Session 1: Paul in Prison
Peter Oakes, University of Manchester, ‘A Martyrological Collection of Prison Letters to Philippi? Evaluating Angela Standhartinger, Der Philipperbrief (HNT 11/I; Mohr Siebeck 2021)‘
Angela Standhartinger, who holds what was Bultmann’s chair at Marburg, is one of the world’s leading Philippians scholars. Her eagerly awaited commentary tackles Philippians head-on in the genre of prison correspondence, contextualising the letter in relation to the circumstances of writing from prison (see her ‘Letter from Prison as Hidden Transcript: What it Tells us about the People at Philippi’ in J. Marchal, ed., The People beside Paul: The Philippian Assembly and History from Below, SBL Press, 2015). Moreover, like many German scholars, Standhartinger sees Philippians as a composite text: in her case as an early second century edited farewell message from the martyr-apostle. Are most Anglophone scholars right to continue to resist the idea the Philippians is composed of several texts? What should we make of the way in which Standhartinger relates Philippians to prison experience? The paper will explore these and other aspects of what will be a key commentary for study of Philippians in the coming years.
Naomi Reiss, University of Edinburgh, ‘Paul’s Carceral Relationships with Law-Enforcers, Rome, and God’
Paul’s letters, especially those written from prison, attest to a life of frequent and traumatic incarceration. They also pose an intriguing question: whose prisoner did Paul consider himself to be? At a primary level, his incarcerators constituted the local and provincial law enforcers who were most likely responsible for most, if not all, of his prison experiences (Schellenberg, Wendt et al. 2021). At a secondary level, he was carcerally subject to the Roman Empire, and bore the somatic inscriptions of imperial power in his scars. Thirdly, the language of subjugation and captivity permeates his theological imagery, which abounds with carceral metaphors: he is led in triumphal procession (2 Cor 2:14), he is God’s slave (Phil 1:1), he is a prisoner of Christ (Phlm 1). To the unease of many interpreters, Paul frequently paints himself as someone defeated, captured, enslaved and/or bound by God. By examining Paul’s relationships with these various carceral interlocutors, this paper will propose that Paul’s prison experiences informed his often startlingly carceral language for the divine.
Response: Kathy Ehrensperger, University of Potsdam
Session 2: Joint session with Ancient Judaism and Christianity Group
Panel review of Yael Fisch, Written for Us: Paul’s Interpretation of Scripture and the History of Midrash (Brill, 2022).
Book Abstract: This volume re-introduces Paul into the study of midrash. Though Paul writes and interprets scripture in Greek and the Tannaim in Hebrew, and despite grave methodological difficulties in claiming direct and substantial cultural contact between these literary traditions, this book argues that Paul is a crucial source for the study of rabbinic midrash and vice versa. Fisch offers fresh perspectives on reading practices that Paul and the Tannaim uniquely share; on Paul’s concept of nomos, and its implications on the reconstructed history of the Tannaitic twofold-Torah, Oral and Written; on the relationship between allegory and midrash as hermeneutical systems; and on competing conceptualizations of ideal readers.
Panellists: Hindy Najman, University of Oxford, Philip Alexander, University of Manchester; Respondent: Yael Fisch, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Session 3: Theological Issues in the Prison Letters
Matthew Meyer, University of Aberdeen, ‘Fear and Power-over in Philippians and 4 Maccabees: Navigating ‘Power-over’ and Achieving Victory through Courageous Suffering’
Power and emotion are closely related concepts by virtue of their shared relationship to goal-attainment, yet this connection has garnered little scholarly attention. This paper builds on a nascent body of research on power and emotion in the Bible by offering an analogical comparison regarding the role of emotion in navigating ‘power-over’ in 4 Maccabees and Philippians – texts that contain numerous emotional resonances and address communities facing external threats. To establish a theoretical framework, this paper will survey the appraisal theory of emotions and conceptions of power, with a focus on Foucault, and will demonstrate how both concepts are related. It will survey 4 Macc 9.8-9; 11.24-27; 17.20-22 and Phil 1.27-30; 3.19-21, drawing attention to how their portrayals of fear in response to attempted power-over highlights important goals. This analysis will demonstrate how these texts present the proper emotional response as not merely an ethical good, but also as a path to victory. Finally, comparing these texts will suggest the possible existence of a tradition in Second Temple Judaism concerning victory and courageous suffering.
Manse Rim, University of Edinburgh, ‘Righteousness as a Shorthand for Celestial Immortality in Philippians 3’
The concept of two kinds of righteousness in Phil 3:9 has traditionally been interpreted within the discourse of Pauline justification. As such, the antithetical juxtaposition between righteousness from law and that from God has been construed as two distinct means—by one’s own effort or by faith as gift—to earn the righteousness of God. Within the context of Phil 3, however, Paul’s real contrast is boasting in flesh and glory in the resurrection of the messiah (3:3). In this paper, I argue that Paul actually envisages two different types of righteousness: “earthly righteousness” from law and “heavenly righteousness” from God, and that only the latter enables the power of resurrection (3:10) and of the pneumatic transformation (3:21). This realistic reading is preferred not only because Paul himself views the heavenly realm as a reality (e.g., Phil 3:20; 2 Cor 5:1; Gal 4:26), but also because the idea is anything but outlandish to Paul’s contemporary audience, as it was also presented in ancient Greek-Roman and Jewish literature (e.g., Plato, the Stoics, Seneca the Younger, Philo, Wisdom, 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra). This paper provides a useful lens through which to understand Paul’s idea of heavenly righteousness and celestial immortality.
Andrew Boakye, University of Manchester, ‘“All things in Messiah”: The Ephesian Mystery and the Israel of the End Times’
Now that most scholarly opinion follows Caragounis in understanding the six references to mysterion in Ephesians to point to one supreme mystery with multiple applications, and not multiple mysteries, newer questions are required to make sense of how this affects our approach to its contents. Clearly, mystery is related to the ethnic unification rhetoric of Ephesians 2 and 3 and to other questions of unity and oneness more broadly across the epistle. Attempts to refract the unity passages through an array of hermeneutic lenses have certainly shed significant light on the mechanism by which this unity is achieved and the effect it has on the recipient communities, but gaps remain. This paper will argue that an under-explored and very necessary component of how unity is achieved, and what its effects are, emerges from an examination of the author’s reflections on resurrection. The argument will demonstrate how a more thoroughgoing focus on resurrection illuminates the relationship between cosmic unification and intra-community oneness. Furthermore, the paper hopes, simultaneously but cautiously, to harmonise the references to mystery and conclude with a brief inroad into how the Messiahship of Jesus, understood within the context of Pauline Judaism, re-orders the concept of Israel to include Jew and gentile without demanding distorted supersessionist presuppositions.