Friday, July 31, 2009

Neil Elliott: Jewish Identity and Rome

Neil Elliott argues that the ‘dejudaization’ of Paul results ‘in the virtual obliteration of his Jewish identity and the Jewish character of his thought’ (1994 : 66). ‘Dejudaization’ occurs when the only questions that are asked of Paul’s letters are theological and then he is understood as a ‘champion of a fundamentally un-Jewish, and even anti-Jewish, doctrine of redemption’ (57). For Elliott, Paul is understood in the context of a Jewish apocalypticism that contains significant elements that were designed to negotiate empire in a subversive manner (149-51). Elliott suggests that ‘the Galatian controversy’ is ‘the result of colonizing pressures and nativist counterpressures, rather than’ a ‘hypocritical Jewish proselytizing campaign’ (2000: 35). Though the Corinthian situation is quite different with regard to ethnicity, the over-reliance on the power of Rome still serves as a concern for Paul as he writes this letter, and Elliott’s recent work is helpful with regard to discerning colonial ideology in Paul’s letters (2008: 21-23).

Elliott, N.
1994 Liberating Paul The Justice of God and the Politics of the Apostle (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books).

2000 ‘Paul and the Politics of Interpretation’, in Horsley (ed.) 2000: 17-39.

2004a ‘The Apostle Paul’s Self-Presentation as Anti-Imperial Performance’, in R. A. Horsley (ed.) 2004a: 67-88.

2004b ‘Strategies of Resistance and Hidden Transcripts in the Pauline Communities’, in R. A. Horsley (ed.) 2004b: 97-122.

2008 The Arrogance of Nations (Minneapolis: Fortress).

Synder's review of The Arrogance of Nations.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Troels Engberg-Pedersen: Identity and Conversion

Troels Engberg-Pedersen’s understanding of identity relates to its transformation in conversion ‘conceptualized as a story’ as ‘a change that may occur in the perception of individuals of their own identity and what has value for them’ (2000: 34-36). Now the individual is not just interested in ‘fulfilling’ her or his own ‘desires’ but ‘will now be concerned about fulfilling the desires of the “We”’ (34). For Engberg-Pedersen conversion moves the individual from an identity sourced in that which is personal to a transformed social identity. He describes the model as ‘from I to we’ (34). Two significant implications result from this conversion – ‘the individual is “struck” by…God in Christ’ with whom the ‘individual…may come to identify with’ Christ. Also, ‘this transference of identity’ because its ‘content comes out in the Christ event’ results in the identification ‘of oneself as one among the others…who share in participating’ in Christ (35). This conception of conversion serves as a useful heuristic when one attempts to understand the idea of being in Christ but still identifying with cultural signifiers.

Engberg-Pedersen’s construction allows for a sense of contingency in relation to identification (35) and may be useful when addressing Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor 3:1-4. The issue of belongingness that is so central to social identity is noted by Engberg-Pedersen as something that is addressed both in Stoicism and in Paul (53-54). With regard to Gal 2, Engberg-Pedersen focuses on issues of personal identity (54-55). His describes conversion within Stoicism and its identity transformation as ‘the new character of his “constitution”’ (61). He is aware that his configuration of change primarily in terms of ‘individualism’ does not cohere with the scholarly consensus, but it is based on the ‘notion of the telos and eudaimonia’ and ‘within a framework that works with an individual person’s understanding of his or her own identity’ (65). Jenkins ‘internal-external dialectic’ may reconnect Engberg-Pedersen’s argument here with the communal aspects of conversion, which were evident in his initial model (1996: 20). Also, though there are a number of similarities between Paul and Stoicism, he rightly notes ‘Paul’s apocalyptic world-view constitutes what we may call an external difference from Stoicism’ (288).

So, anyone care to discuss the impact that stoicism had on Paul? Or, what are the problems associated with describing conversion in terms of identity transformation?

