2014 Paul

Session 1

James P. Davies (University of St Andrews)

False Soteriological Dichotomies in the ‘Apocalyptic Paul’: Insights from the Book of Revelation

Soteriology in apocalyptic thought has been described according to two paradigms. In the first paradigm, salvation is understood according to the categories of judgement and forgiveness from individual sin. In the second, the dominant metaphors are those of warfare, salvation being understood as a God’s act of invasion and corporate deliverance from sin as an enslaving power. Recent Pauline scholarship going under the banner of ‘apocalyptic’ has made much of the presence of these two ‘tracks’ in Jewish apocalyptic soteriology. The two paradigms are seen as fundamentally incompatible, with Paul arguing for a ‘cosmological’ over against a ‘forensic’ soteriology. This paper will assess the validity of this dichotomy as a feature of apocalyptic thought, with a particular focus on the evidence of the book of Revelation.

While agreeing that these two soteriological paradigms can be traced in apocalyptic thought, I hope to show, with reference to some of Revelation’s soteriological images, that they should not be understood as antithetical but as compatible and mutually enriching metaphors. In short, my argument is that, once the book of Revelation (the only full and canonical Christian apocalypse) is allowed to guide our definition of New Testament apocalyptic, then it presents a challenge to some of the central soteriological arguments of recent ‘apocalyptic’ approaches to Paul.

Dorothee H. Bertschmann (Durham University)

Revenge is Mine, I Will Pay Back’– Re-visiting the Place of Divine Wrath and Vengeance in Paul’s Letter to the Romans

At first glance ‘revenge’ looks like an alien concept for Paul, who, unlike many apocalyptic texts, seems no-where to ‘delight in the torture of the wicked’ (C. Beker). Romans has even been described as going ‘from wrath to justification’ where God’s boundless mercy far outshines divine wrath. More radical proposals argue that any notions of ‘paying back’ have been shown up as fundamentally wanting by Paul’s account of God’s victory (Campbell). The sudden mention of both God’s wrath (ὀργή) and God’s vengeance/revenge (ἐκδίκησις) in Romans 12.19 and 13.4 has the potential to embarrass in the context of such meta-readings. How can Paul still speak of wrath and, worse, revenge post Christum?

This paper will argue that the divine wrath has soteriological aspects in many OT and  Jewish texts, functioning as integral part of God’s covenant faithfulness. However, an analysis of the multiple occurrences of ὀργή in Romans seems to suggest that Paul’s radicalizing and universalizing of ὀργή leaves no space for this rather “partisan” aspect of wrath. Romans 12.19 can be seen as bringing this theme abruptly to the fore again, by emphasizing God’s vengeance and wrath on behalf of his people. This paper will argue – contra Campbell- that while Paul’s radical notion of divine wrath is driven by his distinctive notion of divine mercy, the ‘wrath’ is an abiding and crucial element of Paul’stheological grammar. In deploying the concept, especially in Romans 12.19, Paul makes an interesting attempt to hold God’s universal mercy and God’s specific faithfulness together.

Session 2

Jeanette Hagen (Durham University)

'Faith in Christ': An Exegetical Examination of 2 Corinthians and Galatians

The Pauline conception of faith continues to be a controversial issue, playing a significant part in many central debates (e.g. on the centre of Pauline theology, on the relation between human and divine agency, and on πίστις Χριστοῦ). Initially moving outside of the regularly contested terrain of Galatians, Philippians, and Romans, it is the aim of this paper to examine the question, “What does Paul mean by faith?” in the context of 2 Corinthians. This letter provides an interesting and overlooked field of exploration in this quest since the πιστ-word group is not prominently featured. Nevertheless, Paul underscores the importance of relying upon God through a variety of ‘confidence’ terms that map closely onto the language of ‘faith’. Taking 2 Cor 1.9 as a concise thesis statement for the letter, and showing its development in 4.7-15, the Pauline conception of faith is portrayed as the self-negating posture in which a believer recognises his/her own impotence and thus identifies with the Christ-event, relying fully on the pneumatological, operative power therein.

