Paul 2019 programme

Paul Chairs: Dorothee Bertschmann and Peter Oakes

Session One Eschatology, Apocalyptic, Creation and Theology

Douglas Campbell, Duke University, NC, USA, ‘All Israel will be Saved: a Non-Supersessionist Coordination of Apocalyptic and Salvation-History’

Stacey Van Dyk, University of Oxford, ‘The Seven Birthing Women of Galatians: Living in Light of the Eschaton’

The use of women’s bodies to mark eschatological time—in particular, their experiences of pregnancy, labour, and childbirth—has a rich history within ancient Judaism, early Christianity, and Rabbinic Judaism. The apostle Paul, also, makes use of childbirth imagery to describe both the imminence of the eschaton and the unknown moment of its arrival. This paper will address Paul’s usage of birthing and barren women (both metaphorical and literal) in his Epistle to the Galatians and the relationship between this imagery and the apostle’s claim that ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3:28). It will be demonstrated that the apostle’s choice of female imagery, metaphorical and otherwise, is tied to his understanding of the biological inter-dependence of men and women and has implications for male-female relationships within a believing community that eagerly awaits its redemption (cf. Rom 8:22-23)

Justin Hagermann, King’s College London, ‘The Concept of Divine Agency as Creativity in Pauline Theology: The Creative Function of Christ and the Rationale of Pauline Ethics’

The field of Pauline studies has observed a growing interest in the topic of divine agency. Although recent perspectives have clarified the complex features of the divine and human agency dynamics evident throughout the Pauline literature, these discussions have given less attention to the creative function of Christ. As we will argue in this essay, this concept of creativity provides clarity concerning the complex rationale of Pauline ethics. The first section of this paper will outline the problem: the creative activity of Christ—highlighted in the earlier works by Albert Schweitzer, Gustav Deissman, Morna Hooker, and Margaret Thrall—remains obscure in contemporary discussions on divine agency in Pauline theology. In order to address this problem, in the second section of this paper we will test our hypothesis that divine agency can be defined as the ability to create. This definition allows us to suggest that Paul assigns to Christ a creative capacity, which underpins the rationale for ethics. However, it is conceded that Pauline scholars have touched upon aspects of this thesis. In her recent work, Paul and the Person: Reframing Paul’s Anthropology, Susan Eastman discusses the formation of ‘the Christological agent’. The third section of this paper will form a dialogue with Eastman’s perspective concerning how the agent is newly formed in Christ. But this interaction will be centred upon analyses of creation-motifs discerned in three Pauline texts: (i) Christ’s working through Paul (Romans 15:18), (ii) Christ’s transformation of the mortal body (Philippians 3:21), and (iii) Christ’s strengthening the Thessalonians’ hearts (1 Thessalonians 3:13). In conclusion, the concept of Christ’s divine agency, understood as his capacity to create, allows Paul to provide his rationale for ethics.

Session Two

Paul—In What Sense within Judaism? (joint session with NT and Second Temple Judaism seminar)

      The extent to which Paul should be interpreted as belonging ‘within Judaism’ is a key issue in contemporary Pauline scholarship. This question will be addressed by an invited panel followed by discussion: Kathy Ehrensperger, Abraham Geiger College, University of Potsdam, Germany; Simon Gathercole, University of Cambridge; Matthew Novenson, University of Edinburgh.

Session Three Context and Text

Annalisa Phillips Wilson, Durham University, ‘Philippians 3 and Stoic Categorical Errors: Paul’s View of His Jewish Credentials as Neither Vice nor Virtue’

