Those who have seen The Sixth Sense will recall that bombshell moment, when everything we thought we “saw” was wrong, and we realized we would have to re-watch – or at least re-think – the entire movie. Suddenly, scenes that “clearly” communicated one thing are revealed to communicate another. A silent meal between husband and wife, on first viewing appeared to reveal marital conflict, but when re-watched becomes something else entirely. Matthew Theissen in Paul and the Gentile Problem recognizes that our reading of Scripture can be similar. We all have the same data, but changing one’s presuppositions, or sometimes simply the details of a single interpretation, may require a re-reading of the whole. This is seen clearly in the Old and New Perspectives on Paul, where the same texts are used to reach different conclusions. However, Thiessen believes both viewpoints are faulty! In fact, they are both faulty in the same way: both the Old and New “believe that Paul’s letters contain substantial criticisms of Judaism” (p8). In contrast, Thiessen believes Paul did not reject Judaism as legalistic (Old) or ethnocentric (New), but as “the wrong solution to the gentile problem” (p14). But what of Paul’s criticisms of the Law? This is where the movie needs to be re-watched, so to speak. When we recognize that Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, and as such, wrote specifically to Gentiles, all becomes clear. Paul’s polemical words regarding the Law are not a critique about the Law itself, but about the Law applied to Gentiles.
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The heart of the Christian faith is not ideas, truisms, or proverbs, but rather, an event. In particular, a series of events constituting one meta-event concerning the person of Christ: the incarnation, life, death, burial, descent to Hades, resurrection, appearances to others, ascension, and session at God’s right hand. This “Christ-event” has always been central to the faith, and in The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation, Matthew Bates applies this paradigm to Paul’s own reading of the Hebrew Scriptures (the OT). For Bates, “Paul received, utilized, and extended an apostolic, kerygmatic narrative tradition centered on key events in the Christ story as his primary interpretative lens” (p2). In other words, Paul’s own interpretive center is the story of Christ.
Philippians is rightly one of the most popular letters of Paul. Highly quotable verses such as Philippians 1:6; 1:21; 2:5; 3:13-14; 3:20-21; 4:6-7; 4:8; 4:13; and 4:19 are lodged in the minds of many. As such, fresh study of the letter is always enjoyable. I had heard good things about Matthew Harmon’s Philippians commentary, and so I used it in my recent preaching through the letter. Let me say up front, it is truly excellent!
Just a very hastily typed post to recommend The Bible Project, a group that I absolutely love. They have a Bible reading plan that links up with videos overviewing the literary and theological features of each Biblical book. They finished this last year and I watched virtually all of them. It’s not too late to start this year!
Sometimes we miss what is right in front of us. Sometimes we are distracted by the abstract that we miss the obvious. Sadly this easily happens when we read Scripture. Jerome Creach, in his The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms, has drawn us back to see what’s in front of us, “it might well be concluded that the destiny of the righteous is the primary subject of the Psalms” (p1). When thinking about the Psalms, we often lose sight of the obvious: that it’s a collection of songs about the righteous, their struggles, their hopes, and ultimately, their destiny. This is seen in the introductory Psalm 1. The righteous will stand in the judgment, but the wicked will be like chaff in the wind.