Paul’s Ethics

Blog 1 Paul’s Ethics Frank Allen Leone

Rosner discusses moral and ethical problems confronting the fledgling Christian communities where Paul preached. The early church was struggling with many Jewish and Gentile issues which Paul faced throughout his ministry. These issues are classified by Rosner into three types of morale exhortation paraenesis (advice or counsel) is scattered throughout Paul’s letters. The first traditional paraenesis, these are moral issues dealing with holiness and love. Second situational paraenesis involves advice and exhortation of specific matters. Finally, the ecclesiastical paraenesis matters of the Church and the ministry.

Paul’s letters are generally divided into letters of belief or Christian conduct. Ethical issues are usually referred to the gospel. For Paul doctrine and ethical issues are inseparable. His aim was to teach how to ‘walk and please God’ (1 Thess 4:1). His principle purpose was to bring Gentiles into ‘allegiance and obedience to God’ (Rom 15:19). His main theme was to exhort the Churches to conduct there common life in a manner worthy of the gospel (Phil 11: 22). In the early Church the Jewish people demanded loyalty to the Jewish faith. Paul says the Torah Law has no value for Christians in their life. According to Paul the law has ‘works of wrath’ (Rom 4:15), ‘increases sin’ (Rom 5:20), and ‘even kills’ (Rom 7:5). Paul and his Jewish background it is evident that the Old Testament did influence some of his ethical decisions.

Rosner discusses two case studies, Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 5. They are excellent examples of the three types of paraenesis. It is necessary to highlight Roman background during Paul’s ministry. In early 50CE Emperor Claudius expelled Jewish and Christians from the city of Rome. The gentiles that were left took over the leadership of the Roman Churches. Five years later Emperor Nero lifted the edict. When the Jewish leaders returned a leadership debate divided the old and new leaders of the Churches.

The first thing Paul does is spell out implications from the gospel on conduct of Christians. This divide is unnecessary. Additionally, he seeks the mercy of God on his approach. In Chapter 1 he calls for reasonable worship and mind renewal as opposed to the false and foolish worship and corrupted minds. In (Rom12: 2-21) the central demand for love is announced and tested out. Paul is writing with anger from prison trying to persuade the Jews and Christians to set aside their differences. His advice is to leave vengeance to God and overcome evil with good always looking at the way of the cross. In this case study all three paraenesis are found: traditional the church infighting, situational Paul’s advice to show love, finally, the ecclesiastical the Roman Church has to decide on their hierarchy.

1 Corinthians 5 the second case study. The Corinthian’s are tolerating an openly sexual morality. Paul is loud and vehement in his opposition. The offender is porniea or incest. The book of Leviticus says the relationship was with his father’s wife or his step-mother. The woman was a non-believer and did not receive any rebuke from Paul. This is an example of Paul’s persuasive style. Paul says he has no business to judge those on the outside of the Church. On the other hand, Paul rebukes the Corinthians for their inaction in this matter. Furthermore, they are to remove the offender from the Corinthian church. If they fail to remove the offender this will do harm to the Church. The main factor is not so much the incest but the exclusion of the offender from the community. In this case study all three paraenesis are found: traditional, the moral issue of incest, situational, the advice offered by Paul, finally, the ecclesiastical, the rebuke of the Church and the community.

Reimagining God’s Future

Reimagining God’s Future

In chapter 7 of Paul, N. T. Wright reviews the way that St. Paul puts forth a fresh new way of looking at God – reimagining God’s activity in the future. 

The writer explains Paul’s task in teaching the Christian hope, to puzzled converts, was to educate their imagination, to lift their eyebrow beyond the small horizons of their previous worldviews. He notes that given the state of Israel (chosen people) and world, God should put things in the right perspective in the future.

By reimagining the Jewish doctrine of eschatology (one future for God’s world) around the Messiah and the Spirit, he takes a glimpse not just of God’s future for the world, but God’s own future as well. He puts forth a claim that was made against the world of paganism.

N. T. Wright explains explicitly, God of Israel is capable and committed to act in the future, defeating the pagan idols and their devotees, and thereby give rise to a new creation.

