Philonica et Neotestamentica

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Divine and Human Agency

November 2009
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SBL’s Bookreviews.org has published a review on a book that also contains a chapter on Philo; I have not seen the book yet, but the topics as such and the books looks interesting:

Barclay, John M. G., and Simon Gathercole, eds.
Divine and Human Agency in Paul and His Cultural Environment
New York: T&T Clark, 2008. Pp. x + 208. Paper. $44.95.
ISBN 0567084434.

The relevant chapter on Philo is this:
John Barclay, “”By the Grace of God I am what I am,” Grace and Agency in Philo and Paul.” (pp. 140-157).

The reviewer presents this chapter thus:
“John Barclay compares constructions of agency in Philo and Paul. In Philo’s view, God as creator is the gracious cause of all that exists. A key passage occurs in Legum allegoriae, book 4, in which Philo states that Moses “ascribes the powers and causes of all things to God, leaving no work for a created being but showing it to be inactive and passive” (145–46). What, then, is one to make of Moses’ legal/ethical injunctions? Such injunctions
serve merely as a “useful rhetorical pretense” designed for those who have not been, in Philo’s words, “initiated into the great mysteries” about the sole sovereignty of God and the “exceeding nothingness” of that which God has created, in that the latter lacks independent agency (146). Paul’s view of agency is exemplified in passages such as Gal 2:19–21. There Paul describes himself as crucified with Christ, with the result that the human “self” “is reconstituted in such a fashion that one has to speak thereafter of dual agency, and not simply of one operating in partnership with the other, but of Christ operating ‘in’ the human agent. But this new power is clearly non-coercive: Paul entertains the real possibility … that one can reject the grace of God” (152). In a finely nuanced reversal of the usual grace/works dichotomy, Barclay concludes, “If the ideal for Philo is the resting sage, who approaches the vision of God in pure passivity [i.e., by accepting the vision as gracious gift], Paul’s is the obedient Adam, Christ” (157). Paul’s view requires that human agency be located within the noncoercive agency of the Spirit by which it is transformed. Both “grace” (divine agency) and “works” (human agency) are simultaneously operative.”

You can read the rest of the review here.

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1 Comment

  1. robahas says:

    Very interesting! Thank you for sharing.

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