We have certainly been taught that the writings of Paul and other New Testament letters are to be understood didactically, as intended to convey instruction to the reader. But as Richard Hays points out in his book, The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 2:1-4:11, there is a narrative/story substructure to Paul’s writings. Hays undergirded his belief in the Story-structure of Paul by showing that while we have not thought of Paul as a storyteller, his use of narrative is very important.
We have not thought of Paul as a storyteller, for the Jesus stories of the Gospels are absent from his letters. Yet his use of narrative is very important…, because Paul’s central concern was to use the narrative to form a moral community…. Paul’s most profound bequest to subsequent Christian discourse was his transformation of the reported crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ into a multipurpose metaphor with vast generative and transformative power…. In that gospel story Paul sees revolutionary import for the relationships of power that control human transactions…. Thus Paul’s use of the metaphor of the cross resists its translation into simple slogans. Instead he introduces into the moral language of the new movement a way of seeking after resonance in the basic story for all kinds of relationships of disciples with the world and with one another, so that the event-become-metaphor could become the generative center of almost endless new narratives, yet remain a check and control over those narratives.”[ref](Quote from W.A. Meeks, The Origins of Christian Mortality: The First Two Centuries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 196-197. Tom Wright. Scripture and the Authority of God. xxviii.[/ref]
Hays, who was educated at Yale in the ’70s, was influenced by Hans Frei who contended in The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative [ref]Hans Frei. The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics.[/ref] that biblical criticism had gone astray by failing to grasp the narrative sense of Scripture. This prepared the way for Hay’s dissertation and then book entitled The Faith of Jesus Christ, which is a discussion of the phrase “faith of Jesus Christ” as being a subjective or an objective genitive in the original Greek language, but argues that this is set within a narrative framework. It would be fair to say that Hays believes that there is a “story-shaped” character to Paul’s writings.[ref]Richard Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. xxiv-xxv[/ref]
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