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The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul's Method of Scriptural Interpretation Hardcover – October 17, 2012
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"There is no doubt that Bates offers students of Paul's scriptural interpretation a major, programmatic investigation...it demands serious consideration by anyone investigating biblical exegesis in early Christianity."
--Robert B. Foster, Madonna University, Review of Biblical Literature (8/23/2014)
"Bates's study is notable for its erudition, ranging widely, with an admirable degree of competency, across the fields of New Testament Studies, classics, patristics, linguistics, and literary criticism."
--Matthew V. Novenson, University of Edinburgh, Expository Times (125:3)
"Bates has made a valuable contribution to a topic within NT scholarship that many, I would presume, feel is currently overworked. Bates is well-versed in ancient Hellenistic rhetorical conventions and early Christian exegesis, and this enables him to situate Paul's scriptural interpretation in its historical and theological context."
--Joshua W. Jipp, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Themelios (39)
"[The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation] is written at a scholarly level and should be considered by all engaged in a serious study of Pauline hermeneutics."
--James M. Howard, American Pathways University, Bulletin for Biblical Research (23:3)
From the Back Cover
"Bates offers the novel thesis that Paul, like other ancient writers, had a prosopological method of exegesis--attributing various voices in the scriptural texts to specific characters, especially Christ or God the Father--that was rooted in a master narrative about Christ and the gospel. Both appreciative of and critical of previous studies of Paul's hermeneutics, The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation has significant implications not only for understanding Paul, but also for ecumenical relations, Christian theology, and contemporary hermeneutics."
--Michael J. Gorman, Dean, Ecumenical Institute of Theology, St. Mary's Seminary & University
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This reassessment of Paul’s own hermeneutic is unfolded over six chapters. Chapter 1 reviews scholarship’s attempts to discern Paul’s hermeneutical convictions. This comprehensive tracing of scholarly opinion is fascinating in its own right. In Bates’ own view, the recent scholarly emphasis that Paul was a Jewish interpreter is obviously correct and must be reclaimed, but not without qualification. Alongside this point, Bates holds that intertextuality has been incorrectly applied to biblical studies when it only looks backwards, and not also forwards. That is, Paul must not be compared only with those preceding him, but also those who follow. This pushes back against the popularity of reading Paul only in light of Second Temple Judaism, and with no consideration of the Christian Fathers. Since “Paul is above all a Jew committed to Jesus Christ as his Lord, and therefore these comparisons between Paul and early non-Christian Judaism cannot capture the central features of his hermeneutic” (p47). That is, Paul’s own convictions are closer to Justin Martyr, Tertullian and Irenaeus.
Chapter 2 examines two passages where Paul lays his hermeneutical cards on the table: 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 and Romans 1:1-6. Despite these texts’ clear implications for Paul’s own interpretative convictions, they have been overlooked in scholarship. Both texts place the narrative of Christ (Christ-event) in center stage for Paul’s own reading of Scripture. 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 is found to be parallel to Luke 24:13-49, which reveals that “according to the scriptures” is likely a “christocentric interpretation” (p79) of the OT that required a post-Easter key to unlock. Both texts reveal that the events of Christ are central to Paul’s own reading of the OT.
Chapter 3 continues tracing Paul’s own hermeneutical statements. First, the role that quotation played in the composition of writings in antiquity is considered. This extended treatment of ancient writing practice indicates that typology and allegory were not primary to Paul’s own hermeneutics, but used to exhibit the “virtues of good style” (p117). This responds to the widespread use of typology to explain Paul’s interpretation. Second, classic hermeneutical texts are considered: 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 (types), Galatians 4:21-31 (allegory), and 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 (Moses and the veil).
Turning from interpretive presuppositions to actual technique, chapter 4 introduces prosopological exegesis, while chapter 5 applies it to several Pauline texts. Prosopological exegesis “explains a text by suggesting that the author of the text identified various persons or characters (prosopa) as speakers or addressees” (p183). In practice, this means Paul identified persons or voices in the OT text and this aided him in his interpretation. Such a method is not original to Bates, but is instead a popular method in the ancient Greco-Roman world, and exhibited in early Christian writings. This method is applied to Romans 10:6-8; 15:3; 10:16; 10:19-21; 11:9-10, 14:11, 15:9 and 2 Corinthians 4:13 to fruitful effect. In these texts, Paul finds characters, often Christ or the Father, as speaking and interacting with one another.
Chapter 6 concludes the book by summarizing the previous chapters and revealing how Bates’ conclusions affect the scholarship surveyed in chapter 1.
For me, The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation is a game-changer in two areas. First, in the explanatory power of prosopological exegesis. Second, by not only reading those who came before Paul but allowing early Christians to influence my interpretation. To dismiss the early church assumes that Paul has more in common with his unbelieving Jewish predecessors. But how could early Christians’ interpretations be so far off base so soon after the NT writings? As I understand him, Bates is not arguing for an over-reactive shift away from any use of Jewish sources to an exclusive use of later Christian interpreters. Rather, he is arguing that both must be considered by the interpreter while recognizing that Paul surely had more in common hermeneutically with his fellow Christ-followers. To see these two interpretive elements in action on the entire NT, see Bates’ excellent The Birth of the Trinity (review). That work is built upon this one’s foundations.
Placing the Christ-event at the center makes good sense. For Paul, this event brought all else into alignment. What’s more, recognizing this fact is natural for the Christian interpreter. The believer is encouraged to read Scripture like Paul, the way that seems most natural: in light of Christ.
The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation is highly recommended for those interested in Pauline studies, the NT use of the OT, and the role of early Christians for interpretation. Bates has produced a thorough and compelling account of Paul’s hermeneutics that should be read widely.
Many thanks to Baylor University Press for providing a review copy. I was not required to provide a positive review.
While providing the clearest and most up-to-date history of research on Paul's use of the scripture, Bates offers a truly original contribution that is ambitious, and carefully and convincingly argued. He is conversant with New Testament and Patristic scholarship, which adds to the value of his project significantly. Newcomers to the subject will learn much starting here.
The stated goal of the book is to argue a “fresh theory regarding Paul’s basic hermeneutic procedure—that is, Paul’s motivation and matter of interpreting the scriptures” (p. 1). His contribution respectfully builds on the best of previous scholarship and still he makes his own way. Bates finds two prevailing problems with previous investigations into Paul’s use of scripture. First, while scholars have often compared Paul to his contemporary Jewish interpreters they have paid little attention to other early Christian readers. Second, there has been “inadequate interfacing with ancient semiotics” (p. 4). The book is Bates’ attempt to remedy these perceived problems.
The result is a fascinating argument that employs a more robust "intertextuality" using "co-texts" (texts roughly contemporaneous with Paul) and "post-texts" (texts post-dating Paul that show possible interpretive trajectories) to understand his use of scripture. The argument is historically grounded throughout and attempts to take account of ancient reading theory to substantiate the thesis. Scholars, seminarians and interested pastors alike will be richly rewarded by Bates’ fine book.