Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Unity and Diversity in Christ: Interpreting Paul in Context: Collected Essays,
Willian S. Campbell, Cascade Books, 2013, page 1
Publishing a series of articles covering twenty years of research around Paul's Jewish roots, diversity in the early church and identity formation, William S. Campbell makes an interesting comment about the book of Romans:
... my long term interest in the letter to the Romans, especially its historical context, and on the particularity of Paul's statements in his letters as made in, and directed to, a specific set of circumstances.
Can you see where he is going with this thought?
These statements are virtualy unique and non-recurring and must not be universalised or generalised. (Footnote: Even when Paul repeats the same words in different letter contexts, the meaning of his statements must be sought separately in relation to their place in the argument and within the context of each letter, rather than attempting to harmonise these into something that Paul did not actually say.)
So we have to read the letters individually then, not making too much of parallel word and themes?
To read Romans in the light of the Galatians context, or vice versa, is to create an artificial and unwarranted "Paulinism" that is a product of scholarly invention rather than of historical existence.
That sounds like a wake-up call for some!
Similarly, it is my contention that we must oppose the tendency to harmonise and correlate Paul's particular statements into some system of theology to which the apostle neither adhered nor even aspired.