Posts Tagged ‘Pauline Studies’


Narrative and Ontology is also discussing worldview. I thought I would repost this old post in case its any use to anyone doing work on worldview.


I started a paper a few months back which sought to offer a worldview reading of Galatians. Here is the first part of if. I have added the rest of it as a PDF file. See the link at the bottom of the page.

It still needs a conclusion….

It essentially takes N.T. Wright’s worldview model and seeks to read Galatians in a way so that the Pauline worlview can be sketched out.


Galatians and the Pauline Worldview

Historiography, Hermeneutics and Worldview

Interpreting Galatians, like any other ancient text, is far from simple for the chasm which stands between the interpreter and the original author is immense—this immensity being created by the differences to be found in historical location, culture, language and rhetorical conventions between the Pauline interpreter and Paul himself.

This hermeneutical challenge, which exists in all forms of communication, is in one sense minimised or bypassed by the ‘naïve’/modernist reader who think that simply by a close reading of the text the intended meaning of the author simply appears when the tools of realism, objectivity and empiricism are vigorously and methodologically applied.1

On the other hand the post-modern Pauline adventurer may simply see the chasm as being insurmountable as the historical tools of modernism are viewed as the worthless and arrogant product of an enlightenment epistemology. A post-modern adventure for Pauline studies may be described as a move from asking‘What did Paul mean?’ to ‘What does the text do and mean for my community?’, thus resulting in a shift away from ‘objectivity’ to the ‘subjective’ approach of multiple possible meanings.2

In contrast to both a modern and post-modern historiography I intend to sketch out and use a ‘Worldview Hermeneutic’ as a methodology to interpret Galatians and begin to construct ‘a’ Pauline theology. This worldview hermeneutic, as discussed in a previous essay3, relies heavily on the methodology of N.T Wright but seeks to apply this to one book within the Pauline Corpus. Before setting out on a worldview approach to Galatians it is necessary to sketch out, in broad strokes, the basic structure of a worldview.


In recent decades there has been a steady rise in the use of worldview (Weltanschauung) which is seen not only across the academic community at large but also within the church, at both a popular and academic level, in its development of evangelism, mission, bible translation, ethical theory. The use of worldviews is so pervasive owing to the fact that it seeks not to offer a theoretical construct aimed at one area of life, instead it provides a interpretative framework which can be applied to all fields and spheres of human interpretation and existence.

A worldview (or vision of life) is a framework or set of fundamental beliefs through which we view the world and our calling and future in it. This vision need not be fully articulated….this vision is a channel for the ultimate beliefs which give direction and meaning to life. It is the integrative and interpretative framework by which order and disorder are judged; it is the standard by which reality is managed and pursued; it is the set of hinges on which all our everyday thinking and doing turns.4

Any worldview, whether ancient or modern , according to N.T. Wright, contains four basic interrelated components5;

1) Stories: Worldviews ‘provide the stories [grand narratives] through which human beings view reality’.

2) Questions: These grand narratives provide answers to the basic worldview questions. Who are we? Where are we? What is wrong? What is the solution?6

3) Symbols: Stories express themselves in cultural symbols, whether that be the symbol of the ‘credit card’ expressing the consumerist meta-narrative, or the ‘eagle’ expressing the grand narrative of Roman imperialism.

4) Praxis: Stories, Symbols and the answers to basic worldview questions provide a ‘way-of-being-in-the-world’, the stories which people indwell and the symbols which they cherish provide a call to action, whether that be the praxis of a terrorist ideology or the outworking of a nihilist mindset.

I intend in this essay to explore, within Galatians the role of story, symbol and praxis within the Pauline worldview.

  1. Story

Worldview Shift and the Damascus Road

And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles,…” Galatians 1:14-16

The events on the Damascus road undoubtedly had a major significance for the Apostle Paul. Once he was ‘advancing in ιουδαισμω Judaism ’ (1:14) but now he sees himself, in some sense, as separate from Judaism (1:13)7. The events of Damascus road have been variously described as conversion—from one religion to another—or by others as calling or commissioning8 which reflect his call to preach the gospel to the gentiles.

