Reviews of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 59:1 (Spring 1997)
Article: Reviews of Books
Author: Anonymous

Reviews of Books

Scott J. Hafemann: Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel: The Letter/Spirit Contrast and the Argument from Scripture in 2 Corinthians 3. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996. xii, 497. $29.95.

This ambitious work, published originally in 1995 by Mohr, is something of a sequel to Hafemann’s doctoral dissertation, Suffering and the Spirit (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1986), which focused on 2 Cor 2:14–3:3. More accurately, we have to say that the present work addresses “the heart of the matter,” for which the earlier volume was a preparation (vii).

As the subtitle suggests, Hafemann’s point of departure is the long-standing controversy regarding the gramma/pneuma antithesis in 2 Cor 3:6. From the patristic period until the time of the Reformation, the verse was usually understood as marking a hermeneutical contrast between the external (= literal) and spiritual (= allegorical) approaches to biblical interpretation. Luther and Calvin, however, saw in Paul’s statement a theological contrast between two periods in redemptive history, the law and the gospel. This theological understanding—which had earlier been acknowledged but kept subordinate—became the prevailing view through the modern period. In recent decades, however, some scholars have reconsidered this issue and argued that, at the very least, such a theological contrast implies a great deal about Paul’s interpretation of Scripture.

Since it appears, therefore, that the hermeneutical question will not go away, Hafemann has decided to search for the answer without leaving a stone unturned. Part One of the book focuses on the theme of “sufficiency” (hikanos and cognates), which Paul brings up in 2:16 and highlights in 3:4–6. As it turns out, Moses’ protest in Exod 4:10 that he has no eloquence is rendered by the LXX, “I am not sufficient” (ouch hikanos eimi). After pursuing this topic in the prophetic books of the OT and in the later Jewish literature, Hafemann concludes that Paul is presenting himself as the eschatological counterpart of Moses. But the apostle must also bring out the difference between the two, a difference that is rooted in Jer 31:31–34. In contrast to Moses’ ministry of the “letter”—a term that indicates the law without the Spirit—Paul is a minister of the new coven...

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