Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Understanding Paul - one lay view

David Congdon has listed a set of 'models' of Paul's thought and asked a few questions.
  1. Justifying address-divine righteousness model
  2. Covenantal-salvation historical model
  3. Cosmic-apocalyptic model
  4. Mystical model
  5. Judaic-eschatological model
  6. Pneumatological-participatory model
  7. Christological-typological model
And these are his questions
  1. What is your preferred model for understanding Paul?
  2. Do you find my alternative list helpful in any way? If so, how?
  3. How might you augment or pare down or change my list?
  4. Do you have other examples of academic manipulation?
Here is one view of the lay of the land.

Seven alternate or coordinating 'models' are a convenient number for reflection. When humans get above seven, most of us lose track of where we are. We seem to have a three-bit memory. But that's for 7 simple things. None of the above is simple. Several are already composite. I am going to boil it down to 3 to start. It will get more complex because each of the three could be subdivided by 7 and each of those in turn by 7 more (giving us just under 150 discrete items to consider with the Apostle), but the top handle will be easier to grasp.

My top 3 are Jesus, Israel, and Law. At least they are for the moment.

Around Jesus cluster seven things:
  • son of David,
  • Christ,
  • gospel,
  • Lord,
  • Son of God,
  • Spirit,
  • resurrection
I read these from the invocation to Romans - and I think other epistles support one or more of these - e.g. Philippians on Christ/Son, 1 Corinthians on Spirit, 2 Corinthians on gospel.

Around Israel cluster seven things:
  • the sonship,
  • the glory,
  • the covenants,
  • the giving of the law,
  • the worship,
  • the promises;
  • the patriarchs,
  • the Christ.
Of course these are lifted from Romans 9 and seem to overlap with the first group - but with distinctions.

Around Law I am going to have a tougher time with a completeness of taxonomy:
  • leeway (1 Corinthians),
  • righteousness of God (Romans),
  • freedom (Romans 8),
  • purpose (Galatians 3),
  • fulfillment (Romans 7),
  • Gentiles (Romans 1,3,14,15),
  • Scriptures (1 Corinthians).
I won't push it down any further at the moment.

Now as to preference for DG's list:
  1. Justifying address-divine righteousness model - under Law-righteousness of God and Jesus-resurrection
  2. Covenantal-salvation historical model - under Israel-covenants and Israel-giving of the Law, Law-Gentiles and Law-Scriptures
  3. Cosmic-apocalyptic model - under Israel-promises and Law-freedom (Romans 8)
  4. Mystical model - under Jesus-Spirit and Law-leeway
  5. Judaic-eschatological model - under Israel-promises
  6. Pneumatological-participatory model - under Jesus-Spirit, Jesus-resurrection
  7. Christological-typological model - under Jesus-Christ and Law-Scriptures
I have to guess a bit from these titles but I suspect that
  1. will deal with traditional ideas from the reformation and justifcation by faith - It's true but it's more about God than us.
  2. gathers more to itself on first cut than the others 4 of my 21 subdivisions.
  3. is somewhat foreign to my thinking and early Paul (1 Thessalonians) [update: but see also 1 Corinthians 5:17 and the creation groaning in Romans 8]
  4. is where I am at - but my conversation with the Pauline corpus has been limited by my study of the Psalms these last two years. Paul told me he wouldn't talk to me till I had learned more of the thought process of his kin. His advice in Romans 8 and 10 (where he cites Deuteronomy) and 1 Corinthians 7 have all been formative for me. Romans 7 combined with the Song of Songs holds my understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation. Romans 8 (with Hebrews of course) invites a bold entry into the Holy. [e.g. Paul's 'I live yet not I']
  5. has as limited a perspective for me as 3.
  6. overlaps with 4 and 1.
  7. see 2.
Is this manipulation: yes - my wordle shows I am heavily focused on the one death of Christ for us and I am also readable through my story and through most of this blog as one who does not limit the spiritual to mind and thought. The Spirit is the Lord and giver of life to our mortal bodies or there is something else we should be paying attention to.

1 comment:

David W. Congdon said...

Interesting. Regarding #3 (cosmic-apocalyptic model), you really need to read J. Louis Martyn and Beverly Gaventa. 1 Thess. is actually the most apocalyptic of all Paul's texts, and the argument in favor of an apocalyptic Paul is found there, first and foremost, though augmented by Galatians and Romans.

Why your preference for the mystical model? That's the weakest one for me. Schweitzer's work on Paul has been roundly rejected by virtually all scholars of Paul, even though he is extremely enjoyable to read. Model #5 (i.e., E. P. Sanders) has much to commend it, and I would recommend reading more widely in that field. But model #3 is, along with #1, the most significant and helpful approach.