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Grace, Obedience, and the Hermeneutics of Agency: Paul and his Jewish Contemporaries on the Transformation of the Heart

By BRANDON KYLE WELLS

Abstract

This thesis examines how convictions about gift and grace integrate with conceptions of agency and obedience for Paul and for his Jewish contemporaries. While post-Sanders scholarship has rightly noted the coexistence of grace and works in the Pauline and Jewish literature, it has failed to account for the diverse and sophisticated ways in which those two concepts can coexist. Following recent intertextual studies, this thesis argues that ancient Jews read descriptions of ‘heart-transformation’ in Deuteronomy 30, Jeremiah 31–32 and Ezekiel 36 as the solution to human ineptitude. Paul was no exception and his reading of those texts had a profound influence on his articulations of divine grace and human agency. On Paul’s complex understanding moral competence is dependent upon divine agency and divine and human agencies co-exist and coinhere in, but never outside of, Christ.\ud Beyond advancing our understanding of the apostle’s agency dynamics, this thesis shows how Second Temple interpretations of texts that concern heart-transformation provide fruitful ways of comparing Paul and his contemporaries’ respective views regarding divine grace, human transformation, and humanity’s ability to obey God. While most Jews in this period did not set divine and human agency or grace and obedience in competition with one another, the precise forms grace took, the functions it performed, the spheres in which it operated, and the qualification for its receptions differed markedly and this would have contributed to vehement disagreements between Jews. Paul would not have been immune from such debates. While his views about grace and agency are not sui generis in every respect, he would have still appeared radical to most of his contemporaries

Topics: Agency, Grace, Obedience, Works, Paul, The New Perspective, Interpretation, Gift, Reciprocity, Second Temple Judaism, Human Transformation, Apocalyptic
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.dur.ac.uk:190
Provided by: Durham e-Theses

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