Monday, March 16, 2009

Book Review: Galatians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians

Here's another of my thoughts upon finishing one of NT Wright's Paul for Everyone commentaries.

The concept of family stands out when these three books are put together. Families are the units in which meals and finances are shared, where the main commandment is love, and where you don't put superficial or physical requirements on those who wish to enter, where you welcome the weak. Paul's message to these new Christians is that they've been welcomed into a family and it's time to live like one.

As someone who's been accepted into an academic "family" of sorts with the recent tenure decision, this angle of these books would stand out, now, wouldn't it? Of course, the process of getting tenure requires a certain "salvation of works" that is not really part of being a Christian ...
Some of my thoughts on Galatians show up in the previous post "A Natural Theology of Sin." Specifically it's Paul's shocking (for a former Pharisee at least) argument that the Torah had become an idol, and that God's plan was for the non-Jews as well as the Jews, not through Israel anymore but through Israel's real Messiah. Jesus' impact was so decisive that non-Jews didn't even have to look like Jews anymore, in any way that was a physical or cultural "badge" of being special or marked out from the others ... but they did have to act like Jews in relationships and behavior and morality and (as Jesus extended in the Sermon on the Mount) thoughts. This line between casting off Jewish "clothes" but retaining Jewish actions is present in all three letters.

It is a case of losing the nouns and keeping the verbs?* I'm just thinking that way because a few hours ago I was telling my biochemists in preparing for the final to focus on the VERBS, the actions that were happening, and not necessarily the convoluted and sometimes-too-specific NOUNS. I'll take that for now, though I'm sure there are some flaws in such a broad metaphor!

* Yes, yes, if you start thinking of that old DC Talk song I understand.

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