Books Worth Reading— Part One

Books Worth Reading— Part One June 2, 2023

Paul was a skilled rhetorician.  This is evident throughout his letters, but especially in the so-called capital Paulines, such as Galatians, 1 Corinthians and Romans.  But one question that gets raised in regard to 1 Corinthians is why in the world does Paul leave the discussion of resurrection until last, when, along with the crucifixion it is crucial to his argument throughout.   Timothy Christian’s fine monograph, done originally as a dissertation under me at Asbury Theological Seminary, and revised for publication in a prestigious Brill monograph series answers this question once and for all.  Paul is following the rhetorical dictates in regard to a difficult subject (difficult for his audience to understand much less accept), namely saving the bone of contention for last, and pursuing throughout the discourse a process called insinuatio— namely dropping hints along the way in preparation for a full discussion at the end of the discourse.  Paul will hint at the matter here and there, but reserve the discussion until the end, because for Romans and Greeks especially, the idea of resurrection sounded to them like ‘night of the living dead’, or the standing up of corpses, not some form of everlasting life.  Greek philosophy dismisses the idea of dead people being reanimated or further animated in a physical body— see for example the dismissive attitude of the authorities in Athens in Acts 17 where Paul mentions the subject and the coming judgment by Christ, and they smile politely, think Paul has lost his mind, and say in effect ‘we will hear more of this on some other occasion’.   They may have even thought that ‘anastasis’,  like the later name Anastasia referred to a new deity paired with Christ—  Christ and Anastasia, rather like Isis and Serapis.  So, to say the least, Paul has a lot of explaining to do to such Gentiles raised on Greco-Roman ideas about the afterlife, and we owe a debt to the Corinthian confusion, because otherwise, we might not have the sort of full discussion about resurrection we do in 1 Corinthians 15. Certainly, we have no such fulsome discussion of resurrection in Romans or other Pauline letters.


This book is well-written, has copious notes to justify the approach taken and the conclusions drawn, and is a very readable 223 pages of text, plus bibliography.   It is a bit pricey, but then as the old adage goes, if you think knowledge is expensive, try ignorance— it’s more expensive.  I highly commend this study by someone well-trained in the New Testament, in rhetoric, in Pauline studies, who writes well and understands the interface between these things.   In an age where it is too often assumed, even by serious students of the Bible that ‘it can all be found on the internet’ this sort of book gives the lie to such a notion.  In fact, many of the most important NT studies cannot be found on the internet at all.  And this is one of them.


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