|Pauline Epistles Session at SBL-AAR Atlanta on Sat morning (11/21/15)|
Theologically, the implications of the translation means that Paul was not against emotional grief per say (by all means, the loss of someone in this earthly life is an occasion to grieve, weep, and remorse). Rather "distress" relates to a mental state on how to deal with the tragedies and external circumstances surrounding an individual. Rather than reacting with visible demonstrations of panic, Paul's antidote to distress is faith, especially a faith which confesses that those who have died in the Lord will not be excluded from the benefits and promises of salvation.
I'm not completely convinced that Paul would limit the definition of λυπή to exclude the emotional component of distress. Paul does say: Don't grieve as those who have no hope, not: dont' grieve at all [period!]. And since Galen was not a Stoic but accounted for emotional experience in moderated measure (see my essay in Klyne Snodgrass' Festschrift), I'm inclined to think that Paul's use of the term did include some emotional component. However, the paper was a helpful reminder that λυπή focuses not on an internal condition of the soul but one's deliberate (not knee-jerk) response to present external circumstances.
I must mention also that my dean, colleague, and friend Stephen Chester gave a fantastic paper on "Conflicting or Mutually Dependent Perspectives?: Interpreting the Flesh, Sin, and the Human Plight in Paul." I don't think he meant to be humorous, but the points he made in his presentation were so clear, I could not help but laugh a few times throughout his presentation for the sheer irony that he was so ably cataloguing in his history of interpretation on Paul's justification language. His central thesis was that the New Perspective has made the mistake of lumping together the views of Augustine and Martin Luther so that in their re-reading of Paul, the NPP (= New Perspective on Paul) ends up faulting Luther for concepts that Luther himself does not support. In fact, if one examines Luther's interpretation of Galatians more closely, many of Luther's exegetical conclusions anticipate the criticisms of the NPP against Augustine.
In regards to Luther's understanding of the flesh vs. the Spirit, for example, the NPP has accused Luther of being dualistic in his views of human anthropology. However, Luther, in a text quoted by Chester, actually says:
- The apostle [Paul] does not wish to be understood as saying that the flesh and the spirit are two separate entities, as it were, but whole... [LW 25:339-41 = WA 56:350, 22 - 352, 9]. Note that one and the same man at the same time serves the law of God and the law of sin, at the same time is righteous and sins! For he does not say: "My mind serves the law of God," nor does he say: "My flesh serves the law of sin," but "I, the whole man," the same person, I serve a two-fold servitude." [LW 25:336 = WF 56:347, 2-6; excerpt from a handout given by Chester]
- [Paul's anthropological terms] sometimes appear to designate different 'parts' of a human being, but, as many have pointed out, it is better to see as each encoding a particular way of looking at the human being as a whole but from one perticular angle (Paul and the Faithfulness of God, p. 491; excerpt from Chester's handout)
So there is a delicious irony at work: the NPP has defined its movement vis-à-vis the Reformers but in fact many of its tenets (e.g., a holistic view of the flesh, or sin as an apocalyptic power) continue to depend on the exegetical work of the Reformers like Luther.
This paper, by the way, is part of a larger monograph that Stephen is almost finished with, and is tentatively entitled: Righteousness in Christ: Paul, the Reformers, and the New Perspective. He plans to submit a manuscript to Eerdmans and we will probably see it debut at the next SBL-AAR 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. Can't wait!