Philippians 3 is one instance of a common paradox in Pauline writing which has often occupied Biblical Dtudies: his concurrent positive and negative language concerning Judaism. The text is dominated by Paul’s use of the metaphorical motif of value, a motif he does not often employ elsewhere when speaking of aspects of his Judaism. However, the metaphor of value was a common feature of ancient Stoic ethical discourse, particularly to discuss the sage’s pursuit of virtue and selections amongst the ἀδιάφορα. This paper will argue that Paul’s concern in Phil 3 regarding his opponents and his explanation of his own view of his Jewish credentials is made more understandable in light of this Stoic moral reasoning. If Paul is operating under Stoic-like assumptions about establishing ethical categories and proper moral orientation to them, several features of the text which often perplex scholars can be more easily explained. Such a comparison indicates that Paul is concerned here to establish an incommensurable value for ‘knowing Christ’ and an ἀδιάφορα-like value for his Jewish credentials. His ensuing description of this shift in values explains that he regards ‘knowing Christ’ to have such value due to its ability to contribute towards the τέλος of eschatological salvation. Paul’s warning of his opponents is based on their misplaced confidence in Jewish credentials to accomplish salvation—such an orientation to the ἀδιάφορα was a categorical error in Stoic reasoning. This reading argues that Paul did not repudiate such credentials, but held them to have a contingent value that should strengthen the Jesus-believer’s ability to ‘rejoice in Christ’. His description of his personal shift in values is then also intended to be normative for all Jesus-believers since ‘knowing Christ’ constitutes salvation and is the only credential worthy of reliance and confidence towards that end.

Michael Dormandy, University of Cambridge, ‘How to Understand What Passes All Understanding? Using the Documentary Papyri to Understand the Meaning of εἰρήνη in Paul’

I attempt to deepen our understanding of εἰρήνη, peace, in two Pauline texts, Rom 5:1 and Phil 4:7, by exploring how the word is used in documentary papyri. ‘Documentary papyri’ is a broad category, encompassing all text-bearing artefacts, which are not coins, inscriptions or manuscripts of literary texts. The category includes everyday documents like private letters, wills, administrative and legal documents and reports and lists of all kinds. These artefacts give us a fascinating window on to everyday language use, which means that they are highly significant for exegesis. In the paper, I explain my method, which involves searching papyrological databases for papyri containing the εἰρήν-root. The bulk of the paper is a presentation and analysis of the search-results, including discussion of individual papyri. I conclude that, in the documentary papyri, the εἰρήν-root refers more to good order and smoothly running systems than to calm quietness. It is used in connection with the arrest and movement of criminals, the busy unloading of corn, even the bloody victories of Roman armies, because all these either involve or produce well-ordered systems. It is social and political more often than it is personal or emotional and it is frequently associated with gods or rulers. I conclude the paper by outlining implications for the two Pauline texts. Romans 5:1 is the subject of a well-known text critical debate about whether the verb is indicative or subjunctive. My research is evidence that εἰρήνη is an objective state God brings about, thus suggesting that the indicative fits better in context. Philippians 4:7 is taken by some commentators as a promise that God will give praying people a sense of calm well-being. My research suggests that it is more likely to be a promise that God’s good ordering of the world will uphold praying people in Christ.

Ethan Johnson, University of St Andrews, ‘Witchcraft and Miracles: Contrasting the Actors in Galatians 3:1-5’

Paul’s solitary use of βακαίνω in Gal 3:1 has often raised interpretative eyebrows. A number of scholars have argued that the word refers to demonic forces behind the Galatians’ agitators, the bewitching power of the ‘evil eye,’ or common rhetorical convention. All of these suggestions are valuable in their own right, but questions remain about why Paul uses this language in this context, and what relationship his curious questions in 3:1 have to the rest of the chapter. In this paper, I propose that we can achieve greater clarity about the relationship between 3:1 and the following material by examining the shape of the argument in chapter 3 and by considering the appearance of βασκαίνω and ἐνεργῶν δυνάμεις in the NT and in other Greek texts. In particular, I argue three points. First, 3:1–5 marks a cohesive sub-unit within the larger context of Gal 3. Second, 3:1 and 3:5 bracket this unit through parallel constructions that highlight the activity of external forces on the Galatian congregation. Third, Paul’s vocabulary in 3:1 and 3:5 is often used in contexts related to ‘magical’ or divine action. I conclude that Paul’s question in 3:1 is not merely a way to point out the Galatians’ stupidity or employ methods of ancient diatribe before moving on to the meat of his argument. Rather, his question is an essential part of his point that sets the stage for a contrast between the stupefying influence of his opponent(s) and the empowering manifestations of God’s Spirit.