Monday, April 23, 2007

Who does the turning?

Sorry to those of you who are still waiting upon a response from me via e-mail or on the blog.

*Insert here a speech about how the change to the new computer has thrown me out of my rhythm*

Of course in 10,000 years time when super robot higher consciousness are researching the historical Chris Tilling, some clever chap will suggest that the above speech is probably an unlikely variant reading for an original which read: "I admit it. I've been a lazy git".

In the next post I am delighted to announce that I will offer the thoughts of Prof. Chrys Caragounis on the tricky problem of the implied subject of the verb, evpistre,yh, in 2 Cor 3:16. Who does the turning? He kindly responded to the question, which I stated here, with some very helpful thoughts that speak heavily against my (together with many of the older German works, e.g. Bultmann, Windisch) earlier suggestion to simply take the subject as the personal pronoun in the previous verse.

I deeply respect his scholarship and so was delighted to receive his response. Chrys Caragounis is the author of such works as: The Ephesian Mysterion. Meaning and Content, GWK Gleerup, Lund 1977, The Son of Man: Vision and Interpretation (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 38), J.C.B. Mohr, Paul Siebeck, Tübingen 1986, Peter and the Rock (Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 58), Berlin: Walter de Gruyter 1990, and the monumental, The Development of Greek and the New Testament: Morphology, Syntax, Phonology, and Textual Transmission (WUNT 137). Mohr-Siebeck: Tübingen 2004 (which I previously mentioned here and here).


Friday, April 20, 2007

A link and a question

A link: Shane Clifton has written a couple of interesting posts on the potential elitism of the Pentecostal doctrine of the baptism in the Spirit here: part 1, and part 2. Personally, I don't subscribe to the Pentecostal doctrine of the baptism of the Spirit, at least not as it is precisely formulated; I've been too influenced by my supervisor, Max Turner, on this front to think otherwise! However, of course I don't want to deny the worth of the Pentecostal impulse to seek for 'more of God' in that which they call the baptism of the Spirit. Whatever we call it, zeal in seeking God is in itself a good thing, and those of us who are theologians or (would-be) biblical scholars ought not to get too proud about our knowledge if we remain as spiritually arid as a sundried cowpat ('Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord' Rom 12:11). Either way, whether we speak with charismatic or Pentecostal language, elitism is a problem in these circles, and so I appreciated Shane's posts.

A question: In 2 Cor 3:15-16 it states: 'Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed' – at least according to the NRSV. The implied subject of the verb translated as 'turns' is actually not clear, yet I tend to think that the personal pronoun in the previous verse ('a veil lies over their minds') should function as the subject. Coming closer to this is then Luther's translation of v. 16 which runs: 'Wenn Israel aber sich bekehrt zu dem Herrn, so wird die Decke abgetan'. It makes more sense to me, when the subject is not clear, to simply use the nearest personal pronoun to clear matters up. Is that faulty reasoning?


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Fee’s change of mind

I posted twice concerning Fatehi's christological reading of 2 Cor 3:16-18 and forgot to mention my source! Fatehi's work to which I referred is his utterly brilliant WUNT monograph, The Spirit's Relation to the Risen Lord in Paul (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000). This will probably sound like an exaggeration, but I honestly think it is one of the most important and smoothly argued monographs relating to Pauline Christology to have been written in modern times. In this post I briefly detail why Fee has changed his mind on the 2 Cor 3:16-18 matter:

While Fee's earlier publications maintained, together with the then emerging scholarly consensus, that the kurios should not be understood as christological, in his recent (2007) and brilliant work on Pauline Christology Fee has to an extent retracted his earlier exegesis in favour of a greater appreciation of the christological reading. Why? While still asserting the Pauline rabbinic interpretation of 3:16 in 3:17, and while still maintaining the estin is an exegetical significant, Fee nevertheless appears to allow for multiple references of the kurios in these verses. '"The Lord" in the Exodus passage refers to the work of the Spirit ... And the Spirit, of course, is "the Spirit of the Lord" = Christ' (178). In other words, Paul reworks the LXX text 'to make it refer simultaneously to the work of the Spirit and Christ' (177). Important for Fee is the identity of the Lord in the phrase 'the Spirit of the Lord' in 3:17. While in his previous work he argued the Lord was 'the Father', he rejects this reading, independent of Fatehi, because of three factors. '(1) Paul regularly appropriates the Septuagint's kurios = Yahweh as referring to Christ; (2) Paul consistently uses kurios in all other passages to refer to Christ; and (3) in concluding the present argument, Paul ... explicitly says that he preaches ... "Jesus Christ as Lord"' (179).

Personally, I find Fatehi's arguments a good deal more persuasive and important, but it is still good to know that Fee is on one's own side!

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Fatehi and Christology in 2 Cor 3:16-18 Part 2 of 2

See the first part here, in which I summarised Fatehi's argument for a christological reading of 2 Cor 3:16-18 based upon contextual issues. This post summarises the second and final phase of his argument.

