Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Harnack on the Significance of Paul

One might write a history of dogma as a history of the Pauline reactions in the church, and in doing so would touch on all the turning points of the history. Marcion after the Apostolic Fathers; Irenaeus, Clement and Origen after the Apologists; Augustine after the Fathers of the Greek Church; the great Reformers of the Middle Ages from Agobard to Wessel in the bosom of the medieval Church; Luther after the Scholastics; Jansenism after the Council of Trent; everywhere it has been Paul, in these men, who produced the Reformation. Paulinism has proved to be a ferment in the history of dogma, a basis it has never been.

Adolf von Harnack, History of Dogma (trans. Neil Buchanan; Boston: Little, Brown, 1901), 1.136.


Ben Myers said...

And, if he had been writing a little later, he could certainly also have added Barth and Bultmann!

J. B. Hood said...

As always, my obligatory "don't over-elevate Paul" comments must follow:

Granted there's some truth to what von Harnack says; but perhaps one might also do a history of church praxis, from early catechetical practice to monastics to hospital movement to personal evangelization to globalization of missions to movements for social reform, lib theology etc. That'd put Matt, Luke-Acts, John and letters, James and co on a higher plane, wouldn't it?

One hour ago at work I was editing a paper by a Protestant Reformed writer which contained the statement "Paul wrote half the New Testament..."

The reality of course is that Paul authored almost exactly 1/4 (if you accept Pauline authorship of disputed letters). But the way we talk about/elevate Paul (or our interpretations of him)in Protestantism, I'm not surprised at this writer nor others who make similar errors.

George Shollenberger said...

This book on Paul will certainly find its way into my library. As I prepared my first book this year--- The First Scientific Proof of God --- I considered much of Paul, especially Rom. 1:20 and all of his verses that use the term Holy Ghost. It was based on his words that I decided to separate the Holy Spirit of the Trinity from the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost represents all 'relations' of God's created things. I believe that Jesus equated the Holy Ghost it a Comforter because finding relations (like the law of gravity) is comforting to our minds.

But, I would also add Bishop Nicholas of Cusa to the list of theologians who admire Paul. I get into detail on Cusa's work in my book.

Derek Brown said...

Little did Harnack know how prescient his words would prove to be regarding the "perspectives" of Pauline theology that emerged in the 20th cen. (at least in biblical studies). One can only ask, "what is next?"