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Friday, June 22, 2018

Review of Six Pauline Studies Articles



Ian J. Elmer. “Pillars, Hypocrites and False Apostles. Paul’s Polemic against Jerusalem in Galatians”. In Polemik in der frühchrislichen Literatur. Tecte und Kontexte (2011), 123-154.



The article “Pillars, Hypocrites and False Apostles. Paul’s Polemic against Jerusalem in Galatians” by Ian Elmer proposes that the letter to the Galatians reveals the conflict in the early Church between Paul as the champion of a law-free Church and the Torah observant Jewish Christian community of Jerusalem. Elmer states that there are three hermeneutical keys or themes to understanding this perceived conflict between Pauline Christianity and Jewish Christianity to be found in Galatians. The first key or theme is Paul’s claim to a unique and divine apostleship, the second to Paul’s emphasis on the paternity of God and third theme that Paul’s gospel focuses on the efficacy of Christ’s death and perceives his opponents as following another gospel that’s focus is on Jewish law observance. Elmer links this conflict in Galatia with the events of conflict between the “Pillars” with Paul in Jerusalem and Antioch. Elmer’s approach and insights, which also make use of the higher critical school of theology, are a development of a traditional (especially Lutheran) understanding of the interchange between law and gospel or works of righteousness and faith. Elmer takes the insights of this so called older perspective on Paul to a more radical conclusion of an almost dialectical conflict or struggle between Peter, James and John and the Jewish Christians on one side and Paul and his new law-free Gentile faith on the other. [1]


Andrew Das, “‘Praise the Lord, All you Gentiles’: The Encoded Audience of Romans 15.7-13.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 34, no.1 (2011): 90-110, accessed May 28, 2018, doi: 10.1177/0142064X11415327



“‘Praise the Lord, All you Gentiles’: The Encoded Audience of Romans 15.7-13”by Andrew Das proposes that the encoded audience of Romans 15: 7-13 are Gentiles. He writes from the position of accepting the scholarship that proposes that Romans was written to an all-Gentile audience rather than to an audience of Jews and Gentiles. Criticism has been made that Stanley Stowers and Richard Hays pass over this section of Romans with little supporting evidence. Das with his article seeks to remedy this perceived lack. Through this discussion he then perceives chapter 14’s references to the weak and the strong as referring to a purely Gentile paradigm rather than one in which the weak are equated with Jews and the strong with Gentile Christians. This article strengthens the position of those scholars who perceive Paul as a Torah observant Jew after his Damascus Road experience. It weakens the position of those who would hold that Paul had a negative attitude to Jewish specific Torah observance by Jewish believers in the Gospel. The obvious erudite use and knowledge of the original Biblical Greek text in demonstrating his position is also a strength of this article.[2]


Frank J. Matera. “Christ in the Theologies of Paul and John: A Study in the Diverse Unity of New Testament Theology.” Theological Studies 67, no. 2 (2006): 237-256, accessed May 28, 2018, doi: 10.1177/004056390606700201



The article “Christ in the Theologies of Paul and John: A Study in the Diverse Unity of New Testament Theology” by Frank J. Matera proposes to discuss the differences in Christology between the letters of Paul and the Gospel of John. Matera perceives that Paul’s approach to Christology is focused on the redemptive aspects of the death, resurrection and parousia of the Messiah whereas John’s approach is focused on an incarnational insight of the Word becoming flesh. For Matera Paul’s understanding of the Messiah as the eschatological Adam is central. Matera links Paul’s redemptive focused missionary style with his dramatic experience of the risen Christ. Whereas John’s foundational experience is in the life of the Messiah as one sent by the Father. The importance of this sending by the Father in John is stressed by Matera. Matera sees these different approaches as providing insights into the mystery of Christ that allows for a multifaceted understanding of Christ. Others have written about these differences in a redemptive focus and an incarnational focus in regard to the differences between Dominican and Franciscan theology and Eastern and Western theologies. Matera provides an important insight that these two approaches go right back to the days of the early Church and that reflection on these two diverse ways of doing Christology leads to an enriched unity.[3]


Paula Fredriksen, "Why Should a" Law-Free" Mission Mean a" Law-Free" Apostle?" Journal of Biblical Literature 134, no. 3 (2015): 637-650, accessed May 29, 2018. doi: 10.15699/jbl.1343.2015.2974



Paula Fredriksen in “Why Should a “Law-Free” Mission Mean a “Law-Free” Apostle?” uses the term law-free with caution. Fredriksen does not believe that Paul proposed a law-free position for pagan converts but in fact Paul and the other Jewish Christian leaders imposed more Jewish aspects than the Synagogue did for God-fearers. In the article Fredriksen discusses the attitude of the Synagogue to pagan participation in its life. Fredriksen perceives Paul and the early Church’s position as based on an eschatological motivation. She stresses that Paul’s so-called law –free approach to Gentiles says absolutely nothing at all about whether Paul himself is Torah observant or not. However Fredriksen does believe that the New Testament demonstrates that Paul was Jewishly Torah observant. This article gives an important insight into the status of pagans in the Temple and Synagogue of the first century. The discussion of just how law-free or Jewish-free that Paul’s proposal for Gentiles in the Church was, is also another fascinating aspect of this article. This article demonstrates that Paul the Apostle is not necessarily also Paul the Apostate.[4]

