Paul: An Outline of His Theology Paperback – Sep 11 1997
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Christianity Today "A mine of many treasures. . . Every student of New Testament theology will want to own and study this perceptive, comprehensive outline of Paul's theology." Ernst Kasemann "Among recent research on Paul, I consider Herman Ridderbos's book a standard. It offers extraordinary insights and information and presents an interpretation of Pauline theology that should be carefully considered and thoroughly discussed." George Eldon Ladd "At last we have a comprehensive, satisfying work on the theology of Paul, written by one who is probably the most outstanding evangelical New Testament scholar on the continent of Europe." F. F. Bruce "Ridderbos has devoted many years to studying Paul's writings in depth; he is also familiar with the main lines of Pauline research from F. C. Baur to our own contemporaries. He gives us his own exposition of Paul's thought and at the same time interacts with the interpretations of other scholars. . . A standard work." D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones "In many ways this is the most comprehensive and thorough exposition of the teaching of the apostle Paul that I have ever read. It will stimulate thought and study by its originality at points, and even when it provokes some disagreement. The translation is most readable." G. C. Berkouwer "Paul's epistles demand intensive attention, and Ridderbos takes us along all the routes of the apostle's thinking. We are acquainted with his missionary journeys; how much more important his travels through the depths and riches of the gospel!" Bastiaan VanElderen "Here we find sound exegesis, perceptive analysis, profound insight, and a humble listening to the voice of Paul. This comprehensive study is not only highly recommended; it is a sine qua non for every student of the New Testament and its message.
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It is not surprising that with respect to so profound and complicated a phenomenom as the manner in which the Apostle Paul has given form and expression to the gospel of Jesus Christ, a great variety of conceptions is to be traced in the history of Pauline investigation. Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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The attention to historical detail by which our author begins the book makes for a helpful introduction and context for what lies ahead. There is not only a summary of the key lines of interpretation, but the philosophical influences that undergird these positions. For example, in discussing Baur’s view of the Spirit and flesh in antithesis, Ridderbos provides insights into Baur’s conception of the Spirit, stating, “Baur’s conception is entirely governed by a Hegelian view of the history and the idea of the Spirit” (R. 17). Without this sort of commentary it is hard to know what an author means, as words are often used in ways different than how an evangelical reader would understand them. Next, in pouring over the fundamental structures of Paul’s theology it was plain that these structures were anchored in biblical theology, as the abundance of scriptural references attest. In some paragraphs nearly every point is either a biblical quote or marked with a parenthetic reference. For example, in discussing Paul’s theology on Christ as the firstborn of every creature (R. 78), he quotes nearly one third of a page of text from 1 Corinthians 8, Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1 and proceeds draw out his theology from there. This makes his points much more compelling as you don’t feel like you have to buy into a particular tradition to follow along. Another excellent point is the detail in which he interacts with the biblical text. He is not merely offering proof texts upon which to draw his own conclusions, rather he interacts with other writers on these texts, especially one’s with whom he does not agree. In this sense, sections where he is developing his position often have the feel of reading a good exegetical commentary, as when he interacts with Cullman who finds a human pre-existence of Christ in Philippians (R. 76). Ridderbos proceeds to interact with this position for one paragraph and then offers a solution to what he finds as Cullmann’s untenable position. This degree of thoroughness without going down rabbit trails or venturing on to endless hairsplitting and qualifications helps to tie down theological loose ends that might otherwise develop.
For all the book’s usefulness in combining history, exegetical thoroughness and logical structure, there was a sense in which reading it was like driving a high performance sports-car which, while having great performance, is tiring to drive for more than short bursts down the track. One of the main issues that leads me to this conclusion is the shear length of some of the writer’s sentences (I counted some that were over 70 words in length). I understand this is a translation and that some things are difficult to distill down to 10 or 15 words, yet there are good reasons for doing so. Whatever is gained in fidelity by stretching the sentence to such lengths is lost in other places, namely the reader’s ability to hold onto the author’s point from beginning to end. At times, reading this reminded me of hours spent reading the works of Augustine—insightful, but highly taxing. While more an annoyance than anything else, the regular inclusion of German, Latin and transliterated Greek in the (otherwise) English text, made for unnecessarily difficult reading. I understand the inclusion of Greek in a book written for seminary students, pastors and researchers, but the Latin and German without parenthetic translations or footnotes? It may prove an only minor issue, but sometimes even knowing what the title of someone’s work is, helps in understanding what follows. This seemed like a small issue that could have at least been handled in footnotes. The last critique I have is that application was sorely missed in this reading. It’s not that the work itself wasn’t applicable, but the writer didn’t set any application forth plainly. Surely for all the brilliant insights into the theology of Paul, he could have brought our minds to a greater grasp of how these truths apply in the church and seminary today. I’m reading this book, presumably to understand Paul’s theology, but I would like to have learned from the author how the application springs from this theology. I’m certain this question could have been answered with great insight.
