BOOK REVIEW Published in Volume 54, 2006
RICHARD N. LONGENECKER, Studies in Paul, Exegetical and Theological (New Testament Monographs 2; Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2004). Pp. xvi+262. £65.00.
In this volume Richard Longenecker brings together eleven substantial essays on Paul originally published in various journals and collections of essays. All of them merit careful study.
In the first essay, “The Impact of Paul’s Conversion on His Understanding of Jesus,” as well as in the fourth, “Prolegomena to Paul’s Use of Scripture in Romans,” and again in the fifth, “The Focus of Romans: The Central Role of 5:1 to 8:39 in the Argument of the Letter,” he argues that in Rom 3:21 to 4:25 Paul sets forth what he believes he holds in common with his addressees, whereas in 5:1 to 8:39 he sets forth his distinctive understanding of the gospel, which he thought of as his unique “spiritual gift” to believers at Rome.
In the second essay, “Prayer in the Pauline Letters,” Longenecker begins by observing that “terms having to do with prayer appear more frequently in Paul’s letters than in the writings of any other New Testament author” (p. 29). Prayer in the letters is never viewed as something initiated by humans in order to awaken a sleeping or reluctant deity (p. 29). “Prayer in the Pauline letters is not only the hallmark of true piety in the presence of God, it is also the life-blood of every Christian and the wellspring of all Christian ministry” (p. 51).
In the third essay, “The Pedagogical Nature of the Law in Gal 3:19 to 4:7,” he argues that legalism was never part of Israel’s religion but was, apparently, part of the message of the Judaisers. In the sixth essay, “Paul’s Vision of the Church and Community Formation in His Major Missionary Letters,” he argues that the church in Jerusalem was dominantly monarchical, whereas the church in Syrian Antioch was principally oligarchic (p. 140). The title of the seventh essay, “The Pauline Concept of Mutuality as a Basis for Luke’s Theme of Witness,” explains itself.
In the eighth essay, “‘What Does It Matter?’ Priorities and the Adiaphora in Paul’s Dealing with Opponents during His Mission,” Longenecker comments on the remarkable tolerance that Paul shows to attacks on his person, so long as he considers that the gospel itself is not under threat. Valuable as this discussion is, it would have been enhanced by a consideration of the remarkable tolerance that Paul, as a “strong” believer, shows to “weak” believers in Romans 14 and 15.
In the ninth essay, “The Nature of Paul’s Early Eschatology,” Longenecker argues that, rather than christology being derived from eschatology, the eschatological hope of the early Christians was based on a functional christology. In the tenth essay, “Good Luck on Your Resurrection,” Longenecker draws not only on literary sources but also on inscriptions and graffiti to argue that, while there was a wide diversity of opinion in Second Temple Judaism on the fate of the dead, belief in resurrection was widespread. Finally, in the eleventh essay, Longenecker considers whether there is evidence of development in Paul’s resurrection thought. He concludes that, while a number of proposed shifts cannot be validated, three shifts do seem to be evident. First, Paul becomes increasingly aware that the resurrection of believers has to do primarily with transformation. Second, Paul makes markedly less use of apocalyptic imagery and expressions. Third, Paul modifies his own expectation in regard to Christ’s parousia and the resurrection. “While in 1 Thess 4:15–17 he associates himself with those who will be alive at the parousia, throughout 2 Cor 4:14–5:10 he identifies with those who will die before that event” (p. 247).
All the essays in this volume are erudite and well argued, but Longenecker has also prefixed to the collection a preface that is in an attractively lighter vein. Adapting the American bumper sticker, “Virginia is for lovers,” he suggests that the same claim can also be made for theology. But, as he himself amply demonstrates, love of theology is fully compatible with, indeed demands, the patient sifting of evidence and weighing of arguments.
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