Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lutherans are Losing their Grip....

...on Pauline theology apparently. I took a two and a half hour road trip for some continuing ed yesterday. I'm about as South West as you can get in the Iowa Northeastern Synod, so anything I want to do is going to be a few hours away. I went to a presentation by Dr. Phil Quanbeck II, Chair of the Religion Department, Augsburg College, MN on "New Perspectives on Paul"

So apparently Lutherans have pretty much dominated Pauline interpretation up until recently. 

Unfortunately Lutherans have not done much in this area recently and there's some new folks in town like N.T. Wright and Dominic Crosson who are suggesting (horrors!)-- that justification was not the central concern of Paul.

This new perspective pays more attention to the context of Roman imperial propaganda, Paul as a rhetorician and the social world of Pauline congregations, as well as the importance of honor and shame in Mediterranean culture.

I had been thinking about doing my summer Bible Study on Romans and now I think I will for sure. I'll pick up Wright's book on Paul. I think there is something to his insight that Paul is staking a claim for the Lordship of Christ over and against the claims of Caesar. 

A couple of summers ago I did a study on Revelation and that seemed to be a clear theme as well. I was also found interesting Paul's use of "ekkelisa" is a town council - a political union where there would be free speech and open discussion. Another blatant slap against the Empire. Not exactly what we think of when we read "church".

I'm also intrigued by the work that compares Paul's writings to the standards of rhetoric at the time...if you look at it in terms of logical arguments he's making - it seems less like a lot of run on sentences that can drive you crazy.

And seeing Romans Romans 1-5 in the light of Mediterranean concepts of honor and shame is very helpful especially if you translate "hope does not disappoint us" to "hope does not put us to shame" Our claim to honor is based in our future, not our past.

All of this is good stuff and I'm going to try to at least read Wright's book on Paul (Jewett's commentary is a little out of my budget right now).

 I don't think any of it negates the centrality of justification and grace. I think the Lutheran grip is still pretty secure...


  1. We read Wright's book on Paul in an undergrad class last year.