I propose that the Damascus event is best seen as a ‘Worldview Shift’. By using the word ‘worldview’ I intend to highlight that this is not simply a ‘religious event’ as the word ‘conversion’ in popular usage suggests, nor does the notion of ‘commissioning’ do full justice to the change in the entire outlook of Paul, a change that, as we shall see, provides an alternative to the story, symbol and praxis of Saul the Pharisee. I use the word ‘shift’ as opposed to ‘change’ to highlight, an obvious although important point, that Paul’s post Damascus worldview is still essentially Judaic through and through, but a modified form.9 By using the word ‘shift’ I mean that Paul’s worldview after Damascus has not changed completely but has shifted from what it once was, the worldview, in my opinion, has been modified.


1 For further discussion see Wright, The New Testament and the People of God Chapter 2-3

2 The phrase ‘Postmodern adventure’ I have taken from the influential essay by Clines A Postmodern Adventure in Biblical Studies: The Pyramid and the Net:

3 For a discussion of New Testament Historiography in the light of postmodernity see Swales, Postmodernity and New Testament History

4 As cited in Naugle Worldview 349, likewise N.T. Wright “Worldviews are thus the basic stuff of human existence, the lens through which the world is seen, the blueprint of how one should live in it, and above all the sense of identity and place which enables human beings to be what they are. To ignore worldviews, either our own or those of the culture we are studying, would result in extraordinary shallowness.” New Testament and the People of God 124

5 For a full discussion see Wright New Testament and the People of God esp pp 122-126

6 Mark Roques Five Big Worldview Questions provides answers to the basic worldview questions from a Nazi, Hollywood, Liberal, Christian, Enlightenment, Romantic, Pagan and a Buddhist perspective.

7 Ἰουδαΐσμός is used within Maccabees to differentiate between the way of life of Seleucid Hellenism and the Jewish religion (2 Macc 2:21, 8:1, 14:38, 4 Macc 4:26) becoming a term of honour amongst the Jews. See Longenecker Galatians

8 As with Stendahl “There is not—as we usually think—first a conversion, and then a call to apostleship; there is only the call to the work among the Gentiles” Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West

9 N.T Wright helpfully shows the similarities and differences between the Judaic and Pauline worldview in his frequent refrain of triad of covenant, monotheism and election. See Fresh Perspectives Wright

The full draft text is available by usign the following link.

Jon Swales. Worldview Reading of Galatians


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I figure that you may aswell share essays online which may be of use to other students, researchers or of general interest. The following paper was produced about 5 years ago whilst at Sheffield University. It seeks to anaylse the methodology and hermeneutics of N.T Wright and Karl Barth in the light of their views of the doctrine of justification. Why study these guys? Well it was an excuse to get my teeth into their books.  I have become more sympathetic of the ‘New Perspective’ since writing Chapter 3. However the cristicisms still stand to some degree.





 The essay begins as follows,



Chapter 1

Christian communities have always been faced with the problem of

interpreting the Scriptures theologically. Since it is the very nature of the

Christian church to reflect upon God’s self-disclosure as witnessed by the

biblical texts, these texts have always held a prominent and normative status in

the Christian Community.



Doctrine has served and continues to serve as a vital function in Church life. It forms

the basis for liturgical and sacramental life as well as being instructive for the life of

individual believers and the ethical praxis of the community. Doctrine, or simply

what the Church believes and confesses to be true, stems from an engagement over

time with culture, experience, tradition and reason, but primarily with its normative

foundational document, the Bible.

As post-modern thinking has rightly pointed out, the Bible, as a collection of texts,

can be interpreted in different ways by different communities. Thus, doctrine is not

simply something that falls from the skies but is formed in the ‘hands-on experience’

of interpretation. The Christian Church enjoys some unity in doctrinal matters, such

as the almost universal acceptance of the Nicene and Apostles creed, but it is deeply

divided on some of the central features of doctrine. This is illustrated in the diversity

displayed in the doctrine of justification by faith with different views being put

forward as to what this means by traditional Catholics and Protestants, existential

theologies, and from those that construct their doctrinal affirmations in accord with

the ‘new perspective.’

This plurality in interpretation raises a number of important questions: Are some

doctrines and interpretations more valid than other? Why are the same texts

interpreted differently by different communities? Is there any Archimedean point

from which the true ‘meaning’ of a text can be revealed? Does postmodernism lead to

the death of doctrine and dogma?

