Book Notice: Paul Among the Apocalypses

Book Notice: Paul Among the Apocalypses September 13, 2016

Jamie P. Davies
Paul Among the Apocalypses? An Evaluation of the ‘Apocalyptic Paul’ in the Context of Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic Literature
LNTS  562; London: T&T Clark/Bloomsbury, 2016.

Available at

I am naturally interested in the debate about the “Apocalyptic Paul” versus any concerns related to “salvation history.” In my soon-to-be-published book An Anomalous Jew I argue that:

My contention is that the dichotomy between salvation history and apocalyptic is needless. On the one hand, there can be no muting of the apocalyptic chords that play in Paul’s theological symphony in Galatians. The notes are played too loudly in a repertoire of motifs including two-ages, spatial and ethical dualism, determinism, angelic activity, anthropological pessimism, cosmic upheaval, anticipations of wide scale apostasy, and ascents to heaven, found across 1 Thessalonians through to Romans. On the other hand, Paul’s apocalypticism does not create a cacophony of noises altogether dissonant from the story of Israel’s scriptures and its covenantal promises. The invasive action of God declared in the gospel still stands within a promise-fulfillment scheme that Paul frequently utilizes in his theological discourse. There is no requirement to divorce Paul’s apocalyptic theology from its meta-narrative in the Jewish  scriptures. So, in the end, I hope to demonstrate another of the anomalous aspects of Paul’s thinking, viz., how Paul’s gospel both resolutely affirms and yet radically re-shapes contemporary narrations of the story of Israel.

So I am naturally interested in this debate and genuinely drawn to what Jamie Davies (Trinity College, Bristol, UK) has to say on the matter. I honestly wish that Davies’s book was available while I was researching the subject because he has written a persuasive and compelling account of Paul and Apocalyptic, indeed, probably the best book on the subject since Barry Matlock! The strength of the volume is that Davies discusses “apocalyptic” in relation to epistemology,  eschatology, cosmology, and soteriology and demonstrates that the “Apocalyptic Paul” is not really apocalyptic in the senses of Jewish and Christian apocalypses. I would aver that Martyn and company are more Barthian than Pauline in their interpretation of Paul when it comes to invasion, story, and gospel.

I like how Davies puts it:

[I]t is the conviction of this book that each of those affirmations of a”apocalyptic” themes in Paul has come with a corresponding denial: revelatory epistemology therefore not human wisdom; “apocalyptic” eschatology therefore not salvation history; a cosmology of invasion therefore not the unveiling of God’s abiding presence; a soteriology of deliverance therefore not forensic justification. It is at this point that concerns are raised, highlighting these potential false dichotomies in the “apocalyptic Paul” which result from a failure to engage closely with apocalypses. In a nutshell, one could say that while this critique affirms what they affirm, it must also question their denials. If the emphasis of the present work seems to fall on the latter, it is, hopefully, the result of friendly critique and an attempt to honour this scholarship (p. 3).

Davies’s indebtedness to Wright is clear, and he provides a lucid and compelling Wrightian response to the apocalytpic school of Campbell, Gaventa, and Harink. I commend this book is necessary reading for anyone engaged in Pauline studies about Paul, covenant, salvation history, or continutiy and discontinuity with Israel. A great book and a timely one!

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