Engberg-Pedersen, Troels. 2000. Paul and the Stoics. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press.
Engberg-Pedersen, Troels. 1996. Paul in his Hellenistic context. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Francis Watson: Distinct Christian Identity against Judaism

Francis Watson argues ‘that Paul’s primary aim in discussing Judaism and the law is to maintain and defend his congregations’ distinctive identity over against the Jewish community’ (2007: 54). For Watson, the Christian and Jewish communities possess ‘two irreducibly different communal identities’ (56). One significant problem in Watson’s construction of Christian identity is that it requires a negative assessment of Judaism for its definition. For example, he argues that ‘the nullity of circumcision represents an essential moment in the construction of Christian identity’ (83). However, this misses the point of Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor 7:20 that ‘each one must remain in that condition in which he or she was called’ (see Campbell 2006: 91). Watson’s understanding of Paul is that he is a sectarian (see Campbell 2006: 58), establishing a rationale for separation through the resources of Israel’s scriptures, employing his antitheses for the formation of a distinct identity centred on Jesus and the ‘unimportance of the circumcision/uncircumcision divide’ (2007: 91-99, 135). Again, Watson’s binary construction is too stark on this point and misinterprets Paul’s kinship discourse as primarily concerned with ideology rather than the concrete issues of Christ-followers from different cultural backgrounds seeking to understanding the social implications of the gospel (cf. Buell 2005: 3; Hodge 2007: 17).
So, my questions include the following: Does Christianity need Judaism in order to define itself? Is it really necessary to view Judaism in such terms in order to discern the contours of early Christian identity?

Buell, Denise Kimber. Why This New Race: Ethnic Reasoning in Early Christianity. Gender, theory, and religion. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.
Campbell, William S. Paul and the Creation of Christian Identity. Library of New Testament studies, v. 322. London: T & T Clark, 2006.
Hodge, Caroline E. Johnson. If Sons, Then Heirs A Study of Kinship and Ethnicity in the Letters of Paul. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Watson, Francis. Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles: Beyond the New Perspective. Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 2007.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Davina C. Lopez on Gentiles, Gender, and Imperial Ideology

Davina C. Lopez argues that gentile identity and Paul’s relationship to his Roman imperial context create complex interpretive challenges. She does this through both a textual and semiotic analysis (2008: xiii; see Theissen 1999: 2). Paul’s mission, according to Lopez, ‘is to unite the peoples defined and delimited by Roman conquest through transgressing and subverting the boundaries of identity’ (2008: xiv). These boundaries as defined by the empire include issues related to ‘colonization, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity…each of these collective identity-signifiers speaks…in the language of the others’ (7). Lopez has correctly noted the broad context for social identity within the Roman empire. She correctly describes Paul’s use of gentile is ‘not so much…a marker of individual identity but collective identity’ (22). Lopez rightly assumes ‘Paul’s Jewish identity and scriptural context’ and that he ‘operates fully in reference to that identity and context’ (23-24). The Jewish embeddedness of Paul may have created some of the communication difficulties with those who identified with the ‘local indigenous elite’ expressions of ‘a self-referential Roman elite identity’ (27-28). Specifically this may be the case in the context of Roman Corinth. Roman imperial ideology sought ‘the enforcement of imperial social order’ and ideology that Lopez notes employs ‘gender imagery’ in ‘delineating hierarchical distinctions between Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, and male and female’ (117). Virgil’s Aeneid is noted as being integral ‘to the importance of appearance to identity’ and likewise ‘women’s bodies’ are ‘a means to express corporate identity, particularly the identity of religions’ (118, 157), an approach which Paul follows (118, 157, 162). For Lopez, Paul employs gender categories to construct a social identity for the Pauline communities not over and against Judaism but against Roman imperial ideology. Thus he recasts their ideological resources to further his mission to the defeated nations throughout the Roman empire. So, is Lopez on to something or is her proposal need more work?

See what a friend of mine Kar Lim had to say about Lopez's work.

