Thursday, November 13, 2014

Douglas A. Campbell, professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School, has written a biography of Paul based entirely on the apostle’s letters that challenges prejudicial assumptions about their chronology, authorship, and historical context. The book was published by Eerdmans earlier this month.

In Framing Paul: An Epistolary Biography, Campbell solves what has previously been thought to be an impossible puzzle—deriving an account of Paul’s life and letters based solely on data found in the letters. In the resulting analysis, Campbell also argues that more of the letters are authentic than New Testament scholars usually think, claiming that Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians should be added to the seven letters that are traditionally agreed upon by scholars as being authentic. The seven letters are Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon.

Campbell also proves that two of these letters, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, were written much earlier than was previously suggested by scholars—about 40 A.D.—while the rest were written considerably earlier than had been supposed—from 50 through 52 A.D. This supports the suggestion that Paul was active as a missionary, traveling and evangelizing around the Aegean sea perhaps as many as 10 years earlier (from the late 30s A.D. onward) than was previously thought, which Campbell describes as astonishing if the Easter events took place in Judea in just 30 A.D.

“All academic scholars have to make judgments about how to frame Paul,” Campbell says. “We all tend to make prejudicial assumptions and throw out some of the letters because we don’t like them. I wanted to go back and clear away the bad argumentation, and ask ourselves what’s really going on here—to recover what Paul was actually saying.”

Campbell, the author of The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul, has been a faculty member at the Divinity School since 2003. A book of essays analyzing Campbell’s scholarship on Paul was published earlier this year and titled Beyond Old and New Perspectives on Paul: Reflections on the Work of Douglas Campbell.

Eerdmans interview with Campbell: