Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Apostle Paul in a Sentence

In the near future I will write a short review of Michael J. Gorman's superb little book, Reading Paul. Until then, here is Gorman's attempt at 'Paul in a sentence'.

"Paul preached, and then explained in various pastoral, community-forming letters, a narrative, apocalyptic, theopolitical gospel (1) in continuity with the story of Israel and (2) in distinction to the imperial gospel of Rome (and analogous powers) that was centered on God's crucified and exalted Messiah Jesus, whose incarnation, life, and death by crucifixion were validated and vindicated by God in his resurrection and exaltation as Lord, which inaugurated the new age or new creation in which all members of this diverse but consistently covenantally dysfunctional human race who respond in self-abandoning and self-committing faith thereby participate in Christ's death and resurrection and are (1) justified, or restored to right covenant relations with God and with others; (2) incorporated into a particular manifestation of Christ the Lord's body on earth, the church, which is an alternative community to the status-quo human communities committed to and governed by Caesar (and analogous rulers) and by values contrary to the gospel; and (3) infused both individually and corporately by the Spirit of God's Son so that they may lead "bifocal" lives, focused both back on Christ's first coming and ahead to his second, consisting of Christlike, cruciform (cross-shaped) (1) faith and (2) hope toward God and (3) love toward both neighbors and enemies (a love marked by peaceableness and inclusion), in joyful anticipation of (1) the return of Christ, (2) the resurrection of the dead to eternal life, and (3) the renewal of the entire creation"

(Michael J. Gorman, Reading Paul, Eugene: Cascade Books, 2008. p. 8)

I couldn't help but feel he was cheating a bit by using such a long (German style) sentence! So here is a quick stab at an alternative (and shorter) suggestion:

'The Jew Paul was a Jesus Christ-obsessed and Christ-community-building canonical interpreter of Israel's Scriptures, proclaiming the Gospel of God to those living in an eschatologically charged time in the first century Mediterranean, and Roman Imperial, world'

A friend of mine, suggested using Paul's own self description:

'Chief of sinners'!

That is, of course, even shorter – and a bit clever! Perhaps we can trim even a few more words off:

'Not Jeremy'

Which would at least be factually true. But can we go even shorter? I think we can. At the risk of circularity:


Which tends to lack the explanatory power of Gorman's, but it is quicker to read.

What would be your 'Paul in a sentence'?


At 1/23/2008 9:49 PM, Blogger :mic said...

"That N. T. Wright guy really gets me!" - Paul

At 1/23/2008 10:00 PM, Anonymous Nick Norelli said...

That guy whose words seem to take precedence over Jesus more times than not. ;^P

At 1/23/2008 10:01 PM, Blogger mike said...

how about:

Paul was the missionary theologian seeking identity transformation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

At 1/23/2008 10:09 PM, Blogger Nick Steffen said...

Perhaps it's just me, but it seem like Gorman's Paul sentences seems rather German and rather Greek (in a Pauline sort of way).

At 1/24/2008 1:26 PM, Anonymous Kevin D. said...

"Paul's not here, just Jesus" (cf. Gal. 2:20)

At 1/24/2008 8:26 PM, Blogger :mic said...

Just ran across this in an essay:

“For the apostle Paul, an integral aim and outworking of God’s self-disclosure in Jesus Christ is the incorporation of the whole of humanity into Messiah Jesus and his Spirit, and thereby into the divine life that is eternal communion with the triune God."

S. A. Cummins, "Divine Life and Corporate Christology: God, Messiah Jesus, and the Covenant Community in Paul" in The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007).

At 1/24/2008 10:52 PM, Anonymous dan said...

I reckon this is the best I can do to summarise Paul in a sentence:

"Not who we thought he was."

At 1/26/2008 6:24 AM, Blogger Michael J. Gorman said...

The sentence was originally composed in Classical Greek, tuned-down to Koine, translated into German, and finally rendered into English.

Short sentences are good. But German sentences are fun, and great for students to memorize.

At 1/27/2008 1:45 AM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Hi Michael,
Why am I not suprised German was involved at some stage!

At 1/31/2008 11:13 PM, Anonymous Kenny said...

There are too many conjunctions and it is too easy to identify the main verb for that to be a Pauline sentence (though the German intermediary stage may explain that). In order to have a truly Pauline sentence you should: (1) put the finite verb somewhere in the middle, not so close to the beginning, (2) minimize the use of conjunctions, and (3) keep adding circumstantial participles until even seasoned readers of Greek cannot locate the main verb of the sentence and editors cannot agree on where to put the periods. It might also help to get excited and insert a long list of near-synonyms in the middle.


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