Posts Tagged ‘Paul’

One thing more — prepare a guest room [ξενίαν] for me… (1.22a)

The Epistle to Philemon

Valentin de Boulogne, Saint Paul Writing His Epistles (1620)

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Only if we back off some distance from the actual content of the Pauline letters can we posit a dichotomy between Paul’s theology and his ethics — or between kerygma [κήρυγμα] (the proclamation of the gospel) and didache [διδαχὴ] (the teaching of standards of conduct), or between indicative (what God has done in Christ) and imperative (what human beings are called upon to do). The more closely we read Paul’s letters, the more fragile there familiar dichotomies appear. In these texts, it is difficult to draw a clear distinction between theology and ethics. They are packing together, under pressure: specific pastoral problems in Paul’s churches elicit his theological reflection. Thus, we see theology in progress, unfolding. Paul is not simply repeating already formulated doctrines; rather he is theologizing as he writes, and the constant aim of his theological reflection is to shape the behavior of his churches. Theology is for Paul never merely a speculative exercise; it is always a tool for constructing community.(18)

Richard B. Hays, Moral Vision of the New Testament (1996)

El Greco, St. Paul (1606)

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In Paul’s day, Jewish zealous nationalism that focused on Israel’s internal purity was not the only temptation to violence. That nationalistic zeal was also directed outwardly toward an oppressive, violent regime–the imperial power of Rome. Paul would become a critic (at least an implicit one) of that form of violence, too–violence in the name of justice, peace, and security. Based on a misinterpretation of Rom 13:1-7, Paul is often portrayed as a political conservative who supported Rome, and perhaps all forms of political authority, even tyranny. However, like Jesus, he was a critic of imperial values such as domination and of imperial claims like divine status for emperors and divine blessing on the empire’s ambition. Paul mocked the Roman claim of providing pax et securitas (I Thes 5:3), offered an alternative form of divine justice, and proclaimed as Lord a criminal crucified by Roman power–rather than Roman power incarnate (the emperor). A politics of subversion, not intentional but as an inevitable consequence of the gospel, is central to Paul and to those who read his letters as Scripture. In that sense, Paul was a good, prophetic Jew. (19)

Michael J. Gorman, Reading Paul

El Greco, St. Paul (1606)

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