Thursday, September 24, 2009

Paul in 1 Cor 4:3 and Stendahl

Here's a worthwhile (imho) quote from Thiselton's NIGTC volume on 1 Corinthians on 1 Cor 4:3: It counts for very little with me, however, that I should be judged by you or by any human court of judgement; indeed, I do not even judge myself.

This last phrase (v. 3b) has assumed particular importance for Krister Stendahl's interpretation of Paul, which also paved the way for E. P. Sanders's hermeneutic. Stendahl argued that "the Pauline awareness of sin has been interpreted in the light of Luther's struggle with his conscience."223 But it is "exactly at that point" that a drastic difference emerges between Luther and Paul. Paul, Stendahl argues, was aware of the problem of sin and guilt as an objective state of affairs, but not primarily as the subjective problem of "a troubled conscience." Indeed, he declares that he was "blameless as to righteousness — of the law, that is" (Phil 3:6). "Paul was equipped with what in our eyes must be called a rather 'robust' conscience."224 He is concerned with the objective status of being declared in a right relation with God, not with the problem of "forgiveness," about which he speaks seldom. As a Pharisee he perceives himself to have been obedient (Gal 1:13; Phil 3:6), and as a Christian to have received grace which was "not in vain" (1 Cor 15:10).225 Strikingly, Stendahl asserts, Paul declares "I have nothing on my conscience" (1 Cor 4:4).226 But Western tradition turns Paul into an introspective, guilt-ridden, individual-centered, experience-centered man, misinterpreting the "I" of Rom 7:13-23 as an individual ego in conflict with itself rather than as representative of an objective human condition in relation to divine law and divine grace.227 The upshot is that whereas Paul stressed justification, the Western tradition stresses forgiveness; where Paul stressed call, this tradition stresses conversion; where Paul ascribed a role to weakness, this historical legacy is obsessed with sin.228

The value of Stendahl's approach is both to correct an imbalance and to disengage an obsession with "experience," "relevance," "failure," or even "success" from Paul in exchange for Paul's emphasis on objective acts of God which bring objective consequences for humankind as a social whole. Whether Stendahl can be defended in his further critique of the Lutheran interpretation of "boasting" becomes more problematic, for he concedes that Paul boasts in his "weakness" as against the triumphalism and self-sufficiency of his -opponents.229 His work, however, serves to demonstrate the pivotal importance of 4:3b and 4:4 for Paul's theology. He leaves his successes and failures with God. What has been done is done, and God alone knows and can disclose the worth of it. It must simply be left with God while the servant of God goes on to the next task, at the same moment "judging nothing before the time" (4:5) and "knowing that your labor is not in vain (kevos, empty, null) in the Lord" (15:58).

223. K. Stendahl, "The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West" (1961 and 1963); rpt. in Paul among Jews and Gentiles (London: SCM, 1977 and Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), 78-96. Cf. E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (London: SCM, 1977), 434-47.
224. Ibid., 80-81.
225. Ibid., 89.
226. Ibid., 90-91.
227. Ibid., 86, 92-95; cf. 3-7, 23-40.
228. Ibid., 20-43, 81-82, 86-87.
229. Ibid., 40 and 88.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pradis Fades into the West

The best poor man's bible software around by a country mile has bitten the dust. Zondervan announced yesterday that they are discontinuing Pradis. Oh well, it was good whilst it lasted! Zondervan's Greek and Hebrew Grammar package and EBC under Pradis have (almost) seen me through college and their great advantage (especially for students) was that you could pick them up for not a lot.

Technical support will continue only until 1 June 2010 - after that, you're on your own! Some good news for Pradis users is that existing titles will be migrated to Logos by the end of the year, and the press release indicates that existing Pradis customers will be able to purchase the migrated titles at a discount. Whether it is a true poor man's discount remains to be seen!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Loss of God

'The decisive event which underlies the search for meaning and the despair of it in the 20th century is the loss of God in the 19th century' Paul Tillich

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Semester at HTC

We're already into the second week of the new semester at HTC. This is the start of my fourth year, the Honours level year on the course. Modules and tutors for this semester are as follows:
  • 1 Corinthians (Greek Text) 13 solid weeks of Greek exegesis in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians with Dr Mike Bird. Time spent in the company of Paul and Dr Bird is usually profitable! The key texts for this are Thiselton's NIGTC commentary and Dr Bird has recommended Hays' commentary in the Interpretation series - probably worth a look then!
  • Biblical Theology I The module I've been waiting for for three years! To be followed by Biblical Theology II next semester! A whole year of Biblical Theology!! The module tutor is Dr Jamie Grant and key texts are the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, and the works by Childs (eg Biblical Theology - a Proposal), Vos and Scobie (eg The Ways of Our God) amongst others. Of course, various OT and NT theologies will also come into it. Also ready on my shelf is Volume 5 of the Scripture and Hermeneutics series (edited by Bartholomew et al), entitled Biblical Theology and Biblical Interpretation.
  • Guided Reading in Hermeneutics Level 4 means fewer lectures and more self-study. As part of this, I am able to consult with tutors and concoct a bespoke module! Nice! So, I'll be studying and writing papers on historical approaches to hermeneutics, hermeneutics and literary theory, and hermeneutics and scriptural authority under the guiding hand of Dr Grant.
  • Dissertation 25% of my time over the whole year is to be set aside for the dissertation. Mine is concerned with Intertextuality, Function and Meaning in John 1:51.