2009 Hermeneutics: Theory & Practice

Session 1

Dr Cherryl Hunt (Exeter University)

Reconciliation of the Cosmos? Re-reading Paul in a time of Ecological Crisis

New readings of Paul are generated not only by new historical and exegetical information but also by changing contemporary circumstances and demands. The present ecological crisis calls for a fresh engagement with the Pauline corpus. The obvious place to begin is with what are already favourite texts among ecotheologians: Romans 8.19-23 and Colossians 1.15-20. However, a more significant challenge is to ask, once texts such as these are placed centre-stage, how the wider patterns and resources of Pauline theology and ethics might be re-read from an ecological perspective. Informed by the approach to hermeneutics of South African theologian Ernst Conradie and by a narrative reading of Paul, the paper will briefly consider cosmic reconciliation as a unifying theological theme and other-regard as a central ethical theme, and will assess both the potential and the difficulties entailed in recruiting Paul for the ecological cause.

Session 2

Professor Philip Esler (University of St Andrews)
Dr. Peter Oakes (University of Manchester)
Professor Francis Watson (Durham University)

Does Romans Need Addressees?

Respondent: Dr. Angus Paddison (Winchester)

Session 3

Nijay Gupta (Durham University)

Mirror-Reading Paraenesis and Moral Discourses in an Ancient Letter: Sexual Immorality in Romans and 1 Thessalonians as Test-cases

Over twenty years ago, Prof. John M.G. Barclay wrote a seminal article (JSNT 31: 73-93) on the important subject of 'Mirror-Reading a Polemical Letter'. Barclay demonstrated concern for how scholars reconstructed the nature and arguments of presumed opponents (especially in Paul's letters); he argued that often such mirror-reading lacks methodological precision and care. His proposed criteria have aided in refining scholarly approaches to studying epistolary polemics.

The act of mirror-reading, though, takes place even when 'opponents' are not of primary concern. There is also the matter of the author's approach and response to intra-church moral concerns. Historical and social reconstructions are sometimes useful for the purpose of determining whether the author was exhorting his readers in a generic way (standard paraenesis), for preventative reasons, or for reparative purposes. This paper will explore a methodology, building on the work of Prof. Barclay, for mirror-reading moral discourses and paraenesis cautious of overinterpretation and other pitfalls. The matter of sexual immorality in 1 Thessalonians and Romans will serve as test-cases.