Perspectives on Paul

Opening of the Epistle to the Galatians (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the summer of 2012, I did an independent study on Paul from Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox perspectives.

(Note: Most of this page is still in the present tense, as it was written during the project.)

What motivated me to this study was the saying that one can associate a particular apostle with each of the three great traditions of Christianity: John with the Orthodox, Peter with the Catholic, and Paul with the Protestant. This made me wonder how each of these traditions treated the Pauline writings:

– Are certain texts more emphasized?
– Does the interpretation of the same text vary?
– Do the hermeneutical approaches vary?
– Does the treatment of Paul within the canon vary?
– Are Pauline texts foundational to any of the church-dividing doctrines?

I’ll be doing this study under the direction of Dr. Michael Gorman. We’re still working out the syllabus, but the basic approach will be to start with a general introduction to Paul (focusing on the seven undisputed letters) from each perspective, and then to examine the particular issue of Paul’s soteriology from each perspective. I’m excited about that, because it will include looking at the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification that was signed in 1999 between the Roman Catholics and the Lutherans, and then later by the Methodists. (Someday, I’d really like to facilitate a parish-level ecumenical discussion group on this document, so this is excellent preparation.) Then I’ll do a research paper, topic TBD.

I plan to post as I normally do about my studies, but decided to create this page so as to give the project, and my call for conversation partners, a bit more prominence.

Here’s my preliminary reading list (though in most cases I’ll be reading only portions of these works):

Part 1: General Intro to Paul

  • Undisputed letters of Paul: 1 Thess, Phillippians, Galatians, 1 Cor, 2 Cor, Romans, Philemon
  • Gorman, Apostle of the Crucified Lord
  • Bird, ed., Four Views of Paul:
  • Chrysostom homilies

Part 2: Pauline Soteriology

  • Beilby & Eddy, Justification: Five Views
  • Either:
    • Gorman, Inhabiting the Cruciform God , or
    • Blackwell, Christosis
  • Scouteris, Constantine. “Church and justification : an Orthodox approach to the issue of justification and collective faith.” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 28, no. 2 (June 1, 1983): 145-155.
  • Johnson, Navigating Justification: Conversing with Paul, Catalyst 37.1, Nov 2010
  • Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (and the “annex”, and the Catholic, Lutheran, and Methodist responses)
  • Rusch & Chadwick, ed, Justification and the Future of the Ecumenical Movement: The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, 2003
  • Journal Of Ecumenical Studies 38, no. 1 (December 1, 2001) (proceedings from the 2001 NAAE conference devoted to the Joint Declaration)

Evolving syllabus:

25 May – 7 June: Intro to Paul, Gorman text, (most of the) letters
8-14 June: Romans; Reformed and Catholic chapters from Four views of Paul
14-21 June: Chrysostom:
– homilies 11 and 12 on Romans (6)
– homilies 6 and 7 on Philippians (2:5-11)
– homily 1 on 1 Thess (1-3)
– excerpts of commentary on Galatians: 3:23-29, 4:4-7
– Also Post-New Perspective from Four Views, and notes on Paul from Orthodox Study Bible[1]
21-28 June: Joint Declaration & associated documents, Roman Catholic and Theosis chapters from Justification: Five Views, Scouteris
29 June – 5 July: Traditional & Progressive Reformed, New Perspective chapters in Five Views, Johnson article for post-new perspective
6-12 July: JES articles and Rusch collection on responses to the JDDJ
Subsequently: Research paper – the rest of the summer

[1] Although the Orthodox Study Bible has been panned at the OrthodoxWiki and by Orthodox Archim. Ephrem

See my collection of books related to this project on

Posts Related to This Project
In chronological order:

  • N. T. Wright’s “Big Book on Paul” (5/22/2012) - I was fortunate enough to be able to attend an informal colloquium given by N. T. Wright at the Ecumenical Institute of Theology on 10 May, in which he gave us a (necessarily, extremely compressed and) brief overview of the … Continue reading
  • Some thoughts on Philippians, Church Unity, the CDF, and the LCWR (6/1/2012) - I’d intended to read Paul’s letters in chronological (according to my prof) rather than canonical order, but I got confused and read Philippians next. I’m glad I did, though, because I think that reflection on this letter is fruitful for … Continue reading
  • Thoughts on Galatians (6/3/2012) - This letter was written as a circulating letter to the churches of Galatia, which is not a city but a larger area, a province. The occasion for its writing was that the area was being evangelized by missionaries who were … Continue reading
  • Thoughts on 1 Cor (6/4/2012) - The first letter to the Corinthians contains two popularly-known texts: its paean on love in chapter 13, and its analogy of the body with many parts in chapter 12. (Interestingly, both these texts owe a certain debt to the common … Continue reading
  • Impressions from Paul’s letters to the Galatians, Philippians, Corinthians, and Philemon (6/12/2012) - My overall impression from reading these letters is that Paul was a man of strong feelings, rhetorical skill, and an overriding passion for the gospel that was laced throughout with joy; and that the church of Paul’s time was anything … Continue reading
  • Thoughts on Romans (6/15/2012) - This is clearly a very carefully structured and intertextual letter. It reminded me a bit of a prose version of Isaiah: just the type of thing that is dangerous to quote bits of out of context, which is mostly how … Continue reading
  • A Catholic’s Perception of an Orthodox View of Paul, informed by Certain Homilies by St. John Chrysostom (6/21/2012) - Based on some prior familiarity with the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the relatively small bit of reading I’ve done in the Orthodox Study Bible (and reviews thereof), and several of the homilies of St. Chrysostom, I venture a response to the … Continue reading
  • Justification? (6/27/2012) - I’ve started phase 2 of my independent study on Paul, so I’m now thinking about “justification.” I’ve read the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification along with the Roman Catholic and Lutheran responses to it, the resulting clarifying annex … Continue reading
  • Justification: Traditional Reformed Perspective (7/1/2012) - I’m working my way through Justification: Five Views, in chapter 3 of which Michael Horton helpfully lays out the traditional Reformed position on justification in direct contrast to the Council of Trent decree on justification (which is cited in the … Continue reading
  • Justification: More Views (7/8/2012) - This week I worked my way through the rest of Justification: Five Views. Michael Bird’s discussion of the Progressive Reformed perspective places the judicial metaphor in the context of Paul’s other language that draws on relational, covenantal, and eschatological themes … Continue reading
  • Researching Romans: Trent, Calvin, and Contemporary Commentaries (7/22/2012) - Well, having hauled my brain off strike after it had its week off, I have managed to get myself organized for the research paper for my independent study. Since what I’m really interested in is how Paul is perceived and … Continue reading
  • Those -oo Verbs (8/15/2012) - In his commentary on The Thought of St. Paul, Roman Catholic scholar William Most makes an etymological argument against the traditional Protestant understanding that the verb dikaioo has a strictly declarative meaning that God pronounces a person innocent: Read the … Continue reading
  • Chronological or Canonical? (8/31/2012) - Interesting post over at Reading Acts on Reading the New Testament: Chronological or Canonical?, engaging with an article by Marcus Borg on the subject. Certainly I grew up believing that the canonical order was pretty much chronological, because it’s chronological … Continue reading
  • Talbert’s commentary on Romans (9/2/2012) - Romans by Charles H. Talbert My rating: 5 of 5 stars Wow! This is an excellent commentary. Talbert draws *heavily* on intertestamental and extra-canonical materials, including relatively recent discoveries such as the Qumran documents, and presents ample historical and cultural … Continue reading
  • Parsing Paul: Quantitative and Qualitative Results (9/9/2012) - The paper pretty much followed my original plans. In the final paper, which I titled Parsing Paul: Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Commentary on Six Passages from Romans[1], I examined commentary on verses 3:20-30, 4:25, 5:5, 6:19-23, 8:30-33, and 10:3-9, in … Continue reading
  • Review: Four Views on the Apostle Paul (9/16/2012) - Four Views on the Apostle Paul by Michael F. Bird My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is the first book of the recently popular “N Views on Topic X” form that I’ve read, and I think it’s a great … Continue reading
  • Parsing Paul, Part 2: Word Study Results (9/21/2012) - After a general quantitative and qualitative comparison of the twelve commentaries in hand, I looked into how some specific important words from these passages were interpreted. Generally, these words were examined by the commentators in terms of the Greek text. … Continue reading
  • Sin as an Occasion of Grace (1/27/2022) - This Tuesday was the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Something about that struck me differently, this year. I’d normally think about Paul being struck down and all the following drama — because that’s what I usually hear emphasized, … Continue reading

3 Responses to Perspectives on Paul

  1. Pingback: Second Blogiversary! | Gaudete Theology

  2. TRMII says:

    Not that it’s had too many scholarly converts (yet), but if you feel like reading yourself to blindness you should check out Douglas Campbell’s work. His book “The Deliverance of God” is very long, but well worth the read. His looooong methodological portions would also be an interesting way of thinking about Western perspectives on Paul.

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