Thursday, November 8, 2012

Review of Jack Barentsen's Emerging Leadership in the Pauline Mission

Emerging Leadership in the Pauline Mission: A SocialIdentity Perspective on Local Leadership Development in Corinth and Ephesus. By Jack Barentsen. Princeton Theological Monograph Series 168. Eugene, Or: Pickwick, 2011, xviii + 378 pp., $44.00 paper. 
Jack Barentsen, Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and New Testament at Evangelische Theologische Faculteit in Leuven, Belgium, concludes that “Paul instituted uniform patterns of leadership for those levels of leadership, which sustained the consistent communication of Paul’s gospel in each community in alignment with other churches in the Pauline network” (p. 15). In this revised Ph.D. dissertation, researched under Martin Weber at ETF-Leuven, Barentsen studies 1-2 Corinthians, Ephesians, and 1-2 Timothy through the lens of social identity theory and discerns patterns of leadership in Paul’s mission among those in Corinth and Ephesus.
Chapter 1 covers key definitions, surveys the plan of the book, and provides an explanatory rationale for his choice of texts and the social identity model of leadership. Barentsen’s research question serves as a helpful introduction: “what were the leadership patterns in these early Christ-following communities, and how did the communities as well as Paul influence the development of these patterns?” (p. 6). Chapter 2 provides a history of research on early church leadership. Barentsen rightly notes that denominational commitment heavily influenced these studies. The Holtzmann-Sohm hypothesis represented the consensus until the middle of the 20th century, when Post-Weberian social scientific studies, disconnected from denominational ties, brought more diversity into the discussion (p. 20). However, this new approach simply replaced denomination ideology with sociological models. Thus, more integrative work still needed to be done. Barentsen situates his study at the intersection of the denominational approaches that were driven by prior institutional commitments and the social approaches with their focus on group dynamics evident in the Mediterranean cultural context. In many ways, Barentsen’s work builds on and seeks to further the work of Andrew Clarke by integrating rather than juxtaposing the social and ideological components of leadership. He also brings further refinement to the model-based approach to social identity theory evident in the work of Philip Esler.
Chapter 3 delineates Barentsen’s “three-stage” social identity model of leadership (SIMOL) that guides the exegetical discussions that follow (p. 32). This chapter analyses the way social identity approaches (SIA) conceive of issues related to leadership. It begins with a brief history of SIA and then covers the basic concepts important to this study, i.e., social identity hierarchies, social identity definitions, and group prototypes and stereotypes. Barentsen points to Esler’s influence in the use of social identity theory within biblical studies, discusses some of the criticisms leveled against scholars using these tools, and introduces his case study approach (p. 42). His model begins with a description of the processes of social identification within groups, processes that will be applied to the situations in Corinth and Ephesus (p. 52). The second stage focuses on the way leaders manage these processes, relating the way Paul engaged leaders and the way the communities negotiate their social identity. The final stage looks at the way a leader’s identity-based management leads to the “emergence, maintenance, and succession of leaders,” providing a substantial discussion of the latter aspect since it has been somewhat under theorized in the literature (pp. 58, 62).
Chapter 4 discusses the impact that cross-cutting social identities (and comparative fit) had within the Corinthian Christ-movement. Barentsen rightly notes that Paul’s rule that members should maintain, where possible, existing social identifications (1 Cor 7:17-24) brought a certain added level of complexity in these identity negotiations (p. 82). One of the significant contributions from this chapter is that it brings to the fore the role of local leaders in the (mis)management of Christian social identity. Thus, paying attention to the way social identity is formed emphasizes details in the text that traditional approaches have overlooked (p. 86 n. 43). Next, Barentsen discusses Paul’s agency with regard to the formation of social identity in Corinth. He provides an excellent overview of the way Paul relies on processes that are also found in SIA; what results is a leader who empowers the Corinthians “to strong identity performance” (p. 100). The final part of the chapter outlines the patterns of leadership that emerged from his SIMOL analysis of 1 Corinthians.
With regard to 2 Corinthians, which is the focus of chapter 5, Barentsen defines the problem as Jewish Christian leaders who have come to Corinth with a different vision for the way Jewish social identities continue to be relevant within the church. These intruding Jewish teachers were able to influence the community because Paul’s social engineering in 1 Corinthians had been ineffective. This group also relied on more culturally acceptable leadership discourses (patronage and recommendation letters). Paul’s initial approach to this problem included a painful visit, a tearful letter, and the agency of Titus, who functioned as a temporary delegate (p. 137). He ultimately was reconciled to the Corinthians, and 2 Corinthians records the way in which the negotiation of identity occurred. In reasserting his position, Paul focused on his position as the ingroup prototype and emphasized the centrality of suffering in mission (p. 138). However, this resolution had not yet taken place so there is no discussion of a leadership successor, and based on the evidence from 1 Clement, initial success in appointing local leaders fossilized and “further succession faltered” (p. 139).
Chapter 6 surveys Ephesians, which Barentsen understands as Paul’s attempt to manage the identity of a stable leadership group by focusing on a universalistic Christian social identity, in contrast to his focus on nested, cross-cutting identities in 1-2 Corinthians. Ephesians is a legitimating document designed to provide necessary organizational structures for a “city-wide church that had outgrown the small network of house churches” (p. 183). Barentsen navigates many of the traditional arguments raised against Paul’s authorship of this letter. For example, Barentsen accounts for the exalted persona of Paul in this letter, which scholars often note is not congruent with the way he presents himself in the undisputed Paulines, as a function of “the normal processes of charismatic leadership attribution” (p. 180). Thus, attention paid to SIA provides plausible solutions for scholarly debates. Barentsen contends that the apostles and prophets were foundational leaders who embodied the ingroup prototype and are joined by local leaders in the formation of Christian social identity, though this latter group “has not yet been shaped into the full-fledged form of church office” (p. 179).
Chapter 7 analyzes 1 Timothy as a communal structuring document. Barentsen provides a series of arguments for an orthonymous understanding of the Pastoral epistles, an important point in his approach. Although he recognizes the problem in approaching a personal letter with a hermeneutic of social identity, he suggests that the community was reading over the shoulder of Timothy. Issues of deviance are brought to the fore in this form of a mandata principis letter, and Paul writes to Timothy in order to instruct him on the way to maintain local leadership (p. 249). He does this through the use of stereotypes, gendered prototypes, succession chains, and the construction of an identity narrative that reinforces beliefs and values (p. 226).  Chapter 8 then examines 2 Timothy as a leadership succession letter. Paul defends Timothy’s ecclesial position in the letter by reshaping key attributional processes. He is presented as a leader similar to Paul, which should in turn encourage the community to accept him as they had earlier accepted Paul (p. 274). Chapter 9 provides key implications from this study, especially as they relate to contemporary leadership practices in the church. Barentsen makes the similarities of Paul’s processes in each of the letters clear; the differences that are present are to be explained by the divergent local contexts and stages of leadership development within each community (p. 302).
Barentsen set out to provide a more comprehensive interpretation of the leadership patterns evident in the Pauline communities in Corinth and Ephesus than has been possible using traditional interpretive methods; in this he has succeeded. For those who find themselves in religious contexts that identify closely with Pauline Christianity, Barentsen offers new and fresh insights for leaders seeking to fulfill their missional calling in a way that coheres closely to the scriptural witness. This recommended study provides groundbreaking insight into the way social identity theory can inform contemporary ecclesiology rooted in the consistent leadership practices of the Apostle Paul.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review of Charles A. Anderson's Philo of Alexandria's Views of the Physical World

