Table of Contents

Blackwell Companions to Religion

The Blackwell Companions to Religion series presents a collection of the most recent scholarship and knowledge about world religions. Each volume draws together newly-commissioned essays by distinguished authors in the field, and is presented in a style which is accessible to undergraduate students, as well as scholars and the interested general reader. These volumes approach the subject in a creative and forward-thinking style, providing a forum in which leading scholars in the field can make their views and research available to a wider audience.


The Blackwell Companion to Judaism

Edited by Jacob Neusner and Alan J. Avery-Peck

The Blackwell Companion to Sociology of Religion

Edited by Richard K. Fenn

The Blackwell Companion to the Hebrew Bible

Edited by Leo G. Perdue

The Blackwell Companion to Postmodern Theology

Edited by Graham Ward

The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism

Edited by Gavin Flood

The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology

Edited by Peter Scott and William T. Cavanaugh

The Blackwell Companion to Protestantism

Edited by Alister E. McGrath and Darren C. Marks

The Blackwell Companion to Modern Theology

Edited by Gareth Jones

The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics

Edited by Stanley Hauerwas and Samuel Wells

The Blackwell Companion to Religious Ethics

Edited by William Schweiker

The Blackwell Companion to Christian Spirituality

Edited by Arthur Holder

The Blackwell Companion to the Study of Religion

Edited by Robert A. Segal

The Blackwell Companion to the Qur’x101_PhotinaMT-Bold_7n_000100n

Edited by Andrew Rippin

The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought

Edited by Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi’

The Blackwell Companion to the Bible and Culture

Edited by John F. A. Sawyer

The Blackwell Companion to Catholicism

Edited by James J. Buckley, Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt, and Trent Pomplun

The Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity

Edited by Ken Parry

The Blackwell Companion to the Theologians

Edited by Ian S. Markham

The Blackwell Companion to the Bible in English Literature

Edited by Rebecca Lemon, Emma Mason, John Roberts, and Christopher Rowland

The Blackwell Companion to the New Testament

Edited by David E. Aune

The Blackwell Companion to Nineteenth Century Theology

Edited by David Fergusson

The Blackwell Companion to Religion in America

Edited by Philip Goff

The Blackwell Companion to Jesus

Edited by Delbert Burkett

The Blackwell Companion to Religion and Violence

Edited by Andrew Murphy

Title page

For Martin and Jenna


Notes on Contributors

Jean-Noël Aletti is Professor of New Testament Exegesis at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. Among his fields of expertise are the Pauline epistles (on which he has published several commentaries) and Greco-Roman rhetoric and epistolography. His study God’s Justice in Romans has been translated into English.

Lewis Ayres is Bede Chair in Catholic Theology at Durham University. His interests in the early church’s Trinitarian thought and use of Scripture are reflected in his monographs Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology and Augustine and the Trinity.

John M. G. Barclay is Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University and editor of New Testament Studies. Major publications include Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora, a translation and commentary on Josephus’s Against Apion, and Obeying the Truth: Paul’s Ethics in Galatians. A study of Paul’s theology of grace is forthcoming.

Richard E. Burnett is Professor of Systematic Theology at Erskine Theological Seminary. A specialist in the study of John Calvin and Karl Barth, he has published Karl Barth’s Theological Exegesis: The Hermeneutical Principles of the Römerbrief Period and is the editor of the forthcoming Westminster Handbook to Karl Barth.

Stephen Chester is Professor of New Testament at North Park Theological Seminary. He has published Conversion at Corinth: Perspectives on Conversion in Paul’s Theology and the Corinthian Church as well as a number of studies on Reformation interpretations of Paul.

Ralph Del Colle is Associate Professor of Theology at Marquette University. The co-editor of the International Journal of Systematic Theology, he has published Christ and the Spirit: Spirit Christology in Trinitarian Perspective and numerous studies on Trinitarian theology, pneumatology, and the doctrine of grace.

James D. G. Dunn is Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University. Among his major monographs may be mentioned commentaries on Romans, Galatians, Colossians, and Philemon; The Theology of Paul the Apostle; Jesus Remembered; and Beginning from Jerusalem.

Simon J. Gathercole is Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies and Fellow, Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge. Currently the editor of the Journal for the Study of the New Testament, he has published monographs on the Gospel of Judas, Christology in the synoptic gospels, and Pauline soteriology.

Beverly Roberts Gaventa is Helen H. P. Manson Professor of New Testament Interpreta­tion and Exegesis at Princeton Theological Seminary. In addition to Our Mother Saint Paul and Mary: Glimpses of the Mother of Jesus, she has published commentaries on Acts and the Thessalonian epistles, and is currently preparing a commentary on Romans.

Christopher A. Hall is Chancellor of Eastern University and Dean of Palmer Theological Seminary. The associate editor of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series, he has co-edited the volume on Mark’s Gospel and published Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers; Studying Theology with the Church Fathers; and Worshiping with the Church Fathers.

Nicholas M. Healy is Professor of Theology and Religious Studies and Associate Dean at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, St. John’s University. Key publications include Thomas Aquinas: Theologian of the Christian Life and (reflecting his interest in ecclesiology) Church, World and the Christian Life: Practical-Prophetic Ecclesiology.

John Paul Heil is Professor of New Testament at The Catholic University of America. He has published books on Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Hebrews, in addition to several monographs on the Gospels.

Arland J. Hultgren is Asher O. and Carrie Nasby Professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary. His published works, covering a wide range of topics in the study of Early Christianity, include The Parables of Jesus; Paul’s Gospel and Mission; Christ and His Benefits; The Rise of Normative Christianity; and Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Commentary.

David Lyle Jeffrey is Distinguished Professor of Literature and Humanities at Baylor University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He was general editor and co-author of A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature. Other monographs include People of the Book; House of the Interpreter; and a forthcoming theological commentary on Luke.

Robin M. Jensen is Luce Chancellor’s Professor of the History of Christian Art and Worship at Vanderbilt University. Key publications include Understanding Early Christian Art; Face to Face: The Portrait of the Divine in Early Christianity; and Living Water: Images, Symbols, and Settings of Early Christian Baptism.

Dirk Jongkind is Fellow and Graduate Tutor at St. Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge, and Research Fellow at Tyndale House. He has broad interests in epigraphy, papyrology, and archaeology in the Greco-Roman world, and a special interest in the textual criticism of the Greek Bible, reflected in his monograph Scribal Habits in Codex Sinaiticus.

Craig S. Keener is Professor of New Testament at Palmer Theological Seminary, Eastern University. A prolific author, he has published commentaries on Matthew, John, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Revelation. Other books include The Historical Jesus of the Gospels and Paul, Women and Wives.

P. Travis Kroeker is Professor of Philosophical Theology and Ethics in the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University. He has published Christian Ethics and Political Economy in North America; Remembering the End: Dostoevsky as Prophet to Modernity (co-authored); and numerous articles, most recently on messianic ethics and political theology.

Anthony N. S. Lane is Professor of Historical Theology at the London School of Theology. His publications include A Concise History of Christian Thought; Justification by Faith in Catholic-Protestant Dialogue; and (on Calvin) Calvin and Bernard of Clairvaux; John Calvin: Student of the Church Fathers; and A Reader’s Guide to Calvin’s Institutes.

Daniel R. Langton is Professor of the History of Jewish-Christian Relations at the University of Manchester. His study over many years of Jewish readings of Paul has led to the publication of The Apostle Paul in the Jewish Imagination. Other publications include Claude Montefiore: His Life and Thought and Children of Zion: Jewish and Christian Perspectives on the Holy Land.

Grant LeMarquand is Professor of Biblical Studies and Mission at the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. He has contributed to The Bible in Africa, co-edited Theological Education in Contemporary Africa, and published a monograph comparing North Atlantic and African interpretations of the Gospel story of the bleeding woman.

Matthew Levering is Professor of Theology at the University of Dayton. He has co-edited the Oxford Handbook on the Trinity (forthcoming); Aquinas the Augustinian; and Reading John with St. Thomas Aquinas. Among his own monographs may be mentioned Predestination; Participatory Biblical Exegesis; and a theological commentary on Ezra and Nehemiah.

