Friday, January 08, 2016

E. P. Sanders' Paul

Since Mike Bird ordered a copy of Sanders' new book on Paul, I decided I needed to. Read the Preface and Introduction over a jelly filled donut and a late afternoon waiting to pick up kids.

I like it. Not only is the print big enough to soothe my almost 50 year old eyes, but this is the stuff I miss in biblical scholarship. Someone trying to be a historian for a change.

I appreciated the Preface. Sanders basically got writer's block after 4 books in four years and a fifth in six. I've been wondering where he was for the last twenty years. :-) I feel that pain. I've been trying to finish my next scholarly book for three or four years (and with the same patient editor). Fingers crossed for the end of the month.

There is a gentleness to the introduction that Sanders probably didn't have in his earlier years. This is a kindler, gentler Sanders. There was a time when his words of Joachim Jeremias were so harsh that some German scholars refused to be in the same conference with him.

The Introduction was a breath of fresh air. No, I won't agree with him on everything, but this is the old school historical stuff that has a kind of "just the facts ma'am" quality to it I like. I have faith. The part I'm needing more help with is the history.

Here are some interesting features he announces:
  • He's changed his mind on a development in Paul's thought. He now thinks that Paul's thought did develop and that it is helpful to treat the books in order. His order is interesting. I agree with some disagree with others. He's not going to engage the six books that are debated (Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus).
  • He thinks Dunn made a mistake to focus so heavily on Romans in formulating Paul's theology. Forgive me Jimmy for agreeing.
  • Here's an interesting quote: "One must distinguish Paul's arguments from his conclusions" (xvi). And another: "Paul's conclusions are generally perfectly clear, but the logic of his reasoning is often difficult to follow" (xxix). "We should assume that his conclusions were what mattered to him" (xxviii).
  • "Often finding the best argument to support one of our conclusions requires some experimentation" (xxviii).
I wrote at the end of his introduction, "It's nice to be retired." :-)


Dave Smith said...

Now that Ken Schenck has bought this book, I'm next. I have always loved Sander's contribution to scholarship. Now it appears the softening of his heart will help the emotional persuasion of his arguments.

Ken Schenck said...

You'll be done with Barclay before I finish the first chapter!