Lopez, Davina C. Apostle to the Conquered: Reimagining Paul's Mission. Paul in critical contexts. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008.
Theissen, Gerd. A theory of primitive Christian religion. London: SCM, 1999.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Diana Swancutt and Paul’s Pedagogical Approach

Diana Swancutt defines the formation of identity as ‘a specific group’s definitional response to an intercultural exchange, particularly of different peoples’ stereotyped cultural conceptions of the “other”’ (2001: 7-8). This definition accords well with Tajfel and Turner’s understanding of the process. Swancutt argues that Romans is an extended protreptic designed to form the identity of gentiles who are to identify with Israel; thus ‘he transforms’ what Israel means (9). Swancutt does not follow Francis Watson’s critique of Israel, which I'll discuss in a future post. Rather she argues that these gentiles are ‘to recognize the unsurpassed value of Judaism as their dominant cultural identity’ but she does understand Paul to be ‘changing its [Israel’s] characteristics to fit their needs’ (9). It is not clear why Swancutt’s approach requires this differentiated approach to universalistic identity. Her arguments actually align more precisely with the particularistic approach to social identity (Campbell 2006: 75).

Paul’s identity as a teacher of gentiles is central to the work of Swancutt and describes his writing ‘as a rhetoric of identity’ (2001: 255; 2006: 8). Her work on Romans is useful in the context of 1 Corinthians 1-4 in that she recognizes that some within Rome were socially identifying with ‘Romanitas’ and were ‘rejecting Jews and their Jewish identity in favour of the advantages of Romanitas’ (255). A similar social identification was likely occurring in Corinth. In fact, Swancutt considers this possibility by referring to 1 Cor. 1-4 as ‘[a] deliciously subtle argument’ that may be seen as a ‘shorter example’ of Paul’s ‘extended protreptic demonstration’ from Romans (8). Swancutt’s work is also helpful in its emphasis on Paul’s pedagogical approach in 1 Corinthians, though she too quickly assumes that the teaching and learning discourse is Graeco-Roman in nature, as well as reducing mimēsis to its function within the Greek east, both of which have been recently addressed by Kathy Ehrensperger (Swancutt 2006: 8-10; cf. Ehrensperger 2007: 117-30; 137-55). Also, Swancutt’s approach is somewhat undermined, if Campbell’s argument that Paul is not capable of being a complete example for gentiles is substantiated (2006: 153).

Swancutt understands ‘Paul’s practice of instructing them in scripture’ as that which provides correction with regard to their current social identification (11). In an earlier work, she argues that Paul’s use of Israel’s scriptures provide insight into the ‘early socialization practices of Christ-confessing communities composed predominantly of Gentiles’ (2003: 127). In Corinth, noting the reference in 1 Cor. 10:4 to ‘Christ as Rock’, Paul’s use of the Psalms served his rhetorical purpose in addressing issues of cultural identity and group unity in 1 Cor. 8-10 (2003: 134-40). Swancutt’s work resonates with many of the same concerns that I have with regard to how we are to view Paul’s agency in the formation of Christ-movement identity. What was Paul's role in the formation of this identity? Are letters an effective means of forming a group's social identity?

Campbell, W.S. Paul and the Creation of Christian Identity (LNTS, 322; London; T&T Clark, 2006).
Ehrensperger, K. Paul and the Dynamics of Power (LNTS, 325; New York: T&T Clark, 2007).
Swancutt, D. ‘Pax Christi: Romans as Protrepsis to Live as Kings’, (Ph.D. thesis, Duke University; Durham, North Carolina, 2001).
Swancutt, D. ‘Christian “Rock” Music in Corinth?’, in H.W. Attridge and M. Fassler (eds.), The Psalms in Jewish and Christian Textual, Liturgical, and Artistic Traditions (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003).
Swancutt, D. ‘Scripture “Reading” and Identity Formation in Paul: Paideia among Believing Greeks’, (Paul and Scripture Seminar – SBL November, 2006).

