Document Type


Publication Date



Pauline scholarship has always been interested in the “theology” of the Apostle, and questions of his understanding of God, Christ, salvation, the church, and ethics are as passionately pursued now as in any prior generation. An important methodological point that has been widely accepted among scholars, though, is that such attempts at extracting theological bits from Paul must take sufficient account of the ancient context of his writing and the “contingency” of his literary engagements, that is, “the specificity of the occasion to which it was addressed.” One major manifestation of this concern for understanding Paul in his original setting has been the concern over the Augustinian/Lutheran/Bultmannian approach to soteriology that was centered on personal justification. This theological orientation, as Calvin J. Roetzel puts it, “sees salvation for the individual as the governing theme of Paul’s theology.” Thus, a new era in the interpretation of Paul commenced with Krister Stendahl’s famous “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West” (1963), which tried to direct the attention of Paul’s justification language away from the issue of personal guilt and sin toward the matter of the relationship between Jews and gentiles in the early church. The implications for viewing justification (among other key doctrines) as communal are evident in many who followed Stendahl. Consider this statement by N. T. Wright: The gospel creates, not a bunch of individual Christians, but a community. If you take the old route of putting justification, in its traditional meaning, at the centre of your theology, you will always be in danger of sustaining some sort of individualism.


Originally published in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 72 (2010): 518-36.

ISSN 0008-7912

Included in

Christianity Commons