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Joseph Drexler-Dreis


This essay develops a response to the historical situation of the North Atlantic world in general and the United States in particular through theological reflection. It offers an overview of some decolonial perspectives with which theologians can engage, and argues for a general perspective for a decolonial theology as a possible response to modern/colonial structures and relations of power, particularly in the United States. Decolonial theory holds together a set of critical perspectives that seek the end of the modern/colonial world-system and not merely a democratization of its benefits. A decolonial theology, it is argued, critiques how the confinement of knowledge to European traditions has closed possibilities for understanding historical encounters with divinity, and thus possibilities of critical reflection. A decolonial theology reflects critically on a historical situation in light of faith in a divine reality, the understanding of which is liberated from the monopoly of modern/colonial ways of knowing, in order to catalyze social transformation.

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.

Margaret English de Alminana


This article posits that the cultural battle waged by Aimee Semple McPherson in concert with William Jennings Bryan over evolution and modernism was largely focused on a popular social theory linked to eugenics. On July 21, 1925, in the city of Dayton, Tennessee, a twentieth-century watershed event became a harbinger of the age: The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, popularly known as the Scopes Monkey Trial. The public remembers the event as spotlighting the fundamentalist-modernist controversy with respect to the teaching of evolution in the public-school curriculum against the protests of fundamentalist Christians who advocated Creationism. The historical event was far more complicated than the popular recollection. By revisiting primary materials, this investigation will demonstrate that much of the protest voiced by McPherson and Bryan involved Social Darwinism and eugenics and a concern over the impact of these popular theories upon the Social Gospel.

Black Pentecostal Hermeneutics?

James H. Cone’s Theological Sources and Black Pentecostalism

Antipas L. Harris


This essay advances hermeneutical insights for emerging black pentecostal scholars to consider. The salient question is, “What distinguishes black Pentecostalism?” This study revisits James H. Cone’s sources for black theology for insight into the role of blackness in shaping black Pentecostalism. On the one hand, the study dispels the myth that black Pentecostalism is inherently a spiritual alternative to the fight for social justice. On the other hand, it calls for critical dialogue between Cone’s sources for black theology and black Pentecostalism to advance scholarship on the formation of black pentecostal hermeneutics. This essay explains that blackness is more than a cultural and experiential reality. Blackness is a theological source that correlates with other sources in shaping black Pentecostalism. Blackness, moreover, legitimates black pentecostal proclivities for the integration of the faith, spirituality, and social advocacy. Theological blackness in Pentecostalism has historically distinguished black Pentecostalism from subsequent white Pentecostalism.