Review of Campbell’s Deliverance PART 2
A summary review PART 2
of Campbell, Douglas A. The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2009
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... there was a flash of insight, an intuition that could impact NT studies in a powerful way. Upon reading articles by James B. Torrance, DC sensed that theological foundationalism, particularly in the form of contractualism (we will explore what these terms mean in more depth later - they are key to the entire book), was of the utmost relevance for key contemporary debates in Pauline scholarship. This was back in the early 1990s, and as DC sought to explore this intuition in various exegetical papers, he found that his proposals were rejected for what seemed like the wrong reasons - they were critiqued not because they represented poor exegesis, but rather because they rubbed against truths that were simply ‘taken for granted’.
Indeed, it would be difficult to contest that exegesis is a complex beast, and as his experience confirms, when it involves subjects as loaded as justification by faith, it is far more involved than a simple analysis of the lexemes and semantic forms of certain words in verses in isolation. No, the task of understanding an ancient text such as Paul’s letters involves theological and argumentative claims related to the text, as well as church-historical, sociological, ideological, hermeneutical and ethical dimensions.
So, faithful to his initial intuition (regarding the key issue of contractualism and Paul), DC sought a way to enter into the complexity of issues relating to key problems relating to Pauline exegesis. In a nutshell, How to speak, as a NT scholar, about Pauline soteriology and contractualism when exegesis itself presupposes ideological, theological etc. presuppositions, that are themselves tied up with key Pauline texts? DC’s answer, and second key insight, came when he recognised that he could enter this vicious circle by first analysing ‘a set of preliminary characterizations that were largely incontestable and could serve to establish and initiate the principal issues’ (xxvii).
This method, together with the scope of DC’s comprehensive new vision and the nature of exegesis, explains not only the existence of Part One of DoG, which is largely devoted to the explication and critique of these ‘preliminary characterizations’, but also the nature of DC’s exegetical approach. Instead of an atomistic preoccupation with Pauline pericopae, analysed one after another, DC’s task calls for what he calls a ‘horizontal’ approach: one which keeps overarching themes close to mind, which appreciates how individual texts work as ‘semantic and rhetorical events’ within that broader sweep of concerns. Of course, this does not mean that detailed exegesis is sidelined (DoG could function as a primer on advanced exegetical skill for many aspiring PhD students - a depth often only found in German language WUNT or de Gruyter monographs!); it is placed within a larger frame. What this looks like in practice, we shall see later.
[I, for one, can only cheer at this constructive protest at atomistic approaches to the NT. My own thesis has, in a far more humble way, similarly protested by deliberately resisting the exclusive in-depth analysis of a few key passages designated significant to the Pauline divine-Christology debate (e.g., Phil. 2:6-11; 1 Cor. 8:6 etc.). Instead I sought to broaden the sweep of Pauline texts actually engaged, at the same time as allowing this broader sweep to better determine the appropriate hermeneutic and argumentative strategy - and all, if I may say, to surprising effect (e.g., passages otherwise largely forgotten in the Pauline divine-Christology debate begin to be recognised as more important than the so-called ‘key texts’). But this is really all besides the point: I should write about DC’s work. I apologise for my detour; I blame the stream-of-consciousness nature of blogging ...
By the way, a final quick note: I may start this review slowly, i.e. detail DC's arguments in more depth to start with, but then later speed up. I'll see how it goes, and whether this encourages debate and remains reader-friendly]
Labels: Review of Deliverance of God