Saturday, September 19, 2009

William S. Campbell: Paul and Christian Identity, Part 2

This post continues the review of William S. Campbell's Paul and the Creation of Christian Identity which I began in the previous post. Chapter three evaluates Paul’s perspective of other missionary movements within the early Christ-movement. He argues for the concept of mutuality between the various leaders of the movement and understands Paul’s challenges to be related to halakhic interpretative differences rather than theological disputes. The Antioch incident is central to Campbell’s argument in this chapter in which he asserts “that in Paul Jewish identity per se is not seen to be in opposition to Christ.” (p. 42) As he reflects upon the Antioch incident a key question emerges concerning the process of identity formation: does theology produce or precede identity formation? Campbell does not follow the contours of Dunn’s argument concerning the ensuing and oppositional mission that emerged after the Antioch incident. Rather, he concludes that the halakhic issues that were discussed in Antioch directly impacted Paul’s future approach to mission and the character of this fledging movement. Campbell next sets out to deconstruct the scholarly image of Paul as a sectarian. He concludes, rather that Paul was a reformer seeking “the renewal of his own people in the new era dawning in Christ.” (p. 47) Based on this conclusion, he argues that Paul never confuses Israel and gentile followers of Christ: both groups remain intact. The image of the olive tree serves as the Pauline metaphor for the new reality in Christ. Campbell further concludes that Paul’s Jewish identity precedes the concept of Christian identity and that “historically and theologically there is no need to locate anti-Judaism in Paul nor to attribute the parting of the ways to his explicit instigation.” (p. 51) His answer to the key question referred to earlier is “identity precedes theology and that in fact theological constructions emerge to solve the problem of identity rather than to create it.” (p. 52) In this chapter Campbell argues for diversity within the early Christ-movement and recognizes that Peter and Paul were not engaged in competing missions and that Paul’s ultimate opponent was Rome and not Judaism.

Paul’s problem in creating gentile identity in Christ was his insistence on their association with Israel and Abraham, while at the same time retaining the status as gentiles, is addressed in chapter four. Paul’s communities often found themselves in-between communities, not fully accepted by the Jewish community nor the broader Greco-Roman society. Campbell’s argument is that there was significant continuity between those cultures and Paul’s communities. For example, these communities still maintained some contact with the synagogue, most likely under the model of the righteous gentile. The scriptures of Israel played a vital role in the development of the Pauline community’s social identity. This opened up the liminal communities of Paul to varying halakahic interpretations. Paul envisioned his communities participating in the Jewish symbolic universe in which the process of resocialization of these gentiles would develop with the identity forming concept of being in Christ. Paul was seeking to transform their Greco-Roman identity, not in “contradistinction” (p. 67) to either Judaism or the broader Roman imperial ideology but with an awareness of what it means to live in Christ and remain gentile.

The Roman imperial context, in chapter five, serves as a corrective to the traditional view that the primary focal point of conflict in the early Christ-movement was between the Jews, Jewish-Christians, and Paul’s communities. The conflicts that existed emerged from the interplay between those categories. Campbell does an excellent job developing a middle-path between the approach of Horsley and his comprehensive political reading of Paul and the historically inaccurate view that Paul’s conflict was primarily with the Jewish community. This chapter relies on the work of Mikael Tellbe and Magnus Zetterholm at various points and Campbell agrees with the findings of these two scholars except on a few key points: for example, Tellbe’s lack of “recognition that the Pauline communities did not constitute the whole of the Christ-movement.” (p. 71) and Zetterholm’s lack of appreciation for the “one-sided” use of Paul in the eventual struggle for separation. (p. 83) This chapter does a fine job in recontextualizing Paul and establishes the significant role that Roman imperial ideology played in the identity formation of the early Christ-followers.

In chapter six Campbell discourages the understanding of Paul being depicted as “the architect of the whole church.” (p. 87) The universalizing tendency in Pauline studies contributes to this faulty understanding; however, Paul’s ethics should be understood as predominately particular in its orientation and not universal. This chapter makes a case for the transformation and relativization of one’s previous identity because of newness in Christ and not its eradication and removal. From this perspective he develops an antithesis between the model of new creation versus his model of transformation and within this model “Paul is the paradigm only for those whose former life was in Judaism rather than for gentile Christ-followers.” (p. 89) Campbell builds his exegetical case from 1 Corinthians 7 and follows, with a few correctives, the work of Anthony Thiselton and is in agreement with him concerning the presence of over-realized eschatology in the Corinthian correspondence. Campbell then shifts his focus to the significance of ethnicity for Paul. He rules out the view that in Paul Jewish identity was considered obsolete for those in Christ. (p. 93) Applying the principles of group formation he argues for the communal nature of identity formation and concludes that several identities were nested among the early Christ-followers. The concept of “one undifferentiated identity” (p. 95) must be rejected at this early stage in the Pauline communities. Based on this conclusion, Campbell evaluates four models for Paul concerning the design of his communities. First, the church as a third race (i.e., not Jew, not Greek, but a new race) is presented and summarily rejected as a model for Christian identity. Next, the church as new Israel which argues that the church has replaced Israel as God’s people is also rejected by Campbell. Different types of displacement theologies reflect poorly on God’s character and credibility. While recognizing that new creation theology is inherent in Paul’s theologizing one must maintain a focus on the role transformation plays in Paul’s theology, as well. The church as redefined Israel is the next model discussed. This view includes gentile believers and faithful Jews as constituting Israel. Campbell’s concern with this view is that it is ultimately “un-Pauline in that he was always careful to distinguish Israel and the nations.” (p. 99) The final view is the one that Campbell will argue in chapter 8: “the church and Israel are related but separate entities which should not be dissolved or merged in such a way that the sub-group identity of the one is lost or unrecognized.” (p. 101)

In chapter seven Campbell seeks to clarify his position on the rhetorical situation and addressees in Romans and begin to apply insights from his study of identity in a concrete way to the book of Romans. He understands Romans to be written to “a mainly gentile Christ-movement [that] was split over the issue of residual patterns of a Jewish way of life.” (p. 105) So, these individuals had been or were still functioning in the Roman-Jewish community. This interaction evidently required a reassessment of their identity and Romans was written to assist these individuals in their evaluation of this situation. In Romans 2:1-16 Campbell follows Esler and concludes that a non-Jew is in view here and Paul is not introducing a negative stereotype of Jews in this passage nor in the broader letter in general and also concludes that there were not problems with judaizers in Rome. The problems in Romans 14-15 were more along the lines of those that naturally arose in a multi-ethnic community, such as Rome, and Campbell concludes that the differences that emerge because of these various identities are to be accepted by the strong without discrimination or distinction because who they are in Christ does not dissolve the other nested identities.

The next post will complete this review of Campbell's work.

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