Written By: Albert Schweitzer
Translated By: W. Montgomery
Reviewed Edition: Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 2004
Original English Edition: Macmillan, 1912
Softcover, 252 pages
Table of Contents
In Paul and His Interpreters, Schweitzer reviews and critiques the history of scholarly analysis of Paul's theology. He is highly critical of previous scholarship, which he more-or-less politely accuses of sloppy thinking and poor use of sources. Schweitzer is particularly concerned with refuting the idea that Paul's theology was influenced by either classic Greek Hellenism or Greek mystery religions, and with establishing that it is at least compatible with late Jewish eschatology. This latter theme is taken up in Schweitzer's later work The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle, in which Schweitzer thoroughly explains his own analysis of Paul's theology.
Paul and His Interpreters was published very early in the twentieth century, and even at that time many of the scholars that Schweitzer is concerned with were quite obscure. They have receded even more in the intervening century, so this volume will only be of interest to specialists in Pauline theology. Non-specialists will likely be more interested in Schweitzer's own analysis of Paul as presented in The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle.
"It is as though these writers one and all had an instinctive feeling that their thesis, so long as it is kept quite general, has an admirable air of credibility and admits of being nicely formulated, but that when any attempt is made to follow it out into detail it yields little in the way of tangible results. Paulinism is deceptive. Its outward appearance is such that the assertion that here Greek influences have been at work seems the most self-evident possible, but when this has to be shown in detail it leaves the investigator whom it has drawn on by its specious appearance completely in the lurch."
"One very weighty theoretic objection to the admission of Greek elements in Paulinism is passed over by its defenders in complete silence. If the thoughts developed by the Apostle of the Gentiles had grown up upon the soil of Hellenism, the original apostles and those closely associated with them would certainly have been aware of this and attacked them on that ground. From the records, however, as we have them in the letters, it appears certain that they only reproached him with his attitude towards the law, and found no other point to object to in his teaching."
"The remarkable point, therefore, is that the post-Apostolic writers, though they are acquainted with the works of the Apostle of the Gentiles, make no real use of them. His ideas remain foreign, lifeless, so far as they are concerned."
"This implies, too, that only the literal sense of the language of the Epistles must be considered, and that it is not permissible to interpret it through the Johannine theology, as is almost always done. It is nothing less than incredible that, to take the most flagrant example, philologists like Dieterich and others in discussing Paulinism, always calmly talk about 'Re-birth,' although in the Epistles which rank as certainly genuine, this word and the corresponding verb never occur. That many theologians fall into the same confusion is no excuse.
The surprising thing is precisely that Paul, when he is speaking of the transformation of the man into a new creature, always makes use of the two words death and resurrection, and describes the new thing that comes about as an already experienced resurrection, without ever introducing the conception of re-birth which seems to lie so near at hand."
[In regards to the Communion in Paul's thought] "The difficulty lies in the fact that for Paul the body and blood of the historic Christ no longer exist, and that, on the other hand, while the glorified Christ has, indeed, a body, it is not a body through which blood flows and which is capable of being consumed on earth. To speak of the body and blood of Christ is, from the stand-point of the Apostle's doctrine, an absurdity."
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