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The Cambridge Companion to St Paul (Cambridge Companions to Religion) [Paperback]

By J. D. G. Dunn (Editor) & James D. G. Dunn (Editor)
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Item description for The Cambridge Companion to St Paul (Cambridge Companions to Religion) by J. D. G. Dunn & James D. G. Dunn...

The apostle Paul has been justifiably described as the first and greatest Christian theologian. His letters were among the earliest documents to be included in the New Testament and, as such, they influenced Christian thinking from its very beginning. The Cambridge Companion to St. paul provides an important assessment of the apostle as well as a new appreciation of his continuing contemporary significance. With eighteen chapters written by a team of well-known international Pauline specialists, the collection will have wide appeal and be an invaluable point of departure for subsequent studies.ContentsIntroduction James D. G. Dunn Part I. Paul's Life and Work: 1. Paul's life-Klaus Haacker 2. Paul as missionary and pastor-Stephen C. Barton Part II. Paul's Letters: 3. 1 and 2 Thessalonians- Margaret M. Mitchell 4. Galatians- Bruce Longenecker 5. 1 and 2 Corinthians- Jerome Murphy-O'Connor6. Romans- Robert Jewett7. Philippians- Morna Hooker8. Colossians and Philemon- Loren Stuckenbruck9. Ephesians- Andrew T. Lincoln10. The Pastoral Epistles- Arland J. HultgrenPart III. Paul's Theology: 11. Paul's Jewish presuppositions- Alan F. Segal12. Paul's gospel- Graham N. Stanton13. Paul's christology- L. W. Hurtado14. Paul's ecclesiology- Luke Timothy Johnson15. Paul's ethics- Brian RosnerPart IV. St. Paul16. Paul in the second century- Calvin J. Roetzel17. Paul's enduring legacy- Robert Morgan18. Contemporary perspectives on Paul- Ben Witherington III

Publishers Description
The apostle Paul has been justifiably described as the first and greatest Christian theologian. His letters were among the earliest documents to be included in the New Testament and, as such, they shaped Christian thinking from the beginning. As a missionary, theologian and pastor Paul's own wrestling with theological and ethical questions of his day is paradigmatic for Christian theology, not least for Christianity's own identity and continuing relationship with Judaism. The Cambridge Companion to St Paul provides an important assessment of this apostle and a fresh appreciation of his continuing significance today. With eighteen chapters written by a team of leading international specialists on Paul, the Companion provides a sympathetic and critical overview of the apostle, covering his life and work, his letters and his theology. The volume will provide an invaluable starting point and helpful cross check for subsequent studies.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Cambridge University Press
Pages   324
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 5.9" Height: 1"
Weight:   1.15 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 14, 2011
Publisher   Cambridge University Press
Edition  New  
Series  Cambridge Companions to Religion  
ISBN  0521786940  
ISBN13  9780521786942  

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(A review of The Cambridge Companion to St Paul, James D.G. Dunn, Editor: Cambridge, United Kingdom (Cambridge University Press, 2003)

This review first appeared in the Biblical Theology Bulletin and has been published in a collection of reviews and articles, That's What I'm Talking About (Nativa 2008). THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT

This volume is one in a series of "Companions to Religion" which the publisher has been producing since 1997. Ten volumes have appeared with eight or more in progress. The book is composed of 18 essays, plus an excellent introduction by the editor. The topics include Paul's life and work, Paul's theology, a section entitled "St Paul" (which contains three essays devoted to Paul in the second century, Paul's legacy, and contemporary perspectives on Paul) and a section devoted to Paul's theology (which treats Paul's Jewish presuppositions, his gospel, christology, ecclesiology and ethics). Eight essays take up the Pauline letters, both of disputed and undisputed authorship, as well as the Pastorals. Not all of the contributions can be evaluated in this review.

Considered together, these offerings accord with what could be called the British approach to Paul, that is, cautious scholarly conclusions founded on academic rigor. The essayists are not all British but all of their expositions are measured, well stated summations of a middling to moderately conservative treatment of Paul. Nothing wrong with that, but that is what you get in this book.

