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RBL 11/2012

RBL 11/2012 Bird, Michael F., and Joel Willitts, eds. Paul and the Gospels: Christologies, Conflicts and

Bird, Michael F., and Joel Willitts, eds.

Paul and the Gospels: Christologies, Conflicts and Convergences

Library of New Testament Studies 411

New York: T&T Clark, 2011. Pp. xii + 276. Hardcover. $120.00. ISBN 9780567617422.

Thomas P. Nelligan Dominican Biblical Institute Limerick, Ireland

This volume, published as part of the Library of New Testament Studies series, investigates the relationship between Paul and the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, and Thomas. This volume attempts to gather together some of the scholarly strands that have explored this issue over the past two centuries. This volume asks two fundamental questions “(1) what is the relationship between Paul and the earliest Christian gospels in terms of their origins, setting and theological character and (2) in what ways are the earliest gospels a reaction to Paul and his legacy, such as appropriation, development or polemic?” (1–2)

The volume begins with two studies on Mark and Paul. The first, “Mark, Paul and the Question of Influences,” is by James G. Crossley, who argues that any similarity between Mark and Paul can be largely attributed to the general cultural context in which they were both writing but allowing that one may have been aware of the other and that ideas may have been exchanged. In doing this, Crossley examines some key overlaps between Mark and Paul, including the suffering and death of Jesus, the Gentile mission, the law, and Christology. While overlaps were found by Crossley on these issues, there was nothing that suggested a relationship of dependence. Crossley argues very convincingly on aspects

of Markan exegesis, but his controversial dating of Mark makes it difficult to determine the direction of possible influence.

“Mark: Interpreter of Peter and Disciple of Paul,” by Michael F. Bird, explores the notion that Mark was influenced by both Peter and Paul. Bird moves systematically through the idea that Mark was both Petrine testimony and Pauline proclamation and meticulously looks at the arguments for and against these options. Bird states that Mark “is very probably indebted to Petrine tradition and exhibits a pro-Pauline theological texture” (52). For Bird, the Pauline influence only makes sense in the presence of the Petrine traditions. Following the conclusion is an appendix that explores the title and authorship of Mark in an attempt to firmly link John Mark of the New Testament with the author of the Gospel. Overall this chapter is thorough and persuading and gives a measured look at the possible influences that helped to shape the author of the Gospel.

Joel Willitts’s essay contends that Matthew and Paul may not be as opposed as previously believed. Willitts argues that Matthew and Paul share a basic theological affinity, although a comparison of both must ultimately be a descriptive task and needs to be read as part of the “radical New Perspective” and that the scholar must “resist the urge to draw speculative conclusions” (65). Two case studies are carried out on Matthew’s and Paul’s view of Davidic messianism and judgment according to works, and Willitts argues that Paul is much closer to Judaism than scholars normally allow, and this provides a closer theology to Matthew. Willitts concludes that similarity does not mean dependence and that Matthew is not pro- or anti-Pauline but simply un-Pauline. This is a fair conclusion, although Willitts does illustrate that further work is required in this area.

Paul Foster’s essay argues that the small nature of early Christianity and its limited theology accounts for any similarities between Matthew and Paul. Foster discusses five points of convergence and divergence: the use of the Hebrew Scriptures, attitudes toward the role of the Torah, christological perspectives, participation in Gentile mission, and reflections on community structures. Foster argues that similarities are “primarily due to both sharing some of the core commitments, beliefs and affirmations in common with the wider early Jesus movement” (114). The conclusion is not satisfying. If the theology was that limited, then Paul, being the earliest extant Christian literature, may be the source of much of this; therefore, overlaps would take on more significance, and this is not explored.

“Luke and Paul on Repentance,” by David Morlan, uses the theme of repentance as a vehicle to compare Luke and Paul and explore their relationship. Morlan begins with Luke’s concept of repentance in relation to the Hebrew Scriptures and the Prodigal Son parable, which he sees as being representative of Luke’s concept of repentance. The

discussion of Paul’s view of repentance focuses on Paul’s logic in negating repentance, the law and conversion language, the power of sin, and Rom 2. Morlan concludes that Luke’s and Paul’s views are ultimately different, and their respective views of repentance rest on different understandings of human changeability. Morlan’s study is thorough, with in- depth readings of the text, but it could benefit from a more detailed comparison of the two views rather than showing what each text presents.

