Reading: New Creation in Paul’s Letters – Chapter 5

Chapter 5 will deal with Paul’s use of the term in Galatians. More specifically, Galatians 6.11-18. Jackson notices the flesh-spirit mix and uses this to point to establish an eschatological paradigm in this epistle. There is also Paul’s boasting in the cross which hints at this. Now, for me, this is an interesting line, and a different way of setting the Epistle of Galatians. Further, he follows Winter and Hardin in putting the dispute in Galatians into a political realm in which Paul’s adversaries are those who are seeking to align the Messiah-believers with other Jewish groups in order to have it declared an official state religion. He goes on to counter recent and not so recent (Bultmann, for one) scholarship which creates an unnatural separation between history and the interpreter, and thus, destroys Paul’s cosmos, which, according to subsection B, includes spiritual beings, or the ‘elements’ of the universe.

Throughout the discussion of what cosmos means to Paul, Jackson is able to maintain the point which he raised earlier, that the New Creation regards both the individual and the world, especially given the Greco-Roman cosmology mixed with Jewish soteriology of the times. Paul was a student of his culture, so it should not surprise us that he used those concepts to preach his Gospel, and more, that he, unlike us today, used them appropriately, such as eschatology v. apocalyptic.

Jackson spends a considerable amount of time, almost to the point of ad nausem, detailing eschatology in Paul’s epistle. But, when it comes down to putting the Resurrection in a proper place, perhaps using a previously established understanding of merism, he fails, allowing Paul’s failure to note the Resurrection in Galatians 6 to go unanswered. This may serve problems later, but we’ll see. In my opinion, with so much effort being placed in making the Resurrection a high point in Paul’s eschatology, Jackson really lets this one slide by simply stating, “the fact that there is no direct reference to the resurrection in Gal 6 can probably be explained by the idea that this was not one of the planks of Paul’s message contested by his agitators (105).” But the crucifixion was? Here, he seems to not keep his thoughts clear.

Over all, however, the Conclusion serves to aid the discussion more so than the chapter. In this case, began with the conclusion which maintains the thought which Jackson wants the reader to keep in her mind. His conclusions are, in my opinion, the necessary ones due to his examination of the material. The New Creation is, for Paul, an eschatological shift in paradigm, in which the Cross of Christ is the defeat of the powers, including the Law, of the universe, resulting in a cosmic rejuvenation.

Reading: New Creation in Paul’s Letters – Chapter 4

Jackson picks up Roman Imperial Ideology in discussing the New Creation. He makes the point, early on, that Paul was writing alongside Rome’s developing ideology which was meant to secure a ‘new empire’ of sorts. As we see in the Gospels (Jackson specifically sites John) and the Book of Revelation, this relatively new idea that Roman ideology was playing a role in Christian writings is something which must be continuously studied. It was very much a concerted effort to make everyone Roman under the ‘new world order.’ However, as Jackson notes, there are parallels, but questions remain of why Paul would use the pervasive Imperial Ideology, even in his letters which seemingly had nothing to do with Rome, such as the epistle to Galatia.

He makes a point at the bottom of 62 that there may be unconscious correlations. By this he means that “Similar language does not necessarily imply borrowing, influence or engagement at any level at all. It could be that there were standard ways of speaking about certain subjects that are used in both imperial ideology as well as in Paul’s writing.” This fits well into examining the Gospels, in that some will go so far as to take a single word, find a match in the well-known Homer, forgetting that if Greek literature was learned, it was learned by Homer, and believe that they have discovered the literary source for one of the Gospels. Jackson is correct that borrowing words do not mean that the author has another author in mind; it just means that they use the same language. Jackson saves himself the worry of being proved completely wrong when he allows that while Paul may not be attempting to bring down the house of Caesar, he is nevertheless worried with the cultural implications of the ideology (63). The author seems to be open to making concrete generalizations, but seems equally aware that his thesis is not to be considered concrete, and thus leaves himself some wiggle room, as it were, for further discussion. He moves on, and instead of supposing Paul’s mission against Roman Imperial Ideology, instead focuses on how the idea of the New Creation would have been heard in the communities impressed with Caesar.

Jackson goes backwards, a little bit I believe, in connecting once again New Creation with the Cosmos. He seemingly connects Virgil’s thought of Rome with new creation, but doesn’t really provide the evidence that Virgil’s political poem could first be connected to Isaiah in any meaningful way. Granted, cosmic events were connected to the Empire in the ancient world, but I think that in trying to connect a similarity in thought between Paul and Virgil, at least here, over Isaiah, is stretching it. If anything, given the Pax Romana, Jackson should be focusing on a less-than cosmic New Creation, and one centered fully on earth. Throughout much of this section, Jackson makes the case more for a new world order, devoted to temporal things, than he would to a cosmic new creation, even if it was predicated upon the idea that ages come and go. He correct, then, to not the cyclical view of Roman history. And again, while he doesn’t want to go as far as some in declaring that Paul was writing with Roman imperial ideology in mind, he right to note that those immersed in the Roman culture would have been hit hard by reading Paul’s letters which declared that it wasn’t Caesar who did these things, but Christ.

