Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Gerd Theissen on continuity between Jesus and early Christianity

Phil Harland reports on Gerd Theissen's paper at the international SBL held in Vienna which was on continuity between Jesus and the early church. Harland summarizes Theissen's view as:

Theissen pointed to evidence which he interpreted as Jesus’ universalizing tendencies, Jesus’ tendencies to include non-Judeans. These “liberal” (as Theissen calls them) ideas of Jesus are reflected in Jesus’ eschatological views (e.g. Mt 8:11-12), according to Theissen. In other words, Jesus opted for the inclusion, rather than annihilation, of the nations / gentiles (those from East and West, in Theissen’s interpretation) option within Judaism of the time. This reflects continuity with those Jews who likewise imagined the end-time inclusion of the Gentiles, as well as some continuity with Paul’s subsequent focus on including gentiles in God’s end-time community, according to Theissen.

I've argued similarly in my Ph.D dissertation and looked at the issue of continuity and discontinuity more specifically in a EABS paper to be published by WUNT and edited by Tom Holmen.

Phil Harland also has some good comments on the anti-imperial Paul which is quickly becoming scholarly orthodoxy. While I think that Paul's gospel has clear theopolitical outcomes (to use Michael Gorman's term), I still think that much written about the anti-imperial Paul is indebted to anti-Bush or anti-American rhetoric which is then read into Paul.

1 comment:

Michael J. Gorman said...

While there is no doubt some anti-American and specifically anti-Bush sentiment behind the anti-imperial readings of Paul (and of other parts of the NT), the NT's anti-imperialism was noticed long ago but generally not taken to be very significant. That is what has changed.

Moreover, not so long ago (but pre-Bush, etc.), Dieter Georgi wrote about the NT's anti-imperialism. He saw it after experiencing Nazism. (I once heard him give a remarkable lecture on this subject.)

Let's not forget that all exegesis is contextual.