Friday, February 06, 2009

An Invasive Story: Pauline Theology

Gal. 1.3-4 says: "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father" (TNIV).

I am gradually becoming convinced that Paul's theology must be understood as a mixture of salvation-history and apocalypticism. That is to say, that Paul's theology presumes a certain telling of history from Creation to Abraham to Israel to Christ and to the Church. Yet at the same time, in the coming of Jesus Christ there is a staccato burst of God's power that invades human history and this event is singular and discontinuous from all that has gone before. In other words, Paul narrates an invasive story of God's dealings with the world through Jesus Christ. For me, Galatians displays this mix of salvation-history and apocalytpic worldview the most clearly. The epistolary opening (Gal. 1.3-4) make references to Paul's understanding of Christ's work as redeeming believers from an old age and transferring them into the new; at the same time, Paul argues that this perspective is in accordance with Israel's sacred traditions which makes Jesus the promised seed of Abraham and sees the Law as a guardian provided to lead us to Jesus Christ.

I've tentatively begun arguing this in the first chapter of Saving Righteousness of God and hope to pursue it further at some stage. In the late 1970s there was a big debate between Krister Stendahl and Ernst Kasemann about savlation-history and apocalypticism concerning Paul and I think the answer lies somewhere between them. This semester I'm teaching Pauline theology which includes an hour of exegesis of Galatians every week and as part of my preparation I intend on reading systematically through J.L. Martyn's commentary which takes this apocalyptic approach.


Bob MacDonald said...

Michael - the question you raise suggests this one to me: just what is New about the NT? Having spent the last 3 years immersed in the Psalms, I am struck by the beauty of the anointing referenced there. Now looking at Job - just sticking my toes in here I wondered if Job was labouring under a different covenant - one that almost excludes Chesed - I have not put these thoughts to keyboard yet.

The NT of course invokes Jeremiah 31, but to what extent and how does Jesus in his earthly ministry transcend the gifts and promises to Israel?

I hope you will venture a response, because I find myself wrestling with some patter in the Sunday School curriculum on parables that bothers me a little with its lack of roots in the TNK.

Paul L. Johnston said...

What are your thoughts on Johan Christiaan Beker's book, Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in Life and Thought‎. Is his reading of Paul along the apocalytic view? Does he contribute anything to your considerations?

David Reimer said...

Interesting to see your use of Galatians. Martyn's commentary was formative in the thinking that went into Doug Harink's Paul Among the Postliberals (Brazos, 2003).