I would recommend this book to a seminary student for research. This book goes into detail, handling the minutia of Paul’s theology in a manner consistent with what a researcher might hope to discover. I view this as a resource for specific topics. If you are studying Christ as “First born”, begin reading on page 78. If you are studying Christ as the “Image of God”, start on page 68. There is much to be gleaned in Ridderbos’ examination of these topics. I do not see the researcher necessarily needing to commit to reading the entire book in order to be assisted by it. I would also recommend this to anyone preparing to spend time preaching through Paul—there’s no need to begin a systematic expository series apart from a thorough knowledge of how Paul’s theology is understood (and how it’s been understood by others). In such a case this would probably prove better for preparation in laying a solid foundation, rather than something to consult while working on a sermon outline. I would not recommend this book to a Sunday school class or someone who is, in their personal devotion time, trying to make sense of something Paul discusses in one of his letters—I would recommend a commentary in that case. Yet for the researcher or exegete who has the time to delve into some of the nuances of Paul, this would be helpful.
"...because we have concluded this: that One has died for all, therefore all have died." 2 Cor 5:14
Ridderbos firstly began with the elimination of the relevant non-Pauline texts which refer to Spirit baptism and may have a bearing on the polemic. An unhealthy preoccupation with 'the anointing' is rejected as he placed the undivided intent of those texts on the gift at regeneration, and definitely not a separate or second blessing: 'To our mind one will with the 'anointing' have to think directly of the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38; 1 John 2:20, 27).' p 400 Furthermore, Ridderbos denied the prospect of regenerational baptism in stating that the proper perspective of baptism 'does not denote conversion.' p 404 A homiletical error that is often heard at baptismal events is the analogy that the baptized is himself/herself undergoing a symbolic burial and resurrection. Ridderbos rebuked this fanciful reading of Scripture: 'The death, burial and resurrection of which there is mention here are undoubtedly the death, burial and resurrection of Christ; to be buried with Him in baptism consequently means to participate by baptism in that death and that grave.' p 403
Ridderbos certainly did not share the convictions as reflected in the content of modern commentators regarding baptism, and motivated his point even further with well-founded biblical exegesis: 'For this reason the expression "to be baptized into Christ" (Rom 6:3 and Gal 3:27) cannot be simply interpreted as an abbreviation of the formula, 'to be baptized in the name of Christ', as is often assumed. Rather, this compressed expression has a more pregnant significance, in that it is the denotation of the union of the one baptized with Christ in this corporate sense, and thus with His death, burial and resurrection.' p 403
In a faithful exegesis of the Rom 6 and Col 2 references to baptism, Herman Ridderbos soberly assessed the issue at stake when stating that the preference for the Anabaptist position contains 'within it the danger of diverting attention from the specific significance Paul here ascribes to baptism'. p 403 For Paul the significance lies entirely in the new creation brought about by the redemptive-historical death of Christ, which is entirely appropriated to the believer in his participation through baptism: 'For the old man, too, has once been crucified with Christ (Rom 6:6) and the laying aside of the old man in baptism signifies above all, therefore, participation in that unique event.' p 404 and 'To be baptized means also to participate in an actual sense in what once took place in Christ.' p 405
Calvin exhorted us to see the greater truth in baptism as expressed by Paul in Romans 6:3-4: 'By these words, he not only exhorts us to imitation of Christ...but he traces the matter much higher, that Christ by baptism has made us partakers of His death, engrafting us into it.' Institutes 4:15:5
Demonstrating our union with Christ as our corporate Head and Archegos, Ridderbos continued to amaze with an invaluable study of the Israelite fathers who 'were baptized into Moses' from 1 Cor 10, illustrating Paul's use of typology for incorporation into Christ comprehensively.