Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God– Part Ninety Three


p. 1504 revives Tom’s earlier suggestion (see n. 74) that by Arabia is meant Sinai, and so Paul went on a little Elijah tour after his conversion. This view I think is untenable. In the first place, the old Arabia a Jew from Jerusalem would normally refer to is Petran Arabia, which Josephus said could be visible from the Judean hills on occasion in good weather. Secondly, it won’t do to dismiss the fact that the Nabatean king Aretas was after Paul’s hide in Damascus, which had been part of his kingdom as 2 Corinthians 11.32 makes clear. An ethnarch working for Aretas in Damascus was certainly from the Arabia Paul knew growing up in Jerusalem.

Certainly Tom is right that Paul envisions not a centripetal approach to ministry (the Gentiles all need to take a vacation to Jerusalem to get saved) but rather a centrifugal one in which salvation goes forth from Jerusalem out to the world. But do we really want to say (see p. 1507) that Paul envisioned the Roman Empire as the last empire, which would inevitably be replaced by the kingdom of God already coming on earth? If that was Paul’s view, he was mistaken.

As Tom says on p. 1510, the Christian community could be seen in various ways, depending on the angle from which you look at it. It “from one point of view would be seen as a philosophy, from another as a koinonia, a partnership [Tom talks about collegia in this context], from another point of view as a new if strange religion, and from another as a new polis, a socio-cultural entity giving allegiance to a different kyrios” (p. 1510).

I completely agree with Tom’s point on p. 1513 that a covenantal framework is the best way to integrate Paul’s thought and praxis. “It easily incorporates both the sense of ancient promises and turbulent intermediate histories and the sense of a sudden irruptive and unexpected…new messianic moment.” It’s just we disagree on how to read those covenants, and whether we should talk about covenant renewal or just a new covenant. But he is right that covenant approaches are able to take account of both the participatory and the more forensic models of soteriology. It’s a both and emphasis in Paul.

Towards the end on p. 1516 Tom says “I hope that theologians accustomed to waiting a long time to see if any theologically useful crumbs might fall from the exegete’s table— to see if any good thing might come out of an exegetical Nazareth!—might find to their surprise, that this account of Paul is theologically fruitful, both in offering a new hypothesis as to how and why the discipline of Christian theology actually began and in proposing fresh lines of investigation about its central topics.” He need not have worried. There is plenty here to chew on, digest slowly, process, etc. We must leave you with one final quote (p. 1518):

“Paul stood in the middle, between Athens and Jerusalem, between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world, between Philemon and Onesimus, between history and theology, between exegesis and the life of the church, between heaven and earth.” While we do not stand ‘der mitte die zeit’ for Tom’s enormous publishing output, we may be thankful he got this ten year labor done. It will undoubtedly prompt many reviews and assessment, and I am confident in saying— all of them shorter than this one!!

Das Ende……