A Prolegomenon to the Study of Paul

  • Author / Creator
    Hart, Patrick Dale
  • The apostle Paul’s significance to both early Christian history and Christian theology is undisputed. Indeed, Paul is second to none but Jesus in this regard—or as Adolf Deissmann puts it, “[f]rom the broadest historical standpoint Jesus appears as the One, and Paul as the first after the One.” Yet despite the small mountain of books on Paul, there seemingly remains a persistent failure to generate a cogent and compelling understanding of his thought. Granted, this concern is decidedly more acute in Pauline scholarship than it is among everyday readers of the New Testament. But Paul’s eminence in Christian history and theology ought to dictate otherwise. Indeed, given his ubiquitous significance in Christianity, all readers of Paul would do well to reflect not only upon the multifarious Pauls that we encounter, but even more important, the various considerations that condition any understanding of him, regardless of whether one views him as an impenetrable figure.
    Occasioned by this concern, this study is intended to serve as a type of prolegomenon to the study of Paul. Specifically, this study examines foundational assumptions that ground each and every reading or interpretation of the famous apostle to the gentiles. Such an examination touches on several topics, invoking issues pertaining to truth, hermeneutics, canonicity, historiography, pseudonymity, literary genres, and authority. Moreover, this study is guided by an underlying thesis, namely, that every encounter with the Paul of the New Testament is conditioned by a kind of pre-understanding of Paul (or a proto-Paulusbild), which filters and interprets the Pauline data. Indeed, it is this pre-understanding of Paul that fundamentally determines how we use the New Testament data in the course of constructing our understandings of Paul. Thus, our pre-understandings of Paul are integrally linked to what this study refers to as “Pauline Archimedean points”—fixed points of reference that establish the measure for constructing any interpretation of Paul. Building on this premise, this study aims to interrogate the assorted issues that relate to and inform the formation of these Pauline Archimedean points. In doing so, my underlying goal is relatively modest: to urge Pauline scholars, and for that matter Pauline readers of any persuasion, to engage in a modicum of self-reflection over the “positive prejudices” that shape all of our efforts to comprehend or reconstruct Paul.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2018
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
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