Rethinking Paul’s “Gospel”
Respected NT scholar Graham Twelftree (Dean and Professor of NT at London School of Theology) has written an excellent study on Paul’s language of “gospel” (The Gospel according to Paul; Cascade, 2019). When I first picked up this book, I was a bit worried it would be a somewhat dull word study of euangelion that repeats the dictionaries and lexicons.
But I was pleased to find Twelftree’s approach and discussion highly engaging. In brief, Twelftree criticizes simplistic articulations of Paul’s “gospel” that make it out to be a teaching or idea about Jesus. Twelftree proves that it was far more to Paul. According to Paul, the “gospel” is “God’s salvation—the presence of God himself—in Christ, experienced in the symbiotic relationship between Paul’s message about God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and the activity of God n the miraculous” (emphasis original, 200). That last part is important. Many Christians (and some scholars) place an undue focus on Paul’s words and “theology,” and diminish the importance of his physical activities and experiences as apostle, including works of the Spirit through his ministry.Throughout the book, Twelftree shies away from summarizing Paul’s gospel in a short pithy statement. He treats euangelion as a “polyvalent” term for Paul covering many areas including: Christian tradition about Jesus, Jesus (himself), God’s salvific drama, the salvation experience of people, a message, and something that can (and should) be lived out by God’s people (see 184-193).
This is a great study of Paul that engages with his “theology” without neglecting his life, his experience of God, and the social world of his apostolic ministry.