Having established a framework for elucidating Paul’s understanding of faith from 2 Corinthians, I will briefly test these conclusions to determine their coherence in Galatians, seeking at the same time clarification to the above-mentioned debates. In short, faith is common to both justification and participation, depicting the self-involving human mode of existence in Christ. Yet it is not an independent operative power within the believer; the power of God always precedes the faith by which one subjects oneself in a fully dependent relationship to Christ. Finally, the objective genitive reading of πίστις Χριστοῦ corresponds with what Paul means by faith in the broader context of his theology.

Revd Jonathon Tallon (University of Manchester)

Faith in Paul: the View from Late Antiquity

This paper proposes that late antique preachers on Paul’s letters understood ‘faith’ (πίστις) primarily through the lenses of social relationships where it commonly stood for faithfulness, loyalty and trustful obedience rather than belief. It uses John Chrysostom in particular as an example of a preacher who commonly turned to metaphors based on household relationships such as master-slave or husband-wife for the relationship of the Christian to God. Such relationships emphasise the importance of fidelity and obedience. Such an understanding has implications for the interpretation of Paul, including the debate surrounding the ‘faith of Christ’ passages.

Session 3

Temporal Aspects of Social Identity in 1 Corinthians 15

In recent decades scholarly opinion regarding the ethical material in Galatians 5:13-6:10 has shifted from considering these verses as unrelated to the purpose of the letter to a present position that endeavours to see them as integral and relevant to the local situation.  This paper will contribute to that debate by arguing that alertness to the ancient-Mediterranean quest for honour, and the unusual way in which Paul reconfigures this social value, is a key to understanding the shape of the ethical advice in Galatians.  To support this position it will offer a perspective on the summary statement of 6:12-17 that justifies an honour reading of the letter through the lens of Paul’s autobiographical response to the Galatian opponents that he only ‘boasts in the cross’ (6:14).  It will then argue that this negation of glorification in difference or social-stratification is the explicit reason why the moral maxims of 5:13 – 6:10 are carefully formed to protect the nascent communities from the potential effect of in-group honour contest and rivalry. 

One shortcoming of social identity theory is the relatively little attention given by theorists to the role of time in the formation and maintenance of group identity. Groups exist in time, and dynamic serial processes impact the way group members perceive group identity. This lack of attention to the diachronic nature of identity formation among social identity specialists has left Pauline scholars little theoretical basis for analyzing temporal aspects of identity formation in Paul's letters. An exception is thework of M. Cinnirella, who developed the concept of 'possible social identities' as an attempt to better reckon with the temporal character of identity formation. His work has been fruitfully applied to some Pauline texts, though its usefulness for interpreting Paul has not been exhausted. This paper aims to explore the relationship between identity and time by considering the function of Paul's argument for future bodily resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 as it relates to the formation and maintenance of Corinthian group identity.

Drawing on Cinnirella, I argue that Paul's discussion of resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 functions to persuade the Corinthian factions to embrace his vision of believers as those who will be raised from the dead as an essential aspect of their 'in Christ' identity. To that end, I first argue that Paul's vision of the resurrection of believers represents a possible future social identity; second, Paul's construal of the past establishes a narrative with which his vision of the group's future coheres (15:1-11); third, he provides a negative evaluation of the denial of future bodily resurrection (15:12-19) before, fourth, engaging in an extended positive evaluation of the anticipated resurrection of the body (15:21-58). I conclude by pointing to ways that this analysis provides a framework for interpreting behavioral instruction in 1 Corinthians 15 and elsewhere in the letter.

Boasting in the Cross: Reconfigured Honour as the Ethics of Galatians

In recent decades scholarly opinion regarding the ethical material in Galatians 5:13-6:10 has shifted from considering these verses as unrelated to the purpose of the letter to a present position that endeavours to see them as integral and relevant to the local situation.  This paper will contribute to that debate by arguing that alertness to the ancient-Mediterranean quest for honour, and the unusual way in which Paul reconfigures this social value, is a key to understanding the shape of the ethical advice in Galatians.  To support this position it will offer a perspective on the summary statement of 6:12-17 that justifies an honour reading of the letter through the lens of Paul’s autobiographical response to the Galatian opponents that he only ‘boasts in the cross’ (6:14).  It will then argue that this negation of glorification in difference or social-stratification is the explicit reason why the moral maxims of 5:13 – 6:10 are carefully formed to protect the nascent communities from the potential effect of in-group honour contest and rivalry.