This Fall I am once again privileged to teach Pauline Literature this fall. I will be using a new textbook this year, Longenecker and Still, Thinking through Paul (Zondervan, 2014). Both authors are top-notch Pauline scholars and the book is well designed college textbook with plenty of photographs, charts and sidebars. What I have appreciated about this book in preparing for class this summer is the balance between the theology of Paul’s letters and the kind of introductory material these kind of textbooks usually are required to cover.
It is easy to get bogged down in the details of authorship, destination and chronology and give less emphasis to Paul’s thoughts. Thinking through Paul emphasizes Paul’s theology over the more controversial (and tedious) aspects of Paul’s letters. That is not to say I will not dwell on the tedious from time to time as we move through the semester, but the textbook at least avoids the dismal swamp of typical New Testament introductions.
I have also read (or am reading) several new books on Paul while I prepare for this semester. First, Michael Gorman, Becoming the Gospel: Paul Participation and Mission (Eerdmans, 2015). When I taught Acts last semester I spent a great deal of time talking about whether there was a discernible “Pauline missionary method” in the book of Acts. Gorman comes at the question from the perspective of the Letters of Paul, which is probably a better way of understanding what Paul expected from his churches with respect to mission.
Second, I have been reading in Chris Tilling’s Paul’s Divine Christology (Eerdmans, 2015; Mohr Siebeck, 2012). This book engages several recent books on Christology (Gordon Fee, Larry Hurtado, and Richard Bauckham) and examines Paul’s Christology in 1 Corinthians 8:1-10:22 in detail. This is a challenging book to read, but so far it has been rewarding and several times over the next few months I will engage with Tilling’s argument.
Third, I have been slowly plowing through Douglas Campbell’s Reframing Paul (Eerdmans, 2014). Campbell offers a challenge to some prevailing opinions on Pauline chronology by proposing to create an “epistolary biography” of Paul beginning with Romans and Corinthians. He supplements this picture with Philippians and Galatians, then places the other epistles into what he calls an “epistolary backbone.”
I will post formal reviews for each soon, but they will come up from time to time over the course of the next three months. I plan to spend a few weeks on “backgrounds” to the Pauline letters before moving through the letters in chronological order, or at least the order they appear in Thinking through Paul. Pauline scholars tend to have very strong opinions about the order and authenticity of the thirteen Pauline letters, so we will return to these issues frequently throughout the Fall.
I will state upfront that I have strong opinions on the value of the Pauline letters for doing church today, and I hope some of these views will challenge readers to think more deeply about the application of the Pauline letters.
I am curious what regular readers of Reading Acts would like to see covered within this overall framework? Are there any elements of Paul’s theology are overlooked or under-emphasized? What about application of Pauline theology to mission? While I know a few regular commentators well enough that I can guess their response, I am curious to hear what others have to say as well.