All in all, this chapter is filled with a good amount of Roman history with the first Emperors, and what they used to establish their thrones. It is interesting, in that while some Emperors helped to ‘restore the Cosmic order’, the nevertheless did so while firmly rooted on earth.

Reading: New Creation in Paul’s Letters – Chapter 3, Early Jewish Literature

In this chapter, the author delves into Second Temple Judaism, which had had a chance to develop theology around both Creation and Isaiah’s New Creation. This, of course, preceded Paul’s use and no doubt informed Paul. He begins by stating that the situation of the material is diverse, too diverse, to write of a single social reason which produced the apocalyptic fascination with the idea of the New Creation. This apocalyptic thought found it’s way into Paul’s writing, and later into the Book of Revelation, but before them, there was the books of Jubilees and Enoch, not to mention the Dead Sea Scrolls. In all of this, he is attempting to establish the “broad social and historical framework” in which the use of the new creation them gave hope and group identity to the Jews.

To begin with, he notes the renewal associated with the eschatological outlook, something not always seen in the apocalyptic. He notes the difficulty of discovering the dominant theme in several of the books. One could be a total restructuring of the world while another could be a completely new creation – and sometimes, within the same book. Further, this is shown to represent either a cosmic viewpoint or what de Boer called, a forensic viewpoint. It is the same thing we see in the interpretation of Genesis and Isaiah, and the questions left. Is the New Creation cosmic or local? All of this is a set up to more unanswered questions. After all, each track as Jackson calls it, would lead to different interpretations and thus get the reader nowhere fast in determining the way in which Paul saw the concept. Fortunately, Jackson doesn’t waste our time on exploring this area, but does entice us just enough with the cosmic v. forensic image and instead moves to examine only the Book of Jubilees.

After detailing his four reasons for centering in on Jubilees, and most striking is the connection to Paul, Jackson moves on to giving a broader view of the identity politics of the ancient book. In this section, he interprets Jubilees through the social situation which gave rise to it. It was a time of failed promises, in which Israel had returned from exile only to find themselves under one regime after another until the Maccabean Revolt allowed them some measure of independence. This time was filled with great crisis and eventually saw the Romans coming in to restore order. But before them, there is the inescapable reality that Israel was now a hodge-podge of races with borders which didn’t match up to the biblical mandates. All of this was playing into the rise of the fervor of the new creation and helping to inform the developing interpretation of what exactly that phrase meant.

The next subsection’s title is revealing, “Reclaiming Identity through the Redefinition of Time and Space.” For those familiar with Jubilees, and if not then one should become familiar with it, the Creation story is greatly expanded and ordered in such a way as to give a certain primacy to Israel. No doubt, there were pulling from extant dogma at the time, but nevertheless, they are interesting. Jackson cites this as one of the cues in the book which points to the idea that Jubilees was devoted to resurrected the national identity. To preserve their national identity, familiar stories were reordered to tie certain events to specific doctrinal ideas. This created a pattern of history which Jackson aptly points out, and it is one which feeds into the concept of new creation. Jackson uses this building pattern to tie the Jubilee Year to both the cosmic and the anthropomorphic redemption. After laying such a foundation, Jackson moves on to tackle the specific phrase in Jubilees.

As one might suspect, the concept is filled with relevance to the Exodus story and the pattern of restoration. Again, and while this is not the point of Jackson’s work, the concept of, or rather, the very lack of the concept of ex nihilo is made present during Jackson’s review of the “renewing” of all of Creation in the New Creation. What is present, however, is the idea of cosmic renewal which is connected to Exodus and the cosmic war. I think that those who approach the concept of the new creation without an adequate education in the cosmology of Exodus, or Genesis for that matter, will tend to miss many of the important concepts of what is being spoke about when any ancient author writes of a renewing, or a new, creation, earth or creature, which Jubilees does. Of further interest to this point is the connection to Jerusalem which is made in Jubilees regarding new creation. As I wrote earlier, a temple theology would see the new creation centered, just as in Genesis 1, on the temple. Here, Jackson comes close to echoing that sentiment as well as when he relates that the new creation restores the covenanted position between YHWH and Israel (49), which is calls the “ultimate eschatological restoration.” Finally, he is right to, as it is throughout the recurring themes of restoration, to note that while there are nationalistic concerns, no one can divorce the spiritual issues at stake which raises the need for the new creation.

Leaving the Book of Jubilees, Jackson moves into discussing the Dead Sea Scrolls. New Creation as a phrase is not mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls, so Jackson bases his examination on the abundant use of the phrase “the end of days.” It is a rather weak section, built on admittedly unclear meanings and contested scholarship; however, the point of a dissertation, I’m told, is to push scholarship, meaning that sometimes, you have to be a little controversial. Still yet, I’m not sure of his thesis here. While the communities which contributed to the DSS look forward to the End with great vigor, many of them cared little for the Temple or a renewing of the world, it would seem. In the DSS, I would see the viewpoint as more apocalyptic rather than eschatological. Of particular connection to Paul, however, is the doctrines found there regarding the restoration of humanity, something humans lost due to Adam, at the return of the Messiah.