James Dunn's introduction deftly summarizes much prior scholarship and suggests where research seems to be headed, primarily, Dunn thinks, into the areas of first century CE sociology and social dynamics. Dunn also anticipates (p. 11) new assessments, which will focus on Paul's ethics, Jewish mysticism, and the balance between divine initiative and human response in Paul's theology. The editor remarks (p. 12) upon what he describes as a "more radical" approach to Paul as exemplified first by Karl Barth's denigration of the so called History of Religions approach to Paul, and then by J. Louis Martyn's 1997 Galatians commentary. Dunn places Martyn upon the heights occupied by Karl Barth, because both want "to hear afresh the Gospel of Paul in all its raw power and offensiveness." This remark suggests to this reader that some important scholarly perspectives about Paul may have been left out of this volume. Barth and Martyn, theological high-wire acts, deserve more attention than they receive here. Barth's Romans did not even merit inclusion in the bibliography. Although Robert Morgan's brilliant essay on Paul's legacy (discussed below) partly corrects this volume's neglect of the results of earlier investigations, no scholar who might be described as "radical" is among the contributors to this volume.

Dunn singles out E. P. Sanders' emphasis upon Paul's debt to his Jewish heritage. Professor Dunn has himself contributed significantly to this "new perspective" by suggesting that Paul's primary dispute with Judaism was its refusal to extend covenant status to Gentiles. Not surprisingly, Dunn proposes (p. 10) his own conclusion as preferable to Sanders, who, Dunn claims, sees Paul as confused.

Ben Witherington assesses the state of Pauline studies today and takes note of four areas where much has been written: Jewish perspectives, feminist and liberationist perspectives, rhetorical studies and Paul's letters as scripture, to which Witherington adds his own critique. I wish Witherington had not felt it necessary to compliment (p. 260) Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza for her careful research. None of the male scholars he considers are treated in this patronizing manner. Instead, Witherington, or someone in this survey volume, ought to have addressed the faddishness of Pauline studies. Scholars in this field seem to fix upon a notion not because it builds upon previous discoveries but because the idea is simply a new but not necessarily a better way of recasting the fairly limited textual material. Narrowly erudite - even well packaged - restatements cannot expect a wide reading or a long shelf life, especially if they are not connected to earlier work.

A handful, at least, of arresting and idiosyncratic earlier perspectives on Paul are important and should not be neglected. Only two of the contributors to this volume, for example, make even a passing reference to Ernst Käsemann. The best answer to the neglect of Käsemann or any particular scholar is, of course, that this volume is a companion to the Apostle Paul and not to Käsemann. But in that case, an essay which neglects compelling and enduring observations by prior scholarship must stand on its hind legs and howl pretty convincingly all by itself.

The essays on Paul's life and missionary career (by Klaus Haacker and Stephen Barton, respectively) suffer from a tendency to give Acts greater weight than deserved as a source for the historical Paul. The relationship between Acts and the letters requires more nuance than perhaps is allowed in a summary treatment of Paul's life. Nevertheless, one would have expected the influence of Dibelius, John Knox, Bornkamm, Hans Conzelmann and Ernst Haenchen to have been more heavily felt. That Acts represents a Lukan and not a Pauline perspective seems to this reader to have been long ago established. Haacker does suggest certain episodes in Acts may have been "invented" and "some historical details" in Acts "remain doubtful" (p. 31) but he also believes (p. 19) Acts provides "historical knowledge." True. But about Paul? Burton assigns (p. 43) historicity to certain vignettes in Acts, such as the characterization of Paul as an exorcist. This observation demonstrates that once Acts rather than the letters is chosen as the first compass point to Paul, the further you travel the loster you will get.
Barton (p. 34) and Haacker (p. 19) take note of Paul having engaged in persecution of the Jesus messianists but they draw no inferences.

L. W. Hurtado, in his lucid treatment of Paul's christology, does of course acknowledge (p. 188) that Paul confessed his attempts to "destroy" the messianists (Gal 1:13). Hurtado sees this as an occasion for much theological reflection by Paul, who was compelled, after his conversion, to reappraise his stance towards a "sect" he had previously considered "very dangerous" (p. 188). But absent from Hurtado, and from this volume is a consideration of the likelihood that Paul encountered crippling credibility problems among the messianists because of his past abuse of them. It is as if Paul's behavior in the very recent past left no impact at all among the messianic adherents he had tried to wipe out.

