PAUL'S CORPORATE CHRISTOLOGY AND THE
CONSTRUCTION OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
David G. Horrell
In his careful study of the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15:20, 29), David Catchpole began by setting out briefly the “theological presuppositions of the Decree”.1 According to Catchpole, “the theology underlying the Decree is one which sees the Christian gospel as doing nothing about the Jew/Gentile distinction. That is, Jews remain Jews, and Gentiles remain Gentiles.” This theology “would have been repugnant to Paul.… or Paul, the Christian gospel does a very great deal to the Jew/Gentile distinction. Such a categorization … elongs to the first and obsolete era of human existence. In the second era now present, Christians are controlled by corporate participation 'in Christ Jesus' (Gal iii. 28)… 2 Richard Bauckham has recently suggested that “Catchpole's claim” that the theology expressed in the Decree does nothing about the Jew/Gentile division “is mistaken”: “The theology underlying the decree holds (as Paul does) that uncircumcised Gentiles belong fully to the eschatological people of God. The requirements of the decree are not understood as those which Jews in general held to apply to Gentiles, but as those which the Law of Moses prescribed for Gentile members of the eschatological people of God.”3
However, leaving aside the questions concerning the theology of the Apostolic Decree and of Paul's attitude to it, questions which I shall not take up in this essay, it seems to me that Bauckham has perhaps failed to do justice to the difference between the position Catchpole presents as Paul's and that which Bauckham sees as shared by Paul and the Apostolic Decree. For Bauckham, it seems, Paul's
1D.R. Catchpole, “Paul, James and the Apostolic Decree”, NTS 23 (1977) 428–44;
here p. 429.
2Catchpole, “Paul, James and the Apostolic Decree”, 430.
3R.J. Bauckham, “James and the Jerusalem Church”, in The Book of Acts in its
Palestinian Setting (ed. R.J. Bauckham; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; Carlisle: Paternoster,
1995) 415–80; here p. 470 n. 164.