Reading: New Creation in Paul’s Letters – Chapter 2, New Creation in the Old Testament

Beginning with Isaiah, Jackson aims to show that when speaking of a “new heavens and a new earth” the ancient prophet was using a merism which entailed not just a New Creation, but so too a new covenant, a theme which would come into a fuller use with later prophets. This helps to connect Paul’s dualist cosmological and anthropological views to the Old Testament, at least for the author. Jackson notes that Paul, when speaking of the New Creation, is specifically using Isaianic thought.

Showing a certain conservative streak, Jackson acknowledges the scholarship which divides Isaiah into three previous works but insists that the book be taken as a literary united. This is not uncommon, even among more liberal scholars who note that such a neat division of Isaiah is defeated because the present work is replete with crossovers of shared thoughts, allowing that one final redactor, while may have been assembling different source material, nevertheless produced a final, edited, version of Isaiah which is not so easily separated. But, beyond the needs and deliberations of scholars, Jackson is correct that the early readers, including Paul, saw the work as a unified book and would thus have interpreted as such. Further, he is correct that the theme which connects humanity and creation is, even if it is emphasized in one section of the work more than a previous section, one which connects the whole of Isaiah. It is also this theme which Jackson chooses to investigate further as he believes it is related to Paul’s theologizing.

Of interest is Jackson’s description of the ‘new thing.’ YHWH is telling the exiles in Babylon to forget the Exodus story and instead, wait for the new liberation. This is also the meaning behind the ‘former things’, in that it is not speaking about the old world, but the old world system which was established by YHWH’s deliverance of Israel. All of this is playing into a conversation which the author is yet to have, and that of what the old Creation actually was. Was it the actual creation of the universe, or God’s intrusion on the world? That aside, Jackson’s point is that the New Creation is not a moment of eschatological end and start, but something related to deliverance which accomplishes new things while ending the sins of idolatry of the old world system. This idolatry takes center stage for several subsections, in which Jackson attempts to show that the New Creation is God’s deliverance of Israel out of exile and a re-establishment of a God-centered dispensation. I would also add that in reading Jackson, it is difficult to argue for creatio ex nihilo as YHWH is bringing about the New Creation from the material of the Old. Creation, then, becomes the track of history.

Granted, in one subsection, Jackson is apparently arguing for a more cosmogloical understanding of the New Creation, although noting that the possibility that it was locally focused, and that whatever the eventual understanding it would not have made much difference to Paul. Jackson’s only focus for the new creation is that it, in Isaiah at least, maintains “a strong connection between God’s people and God’s world. (30)” While it may not be important in the overall thesis, Jackson, I believe, misses the underlying Temple Theology of Creation in Genesis, which no doubt was intermingling with the New Creation theology in Isaiah. If we take Jerusalem, and perhaps even Israel, as the (location of) God’s Temple, then with the old Creation being a Temple Theology, the New Creation could very well be cosmologically based and locally, or rather, nationally based in that the national YHWH Temple would have served as the nexus of the cosmos between God and God’s world thus disallowing a dualist explanation of the New Creation. It is not an either/or type of interpretation, but one in which a proper Temple Theology is needed.

Beyond the obvious disagreements, Jackson shows that a deep connection between sin and the effects on the world exist. He argues, forcefully, that Israel’s sin has so upset the created order that something new, and something bigger than the Exodus is needed. This is what God is going to do in the New Creation. Further, he is correct to destroy our modern ideas of the separation of Church and State, which has in many ways infected the way in which we read Scripture (31).

Looking forward to chapter 3…

Reading: New Creation in Paul’s Letters – Chapter 1, the Introduction

The author’s, T. Ryan Jackson, work is focused on the concept of the New Creation in Pauline writings. As he notes, Paul doesn’t use the phrase much, only twice – Galatians 6:15 and 2 Corinthians 5.17, and yet we know from the amount of scholarship applied to that concept, it seems to be a prevailing thought during this time period. As often is not the case, the author actually takes time to state the definition of the words he has chosen to use. He will use the Pauline concept of anthropological and cosmological, which he then precedes to give a short history of how these two viewpoints developed in Pauline studies. Previously, he gives two modern scholars who have produced works pointing to one of the other of the viewpoints. The more familiar names of Adolf von Harnack and Albert Schweitzer are used to create the short histories of the development of the concepts. It should be no surprise to how these respective studies developed, or to what they led to, but the author is able to highlight the connections between them, which I assume will be explored in the present work. As a matter of fact, he notes that the division between the two has “muddied the waters” of Pauline studies, as Paul himself would not see a division. (5) He goes on to chide the non-use of “Roman imperial ideology” (6) and the lack of relevant Greco-Roman background in approaching Paul. Of course, this use of imperial ideology interests me, as it seems to be a secure way of examining the New Testament. Of this approach, he writes, “(T)his thesis maintains that a balanced approach to the apostle Paul’s conception of new creation will reveal that this idea is an expression of his eschatologically infused soteriology which involves the individual, the community and the cosmos and which is inaugurated in the death and resurrection of Christ.” (6)

After laying down the crux of the problem, Jackson then briefly tackles how the early Church saw the New Creation. Surprisingly, the early Christian writers wrote very little about it. Jackson is able to pull an allusion from Barnabas and several statements from Clement of Alexandria. But, the development of Christian thought around this phrase picks up steam around Gregory of Nyssa. With Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa and Chrysostom mentioned, I will be interested to see if Jackson, in mentioning the use of Roman imperial ideology will somehow connect these thinkers to Roman imperial theology of which these men were associated.

In the overview, as with most, the scope of the project is given, but chapter seven is already on my horizon, as Jackson writes,  “the salvation of the individual is specifically linked to the salvation of creation.” (12)

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Next up for Review: New Creation in Paul’s Letters: A Study of the Historical & Social Setting of a Pauline Concept

The more I read of the Apostle Paul, the better he becomes.

Ryan Jackson explores the apostle Paul’s conception of new creation in the light of a fresh consideration of its historical and social contexts. This work seeks to understand how Paul innovatively applied his theological convictions in his letters to three communities – in Galatia, in Corinth, and in Rome. The discussion contributes to the ongoing debate concerning the degree to which Paul’s soteriology should be viewed in continuity or discontinuity with the Old Testament.

It also offers a further example of how Roman imperial ideology may be employed in the study of the reception of Paul’s letters. The thesis proposes that Paul’s concept of new creation is an expression of his eschatologically infused soteriology which involves the individual, the community, and the cosmos, and which is inaugurated in the death and resurrection of Christ.

Review: Paul and the Early Jewish Encounter with Deuteronomy

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In Lincicum’s revised Oxford dissertation, we have what the author calls a ‘study of the study of Deuteronomy (p12) which is meant to place the Apostle Paul well with in interpretative methods commonly employed by various groups of Second Temple Judaism, and even some afterwards. Lincicum introduces his audience to the fact that many commentators throughout the centuries have sought to contextualize Deuteronomy for their own present need, which testifies to the greatness of the document.

The work is divided into two parts, with nine chapters. The first chapter serves as the introduction which is neatly wrapped up, especially with the discussion of icons which present Paul as the anti-Jew, in the concluding chapter of the book. This first chapter sets out the perimeters of study, which ranges from the third century BCE to the third century CE and is replete with many Jewish documents and sources, such as various scrolls from the Dead Sea, Josephus and even Philo. Here, he is concerned with Deuteronomy’s effective history (p10) which he postulates as when completed, will redress various issues with Paul’s use of Deuteronomy. Part of this effective history are the authors, some of them just noted, which Lincicum notes sees themselves as part of Israel (p11), as even the Apostle Paul does. It might have been more stressed by our author this point, especially in the beginning, although throughout the book, this motif of the interpreter(s) of Deuteronomy receiving the text for themselves is easily made. This introduction ends with Lincicum’s reminder that this work will enable us to ‘see Paul as one member in this chain of tradition’ and ‘thus enables us to view Paul as a Jewish reader of Deuteronomy’ which ‘casts light on the Jewish reception of Deuteronomy. (p16). He suggests (in chapter 2) that Paul, with his background and education’ would have patterned his engagement with the Book of Deuteronomy alongside the Jewish liturgical praxis. (p21). As the work moves alone, it is important to remember the deep connection between Paul and the Jewish communities of his day.

Chapter 2 places the audience in the ancient synagogue as Deuteronomy was developed into a liturgical text. This is important to understand as it was from this daily practice which Lincicum suggests Paul gains his interpretative understanding of the book. The author brings out several important, cross-study, facts, namely that Deuteronomy survives almost unchanged in the Septuagint, and that it was received widely in the liturgical formula from which Paul was able to memorize it (p49). This is noteworthy, and easily supported, as early manuscripts include ‘various markers for sense-division.’ (p27). Why is this important? Just as today, with verses and chapters, interpreters sometimes fall into the trap of interpreting only groups of statements assigned a passage status by another, either in printing or in liturgical drama. Further, as Lincicum points out, Deuteronomy was widely distributed in written forms, in various sects, which highlights the importance of the document in Second Temple Judaism. Lincicum notes that Deuteronomy, as opposed to Exodus (regarding the Decalogue), presents a majority of textual evidence for the use of the book, even at Qumran (p46-46). This evidence shows that Deuteronomy was well studied, memorized, and used as a liturgical text during Paul’s day, something he would have been a party too (p51, cf. p57)

Chapters three through five deal with the reception of Deuteronomy at Qumran, in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, and finally in the words of Philo of Alexandria. This is, with the exclusion of his work on Paul, among the most versatile and interesting. He covers a wide swatch of literary and socio-religious ground with the works he has selected. His strong points here surround his rather weak assessment of Deuteronomy in the Apocrypha. Further, he leaves out the Psalms of Solomon which as a work in close proximity to Paul should have been examined, even above that of Philo.