Margaret Y. MacDonald is Professor of Religious Studies at St. Francis Xavier University. Her interests include the Pauline epistles (The Pauline Churches, a commentary on Colossians and Ephesians) and women in early Christianity (Early Christian Women and Pagan Opinion; A Woman’s Place: House Churches in Earliest Christianity [co-authored]).

I. Howard Marshall is Emeritus Professor of New Testament Exegesis, University of Aberdeen. His many publications include the International Critical Commentary volume on the Pastoral Epistles; commentaries on Luke, Acts, the Thessalonian and Johannine Epistles; and New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel.

Mickey L. Mattox is Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Marquette University. Specializing on the theology and biblical exegesis of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, he has co-authored The Substance of the Faith: Luther’s Doctrinal Theology for Today and published a monograph on Luther’s interpretation of the women of Genesis.

Gilbert Meilaender is Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Professor of Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University. He has co-edited the Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics and published Faith and Faithfulness: Basic Themes in Christian Ethics; The Way that Leads There; Freedom of a Christian; and Neither Beast Nor God: The Dignity of the Human Person.

Stanley E. Porter is President, Dean, and Professor of New Testament at McMaster Divinity College. The editor or co-editor of many volumes, his own monographs include Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, Paul in Acts, The Criteria for Authenticity in Historical Jesus Research, and (with Wendy J. Porter) New Testament Papyri and Parchments: New Editions.

Heikki Räisänen is Emeritus Professor of New Testament Exegesis, University of Helsinki. His publications, reflecting a broad range of interests, include Paul and the Law; Jesus, Paul and Torah; Beyond New Testament Theology; Marcion, Muhammad and the Mahatma; and The Rise of Christian Beliefs: The Thought World of Early Christians.

Rainer Riesner is Professor of New Testament at the Institute for Evangelical Theology, Dortmund University. His many publications include Paul’s Early Period: Chronology, Mission Strategy, Theology; Jesus als Lehrer; and Bethanien jenseits des Jordan.

Marguerite Shuster is Harold John Ockenga Professor of Preaching and Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. Presently working on a study of divine providence, she has published Power, Pathology, Paradox: The Dynamics of Evil and Good; Who We Are: Our Dignity as Human (with Paul K. Jewett); and The Fall and Sin: What We Have Become as Sinners.

Todd D. Still is Associate Professor of Christian Scriptures at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University. He has edited Jesus and Paul Reconnected; co-edited After The First Urban Christians; published Conflict at Thessalonica and a commentary on Colossians; and has a forthcoming commentary on Philippians and Philemon.

Theodore G. Stylianopoulos is the Emeritus Archbishop Iakovos Professor of Orthodox Theology and Professor of New Testament at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Among his publications may be mentioned The Good News of Christ; The New Testament: An Orthodox Perspective; and The Way of Christ: Gospel, Spirituality, and Renewal in Orthodoxy.

Gerd Theissen is Professor Emeritus for New Testament Theology at the University of Heidelberg. A pioneer in the sociological study of early Christianity, he has published Sociology of Early Palestinian Christianity; The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity; Psychological Aspects of Pauline Theology; and The Religion of the Earliest Churches.

John R. Tyson is Professor of Theology at United Theological Seminary (Dayton). His many studies of the Wesleys and early Methodism include Charles Wesley on Sanctification; Charles Wesley: A Reader; In the Midst of Early Methodism: Lady Huntingdon and Her Correspondence (co-authored); and Assist Me to Proclaim: The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley.

J. Ross Wagner is Associate Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary. His interest in early Jewish and Christian interpretation of Scripture is reflected in the monograph Heralds of the Good News: Paul and Isaiah “In Concert” in the Letter to the Romans, as well as in ongoing studies of the Old Greek version of Isaiah.

Stephen Westerholm is Professor of Early Christianity in the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University. He has published Israel’s Law and the Church’s Faith: Paul and His Recent Interpreters; Understanding Paul; and Perspectives Old and New on Paul in addition to studies on the Synoptic Gospels and historical Jesus.

