Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Volker Rabens is 'Coming Out'

Tonight I have the pleasure of introducing my good friend Volker Rabens to my readers. He is a nearly-finished doctoral research student working in the field of Pauline Pneumatology, also under Max Turner’s supervision. However, the really great bit of news is that he lives in Tübingen, and so we have had many an hour of relaxing company and thoughtful discussion. Those of you who have worked on Pauline Pneumatology may have heard of his name through his well received article review on F.W. Horn’s book, Das Angeld des Geistes (‘The Development of Pauline Pneumatology: A Response to F.W. Horn’, Biblische Zeitschrift 43 (1999), 161-79).

His most recent article, which I gratefully remember discussing over a Chinese meal at his expense, was published this year, but we thought it would be worthwhile posting it on my blog too. I’ll let him introduce the paper:

“What is Paul’s view of Christian identity, and what does Paul say about the relationship of the church and the world? In my recent article ‘Coming Out: “Bible-Based” Identity Formation in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1’ I tackle these kinds of questions and shed some light on Paul’s use of the Old Testament in this context. The article was printed in a recent book dealing with the reception of the bible - published in a series on German literature that is difficult to access for theologians and other weird species ... I thought I'd make it available to a more general audience and Chris has kindly offered using his wonderful blog as the media.

The article is written in English, so here is a German abstract:

„Was bedeutet „coming out“ für eine christliche Hausgemeinde in einer multireligiösen Hafenstadt? Diese Frage stellt sich für die Leser von 2. Korinther 6:14-7:1, denn dort wird ein solcher Schritt unter Berufung auf die hebräische Bibel gefordert. Um die zentralen Aussagen dieses heiß diskutierten Abschnitts richtig deuten zu können, beschäftigen sich die ersten beiden Teile des Artikels mit der umstrittenen Frage nach Verfasser und kontextueller Verortung der Textpassage. Im dritten Teil wird die paulinische Aufforderung, nicht „an einem fremden Joch“ mit Ungläubigen zu ziehen, näher untersucht. Es wird deutlich, daß hierbei vor allem enge Partnerschaften im Kontext heidnischer Religiosität im Blick sind. Der Apostel vergegenwärtigt den Christen in Korinth, daß sich ihre Identität durch die (in ihrer Bibel verheißene) Erfahrung der intensiven und liebevollen Beziehung zu Gott konstituiert. Kraft dieser neuen Identität können und sollen die Empfänger des Briefes aus unguten Beziehungen herauskommen.“
You can download the article as a PDF here (© Peter Lang 2006; permission by the author).

Any critique or feedback on his article is most welcome.


At 2/15/2006 4:01 PM, Anonymous Chris T. said...

I look forward to reading it! I'll run it off during lunch and try to read it when I get home.

Incidentally, could you recommend a good commentary on either 2 Corinthians?

At 2/15/2006 4:10 PM, Anonymous Volker said...

here are some commentary recommendations on 2 Cor.:
The most recent and very good one: Murray J. Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids/Milton Keynes: Eerdmans/Paternoster, 2005).
Another really good and detailed commentary is the two-volume set of Margaret E. Thrall, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. 2 Vols. (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1994, 2000). It has recently become available in softback, hence a lot of value for the money!
For an older and shorter but still very good one, go for C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (BNTC; London: A. & C. Black, 1973, 1982).

At 2/15/2006 4:47 PM, Anonymous Chris T. said...

Thanks for the recommendations and the fast response!

I think I am going to pick up Barrett. I don't have enough Greek for Harris it seems (based on the Amazon reviews), and Thrall is a little long for what I'm after. Right now this is just a first look at the scholarship that is out there and preparation for a homily I'm preaching next weekend.

Thanks again!

At 2/15/2006 4:51 PM, Anonymous Volker said...

Hi Chris,
for a short, non-technical and more recent one you could also check out James M. Scott, 2 Corinthians (NIBC 8; Carlisle: Paternoster, 1998).
All the best for your homily!

At 2/15/2006 7:12 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Yea, gotta second Volker's recommendations. Another real basic intro for a very rudimentary overview would be the 2 Corinthians Paul for Everyone by Tom Wright.

At 2/15/2006 8:19 PM, Anonymous C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


I was a little punchy last night when I read your paper and when I picked it up this morning to take another look the words "christian identity" caught my eye. I assume you know that Christian Identity is a proper noun and what it refers to. There is nothing wrong with your use of the expression "christian identity" within your paper but you might want to keep in mind that Christian Identity is a very big deal in the USA. If you want to see what the far left has to say about it visit the SPLC site and do a search on the term.


Perhaps when my mind clears up (it could be weeks) I will have something of substance to say about your paper. I liked the way you handled the authorship issue.

more later,


At 2/16/2006 12:55 AM, Anonymous Volker said...

thanks for pointing out those parallels. I had never heard about the "Christian Identity"-Movement, so no comment was intended. My paper is rather concerned with "early Christian identity formation" (p. 44), i.e. "Paul's concept of identity (of his churches and of himself)" (p. 43).
Looking forward to hearing further thoughts about the content of the article,

At 2/16/2006 4:37 PM, Anonymous Chris T. said...

I'm not sure I would characterize "Christian Identity" as a "very big deal in the USA"--I had certainly never heard of it.

At 2/16/2006 10:11 PM, Anonymous C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


I have taken another look at your paper. It is well written and lucid and worth the time invested in reading.

In the last paragraph on page 46 you note an objection by H. Windisch " ... the divine PNEUMA in Christians is not capable of defilement." I haven't read H. Windisch but this sounds like a misunderstanding of Pauline anthropology. Does he suggest that the human PNEUMA in Christians is made incapable of defilement by the presence of the divine PNEUMA? Certainly he doesn't think that the human PNEUMA is replaced by the divine PNEUMA?

In response to Windisch you point out that Paul sometimes uses PNEUMA in a "loose and popular way" but this need not be the case in 2Cor 7:1


I don't think we are forced to choose between Windisch's "divine PNEUMA" and a "loose and popular" use of PNEUMA. Why not a very specific (not loose) reference to the human PNEUMA?

I suspect the answer will be that Paul doesn't talk elsewhere about the human PNEUMA of the christian being defiled. But I am not terribly impressed by arguments that take the form "Paul never said this anywhere else".

Anyway, I am no expert on Paul or his anthropology, pneumatology ...

Thank you for letting us read your paper.


At 2/17/2006 1:52 AM, Anonymous Volker said...

thanks a lot for your comments!
Regarding Paul's use of PNEUMA in 2C7:1 you have put your finger on an intricate issue. To begin with, yes, you are right in your suspicion that Windisch thinks that the PNEUMA mentioned in this verse is the DIVINE Spirit in the believer. He does not say explicitly that the Holy Spirit has replaced the human spirit, but I guess that may be what he thinks. As you may know, there is a debate amoung scholars whether there is a human spirit at all. While Rom. 8:16 to my mind clearly suggest that Paul believed in the existence of a human spirit, some scholars think that there is no human spirit because people remoto Christi are spiritually dead, and those who have come to believe do so because they have received the divine Spirit.

Anyway, you referred to my citation of Barrett's formulation that Paul uses PNEUMA and SARX in a 'loose and popular way in 2 Corinthians'. The designation 'popular' may indeed be unhelpful. I think the fact that Paul uses the terms 'loosely' without their full theological impact (as, per contra, in e.g. Rom. 8) is nevertheless clear from the examples from 2 Cor. given on p. 47.

In any case, I fully agree with you that arguments that take the form "Paul never said this anywhere else" are hardly persuasive. Hence I didn't buy Windisch (-:

If you are interested in Paul's usage and concept of the DIVINE PNEUMA, have a look at my article mentioned by Chris in his announcement of 'Coming Out'.
All the best,

At 2/17/2006 2:09 AM, Anonymous Volker said...

P.S. I could also email you a copy of my "The Development of Pauline Pneumatology" if you are interested. Email me at v.rabens*gmx.net

At 2/17/2006 8:14 PM, Anonymous C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


On page 52 you talk about the main pillars in Webb's argument. The intertextual linkage between 2Cor 6:11 and Isaiah 60:5 seems somewhat tenuous. The addressee in Isaiah 60:1-5 is Zion. I don't see how this works as a model for Paul's use of PEPLATUNTAI.


Note also that the LXX of Isa 60:5 does not use the verb PLATUNW whereas the rival intertextual link in Deut. 32:15 does. So the main support for linking 2Cor 6:11 and Isaiah 60:5 is the positive use of the "idiom".

Webb's hypothesis is plausible but so far I find it less than compelling. It would take me three weeks to get his book in my hands and by that time this discussion will be history. Of course the Isaianic New Exodus has been around for a while, not sure how long, I read Rikki Watts' dissertation* in 1991 but I sure it wasn't a new idea then. So it is a perfectly respectable concept with an established pedigreed.

Perhaps with Webb's book in hand I could become more convinced that New Exodus functions to thematically integrate 2Cor 6:14-7:1 with the co-text. My thinking right now is Webb's thesis is an intriguing idea, something worth consideration.

Thanks again,


*Watts, Rikki E Isaiah's New Exodus in Mark Publisher: Baker 2000

At 2/17/2006 9:26 PM, Anonymous C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


A correction:

... Isa 60:5 does not use the verb PLATUNW whereas the rival intertextual link in Deut.11:16 does.

For those of you who have not read Volker's paper, you should know that he voices doubts about Webb's argument similar to mine on page 54.

A bit of minutia on the intertextual linkage for 2Cor 6:11, note the variant reading


hHMWN PEPLATUNTAI reads hUMWN PEPLATUNTAI in Aleph, B, 0243, 18812462 pc.

The second person pronoun might make the Isa 60:5 intertextual linkage slightly more plausible but it would cause other problems for Webb's project.

just an idle thought,


At 2/17/2006 10:30 PM, Anonymous C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

I wrote:

... Isa 60:5 does not use the verb PLATUNW whereas the rival intertextual link in Deut.11:16 does.

Volker has already answered this on page 54.
The Hebrew text uses rachav which supports Webb's argument and is sometimes translated PLATUNW in the LXX. The relationship of the MT and the LXX in Isaiah is an exceedingly complex issue.


At 2/22/2006 8:23 PM, Anonymous Volker said...

sorry for being a bit out of touch with the discussion on this panel - but I have a good reason: I have become a father last Saturday! Our daughter is even more active in the night than I usually are, but, of course, she does not work on my dissertation but she cries and wants attention!

Anyway, I gather that most of the issues raised by Clay's contributions were to some extent dealt with elsewhere in my article. Nevertheless, thank you, Clay, for checking out those details so carefully. You are quite right that these are very complex issues - and it will have to remain open whether Paul really had those texts in mind that Webb sees in the background of 2C6:14-7:1. Hence, it is not really the "perfect" solution to the problem of the integration of 2C6:14-7:1 in its cotext. But I think that together with the second, rhetorical approach that I introduced as well, there are good enough reasons to assume that Paul himself had placed this text at this place in his second letter to the Corinthians.

Thanks again,

At 4/20/2007 11:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am wondering if I can get Volker Rabens "The Development of Pauline Pneumatology" and how to do so. The area I am working on now is Pauline Pneumatology and why it takes ist distinctive form and content and think that Volker's work can help me in this area. My email address is charlesbivens@hotmail.com If you can get back to me I would be most grateful! Thanks. Charles


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