Thursday, September 9, 2010

Paul and Scripture: A Welcome Introduction

Paul and Scripture: Studying the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
Steve Moyise has produced a much needed introduction to Paul's use of the Old Testament in his recently published, Paul and Scripture: Studying the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Moyise found his way into this specialized area of NT studies through his work on the book of Revelation‒ the most heavily allusive NT book. Since then, he has made a name for himself participating in a number of collaborative projects and publishing on the use of the OT among various NT writers. In his most recent book, he addresses Paul's use of the OT.

Rather than presenting a new argument about what Paul is doing with scripture, Moyise offers a broad overview of the relevant texts and an introduction to the current methods. The book is comprised of eight chapters preceded by an introduction to Paul and the issues surrounding how he uses the OT. The first seven chapters focus on how Paul uses different sections and genres of scripture. Throughout his analysis Moyise adopts an eclectic approach. "In our study of Paul's explicit quotations we have taken an eclectic view, using whatever methods or approaches were helpful for understanding the particular quotation" (111). His final chapter provides an overview of the three primary methods of analysis‒intertexual, narrative and rhetorical analyses. Moyise has produced a thoughtful introduction that deserves much attention.

The first chapter focuses on Paul's use of creation accounts with particular reference to Adam. Along the way Moyise places Paul's exegesis in the context of second-temple Judaism by observing the various uses of Genesis 1-3 in relevant literature (i.e. Philo, Wisdom of Solomon, Jubilees, 1 Enoch, etc.). Moyise shows how Paul inherits a fundamentally Jewish cosmology and how that informs Paul's understanding of resurrection (16‒20), ethics (21) and anthropology (22‒3). Paul's understanding of the fall is somewhat unique and raises the question of whether or not Paul's soteriology was prospective (plight to solution as in Luther) or retrospective (solution to plight as in Sanders). To begin answering the question Moyise points to the fallen Adam tradition (Romans 5.12-21; 7; Phil 2.6-11; pgs 25‒27) as well the curse tradition (Rom 8; cf. 1 Tim 2.11-15; pgs 27‒29). Moyise concludes that Paul's use of the creation narratives is "primarily christological [. . .] Paul wants to assert that God is recreating humanity in Christ, and the story of Adam gives him a conceptual framework to do so" (30). Moyise, then, considers Paul's theology retrospective. 

The second chapter addresses Paul's most important OT character‒ Abraham. The father of faith is mentioned by name seventeen times in Paul's work, his story is retold in two different Pauline passages (Gal 3-4; Rom 4.1ff.) and is mentioned in reference to Paul's own identity (Rom 11.1; 2 Cor 11.22). Moyise is absolutely correct to point out the significance of other retellings of the Abraham story in second-temple Judaism, "Paul's exposition of Abraham did not take place in a vacuum. It competes with other interpretations [. . .] sometimes agreeing and sometimes disagreeing" (31). After recounting the Abraham story in Genesis and some other common retellings (Gen 12-25; Sirach 44; 2 Macc 1.50-52; James 2.1ff.; pgs 30‒4) Moyise unpacks Paul's retelling (34‒44). Moyise considers Paul's focus on Abraham's faith to be a response to the common retelling of Abraham's story retold to justify uncircumcised Gentiles as part of God's people.

Moyise's third chapter mirrors the structure of the second but focusing on the character of Moses. After describing Moses from the Pentateuch and second-temple stories, Moyise looks at how Paul uses Moses' story. He looks at Paul's use of the Moses and Pharaoh story (Rom 9.15-18; pgs 49‒50), Sinai (Gal 4.21-31; pgs 50‒2), Israel's rebellion under Moses (1 Cor 10.7-10; 52‒55), the contrast of Paul and Moses' ministries (2 Cor 3; 55-7) and the use of Deuteronomy to describe Paul's gospel (Rom 10.5‒13). In the end, "it would appear that Moses is an ambiguous figure for Paul," who has both, "a ministry of death" and a prefiguration of Paul's gospel (59).

