J. Louis Martyn (On Paul and the Law; Viewpoints in the ‘New Perspective on Paul’)

J. Louis Martyn – 11/3/2011



Martyn’s focus in this essay is to attempt to unpack an understanding of Pauline Doctrine through an apocalyptic rubric. Initially, Martyn’s approach is to go through the traditional methods of Pauline Theory – followed by a respective, concluding rebuttal. Martyn terms those who came into the churches that Paul is addressing as “visiting evangelists.” Most of us can recall such individuals who came and spoke – and potentially referenced doctrines that did not completely square with previous things heard from the same pulpit. This is – essentially – what Martyn argues has happened to the churches that Paul is writing to.

Martyn describes this ‘corruption,’ as “The circular exchange and it’s corruption of the Two Ways.” By two ways, Martyn means the stark contrasts spiritual death or life. The circular exchange is Martyn’s terms for ‘this for that’ exchange between God and Man, in terms of salvation. Martyn takes a radical stance on grace – disavowing any type of effort on the part of man, in terms of him helping himself in relation to God’s salvation.

Martyn, instead, moves us forward to what he refers to as the ‘God’s good news as apocalypse’ whereby he highlights Paul’s incorporation of an eschatological dualism – or the idea of their being an ‘old, sinful and broken order’ being radically replaced by a ‘holy, righteous and whole’ one.  As a central thesis Martyn states: “The root problem is not or sins, but in the power called the present evil age, for the present evil age has the strength to enslave us, indeed to enslave us all.”

In a deft synthesis of theology and literature, Martyn tells the story of Mrs. Ruby Turpin’s encounter with an albeit grotesque & world-upending, but nonetheless, penetrating encounter with redemption – in Flannery O’Connors classic story “Revelation.

One critique of Martyn is that his view may seem to demean the idea of a ‘goodness of creation’ or – “a life and life more abundantly” hope for this present world.


Word Count: 325


About hollerscholar

I'm a theology & philosophy student, writer, web developer, and medical laboratory professional.
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