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Study Resources :: Dictionaries :: Paul, the Apostle, 2

Dictionaries :: Paul, the Apostle, 2

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Below are articles from the following dictionary:
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia

Paul, the Apostle, 2:

II. Modern Theories about Paul.

1. Criticism Not Infallible:

Findlay (HDB, "Paul") utters a needed warning when he reminds us that the modern historical and psychological method of study is just as liable to prepossession and prejudice as the older categories of scholastic and dogmatic theology. "The focus of the picture may be displaced and its colors falsified by philosophical no less than by ecclesiastical spectacles" (same place). Deissmann (St. Paul, 4 f) sympathizes with this protest against the infallibility of modern subjective criticism: "That really and properly is the task of the modern student of Paul: to come back from the paper Paul of our western libraries, Germanized, dogmatised, modernized, to the historic Paul; to penetrate through the ?Paulinism' of our New Testament theologies to the Paul of ancient reality." He admits the thoroughness and the magnitude of the work accomplished in the 19th century concerning the literary questions connected with Paul's letters, but it is a "doctrinaire interest" that "has gone farther and farther astray." Deissmann conceives of Paul as a "hero of piety first and foremost," not as a theologian. "As a religious genius Paul's outlook is forward into a future of universal history." In this position of Deissmann we see a return to the pre-Baur time. Deissmann would like to get past all the schools of criticism, back to Paul himself.

2. The Tubingen Theory:

Baur started the modern critical attitude by his Pastoralbriefe (1835, p. 79), in which he remarked that there were only four epistles of Paul (Galatians 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans) which could be accepted as genuine. In his Paulus (1845) he expounded this thesis. He also rejected the Acts. From the four great epistles and from the pseudo-Clementine literature of the 2nd century, Baur argued that Paul and Peter were bitter antagonists. Peter and the other apostles were held fast in the grip of the legalistic conception of Christianity, a sort of Christianized Pharisaism. Paul, when converted, had reacted violently against this view, and became the exponent of Gentile freedom. Christianity was divided into two factions, Jewish Christians (Petrinists) and Gentile Christians (Paulinists). With this "key" Baur ruled out the other Pauline epistles and Ac as spurious, because they did not show the bitterness of this controversy. He called them "tendency" writings, designed to cover up the strife and to show that peace reigned in the camp. This arbitrary theory cut a wide swath for 50 years, and became a fetich with many scholars, but it is now dead. "It has been seen that it is bad criticism to make a theory on insecure grounds, and then to reject all the literature which contradicts it" (Maclean in 1-vol HDB). Ramsay (The First Christian Century, 1911, 195) contends that the perpetuation of the Baur standpoint in Moffatt's Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament is an anachronism: "We are no longer in the 19th century with its negations, but in the 20th century with its growing power of insight and the power of belief that springs therefrom." Van Marten (Encyclopedia Biblica) calls the Baur view that of the "old guard" of liberal theology in Germany, Switzerland, France, Holland, and, to some extent, in Britain.

3. Protest against Baur's View:

But even in Germany the older conservative view of Paul has always had champions. The most consistent of the recent opponents of Baur's views in Germany is Th. Zahn (compare his Einlin das New Testament, 2 volumes, 1897-99; Introduction to the New Testament, 3 volumes, 1910). In Britain the true successor of Lightfoot as the chief antagonist of the Tubingen School is Sir W.M. Ramsay, whose numerous volumes (Church in the Roman Empire, 1893; Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, 1895; Paul the Traveler, 1896; Pauline and Other Studies, 1906; Cities of Paul, 1908; Luke the Physician and Other Studies, 1908; Pictures of the Apostolic Church, 1910; The First Christian Century, 1911) have given the finishing touches to the overthrow of Baur's contention.

