Narrative Pauline Exegesis

I’m reading N.T. Wright’s Paul to deepen my awareness of current narrative understanding of the apostle Paul. What I have gleaned from blogs, etc., is that the latest scholarly understanding of Paul is revealing a man who wrote out of strong and consistent narrative — a story of how God is acting in the world and cosmos.

This means we need to understand that Paul wrote epistles not to share new ideas, but to share the impact of the larger God narrative on current events. It also suggests that we understand how Paul would desire to impact our world by seeing the context of that larger narrative.

I’ve felt this for a long time. I get much more satisfaction (and response) preaching the epistles as parts of stories than a collection of ideas. Of course, the struggle is determining what the larger story is . . .

My own Philippians: Paul’s Handbook on Conflict Management took narrative interpretation in another direction. In the book, and in my evolving appreciation for Philippians, I suggest the larger stories that are the “back stories” to the book. The church at Philippi had a unique story, and the more we sense that story, the better we understand Paul’s intersection into that story.

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2 Responses to Narrative Pauline Exegesis

  1. Hernan Diaz says:

    Mark,
    One of my favorite books is Galatians. I found a lot of narrative there, in chapters 1 and 2, that is missing in Acts. It was interesting to know that Paul was 14 years in the “freezer” because nobody trusted him until Barnabas put him to work. All what Paul writes in his epistles has a historical context, a story behind.

    • admin says:

      Hernan,
      That’s a good point. I believe we understand Paul better if we read large sections of his letters at a time, rather than proving our point with isolated verses. With large sections, we start to sense his story; with single verses, we try to form ideas that usually look like what we already believe.

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