Lincicum has several positive statements which must be highlighted and remembered, especially as the reader approaches Paul, such as the use of Deuteronomy as a means to or from the Covenant (p68) at Qumran along with the writers of the Temple Scroll which places Deuteronomy into the first person (p70, cf p72-73; on page 74, Lincicum calls this process of the ‘representation of Deuteronomy’ as a ‘presentification of it.’ This allows the interpreter, such as Paul, to actualize the work to the demands of the present day.). As he often does throughout his work, he makes his grounding support well known and shows his familiarity with the source material, often times offering his own interpretations along the way. This portion of the work, sometimes hinted at by Lincicum is of a very real importance, namely that the (then-)current interpreter is allowed to take the Book of Deuteronomy and make the conditions of it present to them, and to respond to their needs, something which many have singled Paul (and other New Testament writers) out for doing, calling it an error; Lincicum shows that Paul was not alone in his interpretative style, and the reverse of the critics’ charges are instead true – that Paul was well within the Jewish tradition when he interpreted Deuteronomy through the lens of Christ. Lincicum points out that for those at Qumran (and Paul), Deuteronomy was able to be contextualized so easily because it was seen functioning as a ‘sort of historiographical eschatology’(p77). Those at Qumran, and Paul, were simply applying Deuteronomy as they saw fit, because that was how it was supposed to be based on the suggestiveness of the text (p83).

As I said earlier, the weakest point of his work is chapter 4, regarding Deuteronomy in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. While there is no doubt an influence of Deuteronomy in some of these works and letters (p86), Lincicum has a rather difficult time pointing them out. Be briefly skims Jubilees, II Maccabees, Pseudo-Philo (who’s inclusion, in my opinion, only serves to show Lincicum’s weakness in assembling texts for this portion of his work), Tobit, Baruch, and the Testament of Moses. Only the last work can the presence of Deuteronomy, unquestionably, be ascertained, but as these works are not truly interpretative, I find it rather difficult to accept some of the statements made in chapter four as pertaining to the whole of the work, especially Paul’s influence. While such works from Paul’s community, such as the Maccabees and the Psalms of Solomon may have yielded further clues and/or evidences to support Lincicum’s thesis, much of these text can simply be left out, of if the author is to inclined, strengthened considerably. I say this based on the fast that those at Qumran, Philo and the author(s) of the Psalms of Solomon were interpreting their present situation through the lens of Deuteronomy or at least offering modern interpretations of Dueteronomy, instead of, as many of these other books, merely offering clue of intertextuality by uninspired authors.

While not as strong as chapter three, chapter five offers a contemporary view (contemporary of Paul) of the way Deuteronomy was interpreted. He begins the chapter by restoring Philo into Israel’s interpretative history and showing that the ancient philosopher cannot so easily be termed ‘disinterested’ (p100). He easily explores Philo’s use of Deuteronomy, but more than that, how he perhaps saw Deuteronomy (p103). This is extremely important as the examination of Paul as a Jewish exegete nears. Lincicum notes that Deuteronomy was sometimes read in a literal sense (uncharacteristic of the philosopher) and was something that Philo admired (p109). In closing this chapter, Lincicum notes that ‘Philo has an overwhelming conviction that the biblical text speaks to his present concerns, and so he performs sometimes elaborate acts of correlation in order to bring that relevance to bear in specific situations’ (p116).

Chapter 6 is the core unit of Lincicum’s work, the one which deals exclusively with Paul’s reception of Deuteronomy. It revolves around three issues with Deuteronomy – Deuteronomy as Ethical Authority (6.3); Deuteronomy as Theological Authority (6.4); and Deuteronomy as the Lens of Israel’s History (6.5). Lincicum writes, “After long years of reciting, praying, memorizing, debating, teaching, and ordering his life in conformity with its precepts, Paul the Pharisee had an unexpected hermeneutical irruption in his understanding of Deuteronomy” (p117). Through these three sections, Lincicum is able to, what we hope, is once and for all secure Paul’s place well within traditional Jewish interpretation. The causes of Paul’s ‘hermeneutical irruption’ is not of scholarly concern at the moment, as Paul’s change in course is beyond the realms of the scientific method; however, Lincicum notes that Paul’s change of course is due to a visionary encounter with the resurrected Jesus, ‘whom he then recognized as Lord and Christ.’ At this moment, Paul’s Judiasm didn’t cease nor his use of all of his litgurical learning, meditations and daily study of the Holy Writings. Paul, instead, was a Jew who read the Book of Deuteronomy like others Jews and became a Jew who, like other Jews, read the Book of Deuteronomy but after this moment would read it through the prism of Christ. This ‘emphatically public book’ (p56) was about to be used to secure a new community which served one master (p117).