Stanley E. Porter’s essay argues that it is possible that the Gospel of Luke is a reaction to Paul’s major, undisputed letters. Porter examines some of Luke’s and Paul’s major theological issues, such as their use of scripture, Christology, Jesus’ death and resurrection and eschatology, and early Catholicism. He argues that, while there are many points of convergence between the two, the distinct voice of each writer can still be heard. Porter concludes that this is to be expected of two writers who possibly knew each other. Porter’s argument that scholars often point out divergence much more strongly than is necessary is an important one. The tendency to focus on differences overshadows many arguments in this volume, and Porter’s observance of this pattern shows that similarities can still be observed in spite of differences.

Mark Harding’s study of Paul and John explores their perspectives on the Christ event. Harding looks at the history of scholarship that proposes a literary connection between Paul and John and argues that some allusions to certain Pauline themes are much more convincing than a direct literary relationship. Harding makes note of certain aspects of both that show both juncture and disjuncture, including the law, the Jews, Christology, and eschatology. Some compelling similarities are found, particularly with the disputed letters of Ephesians and Colossians. Harding does not go so far as to make a literary connection but argues that common themes and sensibilities come from a common background. This chapter is forthright in proposing similarities of theme and stresses the importance of them, yet Harding falls short of proposing a connection and errs on the side of caution.

“Paul and John: Two Witnesses, One Gospel,” by Colin G. Kruse, does not see any connection between John and Paul but finds no surprise in there being common elements to both. Kruse compares Paul and John on a number of common issues in order to see similarities and dissimilarities. The areas analyzed are God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, the Mosaic law, humanity and its need, the work of Christ, union with Christ, the church and its ministers, mission, and Israel/the Jews. Kruse argues that, although there are shared issues, they are expressed in different ways and that there is no evidence to suggest any form of relationship but rather they both drew from common Christian traditions. Overall the essay is thorough in its comparison, and Kruse rightly points out that there are plenty of other areas to explore.

Christopher W. Skinner deals with the Gospel of Thomas and argues that it shows “knowledge of Paul’s writings and a reworking of ‘Pauline language for un-Pauline ends’ ” (221). After identifying certain inherent problems in comparing Thomas to Paul, Skinner compares sections of Thomas with sections from Paul’s letters as well as briefly comparing their theology. Skinner’s conclusion is that the authors of Thomas were indeed familiar with Paul’s letters and theology but largely rejected it and transformed key Pauline ideas to reflect their own theology. This study is significant in that it is one of the first studies to compare Thomas with Pauline literature. Skinner does not reject a connection based on dissimilarity but rather shows that a writer could utilize the ideas of another author and transform them for his or her own purposes.

The second essay dealing with the Gospel of Thomas, and the final one of the volume, is by Joshua W. Jipp. He chooses just one Pauline letter, 1 Corinthians, for comparison and explores shared themes. The first is death and human predicament, the second is salvation as transformation, and the third is bodily practices. In all three Jipp looks at the theme in Thomas and in 1 Corinthians and then compares the two. Jipp argues that there is no evidence that Thomas is reacting to Paul and that, although they share some motifs, they are essentially different and that these differences are best understood as being part of the diversity of early Christianity rather than as a reaction to Paul. As with Skinner’s essay, this is an important paper in advancing the boundaries of scholarship in regard to Thomas.

Overall this is an important volume in New Testament scholarship. The question of Paul’s influence on Gospel literature is one that has not been sufficiently investigated by scholars. This volume is a long way short of a full investigation and does not settle all of the issues but does open to door to further investigations. While all the studies contained within are thorough and well-presented, there was a lack of close analysis with Paul’s individual letters, and many of the studies were general in nature and looked at themes and theology from across Pauline. Finally, the volume lacks a general conclusion, which would have been very useful to draw together the findings of the ten studies to give the reader some form of answer to the questions asked in the introduction.