Friday, August 12, 2005

Started reading Krister Stendahl today. What a refreshing and clear way he has of talking about the work and teachings of Paul the apostle. One of the interesting points he makes (and this is old hat for some of you out there) is that Paul seems to have nothing resembling a guilty conscience. He refers to his conduct as judged by the law as "blameless". The only sin he confesses to in his life (and does regret, without doubt) is the persecution of the church (I Cor 15:9), but then he immediately talks about how hard he has worked to make up for it (I Cor 15:10), pausing to clarify that that work was "not I, but the grace of God that was with me."

Anyhow, that is just a sub-sub-point under his overarching thesis that what Paul was adressing, particularly in Romans and Galatians, was not trying to establish the doctrine of how we become saved (justification by faith), but that this doctrine was one Paul developed to support his argument that the Gentiles can enter into the covenant with the God of Israel without going through the law as the Jews did.

One other interesting point he made which I hadn't thought through before, is the difference in Paul's attitude towards circumcision and the dietary laws. With the latter, he feels free to make allowances (Romans 14:1ff), but with circumcision (Galatians), nothing of the sort. While these were both aspects of the law, of course, circumcision was the sign of entering into, and promising full submission to the law. Paul argues in Galatians, Stendahl says, relying strictly on quotations from the Pentateuch, that the law was not eternal, and that it was flawed, given as a result of transgression (possibly due directly to the golden calf idol), and that it did not come directly through God, but was mediated by angels and by Moses.

Stendahl points out that many post-reformation readers of Galatians seem to think Paul is saying that the Gentiles must first turn to the law to learn of their sinfulness. This is nearly the opposite of Paul's actual point. Interesting stuff.

No comments: