Thursday, July 22, 2010

I'm reading Brigitte Kahl's new book on Paul: Galatians Re-Imagined--Reading Paul with the eyes of the Vanquished.  Vernon K. Robbins reviews the book by saying:

This book is breathtaking not only in depth and scope but also in its goal with the reader. Kahl builds a complex, richly supported case that Paul’s argument for justification by faith and freedom from the law in Galatians is not properly interpreted through any mode of Christianity versus Judaism. Rather, Paul presents a Jewish-messianic monotheism that subverts and reconfigures the claims of imperial monotheism, which enacts an ideology of universal law and order.

He concludes: In its overall import, Kahl’s Galatians Re-imagined has an importance for the twenty-first century that writings such as F. C. Baur’s “The Christ-Party in the Corinthian Church,” D. F. Strauss’s Life of Jesus Critically Examined, W. Wrede’s The Messianic Secret in Mark, or K. Barth’s The Epistle of Romans had for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

Hard to imagine a better review than that.

6 comments:

Jane said...

Thanks for posting about this - sounds fascinating. Must get teh library to buy a copy!

RICHARD BALDWIN COOK said...

RESPONSE NUMBER SIX To Galatians Re-imagined: Reading with the Eyes of the Vanquished (Fortress 2010) by Brigitte Kahl

KAHL’S INTRODUCTION

In my previous post, I mentioned that Brigitte Kahl recommends Mark Nanos’ book, The Irony of Galatians (Augsburg Fortress 2002), especially at pp. 257-71.

Nanos write that the Apostle Paul’s addressees in Galatia were not Jews, although adherents of Messiah Jesus (“Paul’s Gentiles”). As non-Jews, they were compromising the security of the synagogue(s) by claiming the privilege – as Jews – to no longer be required to show honor to the Emperor by way of mandated participation in the imperial cult. Nanos then argues that the Jewish community (communities?) responded to this threat by pressuring Paul’s Messiah Jesus converts to become proselytes and submit to circumcision.

Paul’s Galatians letter is ambiguous as to the identities of both the community (communities) addressed and the opponents Paul is confronting. This ambiguity explains the existence of both Nanos’ book and Kahl’s, to say nothing of most other commentaries: biblical scholars want to have their say and also want to say something fresh, if not novel. (The faddish nature of New Testament scholarship is a subject for another day.)

About the identities of the parties mentioned in the Galatians letter, decisions have to be made by those who write commentaries. Nanos has made his calls, and Kahl’s introductory remarks indicate she has adopted a similar position in her book. (You will recall, I am reviewing her book as I work through it.)

I leave it to the readers of Mark Nanos to decide if he is persuasive that synagogue representatives (Nanos, unfortunately, calls them “control agents”) would demand circumcision of non-Jews, whose adherence was not to Judaism per se, but to a Jewish itinerant preacher, executed under Roman authority in Roman-occupied Jerusalem.

My own take on these identity questions is that Paul, in Galatians, is having to defend himself from allegations that he is a man of extreme violence and therefore, lacking in credibility as a reliable counselor in religious matters. This bitter criticism of Paul was made, I believe, in Galatia by survivors of his earlier persecution of Diaspora Christian Jews, whom he had run out of Jerusalem and who had returned to their homes in Galatia, there to denounce Paul to their co-communicants, some of whom were Gentile.

(See my article, “Paul and the Victims of His Persecution: The Opponents in Galatia” 32 Biblical Theology Bulletin No 4 (Winter 2002) pages 182-191.)

Kahl’s first reference to Nanos, appearing here in the Introduction, may yet be qualified in her more detailed explication in the book.

Richard Baldwin Cook

http://rbc-in-md6.blogspot.com/2010/11/response-number-six-to-galatians-re.html

RICHARD BALDWIN COOK said...

In my previous post, I mentioned that Brigitte Kahl recommends Mark Nanos’ book, The Irony of Galatians (Augsburg Fortress 2002), especially at pp. 257-71.

