In the last five years or so, there has been a huge shift in New Testament scholarship on the meaning of faith during that era. Researchers have begun to recognize that faith in the New Testament and the ancient world it was part of was not primarily about belief, that is “mental assent” to a set of propositions or even a personal “cognitive” or “psychological” state. While not denying that there is certainly an aspect of the inner state of mind, faith was primarily about relationships between people and manifest displays of trust and loyalty. In other words, when it came to faith, there was a great emphasis on external behaviour rather than just inner beliefs. Continue reading “The State of Faith”
In the later 70s, a radical change happened in the study of Paul that forever changed the landscape of New Testament scholarship. This paradigm shift became known as “the New Perspective on Paul“. In the video below. esteemed New Testament scholar Scot McKnight explains what it is and how it is actually a new perspective on the Judaism of the New Testament era. Continue reading “The New Perspective on Judaism”
Put all this together, and what do we have, as the central, shaping marker of the new worldview, taking the place and bearing the weight that the Jewish symbols had borne within the worldview of Saul of Tarsus? We have precisely the gospel, the euangelion, the ‘good news’, rooted in the ‘good news’ spoken of in the Great Prophet [Isaiah], confronting the ‘good news’ carved in stone around Caesar’s empire. We have the symbol by which Paul declared that he was himself defined, the anchor of his own vocational mindset: Paul, an apostle, set apart for the good news of God; I am not ashamed of the good news, because it is God’s power for salvation to all who believe; the Messiah did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel; woe to me if I do not announce the good news; I do it all for the sake of the good news; let me remind you of the gospel which I announced to you, which you received, in which you stand firm, through which you are saved; the gospel of the glory of the Messiah, who is the image of God; your confession of faith in the Messiah’s gospel has brought you into proper order; let me remind you that the gospel which was gospelled by me was not something I received from other people; I did it so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you; my calling is to gospel to the gentiles the unsearchable riches of the Messiah; what has been happening to me has been for the advancement of the gospel; let your public life be worthy of the gospel of the Messiah; don’t move away from the hope of the gospel; our gospel was not in word only, but in power, in the holy spirit, and in full conviction; I wanted to keep Onesimus with me, to serve me on your behalf in the bonds of the gospel. The gospel, the gospel, the gospel. It defined Paul. It defined his work. It defined his communities. It was the shorthand summary of the theology which, in turn, was the foundation for the central pillar for the new worldview. It carried God’s power. That was just as well: the worldview, and those who lived by it, were going to need it.
So says James Thompson in The Church according to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed to Christ. That is to say, justification transcends personal standing before God and speaks to the unification of Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, males and females, and barbarians and Scythians in the one Body of Christ, the church. Continue reading “Justified to be Unified”
A couple of years ago I wrote about the notion of being “in Christ” as possibly being the centre of the apostle Paul’s theology. I even suggested that it might even be the theological centre of the entire New Testament (NT). Since then, I have become even more convinced that theme of union, otherwise known as “real participation” in Christ, is indeed the nexus of New Testament thought. Now the obvious concern in making any overarching claim about the NT is that it is a diverse collection of texts. Even in Paul, whose letters traditionally make up the bulk of the NT, there is significant diversity. Continue reading “Revisiting Union”