Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tom Wright on Paul: Chapters 11-13

Fireworks from the Trinity May Ball
a bit like Tom's gems (click for the video)
I've almost finished Paul and the Faithfulness of God but am well behind on the gem collection. Here goes:
  • Much western scholarship has exemplified a characteristically protestant tendency to allow eschatology to trump ecclesiology, and so to prefer the 'mystery' of 1 Cor 15 (the future resurrection) to that of Ephesians 3 (the polychrome people of God).
  • When Paul speaks contemotuously of 'so-called "gods" whether in heaven or on earth' the latter phrase, 'on earth' cam only in his day refer to the Caesars.
  • Just as...in...the Psalms a reference to smoke coming out of God's nostrils does not intend a flat literal meaning; that when Jesus says he is a door he does not mean that he is made of wood; and that when Genesis says the world was made in six days it is not referring to six periods of 24 hours, so we have learned (or we should have done), as a matter of genre, that 'apocalyptic' language in Paul's world was regularly employed as a coded way of speaking about the rise and fall of great world powers...when Daniel wrote about four monsters...he was not writing the script for a fantasy horror movie....he was talking about actual empires, and the actual overthrow of the last and most terrible of them.
  • "When people say 'peace and security!' then swift ruin will arrive at their doorstep" [1 Thess 5.3]... But who is it that proclaims 'peace and security'?  A wealth of evidence, including coins, points in one rather obvious direction: this was a standard boast of the Roman Empire.
  • [Romans 13.1-7] is a classic piece of Jewish writing about how to live wisely under alien rule. It does not imply that the present system of government is perfect, and more than Jesus' response to Pilate in John 19.11 implies that Caesar and his minions were doing the right thing in sending him to his death.
  • As with questions of justification, so with questions of Paul and politics, we need 21st C answers to 1st C questions, not 19th C answers to 16th C questions.
  • [in Jesus] myth, history and prophetic symbolism rushed together with explosive force.
  • Once you let a metaphor out of its hutch, of course, it can meet other metaphors and do what metaphors do best, at least in Paul: get together in new formations and generate further offspring.
  • 'Celebrate' in Paul's world didn't just mean 'feel happy' or 'open a bottle of champagne when you pass the exam.' Celebration meant festivals...and... above all, sacrifice...in the temple of whatever god was playing host to the festivities.
  • For Paul, this shared meal was (a) anchored firmly in the Exodus-story, the Passover-narrative which had found strange new fulfillment in Jesus, (b) understood as the intimate sharing of life and presence between the lord and his people and (c) designed to express the unity, solidarity and holiness of the community. This is a classic piece of Pauline rethinking and reworking of religio.
  • whereas in some circles today 'speaking in tongues' is regarded as something which marks Christians off against other religions, perhaps even something which marks specially mature Christians from other members of the church, for Paul it was something which was paralleled and well known in very different settings.
  • the 'religious' things [Paul] and his communities did...constituted a...binding together of the community both in itself and within the life of this single divinity. This was not, of course, a subtle attempt to put the One God in their debt, as anxious theologians have sometimes imagined. Part of what Paul believed about this One God was that, in Jesus, he had put the whole world in his debt, completely and for ever. This is why one of Paul's central motifs is gratitude.  It is also why he seems to have turned the whole notion of debt on its head: the debt of love is the only form he permits. (Rom 13.8).
  • religio ...stands in relation to 'theology' somewhat as the steering wheel of the car in relation to the map.
This at least catches up to the start of Chapter 14: Paul Among the Philosophers which is the chapter I'm reading now. More later.

(the picture is because Daughter has just shown me the video of the fireworks at the Trinity May Ball she attended. Amazing.)

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