In his essay on Galatians, Bruce Longenecker concludes (p. 67) that, at Paul's conversion, "God took hold of Paul's life and made it an arena in which Christ himself became embodied." Writing of this flavor is not exegetical or even interpretative but rather sermonic. What, for example, are we to make of Paul's demand (Gal 4:21-31) that his antagonists in Galatia be cast out, as were the allegorical Hagar and her child? Is Paul's insistence upon the exclusion of persons the embodiment of Christ? Well, no. According to Longenecker, Paul is conducting a "playful reconfiguration of the scriptural story" (p. 72). Playful? Paul certainly is freely reordering the tradition but he is not playing games. I doubt if anyone can invoke a principle of interpretation in support of the proposition that when a Pauline comment is impossible to elucidate as a gem of theological enrichment then fun-loving Paul must be kidding! We should be open to the words on the page and draw the correct inference: some of Paul's comments are abusive of persons; others are inapplicable as ethical guide stars.

Brian Rosner's summary treatment of Paul's ethics does not get below the surface. It is superficially misleading to suggest that Paul merely counseled against "personal revenge" (p. 215) and favored "non-retaliation" as "the way of the cross" (p. 219). This overlooks the vitriolic Paul of Galatians who pronounced "Anathema!" upon his opponents and who hoped they would slash off their own penises. (Gal 1:8,9; 5:12).

Jerome Murphy O'Connor writes with magisterial command of the Corinthian material. His mastery lends heft to his thoughtful conclusions (p. 82) that Paul did not write I Cor 14:34-35 and that there is "no logic" in Paul's argument for the resurrection of the crucified Jesus. Unfortunately, this essay is marred by the still-too-common scholarly caricature of first century CE Judaism, whose adherents, Murphy O'Connor asserts (p. 76), suffered from "blind obedience to the commandments of Moses," which result in a "selfish inward-looking existence."

Robert Jewett's cogent treatment of Romans is thought provoking at a number of points. For example, Jewett asserts (p. 93) the letter is better understood as a "missionary document, not an abstract theological treatise." But this characterization of Romans is not entirely satisfactory as it does not fully account for all of the themes in the letter. In addition to looking for help in putting together a missionary campaign to Spain, Paul may have had other reasons to write to the Christians in Rome, including the desire to rehabilitate his reputation and to put into fixed form a thematic statement of his principles. Romans is a missionary document but it is sent to the already missionized.

Jewett detects (p. 92) what he calls Paul's reversal of "barriers of honor and shame in Greco-Roman culture." Jewett repeatedly alludes (pages 94, 95, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101) to the honor-shame convention and goes so far as to identify (103) evidence in Romans of an "early Christian revolution in the honor and shame system." The honor-shame hypothesis merits both a more detailed explication than it receives here and a citation to its source, if there is one other than Jewett. In fact, Jewett cites no secondary sources at all.

The challenge of summarizing Paul's opaque arguments may have been complicated by Jewett's efforts to combine his précis of Romans with his embrace of the honor-shame hypothesis. Take Romans 7. Is it the case, as Jewett argues with reference to 7:19, that Paul became frustrated when his "zealous obedience" proved unable to produce "the good" (p. 97)? This conclusion sounds as an echo of Karl Barth's thunderous announcement in his commentary that Religion is Paul's great nemesis. But the focus on zealotry does not pay close enough attention to the assignation analogy in Romans 7:1-3.

The assignation analogy sets up Paul's argument, in the balance of the chapter. The humiliating, driving urgency of primal wanting is the antagonist Paul has in mind in Romans 7. Picture Paul or the designated letter-reader in Rome declaiming such easily-dramatized and emotionally fraught statements as "I am carnal!" "I don't know what I am doing!" "I do not do what I want!" "I hate what I do!" "Good is what I want to do -- but evil is what I actually do!" (vv. 14, 15, 19). These pleading, convulsive, defensive outcries ring in the ears not as the language of religion or of zealotry but as the language of passion.

