Carson, D.A., and Douglas Moo An Introduction to the New Testament - Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005. "New Testament Letters" Carson & Moo pp. 331-353
"Paul: Apostle and Theologian" Carson & Moo pp. 354-390
Paul himself is a significant figure in the New Testament. He therefore has his own chapter in Carson & Moo before they move on to discuss his books in order. As I usually do, I'll put section headers in the book in capitals then include my notes or quotations from the chapter in order.
"BORN IN TARSUS OF CILICIA" (ACTS 22:3)
Tarsus was a very important city, a place of learning and culture. As a Roman citizen from Tarsus Paul would be expected to be well educated. A significant note is that his name "Paulos" would have been his Roman cognomen. It is not, counter to much preaching that is popular today, a new name given to him by the Lord.
"BROUGHT UP IN THIS CITY" (ACTS 22:3)
It is unclear if Paul was raised in Jerusalem or if he moved to Jerusalem for the more advanced rabbinical education. Regardless we see that Paul had backgrounds in both the Hellenistic and Jewish worlds.
"THOROUGHLY TRAINED IN THE LAW OF OUR ANCESTORS . . . ZEALOUS FOR GOD" (ACTS 22:3)
Paul actually seems to have been more polarized in his Pharisaism than his teacher, Gamaliel, who was known as a moderate. Paul was very forceful in his zeal.
"AS I CAME NEAR DAMASCUS" (ACTS 22:6)
Paul received permission to arrest and bring Christians to trial. On his way to Damascus to do just this he had an encounter with Jesus, described in Acts 9, 22, and 26, as well as in Galatians 1. Paul's conversion and call were tied together as he saw that he was to defend the gospel in every way he could.
PAUL'S MISSIONARY CAREER AND ITS CHRONOLOGY
THE PROBLEM OF SOURCES
Paul's letters never give a comprehensive history. The data given by Luke in Acts likewise seems to be selective at points. We have to consider all the sources in order to try harmonizing them.
AN OUTLINE OF PAUL'S MISSIONARY CAREER
FROM PAUL'S CONVERSION TO THE FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY
Much of this chronology comes from Galatians 1:13-2:10. Paul visits Jerusalem three years after his conversion, then again "after fourteen years." The first visit seems clearly to be the one mentioned in Acts 9:26-30. The reference to "after fourteen years" seems to fit better with fourteen years after his conversion than fourteen years after the first visit. p. 362 "First, the prominence of Paul's conversion in Galatians 1 suggests that this event is the base for all his chronological notices in this context. Second, this sequence fits better with other chronological indications that we will note below. The visit may be "in the third year" and "in the fourteenth year" inclusively, counting partial years on both ends of the time period as well. p. 363 "the inclusive method seems to have been more typical in the ancient world, so we may prefer it in interpreting Galatians 1-2." What do we make of the three years in Arabia? p. 363 "Paul's later difficulties with the king of the Nabataeans, Aertas, suggests strongly that he was engaged in active ministry during this time (2 Cor. 11:32)."
FROM PAUL'S FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY TO HIS DEATH
p. 364 "Luke introduces the first missionary journey in Acts 13:1-3 with no indication about its relationship in time to the other events he has been narrating." p. 364 "This journey took Barnabas, Paul, and - for part of the way - John Mark to Barnabas's home, the island of Cyprus, and several cities in southern Galatia, namely, Pisidian antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (Acts 13:4-14:26). Estimates of the time necessary for this trip of about 1,400 miles vary from one year to five years. The best guess is about eighteen months, but we simply have no way of knowing for sure."
p. 365 "Paul's second missionary journey took him to southern Galatia, quickly through Asia Minor, and on to Macedonia - in particular, the cities of Philippi (see 1 Thess. 2:2), thessalonica (see 1 thess. 2:2; Phil. 4:15-16), and berea (Acts 17:10-15) - and then Achaia, including Athens (see 1 Thess. 3:1) and Corinth (see 2 Cor. 11:7-9)."
