Understanding Paul

Chris Tilling asks:

What is your preferred model for understanding Paul? Salvation history? Apocalyptic? Justification by faith? Something else?

My answer is that I don’t have a preferred model because as Adolf von Harnack observed many moons ago:

Marcion was the only Gentile Christian who understood Paul, and even he misunderstood him: the rest never got beyond the appropriation of particular Pauline sayings, and exhibited no comprehension especially of the theology of the Apostle, so far as in it the universalism of Christianity as a religion is proved, even without recourse to Moralism and without putting a new construction on the Old Testament religion. (History of Dogma, 1.89-90)

I mean if Marcion couldn’t even get it completely right, what hope do I possibly have? ;-)


5 thoughts on “Understanding Paul

  1. TC: Oh, I agree. But Harnack’s quote is just so preposterous that I love it! And to be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about the NPP. I’ve read some Dunn, a little Sanders and Wright (very little) and the things I have read from the latter two haven’t pertained to NPP at all. The NPP doesn’t hold a great place of importance for my study interests, which are mainly Trinitarianism, Christology, Patristics, and some Historical Jesus stuff. By the time I get around to being interested in it, they’ll probably be calling it the Old Perspectives on Paul. ;)

  2. “Old Perspectives on Paul” is a good one, Nick! Wright is more like Dunn than he’s Sanders. In fact, Wright seeks to correct some of what he calls “misgivings” in Sanders. I’ve read Wright on the NPP and have found some good stuff. But I just can’t agree with his rereading of Paul on Justification.

  3. As a staunch believer in the infallibility of Moisés Silva (and of Ridderbos, for that matter), I am convinced that the center of St Paul’s theology is eschatology–which, naturally, walks the golden mean between the apocalyptic and redemptive-historical models. Just thought I’d let you know. ;-)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s