Chapter 5: Paul as an Interpreter
This chapter is based on the role of Paul as an interpreter of the scripture. The author argues that Paul not be only a missionary and a theologian, but also, he played a prominent role in the contextualization of the gospel. I agree that it is quite tricky to appropriately understand the concepts of the scriptures which were written in an entirely different generation (Flemming, 2009 p.152). This is because the culture, social activities and the churches at the time of writing of the scripture were in a different setting from that of the people reading the word.
I believe that Paul played the hermeneutical role very efficiently due to his ability to relate the scriptures to the state of life in the churches. It is important to consider what the readings mean in the context of the reader and not base it entirely on the perspective of whoever wrote it in ancient times. Flemming addresses the issue of objective interpretation of the Bible emphasizing the need to allow the readings to inquire about cultural beliefs. A true Christian of faith should allow reshaping of culture based on scripture and relevance to the gospel (169).
Paul's contextualization of the scripture is evident in Philippians Chapter 2. 6-11. At this moment he writes a Hymn in Praise of Christ in a more ethical than theological approach. This hymn was aimed to make the Philippians understand the nature of the times they were living in. This hymn was a response to the people's complaints that they were suffering because of the gospel. Paul then makes them realize that they should emulate Christ as opposed to following the culture of self-promotion (176). From this instance, it is needless to argue against the ideas on contextualization based on relevance to the context and the truth of the gospel.
Chapter 6: Case Studies from the Corinth
Flemming uses case studies from the book of 1st Corinthians to explain the steps undertaken to solve challenging issues. The solutions explored are those which are tailored to answer the challenge and also give extra insights on how to deal with similar situations.
For instance, Paul elaborates that the Corinthians had a wrong interpretation of the gospel due to their ethical behaviors. The acts based upon prideful self-praise, sexual misconduct, and party life were termed as being contrary to the gospel. Paul then pleas with the community to make a change in their lives (212). The letter by Paul is with the aim of urging the Christians to act in accordance with the gospel of Jesus Christ both in actions and faith.
The case studies give a perception of how the Corinthians viewed the world. The difference in culture is recognized and forms the basis for which Paul gives an intelligent concept on the copying of behavior. He criticizes the inclination towards Greek and Roman culture because Corinth had more influence in nurturing the basic traditions than Christ. The values presented by the Greco-Roman culture were somehow in contradiction to the ideal ways of the gospel, and thus, Paul found a reason to air criticism.
Paul uses a unique approach to communicate the gospel by using himself as an example. The use of personal dimensions effectively proclaims the gospel and leaves a lasting impression on the audience. This impact is because of repeatedly speaking based on the story of Jesus and the implications on the people around him. It is almost as if Paul uses drama to replay the life of Jesus; thereby, the Corinthians were able to understand his teachings and ministry in a better manner (213).
Flemming, D. (2009). Contextualization in the New Testament: Patterns for theology and mission. InterVarsity Press.
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