p. 365 Later, "he graveled 'from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia' (18:23; the reference is probably to the Phrygian part of Galatia) before arriving in Ephesus (19:1; see 1 Cor. 16:8). How long Paul spent here is not clear. In Acts 20:31, Paul tells the elders of the Ephesian church that he had spent 'three years' with them. But this could be a rounding off (counting inclusively) of the period of two years and three months specified in Acts 19:8, 10. Luke, however, may not intend these two verses to summarize the entire stay in ephesus. It is safest to conclude that Paul spent anywhere from two years and three months to three years in ephesus. From Ephesus Paul moved north into Macedonia, where he met Titus returning from Corinth (Acts 20:1; cf. 2 Cor. 2:12-13). Some scholars speculate that it may have been at this time that Paul ministered in Illyricum (modern Albania and yugoslavia; see Rom. 15:19), although neither Acts nor Paul's letters describe such a trip. Paul probably wintered in Corinth (his three-month stay in Greece [Acts 20:2-3; cf. 2 Cor. 9:4]), before retracing his steps to Caesarea and Jerusalem (20:3-21:16). This journey, of approximately 2,700 miles, must have taken at least three and a half years, and probably four or five."
The text of Acts ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome. p. 366 "Many think that Paul's life ended at this point, but two considerations point decisively to a longer interval before his death. First, apparently reliable early church accounts associate Paul's death with nero's persecution of Christians in A.D. 64-65. But it is unlikely that Paul's two-year stay in Rome brings us to this late a date. . . Second, the evidence of the Pastoral Epistles points to a period of further ministry in the eastern Mediterranean after the Roman imprisonment of Acts 28:30-31. . . Almost certainly, then, Paul was released from this first Roman imprisonment for a period of further ministry. Whether this ministry took Paul to Spain, as he had originally planned (see Rom. 15:24), is uncertain."
THE CHRONOLOGY OF PAUL'S MISSIONARY CAREER
The materials we have in the bible give us a fair relative chronology. When does this fit into the first century? The most important evidence we have is that Paul left Corinth shortly after an encounter with Gallio, a proconsul. p. 366 "Gallio was proconsul of Achaia from July of 51 to July of 52." This allows us to work backward and forward to place the second missionary journey beginning in 48. The apostolic council is probably earlier in 48. The visit to Jerusalem for famine relief probably then fits in 45 or 46. This dates Paul's conversion in the period of 32 to 35. Considering the probably date of the crucifixion as about 33, the conversion is probably closer to 35. We then can look toward the end of Paul's career and see the second missionary journey probably ending in 51, with the third beginning quickly afterward, probably spring of 52. This brings Paul back to Palestine sometime about 57, allowing him to be imprisoned in Caesarea for two years and arrive in Rome in the spring of 60. There are suggestions that Paul was released from prison briefly but then re-arrested in the Neronian persecution, then was executed about 64 or 65.
PAUL'S AUTHORITY AND THE SOURCES FOR HIS THOUGHT
Paul was clearly self-conscious of being an apostle, on par with all the other apostles. He does not specifically claim that his writings are inspired Scripture.
THE SOURCES OF PAUL'S TEACHING
REVELATION VERSUS TRADITION
Paul does claim that his teaching comes by the revelation of Jesus. However he also has elements which he claims as tradition, that which has been passed on from Jesus through other people.
EARLY CHRISTIAN TRADITION
There are some hints in Paul's letters that he uses early Christian tradition. For instance, there are passages of doxology which appear to be quotations from some unknown source and which tend to fall into rhythmic or poetic patterns which appear to be non-Pauline. These have been examined a great deal. Yet the examinations of them must be treated with caution. p. 372 "First, we must be careful not to overemphasize our ability to identify such passages. The line between quotation of a preexisting tradition and the use of traditional language in one's own composition is difficult, and often impossible, to draw. Second, we must be careful not to use inevitably speculative data about these traditions, such as the place of origin or theological tendency, to draw exegetical and theological conclusions. We simply do not know enough to justify such procedures."
THE EARTHLY JESUS
Of course, the person of Jesus himself was behind early Christian tradition. We do not know how much information Paul had about the specific details of Jesus' life, outside of what he may have gathered from interviews with the other apostles.
