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The 'Apocalyptic' Paul: An Analysis and Critique with Reference to Romans 1-8



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Shaw, David Anthony Bennett 


The claim that Paul is an ‘apocalyptic’ theologian is often made and often criticised. The most common critique, however, has been terminological in nature, since ‘apocalyptic’ is taken to imply a relationship to Jewish apocalypses. Yet advocates of the apocalyptic Paul use the term to signal a connection to an interpretive genealogy—primarily descended from Ernst Käsemann and J. Louis Martyn—and to affirm a set of theological convictions in relation to Paul’s gospel. This invites a different engagement with the apocalyptic reading of Paul, leaving aside questions of nomenclature to explore those genealogical claims, and to examine how well those theological convictions are grounded in Paul’s letters.

Consequently, the aims of this thesis are twofold. First, to provide a more accurate account of the developments and disagreements within the contemporary apocalyptic reading which are often obscured by appeals to the same past interpreters and by a common subscription to the ‘apocalyptic’ label. This is accomplished in Part 1 by detailed examination of the works of William Wrede, Albert Schweitzer, Ernst Käsemann, J. Christiaan Beker, Martinus de Boer, J. Louis Martyn, Beverly Roberts Gaventa and Douglas A. Campbell. Part 2 analyses these findings and provides a detailed portrait of the contemporary apocalyptic reading of Paul.

Second, making use of that portrait, this thesis provides the first detailed exegetical critique of the contemporary apocalyptic reading of Paul. This critique, constituting Part 3, is calibrated to the different reading strategies deployed by apocalyptic readers of Paul, and explores the unity of Rom 1-8, the textual evidence for motifs of cosmic conflict, and the significance of Paul’s personifications of sin, death and flesh. A number of apocalyptic emphases can be defended from those chapters, but the apocalyptic reading is also shown to be hampered by a number of false antitheses and from too selective a reading of Paul.





Gathercole, Simon


Apocalyptic, Pauline Theology, Epistle to the Romans


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge