Contours of Pauline Theology: A Radical New Survey of the Influences on Paul
Currents in Theology and Mission, August, 2007 by Graydon F. Snyder
Contours of Pauline Theology: A Radical New Survey of the Influences on Paul. By Tom Holland. Fearn, Scotland: Mentor, 2004. 382 pages. Cloth. $22.99.
Tom Holland teaches New Testament and Hermeneutics at the University of Wales. This book on Paul was written in the context of his work in that university. While not a simple study, Holland’s theses are straightforward. First, the theology of Paul depends more on the Hebrew Scriptures than on Hellenistic thinking (pp. 109, 288). Second, Paul speaks of communal deliverance rather than individual salvation (p. 110). Third, the Exodus or Paschal motif formed the basis of Paul’s Christology (pp. 167-72, 225, 290).
Though the Exodus motif depends on Pentateuchal narratives, especially Exodus, Holland finds in the prophet Isaiah the most immediate use of the motif for Paul, especially the doulos passages (pp. 31-34). The believer enters the Christian Paschal community through baptism in the death of Jesus (Rom 6:1-6; pp. 141-54). That death of Jesus, which opens up the New Israel, reflects one primary motif–the Passover (Rom 3:21-26 and the meaning of hilasterion; pp. 157-82). So in Paul divine justification references the whole process of redemptive history. It speaks of the “corporate salvation accomplished by Christ’s death and resurrection” (p. 209). Holland appreciates the New Perspective on Paul that tries to erase the assumed antagonism between Paul and Judaism (e.g., Sanders, Dunn, and Wright), but he believes their view of the Jewish law as covenantal nomism doesn’t quite allow covenant to be defined in terms of the Exodus rather than boundary markers, such as circumcision, Sabbath observance, and kosher food (pp. 183-205).
Finally, Holland wrestles with another major theme of the historical Exodus and the theology of Paul: the firstborn. As he is aware, the joining of Jesus as the suffering servant with the firstborn does not easily satisfy the reader or even Holland himself (pp. 237-86). He does derive some satisfaction from the secondary Pauline hymn found in Col 1:15-20 where Christ is the prototokos from the dead.
As indicated, this book is complicated. The language is clear, but the ideas, and the discussions with other scholars, reveal procedural difficulties. Holland assumes that his covenantal thesis goes back to the Reformation. He assumes that he is a conservative and that those who disagree with him are liberals (p. 53). To be sure, liberals do tend to be sociologically individualistic, but no more so than conservatives and fundamentalists who seek the personal salvation of unbelievers. In fact his covenant motif resembles the older Heilsgeschichte theology in which the redeeming act of God occurs in the context of God’s people. A wide spectrum of scholars were associated with this position. Few people would call this reviewer conservative, yet I find myself in considerable agreement with the communal approach presented by Holland. That is, baptism joins the person to the body of Christ, eucharist celebrates the formation of the new Israel, and redemption references acceptance into the people of God. Holland does well to stress once more the communal nature of the Christian faith.
Graydon F. Snyder
COPYRIGHT 2007 Lutheran School of Theology and Mission
COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group