THE OLD TESTAMENT
Paul quotes extensively from the Old Testament. He also fills his writings with allusions to it. Paul seems to look consistently to the Old Testament through the filter of Jesus' fulfillment of God's promises.
THE GREEK WORLD
Paul, educated at least in part in Tarsus, would have been familiar with much of the Hellenistic world. It seems unlikely that he borrowed from a knowledge of Greek philosophy to build his theology, but he clearly knew how to use current cultural and rhetorical norms to clothe his teaching.
There is a serious debate about how the world of Judaism at the time of Paul influenced him. We are advised to realize that there were many different flavors of Judaism at the time of Paul and that, while his thought world was strongly influenced by his Jewish upbringing, he governed those influences by rigorous dependence on the Christian teaching about Jesus.
PAUL AND JUDAISM
THE "NEW PERSPECTIVE"
The "new perspective" on Paul suggests that Paul was misunderstood by the Reformers. The theory first arises in a book by E.P. Sanders (1977), Paul and Palestinian Judaism. p. 376 "essentially, Sanders claims that the traditional view of first-century Judaism as a legalistic religion is wrong. After a study of Jewish sources likely to give us evidence about first-century Jewish beliefs, Sanders concludes that these sources almost unanimously portray a view of soteriology that he dubs 'covenantal nomism.' foundational to the Jewish view of salvation is the covenant that God entered into with the people Israel. God has chosen Israel, and Jews in Paul's day believed that that original gracious choice was the basis for their salvation. Viewed from this perspective, Jews did not have to do the law to be saved; they were already saved. They obeyed the law, rather, to maintain their covenantal status. As Sanders put it, Jews did not do the law to 'get in' (which would be legalism) but to 'stay in' ('nomism')." p. 377 James D.G. "Dunn was the first to use the language of 'new perspective' to describe the impact of Sanders' view of Judaism on Pauline studies, and the name has stuck as a way of describing the movement as a whole . . . Essentially, Dunn claims that what Paul opposes is the tendency of the Jews to confine salvation to their own nation. It is ethnic exclusivism, not personal legalism, that Paul finds wrong with Judaism." This is an interesting stream of scholarship. Yet it has some weaknesses. p. 378 "Several tendencies mark the 'new perspective on Paul.' First, Paul's theology is read against the background of the 'story' of salvation history. Richard Hays and N.T. Wright are two of the foremost advocates of this new way of reading Paul. The effect is to take many of the theological categories that have traditionally been interpreted in terms of individual experience and restrict them to the corporate experience of Israel and the people of God. Second, and partly as a result of the first overarching approach, the foundational Reformation contrast between 'faith' and 'works' as two opposed means of being saved is reduced or, in some more radical proposals, eliminated."
RESPONSE TO THE NEW PERSPECTIVE
p. 380 "As a comprehensive explanation of first-century Judaism, sanders' 'covenantal nomism' requires qualification. First, the claim that covenantal nomism was the only soteriological paradigm within first-century Judaism must be questioned.
p. 381 "Another reason for thinking that, alongside covenant nomism, there existed in first-century Judaism a strand of legalism is the evidence from an important set of primary documents about first-century Judaism: the New Testament."
p. 382 "our second general qualification of covenant nomism has to do with the first term in this description: the covenant. Sanders and those who have followed him base their interpretation of first-century Jewish soteriology on the assumption that God's covenant with Israel was the starting point for Jewish obedience to the law. This assumption runs into problems, however, when we begin to consider the many Jewish sectarian groups that flourished at this time."
p. 383 "Third, and perhaps most important, is the increasingly widespread recognition that, on any reading of the data, first-century Judaism was synergistic. Few scholars would deny that first-century Judaism believed that the grace of God was basic to salvation. But on Sanders' own showing, it also believed that, if one 'got in' by grace, on 'stayed in' by obedience."
In this summary of recent developments in Pauline studies, I think Carson and Moo have shown that the new perspective in Paul has some intriguing possibilities but falls short in its understanding of the nuances which are present behind the scenes in first century Judaism. Taking an entire religion and treating it as one snapshot will never catch the distinctives of different branches.