- Paperback: 392 pages
- Publisher: Mentor; Reprint edition (September 20, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1845506251
- ISBN-13: 978-1845506254
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,252,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Contours of Pauline Theology: A Radical New Survey of the Influences on Paul's Biblical Writings Paperback – September 20, 2010
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"Dr. Holland provides a timely emphasis on the corporate and communal structures of Paul's thinking as well as on its roots in the Old Testament ......it provides a fresh and useful treatment of Pauline theology, and many of its arguments offer corrections to widespread misunderstandings of Paul." (Anthony C. Thiselton ~ Emeritus Professor of Christian Theology in Residence, University of Nottingham, and Research Professor, University of Chester)
Tom Holland, lecturer at the Evangelical Theological College of Wales, has produced a welcome and important contribution to the controversial area of Pauline theology. This is a stimulating contribution to the current debate. (Bill James ~ Reformation Today)
Christian Focus Publications of Fearn, Ross-shire, are rapidly becoming one of Britain's major Christian publishers with a wide range of subjects and titles. This is an important book, raising issues beyond its own restricted themes. Pastors and teachers, and all concerned that our faith be the genuine article, would do well to invest in the cost of acquiring this book and in the effort needed to assimilate its contents (British Church Newspaper)
"Holland's book will greatly help us to a better understanding of Paul and will hopefully trigger much fruitful scholarly debate." (Christian Stettler ~ Cambridge University)
"It is refreshing to read something radically new in such a popular area as Pauline studies. This book should provide a timely and fruitful alternative to some of the theological emphases that have guided the church for too long." (William S. Campbell ~ University of Wales, Lampeter)
"In constant critical engagement... Holland maps out new ways of understanding Paul and offers new insights into a range of absolutely vital issues from justification to Christology, and new insights into Pauline texts from Romans to Colossians. Challenging, unsettling and infuriating Dr. Holland's tour de force cannot be ignored." (Peter Head ~ Cambridge University)
About the Author
Tom Holland, professor of New Testament and Hermeneutics at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology. (Formerly known as ETCW)
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Central to Holland's thesis is the Passover and Exodus teachings, which he shows were a strong part of Jewish doctrine. Observing Jews anticipated a second exodus of some sort--though it appears there were differing ideas of what this second exodus would be like--and Holland recognizes this theme weaving its way through Paul's writings.
Holland leans on the community aspects of the Passover and Exodus themes to highlight two different ways of thinking: Individualistic, and Corporate. Consider Paul's writings about the Body of Sin. Does Paul mean our individual bodies are prone to sin, and warn about individual sinfulness, or is he concerned about community sanctification--mankind as a whole, or the Jewish nation, or the Christian community? Paul, says Holland, is speaking of the state of unredeemed humanity in its relationship to Satan (Sin). A man or woman's righteousness depends upon the community to which they belong ... a very Semitic way of thinking. I can't say I'm convinced yet, but before rejecting this line of thinking out of hand, Holland's arguments are worth further study, and I hope to read over Paul's letters soon from this vantage point.
So where do Gentiles fit in? The prophets said that the Gentiles would become members of the covenant community when the New Exodus had taken place.
Paul writes that "your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit." Most read this to mean God takes up residence in our individual bodies, but Holland argues it should be read in a corporate manner: the church, or community, is the temple of the Spirit. When Paul writes, "Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body," Paul speaks not of an individual visiting a prostitute, but of a community frolicking with Satan.
Also in the context of the Passover/New Exodus/Community thinking, Holland addresses the meaning of baptism, redemption, justification, and the implication of Christ as the firstborn. He explains that the role of the firstborn in the Passover was vitally important to the early church, who used its imagery to describe the work of Jesus.
Holland concludes that Paul did not tamper with the Christian message; he is not responsible for leading the church to a "high Christology." Rather, the church held this view from reading the prophets long before Paul converted. Thus, when Holland examines the Colossian hymn, which many scholars believe was not penned by Paul at all, he finds it consistent with Pauline thinking in terms of Christology and the motifs already discussed, and concludes that "there is therefore no need to treat the letter as anything other than a Pauline letter."
Not an easy read, but well worth the effort.