Peter Widdicombe is Associate Professor of Patristics and Historical Theology in the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University. He has published The Fatherhood of God from Origen to Athanasius and articles on the interpretation of Scripture and doctrine in the Patristic period.

N. T. Wright is Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews. His forthcoming Paul and the Faithfulness of God is the fourth volume in a series on Christian Origins and the Question of God. Among many other titles may be mentioned Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision; Paul: Fresh Perspectives; and The Climax of the Covenant.


The author and publisher gratefully acknowledge the permissions granted to reproduce copyrighted material in this book:

Figure 32.1 Paul with capsa, Catacomb of Domitilla, Rome.

Photo credit: Estelle Brettman, The International Catacomb Society.

Figure 32.2 Busts of Peter and Paul with Christ, Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, mid-6th century.

Photo credit: Holly Hayes, Sacred Destinations Images.

Figure 32.3 Peter and Paul, Arian Baptistery, Ravenna, early 6th century.

Photo credit: Robin Jensen.

Figure 32.4 Jesus giving the law to Peter and Paul, Mausoleum of Constanza, Rome, mid-4th century.

Photo credit: Robin M. Jensen.

Figure 32.5 Jesus enthroned with apostles, Basilica of Sta. Pudenziana, Rome, ca. 400.

Photo credit: Robin M. Jensen.

Figure 32.6 Embrace of Peter and Paul, 10th-century ivory now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Photo credit: Br. Lawrence Lew, OP.

Figure 32.7 Arrest of Paul, detail of Passion Sarcophagus, Vatican Museum, ca. 340–360.

Photo credit: Robin M. Jensen.

Figure 32.8 Alessandro Algardi, The Beheading of St. Paul, ca. 1650. San Paolo Maggiore, Bologna.

Photo credit: Alinari/Art Resource, NY.

Figure 32.9 Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi da), The Conversion on the Way to Damascus, ca. 1600, Cerai Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome.

Photo credit: Scala/Art Resource, NY.

Figure 32.10 Paul disputing with the Jews and escaping from Damascus, 12th-century mosaic from the Palatine Chapel, Palermo, Sicily.

Photo credit: Alinari/Art Resource, NY.

Figure 32.11 Ivory of Paul with Thecla, Rome, ca. 430, now in the British Museum.

Photo credit: Robin M. Jensen.

Figure 32.12 Diptych with the stories of Paul on Malta and Adam in Paradise, now in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence.

Photo: George Tatge, 2000. Photo credit: Alinari/Art Resource, NY.

Figure 32.13 Slab from Paul’s tomb, from the Basilica of St. Paul fuori le Mura.

Photo credit: Robin M. Jensen.


Stephen Westerholm

Paul’s primary readership is not scholarly, but among scholars he is read primarily by students of the New Testament and early Christianity, on the one hand, and of Christian theology, on the other. The Blackwell Companion to Paul is designed to address the interests of both and to facilitate their mutual conversation.

That students of the New Testament and of Christian theology are talking to each other is something of a recent development. Any suggestion that they should do so would have made no sense in the premodern era and been programmatically opposed in the centuries that followed. In the earlier period, Paul’s writings were characteristically read as a vehicle of divine communication to humankind. Those who sought answers to life’s most fundamental questions turned to Paul (and to the other writers of Scripture) to find them, and those who read Paul’s letters (and the other writings of Scripture) did so assured that what they encountered there was true and foundational. Theology (in other words) meant interpreting Scripture, and Scripture was interpreted theologically. Not until the tasks were conceived of as distinct enterprises, assigned to different practitioners, could “mutual conversation” even be contemplated.