He reviews the concept of exile from two different angles; a blessing if Israel keeps the commandment, then a curse if Israel does not – then exile. He believes oppression of Israel by pagan nations and the disobedience to God’s covenant mark the beginning of the exile. Exile did not start when the Babylonians captured Jerusalem but instead started when Torah arrived in Israel. He emphasizes that Israel is cursed and exiled because of breaking the Torah. Pagan nations do not receive the blessing of Abraham, and the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles and the Christian Jews might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

He believes that humanity should rely on God, who led the Israelites through the Red Sea and the wilderness, will scatter his enemies and rescue Israel in the future. The first-century Jewish expectation of the future, is that, God will come to speak to his own, he will become king in a new way.   

N. T. Wright stresses that what has already happened in the Messiah and what is still to happen at the ultimate is justification – the body of Christ. He redefines eschatology around the Messiah and the Spirit as functioned on the principle that the Jewish vision at the end, will be fulfilled in the Messiah and yet to be fulfilled by the Spirit. On the last day, receive homage from creation and hand over the kingdom to the Father, so God will be all in all.

He believes the Messiah’s resurrection is the agency of the Father and the Messiah’s future activity and the Spirit’s work are redefined as what Israel expects of God to do for all his people, at the end of time.

His redefinition of eschatology, was the resurrection, messiahship and God’s kingdom which will result from future judgement. He states the new Exodus has been launched through the work of Jesus, the Messiah as the Paschal Lamb.

God’s people walk through the waters which means they will be delivered from slavery into freedom. Though the Torah cannot give life it promised, God has done it – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Suffering brings out resilience in Christians, without despair but see the hidden work of the Spirit, enables them to re-embody the Messiah.

N.T. Wright reiterates Paul’s reimagined eschatology was put to work in his announcing the gospel and bringing God’s wise ordering to the churches, a result of his preaching. He concludes by looking at the final fulfillments at the day of Christ, when at the coming judgement the Spirit would do all for Jesus’ people what God had done for Jesus himself, that is, would raise them from the dead.

Paul Frame Work is both Messiah and Apocalyptic

Wright argues unlike some authors of the last two centuries on Paul’s mind set or framework is both covenant and apocalyptic. That is each reinforces the other. He notes that many authors have ignored the concept of Messiahship. In kind of tong and cheek statement that when Paul spoke about Christos that he was just referring to Jesus’s last name.
For Wright Paul believe Jesus is the long awaited Jewish Messiah. I would agree with Wright with his dual take. For Paul Messiah is the following:
1. Royal Messiahship: Messiah is Israel’s true king
2. Israel: God’s People
3. World’s true Lord
4. Messiah will successfully defeat forces of Evil
5. Messiah will build the Temple: Place God will return and live there.
6. Messiah brings Israel’s history to its climax
For Paul the Israel is related to the Christos by the Flesh. Paul retells the covenant story of Israel from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and the Exodus. The Messianic Battle has been redefined not abandoned in Jesus and in particular Christ Crucified. Christ passion, death and resurrection is the renewed Temple built by God on the foundation of Jesus as Messiah and indwelling of the Spirit. The outpouring of God’s Spirit results in a covenant, renewal, resurrection from the dead that is rebuilding of New Temple and New Creation. Jesus is the true Son of David. What is true of Christ is true of his church. Membership in the church is in the one who believes that Jesus is the Messiah the Christos. For Paul Faith, faithfulness and fidelity are central.
Paul believes that Jesus is the great unveiling of all God’s mysteries in true apocalyptic sense. Jesus is the full disclosure if God’s saving plan. God’s long-awaited plan of salvation has come in Jesus. God has done what he said it would do. But indeed, that salvation may not look the way we thought it would. After all it wasn’t a political victory but is was a spiritual victory. Man may not be faithful but God remains faithful. In God’s plan fulfilled in Jesus the whole creation is freed from corruption, evil and death. Wright states and I concur at this point creation, covenant, Messiah and apocalyptic belong together.
God has made full provision for real problem human sin, in the sacrificial death of Jesus, in His faithful obedience to the Father’s saving plan. For many of Jews in their disbelief Jesus becomes a stumbling block. For Paul God’s saving plan has been fulfilled in Jesus. It is only human pride that prevents belief in the saving power of Christ crucified.
Paul also believed Jesus would return which is referred to as Parousia. That is Jesus would be present again and that he is the final secret revealed to All people. God’s true family being is one who believes that Jesus is O. At the end we have Jesus’s royal presence as Judge and Savior. Man is not God. For Paul Jesus is Lord not Caesar. So, what holds the covenant and messiahship together in apocalyptic Centre is Jesus the Messiah and him crucified. I would certainly agree Wright’s view that Paul’s framework would be both covenant and apocalyptic. I

Was Jesus Christ Really Buried After His Death?