Michael Benjamin Cover, "Paulus als Yischmaelit?: The Personification of Scripture as Interpretive Authority in Paul and the School of Rabbi Ishmael." Journal of Biblical Literature 135, no. 3 (2016): 617-637, accessed May 29, 2018. doi: 10.15699/jbl.1353.2016.3094



Michael Benjamin Cover asks the question in "Paulus als Yischmaelit?: The Personification of Scripture as Interpretive Authority in Paul and the School of Rabbi Ishmael” about what school of the Pharisees did St Paul belong to before his embrace of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Cover agrees with Joachim Jeremias that Paul was originally a Hillelite rather than a Shammaite as proposed by N.T Wright. Cover proposes that Paul’s approach to hermeneutics was similar to that of the Ishmaelite school within Hillelite Pharisaism as opposed to the Akiban school of interpretation. This approach is that of the personification of Scripture as a self interpreting authority. Cover discusses the importance of hearing Scripture in both Paul and Ishmael’s approaches as well as a lack of references to halakhic authorities outside Scripture itself.  Cover also mentions two collaborating features of Pauline and Ishmaelian thought in regard to universalism and mystical ascent. Cover however does caution that Paul is not always proto- Ishmaelian in his approach and he gives some examples of how Paul can be proto-Akiban. This article is very important as it helps one to get a clearer understanding of the Jewish and Pharisaic background of Paul before his “conversion” and how this background manifests in his letters after his transforming experience of the risen Messiah.[5]


Mark Nanos, “Paul’s relationship to Torah in the Light of His Strategy to become Everything to Everyone (1 Corinthians 9:1-9),” accessed May 30, 2018, http://www.marknanos.com/1Cor9-Leuven-9-4-09.pdf



The article “ Paul’s relationship to Torah in the Light of His Strategy to become Everything to Everyone (1 Corinthians 9:1-9)” by Mark Nanos examines the common interpretation of this section of Corinthians, by those who think Paul abandoned his belief in Torah and mitzvoth. They understand this to mean that Paul changes how he behaves when he is with different groups of people. Nanos points out the rather dishonest, deceptive and hypocritical nature of such behaviour. Nanos holds to the position that Paul is still a committed and observant Jew after his transformative experience of the risen Messiah. Nanos proposes that Paul is thus proposing a rhetorical adaptability rather than a lifestyle adaptability. Nanos considers this as a discursive strategy for winning others to the Messiah. He also perceives this as a more productive approach which relieves Paul of the accusations of being a liar and deceiver which will help in Jewish Christian relations. Nanos’s insights coming from a scholar who is a non-Christian Jew is a strength of this article and of his other articles. In fact he is becoming a voice for this position which some call “Paul within Judaism” which is a theological child or sibling of the so-called “New Perspective on Paul”.[6]







[1] Ian J. Elmer. “Pillars, Hypocrites and False Apostles. Paul’s Polemic against Jerusalem in Galatians”. In Polemik in der frühchrislichen Literatur. Tecte und Kontexte (2011), 123-154.
[2] Andrew Das, “‘Praise the Lord, All you Gentiles’: The Encoded Audience of Romans 15.7-13.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 34, no.1 (2011): 90-110, accessed May 28, 2018, doi: 10.1177/0142064X11415327
[3] Frank J. Matera. “Christ in the Theologies of Paul and John: A Study in the Diverse Unity of New Testament Theology.” Theological Studies 67, no. 2 (2006): 237-256, accessed May 28, 2018, doi: 10.1177/004056390606700201
[4] Paula Fredriksen, "Why Should a" Law-Free" Mission Mean a" Law-Free" Apostle?" Journal of Biblical Literature 134, no. 3 (2015): 637-650, accessed May 29, 2018. doi: 10.15699/jbl.1343.2015.2974
[5] Michael Benjamin Cover, "Paulus als Yischmaelit?: The Personification of Scripture as Interpretive Authority in Paul and the School of Rabbi Ishmael." Journal of Biblical Literature 135, no. 3 (2016): 617-637, accessed May 29, 2018. doi: 10.15699/jbl.1353.2016.3094
[6] Mark Nanos, “Paul’s relationship to Torah in the Light of His Strategy to become Everything to Everyone (1 Corinthians 9:1-9),” accessed May 30, 2018, http://www.marknanos.com/1Cor9-Leuven-9-4-09.pdf

2 comments:

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