that what counted in the eyes of Diaspora Jews was not the level of acculturation or accommodation, but the degree of assimilation’. (112)

Every Jew in the Graeco-Roman world had in fact a triple identity: what he thought himself to be, what other Jews thought him to be and what non-Jews thought him to be. It is not difficult to decide which form of identity was socially determinative among Diaspora Jews. What counted here in terms of social and historical outcome was not what Paul himself thought, but how other Jews regarded him. (113)

I actually found the Accommodation category as not that helpful because it is hard to conceptualise it apart from acculturation. For instance, the only chart he gives for it just shows whether people are integrative or oppositional. Also, when describing Paul he says that Paul is low on accommodation, but isn’t Paul really medium to high but oppositional in Barclays terminology? Any ideas on what a better category would be? Or if there should be a third category?

Paul and Culture, pt 1: Miroslav Volf’s Soft Difference and Niebuhr’s Paradox
Paul and Culture, pt 2
Paul and Culture, pt 3