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Thursday, 3 December 2015

Contextual Reading

Unity and Diversity in Christ: Interpreting Paul in Context: Collected Essays,
Willian S. Campbell, Cascade Books, 2013, page 2

Campbell goes on to make a significant point that many miss today:

One of the most significant aspects of a thoroughly contextual reading of Paul's letters is the fact that they are all addressed to gentiles. Of course, almost all of the first generation of leaders in the Pauline communities were Jewish, and there is no suggestion that Jewish Christ-followers would not have been welcome in such communities had they so wished, but the incontrovertible fact is that Paul's mission was to the gentiles, and his letters are specifically addressed to these.

But what does that mean? What are he implications of that?

As gentiles, the Pauline communities represent only one section of the early Christ-movement, and thus only one way of following Christ. Such phrases as "the churches of the gentiles" (Rom 16:3-5) alongside the inclusive "all the churches of Christ" (Rom 16:16) should remind us of this.

Does he mean that the "gentile" expression of church was not the only viable and acceptable-to-G-d option?

If, despite disagreements as in all human families, the early Christ-followers did acknowledge and accept as legitimate two specific and differing ways of following Christ, the missions to the circumcision and to the gentiles respectively, it is quite clear that neither Peter nor Paul were attempting to compete with each other's mission, nor working towards a monochrome Christ-movement in which Jewish and gentile members were no longer visible as such.

That is a huge step towards my One New Man position. But, from a scholarly point of view, Campbell concludes:

To read this perspective into Paul's letters is grossly anachronistic, as likewise is the reading of Paul in the light of the Gospels or in light of later New Testament and early Christian literature.

Posted By Jonathan, 9:12am Comment Comments: