This review appeared in the Apr-Jun 2010 vol. 167 no. 2 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological StudyBaker Academic, Peabody, MA January 1, 2007
Fee is a master writer, exegete, and commentator—three ingredients of his scholarship that come to the fore in this book. He identifies and describes Paul’s high Christology by explaining Paul’s explicit statements about Christ. Fee points out Paul’s implied Christology as well.
Fee emphasizes three main exegetical points. First is the equality of Jesus the Son and God the Father; both are God but they are also distinct persons. Paul was an “avid monotheist” (p. 7). Second is the preexistence of the Son, who is thus eternally God. Third is Christ as the Son of God. Fee thoroughly demonstrates the veracity of each of these points exegetically, theologically, and hermeneutically.
Regarding the first point Fee exegetically develops the oneness of God the Father and God the Son, and yet in such a way that Christ and God are distinct. Fee shows how Paul applied kuvrio", the Greek translation of hwhy, to Jesus Christ. Paul seemed to move back and forth freely between God and Christ as the referent of kuvrio". This again was an intentional effort on Paul’s part to equate the two. Thus Fee’s formula for this emphasis is kuvrio" = yn:/da} = hwhy.
Moreover, this is sometimes done in New Testament passages that “echo” (one of Fee’s favorite terms) Old Testament texts where the parallel wording and structure cannot be missed. That is, the echo or parallel was intentional, a sophisticated strategy employed by Paul to indicate that where Christ is the obvious referent of kuvrio", by implication then, Christ is God. This keeps Paul’s Jewish monotheism in tact but provides an exegetical basis for Trinitarianism. As Fee notes, this theology would be left for later generations to work out in detail, but Paul’s writings provide a strong though perhaps subtle basis for it.
Pauline Christology discusses all of Paul’s letters, with each epistle emphasizing a particular theme in Christology. This technical book is not written for general readers. Readers who have some acquaintance with Greek language and grammar will best be able to follow Fee’s arguments. Fee does, however, provide an English translation and grammatical structure, which parallels the Greek text being discussed. So general readers can excavate the essence of Fee’s main points. Although the book is intentionally technical and academic, it would have been helpful if Fee had more often articulated the spiritual import of his arguments and conclusions.
Because there is a fair amount of repetition related to the above three themes, one is readily struck by the sheer weight of these themes in Paul’s writings in a way that has not been described before, at least not in quite the same way as Fee does. The major benefit for readers is the strong emphasis on the supremacy of Christ. Fee powerfully conveys Paul’s Christocentric worldview.
—Linden D. McLaughlin