2018 New Testament: Use and Influence

Session 1

Reading Paul with the Radical Reformers

Lloyd Pietersen 

In his recent book, Reading Paul with the Reformers: Reconciling Old and New Perspectives (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2017), Stephen Chester states: “It is important to acknowledge that in making this argument I am using the label ‘the Reformers’ in a particular way. It could legitimately be used to refer to all those who advocated for reform of the church in the sixteenth century, thus covering a much wider range of figures than I examine. For example, both Anabaptist theologians and Roman theologians seeking reform might then be included. However, my usage is shaped by the contemporary discussions of Pauline interpretation with which I am concerned. It is early Lutheran and early Reformed exegetes who established the trajectories of interpretation that are of continued significance in debates about the NPP, and it is with reference to them that I use the label ‘the Reformers’ (p. 5). One therefore seeks in vain for any interaction with sixteenth century Spiritualist and Anabaptist writers in his work. This paper seeks to challenge Chester’s claim that the Radical Reformers have nothing to contribute to “trajectories of interpretation that are of continued significance in debates about the NPP.” After a brief survey of Chester’s work, I introduce important works by Caspar Schwenckfeld, Balthasar Hubmaier, Menno Simons, Pilgram Marpeck and Peter Riedemann and argue that these deserve a place in scholarly discussion of contributions of the Reformers to contemporary debates concerning Paul.

How Paul Makes Circumcision History: The Role of the New Testament in Contemporary Debates about Male Circumcision

Karin Neutel 

University of Oslo

The practice and legitimacy of male circumcision is a topic of on-going debate today. In the United States, routine infant circumcision is increasingly contested, and several European countries have seen proposals to ban ritual circumcision of boys, most recently in the Icelandic parliament. This paper will examine these current debates, and will analyse the implicit and explicit role that the New Testament plays in the argumentations of both advocates and opponents of circumcision. The focus will be particularly on references to the figure and writings of Paul in recent newspaper articles and books from Germany, Norway, and the United States. The analysis will show that although there is considerable diversity in the ways in which Paul is portrayed and evaluated, there is a broad consensus in these sources that he abolished circumcision, and is thereby responsible for the cut between Judaism and Christianity. While Pauline scholars are increasingly critical of the idea that Paul objected to anything other than proselyte circumcision, this paper shows that the older understanding of Paul as opposing Jewish law and ritual more generally, continues to influence the contemporary public perception of the history and legitimacy of circumcision. It is therefore important that Pauline scholars not only continue to study the historical Paul, but also engage with the problematic Paul of contemporary reception.

Session 2

Round Table Discussion on the Future of the Discipline and the BNTC

Professor Helen Bond 
Professor James Crossley 
Professor David Horrell 
Professor Louise Lawrence 
Dr Meredith Warren 

Session 3

Biblical Justifications for the First Female Ordination in the Mariavite Church

Damian Cyrocki 

St Mary's University, Twickenham

In her eye-opening book, Holy Misogyny, April D. DeConick tried to unearth forgotten feminized aspects of divinity present in early Christianity. The concept of the Holy Spirit/Ghost was understood as female, as it was built on the Hebrew word ruah (in Aramaic ruha) and Jesus was an Aramaic-speaking Jew. This meaning was retained in early Christian churches of Syria, but eventually it was eradicated by the influence of both Greek- and Latin-based theology, where the concept of spirit/ghost is consecutively neuter and masculine.

        Surprisingly, the idea found its place anew in Mariavite church, where the founder of the movement, Maria Kozlowska, was understood to be the incorporation of the Paraclete.  Besides the argument of female nature of Holy Spirit/Ghost in Aramaic, the claim pertaining (among others) to the feminine chest of “like a son of man” from Revelation 1:13 was promoted. The authoritative Bible translation in Mariavite Church was made by archbishop Maria Michal Kowalski. He based his renderings on the Latin Vulgate and some Greek manuscripts, but as have been stated above he made some crucial comments in accordance with Aramaic semantics.

        My paper presents the story of first known female bishop in Poland, Maria Izabela Wilucka-Kowalska, consecrated in 1929 in Mariavite Church. I am intending to analyze how ancient understandings of biblical passages created a space where it was possible to consecrate women despite the opposition form all sides, including people who otherwise had had a lot of sympathy towards Mariavite movement up to that point.

        Ordination of women is still hotly debated among Christians. Despite being armed with good arguments, taken from both Scripture and early Church history, proponents are understood to be proposing an innovation previously unknown. As I will show, the history of Mariavite Church and their interpretation of the Bible proves critics (at least partially) wrong.

Discussion about the Use and Influence Seminar and its Future