Nanos write that the Apostle Paul’s addressees in Galatia were not Jews, although adherents of Messiah Jesus (“Paul’s Gentiles”). As non-Jews, they were compromising the security of the synagogue(s) by claiming the privilege – as Jews – to no longer be required to show honor to the Emperor by way of mandated participation in the imperial cult. Nanos then argues that the Jewish community (communities?) responded to this threat by pressuring Paul’s Messiah Jesus converts to become proselytes and submit to circumcision.

Paul’s Galatians letter is ambiguous as to the identities of both the community (communities) addressed and the opponents Paul is confronting. This ambiguity explains the existence of both Nanos’ book and Kahl’s, to say nothing of most other commentaries: biblical scholars want to have their say and also want to say something fresh, if not novel. (The faddish nature of New Testament scholarship is a subject for another day.)

About the identities of the parties mentioned in the Galatians letter, decisions have to be made by those who write commentaries. Nanos has made his calls, and Kahl’s introductory remarks indicate she has adopted a similar position in her book. (You will recall, I am reviewing her book as I work through it.)

I leave it to the readers of Mark Nanos to decide if he is persuasive that synagogue representatives (Nanos, unfortunately, calls them “control agents”) would demand circumcision of non-Jews, whose adherence was not to Judaism per se, but to a Jewish itinerant preacher, executed under Roman authority in Roman-occupied Jerusalem.

My own take on these identity questions is that Paul, in Galatians, is having to defend himself from allegations that he is a man of extreme violence and therefore, lacking in credibility as a reliable counselor in religious matters. This bitter criticism of Paul was made, I believe, in Galatia by survivors of his earlier persecution of Diaspora Christian Jews, whom he had run out of Jerusalem and who had returned to their homes in Galatia, there to denounce Paul to their co-communicants, some of whom were Gentile.

(See my article, “Paul and the Victims of His Persecution: The Opponents in Galatia” 32 Biblical Theology Bulletin No 4 (Winter 2002) pages 182-191.)

Kahl’s first reference to Nanos, appearing here in the Introduction, may yet be qualified in her more detailed explication in the book.

http://rbc-in-md6.blogspot.com/

RICHARD BALDWIN COOK said...

RESPONSE NUMBER SIX To Galatians Re-imagined: Reading with the Eyes of the Vanquished (Fortress 2010) by Brigitte Kahl

KAHL’S INTRODUCTION

In my previous post, I mentioned that Brigitte Kahl recommends Mark Nanos’ book, The Irony of Galatians (Augsburg Fortress 2002), especially at pp. 257-71.

Nanos write that the Apostle Paul’s addressees in Galatia were not Jews, although adherents of Messiah Jesus (“Paul’s Gentiles”). As non-Jews, they were compromising the security of the synagogue(s) by claiming the privilege – as Jews – to no longer be required to show honor to the Emperor by way of mandated participation in the imperial cult. Nanos then argues that the Jewish community (communities?) responded to this threat by pressuring Paul’s Messiah Jesus converts to become proselytes and submit to circumcision.

Paul’s Galatians letter is ambiguous as to the identities of both the community (communities) addressed and the opponents Paul is confronting. This ambiguity explains the existence of both Nanos’ book and Kahl’s, to say nothing of most other commentaries: biblical scholars want to have their say and also want to say something fresh, if not novel. (The faddish nature of New Testament scholarship is a subject for another day.)

About the identities of the parties mentioned in the Galatians letter, decisions have to be made by those who write commentaries. Nanos has made his calls, and Kahl’s introductory remarks indicate she has adopted a similar position in her book. (You will recall, I am reviewing her book as I work through it.)

I leave it to the readers of Mark Nanos to decide if he is persuasive that synagogue representatives (Nanos, unfortunately, calls them “control agents”) would demand circumcision of non-Jews, whose adherence was not to Judaism per se, but to a Jewish itinerant preacher, executed under Roman authority in Roman-occupied Jerusalem.

http://rbc-in-md6.blogspot.com/

RICHARD BALDWIN COOK said...