Craig Evans’ article Getting the Burial Traditions and Evidences Right addresses the thought of Bart Ehrman who takes issue with the claims that Jesus Christ was buried after his death on the cross.  The basis of his argument rests on his faulty stance on Roman execution practices.  Yes, crucifixion was indeed a brutal and perhaps the cruelest method of torture and execution that the Romans could inflict on a person.  Ehrman believes that a significant part of the horror of crucifixion was the refusal of proper burial.  This is true in some cases, but Evans provides evidence that it was not always the result in many instances.  He sites Philo’s account of Flaccus in which it is stated that the bodies of those who had been crucified were given back to friends and families for burial as an act of mercy on Roman holidays.  This was done in an effort to keep peace and also to celebrate the emperor.  He also sites the Digesta which was the summary of Roman law.  Perhaps this source is one of greater credibility as it shows so clearly the Roman instruction that “the bodies of those condemned to death should not be refused to their relatives.”  Cases of those charged with high treason would be grounds for a denial of burial, but there are many other accounts which involve the return of a corpse to a family member.  In addition to this evidence, had there been a common practice of crucifying people with no intent to bury them, the Jewish people would have me furious and demanded that the rite practice of their faith be honored.  The last thing that the Romans would have wanted would be an uprising and a disturbance of the peace.  Furthermore, since Jesus was executed as a criminal, it would have been the responsibility of the Sanhedrin to arrange for a burial.  This was the practice of the time in Jerusalem, but it is not clear as to how far the practice was spread thought Israel.  The point is that it was perfectly normal, and in fact expected, for Joseph of Arimathea to request the body of Jesus for burial.  In short, the clear evidence provided by the burial traditions of the age lead anyone to the conclusion that Jesus Christ was buried after his death on the cross.

A Review of “Two Milestones”

In this chapter of his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict attempts to present an in-depth analysis on the “Two Milestones” of Peter’s Confession and the Transfiguration. Before getting at Peter’s Confession itself, Pope Benedict looks at the question prior, “Who do people say that I am?” and the response of the apostles. Pope Benedict explains that the responses of the “people” are not necessarily false but are “inadequate”. The “people” see Jesus as a great prophet but not as the Son of God. Like “people” today, the “people” of Jesus’ time just measure Jesus up with what they already know and fail to see his uniqueness. He is not merely another prophet, who’s earthly wisdom “people” can adopt according to what they like and discard what they do not like. Immediately, Peter’s Confession of Jesus as the “Christ”, the “Messiah”, the “anointed one”, or “the Son of the living God”, depending on how it’s found in the Gospels, is in stark contrast to what the “people” have said. What did Peter mean in this confession? Some scholars like Pierre Grelot argue that Peter was misled by notions of a historical Messiah and does not really mean his confession of Jesus as the “Son of God” in the theological sense because that concept would be unknown to him. Pope Benedict counters by offering evidence that the disciples surely knew that Jesus was truly God incarnate in front of them. “At certain key moments” … (i.e. the sermon on the mount, the calming of the storm at sea, the large catch of fish) “…the disciples came to the astonishing realization: This is God himself” (304). In the next event, the Transfiguration, Peter and a couple other disciples see this in a more profound way and “personally experience the anticipation of the Parousia” (318).

Boxall Characters and Setting in Matthew’s Story

In this chapter author, Ian Boxall stresses the importance of reading the Gospel of Matthew as narrative and explores characters and places to more effectively engage the text. He makes a distinction between “round characters”, those who possess a variety of character traits, and “flat characters”, those who behave in predictable ways, such as crowds. He identifies God as the main actor in Matthew’s story, if fact, the main character in the whole of salvation history. Jesus is the main protagonist in Matthew, his messianic credentials are identified, as well as his role as the perfect personification of God’s ‘son’ Israel.