Friday, July 17, 2009

John M. G. Barclay and the Irrelevance of Ethnic Identity

John M. G. Barclay understands Paul’s mission to be ‘the creation of communities in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal 3:28)’. Social identity is no longer central; ‘in the context of their new community’, Barclay remarks, ‘the ethnic identity of Paul’s converts was simply irrelevant’ (1996: 385). Paul is understood as an anomalous Jew who does not seek to assimilate into the broader Hellenistic culture as did Aristeas or Philo, who possessed a ‘strongly antagonistic cultural stance’ (388) while at the same time being ‘highly assimilated Jews’ (387; see Gruen 2002: 105). Paul’s mission emerges from an apocalyptic framework, one in which Paul does not care ‘if his churches are vindicated in the historical and political realm’ (Barclay 1996: 393). Thus, two vital aspects of Barclay’s work should be acknowledged: while arguing that Paul is still committed to a Jewish ethos with regard to the broader culture the same does not apply to life within the Christ-movement (388). One wonders if it is possible for both of these scenarios to be accurate. Second, if the political realm is not a concern for Paul, then obviously, the Roman empire is quite insignificant for Paul, as well. Barclay provides a theological reading of Paul, who defines ‘Christian’ identity against Judaism. Thus, he concludes that those within the Christ-movement ‘both Jews and Gentiles’ are ‘defined not by the law but by their shared allegiance to Christ’ (393). The difficulty is not with this aspect of Barclay’s construction; it is just not clear why Barclay, on the one hand, understands Paul to be defending ‘the right of law-observant Christians to attend synagogue’ (385) but then seeks ‘a radical redefinition of traditional categories’ (388). Though Barclay understands Paul to be anomalous, he actually turns out to be incoherent and confused in Barclay’s reconstruction. Barclay’s strength is in his reflection on the role of Jewish Diaspora identity in general (2007: 112) although he does not provide a coherent picture of Paul’s identity within the context of his mission (Campbell 2006: 88).
So, is Barclay on to something? Is ethinc identity irrelevant within the Christ-movement?

Barclay, J.M.G., and S.J. Gathercole (eds.). Divine and Human Agency in Paul and His Cultural Environment (London: T&T Clark, 2006).
Barclay, J.M.G. Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora: From Alexander to Trajan (323 BCE - 117 CE) (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996).
Barclay, J.M.G. ‘Constructing Judean Identity after 70 CE: A Study of Josephus’s Against Apion’, in Crook and Harland (eds.) 2007: 99-112.
Campbell, W.S. Paul and the Creation of Christian Identity (LNTS, 322; London; T&T Clark, 2006).
Crook, Z.A., and P.A. Harland (eds.). Identity and Interaction in the Ancient Mediterranean: Jews, Christians and Others (New Testament monographs, 18; Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2007).
Gruen, E.S. Diaspora Jews Amidst Greeks and Romans (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Anthony Thiselton on Identity and Behavior

The connection between identity and behavior is central to the work of Anthony Thiselton who argues for the ‘inseparability of Christian identity and Christian lifestyle, or of theology and ethics’ (2000: 458). He understands Paul’s rhetorical strategy to be ‘stabilizing the corporate identity and structure of a community’ with the cross as the foundation for Christian identity (94, 147-48). Unlike Richard Hays, Thiselton specifically addresses social identity (cf. 1 Cor 1:27-29) and incorporates discussions of honor/shame and that ‘which deprives the self of its social identity’ into his interpretation (187). The experience of being in Christ is central to the life of the community, however, for Thiselton the presence of God and the work of the Spirit are also that which ‘constitutes the identity of the people of God’ (cf. 1 Cor 3:16; 310, 317; cf. Volf 1996: 176-78).

For Thiselton, communal identity is Paul’s primary focus, who ‘does indeed want “to hold together” a corporate Christian identity founded on the death and resurrection of Christ, which applies Christ and the cross as a criterion and critique of freelance claims to be “spiritual persons,” or “people of the Spirit”’ (372 emphasis original). Though not intentionally excluding individual concerns, Thiselton understands Paul to be preoccupied with forming the communal identity of the Corinthians. There may be room for a slight corrective here, for example, when dealing with the moral issue in 1 Cor 5:1-13, which appears to be quite focused on the individual. Thiselton concludes that Paul does not want ‘persistent immorality of a notorious kind to compromise the corporate identity of the community (5:5, 7, 13)’ (381).