Reminding the hearers of the hypothetical sexual adventurism Paul had just mentioned (vv. 1-3) and condemned (v.5), these emotional outbursts are an anguished acknowledgement that one's own conduct (from Paul's point of view) is both incomprehensible and hateful. Romans 7, therefore, cannot be explained as an expression of regret about the fruitlessness of a new-found zealotry. We know from other statements that Paul's all-consuming new devotion to an executed and resurrected Messiah commended to him a zealous demeanor, just as before - when he went after (Gal 1:13) the Messianists.

Alan Segal's sweeping explanations of Paul's Jewish "Presuppositions" are notably handicapped by limitations of space. A number of Segal's assertions require refinement or reinforcement, which is not given them here. Can we say, with Segal and without qualification, that Paul "continued to see himself as Jewish after his conversion to Christianity" (p. 161)? Then, precisely how is it that Paul's arguments are "distinctly Christian" though of a "particularly radical variety" (p. 163)? Is it the case that the pre-Christian Paul committed himself to "stamping out those who disagreed with him" because he "distrusted Gentiles and disliked any deviation as heresy" (p. 170)?

A half century ago, H.J. Schoeps took a very sharp trowel to this same ground in Paul, The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961). According to Schoeps, the messianic movement centered upon Jesus did not collapse "in despair, resignation or absurdity" because of Paul. (Paul, p. 120). This outcome was accomplished, Schoeps says, by way of Paul's exaltation of the Messiah "beyond all human proportions to the status of real divinity," which exaltation Schoeps sees as a "radical un-Jewish element" (Paul, p. 149) in Paul. According to Schoeps, in an assertion that may support Sanders against Dunn (see discussion above), Paul "was perhaps unable to perceive" Torah as indispensable to the Covenant (Paul, p. 213). Schoeps' ideas continue to be too important to be ignored.

Did Paul promote Jesus to a status of co-equal divinity with the God of the Hebrew scriptures? Or did Paul, after he joined the messianists and took a leading role in the mission to Gentiles, find the exaltation of Jesus already among their beliefs? In a thoughtful and fair-minded essay on Paul's christology, L. W. Hurtado credits (p. 196) Paul with elevating Jesus beyond messianic standing to divine status. Hurtado also believes (p. 191) the notion of Jesus "divine sonship" cannot be said to derive from "pagan ideas." Why not? Because the references to Jesus as God's son are "concentrated in Romans and Galatians" and therefore appear "where Paul is in most intense and sustained dialogue with the Jewish tradition." But the fact that Paul is in dialogue with "the Jewish tradition" in Galatians and Romans does not require the conclusion that Paul's designation of Jesus as God's son cannot come from "pagan ideas."

Luke Timothy Johnson's assignment in this volume is to treat Paul's ecclesiology. He does so with admirable clarity. But choices have to be made. In order to cover all of the "Pauline collection" (p. 211) Johnson takes up themes in the disputed letters and the pastorals, which he sees as "genuine lines of continuity" (p. 199) in all of the letters. This approach leads to very general conclusions (p. 211), as Johnson is obliged to place a reduced emphasis upon certain motifs found only in the undisputed letters, such as Paul's choleric insistence upon his personal authority and his neglect of any reference to a hierarchy beyond the local assembly.

Johnson maintains that "God is capable of acting outside God's own scriptural precedents" (p. 202). Paul certainly felt this way and was compelled more than once to defend himself in response to the question it raises: who has the authority to decide when God has acted? The ordered ecclesiastical response to this question, beginning shortly after Paul's death if not before, is that a structure external to the local community was required. This is the only conceivable development if due account was to be taken of the need for doctrinal and scriptural consensus, resistance to regional and not simply local persecution, institutional survival beyond one or two generations and the prevalence of new "prophets," who claimed to mediate the Spirit to the little congregations they visited.

As C. J. Roestzel suggests in his cogent essay on Paulinists in the Second Century CE, Paul as Establishmentarian was invoked over against interpreters such as Marcion who wanted to use Paul's statements to disconnect faith in Jesus Christ from history. Ironically enough, the various gyrations upon his legacy by ecclesiastically-minded thinkers permitted the perplexing letters of the apocalyptically-minded Paul to survive and enter the canon.