Charles A. Anderson, Philo of Alexandria’s Views of the Physical World. WUNT 2 309. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011. Pp. xii + 299. 978-3-16-15640-6. $147.50 paper.

Charles A. Anderson, Lecturer in New Testament and Biblical Languages at Oak Hill College in London, examines “Philo of Alexandria’s ambivalent, seemingly contradictory claims about the ethical status of the sensible world” (p. 1). This revision of his Cambridge University Ph.D. thesis, written under the supervision of Markus Bockmuehl, contends that the solution is to see his views multiperspectivally. This approach positions Philo’s views of the physical world in-between those evident in Israel’s scriptures and those of the ancient philosophers, ultimately seeing them as negative. This lexical-semantic reading of the Philonic corpus is quite convincing with regard to the way it establishes the presence of both positive and negative discourses concerning the physical word. Furthermore, Anderson’s exhaustive treatment of φύσις represents a key contribution from this densely and convincingly argued monograph.

Chapter 1 notes the deficiencies in previous attempts to address this question and concludes with brief discussions concerning the socially-conditioned nature of cosmological reflection and the contextualized methodological approach used in this study. Chapter 2 sets the context by surveying the genre and organization of Philo’s writings in which Judaism and Hellenism interpenetrate. Anderson contends that the “Allegory of the Law” and the “Exposition of the Law” had two different audiences (p. 18). The former was for advanced readers, while the latter was for beginners. These disparate audiences account for the different perspectives on the sensible world (p. 22). With regard to Hellenism and Judaism, Philo sees them as compatible with ideological precedence given to Judaism, though with regard to the physical world, Philo diverts from both in significant ways. Chapter 3 lays out the study of Philo’s negative terminology for the physical world by analyzing οὐσία, ὕλη, γένεσις, and γενητός; here the world is hostile and alienated from God. However, in chapters 4-6, Anderson’s study of κόσμος and φύσις indicate that when Philo used these terms he linked the sensible world closely to God.

Chapter 7 addresses the implications of such seemingly contradictory views. Philo’s understanding of the differing ways humanity seeks God accounts for this divergence. For those seeking God in the higher way, the world is an obstacle and no longer serves a positive purpose; however, for those seeking God through the lower approach, “the sensible world has genuine value—it is the means by which they come to know God” (p. 167). Chapter 8 organizes Philo’s multiperspectival view of the ethical status of the physical world and coheres closely to the lexical findings of the earlier chapters: οὐσία, ὕλη, γένεσις, and γενητός, with their focus on the material world present a pessimistic view, while κόσμος and φύσις point to God as creator and ruler over the same domain. Anderson ultimately concludes, however, that Philo’s view prioritizes “the pessimistic outlook” (p. 185). Chapter 9 provides a conclusion to the study by highlighting its findings and noting the ways Philo’s negative views compare with the views of other ancient writers. Particularly helpful here is the discussion of Paul’s cosmological discourse. As noted by Anderson, this was one of his original interests (p. 2). One hopes that he will soon revisit this topic, since his work has profound relevance for understanding the context of Paul’s cosmological discourse. Anderson has provided a thoroughly convincing argument, though some may be unconvinced by his reliance on Alan Mendelson’s multiperspectivalism. That minor point aside, Anderson offers a plausible solution to the problem of Philo’s apparent contradictory perspectives on the physical world.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Running Heads: A Blog from the Editors of Wipf and Stock Publishers

The editors at Wipf and Stock have launched a new blog entitled, Running Heads. It looks like it is going to be an interesting introduction to what goes on behind-the-scenes in a publishing house. The editorial team consists of Charlie Collier, Chris Spinks, K. C. Hanson, Robin Parry, and Rodney Clapp. My guess is they'll talk about the ins and outs of the publishing process and at some point one of them might mention the unacceptability of two spaces between a period and the first letter of the next sentence! I think will be an entertaining and informative blog for those interesting in what's involved in the publishing process.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Review of David J. Rudolph's A Jew to the Jews

David J. Rudolph, A Jew to the Jews. (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 304) Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck,  2011). xii + 290 pp., £69 (sewn paper), ISBN  978-3-16-149293-8.

The chameleon is the quintessential image for a constantly changing individual. Proteus was an early sea-god who would change his shape in order to avoid capture. These images resonate with aspects of the scholarly consensus with regard to Paul’s claim that he became ‘all things to all people’. He remained Torah-observant among Jews but not among the non-Jews. Since the New Testament does not explicitly describe Paul engaging in such diverse practices, scholars fill in the gaps in the textual record with claims that Paul was just such a protean figure, one whose behaviors would change depending on his context. This raises an important interpretive question: is this a valid understanding of Paul and his mission practice among non-Jews? Was Paul a chameleon? 