The very conditions that made such conversation possible were such as to make it unpalatable. In many ways, Spinoza set the agenda for the modern academic study of the Bible (Spinoza 1951; Latin original 1670). To read the Bible properly (it is held), one must approach the text without any of the biases of faith: to assume that its contents were divinely revealed, and hence coherent and true, is to prejudice one’s understanding of the text from the outset (Spinoza 1951, 8, 99–100). The goal of biblical interpretation must be to determine the meaning rather than the truth of the text (Spinoza 1951, 101; the distinction was unthinkable earlier) as well as the (natural, not supernatural) processes that led to its composition. In short, the Bible should be read “like any other book” (Jowett 1860, 377) and studied, not for what it reveals about God, but for what it can tell us about ancient Israelite history and religion, or the history of the early followers of Jesus (Gilkey 1961). The retelling of these histories, like that of any other history, involves tracing the sequences of events to their (natural, not supernatural) causes: ancient Israelite religion had its home and origin among the many religions in the ancient Near East; early Christianity was (and must be studied as) one of many religious movements in the Greco-Roman world (Troeltsch 1991; German original 1898).

Such an approach eliminates the quest for (and, indeed, the possibility of finding) contemporary relevance in the biblical texts; but this (it is held) is hardly to be lamented, since a concern for relevance is liable to distort one’s interpretation of ancient texts and reconstruction of ancient history. Their task so construed, students of the Bible have had little interest in conversation with theologians; the latter, for their part, have been wont to dismiss the modern practice of biblical studies as a trivializing antiquarianism.

There is no doubt that the biblical writings, and the history of early Christianity, continue (and will continue) to be studied by many who think it important to exclude religious convictions from their work – indeed, by many in whose work anti-religious sentiments are very much in evidence. The attention that such readers give to hitherto overlooked aspects of the texts, and the fresh questions they raise, have led to insights that have become the common property of all interpreters of the Bible. Many of the issues much debated within this academic field are treated in the first part of this book: questions of Pauline chronology; of the apostle’s continuing relations with the communities of believers that he founded; of the social stratification of those communities, and of the roles played by women within them; of Paul’s stance toward the imperial powers of his day, on the one hand, and toward his Jewish heritage, on the other; of the use he made of rhetoric in his letters, and of how those letters have been transmitted over the centuries. Even topics sounding more theological – Paul’s understanding of the gospel, of Scripture and (specifically) the Mosaic law, of Christology – are recognized by historians with no interest in theology to have played a crucial role in the shaping of early Christian thought and identity. In short, Part I of this book addresses topics that have always lain within the scope of biblical scholarship.

At the same time, there has always been something strange about an understanding of biblical studies that requires it to end where (as one observer put it) the history of the Bible begins (Levenson 1993, 107): are not the understandings of Paul that guided the thinking of such giants of history as Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and the Wesleys at least as important as the most recently proposed reconstruction of what the apostle really thought by an associate professor at a local university? Does not the insistence that Paul’s writings be studied simply for what they reveal about one religious movement among many in the first-century Greco-Roman world ring hollow given that, in much of the world of the twenty-first century, one is never more than a few miles from churches in which the letters of Paul continue to find a place in lectionaries and sermons, and from private homes in which small groups, made up neither of scholars nor of clergy, meet each week to study them? That Paul’s letters have been the subject of continuous and intense study for two thousand years surely merits the attention of students of the apostle. The recent explosion of interest in the history of interpretation seems therefore very much in order, and it is by no means confined to scholars with theological concerns – though, to be sure, it marks a natural bridge between the disciplines of biblical studies and theology. A distinctive feature of The Blackwell Companion to Paul is the prominence given in Part II to Paul’s impact on (an inevitably select group of) his interpreters.

And on certain communities of readers. Though only a very small sampling of such communities could be included here, their presence ought nonetheless to serve as a reminder that Paul’s letters are not the preserve of the ivory tower. Of special interest, given Paul’s own wrestlings with his Jewish heritage, is the way in which Jews have read his writings. It is hoped that the horizons of many readers will be expanded by an introduction to Orthodox and African readings of the apostle as well.

Part III is devoted, more broadly, to Paul’s legacy. His impact on art and literature is often neglected; it is expertly introduced here. Of the many areas in which Paul’s writings have shaped Christian thinking, four have been selected for inclusion. In each case, the distinctiveness and profound influence of Paul’s thought are indisputable: sin and the “fall,” the Spirit of God, ethics, and the church. Contributors to this section of the Companion were asked to say something about how Paul set the agenda for, and determined the boundaries of, Christian thinking on their topic. Their stimulating and illuminating responses make a unique contribution to this volume.

