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Steward of God's Mysteries
Paul and Early Church Tradition

POD; Published: 9/14/2017
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7361-3
Price: $ 29.50
223 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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One view that perennially springs up among biblical scholars is that Paul was the inventor of Christianity, or that Paul introduced the idea of a divine Christ to a church that earlier had simply followed the ethical teaching of a human Jesus. In this book Jerry Sumney responds to that claim by examining how, in reality, Paul drew on what the church already believed and confessed about Jesus.

As he explores how Paul's theology relates to that of the broader early church, Sumney identifies where in the Christian tradition distinctive theological claims about Christ, his death, the nature of salvation, and eschatology first seem to appear. Without diminishing significant differences, Sumney describes what common traditions and beliefs various branches of the early church shared and compares them to Paul's thought. Sumney interacts directly with arguments made by those who claim Paul as the inventor of Christianity and approaches the questions raised by that claim in a fresh way.
Warren Carter
— Brite Divinity School
“Did Paul ‘invent’ Christianity, as some have claimed? If not, what did he contribute? Employing an approach that compares teachings of the earliest communities with Paul’s teachings, Jerry Sumney argues that Paul creatively interprets preformed teachings and confessions to address new questions and situations. The result is a highly recommended and insightful contribution to understanding Paul’s place within the diversity and richness of Christian origins.”
Troy W. Martin
— Saint Xavier University
“An extensive and sustained argument against sensationalist claims that Paul was the inventor or second founder of Christianity or that he somehow corrupted the pure religion of Jesus. Sumney’s careful historical approach situates Paul within pre-Pauline and non-Pauline traditions in the earliest church and presents Paul as more of a transmitter than an innovator of these traditions. Enormously helpful to students and scholars alike.”
Patrick Gray (from the foreword)
— Rhodes College
“It is much easier to make facile claims about Paul ‘founding’ Christianity, by accident or by design, or ‘inventing’ this or that aspect of Christian theology than it is to engage in close, critical, dispassionate analysis of the primary texts. The devil is in the details. Sumney will have succeeded if his examination of these details makes it more difficult to invoke pat answers that do little to illuminate the origins of Christianity and Paul’s role in it.”
John Anthony Dunne in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
"Sumney provides a cogent rebuttal to those who claim that Paul was Christianity’s originator."
Catholic Biblical Quarterly
"Only a Pauline scholar of Sumney's caliber and experience could comprehensively address the topic of Paul's relationship with early church tradition in a manner that is at once novel, wide-ranging, and convincing. . . . This is a book that needed to be written. It will be valued in academic and pastoral circles as a carefully constructed, evidence-based defense of Paul as 'Steward of God's Mysteries' and as a resounding refutation of the theory that Paul is the 'Founder of Christianity.'"
Review of Biblical Literature
Steward of God’s Mysteries makes a compelling case that Paul presented his ideas in agreement with the main beliefs of the first-century church. . . . Scholars and students who are interested in the relationship between Jesus and Paul as well as the reception of early church tradition will want to pay attention to Sumney’s argumentation.”