Apostle of the Last Days: The Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul

9780825438929Kregel sent this useful volume some time back and I’ve finished working through it over the Christmas break. In short, it’s quite good.

Its publisher remarks

Paul’s life, letters, and theology are unified by the theme of the overlapping of two ages—this age and the age to come. With the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the age to come (i e , kingdom of God) broke into this present age but didn’t end it. Where other important doctrines such as justification by faith, reconciliation, and the cross of Christ were key players in Paul’s theology, Marvin Pate compellingly demonstrates that the overarching theme driving the Pauline corpus was indeed Paul’s inaugurated eschatology. In fact, Paul’s apocalyptic framework was only one of a number of other rival eschatologically focused religious perspectives of the day, such as the Imperial Cult, Hellenistic/syncretistic religion, and the merkabah Judaizers. Paul’s vigorous debates with the churches he served centered on the exclusivity of the gospel of Christ that he preached: the nonnegotiable apocalypse of Jesus the Messiah. Apostle of the Last Days will be welcomed in the classroom as a one-volume treatment of Paul’s life and letters as well as his theology.

This is a correct assessment and the book actually does live up to the promise.  Paul’s apocalypticism is grandly summarized and carefully examined by Pate.  He calls Paul an Apocalyptic Seer in the first chapter and then works through the letters to the Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and Ephesians.  Finally, he concludes with a look at the eschatology of the Pastorals and ends with a chapter on the ‘Theology of Paul’.

The volume contains ample illustrative materials (tables, etc) and – for this I am particularly grateful – Greek in Greek font though, for some reason Hebrew in English font (i.e., transliterated).  If it’s possible to utilize Greek surely it’s possible to utilize Hebrew as well.

The book also suffers, I have to say, from the lack of an index.   An index of sources at the very least needs to be on board so that ancient texts can be located by researchers who may wish to – quickly – locate Pate’s materials related to those texts.  As many Qumran and Hellenistic texts as Pate brings to bear as evidence for his interpretation of Paul, the loss of an index is fairly substantially felt.

Overall, however, the content of the  volume is just simply quite exceptional.  And though Pate’s suggestion that Paul is an apocalyptic seer will be contested in some quarters, his argument is seriously enough assembled that those opposing it will have to muster superior forces.

Finally, it’s nice to read something about Paul that isn’t soaked in the bile of the New Perspective.  Indeed, even though Pate understands the views of the proponents of the NPP, he rejects them- opting instead for the ‘traditional’ understanding of Paul and the Law.  He remarks in a footnote to page 72-

For my part, I wholeheartedly support the traditional perspective toward Paul and the Law.

As do I, Marvin, as do I.  Which is why I’m happy to commend this book to students of the Pauline corpus and the theology of Paul.  And even if you’ve been poisoned by the NPP, your mind warped and your spirit corrupted by that sub-standard eisegetical meandering cul-de-sac, this volume will cure you of that disorder.  Tolle, lege.