Reviews of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 58:2 (Fall 1996)
Article: Reviews of Books
Author: Anonymous

Reviews of Books

Brian S. Rosner: Paul, Scripture and Ethics: A Study of 1 Corinthians 5–7 . Arbeiten zur Geschichte des Antiken Judentums und Urchistentums 22. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994.

Rosner’s monograph is a revision of his prize-winning Cambridge doctoral thesis, written under the direction of William Horbury. The thesis of the study is straightforwardly stated on p. 24: “[I]n spite of the relatively few quotations of Scripture in Paul’s ethics…the Scriptures are nevertheless a crucial and formative source for Paul’s ethics.” It is perhaps surprising that such a book needs to be written: many readers might suppose that Rosner’s thesis is self-evidently true. In fact, however, this book argues against the stream of an influential tradition in New Testament scholarship—especially in the German-speaking world—that has explicitly denied that Scripture plays a significant role in Paul’s ethical teaching. This tradition goes back at least to Adolf von Harnack’s influential essay, “Das Alte Testament in den paulinischen Briefen und in den paulinischen Gemeinden” (Sitzungsberichte der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften [1928], 124–41), and one still finds it represented in more recent work such as Andreas Lindemann’s “Die biblischen Toragebote und die paulinische Ethik” (in W. Schrage [ed.], Studien zum Text und der Ethik des Neuen Testaments: Festschrift zum 80. Geburtstag von Heinrich Greeven [Berlin: de Gruyter, 1986], 242–65.

Against this tradition, Rosner argues that we must not limit our consideration to passages in which Paul explicitly quotes Scripture. Instead, we must pay attention to the more subtle and comprehensive ways in which Scripture has influenced Paul’s ethical norms. In many cases this influence is indirect: Paul has learned much of his ethics from Jewish tradition which, as Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr has demonstrated in his significant study Gesetz und Paränese: Katechismusartige Weisungsreihe in der frühjüdischen Literatur (WUNT 28; Tübingen: Mohr, 1987), is in turn based substantially upon Scripture. So, even in cases where his teaching is at one remove from the specific scriptural texts, Paul nevertheless lives in a moral world shaped by Scripture. “Some elements of Paul’s ethics which do not at first sight appear to have been influenced by the Scriptures turn out to be related to them indirectly via the mediation of jewish moral teaching” (p. 58). For example, Rosner argues, Lev 18–20 stands behind much of Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor 5:1–11:1, even though the text of Leviticus is never explicitly quoted.

Rosner’s book is divide...

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