Thursday, November 1, 2012

Reading New Testament In Context Of Hebrews 12

Marcion's rejection of the Hebrew bible and the God of Israël is the extreme example of a broader debate on the perceived tension between Paul's letters and the gospels, in particular the gospel of Matthew. The supposed tension between Judaïsm and Greek culture.

However, in my view reading for example the gospel of Matthew only through an old testament lense isn't enough to gain understanding of it's internal consistency. Focus on Judaïsm or Gentile cultural influences is nice, but the amazing coherence of the New Testament is often underestimated. The gospel of Matthew should be in the first place read through the lense of the rest of the New Testament, in particular Acts of the Apostles, Hebrews and the revelation to John.

There are numerous structural elements that form the framework of the new testament. One example can be found in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 12.  This example resolves the tension exploited by people like Marcion by contrasting Mount Sinai & the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem:
 'You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[c] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”[d]
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks'
Those who claim, like Karl Barth in his commentary on the letter to the Romans, that the Apostle Paul
'As an apostle- and only as an apostle - he stands in no organic relationship with human society as it exists in history; seen from the point of view of human society, he can be regarded only as an exception, rather, as an impossibility.'
refuse to see the numerous obvious examples of internal coherence which form the structural framework of the New Testament.

Jonathan Pennington of SBTU seems to claim the exact opposite in his book  Reading the Gospels Wisely  according to Trevin Wax:
'Pennington deals with the common issue of Gospels-neglect, demonstrated primarily in our tendency to read of the Gospels through the lens of Paul, rather than reading Paul as working from the foundation of the Gospels.'
Contrary to what Pennington claims, reading the gospels in the context of Acts-Revelations isn't gospel neglect but key to understanding them.

Pennington studied with Richard Bauckham. To quickly gain understanding of Richard Bauckham's views we just have to compare his understanding of Paul as Apostle with the sermon on same passage, 2 Corinthians 12:7b by Klaas Schilder.

At first glance there seems to be an enormous difference between the two approaches. Very remarkable, and very interesting.

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