PAUL'S CONCEPT OF SALVATION - CULMINATION OF AN EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS

Klaus Nürnberger

Abstract


This essay is an attempt to demonstrate that Paul's concept of salvation is the
culmination of a long evolutionary history in biblical times. The nature of the “law”
moved from an unspecified kind of faithfulness (zedaqah), through rather rigid and
increasingly elaborate apodictic, casuistic and ritual formulations, to common
wisdom and finally an open kind of motivational renewal “in the Spirit”. The
contents of the law changed substantially from rather authoritarian to increasingly
participatory forms. The relationship between God and humans moved from a
gratuitous relation between a superior and a subordinate, through the conditionality
of the covenant to God's unconditional but transforming acceptance of the
unacceptable in the theology of Paul. God's redeeming acceptance into his
fellowship restores the relationship of sinners with God and brings about their
transformation. Paul's soteriology is characterised most profoundly by the
eschatological transition of the human being from “flesh” (or this age) to “Spirit”
(or the age to come), anticipated in faith through the power of the Spirit, rather than
by the doctrine of justification. Paul's disciples were not able to maintain these lofty
thoughts, nor was Paul himself. The essay closes with a few instances which
demonstrate the decisive and pervasive relevance of the distinction between
conditional and unconditional acceptance in modern society.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7833/80-0-759

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

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