(B) First, 'from a discourse point of view, it seems that from 14b onwards Paul has already begun to apply his text to the contemporary situation of the Jews' (296). In other words, 3:16 is not a citation from Exodus which is then exegetically explained in 3:17. It is 'already an applied text ... in which case kurios could hardly be taken as an undefined term to be explained by Paul in 17a' (297 – and he notes that the examples Belleville uses are different from 3:16-17 as the boundaries between text and interpretation in those she cites are relatively intact. Not so with Paul here.) This means that in 3:17 Paul is explaining 'not the "kurois" of a cited text ..., but the kurios to whom the Israelites turn according to his application of the text in v. 16' (297-98). The anaphoric function of the article in 3:17 is thus more general than those who reject a christological reading would allow.

Second, Fatehi pursues an analysis of the significance of the repeated particle de, something that accords well with the more general understanding of the anaphoric article. In sum, 'there is no reason to take 2 Corinthians 3:17a as Paul's exegetical comments in a word from a cited text. What Paul does in 17a is basically the same as what he does in 17b ... i.e. [he is] developing his argument by building upon what he has said in his previous statement' (299). o` de. ku,rioj is simply not a comment on a cited text, and the two other instances often cited in favour of Belleville's argument (Gal 4:21-30; 1 Cor 10:4) rather affirm, Fatehi argues, the developmental de marker usage.

Thirdly, Fatehi buries the often-cited argument that the estin is an exegetical significant in 3:17a. In other words, the supposed citation and exegetical comment procedure of 3:16-17 that is maintained to deny a christological reading simply cannot carry the day, and the contextual features outlined by Fatehi (see the previous post) are decisive.

Note: Many argue that Paul identifies Christ with the 'glory' and image of the Lord in 3:18, but not with the Lord himself (the early Fee, Thrall etc.). However, Fatehi argues that this distinction is too subtle that Paul could expect his readers to pick up on it. Furthermore, Paul speaks of the glory of Christ in 4:4 which is itself evidence that 'glory' and 'image' were not clearly isolated entities separate from the Lord, at least not within this argument.

Fatehi has made a strong case for the christological reading of 2 Cor 3:16-18, raising serious objections against the modern case for a non-christological interpretation. At present I happen to think he is correct and have gathered a number of arguments in favour of Fatehi's position, which I may share here at some stage if anyone is interested!

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Fatehi and Christology in 2 Cor 3:16-18 Part 1 of 2

I noted in a previous post my christological understanding of 2 Cor 3:16-18 and was delighted to receive some immediate feedback from a few readers, especially Sean here. However, I am well aware that my own perspective runs against the tide of most modern commentators. To be sure, it is only in the last 20 years or so that this consensus has developed and for most of the twentieth century the scholarly world identified the kurios of 3:16 as Christ. However, this was often maintained in service of a wider scheme which sought to identify Christ and the spirit in Paul in such a way as to undermine trinitarian presuppositions in Paul (Hermann) and to have the apostle fit into a developmental scheme of Christology especially as it related to Religionsgeschichtliche Schule assumptions (Deismann, Gunkel, Bousset).

The modern consensus, which has insisted that the kurios in 3:16 is not christological at all, must be seen against this background to which it reacted. It has been maintained by arguing that 1) 3:16 is a loose citation from the Exod 34 narrative, and as such is referring to YHWH, that 2) 3:17 is thus an interpretive comment on the 'Lord' of the previous verse such that Paul reads the Lord pneumatologically (e.g. Belleville, Turner, Fee, Thrall, Harris etc.)

However, the older view need not be identified with the concerns of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule and a more nuanced understanding of the identity between Spirit and risen Lord in Paul is provided by Mehrdad Fatehi. This is important as there are good reasons to accept the older consensus. In this post and the next I summarise Fatehi's argument for a christological reading of 2 Cor 3:16-18. I happen to think that he is totally on the money and that his argument can even be strengthened.

His case is twofold, relating to both (A) the contextual matters and (B) the alleged exegetical comment of 3:17 on 3:16.

(A) He notes the contextual evidence in 3:3 that makes it clear that 'it is Christ who is the new covenant counterpart of the Yahweh of the Old Testament' (290). In other words, the Lord in 3:16 cannot simply be understood as YHWH because it is based on a Pentateuchal text. Furthermore, a broader analysis of the logic of the entire passage, especially as it relates to the meaning of the telos as not 'end' but 'goal' or 'purpose', leads Fatehi to suggest that:

'[I]t seems to make good sense to take "the Lord" whose glory the Christians behold with unveiled face to be the same telos who was hidden from the Israelites by the veil. And it seems that this is to a great extent what Paul actually affirm in 4:3f. What is veiled from the unbelievers in the latter passage is the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. This implies that what the believers behold with unveiled face is the glory of the same Lord' (292). Ergo, the reasoning would appear to suggest, the Lord of 3:16 is christological'.