The purpose of this paper is not to seek to answer these important questions. Its

limited task, functioning within the backdrop of these larger questions, is to look at

the relationship between text and the formulation of doctrine in the writings of Karl

Barth and N.T. Wright, working in particular with their differing views on the

doctrine of ‘justification by faith’. Although both scholars have found their spiritual

home within the evangelical-reformed community, they both offer an alternative to

the traditional evangelical view of justification. Wright and Barth, as we shall see,

differ considerably in the methods which they use to formulate their doctrines. Barth

uses a theological approach, whereas Wright uses a more historical and exegetical


The format of this paper will be as follows: in this chapter I will set out Barth’s and

Wright’s theologies of ‘justification by faith’ against the backdrop of mainstream

evangelical theology. In chapter two I will analyse and critique the theological

methodology of Karl Barth, followed in chapter three by an examination and critique

of N.T Wright’s methodology.


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For those regualr visitors to my blog you will have noticed that I am not shy about putting my own essays from college on it. Part of my thinking is that its good to share resources, but its also that I want to be challenged and developed in my own thinking. I want my ‘theology’ to be public,open to criticism and accept peer review. In the light of this I offer the followin


I have been working on an essay on Baptism and the Early Church . The word limit was 1700 words which was an immense struggle to keep to and thus it is only a sketch view of baptism. I wrote a draft copy but then decided that I could incorporate some of N.T. Wright’s thinking into it. The essay, and I think it still fits with the essay title, seeks to show how baptism can only be understood from within the Judaic worldview. However, due tot he arrival of the Messiah and the eschaton, this worldview has been seriosuly modified. Those familiar with N.T. Wright’s brilliant Fresh Perspectives will see how I have taken the themes of covenant, monotheism and eschatology and have sought to show the implications for baptismal practise. The ‘John the Baptist’ bit is simply a table which, if word limit allowed, I could ahve elaborated and developed.

I will include part of it here but full text is available at this link Baptism and the Early Church

To what extent did the earliest Christians initiate new forms and approaches to worship? Discuss in relation to Jewish religious background with reference to the major developments up to 300AD in Baptism






The writing of history, including the history of Christian worship, is not simply the collection and presentation of data by the neutral historian into an objective narrative. Nor, in disagreement with post-modern historiography, are we left to swim in a sea of subjectivity. In light of this I intend to proceed, in this essay on baptism, by a critical-realist method of hypothesis and verification, recognising that although their was a ‘historical reality’ to Christian worship all that can be offered by the modern historian is ‘hypothetical reconstructions’ of this reality, which may or may not find verification from the texts.1


In answer to the above essay question, and with a disclosed methodology, I want to offer, tentatively, the following two point hypothesis:-


(1)Christianity, functioned with a modified Jewish worldview in its early baptismal theology and praxis.

(2) The baptism offered by John, and undertaken by Jesus, influenced Christian baptism more than ceremonial washing, Essene ‘baptism’ or proselyte conversion.


This rest of this essay will seek to verify, from primary sources where possible, the ‘reconstruction’ which is being offered.




(1)Christianity, functioned with a modified Jewish worldview in its early baptismal theology and praxis.


Judaism and the early Christian movement, cannot be understood historically without reference to the meta-narrative of the Hebrew scriptures. The Judaic worldview, as N.T Wright has passionately argued, is the story of the creator God (monotheism) who called to himself a people (covenant) who were to be a blessing to the nations (eschatology)2. This story, within the first century Judaic worldview, is a story in search of an ending, for the covenant people were living, in some sense, in exile under Roman occupation and were still awaiting the fulfilment of the eschatological promise Some Jews sought the arrival of the ha-‘olam haba’ (age to come) through zealous resistance to Rome, whereas others claimed that this time of restoration had begun in the work and ministry of the Messiah, Jesus. This early group of Jesus followers, in believing that the ‘age to come’ had in some sense already arrived, were theological creative with the basic tenants of Judaism. Monotheism, Covenant, and Eschatology were redefined3, and with it the basis of worship.


An example of this is seen in the early church as they moved away from the temple cult as Jesus, and those who are joined to him, are seen as the fulfilment of temple practise, for in him dwelt the presence of YHWH, and in him the role of Priest and sacrifice finds fulfilment.4

It is within this context that we need to understand the beginnings of the 1st century baptismal theology and praxis.