Angels and demons are identified as key players in the narrative, and their role id expounded upon. Political and religious leaders are identified as a single “flat character” because their traits do not develop throughout the narrative. There have no traits other than their “evilness”. Boxall contends that the character, John the Baptist is the returned prophet Elijah from the old testament. The disciples are another character group who are part of the action, they contrast, and are more nuanced than the political and religious leaders. They listen and learn from Jesus, and are generally more receptive that the general crowds which are treated as individual “minor characters”.

Settings and geographical place offer great significance to the narrative. Places recall individuals and events from Israel’s past history and help link the past to the present. The settings of the narratives also have symbolic significance for Matthew’s audience.

Paul As Preacher

Paul as Preacher: The Gospel Then and Now (2007)

This was a lecture given by Michael Devlin delivered on October 19, 2005 at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Ireland. Michael Devlin is a bishop in the British House of Lords.

His lecture began by commenting about a conference he had in Atlanta Georgia, when England won the Rugby Union World Cup. He was so excited and eager to share the good news to the people in his hotel and conference…. But nobody in the hotel or conference attendee’s had the slightest idea what Rugby was, let alone how important England’s victory was. Michael commented on their blank look’s. “I might as well have walked out onto O’Connell street in Dublin and announced to a startled audience that Hang Chow province had just won the Chinese inter-provincial table tennis tournament”.

 This analogy the author thought would paint a picture for his audience an idea of what Paul was doing in his preaching and cultural differences. “When Paul arrived in, Thessalonica and announced that Jesus was Lord, it must have felt like someone telling an audience about a game they did not play, being won by a team they did not know. Announcing that the crucified and risen Jesus of Nazareth is Israel’s true King and therefore the World’s true Lord. This would not have made any sense at all to a first-century pagan. To suppose a Jew would become Lord of the world was ridiculous to a citizen of Rome”.

Paul saw that what the non-Jewish world needed was a Jewish message about the one true God and what this God had done in Jesus the Messiah. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, he insisted, was the one true God, the world’s creator, who revealed Himself to Israel. Then God acted through Jesus for the whole world.

Paul was a pioneer missionary, He was telling a story and making a royal proclamation. The word “Gospel” was used in this time frame proclaiming the good news about the emperor of Rome, the Caesar colt, the fastest growing religion. Paul used the word “Gospel” when he was summoning all people to join in the community that hailed Jesus Christ, not Caesar as the true lord. To announce this gospel in today’s world means confronting postmodernity, post secularism, with the same challenging word, to let today’s Caesar’s know that Jesus is Lord.

Michael Devlin lecture of Paul’s preaching of the Crucified and Risen Jesus Christ as lord had four main points:

  1. Paul’s proclamation was challenging news to people who were not expecting it.
  2. His message belonged within the storied world of Jewish apocalyptic and eschatology, and can only be properly understood there.
  3. Paul believed that this message went to work in human hearts and lives to generate new community.
  4. His preaching of Jesus, and the communities it generated, posed a deliberate challenge to the empire of Caesar.

My overall view of this speech from a person claiming to be a Pauline scholar was weak and very wordy. Not once did he mention the letters of Paul that were read to the various communities. The genre for Paul is his letters dealing with the communities’ respective issues, I thought would be critical to highlight or introduce. His topic,” Paul as preacher” and his forced metaphor of a rugby game to get his audience to focus on the cultural difference of England, Atlanta Georgia, and China. In 2003 most of the world would have known of the game of rugby. We need to go to the century and culture to understand Paul. Again the author does not identify the category of rhetoric Paul used in his writing or preaching. In fact, he states “the gospel itself must carry its own power and human rhetorical skill must stand back and give it room to operate”. The author calls his narrative a “love” story in the various” gospel speaking communities”. I believe the arguments were different in the various communities and Paul would have summarized his letters to his targeted audiences.

Chapter 8

Chapter 8

 

Jesus, Paul and the Task of the Church

 

N.T Wright ends the book Paul with a great summary of the whole book, this book has brought me to a better understanding of Paul. Not the Paul that was taught to me but the deeper side of Paul, Paul the Preacher and Paul the bridge builder. Who Paul is  proclaiming the kingdom of God to and why he is moved my love to preach to the whole world. The Paul that teaches about Love and how Love is a better understanding of Jesus.

