5 Stars Out Of 5
Paul and the Gift
October 16, 2015
I have been a student of Pauline Studies for thirty plus years. I both love and hate Paul. Paul is like a bear you wrestle and when you think you finally pinned the bear, you look up and the bear is standing up again! I have moved from Gunther Bornkamms, Paul through Wrights Paul and the Faithfulness of God and everything in between. I have variegated nomized and read virtually most every legitimate commentary on Pauls letters written in the last thirty years.
I was raised in what we in the US would call a Protestant tradition by parents who showed up to services on Sunday, but had no real commitment to the good news. When I was fifteen years old, my Mother developed a malignant brain tumor and dedicated her life to the Christ message. I watched her die with a real attitude of gratitude for the gift.
Since that time, I have dedicated myself to the Historical Jesus and the Theology of Paul. My emphasis has always been on the theology of Paul, as I am more interested in the canonical understanding of Jesus Remembered than in some historical reconstruction.
Studying Paul has made me feel like an outcast. I have spent years of my life in Pauline studies and have found no contemporaries. I do not agree with the new perspective on Paul and have always felt that Sanders construction was not nuanced appropriately and could not hold water. A flattened out understanding of Second Temple Judaism, and especially of the concept of grace in that period, made the schema oversimplified and, therefore, unsupportable. I was, also, not a full proponent of the old perspective as it was, in my opinion, not appropriately nuanced. To me, the new perspective had a stake driven through its heart, and the old perspective only survived with a minimal heartbeat.
I came to an understanding of Paul (a few years ago) that didnt seem to match anyones perspective from Moo through Jewett. I felt alone, and without any categories though which to understand/communicate my perspective on Paul.
I have just completed reading Dr. Barclays book, Paul and the Gift and have not found one thing to disagree with. The book has (finally) allowed me to develop the structure/categories through which I can communicate my understanding of Paul.
I was exhausted by my search to understand Paul and despairing whether I would ever find an understanding of Paul that corresponded to my perspective. From Bauckman, Hengel, to Green, I had done my homework regarding Second Temple Judaism and come to my own conclusions without any category of explanation or contemporary support for what I believed.
There is no old or new perspective on Paul. There is only Paul in all the spectacular genius that is Paul. The unmerited gift of God in Christ (incongruent as Dr. Barclay would explain it) is the annihilation of all social constructions of worth. Pauls encounter with the risen Christ, and the destruction of his social capital ensured his understanding of the gospel and his Gentile mission. If his social capital as a Torah observant Jew and his zeal for the law accounted for nothing relative to the incongruent gift then there was no worth in any recipient that merited the gift. There can no longer be Jew or Greek, or salve or free. Paul "falls within" the scope of Second Temple Judaism, but is set apart by his unique understanding of incongruent gift and his anthropology. Again, because of his understanding of incongruence, and his Gentile mission, his anthropology had to develop along certain lines.
I was also able to come to an understanding of our responsibilities regarding the gift. Gifts were not given in antiquity with no expectation of an appropriate response/obligation. If we read Paul carefully, through Dr. Barclays lens, we see that, indeed, the gift requires us to respond through the crucifixion of the old man based upon the incongruent gift of the new man and the new creation.
I highly recommend this book to any student of Paul who has struggled in the manner I have. Thank you to Dr. Barclay for his gift to Pauline Studies.