Sunday, October 12, 2008

Book Notice: Paul, the Pastoral Epistles, and the Early Church

James W. Aageson
Paul, the Pastoral Epistles, and the Early Church
Library of Pauline Studies (ed. S.E. Porter)
Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008
Available at Alban Books in the UK
Available at in the USA

In this volume James Aageson tries to place the Pastoral Epistles (PE) in the context of the reception of Paul and development of the Pauline tradition in the early church. He declares in his intoduction that that the PE show that Paul and his theology can be represented in new contexts and they foreshadow important issues confronting the church in the first two centuries. In chapter two he establishes the particular theological pattern in each of the PE (rather than analyzing their theology as a single corpus). Then in chapter three he compares and contrasts them in order to position the PE in the symbolic and theological context of early Pauline tradition. Aageson believes that evidence from 1 Timothy, Titus, and the undisputed letters suggests that these two letters represents a more conservative and conformist social strand in the development of Pauline tradition than does 2 Timothy which includes (analogous to Philippians) a non-conformist ethos. In chapter four, Aageson maintains that the PE are pregnated with a Pauline concept of scripture as a precursor to a Pauline canon. He thinks that Ephesians and Colossians stand at a closer distance to Paul than the PE which would make the PE a third generation document. Then, in chapters five and six, Aageson looks at how the PE contributed to the image and reception of Paul in the post-apostolic church (Ignatius, Polycarp, and Clement) and the later church (Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement, Origen). He finds that the theological worlds of the PE reflect and intersect with the development of Christian orthodoxy. Chapter seven covers the PE and the Acts of Paul and Thecla and Aageson contends that both represent extensions of Pauline tradition and community needs have reshaped the tradition. In the conclusion, Aageson surmizes that the PE were written after Paul's death but before Ignatius wrote his letters (I think some such as H. Koester date the PE to the 150s!). He believes that they reflect only a modest concern for the matters raised in the undisputed letters such as Jew-Gentile relations in the church but show an acute concern for issuees related to Christian life in the late first-century empire. Importantly, he finds the PE crucial for understanding the transformation of Paul's theology and the development of Paul's legacy in the early church.

This is an interesting and well-written volume on the development of Pauline tradition. For me the main benefit was the way that Aaegeson shows the relevance of the reception of Paul for the theology of the later church. I'm more sanguine about Pauline authorship of the PE (through a secretary or close disciple at least; see L.T. Johnson's contribution to the subject) but I admit that the language, situation, and theology of the PE has both continuities and discontinuities with the undisputed letters (I think I have a footnote on this in Bird's Eye-View of Paul). So there is development in the PE and the question is whether it can be placed at the end of Paul's life time. Aageson's thesis could still work, in some respect, even if Paul is closer to the PE than what the scholarly consensus would allow.

No comments: