Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters

Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters

Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters

Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters


Paul's ways of speaking about God, Jesus, and the Spirit are intricately intertwined: talking about any one of the three, for Paul, implies reference to all of them together. However, much current Pauline scholarship discusses Paul's God-, Christ-, and Spirit-language without reference to trinitarian theology.

In contrast to that trend, Wesley Hill argues in this book that later, post-Pauline trinitarian theologies represent a better approach, opening a fresh angle on Paul's earlier talk about God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Spirit. Hill looks critically at certain well-known discussions in the field of New Testament studies -- those by N. T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, Larry Hurtado, and others -- in light of patristic and contemporary trinitarian theologies, resulting in an innovative approach to an old set of questions.

Adeptly integrating biblical exegesis and historical-systematic theology, Hill's Paul and the Trinity shows how trinitarian theologies illumine interpretive difficulties in a way that more recent theological concepts have failed to do.

Watch a 2015 interview with the author of this book here:


The history of interpretation of Pauline speech about God and Jesus (and, to some extent, the Spirit as well) is, among other things, the story of a replacement of one way of speaking with another. Here, before embarking on a detailed discussion of Paul himself, I want to tell the story of how Paul’s interpreters opted for a newer model of “theology and christology” and rejected an older one. in what follows, I will describe the way in which the more recent theological conceptuality (a “christological” model) has replaced another (a “trinitarian” model) in several influential recent interpretations of Paul. Following that, I will articulate some of the dynamics of one element of that older, “trinitarian” model — namely, the element of the “relations” that obtain between the trinitarian “persons” — and attempt to retrieve that element as an aid for Pauline exegesis. My contention, which can only be borne out in the exegesis offered in subsequent chapters, is that Pauline interpreters ought to return to the “trinitarian” model when it comes to the task of explicating the identities of God, Jesus, and the Spirit.

For much of the history of biblical interpretation, trinitarian conceptual categories enabled readers to make sense of Paul’s God-talk. The

1. Studies of trinitarian exegesis of Paul are beginning to proliferate and achieve greater depth and subtlety as historians of doctrine give more attention to the role of exegesis in the development of doctrine; see, e.g., Craig A. Blaising, “Creedal Formulation as Hermeneutical Development: a Reexamination of Nicaea,” Pro Ecclesia 19/4 (2010): 371-88; Lewis Ayres, Augustine and the Trinity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), esp. ch. 6; Michael A. G. Haykin, The Spirit of God: the Exegesis of 1 and 2 Corinthians in the Pneumatomachian Controversy of the Fourth Century (Leiden: Brill, 1994). of course, there was significant diversity among various types of trinitarian readings of Paul’s texts.

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