Pauline Studies: Essays Presented to F. F. Bruce

Written by D. A. Hagner and M. J. Harris Reviewed By Max Turner

It may be hoped that this second Festschrift offered to the former Rylands Professor will bring him a very special joy as it focusses on Pauline studies (which F. F. Bruce once declared closest to his heart) and because the contributors, drawn from the four corners of the earth, are his own former students at Sheffield and at Manchester. The Festschrift is composed of two parts: one made up of the life and theology of Paul, the other more specifically on literary and exegetical studies within the Pauline corpus.

Seven of the essays we may note relatively briefly, for while they are interesting studies, ably presented and well documented, they are nevertheless not on subjects of primary importance for Pauline interpretation. E. Margaret Howe in ‘Interpretations of Paul in the Acts of Paul and Thecla’ discourages acceptance of the ancient opinion that this writing preserves authentic reminiscences of the apostle. P. T. O’Brien offers his further thinking on the subject of ‘Thanksgiving within the Structure of Pauline Theology’. Canon S. S. Smalley writes briefly to the title ‘The Christ-Christian Relationship in Paul and John’—sometimes overstressing similarities (surely Moule is right: Paul’s ‘in Christ’ and ‘Christ in you’ does not mean quite the same thing as John’s language of the reciprocal indwelling of Christ and the believer), at other times perhaps overstressing their distinctiveness within the broader stream of earliest Christianity. R. E. Clements offers what is largely an OT tradition-history of the concept ‘a remnant shall return’ with all too brief (but illuminating) concluding remarks applying his findings to Romans 11:5. Bruce Demarest writes a substantial essay challenging Process Theologians’ use of Pauline incarnational passages; Donald Hagner gives an enlightening survey of ‘Paul in Modern Jewish Thought’: an essay which touches on some of the most difficult problems of the background of Paul’s theology, and Moises Silva’: proposes a paradigm for more cautious lexical stylistic analysis.

Closer to the heart of Pauline interpretation are the remaining nine studies. Two of these concern matters of Introduction: (1) Colin J. Hemer discusses Pauline chronology—in the first part of his paper investigating the so-called fixed points (the Aretas incident; the famine; the Gallio inscription, and the voyage to Jerusalem), and concluding that Acts provides a coherent account of Paul’s later life and with vital details corroborated by external sources. Part 2 examines whether the chronological framework erected in the first part leaves enough room to allow the equation of the famine-relief visit in Acts 11 with Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem described in Galatians 2. He cautiously concludes that such a harmonization is justifiable. (2) J. Drane investigates the question “Why did Paul write Romans?’ He makes a good case against the view that Paul’s letter is a pastoral response to a known situation in Rome, but whether Paul is basically trying to piece together a coherent theology after the setback of the Corinthian antinomian crisis remains questionable to the reviewer.

Three essays focus on christology. Swee-Hwa Quek usefully considers the intent and the limits of the Adam-Christ analogy in Paul. Paul Beasley-Murray reconstructs a pre-pauline hymn behind Colossians 1:15–20 (one I wouldn’t care to sing; its strophes are so uneven) and goes on to argue that its primary purpose was not to express Christ as incarnate Wisdom so much as to assert his lordship in creation and redemption of the world and of the church (cf. his Manchester dissertation). The most detailed piece of exegetical work in the volume comes from Murray J. Harris on ‘Titus 2:13 and the Deity of Christ’. Dr Harris, an accomplished grammarian and exegete, reviews the possible (and not so possible) renderings of the verse and argues fairly, but firmly, that the author predicates the expression ‘God and Saviour’ of Jesus.

The remaining four essays centre on soteriology. Paul Garnet’s contribution ‘Qumran Light on Pauline Soteriology’ challenges E. P. Sanders’ view that the Judaism of Paul’s time was contentedly nomistic, but perhaps throws more light on Qumran than on Paul’s pre-Christian attitude to the Law which he attempts (unconvincingly) to reconstruct primarily from Galatians 2:11–21 (this passage more probably indicates Paul’s Christian attitude to his former life under the Law, than what he felt about it before his conversion). R. H. Gundry is another writer who shares Garnet’s view that the pre-Christian Paul despaired of the Law: his essay ‘The Moral Frustration of Paul before his Conversion: Sexual Lust in Romans 7:7–25’ makes telling points against some common redemptive-historical interpretations of 7:7–13 (though occasionally he descends to chiding the analogy with Adam’s fall for refusing to crawl on all fours), but it is by no means clear that his alternative is better. The commandment not to covet may have unmasked Paul’s sexual desire, but it is psychologically unbelievable that it actually promoted it (7:8)! Gundry may fall back to the position that Romans 7:14–25 at least describes Paul’s pre-Christian moral frustration, if not primarily his sexual problems, but once again we have doubts; especially if we accept Gundry’s (exaggerated) comment that the ‘I’ of 7:14ff ‘cannot do the good at all, only the bad’ (238). If Paul’s pre-Christian experience was one of such total frustration in the face of the tenth commandment it is quite impossible that he would describe himself, as he does at Philippians 3:6, with the words ‘as to righteousness under the Law, blameless’ (Gundry’s disclaimers notwithstanding). David Wenham’s essay is also substantially devoted to the elucidation of Romans 7:14–25, but, unlike Gundry, he is not trying to present a new thesis so much as to assess the strength of the various arguments put forward in the debate, and to guide the reader in making a decision on the issues. Of its type it is an excellent contribution.

Finally, R. Y. K. Fung presents an essay on ‘Justification by faith in 1 and 2 Corinthians’. In this he challenges the widely held thesis that this doctrine was not of fundamental importance to Paul’s theology, but mainly a weapon forged for use in polemic against judaizers. The Corinthian epistles afford plenty of evidence that Paul was wont to expound the sort of teaching that appears in Galatians and Romans outside the context of judaizing controversy: it was fundamental in his preaching and teaching. The reviewer confesses himself to be converted to this view, though more from a reading of Fung’s massive Manchester PhD than from this article in particular.

Here, then, are sixteen essays, all of a high standard, a fitting tribute to the honoree’s teaching and research supervision. The editors and the contributors are to be congratulated for the contents of this volume, as are the publishers for the excellence of the production.

Max Turner

London Bible College