Thiselton also interacts with current approaches to power in that discussion of identity formation leads to questions concerning authority, power, and the potential for domination (372-76). His work also all too briefly discusses how texts, such as 1 Corinthians form identity, especially in relation to how their response to the text unmasks their identity (296). Thiselton also understands Paul’s ethical exhortations to be sourced in the Hebrew Scriptures, quoting Rosner, Paul ‘showed himself to have Scriptural structures of thought, such as the notion that identity must inform behavior’ (446; Rosner 1994: 121; emphasis original). Paul was forming an alternative community with a distinct ethos in comparison with the broader culture, so one would expect analogs for Paul’s guidance to emerge from the Hebrew Scriptures rather than for example, the moral philosophers. Thiselton concludes ‘that Christian corporate identity has a distinctive foundation and a distinctive lifestyle as against Graeco-Roman social, political, and religious traditions’ (446-47; 450-51). This coheres well with the presupposition that Paul was thoroughly embedded in Judaism and argued as such. Thiselton’s work shows a high degree of complexity in relation to identity studies and his influence on my work is quite obvious.

Rosner, Brian S. Paul, Scripture and Ethics: A Study of 1 Corinthians 5-7. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994.
Thiselton, Anthony C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000.
Volf, Miroslav. Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Richard Hays and Identity Formation in 1 Corinthians

This review only looks at Hays' work in his commentary. I will address Conversion of the Imagination in a later posting.

Richard Hays understands Paul’s letters to be forming identity within their recipients (1997: 17). He approaches Paul within the framework that emphasizes universal Christian identity (123-24, 133). Hays, however, sources Christian identity in the legacy of Israel, for example regarding 1 Cor 1:19 and 1:31, the Corinthians should ‘understand themselves within the larger story of God’s dealing with Israel’ (38-39). Thus Hays rightly affirms the preeminence afforded Israel while at the same time emphasizing ‘Paul’s break with his past understanding of Judaism’, especially in relation to ‘identity-marking features of the Law’ (176). Here he overstates the evidence of Paul’s break with his past understanding of Judaism and if Jewish identity is no longer relevant for Christian identity, then Christian identity is eviscerated of its core – Jewish identity expressed through the Jewish Scriptures.
The universalizing tendency of Hays work is evident in his emphasis on baptism and the transcendence of ethnic and gender distinctions (99-100, 123). He understands Paul to be envisioning ‘the church as a community that transcended ethnic boundaries in order to unite Jew and Gentile as one new people serving one God’ (124). He refers to these distinctions as ‘adiaphora: matters that fundamentally make no difference’; however, later he argues ‘our identity is bound up inextricably with our bodily existence’ (123, 133, 278). One is hard pressed to see how Hays can argue that this new identity is not interested in bodily categories such as ethnicity and gender and then later argue that identity is a bodily phenomenon. These critiques aside, Hays’ work provides a compelling argument for the usefulness of identity as an interpretive tool for understanding Paul. His emphasis on the communal aspects, while not downplaying the individual components of identity provides a needed balance within Pauline studies (20, 45, 91). Also, his insistence on hearing Paul’s argument within the story of Israel is central to my general approach to identity formation in Paul, though the application and inferences drawn from that story will differ in some cases. Finally, Hays has correctly discerned the function of 1 Cor 1-4 in relation to the identity formation that is to occur in the rest of the letter: ‘In the chapters that follow, he will seek to build on the foundation of these opening chapters in a way that will decisively reshape the community’s understanding of its identity in Christ – and, therefore, its behavior’ (76).

