Saving Paul From the Academy - Todd Brewer

About This Episode

“The Academy” is a term used by both insiders and outsiders to speak about the world of biblical scholarship. It is a term meant to ascribe prestige and importance to one’s profession and life work. To be a card-carrying member of “the guild” – to use another term of esteem – is to be part of an elite club of professionals trapped by the perpetual need to justify their significance. But to most people, “the academy” is a term of intimidation to create a feeling of inadequacy on the part of the so-called, non-specialist layperson, thus making the Bible and faith itself feel like something you’re not qualified to have an opinion about.

Along the same lines, the last 40+ years of Pauline scholarship – with its almost iconoclastic radicalism – has so thoroughly revised the traditional understanding of Paul that many, if not most, feel unable to understand the Bible at all.

This breakout session has three, related goals. I first hope to offer a pointed critique at recent interpreters of Paul and their overall practice of interpretation, particularly those within what are known as the “New Perspective on Paul,” and the “anti-imperial Paul.” By way of critical-historical inquiry, these scholars ironically offer an allegorical reading of Paul by constantly reconstructing what St. Paul really said and overlooking what he actually said. Secondly, I hope to outline a positive vision for how to read the Bible, one that views it not as a riddle to be solved by the specialist, but as a conversation partner that wants to be charitably heard on its own terms, without being overinterpreted. Finally, I will examine Galatians 3:24-25 to offer some critical self-reflection on how Paul has been understood by Luther (and, by extension, Mockingbird!).