Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Top Ten most Critical Topics in Pauline Research

What are the big issues you need to solve in historical and theological study of Paul. Here's my ten picks in no particular order.

§ Why Did Saul of Tarsus Persecute the Church?
§ The Origin of Paul’s Gospel?
§ Paul and the Beginnings of the Gentile Mission
§ Paul and the Antioch Episode
§ Paul’s Problem with the Law
§ Paul and His Opponents
§ The Pauline Hermeneutic: Paul and Israel’s Sacred Traditions
§ The Purpose of Romans
§ Paul and the Parting of the Ways
§ The Quest for the Centrum Paulinium


Richard Fellows said...

Michael, it's a poorly defined question. "Critical" for what purpose? What you have done, I think, is listed many of the issues that interest you and many others. There is a stong emphasis on Jew-Gentile relations. Others may find other questions important, such as "What was his teaching on wealth redistribution?", "Paul and the role of Women", "The chronology of Paul", "What was Paul's relationship to the Roman authorities?", "Did Paul rename some of his converts?", and "is Acts historical in relation to Paul?". I would argue that some of these questions must be answered before your 10 questions can be answered. Also, I believe that breakthroughs occur when people ask questions that have not been asked before, and these often concern matters that are uninteresting at first glance.

I don't think the Antioch episode deserves a question to itself. The Antioch episode is just a part of the larger (and important)question, "What is Paul trying to achieve in Gal 1:6-2:14?" said...

The members of the 'Way' meeting in the synagogues of a remote city (Acts 9:2) were zealot priests whose guiding principles were those of the Scrolls found deposited near the Dead Sea. They were stirring-up nationalism among Jews in the city. 'Saul' wanted to take these priests as prisoners. I suspect 'Saul' was an important Jew, possibly a lawyer, working for the emporer. He went to the emporer to ask him for authority to arrest the people of the 'Way' that he found in the synagogues which were in Rome, not Damascus. The priests were of course also supporters of the temple cult of animal sacrifice, as in the Scrolls. The Jew 'Saul' became a convert to the prophets, in opposition to the priests, and was filled with the Spirit of the Lord (Acts 9:18).

Mike Osborne said...

My interest lies in the origin of Paul's concept of union with Christ (in fact I am trying to develop a dissertation proposal on it). How did it become such a powerful influence on his life and writing? It seems to me that Paul's understanding of union with Christ is so pervasive it demands more attention than it has received. In fact, I would say that it is an integral part of some of your proposals. Paul's gospel was deeply soaked in this reality: you were outside of Christ, but now by grace through faith you are brought near to Him. How did he come to this? Union with Christ may indeed be the 'centrum paulinium' (at least that is how James Stewart argued in his "A Man in Christ"). It certainly touches Paul's understanding of the law for the person in Christ (Rom 7:4; 8:1-4). Paul's hermeneutic was also affected by his union with Christ (1 Cor 2:16 we have the mind of Christ. 2 Cor 3:15-17 the veil is removed in Christ).

Many times I feel I miss Paul b/c I have not grasped the reality of union (both individually and corporately [could this be a way forward in the Jew/Gentile conversation?]) There seems to be few areas of Pauline study that are not affected by this reality: justification, the role of women, and ethnicity just to name some of the hotbeds at the moment. My proposal is that a deeper, clearer knowledge of Paul's understanding of union with Christ is a way forward in many of the current conversations. Any thoughts, leads, or direction would be appreciated.

Nijay K. Gupta said...

Mike, good list. I might add questions about Paul's hellenistic education - e.g., did he learn classical rhetoric and employ these techniques in his letter? Also, as John Barclay has laid down the gauntlet, do we find hidden transcripts of anti-imperial language in Paul (or did he find the emperor to be significant as a rival 'lord' or antagonist)? Finally, I would add the question of authorship, authenticity, and authority (and amanuenses) - the four A's. We seem to be coming full circle on Colossians and 2 Thessalonians as far as authorship. Also, interpolation theories on 2 Corinthians are dying out. Why? Well, our knowledge of the process of letter-writing has changed, for one (see E.R. Richards).

Matthew R. Malcolm said...

Thanks Mike and others for your thought-provoking ideas on what's important in Pauline research. I suppose one other area I'd add - which relates to a number of areas already mentioned - is this: The shape and influences of Paul's rhetoric. Of course, a lot of attention (too much perhaps) has been given to the influence of Greco-Roman speech rhetoric lately - but I think we'll see a growing interest in other influences, including Paul's background as a Pharisee, and his life-changing encounter on the road to Damascus

Matthew R. Malcolm said...

ps mike osborne: I've been doing some work on 'union with christ' as giving shape to Paul's ethics. Contact me via my wordpress blog if you want to chat further about it
matt said...

'Saul' was the young aristocratic lawyer Josephus who was raised in the court of the emporer Claudius with Nero who was the same age. He was one of a line of Jewish aristocrats to be raised in the court of the emporer, including Agrippa I before him, and Agrippa II after. Josephus' Life has been garbled by Flavian editors to the nonsense of:

"I was myself brought up with my brother, whose NAME WAS Matthias, for he was my own brother, by both father and mother".

The key words are 'name was'. Nero was first given the name Lucius by his mother Agrippina, and was renamed Nero by Claudius who adopted Nero. Thus the text should be:

" I was myself brought up with NERO, whose name WAS LUCIUS, for he was NAMED, by both father {CLAUDIUS} and mother {AGRIPPINA}."