Hays, Richard B. First Corinthians. Interpretation, a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching. Louisville, Ky: John Knox Press, 1997.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Baths, Baptism, and Patronage

I've started working on my SBL 2009 Annual meeting paper entitled "Baths, Baptism, and Patronage: the Continuing Role of Roman Social Identity in Corinth". Here is my abstract to let you know how I plan to proceed: Richard DeMaris in The New Testament in its Ritual World argues that in Corinth baptism may be understood as a ritual subversion of Roman hegemony by a small group that continued to identify with Corinth’s glorious Greek past. While this is plausible, this paper addresses weaknesses in DeMaris’ approach and then argues that based on: (1) Paul’s approach to identity formation that ‘in Christ’ previous social identities are not obliterated but continue to be relevant within the Christ-movement (see William S. Campbell, Paul and the Creation of Christian Identity); and (2) that the primary problem in Corinth was an over-identification with key aspects of their continuing Roman social identity ‘in Christ’; then (3) the more likely problem in Corinth was that some within the ekklēsia were continuing to treat baptism in a manner that was quite similar to the dominant and accepted Roman practices associated with political patronage, water control policies, and public bathing. Thus, (4) Paul writes in order to reprioritise key aspects of their Roman social identity related to water use in order to stabilise the community in its mission of social integration (see 1 Cor 1:13-17; 10:1-2; 12:13; 15:29).

So, in researching I came by Everett Ferguson’s new book Baptism in the Early Church.

He references Eduard Stommel's important article: ‚Christliche Taufriten und antike Badesitten’, Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 2 (1959): 5-14. Here is a little bit of Ferguson's discussion: ‘Eduard Stommel in an influential article has argued that bathing customs in the Greco-Roman world provided a pattern for the Christian administration of baptism. He points to the parallel in both practices of anointing the whole body with oil and to baptism from the New Testament forward being first of all regarded as a cleansing or purification, and purification rites in the Old Testament and in pagan cults could be by sprinkling (pp. 6-7)…Stommel’s contention is that in antiquity the bather undressed and while standing poured, or had poured on himself, water (p. 8). The data are too limited for generalizations. Plato referred to an orator who “poured a flood of words...over our ears like a bath attendant.” [Republic 1.17, 344D] The earlier Greek representations of an external application of water to the bather show a variety of methods. Vase paintings from classical Greece show water poured over a crouching figure, women standing under sprays of water flowing from sprouts about their shoulders, athletes washing with water from sprouts above them, and men gathered around a basin and scooping out water. [Yegül 1992: pp. 17-21, figures 19-21] In Greek hip-baths from the third century B.C. the bathers sat while hot water was poured over them’ [DeLaine 1996: 236].’ (Ferguson 2009: 34-35).

‘During the Roman period large and small bathing establishments, public and private, with sizeable pools for dipping and swimming multiplied. Roman bathing procedures followed a general pattern that could be called a ritual. [Yegül 1992: 33-40; Fagan 1999: 10] By early afternoon the men’s workday was concluded. The procedure was for the body to be oiled, to take light exercise, to have a bath, and then to take the main meal of the day. The typical order of the baths was a warm bath, a hot bath, and a cold plunge, and the baths had separate rooms for each: the tepidarium, the caldarium, and the frigidarium. Anointing the body with oil (and sometimes perfumes) might occur before or after (or both) the bath. [Yegül 1992: 38, 354-55] (Ferguson 2009: 35).

Biers, Jane C. The Great Bath on the Lechaion Road. Princeton, NJ: American School of Class. Studies at Athens, 1985.
DeLaine, Jaanet. 'Baths', in Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth, eds., The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
DeMaris, Richard E. The New Testament in Its Ritual World. London: Routledge, 2008.
Fagan, Garrett G. Bathing in Public in the Roman World. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999.
Ferguson, Everett. Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries. Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 2009.
Yegül, Fikret K. Baths and Bathing in Classical Antiquity. New York, N.Y.: Architectural History Foundation, 1992.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Deliver Us from Evil

Richard H. Bell. Deliver Us from Evil: Interpreting the Redemption from the Power of Satan in New Testament Theology, WUNT, 216. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007. Pp. xxiii + 439. ISBN 3-16-149452-9. $197.50 cloth.

