Paul the Apostle, His Life, Letters and Thought—Part Forty Seven


p. 707—- CONCLUSIONS!!

Paul’s thought is mainly a response to events and issues he faced in converting gentiles. He did not construct a systematic theology “Paul did not start his career with a full set of theological dogma that he taught each church”. Sanders adds Paul is just trying to save as many people as he can, not generate dogmas to guide the church in future centuries. [While I agree he was not a systematician, I would say that he thought about many things systematically, and was not merely responding to the crisis de jour. For example, it is unlikely that he had not thought about what would happen to believers if they died before Jesus returned when he wrote 1 Thess. After all that letter was written after there had already been martyrs like Stephen and James Zebedee. Paul’s thinking is not merely ad hoc nor merely generated by the events of the moment. Furthermore, Paul thought he was proclaiming the living Word of God, not merely his own views (see 1 Thess. 2.13). As such he believed his message had an enduring value and could be reapplied with some tweaking to a variety of situations, as is shown for example by the similarity of some of the theological and ethical teachings in a variety of letters e.g. Gal. and Rom. on righteousness, 1 Cor and Rom, on food laws).]

On the development and coherency of Paul’s thought see Sanders essay in The Word Leaps the Gap, pp. 325-50.

p. 709— the one time opinion of universal salvation in Rom. 11.32 which does not inform any of his previous discussions should not be called his ‘theology’. He wants the reader to take this mystery seriously but it does not explain what he said previously.

Sanders says Paul did not probe the relationship between Christ and God he simply says God sent his Son, and he does not tell us in what sense he was God’s Son [This agnosticism about Pauline Christology really does not do justice to Paul and to pronouncements like Phil. 2.5-11 or Rom. 9.5 or 1 Cor. 8.4ff. which in each case indicate Christ is part of the Shema, part of the divine identity of God. There is a similar problem with Sander’s approach to what Paul says about the Spirit].

p. 710– Sanders takes body of Christ language in 1 Cor. 12 to be just a metaphor for joining the congregation not having union with Christ. [But the activity here is by the Spirit, not by the minister, and it is into the one body where all are nourished by the same Spirit]. It is the food offered to idols discussion that prompts the issue of participation in the body and blood of Christ rather than participating in idol worship. So 6.15-16 and 10.16-21 are about individual union with Christ. Despite this, Sanders says

p. 712— “At this point, I would not say that Paul’s view of how salvation works is that individuals are in Christ in a mystical rather than metaphorical sense”

He adds that the Spirit is a supernatural being and is equated with the Lord in 2 Cor. 3.16, which shows the increasing importance of the Spirit in Paul’s thought. In Gal. 3.2-6 the Spirit is specifically the Spirit of God’s Son.

p. 713– Combining possession of the Spirit and sonship is very close to saying Christians are one with Christ, much closer than in 1 Cor. where we hear of the Spirit simply as a gift giver.

p. 714— Rom. 8 adds the thought of mutual indwelling the believer is in the Spirit and the Spirit is in the believer providing freedom, etc.

p. 715—the basic place and role of the Spirit is inside the believer. At first the Spirit provides gifts and guarantees the effectiveness of the conversion. By the end of Rom. 8 it provides for the union of Christians with Christ and establishes us with the status of sons of God, joint heirs with Christ

p. 716— Sanders argues that Paul only temporarily affirmed the realized eschatology of 2 Cor. 3.18-5.10 where Christians are being transformed now inwardly into Christ’s likeness, but he abandoned this suggestion in Rom. [This will not do. Romans 8 is clearly also about internal transformation as is Rom. 12.2ff.]

p. 718— he thinks that union with Christ through suffering begins to play a more prominent role in 2 Cor. 4 than in earlier letters. Paul uses only Jesus here, thinking of the sufferings of the historical Jesus in particular, his suffering, death, and res. “It is as though he wanted to emphasize his own personal connection, through suffering with the sufferings experienced by the man Jesus, before God raised him and made him Lord and Christ (Rom. 1.1-4).” The name Jesus occurs 143 times in the 7 capital Paulines, in only 8 verses does it occur alone. Jesus occurs some 11 times in these verses in these eight verses, and 4 of them are in 2 Cor. 4.

p. 719— bearing Jesus’ death and suffering is different from merely imitating Christ. One is not merely experiencing events like Christ’s but somehow sharing in Jesus’ death. Rom. 8.17 says we suffer with him so we may be glorified with him. But it would not make sense to say we suffer with the Spirit. Christians have the Spirit and they suffer, two different topics.

p. 720– Sanders sees growth in Paul’s theology, but not change of the sort that requires ‘retraction’. The development all has one outcome—

p. 721— the enrichment of the description of the inner spiritual life of Christians. Paul’s concept of the inner life of the believer grew, its less clear why this happened.

p. 722– The righteousness discussion does not fit naturally into the participation theology. Righteousness by faith was a polemical formula unlike you are all one in Christ. The former was useful in combating Judaizers who wanted Gentiles to become Jews.

p. 723— Righteousness by faith comes as a bolt out of the blue in Galatians, unlike being one person in Christ which arises organically in Paul’s thought beginning with 1 Cir. 6.15.

Sanders critique of Bultmann’s attempt to take the participationist language of Paul and transform it into existentialist demand that required a decision does not do justice to Paul who means what he says about union with Christ, the form of this world really passing away, and the end coming when Christ returns and we will be really transformed.

p. 724-25— He concludes by commending the essays by Richard Hays and Stan Stowers in the 2008 book written in his honor First Century Jewish and Christian Identities, (Notre Dame, 2008), pp. 336-51 and 352-71. He says he is not sure how to translate Paul into modern terms since we live in a different mental universe.