July 10, 2009

Paul's Epistles - Philosophy or Drama?

Why is it so much more likely for biblical scholars to write about what went on inside ancient Jewish and Christian heads, than it is for them to write about what was going on in their lives? If we don't know their lives, how can we know their heads?

I'll admit reconstruction is daunting, and NT chronology hasn't been nailed down yet. But why are Paul's letters so much more valued for their philosophical content than for their ability to increase our sense of the Story that went on in the first century?

To whatever extent this is even a problem, I would blame the Reformation more than the Enlightenment, but evidently the 'early fathers' were no better. Why does Aristotle still dominate the New Testament? Why so rarely Aeschylus or Euripides?

There's deep drama in Paul's epistles. How often do you hear it brought out?


Unknown said...

You are so right! For me to understand what is being said, there is a whole extra dimension added when I know what the people of that time were gossiping about, what kind of fads or fashion, of activity, of entertainment were prevalent, or what the economy was doing, or whether or not there had been an earthquake and people were in distress, or... well, you get the drift. Sometimes there are slight allusions to contemporary culture in a writer's words or a speakers voice, that clarify what was being thought at that time. Paul wrote much philosophy, true, but he also replied to people's questions about their own actions and behavior -- both of which reflected the cultural norms of the time. There was drama in their lives (and let's face it, all of us like some drama in our lives!) and Paul had much drama in his. Some of the drama he speaks about (in his moments of "not" bragging) and his replies to people's questions sometimes seems to depend upon his view of his own life at the moment. But how can we know for sure what is drama and what is simply universal Truth? Sigh.... When we take ourselves ... and Paul... too seriously, then it all becomes philosophy or legalities, and it becomes a courtroom devoid of any drama.
Thanks for the thoughtful question. I will spend some time reflecting more upon this.

Bill Heroman said...

Thanks for adding those worthy reflections here, William. Your blogger profile is still blocked, so I guess we'll get to know you around here through your comments. Keep 'em coming. :-)

Recent Posts
Recent Posts Widget
"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."

-- Isaac Newton