Lincicum states that Paul saw Deuteronomy as a ‘written authority with a voice whose relevance to the present situation is granted’ (p118). Very true. Paul was not one to cast Scripture as something long forgotten but used Scripture to show that what was currently happening (albeit usually in Christ) was exactly what Scripture was talking about it. (We note, of course, Matthew’s use of Scripture as well as 1st Peter 1, where both authors noted that while the ancient writers wrote, they wrote, in reality, for the here and now.) In this, as Lincicum notes, Richard Hayes has played a large role in helping to bring to light Paul’s masterful use of Scripture (echo, allusion and quote, of course). It wasn’t just a use of Scripture for Paul, but equally a respect of it. It was this use and respect of Scripture which Paul was able to carry over to his use of Deuteronomy. Throughout this chapter, as one should hope with a (revised) doctoral thesis the preceding explorations of literature are used to show that Paul was not doing anything new with Deuteronomy but was following along with his contemporaries in contextualing the book for the present demands of Paul’s Israel.

In sometimes startling language Lincicum is able to show the proper place of Deuteronomy in Paul’s interpretative life, such as a biblical corrector to Leviticus, “…the fact that Paul twice appears to use Deuteronomy to correct Leviticus in its view of the Law (Gal 3.10; Rom. 10.5-8)” (p126). (cf Lincicum’s statements on the Pauline contrast between Leviticus and Deuteronomy in Romans, p154-155) The reader is forced to examine the differences (which were not fully explored in this work, and indeed, this work is not the place for such examinations) between Deuteronomy and Leviticus or Exodus. It is not merely the codified rise of monotheism (p138-140 for the Pauline response to the Shema) which we receive from Deuteronomy but so too a different genesis of the Decalogue (p127). Of course, where Deuteronomy can be seen to correct Leviticus or Exodus, it may be said that Paul corrects Deuteronomy in usurping its literal context for the new understanding in Christ (cf 129-136 for discussions on execution, vengeance and muzzling the ox. For seeing Christ as the word of Deuteronomy, cf p157)

In dealing with a subject sensitive to theological leanings, Lincicum offers up a short section on Paul’s use of the Law in Deuteronomy 27.26, another moment in which Paul, following along with other Jewish interpreters, offers his own new context. Here, Paul alters the quote to extend the original meaning to the book of the law which allows the curse of the law not to be the Law itself but against those who disobey it (p144). This is seen, according to Lincicum, through the lens of Israel’s history, something he notes Paul would have found lacking. The curse was applied to Israel because the people had forsaken the Law and goes from there to tackle the Judaizers in Galatians, ending with the author’s own axiom that ‘Scripture and gospel are mutually interpretive’ (p145). Further, and in a note, Lincicum calls attention to Paul’s allowance of contradiction in Scripture by quoting Martyn who wrote that for Paul, “The voice of God and the vice of the Law are by no means the same. It was the voice of the Law, not God that pronounced a curse upon the crucified one.” (cf147)

He closes the chapter on Paul with these words, admonishing us to understand that Paul is reading Deuteronomy backwards, through the lens of Christ. “First, and perhaps most clearly, Paul reads Deuteronomy retrospectively from the standpoint of an apostle of Christ to the nations” (p167). He moves on to suggest that the second sense is to read Deuteronomy as the community expressed in the final chapters of Deuteronomy and from there, to engage the ethical requirements of the book (p168). Without understanding these lens, and while we may even get it right that Paul was another Jewish interpreter, we would fail miserably at understanding Paul’s intention of understanding Deuteronomy though the eyes of the Apostle. Paul, as Lincicum reminds us, is set well within the Jewish chain of interpreting Deuteronomy. The author’s work is a powerful reminder of that, and one which should help to end the examination of Paul aside from Second Temple Judaism.

Chapters seven and eight deal with Josephus and later interpretations offered by the Sifre and the Targums and ending with the conclusion. Examining Josephus for a relationship to the New Testament has become a (much needed) stable for New Testament scholarship, critical and lay alike. Lincicum’s brief examination here shows that Josephus treats Deuteronomy to the same propagandist flair as he does with much of history (p176, 178). Equally, it shows that Deuteronomy was of a great value even after the cataclysm of Paul and the beginning of the Christian Church.  Less of a staple is the Sifre and Targums, but Lincicum does the exploration well enough, although after the examination of Paul, much of this chapter seems to be a simple case of needed inclusionary material. What Lincicum does reveal, however, is the Deuteronomy continued to be important and contextualized in Judaism as both religions found their separation from one another to be widening and ever more permanent. In the conclusion, Lincicum draws together his material, calling attention again to just how important Deuteronomy was throughout the interpretative traditions, include Paul. This ‘catholic text’ (p193)  indeed spans time and interpretative space, and allows for itself to be contextualized to fit the demands of the present, perhaps a testimony to the genius of rhetorical skill (Deuteronomy is primarily a spoken word, liturgical text, missing the stories of Exodus and the rest of the Torah) behind the book (cf 197-198 for the message which the book mediates).

