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Paul Beyond the Judaism/Hellenism Divide [Paperback]

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Item description for Paul Beyond the Judaism/Hellenism Divide by Troels Engberg-Pedersen...

This insightful book intends to do away with the traditional strategy of playing Judaism and Hellenism out against one another as a context for understanding Paul. Case studies focus specifically on the Corinthian correspondence.

Publishers Description
This volume address a fundamental issue of debate in New Testament studies, but does away with the traditional strategy of playing Judaism and Hellenism off against eachother as a context to understand Paul. This aim is reached in two ways: first in essays that display the ideological underpinnings of a Jewish and Hellenistic Paul in scholarly interpretations of him; and secondly, in case studies that illuminate issues from the Corinthian correspondence by drawing freely on Jewish and Greco-Roman contextual material.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Westminster John Knox Press
Pages   355
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.02" Width: 6.03" Height: 1.03"
Weight:   1.2 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 2001
Publisher   Westminster John Knox Press
ISBN  0664224067  
ISBN13  9780664224066  

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More About Troels Engberg-Pedersen

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Troels Engberg-Pedersen is Professor of New Testament at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. He is the author of "Paul and the Stoics", winner of a 2001 Biblical Archaeology Society Publication Award.

Troels Engberg-Pedersen has an academic affiliation as follows - Professor of the New Testament, The University of Copenhagen.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Bible & Other Sacred Texts > Bible > New Testament
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > Criticism & Interpretation
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Paul
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > General
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > History of Religion
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

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Books > General Interest > Literature & The Arts > Essays & Memoirs

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When applied to Paul and his environment, the terms Judaism and Hellenism are "strongly ideological" (page 3). So states the editor of this volume. And if true, editor Troels Engberg-Pedersen asserts, NT Scholarship should "give up altogether operating with the dichotomy." The Apostle Paul himself apparently thought the terms should be tossed. Paul wrote (Gal 3:28) "there is neither Jew nor Greek." But wait a minute. Paul is using the very categories he claims are no longer valid. What does Paul mean?

You will not find out in this book. Unfortunately, the essayists have been limited (page 15) to Paul's Corinthian correspondence. This restriction is bound to render incomplete the promise of the title of this volume. Even though the contributors have not given the evidence of Galatians and Romans the same weight as First and Second Corinthians, each one has to contend with the possibility that conceptual categories, even when dismissed as inapplicable, remain analytically helpful. The contributors recognize this because they have not followed the editor's recommendation that the Hellenism-Judaism dichotomy be discarded.

The essays are uniformly of high quality and nuanced in their approach to the "Judaism/Hellenism Divide." Wayne Meeks has supplied two essays. In one of them he lays emphasis upon the variety of cultural forms in early Christian groups and states (page 26): "The adjectives Jewish and Hellenistic are practically no help at all in sorting out that variety." Note that Meeks would limit his cashiering of the concepts to their use as adjectives. The idea is to get down to a noun. The other contributors found their own ways to traverse the "Divide."

Henrik Tronier, argues (page 167) convincingly, that Paul is adapting to an apocalyptic framework, concepts found in his Hellenistic milieu. The framework itself, Tronier correctly suggests, is just as much a product of that milieu as the concepts Paul adapts. But at the same time, Tronier says, Paul is to be "firmly situated" in his "immediate Jewish context," which is defined here as "Jewish apocalypticism" which is "itself a particular version and variation of certain basic ideas in the Hellenistic world at large, Jewish as well as non-Jewish" (page 167). Overlooking the circular confusion of this observation, Tronier goes on to assert (page 195) that Paul is concerned not about anthropological descriptions but about the source of knowledge. This insight, which is a significant contribution to the understanding of the fragmentary Corinthian correspondence, does not depend upon Tronier's previous argument that everything is "Hellenistic."

Between his everything-is-Hellenistic argument and his conclusion that Paul's main focus is to draw attention to his interlocutors' failure to think straight, Tronier suggests (page 168) that certain perceived dichotomies (religion-versus-philosophy, space-vs.-time, Hellenistic-vs.-Jewish/Christian world views) should be replaced (page 182) by a "cognitive dualism" between the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of God. This proposal is not convincing. The replacement of the older sets of supposed opposites by a single remaining dualism may not be an advance in our understanding of Paul. Paul himself thought and argued in dichotomous terms. He told the Corinthians, for example, that Jews need "signs" while Greeks "seek wisdom" (I Cor 1:22). The Hellenistic / Jewish "divide" seems still to be an appropriate way to think about Paul's own perspective and the contingent issues he confronted.

Margaret H. Mitchell focuses her contribution on Paul's efforts to win converts by way of a program of accommodation to the expectations of his missionary targets. Mitchell's attention is drawn to Paul's claim to be (as the occasion warranted) "all things to all people" (I Cor 9:19-23). Mitchell concentrates her discussion upon earlier interpreters of Paul (Tertullian, Clement of Alexander, Origin, and Chrysostom) as well as Paul's older contemporary, Philo. Mitchell argues that Paul probably was influenced by "Hellenistic traditions" though these must have been "integrated with other elements of his thought" (page 201) including "Hellenistic Jewish assumptions and reappropriations" (page 214).

