This volume presents critical essays on theology and eschatology in Paul's letters, the apostle's religious and cultural context, and the interaction of early Christianity with its Greco-Roman environment, as reflected in ancient literature and archaeological remains.
“What matters—and all that matters—is the question how one relates to one’s brothers and sisters in the community of the new age that endeavors to make God’s justice a reality already now in this world. Here only one principle determines what its members have to do: to follow the commandment of love regardless of all distinctions of ethnic, social, and gender identity. Mutual respect is required of all. ‘In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or master, not male and female’ (Gal 3:28). This sentence is a baptismal formula that defines the status ‘in Christ’ for all who join the new community. There must be total equality.” (Page 13)
“At the time of Paul, in the middle of the first century, ‘being in Christ’ meant to be a part of the new community of believers, the body of Christ, that was meant to include all people, Jews and Gentiles alike.” (Page 12)
“The term ekklēsia, however, is drawn from the political, not the religious, world. Words commonly used for religious societies in the ancient world (koinon, thiasos) never appear in Paul’s writings. In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible ekklēsia designates the political assembly of all Israel, and in the Greco-Roman world it is the term for the political meeting of all free citizens of a city. The latter is the more likely background for Paul’s usage because he never uses the term for the church at large but always for the local assembly of believers: the ekklēsia that is in Corinth, or the ekklēsia in Christ that is in Philippi.” (Page 12)
“Not discerning the body of Christ’ (11:29) does not mean not realizing that the bread of the Eucharist is Christ’s body mysteriously present for the individual in the bread, but it means not recognizing that the shared bread establishes and maintains a new community of equality and mutual care and respect; all its members are part of the body of Christ. Disregarding the poor violates the principles of love and equality in the assembly.” (Page 12)
Helmut Koester began teaching at HDS in 1958 and became John H. Morison Research Professor of Divinity and Winn Research Professor of Ecclesiastical History in 2000. His research is primarily in the areas of New Testament interpretation, history of early Christianity, and archaeology of the early Christian period. His publications include Synoptische Ãœberlieferung bei den Apostolischen VÃ¤tern (1957); (with James M. Robinson) Trajectories Through Early Christianity (1971); Ancient Christian Gospels (1990); History, Culture, and Religion of the Hellenistic Age (1995); History and Literature of Early Christianity (2000); The Cities of Paul: Images and Interpretations From the Harvard Archaeology Project (2004); Paul and His World: Interpreting the New Testament in Its Context (2007); and From Jesus to the Gospels (2007). From 1975 to 1999 he was editor of Harvard Theological Review, and he is co-editor and chair of the New Testament editorial board of “Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible.” He is an ordained minister of the Lutheran Church, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Society of Biblical Literature (president 1991), and of the Societas Novi Testamenti Studiorum.