Paul’s influence on the history of Christian life and theology is as profound as it is pervasive. A brief survey of almost 20 centuries of Christian thought and practice will confirm the enduring importance of Paul for the life of the church in the Roman and Protestant traditions of the West as well as the Orthodox traditions of the East. Even as Christianity, at the dawn of its third millennium, has become increasingly global and traditions have come to develop and intersect in new and complex ways, Paul’s place in the story of Christianity remains deeply rooted in the church’s theology, worship, and pastoral life. In both past and present, Paul’s influence on the Christian church can hardly be overestimated.
Among the many intriguing issues generated by the historical Paul, his New Testament letters, and early church history is this question: what happened to Paul after Paul? Whether we think in terms of the reception of Paul’s theology, or the ongoing legacy of Paul, or early Christian reinterpretation of his letters, the questions persist: what did the early church do with Paul’s memory? How did it reshape his theology? And what role did his letters come to play in the life of the church?
The focus of the present discussion is on the early decades and centuries of Christianity, a time when the memory and legacy of Paul came to serve varied and often competing interests in the emerging church. It was a time when Paul’s reputation and importance to the church were being reinforced and when his epistles were gaining the authority that would ensure their place in the sacred library of Christianity. It was also the time when the Jesus movement forged itself into Christianity, a process in which Paul played a pivotal role and eventually also became an object of revision and transformation himself. What is virtually indisputable in this process is that Paul, during his lifetime and after, played a critical role in making Christianity what it was to become.
“Perhaps most importantly, the two arguments also suggest different models for how to understand the important question of authority in the early church: conflict (MacDonald) and extension (Bauckham).” (Pages 7–8)
This insightful book shines new light on the Pastorals with careful comparisons of their thought and theology. Aageson artfully teases out their theological patterns to clarify their message. He is sensitive to the differences among the Pastorals, and he shows how those differences should shape our understandings of each epistle and the growth of the church. Aageson lays out the complexity of the issues that surround the Pastorals and the image of Paul in the early church and then comes to reasoned conclusions that take in those intricacies of historical circumstance and theological nuances and tensions. Beyond the Pastoral Epistles, Aageson dispels the notion that Paul was important in the second and third centuries primarily for heretics, who forced him on the rest of the church. Aageson uses his broad knowledge of the post-apostolic church and his multiplex approach to demonstrate how images of Paul were important for a wide cross-section of the church. He brings to light the multifaceted nature of the church’s historical development and so does not allow an imposed paradigm to dictate the outline of his reconstruction of its first three centuries of the church’s life. Aageson rewards his readers with insightful analysis of important literature that ranges over 300 years. He demonstrates clearly that his method of seeking patterns of thought has potential in many areas of biblical and post-biblical research.
—Jerry L. Sumney, professor of biblical studies, Lexington Theological Seminary
This is a valuable book for its fresh questions about the theological patterns in the Pastorals and for its comparison of them with the Apostolic Fathers and other early writers.
Aageson is to be commended for developing a new method, that of theological patterns, to investigate the Pastorals, Paul’s legacy, and what happened to Paul after Paul.
—Catholic Biblical Quarterly
This fascinating book provides a different approach to the Pastoral Epistles and fresh insights into their place in the history of the church and early Christian literature. . . . This is a book that I truly enjoyed reading, especially for its fresh approach and numerous insights. Particularly as a Roman Catholic, I hope that Aageson’s short, focused reflection on Scripture and tradition receives wide circulation. All things considered, ’kudos’ is the word that best sums up my reaction to this gem of a book.
[A] highly readable study. . . . With commendable lucidity and convincing argumentation, Aageson uncovers the important place inhabited by the Pastoral Epistles in the developing Pauline tradition and provides a model for better understanding the powerful influence these writings have exercised over later developed conceptions of Paul and Pauline theology. It should be read by anyone remotely interested in the reception history of Paul’s epistles in the early church or in the development of early Christian doctrine and ecclesiology.
—Theological Book Review
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