But (to repeat) Paul’s primary readership is not scholarly. To fail to account for this truism is to fall short of grasping Paul’s significance. In a well-known treatise, and in his own inimitable way, Søren Kierkegaard insisted that a distinction be drawn between a genius and an apostle (Kierkegaard 1962; Danish original 1847). Geniuses, however extraordinary their gifts, remain within the realm of the humanly possible, and they speak without authority. Paul was no genius: he was, after all, hardly remarkable as a literary stylist, of unknown competence as a tent-maker, and, when it comes to profundity, not to be compared with a Plato or a Shakespeare. But even to consider him in these terms, no matter how complimentary our assessment of his gifts, is to rob him of his true importance. Paul was an apostle who spoke with authority the divine message he was commissioned to deliver. As such, he commands a hearing.

Not all students of Paul will allow the reality of Kierkegaard’s distinction, but it captures well Paul’s own self-understanding and the point of his endeavors, and it explains why his hold on two millennia of readers exceeds that of Plato and Shakespeare. Further specification, however, is needed. An “apostle,” as someone (by definition) sent on a mission, requires a sender: Paul’s “calling” was that of an apostle (he could also say “servant” or “slave”) of Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:1; cf. Rom 1:1). It originated when (as Paul put it) “God was pleased to reveal his Son to me” (Gal 1:15–16); thereafter, both his life and his proclamation could be summed up in the single word “Christ” (Phil 1:18, 21; cf. 1 Cor 1:23; 2:2; 2 Cor 4:5), who was to be “magnified” in all he did (Phil 1:20). To be sure, Paul did not derive his idiom from Jesus: the theological abstractions and argumentation of the epistles are uniquely his own, as is the head-scratching provoked by his parables (Rom 7:2–3; 11:17–24). On the other hand, Paul learned from his Lord of faith that moves mountains and banishes anxiety (Matt 17:20 and 1 Cor 13:2; Matt 6:25–34 and Phil 4:6–7); of the permanence of marriage and the (secondary, but real) obligation to pay taxes (Matt 19:3–9 and 1 Cor 7:10–11; Matt 22:21 and Rom 13:6–7); of the primacy of love, even for enemies, whose evil is to be met – and overcome – with good (Matt 22:34–40 and Rom 13:8–10 [cf. 1 Cor 13]; Matt 5:43–48 and Rom 12:14–21); of the virtues of meekness and lowliness, marking a life of servanthood (Matt 5:5; 11:29 and 2 Cor 10:1; Gal 5:23; Phil 2:3; Matt 20:25–28 and 2 Cor 4:5; Gal 5:13); of a discipleship of dying in order to live (Matt 16:24–25 and 2 Cor 4:7–18). From Jesus, too, came the “good news” that, with Jesus, the promised day of God’s salvation had dawned (Matt 4:17; 12:28; 13:16–17; cf. 2 Cor 6:2), and that the outpouring of God’s love embraced “sinners” (Matt 9:10–13; Luke 15:1–32; cf. Rom 4:5; 5:8). The new age had begun, and its consummation was imminent (Matt 24:44; 1 Thess 4:13–18). In these and other ways, the life and teaching of Jesus were important to Paul.

Even more foundational were Christ’s death and resurrection – as, indeed, they are the climax, not merely the conclusion, of his activities in the gospels. Paul shared the common conviction of the early church that Christ “died for our sins” (1 Cor 15:3). But it was Paul who found peculiar significance in his death by crucifixion: so excruciating and shameful a death marked both the extent of Christ’s humility and obedience (Phil 2:8) and the divine overturning of all human values (1 Cor 1:18–31). It was, for Paul, the ultimate proof of divine love for the weak, the sinful, the enemies of God, and it effected their reconciliation to God (Rom 5:6–10). In Christ’s resurrection, God had decisively overcome the powers of evil and inaugurated a new age and a new creation; with Christ’s resurrection came the promise of resurrection for all who are found “in Christ” (Rom 8; 1 Cor 15).