Here is the introduction to a review that I wrote that is to be published in an upcoming issue of a journal. You can listen to a podcast of Richard discussing the contents of this monograph, by clicking here.

Richard H. Bell’s work contributes to the field of New Testament Theology by providing a densely argued case that deliverance from Satan includes Jesus’ exorcisms as well as his death and resurrection. The focus of this monograph is on “interpreting the redemption from Satan in New Testament theology” (p. 2 emphasis original). After analyzing the New Testament data on this topic, Bell provides a framework for the way this material can be considered true.

The first chapter briefly discusses the history of interpretation of the doctrine of the devil. Next, Bell surveys both Jewish and Christian texts to explain the way each of these traditions understood the work of Satan. The last half of the chapter argues for the necessity of myth to understand the work of Christ with regard to the defeat of the devil (p. 65).

The second chapter discusses Jesus’ exorcisms found in the gospels and argues that the line between “healing” and “exorcism” is quite fluid (p. 71). Bell then provides arguments for their historicity (p. 77). The significance of Jesus’ healing and nature miracles are presented as evidence of the presence of the “eschatological age” which supported the claims for “Jesus’ messiahship” (pp. 97, 107)...

Richard Bell teaches at the University of Nottingham; UK.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Paul and the mystery in 1 Corinthians

Benjamin L. Gladd is Adjunct Assistant Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College; Revealing the MYSTERION: The Use of Mystery in Daniel and Early Judaism with Its Bearing on First Corinthians, is a revision of his Ph.D. dissertation done under the supervision G.K. Beale at Wheaton Graduate School.

Here is a section from a book review I am writing for this work.

...Chapter 5 connects Paul’s use of mystērion in 1 Cor. 4:1 with Dan. 2:20-23. Gladd argues that Paul understands himself in ways consistent with Daniel, as did the Teacher of Righteousness and Josephus (181). Furthermore, he argues that ‘not beyond what is written’ in 1 Cor.4:6, refers to the various references from Israel’s scriptures 1 Cor. 1-4. Gladd contends that Paul’s desire in 1 Cor. 4:1-6 was to present himself as a faithful steward of the mysteries of God. Moreover, Paul’s argument is directed only to the leaders in Corinth and not the whole community.

Chapter 6 Gladd researches the use of mystērion in 1 Cor. 13:2 and 14:2. He rightly notes that the use of mystērion in these passages is not as fully developed as in other parts of 1 Corinthians. In 1 Cor. 13:2, the focus is still on revelation while it may plausibly be applied “to inspired exegesis or further insight into OT Scripture” (221-22). In 1 Cor. 14:2, Gladd argues that Paul draws on Dan. 2:46-47, combining both the personal and eschatological dimensions of mystērion that are also evident in Qumran and some forms of apocalyptic Judaism....

Gladd's done top drawer work and these monograph provides keen insight into Paul's use of mystery in 1 Corinthians.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Paul, Gender, and Empire in Philippians

Here is a blurb from my upcoming review:
Joseph Marchal, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Ball State University, agues in The Politics of Heaven: Women, Gender, and Empire in the Study of Paul that a combined approach of both feminist and postcolonial scholarship that focuses on ‘gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and empire’ provides a more useful overall interpretive framework, referred to as ‘multi-axial’ (3). Furthermore, Marchal hopes to show how ‘Paul’s letters and Pauline scholarship are the results of imperially gendered activities’. Thus, the focus of his work is ‘the interconnections of sexism and imperialism’ (4). Moreover, Marchal argues that current postcolonial biblical scholarship has not given due attention to feminist concerns, whilst Paul’s letters have been under-researched by postcolonial scholars (10). His work then seeks to examine both the rhetorics of Paul’s letter to the Philippians as well as Pauline malestream scholarship in order to determine how both are implicated in the continuation of rhetorics of inequality, injustice, and the dominating use of power.