Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mike Bird and the Quote of the Day

Just yesterday, I picked up my good friend, Mike Bird's new book Introducing Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message. Having worked through the opening chapter, "What is Paul?", where Mike examines five images of Paul as related in the NT: persecutor, missionary, theologian, pastor and martyr (pp.15-28), I was particularly struck by his section on Paul as a theologian (pp.20-23). More specifically, Mike's comments concerning scholars quest to find the sources contributing to Paul's thought are worth quoting in full.

In terms of the sources of Paul's thought, several background areas have been proposed, including Hellenism, Cynicism, Stoicism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Gnosticism, Rabbinic Judaism and Diaspora Judaism. But given that Paul has a foot in both the Jewish and Greek worlds, it is unsurprising that he echoes ideas contained in different intellectual forums. But to attribute his thinking to any one particular source runs into manifold problems. We must avoid the notion that analogy means genealogy or that similarity means source. Nor should we mistake the cultural context of Paul's thought with its content. More likely sources for Paul's theology include the following:

  1. The Jesus tradition, or the body of Jesus' teaching transmitted in the early church, which informs significant parts of Paul's exhortations.
  2. The Jewish Scriptures and Paul's reading of them through a Christocentric grid, which provides the substructure of his theology.
  3. Paul's consistent application of the gospel to the situations he faces in order to ensure vitality and integrity of the churches. (pp.20-21; italics mine)

I agree wholeheartedly with Mike's assessment but I am curious to know your thoughts. Are there any other sources that Paul employs to his theological grid?

1 comment:

Bill Heroman said...

I suppose it would be the acme of foolishness to inquire as to whether divine revelation might be added to the list.