In the end, the story of Paul is the story of the power of Paul’s message to create communities of faith and to transform the lives and thinking of their members. Its staying power, by any standards, has been remarkable. It invites the study of biblical scholars and the reflection of theologians, while it continues to command a hearing from those who are neither, but who find themselves addressed by the letters of Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ.


Among the many forums in which this conversation is currently taking place may be mentioned the Journal of Theological Interpretation, the Brazos Theological Commentary series, and the Two Horizons Commentary series (Eerdmans). See also Vanhoozer (2005); O’Day and Petersen (2009).

See Rowe and Hays (2007).

Both positions were never more in evidence, or more passionately argued, than in the storm provoked by the appearance of Karl Barth’s commentary on Romans. See chapter 27 of this volume.

It will be sufficient to mention here the launching, from the 1990s and later, of three commentary series in English devoted to the history of interpretation: the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (InterVarsity Press), the Blackwell Bible Commentaries, and The Church’s Bible (Eerdmans).

Another important bridge has been the canonical approach to scriptural texts advocated by Brevard Childs.

The choice of each interpreter included is easily justified. That the inclusion of others would have been equally justifiable is not denied.

See the articles in Still (2007).


Gilkey, Langdon B. 1961. Cosmology, Ontology, and the Travail of Biblical Language. Journal of Religion 41: 194–205.

Jowett, Benjamin. 1860. On the Interpretation of Scripture. Pages 330–433 in Frederick Temple and others, Essays and Reviews. London: John W. Parker and Son.

Kierkegaard, Søren. 1962. Of the Difference between a Genius and an Apostle. Pages 87–108 in Søren Kierkegaard, The Present Age. Translated by Alexander Dru. New York: Harper & Row.

Levenson, Jon D. 1993. The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and Historical Criticism: Jews and Christians in Biblical Studies. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.

O’Day, Gail R., and David L. Petersen, editors. 2009. Theological Bible Commentary. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.

Rowe, C. Kavin, and Richard B. Hays. 2007. Biblical Studies. Pages 435–455 in The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology. Edited by John Webster, Kathryn Tanner, and Iain Torrance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Spinoza, Benedict de. 1951. Theologico-Political Treatise. Pages 3–266 in The Chief Works of Benedict de Spinoza: A Theologico-Political Treatise and A Political Treatise. Translated by R. H. M. Elwes. New York: Dover.

Still, Todd D., editor. 2007. Jesus and Paul Reconsidered: Fresh Pathways into an Old Debate. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Troeltsch, Ernst. 1991. Historical and Dogmatic Method in Theology. Pages 11–18 in Ernst Troeltsch, Religion in History. Minneapolis: Fortress.

Vanhoozer, Kevin J., editor. 2005. Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker.

Part I: Paul and Christian Origins

1 Pauline Chronology

Rainer Riesner

2 Paul and the Macedonian Believers

Todd D. Still

3 Paul and the Corinthian Believers

Craig S. Keener

4 Paul and the Galatian Believers

Stephen Chester

5 Paul and the Believers of Western Asia

John Paul Heil

6 Paul and the Roman Believers

Beverly Roberts Gaventa

7 The Pastoral Epistles

I. Howard Marshall

8 The Portrait of Paul in Acts

Stanley E. Porter

9 The Gospel According to St. Paul

James D. G. Dunn

10 Paul and Scripture

J. Ross Wagner

11 Paul’s Christology

Simon J. Gathercole

12 Paul, Judaism, and the Jewish People

John M. G. Barclay

13 Paul and the Law

Arland J. Hultgren

14 The Text of the Pauline Corpus

Dirk Jongkind

15 Rhetoric in the Letters of Paul

Jean-Noël Aletti

16 The Social Setting of Pauline Communities

Gerd Theissen

17 Women in the Pauline Churches

Margaret Y. MacDonald

18 Paul and Empire

N. T. Wright