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Dunn identifies two foundational types of motivating experiences in earliest Christianity: postmortem appearances of Jesus and the first disciples’ Pentecost experiences. He regards the experiences of the apostle Paul as particularly illustrative of early Christianity, featuring the liberating power of the Spirit and of being “in Christ,” experiencing the Spirit of God as the Spirit of Jesus, and the shared experience of believers as members of the body of Christ.
The most influential study of Q in recent years has been that of John Kloppenborg, The Formation of Q. Kloppenborg's analysis of the ‘sapiential speeches in Q’ leads him to the conclusion that ‘a collection of sapiential speeches and admonitions was the formative element in Q’, a collection ‘subsequently augmented by the addition and interpolation of apophthegms and prophetic words which pronounced doom over impenitent Israel’. This ‘formative stratum’, which can be conveniently designated Q1, consists of six ‘wisdom speeches’, ‘united not by the themes typical of the main redaction [Q2], but by paraenetic, hortatory, and instructional concerns’. The six ‘wisdom speeches’ he lists as:
Q 6.20b–23b, 27–35, 36–45, 46–9;
Q 9.57–60, (61–2); 10.2–11, 16, (23–4?);
Q 11.2–4, 9–13;
Q 12.2–7, 11–12;
Q 12.22b–31, 33–4 (13.18–19, 20–1?); and probably
Q 13.24; 14.26–7; 17.33; 14.34–5.
Kloppenborg is clear that ‘tradition-history is not convertible with literary history’, and that his concern is only with the latter; the judgment that material is redactional, secondary, is a literary judgment and need not imply anything about the historical origin or emergence of the tradition in view. So he certainly does not wish his analysis necessarily to imply that redactional material from the secondary compositional phase cannot be dominical.
The relation of Judaism to Christianity has always been a question heavy-laden with negative and threatening overtones. The term ‘Christianity’ was initially used (by Ignatius) to define Christianity by way of contrast with ‘Judaism’. And the long centuries of Christian imperialist disdain for Judaism persisted well into the second half of the twentieth century. However, the attempt to achieve a healthier and more just appreciation of Judaism on the part of Christian scholarship is now well under way.
The New Testament has been at the heart of this reappraisal: understandably, since some of its own more antithetical statements have contributed to the rise of Christian anti-Judaism. But the renewed appreciation of Judaism as a religion of covenant and atonement as well as of law and obedience, and of Christianty's Jewish origins, of Jesus the Jew, of the New Testament as largely written by Jews, and of the Jewish character of the Christianity therein expressed has more and more counteracted such polemical passages. The new perspective on Paul in particular has made it much clearer that terms like ‘Jew’, ‘Judaism’ and especially ‘Israel’ reflect a much more complex reality (historical, social, religious) than a too simplistic reading of the antithetical statements has hitherto recognised.
The discussion aroused by this new perspective on Paul has focused principally on the two letters of Paul which deal most fully with the Jew/Gentile issue – Romans and Galatians.
The apostle Paul has been justifiably described as the first and greatest Christian theologian. His letters were among the earliest documents to be included in the New Testament and, as such, they shaped Christian thinking from the beginning. As a missionary, theologian and pastor Paul's own wrestling with theological and ethical questions of his day is paradigmatic for Christian theology, not least for Christianity's own identity and continuing relationship with Judaism. The Cambridge Companion to St Paul provides an important assessment of this apostle and a fresh appreciation of his continuing significance today. With eighteen chapters written by a team of leading international specialists on Paul, the Companion provides a sympathetic and critical overview of the apostle, covering his life and work, his letters and his theology. The volume will provide an invaluable starting point and helpful cross check for subsequent studies.
Paul has always been an uncomfortable and controversial figure in the history of Christianity. The accusation against the prophet Elijah by Israel's King Ahab, 'you troubler of Israel' (1 Ks. 18:17), could be levelled against Paul more fittingly than any other of the first Christians. He first appears on the public stage of first-century history as a Jewish 'zealot' (Acts 22:3), one who measured his 'zeal' by his attempt to violently 'destroy' (Gal. 1:13; Phil. 3:6) the embryonic movement within Second Temple Judaism, then best characterized as 'the sect of the Nazarenes' (Acts 24:5, 14; 28:22), two generations later as 'Christianity'. Following his conversion, when he turned round and joined those whom he had persecuted (Acts 9; Gal. 1:13-16), and when he then embarked on a highly personal mission to win Gentiles to the gospel of Christ (Rom. 11:13; 15:18-20), he displayed the same sort of passionate commitment, even 'zeal' (2 Cor. 11:2) on behalf of his converts and churches.
Such out-and-out commitment to his cause created tremendous resentment among his fellow Jews, including, not least, those Jews who, like him, had also come to believe in Jesus as Israel’s Messiah. One of the chief reasons why we still have so many of his letters is that his teaching was quickly challenged by varying opponents from both within and without the churches he established; it was characteristic of Paul that he did not hesitate to respond vigorously to such challenges.
The literary mindset (‘default setting’) of modern Western culture prevents those trained in that culture from recognizing that oral cultures operate differently. The classic solution to the Synoptic problem, and the chief alternatives, have envisaged the relationships between the Gospel traditions in almost exclusively literary terms. But the earliest phase of transmission of the Jesus tradition was without doubt predominantly by word of mouth. And recent studies of oral cultures provide several characteristic features of oral tradition. Much of the Synoptic tradition, even in its present form, reflects in particular the combination of stability and flexibility so characteristic of the performances of oral tradition. Re-envisaging the early transmission of the Jesus tradition therefore requires us to recognize that the literary paradigm (including a clearly delineated Q document) is too restrictive in the range of possible explanations it offers for the diverse/divergent character of Synoptic parallels. Variation in detail may simply attest the character of oral performance rather than constituting evidence of literary redaction.
The importance of purity legislation and the ‘separateness’ that it implied within Second Temple Judaism confirms the significance of the renewed interest in purity issues in ‘historical Jesus’ research. The relevance of John the Baptist's ‘baptism’ is less clear than at first appears. But that Jesus himself shared at least some purity priorities is implied by Mark 1.44 and by his ‘cleansing of the Temple’. Yet he also sat loose to the purity halakhoth regarding clean and unclean and table-fellowship, which suggests that Jesus did not regard such concerns as central to the definition of Israel and its practice.