Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Apostle of the Last Days

There may be some who read Apostle of the Last Days: the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul and find to their surprise that it is not their father’s eschatology. C. Marvin Pate describes the content of Paul’s letters in the context of the contemporary views of the parousia held by Jews, Judaizers, Greeks, and Romans. Although there are charts that compare and contrast these views with Paul’s teaching, there are no timelines or prophecy charts so beloved by evangelical Christians.

According to Pate, Paul’s consistent premise in his epistles is that the last days began with the advent of Christ. This is termed “inaugurated eschatology.” Simply put, Paul does not teach that the last days are past, or that they are yet to come, but that they have begun.

As a recovering dispensationalist, I was interested to read how Pate treated the famous “Rapture passage” in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. He writes,

Though the concept of a secret rapture of the church before the advent of the great tribulation followed by the visible second coming of Christ is enormously popular in American religion, there is no basis for such in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the key passage in the debate. This is because Paul equates the “rapture” (1 Thess. 4:13-18) with the parousia/second coming of Christ (98).

At times it seems as though the author gave too much attention to trying to find cultic religious themes as targets of Paul’s theology. However, it should be noted that the appearance of this may be more a reflection of this reviewer’s ignorance than a reflection on the author. Certainly modern interpreters are often guilty of failing to consider these cultural motifs in their study. Pate’s discussion of the background of Artemis worship in Ephesus was extremely valuable.

I was surprised to find several printing errors in the book. The outline of Paul’s theology in the introduction on page 31-32 is repeated on page 33-34. On page 131, a Scripture reference is given as 1 Cor.20. On page 261, Philo is quoted, “Therefore, if any desire comes upon the O soul…” (thee?). This is not indicative of Kregel’s usually excellent work.

Apostle of the Last Days is a valuable addition to one’s library on Pauline theology.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”