After establishing that 3:14 is best read as 'The same veil remains; unlifted, because it is in Christ it is abolished', Fatehi asserts that the subject of katargeitai (abolished) would 'most probably be the veil rather that the old covenant' (293). Hence, '[i]n the context, from v. 13 down to v. 18, the problem which is under focus in the discourse is the veil rather than the old covenant itself' (293). However, if this is so, 'Paul has clearly expressed, just two verses before v. 16, the turning point in the situation of the Jews and the removal of the veil with reference to Christ [evn Cristw/ katargei/tai]' (294 italics mine). This link between 3:16 and 3:14 is made all the plausible given that 3:15 and 3:16 are simply further elaborations on 3:14.

Finally, he strongly maintains that 4:1-6 is more consistent with a christological interpretation of 3:16-18. First, in 4:4 it is the gospel of the glory of Christ that is veiled from unbelievers. Second, 3:18 speaks of 'being transformed into the same image' as the glory of the Lord that is beheld. In 4:4 the image is defined as Christ. Third, Fatehi notes that the gospel preached by Paul is that 'Jesus Christ is Lord' (4:5). This means that 'the two motifs of Christ's glory and his status as Lord are clearly associated in Paul's mind when writing this passage' (294).

These contextual arguments lead Fatehi to argue that a reading of kurios in 3:17 that is not as he maintains must make its case in such a way that makes a christological reading 'in no way compatible with taking kurios to stand for the risen Lord'. Only then would a christological reading be overturned. This has been done, as noted above, by asserting that 3:17 is an exegetical comment on the loose citation from Exod 34:34 in 3:16. But this argument simply doesn't manage to overwhelm the christological implications of the context. To support this claim he makes three points to which I turn in the next post.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Christology in 2 Cor 3:16-18?

A standing debate with my supervisor, Max Turner, concerns 2 Cor 3:16-18. I understand the repeated kurios christologically, he doesn’t (nor does his other research student, and my friend, Volker Rabens). Now Max ‘has-probably-forgotten-more-than-I-have-ever-remembered’ Turner is certainly not the person I want to cross exegetical swords with but I am at least encouraged that my second supervisor (and ex-research student of Max) Mehrdad Fatehi (and author of my favourite WUNT title ever), has published an excellent case for the older christological consensus view against the modern emerging consensus which reads 3:17 as an exegetical comment on a loose citation from Exodus in 3:16.

However, reading Fee’s new work, Pauline Christology, I stumbled upon an encouraging piece of information. Fee, along with Max, was one of the major scholars to support the ‘emerging consensus’ that denied a christological reading of these verses in 2 Cor 3. Turning to his work on 2 Cor 3:16-18 I was thrilled to discover that Fee has now changed his mind! Yes, Max, Volker, its sackcloth and ashes time! Repent and see the light! The ‘Lord’ of 2 Cor 3:16-18, so says Fee, has a christological referent! (I always knew I was right, but some people have to learn the hard way I guess)

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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Paul Duff on 2 Cor 3

I recently read an excellent article on 2 Cor 3 that I want to recommend to readers. As many know, this chapter in 2 Cor is perhaps the Mount Everest of exegetical challenges for Pauline scholars. What Paul B. Duff does, in his article ‘Glory in the ministry of death: gentile condemnation and letters of recommendation in 2 Cor. 3:6-18’ (Novum Testamentum, 46, 2004, 4, pp. 313-37) is to deny vv. 6-18 are a polemic against Judaism at all! Instead, the pitting of the old covenant against the new is part of an argument that maintains that the status of the gentiles before God has changed. The old covenant was a covenant of death only for those who didn’t follow the law, i.e. the gentiles (here he gathers evidence that the law was also meant for the Gentiles). This is why Paul can speak of its glory at the same time as referring to it as a ministry of death. In Paul’s ministry, the Spirit reaches the gentiles without the need for law, and thus without its condemning power. His reading is then justified in relation to the argumentation structure of vv. 7-11 and later vv. 12-18, the latter involving a rereading of ‘Israel’s hindered vision’. The veil refers to that which blinds people to the reality of the change of status gentiles enjoy in the new covenant. This reading is then tied nicely into the overall context of 2 Cor 2:14-7:4 showing that, according to his reading, 3:7-18 fits the wider context without problem, and is thus not an abstract aside on Israel, salvation history and the gentiles.

Do give this extremely thought-provoking paper a read!

Just a few quick thoughts in response before it gets too late: Does Duff’s case sit well together with the argument that Paul understands that the law brings death (and the curse) to all, not just gentile? Hence the universality of sin in Paul’s teaching. Duff claims his theory best explains the apparent paradox of Paul’s speaking of the glory of the new covenant at the same time as calling it a ministry of death. However, I wonder if Hafemann’s thesis (in his book Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel, which I reviewed here) has more to speak for it, in that the death refers to ‘the events surrounding the giving of the Law itself’ (334). One also wonders if Duffs argument, which he claims ‘has the added advantage of seeing Paul much more in sympathy with his own tradition’ (321 n. 30) can make sense of Paul heart’s desire and prayer for the Israelites to ‘be saved’ (Rom 10:1).

Any thoughts?

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