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.