The main thrust of Contours of Pauline Theology is that Paul did not depart from the gospel taught by Jesus and that his message was not hellenized; it was rooted in the Old Testament and in particular "the model of the Passover and the Exodus which he sees to have been a type of the work of Jesus" (12). In this way, what Holland is suggesting is a radical departure from the some of the popular and prominent New Testament scholarship.
He also emphasizes a corporate understanding of the New Testament epistles.
The significance of the synagogue experience was that it controlled the way Paul heard the Jewish scriptures. Hearing it corporately was not a distorting influence, for the messages of the prophets were rarely delivered to individuals, they were delivered to the people of the covenant collectively. The gathered congregation was therefore the ideal setting to hear the same word being delivered to another generation of the covenant people.
The same principle is being followed in Paul's letters. He expects the believers to gather together to hear them read. Indeed, the possibility of individuals having their own private copy could hardly have crossed the mind of the apostle. He wrote his letters to them to be read out and his arguments were therefore constructed with that setting in mind. In other words, the practice of interpreting letters written to churches as though they were to individuals, causes serious distortion when it comes to interpreting their contents. The letters are not about what God has done or is doing for a Christian. They are what God has done or is doing for His covenant people, the church. (40)
Upon these two ideas hang the entire book. Section One ("Explorations of Heritage") sets the stage by examining past and current Pauline scholarship. In particular he works to show that the inter-testamental literature is not reliable to establish a monolithic Judaism. He also introduces the corporate understanding against the backdrop of Isaiah's Suffering Servant. Section Two ("Passover and Community") moves full force into exploring and unpacking the corporate understanding and introduces the paschal ("passover") theme. Paramount to his argument is an understanding Romans 6 and the phrase "body of sin." I found his exegesis very compelling for a corporate understanding of this passage. This section for me was the most thought provoking.
Section Three ("Soteriology and Passover") introduces the paschal theme into the doctrine of Redemption by examining Romans 3. Chapter 9 interacts with the New Perspective on Paul (he brings in E.P. Sanders, James Dunn, & N.T. Wright to name a few). He attacks some of the foundational understandings of the NPP about second temple Judaism and then asks why should those same presuppositions then be used to interpret Paul in other places? He offers his an understanding of justification which emphasizes the corporate understanding while retaining the judicial, forensic emphasis of the Reformers. Holland places the judicial, forensic understanding in the Hebrew, covenantal court, not a Roman court. He therefore argues that justification is about creating a covenant in Christ and declaring sinners righteous on the basis of that covenant. Later in the book he offers a selection from Reformers which seem to emphasize to some extent the kernel of his understanding (see Appendix 3 "The Reformed Faith and Justification").
Section Four ("Christology and Passover") discusses the meaning of firstborn. Holland argues the term should be understood as a paschal reference in connection with the paschal propitiation theme unpacked in chapter 8 ("The Paschal Community and Redemption"). He then examines current scholarship surrounding the Colossian Hymn seeking to show that the paschal theme works better exegetically.
Justification: Creating the Covenant
The section that will give most reformed readers pause will be the section on justification. There's something about discussing that doctrine which gets the blood flowing to the brain and rightly so. There were many points made in this book that I immediately said, "That makes sense" like his discussion on "the body of sin" (Romans 6) and the sexual/marriage imagery of 1 Corinthians 6. I did find his suggestion we understanding the forensic nature of justification not in Roman judicial terms but in Hebrew judicial terms compelling but I'm still not 100% sold on justification as primarily creating covenant. The strength of many of his previous argument though does strengthens his point on justification.
Dig A Little Deeper
Contours of Pauline Theology was immensely readable but you would benefit from some cursory understanding of Pauline scholarship especially as it relates to the New Perspective. I found the themes Holland unpacked thought provoking and exegetically sound. I'll be starting my New Testament reading in my own personal study and will be compelled to look for these themes and dig out of some of their implications as I read. Holland also unpacks his corporate understanding in a more recently released Romans: The Divine Marriage which got a recommendation from Douglas Moo who is one of the premiere scholars on Romans.
I'm happy to report that Dr. Holland was gracious enough to allow me to ask him a couple questions about these themes via email (a sort of informal interview if you will). I feel very honored and humbled that he took the time to converse with me. I will be posting this interview early next week as as a follow up to this review.