Agonizomai: New Perspectives on Paul<br>[Cultural and Textual Contextualization]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Perspectives on Paul
[Cultural and Textual Contextualization]

If you are anything like me you will get a theological nosebleed from listening to this one from Dr. Thomas Holland, speaking at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. It goes on for well over an hour (including question time) and a lot of it is way over my head, so I wouldn't blame anybody who reads my blog if they just gave it a pass.

Ostensibly the lecture deals with some fine points about what is known as "The New Perspective on Paul", and contains elements of seminarian and theological dispute that people like me are just not that familiar with, and not really equipped to fully understand. I didn't pick this one so much for the theological debate as for the observations it contains about how culture and presuppositions regarding the cultural milieu of certain writings can be used to misrepresent facts and draw wrong conclusions.

Just one example is the misconception by certain Higher Biblical Critics in the last century about the nature of the Greek language that is found in the early New Testament Biblical texts. It was thought that the language was Classical Greek and they inferred thereby that certain words had meaning exactly corresponding to the classical meanings. But it turned out that the ancient authors were using the meaning of the Greek as employed by the Septuagint translators, which had been "Judaised" during the itertestamental period to make certain classical words fit Jewish concepts. So it was dangerous and wrong to proceed to pontificate about nascent Christianity without making such distinctions. Yet a whole generation of theological academia had plowed into this error willy-nilly.

Anyway, if you have the intestinal fortitude, here is something that speaks again to the need not only for textual context, but cultural context as well, in studying what people in the past believed and why they acted the way that they did. Enjoy...(if you can)...

New Perspectives on Paul - Dr. Thomas Holland


Blogger Roxylee said...

I think it boils down to whether or not we believe what the Bible states. It's easy to debunk the heresy that Paul was with the Hellenists:

Acts 9:26-30- ESV

" 26And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. 30And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus."

I skimmed over the pseudepigrapha and the Holy Spirit in me did not bear witness to it. That alone was enough to make me not study it further. Maybe I'm simple, but I'd rather err on the side of caution and stick to the Bible.

Also, it is pride that causes man to want to be part of the elite group of those who possess some secret knowledge. Going beyond what is written is just another trick of the enemy to get us sidetracked from the true gospel message, thus breeding more pride and less trust in the living God.

Today it's the new perspective on Paul. Tomorrow it might be that Peter was a heretic, or that Jesus was sexual with Mary Magdalene-Oh, Wait-- they already tried that heresy.

This was interesting, and thank you for warning us of the dangers of straying from the pure Word to extra-Biblical writings.

9:50 am  
Blogger agonizomai said...


I can't believe you actually listened to the whole thing. You're a better man than I am Gunga Din. Well, I did listen to it all (more than once) but it was a hard slog for me.

I get your point about this reference to Paul and the Hellenists. It is clear and straightforward. Unfortunately, those who are wise in their own eyes can readily make such texts serve their own viewpoint.

I totally agree that the Holy Spirit teaches us instantly what is from Him and what is not. My experience is the same as yours. If that is simple then call me simple, too - and grateful to be that way.

The next time I'm taking a break from blogging maybe you should stand in and rage against the dying of the light for me - and I'll sing for you. Oh wait...maybe that last part isn't such a good idea.



11:39 am  

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