RESPONSE NUMBER SIX To Galatians Re-imagined: Reading with the Eyes of the Vanquished (Fortress 2010) by Brigitte Kahl

KAHL’S INTRODUCTION

In my previous post, I mentioned that Brigitte Kahl recommends Mark Nanos’ book, The Irony of Galatians (Augsburg Fortress 2002), especially at pp. 257-71.

Nanos write that the Apostle Paul’s addressees in Galatia were not Jews, although adherents of Messiah Jesus (“Paul’s Gentiles”). As non-Jews, they were compromising the security of the synagogue(s) by claiming the privilege – as Jews – to no longer be required to show honor to the Emperor by way of mandated participation in the imperial cult. Nanos then argues that the Jewish community (communities?) responded to this threat by pressuring Paul’s Messiah Jesus converts to become proselytes and submit to circumcision.


I leave it to the readers of Mark Nanos to decide if he is persuasive that synagogue representatives (Nanos, unfortunately, calls them “control agents”) would demand circumcision of non-Jews, whose adherence was not to Judaism per se, but to a Jewish itinerant preacher, executed under Roman authority in Roman-occupied Jerusalem.

http://rbc-in-md6.blogspot.com/

RICHARD BALDWIN COOK said...

RESPONSE FIFTEEN

A progressive review of Galatians Re-imagined: Reading with the Eyes of the Vanquished (Fortress 2010) by Brigitte Kahl

CHAPTER ONE – “REMAPPING GALATIA”

[. . . ]

If Kahl’s assertion is correct, that the Galatians letter is lacking in contextual indicators, would this not explain why many later readers of Paul’s letter, looking over the shoulders of the intended recipients, are left to speculate about much of the original setting?

[. . .]

Kahl wishes to make something decisive of scholarship, which is inconclusive as to whether Paul’s Galatia is the Roman province of that name or the likely more ethnically uniform region to the north of the province.

Enough already about the inherently inconclusive north-south debate!

Kahl brings up the debate, yet again, in order to make the point that “self-congratulatory” scholarship, by not finding a conclusive answer to the location question has itself “decontextualized” the letter.

This cannot be the case. The letter itself does not provide enough information for clarity as to where the letter’s recipients resided. Scholars who point this out are not congratulating themselves.

[. . .]

Kahl is correct also to remind us that the letter’s likely recipients probably (Kahl insists they did) walked Roman roads, paid taxes, were present at events at Roman temples, fought in Roman legions, attended Roman meals and games, fulfilled their civic obligations.

But if the Romans are to be seen as players and not as background to the letter, the letter must be cited for this. But it is not.

[. . .]

Before sweeping all modern Pauline scholarship into a murmuring devotional circle, willing to see Paul disengaged from “the social and political realities of conquest,” Professor Kahl might engage Ernst Käsemann, with whom she has much in common as a tenacious and thoughtful Pauline investigator from within the Lutheran tradition.

Käsemann is the most searching Pauline scholar we have. Perhaps his fundamental gift is his thoughtful dissent from the notion that ecclesiology is the determinant for theology.

[. . .]

Käsemann once described Paul as “a possessed man in pursuit of a feverish dream” and also asserted, “Historical research has perhaps its final and deepest value in the fact that it disillusions.” (Both statements may be found in “Paul and Nascent Catholicism,” Distinctive Protestant and Catholic Themes Reconsidered (Harper Torchbooks, 1967, pp. 19, 17, translated by Wilfred F. Bunge).

A gift from Lou Martyn to this shy M. Div. student at Union Seminary in the ‘60’s was Martyn’s drumbeat for Ernst Käsemann. Even if you decide that a Käsemann nugget (rarely an entire sentence) is fool’s gold, you have had to turn it over in your hand three or four times. And it is so pretty!

Through the centuries, many official, i.e., self-declared, orthodox interpretations of Paul, have dutifully domesticated him as the Cosmic Apostle, bravely fighting to preserve space for the development of a magisterium, which would then invoke Paul for its own secular ends, while pretending never to avert its gaze from the heavens.

[. . .]

One best not try to re-imagine Paul as a resistance operative against Roman occupation, who sent a cryptic message to sleeper cells somewhere in Galatia.