Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pauline Soteriology Interviews: Douglas Campbell (Part 2)

Here is the second installment of my interview with Doug Campbell on his forthcoming book The Deliverance of God.

3. Do you see yourself as heir to Albert Schweitzer, Ernst Käsemann, J.-C. Beker, E.P. Sanders, and J.L. Martyn? How would you situate your own work in relation to their earlier contributions to Paul?

What an honour to be mentioned in the same sentence as these extraordinary and gifted interpretative forbears! In fact I draw heavily on four of them in particular.

Albert Schweitzer was fortunate enough to stand in a tradition of insightful German interpreters (Deissmann, Wrede, etc.) who understood well that Paul possessed an alternative soteriological system to Justification (although at times for slightly odd and outmoded reasons), and he pressed that hard himself, supplying some of the best reasons ever penned in favour of the centrality of what I am calling PPME. (In a way he also benefited from being out of the German academic mainstream as he finished his own positive work on Paul, because he thereby avoided a strong, rather pessimistic swing back to more traditional Lutheran categories after WWI.)

J.-C. Beker has articulated with matchless force the need to interpret Paul carefully in “contingent” terms, never pressing straight through to “coherence.” I share Martyn’s opinion that Beker’s advocacy of “apocalyptic” is at times a little confused—dallying too long with salvation-history for example (that is, in a foundational role). But I will return to his key methodological insight just below.

E. P. Sanders has been enormously important for my work. I regard him as in many ways still the premier Pauline analyst, despite having done his most original and important work on Paul in the late 70s and through the 80s, which is to say that he has set the agenda in Pauline studies—and certainly in theological terms—that we all still struggle with. He sees and states with unparalleled force the conundrum of the Jewish question that I noted above in relation to “otherness,” but he also grasps clearly the clashing soteriological discourses in Paul—notably JF and PPME. He presses in certain very interesting ways on the key Justification texts in Paul, probing them to see if they will yield a more retrospective sense. He struggles with the prevailing reading of Romans 1-3 that lies at the heart of so many of our difficulties. But I maintain that although Sanders—a little ironically—stated “the problem,” he did not provide “the solution.” He left us with a fundamentally unfair and incoherent Paul. (This is of course my reading of Sanders’s and not his own opinion of his work; but I address this point in DOG at some length—see chs. 6 and 12.) It may be that Paul just was these things, as Sanders asserts, but read on....

J. L. Martyn in my view grasped and articulated the retrospective theological and epistemological event that lay at the heart of Paul’s gospel with matchless insight, clarity, and precision. I view myself as very much a disciple of his reading. But the challenge lies not so much in establishing what Martyn has largely proved through Galatians (although it can be tightened a little in certain respects), as in extending that reading plausibly through the Pauline text that most resists it—Romans! And this is largely why I have written DOG. In sum, we might say that Martyn is potentially the solution to the conundrums raised by Schweitzer, and then later, more comprehensively, by Sanders. That solution must also navigate the central dilemma posed by Beker. DOG begins to do this. (I view Ernst Käsemann as wonderfully insightful, but also deeply ambivalent. Although associated with apocalyptic, and clear-sightedly opposed to any foundationalist salvation-history, much of his reconstrual is still quite Lutheran, and that makes him something of a mixed bag for me.)

But may I add one or two figures to your list?

As I engaged in detail through the texts with Martyn’s readings, I found myself weaving Richard Hays’s views on intertextuality tightly into the conversation, and of course I also pursued strongly the subjective reading he has championed in relation to various key pistis genitives—a reading that I actually learned from Longenecker. I found that Hays’s intertextual methods uncovered the detailed dynamics of the texts at certain key points where Martyn had relied—perhaps a little unwisely—on form critical claims. These are not the only things I have learned from Hays, but they were very important for this project.

I was also walking in step at these points with various other “apocalyptic” readers of Paul who I view as on parallel paths to me--Lee Keck, Beverly Gaventa, Mike Gorman, Alex Brown, Kathy Grieb, Ann Jervis, Susan Eastman, and Ross Wagner. (I apologise for any omissions from this somewhat random list; note that I would be honoured if Tom Wright felt appropriately included, but I don’t want to list him here without his permission!)

Finally—and returning in part to Beker’s concern with contingency—I must note the enormous amount that I have learned about the gritty social realities of Paul’s mission and churches, especially at Rome, from Robert Jewett and Peter Lampe. These two brilliantly insightful scholars have begun the considerable task of integrating Romans into an authentically contingent account of Paul’s mission and thinking—the letter that invariably resists that reading and its accompanying interpretative controls, arguably with rather tragic results. The guild has yet to respond fully to their work (and the work of those like them), but hopefully that response is slowly coming.

4. What would you maintain are the top five arguments for understanding pistis christou as a subjective genitive?

We are shifting gears here a bit, but also picking up a key issue from our previous discussion. (Sanders in my view hamstrung his ability to analyze Paul successfully partly by resisting the interpretative possibilities offered by the subjective reading of these constructions.)

