Paul in Chains: Roman Imprisonment and the Letters of St. Paul / Re-Examining Paul's Letters: The History of Pauline Correspondence

By Tan, Randall K. J. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, December 2002 | Go to article overview

Paul in Chains: Roman Imprisonment and the Letters of St. Paul / Re-Examining Paul's Letters: The History of Pauline Correspondence


Tan, Randall K. J., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Paul in Chains: Roman Imprisonment and the Letters of St. Paul. By Richard J. Cassidy. New York: Herder & Herder, 2001, xv + 317 pp., $24.95. Re-examining Paul's Letters: The History of the Pauline Correspondence. By Bo Reicke. Edited by David P. Moessner and Ingalisa Reicke. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 2001, xii + 164 pp., $20.00.

In Paul in Chains, Richard Cassidy, prolific author of earlier studies on the NT and politics (Jesus, Politics, and Society: A Study of Luke's Gospel; Society and Politics in the Acts of the Apostles; and John's Gospel in New Perspective: Christology and the Realities of Roman Power), argues that Paul turned more critical of the Roman authorities between Romans and Philippians because of his imprisonment. In Re-examining Paul's Letters, Bo Reicke (author of the similarly trailblazing volume, The Roots of the Synoptic Gospels) offers an innovative, comprehensive chronology of all thirteen letters attributed to Paul.

The structure of Cassidy's study is complex (as he readily admits on p. 5). His analysis of Paul centers on Romans 13, Philemon, and Philippians (chaps. 3, 6, and 11). Chapters 4, 5, and 10 explore Roman imprisonment, Roman treatment of maiestas ("treason"; which Cassidy sees as the principal charge against Paul), and the clash between Nero's moral depravity and claims to sovereignty and Paul's ethics and proclamation of Jesus as the ultimate Lord. Chapters 7 (Colossians and Ephesians), 8 (2 Timothy), and the appendix (Acts) complete his secondary objective of analyzing all major NT passages pertaining to Paul's Roman imprisonment. The logic of Cassidy's thesis becomes fully evident only in chapter 12: Cassidy interprets Paul as a convinced apologist for Roman rule in Romans 13, but as a reflective critic, similar to Luke's Jesus, in Philippians. Cassidy finds plausible factors in Paul's imprisonment that impelled him to re-evaluate the Roman authorities. In particular, Paul, after facing the agonies of his own prolonged, unjust imprisonment, gained a clearer realization of Roman injustice in the crucifixion of Jesus and in his own imprisonment and possible execution and was confronted with a new awareness of the extent of Nero's moral depravity and assertions of sovereignty.

Part 1 of Reicke's volume contains two previously published essays that provide a more detailed sketch of Reicke's reconstruction of a growing "judaizing" of church politics in Jerusalem under rising pressure from their Jewish contemporaries (AD 54 to 66). The main body (Part 2, a planned lecture series completed just prior to his death in 1987) provides a scintillating reconstruction of the chronology of Paul's correspondence, skillfully weaving together the evidence of persons, events, and geography found in both Acts and all thirteen Pauline letters. The resultant chronology (cf. Appendix 1) is as follows: 2 Thessalonians (AD 52) and 1 Thessalonians (AD 52/53) during a period of early Palestinian Jewish-Jewish Christian tension; Galatians (AD 55), 1 Corinthians (AD 56), 1 Timothy (AD 56), 2 Corinthians (AD 57), Romans (AD 58), and Titus (AD 58) during a period of rising Zealotism; and Philemon (AD 59), Colossians (AD 59), Ephesians (AD 59), 2 Timothy (AD 60), and Philippians (AD 61/62) during Paul's imprisonment. Part 3 reprints three essays that flesh out Reicke's thesis concerning the chronology of the Pastoral Epistles, the historical improbability of a post-AD 61 date for Colossians, and the evidence for a Caesarean provenance for Philemon, Colossians, and Ephesians and a distinct Roman provenance for Philippians.

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