In Pt. 23 (yes, I know this series has become obnoxiously long) I shared Enns’ survey of Jewish interpretations of Adam. This provided a thought matrix within which we can place Paul. But we can’t understand Paul by studying his contemporaries alone. We must ask how Paul himself approached studying Scripture.

In The Evolution of Adam Enns makes the following points about Paul as an interpreter of Scripture:

(1) Paul is not “bound” to the original meaning of a text, “especially as he seeks to make a vital theological point about the gospel.” (Kindle Locations 2456-2457)

(2) “Paul was an ancient interpreter, schooled in the ways of Second Temple Judaism (Phil. 3:4–6; Acts 22:3). How he handles his Bible is a reflection of the interpretive conventions of his day.” (Kindle Locations 2459-2461)

(3) “Paul’s use of the Old Testament is also driven by his conviction that now, in the risen Messiah, God has spoken the final word in his plan to save humanity. This final word in Christ is understood by Paul as the necessary concluding chapter to Israel’s story.”  (Kindle Locations 2468-2470)

So Paul reads Scripture not as a modern exegete but as an ancient interpreter who affirms the Gospel as a presuppositional lens through which he understands the text.

Enns provides several case studies in this chapter: Isaiah 49:8 in 2 Corinthians 6:2; Abraham’s “seed” in Galatians 3:16, 19; Habakkuk 2:4 in Galatians 3:11; Isaiah 59:20 in Romans 11:26-27; and Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4. I will let you read those text for yourself (and Enns’ commentary if you have the book), but I think Enns makes an obvious point: Paul didn’t use the “historical-grammatical/critical” hermeneutic advocated by moderns. That should be widely accepted.

Enns ends this chapter with a discussion on how we have the Bible and the “interpreted Bible”. Often we convolute our interpretations or readings of the Bible with what the text says. This is true of ancients as well. Traditions find there way into our understanding of the text (Enns provides examples like 2 Timothy 3:8; Galatians 3:19; 1 Corinthians 10:3-4. Paul was part of a tradition and this leads Enns’ to state:

“It is clear to biblical scholars that Paul’s understanding of the Old Testament reflects his Jewish cultural context. What makes Paul so interesting, and sometimes difficult to read, is that his use of the Old Testament is informed both by the ancient conventions we are looking at here and his conviction that the crucified and risen Jesus requires Israel’s story to be reinterpreted. Rather than a modern academic giving a neutral interpretation of the Old Testament, when we read Paul we must learn to expect from him an interpretive challenge. Our task as modern Christian readers is to understand Paul’s ways.” (Kindle Locations 2749-2754)

Now let’s see how Enns applies this to Paul’s understanding of Adam. That’s what I will share in tomorrow’s second to last post!