Later Epistles 2020 Programme

Chairs: Katherine Hockey and David Moffitt

Session One: Paraenesis and Eschatology in the Petrine Epistles

Kenny Chi-Kin Lei, University of Oxford, ‘Paraenesis and Post-mortem Salvation: Reading 1 Peter 3:19 in light of Clement’s Adumbrationes on 1 Peter’

First Peter 3:19 (Christ went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison) is traditionally the major scriptural support for the doctrine of Christ’s descent to Hades (descensus ad inferos). Modern scholarship, however, quite plausibly detaches this verse from Christ’s descent by arguing that the text rather speaks of Christ’s ascension in condemning the fallen angels (e.g. Dalton 1965; Elliott 2000; Pierce 2011). One major argument often put forward is that a notion of post-mortem salvation contradicts the paraenetic elements in 1 Peter, because any possibility of conversion after death would seriously undermine the encouragement to live a righteous life here and now. In other words, only a divine judgment would motivate believers to remain faithful in the present.

This paper aims to problematize such an assumption that post-mortem salvation necessarily contradicts paraenesis. By systematically examining Clement’s commentary on 1 Peter (the Adumbrationes on 1 Peter preserved in Cassiodorus’s Latin translation), I discuss how Clement holds together post-mortem salvation and paraenesis. I argue that, for Clement, it is the concept of imitatio Dei that motivates one’s righteous behaviour. As post-mortem salvation demonstrates God’s goodness to humanity, believers are motivated to imitate God to become stewards of this grace, thus going on a soul’s journey towards perfection. This shows that Clement’s reading of 1 Peter is based on a positive paraenetical motivation rather than a negative motivation, which is often presupposed by modern commentators. The implication is that, while maintaining the current consensus of reading 1 Peter 3:19 as referring to Christ’s ascent rather than descent, one should perhaps base his interpretation on other grounds other than the contradiction between post-mortem salvation and paraenesis, as the former does not necessarily negate the latter.

Benjamin E. Castaneda, University of St Andrews, ‘Virtue and the Kingdom of Christ: Christology, Eschatology, and Ethics in 2 Peter 1:3-11’

In 2 Peter 1:3–11, the author creatively adapts terminology and imagery from Greco-Roman culture and Stoic philosophy to exhort Christians to pursue the life of virtue. For the author, however, the goal of the virtuous life is not εὐδαιμονία but entrance into the kingdom of Christ (1:11), an unusual departure from the stock phrase ‘the kingdom of God’ in early Christian tradition. This suggests that the author links paraenesis and eschatology via Christology. To put it another way, the author grounds the virtuous life in the person and work of Christ, who is creating a society of people who partake in his nature and practice the ethic of his kingdom. The logic of the passage bears this out, unfolding naturally into sections that address the past, the present, and the future. First, the author reminds the recipients of Christ’s prior all-sufficient provision for them (1:3-4) in order to urge them to pursue the totality of the virtuous life in the present (1:5-10), with the result that they enter the Christologically-oriented eschatological hope (1:11).

Session Two Praise and Prayer in Hebrews and James

Bryan Dyer, independent scholar, ‘“In the Midst of the Assembly I Will Praise You”: Hebrews 2:12 and Its Contribution to the Argument of the Epistle’

This paper studies Ps 21:23 LXX in Heb 2:12 and zeroes in on the fascinating image that it presents: Jesus worshiping within the Christian community. This image is sometimes lost as it appears in the second half of a quotation in which the first part seems to make the more significant point (Jesus’ solidarity with his siblings). Yet this striking image of Jesus praising God makes an important theological and sociological contribution to the epistle’s argument. As this paper will argue, this image contributes to a larger attempt by the author to solidify commitment to the community and ground the group’s identity in Jesus.

Niclas Förster, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster, Germany, ‘James, Elijah and the Prayer of a Righteous Man as Example in Paraenesis (Jas 5,16-18)’

The paper is divided into two parts. The first part discusses Elijah as an example for prayer in Jas 5,16-19. This example story should encourage the readers to pray for another to be cured because, the more righteous a man is, the more potent in his prayer. The verses Jas 5,17-18 recall the famous intercessory prayer of Elijah whose prayers for rain to start or stop were definitely answered by God. Elijah is like the readers of the letter of James and they share the quality of righteousness (ὁμοιοπαθὴς ἡμῖν).

The second part of the paper tries to shed light on tradition about James the brother of Jesus as a famed intercessor who was constantly praying in Jerusalem’s temple on behalf of his people (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. II 23,6 quoted from Hegesippus). According to rabbinic texts it was the righteous man Elijah (and also Ḥoni, the so-called circle maker, famous among the Rabbis for his petitionary prayers) for whose sake heaven and earth were created. In Judeo-Christian circles this idea was transferred to James for whose sake heaven and earth came into being (Gos. Thom. 12, NHC II, 2 34,25-30). Therefore, James the Just will ‘rule over’ the disciples after the crucifixion of Jesus.

The investigation in the second part of the paper will concentrate on the question if the author of the letter of James wanted to underline that all Christians could share the quality of righteousness and pray successfully as Elijah did before them. Not only James the Just is like Elijah before. Thus, not only James is an outstanding intercessor (and new Elijah) and must rule over the Christian community. This would be a remarkable difference to how James the Just was regarded in later Judeo-Christian legendary traditions.

Session Three [joint with Paul]

Sydney Tooth, Oak Hill College, London, ‘The Eschatologies of 1 and 2 Thessalonians: A Comparison’

One of the main arguments made against Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians is that its eschatological account is incompatible with that of 1 Thessalonians. It is repeatedly claimed that the two accounts are simply too different to come from the same author. On the other hand, those who support Pauline authorship argue that they really are not that different or that any apparent differences are easily reconcilable. Yet, despite the fact that this debate continues ad nauseum, an extended comparison between the two has not previously been undertaken. The best way to progress this discussion is by leaving aside the authorship of both letters and focusing one what is said in the text itself. We should compare their eschatologies point by point, for the debate is too easily coloured by scholars’ presuppositions about authorship – either exaggerating or minimising any potential difference between the letters. The goal of this paper is to provide that thorough comparison. Thus, I examine the eschatology of 1 and 2 Thessalonians in five different aspects: (1) terminology (particularly the use of ‘parousia’ and ‘day of the Lord’), (2) timing of the end (and any preceding events), (3) eschatological fates, (4) agency (the respective roles of Jesus and God in these events), and (5) circumstances for writing the letters. In each of these categories I analyse the evidence in both letters and determine whether or not they are compatible accounts – can both letters conceivably have come from the same author, or are they too irreconcilably different for that to be possible? 

Jennifer Strawbridge, University of Oxford, ‘”Begotten Not Made”: Colossians 1 and Credal Formation’

T. J. Lang, University of St Andrews, ‘Financing Ransom in Ephesians’

In Eph 1:13-14, Paul describes believers as having been ‘sealed’ by a holy pneuma, which is somehow related to a promise (epangelia). This pneuma is additionally described as a ‘first instalment’ or ‘security’ (arrabōn) on an inheritance (klēronomia), which itself is then again additionally related to the ransoming of a possession (eis apolutrōsin tēs peripoiēseōs). This essay contends that there is economic sense in the syntax of this cluster of financial terminology. It then relates such economic reasoning to other fiscal images in the letter. It concludes by reflecting more broadly on the expression of theological ideas in an economic register.