In A Jew to the Jews, David J. Rudolph sets out to problematize the consensus view with regard to Paul’s lack of continued Torah-observance in his gentile mission. He sets out two parallel research paths for himself: (1) to show that 1 Cor 9.19-23 may not be irrefutable evidence for Paul’s lack of continued Torah-observance; and (2) to provide a constructive reading of this passage that results in understanding Paul as one who continued to be Torah-observant in his mission. This monograph is a revision of Rudolph’s 2007 Cambridge University Ph.D. thesis, which was supervised by Markus Bockmuehl. Revised theses often only account for subsequent scholarship at a minimal level; however, Rudolph’s revisions, when compared to the 2007 thesis version, are substantial and result in a thoroughly up-to-date work that engages scholarship as late as 2010, making this work that much more significant, and a good model for recent Ph.D. graduates who might be tempted not to make important revisions to their work before publication.

Chapter 1 introduces Rudolph’s argument by providing an overview of the case for the traditional reading of 1 Cor 9.19-23. He surveys contemporary scholarship with regard to the intertextual, contextual, and textual arguments that are marshalled in defence of the consensus interpretation. He then points out four areas in which the traditional view reflects interpretive inadequacies with regard to Paul’s context: (1) the practical impossibility of being ‘all things to all people’; (2) the presentation of Jews as ‘simpletons’; (3) the lack of evidence that Paul employed this strategy; and (4) the dismissal of both the Pauline and Lukan texts that present Paul as one who continues to be Torah observant (12-13). This final factor is central to Rudolph’s argument. Next, he briefly notes three other scholars who have read Paul in ways similar to himself: Peter Tomson, Mark Nanos, and Mark Kinzer. Rudolph establishes differences between his approach and theirs and suggests there is sufficient warrant for a reassessment of the scholarly framework with regard to whether 1 Cor 9.19-23 ‘precludes a Torah-observant Paul’ (17). This last phrase is an important qualifier in that Rudolph is not trying to prove that Paul remained Torah-observant; rather, his goal is to point out that scholars overstate their claim when they read 1 Cor 9.19-23 as indisputable evidence that Paul ceased to be Torah observant. The rest of the monograph addresses the intertextual, contextual, and textual arguments alluded to earlier in the introduction, and then it concludes with a proposed interpretation of 1 Cor 9.19-23 that fulfils Rudolph’s secondary goal of providing a reading of this passage that could allow for it to be understood ‘as the discourse of a Torah-observant Jew’ (18).

Chapter 2 surveys the key scriptural texts that are alluded to in the broader debate over the salience of Paul’s Jewish identity. The first part of the chapter addresses whether Paul’s Jewishness is inconsequential now that he is in Christ. Rudolph argues that Timothy’s circumcision, referenced in Acts 16.3, and the controverted phrase dia tous Ioudaious addresses timing issues and not circumcision itself. Next he addresses the putative erasure discourse in Paul’s writings and provides a series of convincing non-erasure readings for the following: (1) ‘circumcision is nothing’ (1 Cor 7.19; Gal 5.6; 6.15); (2) ‘no longer Jew or Greek’ (Gal 3.28); (3) third entity language (1 Cor 10.32); (4) ‘weak in faith’ discourse (Rom 14); (5) ‘former way of life’ and ‘rubbish’ language (Gal 1.13; Phil 3.8); and (6) ‘live like a gentile and not like a Jew’ discourse (Gal 2.14). Rudolph concludes that these verses do not indicate that Paul no longer considered himself a Jew; rather, he understood his Jewish identity as an ongoing calling in Christ. The second half of this chapter provides a constructive reading of Acts 21.17-26; Gal 5.3; Rom 2.25, 4.11-12, 16, 11.29, and 1 Cor 7.17-24 to suggest that Paul remained a Torah-observant Jew (89). Based on chapter 2, though the dominant segment of New Testament scholars would suggest otherwise, the label ‘Paul the Chameleon’ would be entirely inappropriate for the apostle, and Rudolph’s arguments are quite persuasive in this regard, especially his reading of Romans 14, 1 Cor 7.17-24. Those who seek to continue to view Paul as one whose Jewishness ceases to be significant will have to engage Rudolph’s arguments for those two passages.

Chapter 3 focuses more properly on the text of 1 Corinthians. Rudolph provides a contextual analysis of 1 Cor 8.1-11.1 that establishes Paul’s instruction concerning food offered to idols and the way these chapters may be understood as not being the teaching of one who has broken the boundaries of pluriform Second Temple Judaism. Rudolph addresses four issues that New Testament scholars have focused on with regard to this section: (1) the compositional unity of the passage; (2) the presence of the strong and the weak in the passage; (3) the situational permission with regard to eating idol food; and (4) the relationship of Paul’s teaching here with the apostolic decree in Acts 15. The most important findings are that, although Christ-followers were not permitted to eat idol food in cultic contexts, indeterminate food was permitted outside those contexts. However, idol food was still not permitted once it was known to be such, even outside the cultic context. So, Paul’s localized, contextualized teaching here is quite in line with the non-situational apostolic decree (101). This teaching, argues Rudolph, was quite Jewish in its orientation. He provides several reasons for his claim, the most substantial being the use of skandalizō two times in 1 Cor 8.13, a term that connects Paul’s teaching with Lev 19.14, thus placing Paul’s discourse within proper ‘Jewish ethical categories of thought and legal traditions surrounding Leviticus 19’ (104). So, rather than seeing Paul in 1 Cor 8.1-11.1 as one arguing in a non-Jewish fashion, he may be seen as one applying the principles of Jewish teaching and learning discourse in a flexible manner for gentiles in Christ. Rudolph concludes his contextual discussion by briefly noting the function of 1 Cor 9 within the literary unit of 1 Cor 8.1-11.1. He rightly sets aside the idea that Paul was defending his apostleship here; rather, ‘the central point of 1 Cor 9 is Paul’s renunciation of all rights (even those rights provided by Mosaic law and the Lord Jesus’ command) for the sake of the gospel’ (107-8).

Chapter 4 focuses in on the textual issues in 1 Cor 9.19-23. Rudolph begins by addressing possible contextual frameworks for Paul’s accommodation discourse. He concludes that there are no explicit references to Greco-Roman philosophical traditions nor any allusions convincing enough to accept the claim that Paul is working within an accepted accommodation topoi. Rudolph then surveys Second Temple texts to see if they provide insight into the adaptation language evident in Paul’s teaching. He concludes that there is evidence for similarities with regard ‘to the mindset of a first-century Jewish guest who seeks to please his host in everything’ (147). Next Rudolph considers whether the gospel traditions provide a proper framework for understanding Paul’s adaptation principle. He affirms Kim’s (2003) overall approach to the presence of an imitatio Christi discourse in 1 Cor 9.19-23, though he rightly sets aside Kim’s rather explicit supersessionist understanding of Mark 7.19b. This will be an important part of Rudolph positive reading in chapter 5, a reading that places Rudolph firmly in the post-supersessionist approach to New Testament interpretation. Finally, he concludes chapter 4 with detailed discussions of the semantic variations of the language in 1 Cor 9.19-23. Rudolph’s conclusions here form the basis of his reading that Paul may be understood in these verses to be a Torah-observant Jew. As Part I of A Jew to the Jews comes to a close, it is now clear that Rudolph does not think that Paul was a chameleon in any sense of the word. He was one who, it could be argued, maintained Torah observance not as missional adaptation, rather as a valid expression of covenant fidelity to the God of Israel.

Chapter 5 provides Rudolph’s understanding of Paul as a Jew who continued to faithfully observe Torah throughout his mission among the nations by ‘imitating Christ’s accommodation and open table-fellowship’ (173). He views the flexibility evident in 1 Cor 9.19-23 as an expression of Paul’s belief that his Jewishness is a calling that continues in Christ, and that this passage can be understood ‘as the discourse of a Jew who remained within the bounds of pluriform Second Temple Judaism’ (173). He reads 1 Cor 9.19-23 as an expression of Paul’s imitation of Jesus’ interchange and accommodation-oriented table-fellowship with all. Rudolph argues that Paul was aware of Jesus’ rule of adaptation evident in the words ‘eat what is set before you’ (Luke 10.7-8). This rule originally focused primarily on ‘clean food of doubtful or defiled status’, but Paul expands it to apply to the questions relating to idol-food in Corinth (190).

Rudolph frames Paul’s statement ‘all things to all people’, not as a claim that Paul ceased to be Torah-observant, rather as an example of the way he applied Jesus’ adaptability rule, Jesus who likewise remained Torah-observant (Mark 5.17-20). Rudolph summarizes his view: ‘As Jesus became all things to all people through eating with ordinary Jews, Pharisees and sinners, Paul became “all things to all people” through eating with ordinary Jews, strict Jews (those “under the law”) and Gentile sinners’ (190). Paul’s halakhah with regard to commensality was flexible, and he adjusted it, as a bi-cultural mediator, based on his context (1 Cor 10.25-30).

Concerning the continued relevance of Paul’s Jewish identity, Rudolph understands Paul to be one who argued for the continuation of Jewish identity within the Christ-movement. He builds his case on 1 Cor 7.17-24, which teaches that Jews ‘in Christ’ should continue Torah observance as a vital expression of their calling from God. With regard to the claim that Jewish identity and Torah observance were inconsequential to Paul since the coming of Christ, Rudolph thinks that Paul kept his ‘rule in all the churches’ as one who ‘was “not without the law of God” (1 Cor 9.21)’ (212). Rudolph’s study is masterful, an argumentative tour de force that requires serious engagement by those contending that Jewish identity is no longer relevant for Jews ‘in Christ’. It will most likely be looked at as a seminal work among New Testament scholars engaged in post-supersessionist interpretation.

While it is clear that Paul should not be labelled a chameleon, and in this Rudolph’s study remains quite convincing, it is still hard to determine if it is possible to avoid the charges of hypocrisy that would be levelled against Paul for even these adaptable practices. Rudolph’s study rightly focuses on the behaviours evident in the text, but Paul may also be continuing his discussion of the way previous identities are transformed ‘in Christ’. Thus, I would suggest that 1 Cor 9.20-21 may evidence Paul’s principle of social identity adaptation. This is only a slight adjustment to Rudolph, taking into consideration the claims of duplicity mentioned by Nanos (2009) but still follows Rudolph and Tomson (1990) in seeing 1 Cor 9.20-21 as evidence of a relaxed halakhah with regard to the idolatrous intentions of the gentiles. Thus, this passage connects with Paul’s mission among the gentiles and his teaching concerning mission as social identification for those in Corinth (see Tucker 2011).

If we extend the metaphor we began with, Paul is not a chameleon who changes his color, i.e., one who picks up and sets down his Jewish identity (even if that would have been possible) in order to take the gospel to the nations. However, we might describe him as the ‘Chameleon Paul’ if by that we mean one who was comfortable in diverse cultural environments, able to socially identify (but not integrate) with non-Jews as an expression of his theologizing. His focus on the negotiation of the practicalities of life within the Christ-movement would have been familiar to the Jews but new to gentiles in Christ (Ehrensperger 2011: 18). This metaphor is especially apropos since chameleons really cannot change their color in the first place; rather, they react to changing environmental situations and thus only appear to change. Maybe it is time to revisit scholarly misconceptions with regard to Paul’s so-called lifestyle adaptability. Rudolph’s monograph, A Jew to the Jews, provides a helpful starting point for addressing a number of these long-held and deeply-engrained views on Paul, his identity, and his mission.

Ehrensperger, K. 2011. ‘All Things are Lawful but Not All Things are Helpful—All Things are Lawful but not All Things Build Up (1 Cor 10.23)—Identity Formation in the Space Between.’ Paper presented at the SNTS General Meeting, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.
Kim, S. 2003. ‘Imitatio Christi (1 Corinthians 11:1): How Paul Imitates Jesus Christ in Dealing with Idol Food (1 Corinthians 8-10).’ Bulletin for Biblical Research 13.2: 193-206.
Nanos, M. 2009. ‘Paul’s Relationship to Torah in Light of His Strategy “to Become Everything to Everyone” (1 Corinthians 9:19–23).’ Paper presented at New Perspectives on Paul and the Jews: Interdisciplinary Academic Seminary, Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, Belgium.
Tomson, P. J. 1990. Paul and the Jewish Law: Halakha in the Letters of the Apostle to the Gentiles. Minneapolis: Fortress.
Tucker, J. B. 2011. Remain in Your Calling: Paul and the Continuation of Social Identities in 1 Corinthians. Eugene, OR: Pickwick.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review of Paul as Missionary

Paul as Missionary: Identity,Activity, Theology, and Practice. Edited by Trevor J. Burke and Brian S. Rosner. Library of New Testament Studies 420.  London: T&T Clark, 2011, xi+276 pp., $130.00, hardcover.

Trevor J. Burke, Professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute, and Brian S. Rosner, Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Ethics at Moore Theological College, contend that while Paul’s missionary activity has been the focus of scholarly attention, this focus is normally directed towards Acts. This collection of essays looks at what Paul thought about his own missionary activity and identity. Part 1, which focuses on Paul’s identity, begins with Seyoon Kim’s essay on Paul as an eschatological herald. Kim argues that Paul sees himself as one who fulfills the eschatological pilgrimage texts in his gentile mission; the Jerusalem collection is the most explicit expression of this identity. James Thompson lays out points of contact between Acts and Paul’s letters with regard to Paul’s missionary identity. However, he concludes that focusing primarily on the letters brings out Paul’s distinct pastoral concern with the spiritual growth and development of his congregations. James Thompson’s essay argues that Paul’s mission involves continual pastoral care. Though the term pastor is not used to describe Paul’s identity, his activities and his concern for the transformation of the Christ-followers suggest that Paul could be described as a missionary pastor. James Miller’s essay on Paul and ethnicity contends that the binary categories of continuity and discontinuity do not fully account for Paul’s complex and situationally-specific approach to ethnicity. He claims that Paul did not leave his Jewish ethnic identity in the past once he was in Christ; rather, the various comments about his Jewish identity reflect the normal negotiation and contextualization that contemporary ethnicity studies indicate are part of the identity-forming process. Richard Gibson contends that Paul, in Rom 15:16, presents himself as a Levitical priest as described in Isa 61:6. This understanding clarifies Paul’s role as subordinate to the Servant-Christ, even as he seeks to extend the Servant’s mission through the agency of the same Spirit (cf. Isa 49:6; 61:6; Rom 15:8-21).
Part 2 covers Paul’s missionary activity. It begins with Beverly Roberts Gaventa resituating Paul’s missionary activity within God’s mission. She brings to the fore the agency of others within the Christ-movement and concludes that God’s own mission of rescuing the new humanity from the power of Sin and Death must be accounted for. Daniel Hays provides a third ethnicity reading of Paul’s activity. He argues that Paul sought to form a new ethnicity for those in Christ, an identity that replaces existing ethnic identities. This, Hays contends, allows for unity within the Christ-movement. Ayodeji Adewuya’s contribution looks at the centrality of suffering in Paul’s theology and mission. Building on the rhetoric of 2 Corinthians, Adewuya sees Paul’s sufferings re-deployed in the text for the benefit the Corinthians. Paul Barnett argues that Paul’s use of the phrase “righteousness of God” coheres quite closely with Jesus’ teaching on the “kingdom of God.” This provides a conceptual bridge between Paul and Jesus, in that both of these phrases were “grace-based and ritual-free” (p. 111).
Part 3 discusses Paul’s mission theology, beginning with Arland Hultgren’s contention that Paul’s Christophany at his commissioning accounts for much of Paul’s gentile mission. The content of this revelation includes the following elements: (1) Jesus is the universal messiah who moves beyond the law of Moses; (2) Jesus of Nazareth is the same as the risen Christ, the one who was known to minister to those not Torah-observant. While some of latter could have come from his pre-apostolic past, Hultgren concludes that the eschatological pilgrimage texts did come from that experience and serve as a key to Paul’s vocation as an apostle to the gentiles. Karl Olav Sandnes argues that 1 Cor 9:19-23 is an example of Paul’s asymmetrical approach to accommodation in the context of seeking to win Jews and gentiles. His adaptability applies, however, only to sub-identities (e.g., gender, ethnicity, culture) and not to what he viewed as one’s primary identity—being in Christ. Trevor Burke contends that the work of the Spirit is central to Paul’s mission and that the Spirit’s agency is often overlooked by scholars. Burke surveys 1 Thessalonians to show the way the Spirit functioned by empowering, converting, energizing, sanctifying, instructing, and directing the worship life of the community. Burke concludes that Paul’s mission activity cannot be fully understood without an appropriate appreciation for the work of the Spirit within his communities. Brian Rosner maintains that the glory of God is central to Paul’s mission theology. This is often a discounted subject among scholars, but building on Romans 15 and its use of Isaiah 66, Rosner views the glory of God as the final aim in Paul’s missionary endeavors. Stanley Porter outlines a key aspect of Paul’s highly contextualized missionary theology—the message of reconciliation. It serves as the basis for Christian proclamation in 2 Cor 5:18-21 and provides its essential component in Rom 5:8-11. Roy Ciampa navigates the difficulties of distilling Paul’s theology of the gospel and describes it thus: “God has acted and is acting through Christ’s life, death, resurrection/exaltation and present reign as Lord over all creation to set all things right to the glory of his name” (p. 190). This message is central to Paul’s missionary identity and allows for contextualization among diverse gentile audiences.
Part 4 discusses Paul’s missionary practice. It begins with William S. Campbell’s essay that argues that universalism and particularism are both present in Paul’s missionary practice. In fact, the coordination of the two is central to his vision and activity. Thus, Paul is not seen as one who seeks to obliterate Jewish identity. In Christ, Jews relate to God as Jews, and gentiles relate to God as gentiles, although they are not included in God’s covenant, which remains with Israel (p. 202 n. 25). James Ware contends that Paul’s gospel was one of resurrection, and that he expected the Philippians to be involved in an active mission of holding forth the word of life (Phil 2:15-16). Steven Walton argues that Paul’s differing financial dealings with the Philippians and the Corinthians are examples of the way he sought to revise existing patronage structures. Michael Barram asks whether Paul expected the Corinthians to be involved in mission. He suggests that Paul’s missonal goal for the Corinthians was to live with a “salvific intentionality” (p. 243). Randolph Richards discusses the misunderstandings of cultural translation in Paul’s original mission (1 Cor 5:9-13) and suggests that many contemporary western readings of Paul have likewise misread him because of their frames of reference.
Burke and Rosner have done both Pauline and missiological studies a great service in gathering these essays. Additional instructive essay(s) might have considered in a more overt manner the material remains as a context for Paul’s mission. This is only a slight criticism; Burke and Rosner themselves note the need to include more (p. 6); however, these would have provided a more concrete context for Paul and his mission.  Nevertheless, Burke and Rosner provide a nuanced and even-handed reading of Paul, with the essays by Miller, Sandnes, and Campbell deserving special attention for moving forward the traditional understanding of Paul’s approach to missional formation. This collection is recommended for missions, intercultural, and Pauline theology courses and is accessible to upper-level undergraduates and seminary students

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Review of Bibleworks 9

BibleWorks 9: Software for Biblical Exegesis and Research. Norfolk, VA: BibleWorks LLC, 2011. $359.00.
BibleWorks has been the leading exegetical software package for those seeking to engage the biblical text in a detailed fashion, at least for Microsoft Windows-based users. BibleWorks 9, an upgrade from BibleWorks 8, still only runs in that environment, but can also do this through virtualization on Mac OS X. The BibleWorks 9 user interface contains the search window with command line that allows searches and navigating verses. In the command line, one enters a verse, or a word prefaced by a period. The requested verses show up in the results list, from which the user can select a verse to study. The chosen verse appears in the browse window, which allows more in-depth study. Further extensive research can be seen in the analysis window with tabs that provide a wealth of information on the verse or word in question. One addition in version 9 is that the analysis window can be subdivided to add a fourth column and the user can reorganize its tabs. This provides access to two resources at the same time, which increases efficiency.  All three of the user interface windows offer right click context menus that provide short cuts for working with various options appropriate to the part of the program with which one is working.  The majority of the options for the program are accessed through the main menu; particularly useful here are the tools, resources, and help menus (the ubiquitous F1 key still provides ever-present help throughout the program). The button bar, one of the most obvious improvements from version 8, gives one access to significant BibleWorks tools. The status bar at the bottom of the screen provides further program information and access. The labels can be double clicked in order to have quick access to several repeated tasks (e.g., changing versions and setting search limits). Those familiar with BibleWorks will feel right at home with version 9; however, even those who have worked with this program for years will find the how-to videos required viewing.
          The strength of BibleWorks has been its ability to analyze the biblical text and version 9 continues with that commitment. The inclusion of the BibleWorks Manuscript Project allows the user to compare original manuscripts, with high quality digital images of the texts that are fully searchable. This allows for a new level of contextual analysis of variants and will contribute to the current methodological revaluation with regard to textual criticism. BibleWorks 9 includes, among others, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, and Bezae. These have full transcriptions (and notes), digital images, verse tags, comparison tools, and, though incomplete, some morphological tags (with more to come). Furthermore, the New Testament Critical Apparatus from the Center for New Testament Textual Studies is also included, securing for BibleWorks a place as the preeminent electronic resource for detailed manuscript analysis and textual criticism. The NT Greek texts that are included in the program have been updated, corrected, and revised; one major improvement is that the user is able to have differences in the Greek texts highlighted in the main window (this improvement also applies to translations).
          BibleWorks continues to stay committed to what it does well, but the programmers have also listened to its customers by beginning to provide other tools that are integral to the exegetical process. While key biblical language grammars are included, BDAG and HALOT will need to be purchased separately, and the ESV Study Bible, Bavink’s Reformed Dogmatics, and Grudem’s Systematic Theology are examples of non-language specific tools that are now available for purchase (to be unlocked) by the user.
          BibleWorks’s strength continues to be evident at the syntactical and grammatical level; however, analysis above the sentence level still remains a challenge for the program, and those committed to discourse analysis, while having some useful tools at their disposal, will be left longing for further development of BibleWorks in that area. With this one shortcoming noted, BibleWorks still remains an indispensable and recommended resource for pastors, seminary students, researchers, and teachers; and for those who have BibleWorks 8, is well worth the $159 upgrade. The search capability and the ease of morphological analysis make this a program that seldom frustrates it user, and often brings to the fore insights that may not have been gained otherwise.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Review of Paul and the Second Century

Paul and the Second Century. Edited by Michael F. Bird and Joseph R. Dodson. Library of New Testament Studies 412. London: T & T Clark, 2011, xii+270 pp., $140.00, hardcover.

Paul and the Second Century, edited by Michael F. Bird and Joseph R. Dodson, provides its readers with key content in order to discern the earliest interpretive trajectories for the Pauline discourse. Joseph R. Dodson, in the “Introduction,” discusses the context of the second century churches. He introduces four convictions that are endemic of proto-orthodoxy and discusses the various ways Paul’s letters and person influenced the development of Christian identity. Paul’s letters were pliable enough to be used in diverse contexts to support divergent viewpoints.
          Stanley E. Porter supports the theory that the Pauline epistles were gathered together as copies were made when the original letters were written. Since an original collection of thirteen letters is evident from the mid-60s in Rome, the second century was not specifically germane. Carl B. Smith looks at the way Paul’s teaching, not just his life, formed the basis of Ignatius’s theology. Smith recognizes Paul’s influence in four areas: “Christology, Jewish practices among followers of Jesus, the role of the bishop in the Christian church, and suffering and martyrdom” (41). However, in some places Ignatius closely follows the teaching of Paul (e.g., rejecting false teaching that impacts church unity), while in other places he extends his teaching (e.g., by developing a robust doctrine of the role of the bishop in securing church unity). One significant exception to this should be noted; Ignatius sees in Paul a level of discontinuity with Judaism that is not explicit in his original letters (45, 47-48).
          Michael W. Holmes’s concise essay relies on Daniel Marguerat’s categories to survey Polycarp’s use of Paul and his letters. Drawing from the discursive resources of Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians, he is seen as a significant, early witness to the circulation of Paul’s letters. Paul’s ethical exhortations are recontextualized with a synergistic understanding of salvation not evident in Paul (66). Michael F. Bird’s essay on The Epistle to Diognetus (ED) seeks to advance the work of H. G. Meecham with regard to the rhetorical function of the Pauline parallels in the treatise. Bird uses the standard categories for uncovering intertextures to provide clarity for the way ED uses the existing Pauline discourse. Bird finds only one convincing citation, though Paul’s use is significantly recontextualized in ED (75). In the end, Bird views the author of ED as a Paulinist, though one who, unlike Paul, incorporates platonic discourse and disavows Israel’s continued election (88). His anti-Judaism is not as explicit as Marcion’s, and while approaching proto-orthodoxy at certain points, much of his discourse resonates with what was to become Gnosticism. Bird is correct to note that ED 1.1 is a clear example of the development of Christianity as a tertium quid (75, 83). However, it is not likely that this discourse can be traced to Paul in 1 Cor 10:32, where the ascensive use of kai would result in a definition of Christian identity in the context of existing identities, rather than in their erasure or “negation” (84).
          Todd Still provides an assessment of Marcion and his reception of the Pauline tradition. Marcion’s theological dualism is not found in Paul, nor is his way of reading Israel’s scriptures comparable. However, there is significant continuity between Paul and Marcion with regard to worship practices and ecclesial structures. Overall, Still views Marcion as one who sought to read Paul closely, though he ultimately misunderstood him significantly (107). Paul Foster argues that Justin was not influenced by Paul to any significant degree. He suggests that Justin and Paul built on the same passages from Israel’s scriptures, though for differing rhetorical purposes. However, it would seem that, contrary to Foster, Justin’s use of ta ethnē is similar to Paul’s (1 Apol. 53) (116). Foster offers a couple of possibilities for the silence of Paul in Justin: (1) Justin may not have known of Paul’s letters; (2) he may have been reacting to Marcion’s use of them; and (3) he may not have considered them authoritative (124). If we only had Justin’s writings extant, then we would have to conclude that Paul had very little impact on the development of Christianity in the second century.
          Nicolas Perrin shows that Paul is viewed by Valentinus and Theodotus as the “ideal believer” who could function as a bulwark against the emerging proto-orthodoxy of early Christianity (127). So, while other movements within the second century drew widely from the Pauline tradition, “for Valentinus and his followers, Paul was ‘the’ apostle” (139). Joel Willitts provides an important essay on Paul and Jewish Christians in the second century. He begins by drawing the reader’s attention to the difference between “Jewish Christians and Christian judaizers” (167). This distinction is particularly important when addressing the putative rejection of Paul by some Jewish Christ-followers (149). Willitts then considers only texts addressed to groups that are clearly Jewish. What emerges is a view of the reception of Paul in the second century different from the traditional view that affirms widespread animosity between Paul and Jewish Christianities (168). Andrew Gregory shows the way the Acts of Paul is generally consistent with canonical Acts and Paul’s letters. Furthermore, Paul is presented as a pastor seeking to instruct local assemblies, rather than primarily as a miracle-working church planter. In this way, the Acts of Paul aligns more closely to the image of Paul revealed in his letters rather than in canonical Acts (188). 
          Ben Blackwell shows the way Irenaeus follows Greco-Roman rhetorical conventions as he redeploys Paul’s letters to address the central theological concerns of his time, thus providing “one important voice for understanding Paul within the second century” (206). Andrew M. Bain contends that, while there are numerous Pauline references in Tertullian’s writings, they are relatively sparse when looked at in proportion to his total output. Paul’s writings are used primarily to teach gentile Christians for life within the church and in those contexts Tertullian uses Paul’s writings with felicity. Pauline Nigh Hogan surveys the reception of Paul in the second century with regard to women. Galatians 3:28, 1 Cor 7:34-40, and Eph 4:13 were interpreted to indicate that traditional roles and structures had been set aside. Thecla, Mary, Blandina, and Perpetua are examples of women who were transformed “in Christ” to the degree that existing gender identities were no longer thought to be relevant. Alternately, similar Pauline discourse was redeployed by church leaders to restrict the various expressions of female “in Christ” social identities (cf. Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria). Mark W. Elliott concludes the volume by describing the triumph of Paulinism in the work of Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian, and Origen, each of whom engaged Paul’s writings in different ways, but all of whom sought to bring to the fore ethical requirements for those who claimed to follow Christ.
          Paul and the Second Century is a work that provides university and seminary students unfamiliar with the first interpreters of Paul with an entrée into early Christian hermeneutics. This material, while often difficult and unfamiliar, provides a roadmap for the various ways Paul was understood in the second century – and beyond. This advanced work provides an up-to-date resource for those studying the church fathers and Pauline reception history. It is a welcome addition to New Testament studies and is recommended particularly for those engaged in the theological interpretation of scripture.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Review of Mark Given's Paul Unbound

Mark D. Given, ed. Paul Unbound: Other Perspectives on the Apostle. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010. Pp. xiv + 210. ISBN: 978-1-59856-324-5. $24.95 paper.

These essays discuss aspects of Pauline studies that are often beyond traditional theological and historical considerations. They are designed to introduce advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and interested laypeople to areas not often covered in standard textbooks and thus serve as a supplement to such works. Mark D. Given begins with an introduction that explains how the myth of Prometheus relates to the perspectives taken in this collection.
            Warren Carter’s essay provides a critical overview of scholarship that focuses on the Roman imperial context. Carter is particularly helpful in seeing the various ways that Paul negotiated the empire. He contends that there is a paradigm shift occurring in this area, though he rightly cautions against an over-correction that leads to a neglect of Paul’s first-century Jewish context. Steven J. Friesen’s chapter reminds Pauline scholars of the economic context of the early Christ-movement. When this is neglected, they provide anachronistic descriptions of the social status of the earliest Christ-followers. He introduces his poverty scale that provides a taxonomy of economic indicators. Using this scale, Friesen finds that the majority of those described in Paul’s letters lived at or around the subsistence level. He then applies his poverty model to Paul’s Jerusalem collection and argues that it functions as an alternative patronage system. Jerry L. Sumney thinks that there is a need for methodological sophistication when it comes to identifying Paul’s opponents. In his essay, he suggests that scholars pay closer attention to the way they employ information from the surrounding culture, so that their reconstructions of Paul’s opponents are anchored in the text rather than an imagined cultural imposition.
            Charles H. Cosgrove’s essay offers a wide-ranging review of studies focused on various aspects of ethnicity in Pauline studies. He finds that Paul was highly interested in ethnic identity, and thinks that the reconciliation of various ethnic groups was part of Paul’s mission (p. 97). Cosgrove’s essay is particularly helpful in understanding the various approaches to the continuation of Jewish and Gentile identity in Christ. A. Andrew Das provides a description of seven pressure points in the debates between the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) and the traditional Lutheran perspective. This essay quickly orients readers to the key areas in question, and Das skillfully weaves into this survey his third-way reading that navigates both perspectives. Mark D. Nanos’ chapter provides a sustained argument for the contention that Paul never left Judaism but remained Torah observant, and that the NPP did not go far enough. This important essay introduces readers to an emerging interpretive perspective often overlooked by Pauline scholars. Deborah Krause outlines feminist perspectives on Paul and contends that the field has shifted from a narrow focus on Paul’s view of women to a broader interest in the contributions of women within the earliest Christ-movement. Jorunn Økland’s work is a particularly good example of this (pp. 167-68). Mark D. Given’s essay provides a brief survey of rhetorical criticism, both traditional and postmodern approaches, and shows how a combination of these can bring interpretive insights to 1 Corinthians.
            Given brings together key perspectives that are quite influential in current Pauline studies, and this book achieves its goal of introducing students to different approaches to Paul. Given recognizes that other perspectives need to be addressed (p. 5), and it is hoped that a follow-up book will address some of those omissions. However, this book is a welcome addition to the field, and will provide students an accessible resource that will allow them to quickly orient themselves to these different perspectives on the Apostle Paul.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Review of Markus Cromhout's Walking in Their Sandals

Walking in Their Sandals: A Guide to First-Century Israelite Ethnic Identity. By Markus Cromhout. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2010. Pp. xvi +128. Paper, $18.00.

Chapter 1 sets out Markus Cromhout’s general model of ethnicity. He contends “that the ‘House of Israel’ as it existed in the first century must be understood and approached as an ethnic identity, not as a form of ‘religion’” (p. 1). Contemporary ethnicity theory informs this book, with Richard Jenkins, Dennis Duling, and Philip Esler serving as key guides in Cromhout’s proposed hybrid theological and social-scientific ethnicity model (pp. 7, 24, 35). He also, surprisingly, sees a distinctive primordial element to Israelite identity in the first century—an element that Paul opposed (pp. 28, 84). Cromhout’s model views ethnicity as (1) a form of social identity, (2) requiring processes of socialization, (3) communicating similarity and difference, (4) relying on cultural context, (5) fixed or fluid depending on setting, and (6) resulting from a dialectic between collectivistic and individualistic discourses.

Chapter 2 provides a description of Cromhout’s model applied to first century Israelite ethnic identity and filtered through the findings of the New Perspective on Paul (NPP). He begins by describing the Israelite symbolic universe, which includes ordering principles such as kinship, honor and shame, and patronage. Other components include the legitimation of epistemic concerns, a land-focused interpretation of history, and societal ordering structures such as purity and hierarchy, the latter reified by circumcision (p. 54). Protection for this symbolic universe was provided through the framework of “deviance, diagnosis, and cure” (p. 57). These discursive resources drew from Israel’s scriptural tradition, while relying on collective memory to address communal issues in the present. Cromhout then explains the way his socio-cultural model of Israelite ethnicity works as it interacts with Israel’s symbolic universe (p. 64). The results are an eco-system of ethnicity encircled by a sacred canopy and a habitus that approximate the debated knowledge and values of Israel’s ethnic identity.

Chapter 3 discusses ethnicity and Paul through the lens of the NPP. Cromhout follows Dunn with regard to covenantal nomism, the boundary function of the law, the creation of a new inclusive ethnos, and the social dimension of Paul’s argument. For both Dunn and Cromhout, emblematic Israelite performances embodied an ethnic identity, i.e., participation in the covenant community. However, Paul opposes the idea that God’s grace only extended to those who observed the works of the law. He offers, instead, an alternative sacred canopy and habitus. God is the divine patron, who distributes grace and expects obedience in return; this constructs an alternative symbolic universe that applies equally to Israelites and gentiles. Cromhout does not provide a univocal NPP reading; he parts ways with Dunn by rejecting the necessity of individual faith, opting for a robust understanding of the faithfulness of Jesus. Faith, for Cromhout, is “an alternative way of life and social conduct, and righteousness is something attained by an identity based on faith” (p. 93). His approach to identity is universalistic and follows closely Esler’s transcending view. Cromhout sees Paul as one who “no longer views his traditional ethnicity as ‘gain’ or ‘advantage.’” Interestingly he later qualifies this claim by noting that Paul eventually came to the conclusion that “he should not seek to erase the subgroup identities of Judeans and non-Judeans” (pp. 99, 101).

Cromhout provides a helpful introduction to Israelite ethnic identity that builds on the work of The Context Group and the NPP. Thus, this book would serve as a useful primer for those studying the social context of the NT. However, a few critical comments are in order. First, he overlooks the significance of 1 Cor 7:17-24 for the way Paul understands ethnicity in Christ. The continuation of the circumcision calling in Christ weakens his claim that Paul sought to form a new, more inclusive ethnos (p. 97). Second, he rightly recognizes the connected nature of ecclesiology and soteriology (p. 88); however, a variegated ecclesiology is slightly more probable. Third, by describing Christian identity as a new ethnicity, Cromhout confuses the categories with regard to Israel. Though Paul may draw on ethnic discourse to describe aspects of the transformation of identity in Christ, it does not follow that a new ethnic identity is formed thereby. These assessments aside, Cromhout’s work deserves further critical engagement and represents a step forward by integrating social-scientific and theological concerns in the study of identity formation of the earliest Christ-followers.