Paul and the Miraculous
A Historical Reconstruction
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There is a profound difference between, on one hand, the miraculous ethos of Jesus's ministry and the Christianity reflected in the Gospels and Acts and, on the other hand, the letters of Paul in which miracles and the miraculous appear to be of much less or even no interest. How can we explain the difference between the "miraculous" Christianity expressed in the Gospels and the nearly miracle-free Christianity of Paul?
In Paul and the Miraculous, New Testament scholar Graham Twelftree shows that there is often-overlooked material in Paul's letters and aspects of the New Testament data that call for a more historically sensitive approach to Paul. He argues that the historical Paul is only adequately understood if the miraculous is permitted the place it had in his national life and history, his sectarian allegiance as a Pharisee, his probable synagogue experience, his traditions inherited from followers of Jesus, his conversion, his experiences in answer to prayer, his theological enterprise, and his experience as a missionary and pastor. Challenging the view that Paul was primarily a thinker, Twelftree reimagines him as an apostle of Jesus for whom the miraculous was of fundamental importance. This book offers a fresh consideration of what the life and work of Paul might teach us about miracles in early Christianity, shedding light on how early Christians lived out their faith and how that faith might manifest itself in the contemporary church.
Part 1: Paul
1. Who Was Paul?
Part 2: Paul's Inheritance
2. Jews and the Miraculous
3. Prophets, Prophecy, and the Miraculous
4. Proselytizing, Propaganda, and the Miraculous
5. The Christianity Paul Inherited
Part 3: Paul's Testimony
6. The Experience of Paul
7. The Ministry of Paul
Part 4: Paul's Interpreters
8. Luke: Paul's Earliest Interpreter
9. The Remembered Paul
Part 5: Paul and the Miraculous
10. The Paul of History and the Apostle of Faith
"Modern Western biblical interpreters tend to view Paul primarily as an academic--a theologian and writer. Twelftree reminds us that he was far more than a writer, and his religious world was not only philosophical but also experiential. Twelftree collects and examines occasions where the historical Paul mentions and experiences the miraculous. Perhaps most valuable of all, this book attempts to explain how one might integrate Paul's theology of weakness with his experience of the empowering Spirit. Well researched, fresh, engaging, and appropriately cautious about drawing tempered conclusions, this examination allows a neglected area of New Testament study to be brought into the forefront. While the reader may not agree with every part of Twelftree's historical reconstruction of Paul, it is nearly impossible to reject his main hypothesis that the miraculous played an important role in Paul's ministry and theology."
Nijay Gupta, Portland Seminary
"Twelftree's new book is a welcome contribution to the growing momentum in the quest for the historical Paul. His focus on the miraculous locates Paul even closer to his Galilean master, and the often-assumed divide between Jesus and Paul is bridged from a rather unexpected angle. The book serves as a healthy reminder that 'transempirical realities' are an indispensable part of the experiential basis and theological fabric of the earliest followers of Jesus. It also shows how expectations and experiences of the miraculous formed a shared religious language across the Jewish and pagan contexts of early Christianity. That the miracle traditions are regularly ignored or downplayed has more to do with the potential embarrassment they might cause to the portrait of Paul as an intellectual master theologian than with pure exegesis. Twelftree succeeds in reminding us that 'the full range of the miraculous' did not disappear with Jesus but continued in an even more widely 'democratized' form as one of the results of the ministry of Paul."
Roland Deines, professor for New Testament studies, University of Nottingham
"An excellent study of the role of the miraculous in the thought and ministry of Paul. Most interpreters of Paul downplay this aspect of the apostle's legacy in favor of his role as a theologian and thinker, but Twelftree's thorough study makes a convincing case that indeed Paul was immersed in the world of the miraculous. . . . This is an excellent and informative study of a neglected aspect of Paul and his theology."
Donald Senior, CP,
The Bible Today
"Paul and the Miraculous is a fresh and insightful volume and Twelftree's research makes clear efforts to treat the data fairly. His conclusions will certainly be engaged with in future work on Paul and the miraculous. . . . Twelftree seems to have exposed and corrected a scholarly misconception that is sure to bear fruit in the future of research on Paul."
"Twelftree addresses one of the reigning questions in Pauline studies, to wit, how is it that the Christianity represented in the Gospels is burgeoning with miracles while Paul hardly raises the issue and instead seems to operate primarily in the intellectual arena? Complicating the matter further is that Luke presents Paul as a miracle worker while Paul's letters do not convey that self-understanding. . . . In resolving the perceived tensions between the portraits of Jesus and Paul, Twelftree counters the claims of mainstream 19th- and 20th-century Pauline scholarship that Paul 'sanitized Christianity' of miracles and capitalized solely on his intellect. Instead, Paul emphasized his weakness through which God's miraculous power worked. . . . The footnotes demonstrate Twelftree's erudition and the overall result is systematic, methodical, and painstakingly detailed."
Elaine A. Philips,
Bulletin for Biblical Research
"This book focuses on a much-neglected topic. . . . Twelftree is not afraid to show when the data offers differing perspectives. Unlike scholars who make much out of meager material, Twelftree is generally careful in arguing for what the data does or does not support. . . . This is a helpful, informative work that would be of interest to scholars studying Paul, as well as his relation to earliest Christianity, his religious context, and his early interpreters."
Kenneth D. Litwak,
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
"Twelftree argues that for a more holistic reconstruction of the historical Paul, it is necessary to consider thoroughly the relationship between Paul and 'the miraculous.'. . . When readers turn the last page, they will be glad to find a new piece of the puzzle to show a clearer portrait of the historical Paul, in which the miraculous plays a significant role in all his ministry and theology. Scholars and students of Pauline studies should have this volume on their bookshelf."
Religious Studies Review
"This book makes a welcome contribution to Pauline studies by drawing attention to an underresearched topic. . . . This book is to be acclaimed for its meticulous surfing of the sources and for its refusal to lay claim to saying last word on the issue. . . . The overall impression one receives after following Twelftree's careful tiptoeing through unexplored territory is that a path has been opened into an area of Pauline studies that merits further exploration. . . . This is a scholarly, unpretentious work executed with care. It deserves a wide readership, careful scrutiny, and some worthy sequels."
Mary T. Brien, PBVM,
Catholic Biblical Quarterly
"Twelftree's project is an ambitious one, and his expansive knowledge of the biblical corpus as well as the literature of Second Temple Judaism serves him well. His discussions of specific passages are even-handed and carefully researched. . . . Those who will benefit from Paul and the Miraculous include seminary and undergraduate students interested in exploring this neglected aspect of the apostle's life. Pastors whose teachings and sermons address the topic of the miraculous within Paul and the early church will find this book a useful resource."
Lynn H. Cohick,
"An excellent and welcome companion to Twelftree's In the Name of Jesus. . . . Thoroughly researched and meticulously documented, Paul and the Miraculous demonstrates architectonic patterns of reasoning and structure which extol the literary acumen and virtuosity of its author, and sets him apart as probably the leading contemporary scholar on the subject of the miraculous in the New Testament. An enduring gift of scholarship!"
"An exceptional text. . . . Twelftree's investigation is a meticulous historical-critical exploration of the inherited practice and tradition of Paul's Jewish beliefs, cultural influences, and the innate features of the nascent Christianity he adopted at conversion, organized into a brilliant sketch of a more accurate historical Paul. . . . Twelftree's work provides both a thorough approach to deeper exegetical studies about Paul and an excellent survey for those looking to resolve any issues they may have with miraculous ministry. This makes the volume an ideal textbook for seminaries as well as a helpful reference for ministry leaders."
Canadian Evangelical Review
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