This review appeared in the Jan-Mar 2009 vol. 166 no. 1 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Studies in Paul, Exegetical and TheologicalSheffield Phoenix Press Ltd, Sheffield June 6, 2006
This book is a collection of eleven articles written by Richard Longenecker, distinguished professor of New Testament at McMaster Divinity College. The articles were published in various places between 1982 and 2003. They appear in their original form with little alteration. Longenecker has written on many topics in New Testament studies. This volume collects a number of his articles on Paul.
The articles are as follows: 1. “The Impact of Paul’s Conversion on His Understanding of Jesus: A Realized Hope, a New Commitment, and a Developing Proclamation”; 2. “Prayer in the Pauline Letters”; 3. “The Pedagogical Nature of the Law in Galatians 3:19–4:7”; 4. “Prolegomena to Paul’s Use of Scripture in Romans”; 5. “The Focus of Romans: The Central Role of 5:1–8:39 in the Argument of the Letter”; 6. “Paul’s Vision of the Church and Community Formation in His Major Missionary Letters”; 7. “The Pauline Concept of Mutuality as a Basis for Luke’s Theme of Witness”; 8. “ ‘What Does It Matter?’ Priorities and the Adiaphora in Paul’s Dealing with Opponents during His Mission”; 9. “The Nature of Paul’s Early Eschatology”; 10. “ ‘Good Luck on Your Resurrection’: Early Judaism and Paul on the Resurrection of the Dead”; 11. “Is There Development in Paul’s Resurrection Thought?”
Each of these articles is interesting and helpful. Three are selected for comment here. In the first article, “The Impact of Paul’s Conversion on His Understanding of Jesus: A Realized Hope, a New Commitment, and a Developing Proclamation,” Longenecker asks, How did Paul’s conversion impact his understanding of Jesus? This is an important question, especially for Longenecker, because he maintains that “functional Christology” is Paul’s “starting point for all his Christian theology.” Using Paul’s own letters as the primary source and Acts as an important secondary source, Longenecker considers a number of passages that shed light on his question. For example at 2 Corinthians 5:16, he argues that Paul had knowledge of the historical Jesus; however, this was from a human perspective. His conversion demanded that he see Jesus in a new light. After his conversion Paul saw Jesus as Messiah, Son of God, and Lord. However, he did not denigrate the historical Jesus (pp. 3–4, 14–19). With many others, Longenecker argues that Romans 7:14–25 does not reflect Paul’s preconversion experience. Rather, passages such as Philippians 3:4–6 reveal that Paul believed himself blameless and zealous in his service to God (including his persecution of the church). Ultimately Paul’s conversion resulted in a radical paradigm shift in his views. After describing details of Paul’s conversion, Longenecker concludes by suggesting that Paul viewed his conversion as paradigmatic for all believers in the sense that each should experience “a radical reorientation of thought about Jesus and of life now lived ‘in Christ.’ ” Longenecker is careful with the data. He acknowledges that the Pauline letters were written twenty or thirty years after Paul’s conversion and each piece of conversion evidence must be viewed in light of the purpose of each letter.
In the article, “The Focus of Romans: The Central Role of 5:1–8:39 in the Argument of the Letter,” Longenecker tries to determine what part of Romans is the “spiritual gift” (Rom 1:11; also called “my gospel” in 2:16 and 16:25) which Paul is giving to the readers. Longenecker is building on Gordon Fee’s argument that the “spiritual gift” refers to the Epistle to the Romans (God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994], 488–89, cited by Longenecker, p. 97). Longenecker carefully traces the argument of the first half of Romans in each major section (1:18–3:20; 3:21–4:25; 5:1–8:39) and concludes that Roman 5–8—with its themes of “peace” and “reconciliation,” the tension between “death” and “life,” and the relational concepts of “in Christ” and “in the Spirit”—is the central focus of the letter and the “spiritual gift” (Paul’s “gospel”) which was given to the readers.
In the article, “Is There Development in Paul’s Resurrection Thought?” Longenecker traces the resurrection theme through Paul’s letters in chronological order (1 Thess. 4:13–18; 1 Cor. 15:12–58; 2 Cor. 4:14–5:10; Rom. 8:19–25; 13:11–12; Phil. 1:21–26; 3:10–11, 20–21; 4:5). Longenecker demonstrates that Paul’s teaching in his letters on the resurrection is generally consistent. There are three minor discernible shifts. First, in 1 Corinthians, Paul understood that resurrection involves transformation (not described in 1 Thess.). Second, Paul shifted from earlier apocalyptic language in 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians to metaphor and/or other nonapocalyptic language in the later books. Third, Paul’s view that he would be alive for the parousia (1 Thess.) shifts to identifying with those who will be dead (2 Cor. and later).
The book concludes with an index of authors and an index of biblical references. The latter includes sections on the Old Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha.
This collection provides many thought-provoking articles on Paul, which will introduce readers to a significant force in New Testament studies. It is helpful to have these in one accessible place.