Covenant Baptism, functioning as the Christian equivalent to circumcision, was the initiation rite by which someone entered the covenant family.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead


This family no longer consisted of an ethnic group but now, in fulfilment of the plan to be ‘blessing to the nations’, was open to Jew and Gentile alike. This ‘welcoming of gentiles’ is a major development from the Judaic ‘ethnocentric’ worship, although, in my hypothesis and with a close reading of Paul, the concept of covenant and fulfilment, can only be understood when it is seen in close relationship with Judaism.5 This view of baptism as membership to God’s family continued through early Church being assumed in Didache (1:1) and the Apostolic Tradition. Justin Martyr shows that circumcision and baptism are linked, although it also demonstrates the early stages of a hyper-successionist theology which became the bedrock of anti- Semiticism.


And we, who have approached God through Him, have received not carnal, but spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed. And we have received it through baptism, since we were sinners, by Gods mercy; and all men may equally obtain it.6

Circumcision brought with it the obligation, as a covenant child, to adhere to Torah. Baptism brings with it certain obligations to live life by the ethics of Christ (Romans 6:1-14, Col 2:20-3:-13). The ethical demands of baptism continues throughout early church practise as illustrated by questioning the before baptism which appears in Hippolytus The Apostolic Tradition7.


Monotheism Early Christian worship, with the arrival of the Spirit and with the high regard given to Jesus, redefined monotheism. This modified monotheism develops within ’New Testament’ baptismal practise as baptism is either in the name of Jesus8 , or in the name of the triune God.9 As the church developed liturgical forms, and increased in the confidence of its Trinitarian identity, baptism in the triune name seems to have become the norm10.


In Judaism the ‘presence of YHWH’ was to be found in the temple, whereas the early church often associated baptism with the arrival of the spirit.11. By the 2nd century ‘Oil’ was used during the baptismal rite, functioning as an appropriate symbol of the arrival of the Holy Spirit12 with the exorcism of evil spirits, especially within Apostolic Tradition, becoming a major part of the ceremony.13



Within Judaism a part of worship was to remember the past acts of YHWH and look with hope to the fulfilment of his promises in the future. In a similar way Christian worship looks back and looks forward, except, and in this the Jewish worldview has been modified, a major part of Christian worship is that the future has, in one sense, already come into the present. As already mentioned the arrival of the spirit is closely related with the act of baptism which, according to Is 32:15 and Joel 2:2829, is a sign of the arrival of the eschaton. The Christian act of initiation, that is baptism, is offered as a picture of redemption and reconciliation in which the future resurrection life is in some sense already present14. The arrival of eternal life, as Tertullian writes, occurs in the event of Baptism.

Happy is our sacrament Of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life!15

Baptism involves the imagery of taking off the old life and accepting the new. This imagery which has a basis in the Old Testament16 is used by Paul either symbolically or with Wayne Meeks literally17 and is made explicit in what appears to be the naked baptisms in Hippolytus18

1 For a critical-realist epistemology of hypothesis and verification see Wright (1992, 31-44), also Swales Postmodernity and New Testament History

2 Wright (2005, Monotheism 83-107, Covenant 108-128, Eschatology 130-153)

3 ibid. Wright. Although Wright does not, as far as I am aware, develop, as this essay does, the implications that this has for early Christian worship.

4 Eph 2:21, Rev 21:22, 1 Cor 3:16, Heb. 8,9

5 Gal 3:26-27 and Gal 5:1-6 In disagreement with Longenecker (2002) Paul is not simply replacing one external rite (circumcision) by another external rite (baptism)”.

6 Justin Martyr (The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol.I, 216 XKIII)

7 Apostolic Tradition 20:3 and Justin Martyr First Apology LXI

8 Acts 2:28,3:6,10:48, also Paul seems to have seen baptism as being in Jesus’ name (1 Cor 1:12)

9 Matt 28:19

10 Didache 7:1 and Apostolic Tradition 21:7

11 Rom 6:1-11, Gal 3:26-27, Col 2:11-12, Eph 5:26, Titus 3:5-7

12 Apostolic Tradition 21:7,

13 Apostolic Tradition 20:1, 21:6

14 Col 2:12, Rom 6:4

15 Tertullian (The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III :. 669)

16 Is 52:1, 61:10, Zech 1:1-5

17 Gal 3:27, Meeks (1983, 151)

18 Apostolic Tradition 21:1 although the actuality of nakedness is disputed by Guy (2003) who argues that the word gymnos (Eng. Trans. ’naked’) used by Hippolytus have a semantic domain which is far more flexible than the English word ‘naked’. It could then , he argues, refer to the removal of outer garments.

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