What does this rich volume offer in the way of an assessment of Paul's legacy? Each of the essays may be said to make a contribution here, but special attention is owed to Robert Morgan's splendid essay. Morgan's exposition is both perceptive and wise. He points out that the source of the continuing power of Paul's legacy is not the influence of his letters upon Christian doctrine but the fact that the letters "partly constitute this religion" (p. 242).

The exegesis of Paul's letters attends to his legacy not primarily through technical details but through interaction "with the practice of the religion" (p. 242). Morgan lays creative emphasis upon "the canonical factor" (p. 244) of the letters and argues, convincingly, that historical study and interpretation of Paul is "transient" because what endures are "the epistles themselves" (p. 246). This may explain why Pauline scholarship may appear faddish. It is inherently provisional and contingent (see discussion above). Each generation requires restatements of different aspects of Paul's legacy. Morgan suggests the impact of Paul's letters is likely always to be mediated through faith. Paul would probably be indifferent to the fact that the letters are "public property" in our post-theistic world "unless he thought that by becoming a post-theist to the post-theists he might by all means save some" (p. 254).

This review first appeared in the Biblical Theology Bulletin and has bee published in a collection of reviews and articles, That's What I'm Talking About (Nativa 2008).
An excellent overview of current debates  Jun 24, 2004
This collection of essays is a fine collection, offering challenges to interpretations of Paul that have dominated Western Protestant Christendom since the Reformation. I only have one caveat to offer. Many seem to have as a particular, though implicit, target the so-called 'Lutheran Paul.' The previous reviewer writes, in a concise precis of this critique, 'Rather than preach a reductive "doctrine of justification", Paul emerges from his letters (via this book) as being someone who has a rather mystical understanding of the eucharist as union, sees salvation as pertaining to a particular community (not merely individuals), and preaches "justification" as being far more than a type of legal status: it is being brought into the family of God (via baptism) as a child of God, participating now in God's new work in the world.' There is only one problem - with a little nuance here and there, that is precisely the Lutheran understanding of Justification in its relation to the Incarnate Christ's Person and Work. In short, we would look at all that and say, yes, that's justification all right. So let this book enlighten you as to the many fresh readings of Paul that you can find out there, but realize that the putative target of many critical challenges is in fact a straw man. In fact, if you're not careful it just might make you a Lutheran.
Excellent  Feb 18, 2004
I have never taken the time to study St. Paul; having read both the letters of Paul and the deutero-Pauline letters in the New Testament, this book comes as a welcome next step in understanding him. As those who have read him know, Paul is not always the easiest to follow, especially given his intricate weaving together of different styles of thought within his letters: Pharisaic/Rabbinic, Hellenistic, apocalyptic and early Christian.

This book covers what you would expect a "companion" to cover: Paul's life and context, historiographical issues, his letters and his purported letters (the "deutero-Pauline epistles": those letters in the New Testament that most scholars do not believe were written by Paul). However, several other essays whose topics might be unexpected - such as interpretations of Paul in the second century (the most enjoyable and fascinating essay in the book for this particular reader) - also find their way into the book.

While many simply see Paul as some sort of proto-Reformation-era de-/re-former (a la Luther), this book moves beyond these tired (and, it would seem at this point, largely incorrect) interpretations of Paul. Paul is not so easily reduced to a late-Medieval Roman Catholic reformer; he stands - however ambiguously and uncomfortably (for us no less than him!) - without such hermeneutical concealing. Rather than preach a reductive "doctrine of justification", Paul emerges from his letters (via this book) as being someone who has a rather mystical understanding of the eucharist as union, sees salvation as pertaining to a particular community (not merely individuals), and preaches "justification" as being far more than a type of legal status: it is being brought into the family of God (via baptism) as a child of God, participating now in God's new work in the world. The reduction of Paul to legal[-istic?] terminology fails to see him as a member of a community who preached to and from that community; it ignores the fundamentally relational element of Paul's thought.

This book is well worth the read. It is not difficult reading, but having read Paul first will greatly increase what you pull from this book. While it may be true that Paul has managed to upset just about everyone since the time of his writing, these essays are highly informative and helpful "for those with ears to hear". The Cambridge Companion to St. Paul engages and mediates him well.


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