Plundering the nations: justification by tribute

Old & New perspectives on Paul Paul's letter to the Romans is commonly viewed as a theological treatise on the mechanics of eternal salvation.1 Assuming this hermeneutical foundation, Paul outlines in the letter how people are saved from the consequences of sin and how they might attain access to Heaven after death. Paul's answer, under … Continue reading Plundering the nations: justification by tribute

The acts of Paul and the Paul of Acts: a forgotten Apostle

The most successful interpreters of Paul's letters have, for the most part, been thinkers and writers, theologians and scholars. That Paul should appear to us primarily as a man of deep and profound thought is therefore unsurprising. According to Luke's account of Paul's ministry, however, neither letter-writing nor theological exposition were central to the Apostle's … Continue reading The acts of Paul and the Paul of Acts: a forgotten Apostle

The return of the living dead: the purpose of resurrection in the second temple period

At its core, Jewish apocalypticism represents a form of political protest and historical interpretation. It is not, in the first place, concerned with the heavenly afterlife, fantastical beasts, natural catastrophes, or the collapse of space and time. Looks, in this case, can be deceiving. Instead, as I've argued often, underneath the otherworldly spectacle of Jewish … Continue reading The return of the living dead: the purpose of resurrection in the second temple period

How Jesus became God’s holy spirit

In accordance with their Jewish scriptures, Jesus and his first followers usually identified the spirit that moved among them as the holy spirit of the Lord God, the spirit of Israel's Father. Although Christians came to understand this spirit as mediated through Jesus in some sense (cf. Mark 1:8, Acts 2:33, John 14:26, 20:22, 1 … Continue reading How Jesus became God’s holy spirit

The prophet like Jeremiah and the wrath to come

Behold, I have appointed you today over nations and kingdoms, so that you might uproot and undermine and destroy and rebuild and plant. (Jeremiah 1:10) Just before Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 BCE, God enlisted Jeremiah as his prophet. Jeremiah was to prophesy concerning all the peoples of the earth. He would decree … Continue reading The prophet like Jeremiah and the wrath to come

So we will be with the Lord forever

A while ago I put forward the argument that Paul's apocalyptic eschatology was drawn primarily from the social and psychological needs of the marginalized Christian communities throughout the pagan empire. Paul's strange beliefs about the future apocalypse were in this way "functional" rather than speculative or mystical. The parousia and all its imaginative constituent parts … Continue reading So we will be with the Lord forever

Functional eschatology at Thessalonika

Paul outlines what appears to be a novel eschatological scenario in his first letter to the churches at Thessalonika. He writes that at the coming of Christ believers will be raised from the dead, collected into the air, and brought into the presence of the Lord (4:16-17). At the sound of the last trumpet there … Continue reading Functional eschatology at Thessalonika

The kingdom as divine judgement

The Kingdom and the kingdoms The precise definition of the kingdom of God continues to allude interpreters. Is it the church? Is it a state of mind? A spirit-led mode of living? Is it an earthly kingdom that comes at the end of history? All of the above? Support for each theory can be readily … Continue reading The kingdom as divine judgement

The significance of Christ’s resurrection in early preaching

I argued last time that the early Christians placed more significance on the exaltation of Christ to heaven than on his resurrection from the dead. Two observations pointed me in this direction. Some early confessional material managed to tell the story of Christ without an explicit reference to bodily resurrection (Philippians 2:5-6, Hebrews 1:1-4, 1 … Continue reading The significance of Christ’s resurrection in early preaching

Justification by faith at the end of the age: another example from Galatians

Separation from Pagan Greeks I argued last time that Paul's doctrine of justification by faith rather than works of Law—regardless of what we think of the New Perspective on Paul—performed an essential social function: to separate communities that would inherit authority in the next age from communities that would inherit destruction at the coming of … Continue reading Justification by faith at the end of the age: another example from Galatians