The Core Principles of Paul’s Thought

Topic: The Core Principles of Paul’s Thought
Order Description
Based upon what you have read in Paul’s letters, write an essay in which you describe the core principles of his thought. Your interpretation of those letters should be guided only by what you have learned during class session and from the secondary literature that I have provided to you. Since there are conflicting interpretations of much of what we have read, your paper should take the form of a persuasive argument. Remember, you are reflecting on the historical context of Paul’s letters and not the theological interpretation.

No outside pieces of secondary literature can be used. Only the secondary literature listed below:

• The New Testament, NRSV
• Calvin Roetzel; The Letters of Paul: Conversations in Context (5th ed.)
• Stanley Stowers; A Rereading of Romans
• Burton L. Mack; Who Wrote the New Testament? The Making of the Christian Myth – Chapter 3: Fragments From the Christ Cult
• Linda McKinnish Bridges; 1 Thessalonians: The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible
• Richard S. Ascough; “The Nature and Extent of Voluntary Associations”
• Richard S. Ascough; “The Thessalonian Community as a Professional Voluntary Association”
• Caroline Johnson Hodge; “Married to an Unbeliever”
• David B. Capes; 1 Corinthians: The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible
• John S. Kloppenborg; “Greco-Roman Thiasoi, the Ekklesia at Corinth, and Conflict Management”
• Margaret Mitchell; “Paul’s Letters to Corinth”
• Paul Duff; “The Collection from Its Beginnings until Paul’s First Apology to the Corinthians” (NOT PUBLISHED)
• Paul Duff; “Apostolic Suffering and the Language of Processions in 2 Cor 4:7-10”
• Caroline Johnson Hodge; “Descendants of a Faithful Ancestor: Oi Ek Pisteos”
• Paula Fredriksen; “Why Should a ‘Law-Free’ Mission Mean a ‘Law-Free’ Apostle?”
• John G. Gager; Chapter 3: “The Letter to the Galatians” from the book Reinventing Paul
• John Riches; Galatians: The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible
• James D.G. Dunn; “Justification by Faith” from The Theology of Paul the Apostle

In addition to secondary literature, use specific verses from the following letters to support your argument:

• 1 Thessalonians
• 1 Corinthians
• 2 Corinthians
• Galatians
• Romans

Your grade will be determined, in part, by the following:

1. The comprehensiveness of your essay (i.e., you have addressed the most important issues and you have addressed the majority of Paul’s letters—NOTE: all of the letters that we have read should be relevant with the possible exception of 2 Corinthians; in the letters that comprise that canonical document, Paul speaks primarily of himself and his ministry)

2. Your efficient use of the secondary literature provided in class

3. The persuasiveness of your argument

Make sure that you express your ideas in plain language. For example, to say, “Paul believed that people were justified by faith” would be insufficient since the meaning of “justification” is unexplained as is the notion of faith.

My Professor’s suggestions to me:

Analyze the gospel and take out the most important pieces:
• The death Jesus
Why? Because Jesus’ death is salvific in some form. He did not focus on the life of Jesus because when Jesus was alive, he was not using his messianic powers. The use of messianic powers is seen through his death (use Romans and Stowers)
• Paul’s apostleship to the Gentiles
• The Gentiles and their relationship to the law (Galatians)
o The law and the curse of the law… who is that directed against (Jews/Gentiles/everybody?)
o Issue with Abraham (Gentiles and Romans)
• Paul’s Apocalypticism (1 Thessalonians)
• 1 Corinthians =Focused on the unity of the community; Issues are causing division. Why is the unity so important to Paul???

Focus on what we’ve been discussing in Romans and look over the other letters to fill in what seems to be missing.


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