The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel's Scripture

The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel's Scripture

The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel's Scripture

The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel's Scripture


"The Conversion of the Imagination contains some of the best work on Paul by New Testament scholar Richard B. Hays. These essays probe Paul's approach to scriptural interpretation, showing how Paul's reading of the Hebrew Scriptures reshaped the theological vision of his churches." "Hays's analysis of intertextual echoes in Paul's letters has touched off debate among Pauline scholars and made more recognizable the contours of Paul's thought. These studies contain some of the early work leading up to Hays's seminal Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul and also show how Hays has responded to critics and further developed his thought in the years since. Among the many subjects covered here are Paul's christological application of Psalms, Paul's revisionary interpretation of the Law, and the influence of the Old Testament on Paul's ethical teachings and ecclesiology." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


This book advances three theses: (1) the interpretation of Israel’s Scripture was central to the apostle Paul’s thought; (2) we can learn from Paul’s example how to read Scripture faithfully; (3) if we do follow his example, the church’s imagination will be converted to see both Scripture and the world in a radically new way.

These claims are hardly novel: they go back at least to Origen, who declared that Paul “taught the church which he had gathered from among the Gentiles how to understand the books of the Law” (Homilies on Exodus 5.1). As a Christian interpreter living in a pagan world, Origen was able to see clearly that Gentile converts to the faith needed to have their minds remade, and that instruction in how to read Scripture was at the heart of Paul’s pastoral practice: Gentiles needed to be initiated into reading practices that enabled them to receive Israel’s Scripture as their own. Thus, Origen, the greatest biblical interpreter of his era, saw in Paul a precursor and mentor. In modernity, however, this aspect of Paul’s teaching has tended to recede from view. Most interpreters in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries gave little attention to scriptural interpretation as a constitutive element of Pauline theology — or, to the extent that they did take note of Paul’s scriptural interpretation, they regarded it as aberrant and embarrassing, heedless of the literal sense of the Old Testament texts.

Within the past twenty years there has been a resurgence of interest in

1. For a helpful introduction to Origen as scriptural interpreter, see L. T. Johnson,
“Origen and the Transformation of the Mind,” in L. T. Johnson and W. S. Kurz, S.J., The Fu
ture of Catholic Biblical Scholarship: A Constructive Conversation
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
2002), 64-90.

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