4. Successors to Baur:

But even so, already the Baur school had split into two parts. The ablest representatives, like H. J. Holtzmann, Pfleiderer, Harnack, Julicher, Lipsius, von Soden, were compelled to admit more of Paul's Epistles as genuine than the four principal ones, till there are left practically none to fight over but Eph and the Pastoral Epistles. This progress eliminated completely Baur's thesis and approached very nearly to the position of Lightfoot, Ramsay and Zahn. Von Soden (Early Christian Literature, 324) still stands out against 2 Thessalonians, but Harnack has deserted him on that point. But the old narrow view of Baur is gone, and von Soden is eloquent in his enthusiasm for Paul (ibid., 119): "As we gaze upon the great literary memorials of the Greeks we may well question whether these Pauline letters are not equal to them-indeed, do not surpass them-in spiritual significance, in psychological depths and loftiness of ideal, above all in the art of complete and forcible expression." The other wing of Baur's school Findlay (HDB) calls "ultra-Baurians." It is mainly a Dutch school with Loman and Van Manen as its main exponents, though it has support in Germany from Steck and Volter, and in America from W. B. Smith. These writers do not say that Paul is a myth, but that our sources (Acts and the 13 epistles) are all legendary. It is a relentless carrying of Baur's thesis to a reductio ad absurdum. Van Manen (Encyclopedia Biblica) says of "the historical, Paul" as distinct from "the legendary Paul": "It does not appear that Paul's ideas differed widely from those of the other disciples, or that he had emancipated himself from Judaism or had outgrown the law more than they." When one has disposed of all the evidence he is entirely free to reconstruct the pictures to suit himself. Quite arbitrarily, Van Manen accepts the "we"-sections in Ac as authoritative. But these give glimpses of the historical Jesus quite as truly as the Pauline Epistles, and should therefore be rejected by advocates of the mythical Jesus. So the pendulum swings back and forth. One school destroys the other, but the fact of Paul's personality remains. "The new start is one of such importance that we must distinguish the pre-Pauline from the post-Pauline Christianity, or, what amounts to the same thing, the Palestinian sect and the world-religion" (Wernle, Beginnings of Christianity, I, 159).

5. Appeal to Comparative Religion:

In his Paulus (1904), Wrede finds the explanation of Paul's theology in late Jewish apocalyptic views and in the oriental mystery religions. Bousset (Die Religion des Judenthums im New Testament Zeitalter, 1903) seeks to find in the "late Jewish apocalyptic" "conceptions from the Babylonian and the Irano-Zarathustrian religions" (Schweitzer, Paul and His Interpreters, 173). According to Wrede's view, Paul is one of the creators of "Christ" as distinct from the Jesus of history (compare "Jesus or Christ," HJ, suppl., January, 1909). "Wrede's object is to overthrow the view predominant in modern theology, that Paul loyally and consistently expounded and developed theology of Jesus" (J. Weiss, Paul and Jesus, 1909, 2). J. Weiss in this book makes a careful reply to Wrede as others have done; compare A. Meyer, Jesus or Paul (1909), who concludes (p. 134) dramatically: "Paul-just one who points the way to Jesus and to God!" See also Julicher, Paulus und Jesus (1907); Kaftan, Jesus und Paulus (1906); Kolbing, Die geistige Einwirkung der Person Jesu und Paulus (1906). The best reply to Wrede's arguments about the mystery-religion is found in articles in the The Expositor for 1912-13 (now in book form) by H.A.A. Kennedy on "St. Paul and the Mystery-Religions." The position of Wrede is carried to its logical conclusion by Drews (Die Christus-Mythe, 1909), who makes Paul the creator of Christianity. W. B. Smith (Der vorchristliche Jesus, 1906) tries to show that "Jesus" was a pre-Christian myth or god. Schweitzer (Paul and His Interpreters, 235) sums the matter up thus: "Drews's thesis is not merely a curiosity; it indicates the natural limit at which the hypothesis advanced by the advocates of comparative religion, when left to its own momentum, finally comes to rest."

6. The Eschatological Interpretation:

Schweitzer himself may be accepted as the best exponent of the rigid application of this view to Paul (Paul and His Interpreters, 1912) that he had made to Jesus (The Quest of the Historical Jesus, 1910). He glories in the ability to answer the absurdities of Steck, Loman and Van Manen and Drews by showing that the eschatological conceptions of Paul in his epistles are primitive, not late, and belong to the 1st century, not to the 2nd (Paul and His Interpreters, 249). He thus claims to be the true pupil of Baur, though reaching conclusions utterly different. There is undoubtedly an element of truth in this contention of Schweitzer, but he loses his case, when he insists that nothing but eschatology must be allowed to figure. "The edifice constructed by Baur has fallen," he proclaims (p. viii), but he demands that in its place we allow the "exclusively Jewish-eschatological" (p. ix) interpretation. There he slips, and his theory will go the way of that of Baur. C. Anderson Scott ("Jesus and Paul," Cambridge Biblical Essays, 365) admits that Paul has the same eschatological outlook as Jesus, but also the same ethical interest. It is not "either..... or," but both in each case. See a complete bibliography of the "Jesus and Paul" controversy in J. G. Machens' paper on "Jesus and Paul" in Biblical and Theological Studies (1912, 547 f). As Ramsay insists, we are now in the 20th century of insight and sanity, and Paul has come to his own. Even Wernle (Beginnings of Christianity, I, 163) sees that Paul is not the creator of the facts: "He merely transmits historical facts. God-Christ-Paul, such is the order." Saintsbury (History of Criticism, 152) says: "It has been the mission of the 19th century to prove that everybody's work was written by somebody else, and it will not be the most useless task of the 20th to betake itself to more profitable inquiries."

Written by A. T. Robertson


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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