 

N.T Wright says in the first part of the Chapter what the relationship is with Paul and Jesus

“ Jesus preached about God But Paul preached about Jesus. Or if you like, Jesus announced the Kingdom of God, Paul announced the Mesiahship of Jesus.”

 

This moves the reader into, what has happen to me in most of the Chapter which, to ask for myself who is Jesus for me? Something that Wright says in page 168” our labels of culture, philosophy, politics, sociology religion and even theology are all alike inadequate.” Most labels we put on Paul and his mission is something that could be false. We have learned in this class that Paul’s Letters should be read in context of the people and the time that Paul lived, not our time.

Chapter 3: Messiah and Apocalyptic

Chapter 3 speaks to the concept of Messiah and Apocalyptic.

Messiah: N.T. Wright states that there is a school of thought that Paul was a ‘political’ thinker rather than a ‘religious/theological’ thinker.  That the concept of Jesus as the Messiah would have had no meaning to the Gentile audience that Paul evangelized so that Paul’s concept of Messiah was a political category rather than a religious one.  Wright argues than Paul, in his writings was very clear that Paul saw Jesus as the true royal Messiah that was promised to Israel.  That Jesus was a descendent of the royal house of David (that Jesus came from “the seed of David”).  That Jesus fought the ultimate battle against evil and death, and won.  That had built, in himself, the promised new Temple; and has done all of this as both Israel and God’s representative.  Bringing to a culmination the promised Old Testament covenants.  Which leads into party two of Wrights chapter…

Apocalyptic:  Wright states that over the last few generations the word apocalyptic has been interrupted in a variety of ways.  Many believe this to be a reference to the ‘end times’, or as Wright states God’s abolishing “the space time universe forever, in a cosmic conflagration”.  Most recently in popular culture, is the concept of the righteous being ‘taken’ to God’s eternal glory and those deemed unworthy ‘left behind’.  Wright argues that Paul believed that the apocalypse has already come about!  For Paul, the apocalypse was the “sudden, dramatic, and shocking unveiling of secret truths, the sudden shining of bright heavenly light on a dark and unsuspecting world”.  That Jesus Christ the Messiah, through his death on the cross and resurrection has fulfilled the Old Testament covenant plan “through which the whole creation would be liberated from corruption, evil and death.

Regarding Messiah, I completely agree with Wright.  Regarding Apocalyptic, I had never considered the perspective of Paul presented by Wright – that the apocalypse has already occurred.  In reading this chapter and contemplating on it, I can see and understand the perspective presented.  As presented it makes complete sense.  That said, I am not certain that I fully agree with Wright on this. I will have to consider this more.

Creation and Covenant (Chapter 2)

The first section of Chapter 2 addresses “creation and covenant” in the Old Testament.  Two very different Psalms, Psalm 19 and Psalm 74, are used to show how God is the God of creation, but also a God that is just, all-powerful, and conquers evil.  Wright draws on certain covenants of the Old Testament such as: Abraham.  He points out that God is the creator, yet he is the God of covenant.  He will rescue and deliver his people from the enemy and from all evil.  Through Israel, God will address and solve the problems of the world, bringing justice and salvation to all people and how creation is “invoked” to solve the problems within the covenant.  God is FAITHFUL, but He is righteous.  

 

The second section of Chapter 2 focuses three new passages: Colossians 1: 15-20, 1 Corinthians 15, and Romans 1-11.  This section, as well as the third, seemed similar in the fact that the emphasis was on Jesus Christ, the Messiah, being the NEW creation and the NEW covenant.  Wright states that Paul goes back to Genesis and makes it evident how God fulfills his covenant promises through Christ and renews creation.  

 

There is one particular line that struck me from the third section that I want to share.  It reads. “When God fulfills the covenant through the death and resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the spirit, thereby revealing his faithful covenant justice and his ultimate purpose of new creation, this has the effect both of fulfilling the original covenant purpose (thus dealing with sin and procuring forgiveness) and of enabling Abraham’s family to be the worldwide Jew-plus-Gentile people it was always intended to be.” Therefore, God never leaves anything unfinished.  He fulfills, completes, and makes his covenant even greater, in His timing.