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A. K. M. Adam


A significant body of literature rests on the premise that the most propitious way of characterizing the way we interpret linguistic signs corresponds to the practices of encoding and decoding. A sender conceives a message, encodes it in linguistic signs, transmits the message (by voice, or in handwriting, or print, or digital media) and the recipient of the message decodes it. This model itself impedes progress in textual interpretation. An approach to hermeneutics that takes its cue from broader phenomena of perception, apprehension, and inference can provide a more illuminating theoretical discourse for evaluating contested interpretations, with the additional benefit that by changing the way that we view linguistic hermeneutics, we stand to integrate our endeavors more fully with the interpretation of art, music, ethics, and gestural action.

John M. G. Barclay


This response to Willis, Sumney, and MacDonald highlights and develops their key points. Reinforcing Willis’ reading of gift-reciprocity in Philippians, seen even in the self-giving (non-“taking”) of Christ (Phil 2.6-11), it is argued that Paul views gifts in Christ as operative simultaneously at two levels—gifts circulate among believers, but also come from God and are offered to God. Sumney’s reading of 2 Thessalonians is nuanced by connecting the language of “worth” to 1 Thess 2.12: the congruity between believers and the Kingdom of God is based on the agency of God and the prior gift of new life. Further reflection is offered on the perfection of “efficacy” and its possible range of meanings. Finally, MacDonald’s reading of Ephesians is affirmed with emphasis on the Christ-gift as the key to the cosmos; the Psalm-interpretation in Ephesians 4.7-10 clarifies how this gift permeates (“fills”) all reality, as manifested first in gifts within Christ’s body.

Margaret Y. MacDonald


With a focus on Eph 4:7-16, the article highlights the significance of the concept of “gift” in Ephesians. John Barclay’s work helps to situate the Paul of Ephesians among Jewish theologians of grace, especially the perspective of the Qumran Hodayot with respect to the incongruity of divine mercy. Moreover, the results of recent analyses of Ephesians within the Roman Imperial context, including civic and familial concepts, are pushed to a new level of understanding. The study includes an examination of the link between ancient ideologies and practices related to gift giving and the delineation of social bonds and communal obligations where the depiction of the role of Christ as the giver of ministerial gifts plays a crucial role. Ultimately, the essay goes some way to close the perceived gap between the undisputed letters and Ephesians in term of a theology of grace.

Gail P. Streete and Christopher R. Hutson


This orientation essay provides an overview of the four other articles in this special section on J. M. G. Barclay’s, Paul and the Gift (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015). After introducing key ideas from Barclay’s work, which focuses on Paul’s letters to the Galatians and Romans, we summarize three studies in which scholars employ Barclay’s method to examine some of the shorter Pauline letters. Wendell L. Willis discusses Philippians; Jerry L. Sumney discusses 2 Thessalonians; and Margaret Y. MacDonald discusses Ephesians. This special section also includes Barclay’s responses to all three. In addition, we explain how this collection of essays originated in the work of the Disputed Paulines Section of the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.

Wendell L. Willis


This paper employs a basic insight from John M. G. Barclay’s book, Paul and the Gift, that the word χάρις in first-century Greek very often referred to a gift, especially his “perfection” of the word as “conditional.” In Paul’s lifetime the common cultural expectation was that the recipient of a gift accepted that a return gift was normative and expected—whether physical or not. This understanding is thoroughly discussed in Seneca, De Beneficiis which describes how the obligation to reciprocity in giving and receiving is expected of all civil persons, apart from civic position and status. This is because the function of a gift is the building or maintaining of relationships. This purpose is shown to be the case also in Philippians with reference to the passage employing the lexeme (Phil 1:7, 29; 2:6-11) and in 4:10-20 where Paul discusses the gift he received from the Philippian church.

Jerry L. Sumney


Drawing on the aspects of grace that John M. G. Barclay identifies, this essay examines the understandings of grace found in 2 Thessalonians. We find that 2 Thessalonians “perfects” (pushes to the extreme) the superabundance and emphasizes the priority of God’s gift of grace. Unlike what Barclay finds in Romans and Galatians, 2 Thessalonians does not perfect the incongruity of grace. It allows that there is a sense in which God has chosen the appropriate people to give grace. Because it does not perfect the incongruity between the worthiness of the recipient and the offer of grace, its view of grace is similar to that of the Wisdom of Solomon. Seeing that 2 Thessalonians does not perfect incongruity as Paul does in Romans and Galatians may offer a new perspective from which to think about its authorship.


Edited by Florian Wilk

Scriptural Interpretation at the Interface between Education and Religion examines prominent texts from Jewish, Christian, and Islamic communities with a view to determining to what extent education ( Bildung) represents the precondition, the central feature and/or the aim of the interpretation of 'Holy Scripture' in antiquity. In particular, consideration is given to the exegetical techniques, the hermeneutical convictions and the contexts of intercultural exchange which determine the process of interpretation. The volume contains a methodological reflection as well as investigations of scriptural interpretation in Jewish texts from the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C.E., in New Testament writings, and in witnesses from late ancient Christianity and in the Qur’an. Finally, it contains a critical appraisal of the scholarly oeuvre of Hans Conzelmann. This work thus fosters scholarly understanding of the function of scriptural interpretation at the interface between education and religion.