It’s difficult to limit things to five but I will try!

a. In Romans 3:22, I find it incoherent to suggest that anything other than that the fidelity of Jesus Christ (i.e., to and through death to resurrection—cf. Hab. 2:4 in 1:17) instrumentally reveals God’s decisive righteous act that saves us, which is what the Greek text says. Christ’s death and life do of course directly reveal God’s salvation to us; they are God’s saving act! So we can in effect “see” it there. Our faith doesn’t actually reveal anything in this sense—although it is an important consequence of this act of divine disclosure, so 3:22b.

b. Similarly, in Romans 3:25 it is difficult if not impossible to refer the phrase “through fidelity” to anyone other than Jesus, since it also seems to be functioning instrumentally, here in the effecting of atonement by God in Christ. (A “parenthetical” function looks unworkable, in particular because it requires the supply of question-begging elisions.) This phrase resumes the fuller genitive construction in 3:22, hence the use of the article—and also anticipates the characterisation of “Jesus” as “faithful” in v. 26. So the pistis texts in Rom. 3:22 and 25 reinforce one another in a christocentric direction.

c. The appositional construction in Gal. 2:20 sends all the right arthrous signals to be read subjectively—in terms of Apollonius’s dictum—and this seems confirmed by its explicitly participatory context—that is, where Paul lives by way of participation in Christ’s death and life. There are reasons why the other pistis Christou texts generally don’t supply articles—principally because the fidelity phrases are a quotation of or allusion to an anarthrous phrase in Hab. 2:4, and names don’t need to take co-ordinating articles in genitive constructions, Paul elsewhere using a combination of the names “Jesus” and “Christ.” But clearly these considerations don’t apply to this instance, which uses pistis simpliciter and “the son of God,” a title. So the fully arthrous construction suddenly appears! (I’m also assuming that the battle over 2:16 has proved—at the least—indecisive, so the reader is not carrying a strong weight of expectation forward at this point. I think that text also tilts in a subjective direction, but it’s not one of the more obvious cases. Certainly I don’t read it as obvious either way.)

d. Gal. 3:22 anchors a series of pistis statements that have proved famously problematic for anthropocentric readers, but are nicely susceptible to a Christological reference (Hays’s point some time ago that is still basically correct and could be taken more seriously by some). Moreover, the surrounding argument really forces this identification, since the “promised pistis that comes” corresponds to the “promised seed who comes,” who is identified by Paul explicitly, earlier on, as Christ! (I could say much more at this point, and in ch. 20 of DOG attempt to do so.)

e. 5:5-6, as Choi has recently suggested (JBL 2005), reads best with christological references for Paul’s uses of pistis, especially in v. 6. Paul frequently abolishes what he takes to be secondary created binary oppositions through Galatians in the name of a primary opposition between creation and the new creation in Christ (cf. esp. 6:14-15). And the new creation is denoted consistently through Galatians by the church’s location “in Christ,” suggesting that pistis in v. 6 refers to him again. Evoking 2:20, Paul’s use of pistis in a Christological sense in 5:6 can also then be given the force it needs in context of “effecting” itself through love (the participle is in the middle; alternatively, the fidelity is effected through love, reading the participle as a passive middle). We now no longer need to appeal to an unattested deponent reading for the participle that also struggles to account for just exactly how faith effects love!

Note that underlying all this language is a constant intertextual echo of Habakkuk 2:4, understood messianically. So a strict translation would often simply render the key material “through fidelity,” but the accurate reader should grasp the echo of the underlying Christological intertext—“the Righteous One through fidelity will live.” Paul is speaking throughout metaleptically, as Hays puts it, of the Christ event—that is, of Easter.

The broader importance of this debate is the opening it creates for an understanding of Paul’s “faith” texts in terms of participation, and for a consequent relocation of the virtue of Christian faithfulness precisely in the Christian condition, as a sign of its reality and hence functioning theologically in terms of assurance, and not as a potential condition, the fulfillment of which allows the gospel’s appropriation. These are critical distinctions for the broader shape of Paul’s gospel. The former reading in terms of participation and assurance allows a retrospective construal of Paul’s gospel as a whole; it leads to a PPME construal. The latter understanding in terms of conditionality and appropriation necessitates—at least at these points—a foundationalist and conditional understanding of Paul’s gospel and a JF approach more broadly—two diametrically opposed theological and epistemological constructions. If Paul is ever to be read coherently in broader terms, then his “faith” language needs to be read in participatory terms. And the not infrequent references to Christ’s fidelity point to the accuracy of this approach.


Paul J said...

Dr. Bird:
I don't understand what the objection is to a salvation-history understanding of Paul's view of salvation? I think of it as the transition from old to new covenant.

Can you fill in the gaps a little for me?


Andy Rowell said...

Here are the three parts of the Douglas Campbell interview:
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Andy Rowell said...

I linked to your interview here and listed all of the early reviews of Campbell's new book at:
Reviews of Douglas Campbell's The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul