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.