Is comprehension gained by calling everything "Hellenistic?" Isn't it the case that early Christian groups "may be defined historically or sociologically in this way or that?" See Eduard Schweizer, (Church Order in the New Testament (SCM, 1961, page 95). Shouldn't the classification of these groups be seen as a preliminary and tentative exercise, which leads to a discussion of what was hoped to be created: a localized center for the celebration and worship of Messiah Jesus?

David E. Aune seems to assert (page 215), contra Tronier, that Paul's "eschatological or apocalyptic thought" is rooted in Judaism. Aune at first uses these terms interchangeably but then confuses this reader by speaking of "early Jewish apocalypses" as distinct from "Hellenistic eschatology" (page 217). Aune then once again merges the terms and states that "apocalyptic eschatology" also included "early Christian forms" (218). There is too much shuffling of adjectives here. Is this the result of editorial insistence that every contributor announce the demise of the "Divide?" The practical demarcation Aune sees is a more pronounced communal destiny in the apocalyptic (Jewish) form and a greater concentration on individual fate in the eschatological (Hellenistic) form. F.C. Baur, much criticized by two of the contributors to this volume (pages 18-19, 32-37), probably would have agreed.

Once freed from the need to array cosmological terminology along the Jewish / Hellenistic Divide, Aune delivers (pages 220-234) an original and helpful exegesis of 2 Cor 4:16-5:10. Aune is especially good at 4:16, where a Platonic antithesis (the outer container / the soul) is clothed in a metaphor of duality coined by Paul to distinguish the mortal, physical body from a person's enduring spirit: the outer person / the inner person. Aune believes the Platonic antithesis may have been mediated to Paul via Philo or (more likely) some popular platonic philosophy. In this, he shows he is in agreement with Tronier's contention, after all, that most everything in Paul can be said to be Hellenistic. Aune finds other evidence of Hellenistic usage and influence: "tent" (page 224), for example, is a vivid metaphor for the mortal body, which was "adopted by Jews and early Christians who wrote in Greek" (page 225). As examples of these two classes, Aune cites (page 313, notes 57, 58) Philo and Paul. Paul may certainly be termed a Christian writer but is he not also a Jew?

Stanley K. Stowers caveats himself into meaningless assertions about the "Divide," by stating (page 102) that Pauline Christianity "might in many respects have more in common with Hellenistic philosophies than with the traditional religions based in the landed aristocracies of Rome, Greece and Judea." Might is the same as might not. One suspects this conclusion has been tailored to fit Stowers' essay into the theme of the book. But why bother? Stowers earlier has said (page 100), "Even though Christianity [and what is that?] did not derive from philosophy in any direct way, but from Judaism, it shared the structural features that made it philosophy-like." My mother-in-law's apple pie is not a cherry pie but it sure is cherry pie-like.

Dale B. Martin faults (page 29) Martin Hengle for having concluded that the Jewish-Hellenistic dichotomy is inevitable as an analytical exercise. But it is, unless "Hellenism" is taken to mean something like The Dominant Culture and Judaism is taken to mean merely an aspect of the Dominant Culture.

Other contributors also strain against the old dichotomy but finally succumb to it. Loveday Alexander, drawing comparisons between Paul's Corinthian correspondence and contemporary philosophical schools, wants to conclude (page 126) "the categories `Jewish' and `Hellenistic' seem to be more or less irrelevant." More? or less? Which is it? Anyway, Alexander finally concedes there were, for Paul, "parallel systems" (page 126) and that between the two "the cultural authorities that Paul appeals to would be sufficient to identify him as `Jewish' " (page 127).

Philip S. Alexander examines the way in which certain ancient and medieval Christian interpreters perceived Greek influences to be dangerous to theology and thus countered them. But as to the period in question, P. Alexander finds (page 70) there existed analogies between "Greek and Jewish society." Alexander also deduces (page 71) "it was impossible for the rabbis to be Hellenized in any strict sense." If you have "Greek" society in column A and Jewish society in column B together with un-Hellenized rabbis, you have a Jewish-Hellenistic dichotomy.

After creatively comparing and contrasting Josephus and Paul, John M.G. Barclay acknowledges (page 163) Paul continued to employ the categories we are invited to discard; Paul's converts are "still properly labeled Jews and Greeks." Barclay adjusts this terminology ("Greek or non-Greek") just as Paul did but the dichotomy remains. John T. Fitzgerald draws attention to certain motifs developed in "Hellenistic politics" (page 244) which are associated with reconciliation. Fitzgerald thinks (page 242 f.) Paul took over and reworked these motifs, fitting them into his own system. Fitzgerald acknowledges along the way that "certain strong affinities between the Israelite and the Greek traditions should not be denied" (page 317 note 14). If you have both an Israelite and a Greek tradition, you have a dichotomy.

The old Hellenistic-Jewish "Divide" resists the garrote. Why? Because the dichotomy is serviceable. It will continue to be a robust analytical construct because it works. It works even in this volume, which is dedicated to its demise.

This review 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

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