Paul in Israel's Story: Self and Community at the Cross

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It is commonplace that postmodern thought has problematized the concept of the self. This poses a particularly sharp problem for Christian theologians, for whom the idea of the person as a Christian self must be central. In this book John Meech addresses this problem by means of a theological hermeneutics that brings together cutting edge scholarship in biblical interpretation and constructive theology. The book comprises three major parts. In the first, Meech reflects on St. Paul's construal of Christian identity in light of what has become known as the "new paradigm" in Pauline studies. This movement, identified with N.T. Wright, James Dunn, and Terence Donaldson, stresses the communal aspects of Paul's thought and his narrative understanding of the self. In the second part, Meech offers a pivotal analysis of Rudolf Bultmann's phenomenology of the self and its impact on his demythologizing interpretation of Paul's writings. In the third part, Meech engages Paul Ricoeur's late work, Oneself as Another, as a guide to the postmodern problem of selfhood and as a heuristic resource for interpreting Paul's writings. He does not restrict himself to a textual treatment of Ricoeur's work on selfhood and narrative, nor does he stop at an abstract reflection on its significance for theology. Instead he explores in considerable detail the contributions and implications of Ricoeur's later writings for biblical hermeneutics and theology. Investigating the unthematized hints about community presupposed in Ricoeur's work, Meech reconfigures his ontology of the self as an ontology of the self in community. Finally, he correlates Paul's communal understanding of the "I" with this ontology, articulating a self that is constituted in community but not reduced to a mere locus of community. He argues that the community posited in his study can be understood as the community of the living and dead in Christ.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"John Meech's Paul in Israel's Story is an impressive achievement. The deft skill with which Meech integrates biblical criticism, philosophical commentary, and theological insight is innovative and invigorating. Through this interdisciplinary dialogue Meech pioneers new interpretations of Paul's categories of selfhood, the body, Israel, and community. In particular, he demonstrates how the construction of the self's narrative identity through mystical union with Christ is productively elucidated by Ricoeur's philosophy of the intersubjective self - the self as another. Beautifully written, carefully researched, and highly recommended." —Mark I. Wallace author of Finding God in the Singing River: Christianity, Nature, Spirit

"Who is the self in the writings of Paul the Jewish Christian apostle to the Gentiles? Mindful of the long shadows cast by Luther's interpretation, Meech investigates the contentious debates among contemporary Pauline interpreters in relation to the hermeneutical options provided by Rudolf Bultmann and Paul Ricoeur. Based on his findings Meech advances an enticing proposal: Paul provides a narrative construal of the self-in-community that is configured in light of both the Torah and transforming reality of Jesus Christ crucified and risen." —Bradford E. Hinze, author of Practices of Dialogue in the Roman Catholic Church: Aims and Obstacles, Lessons and Laments

"John Meech offers an informed and stimulating reading of Pauline theology that brings the new perspective on Paul, heretofore largely an intramural debate among New Testament scholars, out of its native habitat and into productive dialogue with the philosophical problem of the self. But perhaps the book's greatest virtue is the creative hospitality of the author, who hosts a dialogue among otherwise unlikely conversation partners to discuss a question of mutual interest. One can hope that what happens within this book might also happen among its diverse readers." —Garwood P. Anderson, Assistant Professor, Biblical Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary

"'I have been crucified with Christ.' Those astonishing words by the apostle Paul set in motion John Meech's timely and important proposal for an ontology of self and community in mutual correlation, an ontology constituted by Paul's gospel of the cruicifed and risen Jesus Christ. Meech presents a superb example of the bountiful fruit yielded by grafting the branches of biblical exegesis, theology, and philosophy seamlessly into the Pauline tree. Both intellectually demanding and carefully written, Meech's work challenges the church to hear again the good news of Jesus Christ and the Spirit, and to risk living by it." —Douglas Harink, author of Paul among the Postliberals: Pauline Theology beyond Christendom and Modernity

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195306941
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/10/2006
  • Series: AAR Academy Series
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

John L. Meech is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Philosophy at Shimer College in Chicago, Illinois.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 3
2 Paul as another in Israel's story 17
3 Rudolf Bultmann's story of Paul : the detour not taken 45
4 The deferred self : Paul Ricoeur's Oneself as another 75
5 Narrative expresses being : an ontology of the self in community 101
6 Conclusion : the crucified and resurrected self 129
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