Monday, August 27, 2012

Schlatter on the Pastorals: Mission in the Academy

I am currently making my way through I.H. Marshall's second (!) festschrift, New Testament Theology in Light of the Church's mission, as mentioned on an earlier post.  

I recently read Robert Yarbrough's contribution on "Schlatter on the Pastorals: Mission in the Academy".  Yarbrough, along with Adreas K√∂stenburger, is one of the American experts on Schlatter.

About Schlatter, Yarbrough says, 

"He went beyond being a missionary enabler to serve as a sort of practitioner, as an intent and effect of his scholarship was to uphold historical Christian understanding of the canonical Scriptures and their Christ-centered message... While an aim of many post-Enlightenment biblical scholars has been to disabuse students of historic Christian faith and a high view of Scripture's veracity, Schlatter stands out as a brilliant exegete who overall defended the bible's accuracy." (295-6).

Following this theme, Yarbrough chooses Ulrich Wilkens, a prolific German scholar from the mid to mid-late 20th century, as a conversation partner.  I found Yarbrough approach concerning the choice of a conversation partner when studying Schlatter's exegesis of the pastorals to be more helpful in drawing out the full flavor and importance of Schaltter's conclusions, than if his stances would have been studying in a vacuum, as it were.  

Of this comparison, Yarbrough concludes:

"Whereas for Wilkens the 'historical' setting of the PE is a speculative, undetermined place and time (probably around the onset of the second century) related to no concrete congregations, location, or known author, Schlatter reads the PE as an artifact of Paul's final years of apostolic ministry based on linguistic, literary, and concrete historical considerations... While Wilkens explains the PE from a hypothetical scenario decades after Paul's death, Schlatter reconstruction grows out of the life of Paul and Paul's convictions... foremost Paul himself... Or put it another way, while the historical Paul is a shadowy background figure for Wilkens's PE exposition, which devotes much space to showing disconnects between Paul and the PE, for Schlatter not only Paul but even Jesus plays a significant role, perhaps not surprising since the PE are replete with references to Jesus" (309).  
Yarbrough concludes with a bang, pulling no punches about the critical nature of taking the bible as Schlatter did the PE, saying while those who take, for example, 1 and 2 Timothy as authored by Paul are considered "odd or not truly critical in their thinking" (L.T. Johnson), which is the prevalent critical view in a currently dwindling German protestant church, on the contrary: 
"in the larger world church setting where the Bible is receiving fresh attention and respect, and groups affirming a more historic high regard for the Bible are seeing meteoric growth, [continuing] there is reason to rethink traditional academic animus toward close association between Jesus seen as Savior in fulfillment of OT promises, a Paul who actually encountered him in a life-and world-transforming way, and the PE seen as authentic Pauline writings" (315).

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