Chapter four looks at Paul's confusing statements and use of the "law" or "Torah." Here Moyise provides a helpful introduction to the New Perspective and the issues it raises (62‒8). He also gives attention to Francis Watson's suggestion that Paul is following the antithetical statements of the Law itself, ultimately allowing Gen 15.6 and Hab 2.4 to be the most determinative voice in his theology (68‒71). With a brief nod to the suggestions that Paul's view of the Law developed considerably (Hans Hübner), or that he did not have a coherent 'view' (Heikki Räisänen), Moyise concludes with an appreciative affirmation to all sides of the debate.

Chapters five and six look at how Paul used the prophetic literature. In chapter five Moyise shows how Paul used the prophets in relation to Israel and the Gentiles. Paul saw the prophets as proclaiming his gospel (74‒6), including Gentiles (76‒80) and explaining both the current unbelief of the Jews (80‒3) and their future salvation (83‒4). Chapter six analyzes Paul's use of prophetic literature to "help him discern the pattern of life God expects of the Christian community" (86). One might expect this chapter to focus on purely ethical issues, but Moyise looks at Paul's use of the prophets to address the definition of "faith" and "resurrection" as well as purity and orderly worship. Moyise it seems follows Hays's suggestion of a teleological hermeneutic, "Paul's interpretation is driven by the belief that God's plan to redeem humanity is being realized in the Church, a community of both Jews and Gentiles" (96).

In his seventh chapter Moyise looks at how Paul uses the wisdom literature of Psalms, Proverbs and Job. The psalms, not surprisingly, receive the most attention. Paul explicitly quotes Psalms nineteen times along with two allusive references to Job (5.13; 35.7) and one proverb (25.21-22). It is interesting to observe that the psalms Paul quotes (5, 8, 10, 14, 18, 19, 24, 32, 36, 44, 51, 69, 94, 112, 116, 117, 140) are unique in that no other NT writers quote these psalms (with the exceptions of Pss 8 and 69). Moreover, the most frequently cited psalms in the NT (2, 110, 118) do not appear in Paul's writing at all. These facts suggest that Paul's use of Psalms is some of his most distinctive exegesis (97). Still, Moyise finds Paul's use of Psalms to fit the same categories as his use of the prophets. 

Chapter eight, Moyise's last, addresses the three approaches to Paul's use of the OT in vogue among contemporary interpreters. First, there is the intertextual approach which "focuses on the surrounding context from which the quote is taken" to bring the "connotations and associations from the surrounding verses" (111) represented in the work of Richard Hays (112‒14) and Timothy Berkley (115‒17). Second, there is the narrative approach which "adopts a similar principle [as intertextuality] but suggests that what a text brings with it is not so much the local context but the narrative framework to which it belongs" (111) embodied in the work of N. T. Wright (117‒18), J. Ross Wagner (118), Sylvia Keesmaat (118‒19) and Francis Watson (119‒20). Third, there is the rhetorical approach that "focuses on what Paul does with the text in order to persuade his readers to accept his interpretation" (111) seen in the work of Christopher Stanley (120‒22) and John Paul Heil (122‒23). Moyise's book utilizes all three approaches at various times even while recognizing that they are, in some places, mutually exclusive.

Anyone interested in Paul's use of the OT is sure to benefit from Paul and Scripture. It will, no doubt, raise more questions than offer solutions. Often times one wonders where Moyise lands on a particular issue, but he plays the part of the passive descriptor. He is offering a "state of affairs" on Paul's use of the OT not an argument for what Paul is doing. Nowhere does Moyise adopt a specific approach to Paul's use of scripture but uses each as it suits a particular text. This book is a welcome introduction that introduces the range of approaches and appreciates the complexity of trying to follow Paul as he reads the OT scriptures.


Steve Moyise said...

Thanks for your appreciative review Tyler. You might be interested to know that a companion "Jesus and Scripture" was published Nov 2010 by SPCK and forthcoming with Baker.

Steve Moyise

Unknown said...

I will look forward to seeing it released through Baker. Thanks for stopping by.