This is an exceptional work. It combines the necessity of studying Deuteronomy, Jewish interpretation, and redressing the error of placing Paul outside the mainstream of Second Temple Judaism which has done a great disservice to the Apostle and hurt the relationship between Jews and Christians. Lincicum scholarship will be the starting point for continuous study, as well as it should be, on how Deuteronomy was used by the early Christians, which should draw together a better picture of when and where the ‘Christian Church’ started. What Lincicum does well is to maintain his trajectory, give credible evidence for his thesis, and to write in such a way that is neither boring nor mundane. His weaknesses aren’t exaggerated, but there are a few, such as the previously noted poor showing of examining the Apocrypha, but this is more than made up with his attention to detail and his steady building to the core unit. No one is surprised by Lincicum’s facts or conclusions, but overall, this must be a welcomed inclusion in further studies of Paul and his use of Scripture. While he has his weak points, notably the examination of the Apocrypha/Pseudepigrapha and the inclusion of the Sifre and the Targums, overall, the work is a solid piece of scholarly examination without biasness into the theological mind of Paul who was himself a Jew, who sought to interpret Deuteronomy and the eschatological hope which it gifted him, through the lens of Christ.

You can find Jim’s more noble, and better, review here.

Essays on John and Hebrews – Evaluation

This is the third in a series of posts in which I am reviewing Essays on John and Hebrews by Harold Attridge from Mohr Siebeck.  The previous two posts have dealt with the author and contents.

As a doctoral student who has focused on Biblical Hebrew and Applied Linguistics, I am an expert on neither the Gospel of John nor the Epistle to the Hebrews.  However, as someone whose masters work was in Biblical Studies more generally, I am well-versed enough to be acquainted with some of the more important issues within the scholarly study of those two books and to be able to recognize a high quality work when I see one.  In my estimation, Essays on John and Hebrews is a well-balanced and expertly written text that any scholar should very much like to have as a part of their library.

The text is clearly well-balanced throughout, and a couple of easy examples spring to mind from the essays dealing with the relationship between the Dead the Scrolls and early Christianity.  Whereas more sensationalist authors often attempt to show some kind of direct link between the Qumran community and early Christianity, most of the more sober scholarship that one reads suggests otherwise.  Attridge fits squarely within the sphere of this well-balanced scholarship.  Rather than suggesting a direct link, Attridge surveys the Qumran material concluding that it sheds light on Judaism in the first century.  Thus, the Qumran material sheds light on early Christianity in the sense that Christianity emerged in a first century Jewish context, yet he does not propose a direct link.  This balanced approach is representative of the approach taken throughout the rest of the essays.

In addition, the text is quite clearly expertly written.  This is obvious enough from reading the essays themselves; however, the easiest illustration of this for the purposes of this review comes in the extensive bibliography and wealth of material in the footnotes.  The bibliography is 36 pages long and consists of primary and secondary sources in a variety of different languages.  Thus, the author’s perspective is not limited by the sort of English language bias that hampers some works.  In addition, one could gain a great deal of information about John’s Gospel and the Epistle to the Hebrews just from the footnotes, though it could also be easy enough to get bogged down there.  As one example, page 142 of the text consists of only 6 lines of main body text, whereas a good 4/5 of the pages actually consists of footnotes.  This is truly the stuff of an expertly written scholarly text.

If I had to pick out essays that I thought most helpful in my context, I would say that “Johannine Christianity,” “The Restless Quest for the Beloved Disciple,” and “The Gospel of John and the Dead Sea Scrolls” are good candidates.  Incidentally, these are the essays on introductory issues, which serve to help me, since in the area of New Testament studies I would only deal with general issues.  In terms of sheer interest, I found the essays “‘Seeking’ and ‘Asking’ in Q, Thomas, and John” and “An ‘Emotional’ Jesus and the Stoic Tradition” to be enlightening.  My only study of Thomas and stoics came in the form brief treatments in New Testament survey.  So, getting to take a deeper look was beneficial.  Some of the other essays did not capture my own particular interest so much, for example reading about “The Cubist Principle in Johannine Imagery” didn’t do that much for me.  But, I cannot say that there was any particular essay I read that seemed poorly written or poorly researched.

The bottom-line here is that this is, at least in my mind, the kind of book that any serious scholar on John’s Gospel or the Epistle to the Hebrews would love to have in their library.  But, this does bring me to the one fairly serious downside of the text.  Though this is a text any scholar might love to have, the cost of the text would put it out of the reach of many, at least in terms of having it in one’s personal library.  The lowest price on Amazon is right around $170, and Amazon’s own price is $257.50.  Thus, for many scholars, this might be the kind of book that you would want to request that your university or seminary library purchase.  However, if you can afford it, I highly recommend purchasing it for your own collection.

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Essays on John and Hebrews – Contents

This is a continuation of my review of Essays on John and Hebrews by Harold Attridge and published by Mohr Siebeck.  As suggested by the title, this book is a collection of essays on these two books Biblical books.

In terms of the division of the contents, the essays are not quite evenly split between John and Hebrews.  The main body of the text is right around 350 pages, with around 200 devoted the Gospel of John and around 150 devoted to the Epistle to the Hebrews.  This is somewhat reflective of the length of John as compared with Hebrews.

Each of the essays in this volume has appeared elsewhere.  This may make the text less valuable for those who may only want to read one or two of the essays. They might be able to xerox a hard copy or get electronic versions through a library.  Yet for those who rely heavily on Attridge’s work this text puts many of his important essays in one place.

The essays range from fairly general introductory matters to fairly specialized matters.  For example, the authorship of the gospel of John is the focus of one of the essays.  For someone like myself, who, either in the context of the university or even in the context of a church parish, sometimes has to give general introductions to Biblical books, essays like this one should be very helpful.  I have had the opportunity to read through that essay, so far, and Attridge appears to summarize much of the important literature.  As an example of a more specialized essay, Attridge looks at matters like the relationship between logos in the Gospel of John and in Philo.  This essay and ones like it may or may not prove useful to me in the contexts in which I teach, as most of the people that I deal with may not want to delve quite so deeply.

With this said, this book could prove helpful for the generalist and the specialist alike.  To conclude, I’m also providing the publisher’s description below:

Harold W. Attridge has engaged in the interpretation of two of the most intriguing literary products of early Christianity, the Gospel according to John and the Epistle to the Hebrews. His essays explore the literary and cultural traditions at work in the text and its imaginative rhetoric aiming to deepen faith in Christ by giving new meaning to his death and exaltation. His essays on John focus on the literary artistry of the final version of the gospel, its playful approach to literary genres, its engaging rhetoric, its delight in visual imagery. He situates that literary analysis of both works within the context of the history of religion and culture in the first century, with careful attention to both Jewish and Greco-Roman worlds. Several essays, focusing on the phenomena connected with “Gnosticism”, extend that religio-historical horizon into the life of the early Church and contribute to the understanding of the reception of these two early Christian masterpieces.

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Essays on John and Hebrews – Author

This is the first time that I’m reviewing a book for Joel’s blog.  But, in seminary, I was taught that a book review should consist of information about the author, an overview of contents, and a reaction.  In this post, I’ll give a bit of background information on Harold Attridge whose essays fill out this collection of Essays on John and Hebrews from Mohr Siebeck.

I am not a New Testament scholar, but my first acquaintance with Attridge’s work was in the HarperCollins Study Bible for which he was an editor.  When I was looking for a Bible to require for students in an Old Testament introductory course in a situation where the goals were more critical, this is the one that I decided on.  Knowing that Attridge had a significant role to play in that work gives me high expectations for Essays on John and Hebrews.

For those who may not be familiar with Attridge’s background, a great deal more information can be found HERE.  As a few highlights, Attridge has BA and MA degrees from Cambridge University, and his PhD is from Harvard.  He is currently on faculty at Yale University Divinity school as the Reverend Henry L. Slack Dean and Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament.  He has served as the president of the Society of Biblical Literature.  His list of publications is pretty incredible, though some of us might not be terribly familiar with them, as some of them seem pretty specialized.  At a more general level, his commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews in the Hermeneia series may be most widely known.

In light of Attridge’s background, if you are looking on a volume on John and Hebrews by a top-notch scholar, this text seems to be a very good candidate.  Up next, I will post an overview of the contents of the book.

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Quote of the Day and First Thoughts on Lincicum’s Work

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After long years of reciting, praying, memorizing, debating, teaching, and ordering his life in conformity with its precepts, Paul the Pharisee had an unexpected hermeneutical irruption in his understanding of Deuteronomy. (p117)

The causes of Paul’s ‘hermeneutical irruption’ is not of scholarly concern at the moment, as Paul’s change in course is beyond the realms of the scientific method; however, Lincicum notes that Paul’s change of course is do to a visionary encounter with the resurrected Jesus, ‘whom he then recognized as Lord and Christ.’ At this moment, Paul’s Judiasm didn’t cease nor his use of all of his litgurical learning, meditations and daily study of the Holy Writings. Paul, instead, was a Jew who read the Book of Deuteronomy like others Jews and became a Jew who, like other Jews, read the Book of Deuteronomy but after this moment would read it through the prism of Christ.

Lincincum aptly shows that Deuteronomy was an important text to the Jews  (and various Judaisms) at the time, being used in a variety of rituals in the daily life of the believer. Further, he notes the large amounts of manuscripts found and saved through antiquity, the use of Deuteronomy in the tefillin, and the manner in which Deuteronomy is weaved through extra- and non-canonical sources such at Tobit and Philo. Here, I think, however, is his weakest points. To show that writers used Deuteronomy is easy enough, but in several cases he is only able to show a basic structure which is similar. Not a large distraction from his work overall, but the weakest. What is interesting, however, is that Lincicum is able to how the rich and deep presence which Deuteronomy has with communities such as Qumran which regularly interpreted Deuteronomy to fit their present day needs (p81, cf Philo p116). Our author is even able to show that Philo senses that Deuteronomy is not merely a book among the whole, an intertext he calls it, but a book but itself (p115). His point then, which he makes on p56, that ‘Deuteronomy was an emphatically public book, and one which specifically  commended its own internalization  and memorization’ is important to remember as he proceeds throughout the rest of his argument. After all, if, with all the evidence that Lincicum is able to bring to bear, Deuteronomy is just that important to the various Judaisms at the time, then it is no surprise that Paul is as familiar with it as he is.

These are only first thoughts, with the review once I’m done.