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Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination

Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination

Ben C. Blackwell
John K. Goodrich
Jason Maston
Copyright Date: 2016
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    Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination
    Book Description:

    Since the mid-twentieth century, apocalyptic thought has been championed as a central category for understanding the New Testament writings and the letters of Paul above all. But “apocalyptic" has meant different things to different scholars. Even the assertion of an “apocalyptic Paul" has been contested: does it mean the invasive power of God that breaks with the present age (Ernst Käsemann), or the broader scope of revealed heavenly mysteries, including the working out of a “many-staged plan of salvation" (N. T. Wright), or something else altogether? Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination brings together eminent Pauline scholars from diverse perspectives, along with experts of Second Temple Judaism, Hellenistic philosophy, patristics, and modern theology, to explore the contours of the current debate. Contributors discuss the history of what apocalypticism, and an “apocalyptic Paul," have meant at different times and for different interpreters; examine different aspects of Paul’s thought and practice to test the usefulness of the category; and show how different implicit understandings of apocalypticism shape different contemporary presentations of Paul’s significance.

    eISBN: 978-1-5064-0909-2
    Subjects: Religion
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-viii)
  3. Contributors (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface (pp. xi-xii)
    B. C. Blackwell, J. K. Goodrich and J. Maston
  5. Part I.
    • 1 Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination An Introduction (pp. 3-22)
      Ben C. Blackwell, John K. Goodrich and Jason Maston

      Over the course of the last century, the place of apocalyptic has grown increasingly prominent in Pauline studies. Following from Käsemann’s now famous dictum that “apocalyptic was the mother of all Christian theology,”¹ it is now almost universally affirmed that Paul had an apocalyptic worldview. As Barry Matlock acknowledged (in fact, protested) some years ago, “‘Apocalyptic’ interpretation of Paul is, if not a consensus, then certainly a commonplace.”² Beyond this basic affirmation, however, there is little consensus regarding what the label “apocalyptic” actually suggests about Paul’s theological perspective. Indeed, lying conspicuously behind the employment of common language are many different...

    • 2 “Then I Proceeded to Where Things Were Chaotic” (1 Enoch 21:1) Mapping the Apocalyptic Landscape (pp. 23-42)
      David A. Shaw

      Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things termed apocalyptic, it seems good to take one more swing at it. As we do so, it is well to recognize that, like the KJV from which those opening words are taken, the term “apocalyptic” has a remarkable power to command loyalty and divide opinion. Such divided opinions are regularly expressed in the works of those who have previously “taken in hand to set forth” the history and significance of apocalyptic readings of Paul—ranging from those who find the term powerfully evocative...

  6. Part II.
    • 3 Apocalyptic as God’s Eschatological Activity in Paul’s Theology (pp. 45-64)
      Martinus C. de Boer

      In publications devoted to “apocalyptic Paul,” I have consistently used the term “apocalyptic” as an adjective, modifying the noun “eschatology.” The focus of my research has been Paul’s “apocalyptic eschatology.”¹ But I am not averse to using the term “apocalyptic” also as a noun.² When I do, I employ it as convenient shorthand for this particular form of eschatology.³

      In using the expression “apocalyptic eschatology,” I have profited from a threefold distinction propounded by Paul D. Hanson in an article published in 1976.⁴ He distinguishes “apocalyptic eschatology” from an “apocalypse,” on the one hand, and “apocalypticism,” on the other. John...

    • 4 Apocalyptic Epistemology The Sine Qua Non of Valid Pauline Interpretation (pp. 65-86)
      Douglas A. Campbell

      An apocalyptic explanation of Paul’s epistemology is one of the most important positions that an interpreter of the apostle can adopt; indeed, I will argue here that it is thesine qua nonof all further valid interpretation. But in my experience, Paul’s modern interpreters do not always grasp what is at stake here very clearly. Linguistic and historical-critical training are not, one suspects, the best preparations for intense discussions of epistemological warrant. So, I will try to clarify in what follows just what is implicit in an apocalyptic approach to Paul’s theological epistemology, and its importance. A classic essay...

    • 5 Apocalyptic as Theoria in the Letters of St. Paul A New Perspective on Apocalyptic as Mother of Theology (pp. 87-110)
      Edith M. Humphrey

      This chapter all began “because of the angels.” To be more precise, its catalyst was Paul’s throwaway comment, “because of the angels.” The phrase, coming abruptly, and as the capstone to his argument concerning women in worship, has long tantalized me. Frequently, the rhetoric of 1 Cor. 11:1–16 is explained solely in terms of cultural norms, so that the little phrase “because of the angels” is handled merely as an aporia to be solved by appeals to the legends of fallen angels and the like—more cultural baggage that Paul was carrying. This has never seemed quite satisfactory to...

    • 6 Apocalyptic and the Sudden Fulfillment of Divine Promise (pp. 111-134)
      N. T. Wright

      The space is too constrained, and the current debates too many-sided and wide-ranging, to allow for detailed interaction with other views. There will, however, be many times when Mark’s “apocalyptic” warning will be appropriate: “Let the reader understand.”

      Saul of Tarsus lived in a world of intense eschatological expectation, rooted in Israel’s scriptures and heated to boiling point by political circumstances. Jewish life since the Babylonian exile was a story of hopes raised and then dashed. The hope was for Israel’s ultimate rescue (after an “extended exile”), and the ultimate glorious return of Israel’s God. “O that you would tear...

  7. Part III.
    • 7 Some Reflections on Apocalyptic Thought and Time in Literature from the Second Temple Period (pp. 137-156)
      Loren T. Stuckenbruck

      The term “apocalyptic” has been widely used in biblical scholarship, especially since World War II. Since its antecedent was “eschatology,” the term has frequently been associated with notions of time, especially in relation to the ultimate conclusion of things at the end of history from a faith perspective. The simple equation of “apocalyptic” with “eschatology,” however, has rightly been questioned, primarily on two fronts.

      First, as Martin de Boer has emphasized since the appearance in 1988 of his monograph onThe Defeat of Death: Apocalyptic Eschatology in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5,¹ the term not only relates to time,...

    • 8 The Transcendence of Death and Heavenly Ascent in the Apocalyptic Paul and the Stoics (pp. 157-176)
      Joseph R. Dodson

      T. S. Eliot wrote, “All cases are unique, and very similar to others.”¹ And so it is with Paul’s apocalyptic eschatology.² Despite the “unique” outlook of the apostle’s worldview,³ many of its features are not without parallel, even beyond early Judaism. There were numerous works from various Mediterranean traditions in and around the first century containing accounts of revelatory experiences, disclosing visions of a transcendent world, and proclaiming eschatological doctrine.⁴ Many of these parallels with Jewish-Christian apocalypses have been noted by biblical scholars. Harold Attridge, for instance, surveys a number of such Greek and Latin sources originating from the Hellenistic...

    • 9 Second-Century Perspectives on the Apocalyptic Paul Reading the Apocalypse of Paul and the Acts of Paul (pp. 177-198)
      Ben C. Blackwell

      As scholars debate how Paul is an apocalyptic theologian, the evidence they most often utilize, outside of Paul’s letters themselves, is Jewish apocalyptic material, and rightly so. However, other material can provide a lens on this question because our contemporary debates over the nature and extent of Paul’s apocalyptic theology are not new in the history of the reception of his letters. Indeed, some of Paul’s earliest exponents faced similar interpretive challenges and opportunities, and it is this reception history that will be our focus here. Rather than walking through nearly two thousand years of reception history to assess contemporary...

    • 10 Some Remarks on Apocalyptic in Modern Christian Theology (pp. 199-216)
      Philip G. Ziegler

      When the intractable presence of New Testament apocalyptic was rediscovered around the start of the twentieth century, it was acknowledged to be at once an historical fact and a theological impossibility. The parousiac Jesus and his adventist Kingdom of God, the agonistic dualism of “the ages” and its imminent catastrophic final resolution, the mythic cosmic imaginings and martial metaphysics of salvation—while all of this was, no doubt, the very stuff of primitive Christian faith and witness, it was also now, as Feuerbach had earlier said of Christianity as such, “nothing more than afixed idea, in flagrant contradiction with...

  8. Part IV.
    • 11 Righteousness Revealed The Death of Christ as the Definition of the Righteousness of God in Romans 3:21–26 (pp. 219-238)
      Jonathan A. Linebaugh

      “I had been captivated with a remarkable ardour for understanding Paul in the epistle to the Romans … but a single saying in chapter one [δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ] … stood in my way.”¹ This autobiographical reminiscence from Martin Luther describes the experience of countless readers of Romans. When the phrase δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ first appears in Romans (1:17), Paul’s syntax—note the γάρ that links 1:16 and 1:17—suggests that his reference to “the righteousness of God” is explanatory, but the spilt ink (and blood) in which theWirkungsgeschichteof this Pauline phrase is written tells a different story: this part of...

    • 12 Thinking from Christ to Israel Romans 9–11 in Apocalyptic Context (pp. 239-256)
      Beverly Roberts Gaventa

      Sometime in the mid-to-late 50s of the Common Era, the Apostle Paul planned to travel from Corinth to Jerusalem, then Rome, and then Spain. In anticipation of this important venture, he wrote an extended letter to congregations of Christians¹ in Rome. The letter seeks Roman support, both for his encounter with those in Jerusalem who resist his understanding of the gospel and for his planned mission in Spain. Yet, the letter is also a proclamation of the gospel, as Paul fears or suspects that many Roman Christians (most, but not all of whom are gentiles) have not heard the gospel...

    • 13 Apocalyptic Allegiance and Disinvestment in the World A Reading of 1 Corinthians 7:25–35 (pp. 257-274)
      John M. G. Barclay

      The label “apocalyptic” is a scholarly construct, even when applied to texts that contain the matching Greek vocabulary. It is a termweuse to describe a cluster of texts, or a constellation of ideas, as defined by our own selections and configurations of the material.¹ For this reason, what counts as “apocalyptic” is constantly negotiable and inherently malleable, influenced by ideological preferences and theological trends.² It is a sign of health that New Testament scholarship undergoes periodic convulsions of self-questioning on the deployment of this term, and in the present, as on previous occasions, it seems best to re-ground...

    • 14 After Destroying Every Rule, Authority, and Power Paul, Apocalyptic, and Politics in 1 Corinthians (pp. 275-296)
      John K. Goodrich

      At the beginning of his now famous essay “On the Subject of Primitive Christian Apocalyptic,” Ernst Käsemann referred to apocalyptic as an “unfashionable theme” (unzeitgemäßes Thema).² Such cannot be maintained today. Following recent efforts to reconcile biblical and theological studies as interdependent disciplines, apocalyptic readings of the NT have come to abound in modern scholarship, and Pauline theology is unquestionably one of the primary fields in which fascination with apocalyptic has reached new heights.

      In the wake of this frenzy, biblical scholars have highlighted numerous themes they consider to be fundamental to the genre and worldview of early Jewish apocalyptic....

    • 15 Plight and Solution in Paul’s Apocalyptic Perspective A Study of 2 Corinthians 5:18–21 (pp. 297-316)
      Jason Maston

      As many scholars recognize, 2 Cor. 5:11–21 is teeming with apocalyptic elements.¹ The passage is eschatologically driven: the death of Christ has initiated a new era, a new creation that is set over against the old creation (v.17). One key way in which these two eras are different is the epistemological criterion. The old age viewed things according to the flesh, while the new creation sees all things in Christ (v.16). The soteriological aspect centers on union with Christ, particularly in his death (v.15). Paul stresses in a variety of ways that God has initiated this new salvation.


    • 16 The Apocalyptic New Covenant and the Shape of Life in the Spirit according to Galatians (pp. 317-338)
      Michael J. Gorman

      There is more than one sense to the termapocalyptic, and more than one way in which Paul was an apocalyptic figure. I have no doubt that he viewed the coming, death, and resurrection of Jesus as a disruptive, divine, liberating “invasion” or “incursion,” and that the termapocalypticcan be appropriately used to characterize that saving event. But Christopher Rowland has rightly drawn our attention to Paul’s apocalyptic autobiographical statements in Galatians 1:

      … for I did not receive it [the gospel] from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of...

    • 17 The Two Ages and Salvation History in Paul’s Apocalyptic Imagination A Comparison of 4 Ezra and Galatians (pp. 339-360)
      J. P. Davies

      In 1970, Klaus Koch published a short but polemical book on what he saw as a neglected area in biblical studies, entitledRatlos vor der Apokalyptik.¹ A generation later, this area is far from neglected, as the present volume demonstrates. But the question remains: are we still “clueless about apocalyptic”?

      Faced with the cloud of methodological confusion that surrounds it, some have considered abandoning the term “apocalyptic” altogether.² As tempting as this may seem, such drastic measures are unnecessary, especially as the current state of apocalyptic study is promising. While the seminal work of John Collins and Christopher Rowland continues...

  9. Index of Names (pp. 361-370)
  10. Index of Ancient Writings (pp. 371-391)
  11. Back Matter (pp. 392-392)