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Paul and Time

Life in the Temporality of Christ

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How did Paul understand time? Standard interpretations are that Paul modified his inherited Jewish apocalyptic sequential two-age temporality. Paul solved the conundrum of Christ's resurrection occurring without the resurrection of the righteous by asserting that the ages are not sequential but rather that they overlap. Believers live in already-not yet temporality.

In this groundbreaking book, Ann Jervis instead proposes that Paul thought not in terms of two ages but in terms of life in this age or life in Christ. Humans apart from Christ live in this age, whereas believers live entirely in the temporality of Christ.

Christ's temporality, like God's, is time in which change occurs--at least between Christ and God and creation. Their temporality is tensed, but the tenses are nonsequential. The past is in their present, as is the future. However, this is not a changeless now but a now in which change occurs (though not in the way that human chronological time perceives change). Those joined to Christ live Christ's temporality while also living chronological time.

In clear writing, Jervis engages both philosophical and traditional biblical understandings of time. Her inquiry is motivated and informed by the long-standing recognition of the centrality of union with Christ for Paul. Jervis points out that union with Christ has significant temporal implications.

Living Christ's time transforms believers' suffering, sinning, and physical dying. While in the present evil age these are instruments purposed for destruction, in Christ they are transformed in service of God's life. Living Christ's time also changes the significance of the eschaton. It is less important to those in Christ than it is for creation, for those joined to the One over whom death has no dominion are already released from bondage to corruption.

Scholars and students will profit from this lively contribution to Pauline studies, which offers big-picture proposals based on detailed work with Paul's letters. The book includes a foreword by John Barclay.

Foreword by John Barclay
Introduction: Thinking about Time
1. Paul's Conception of Time in Salvation Historical Perspective
2. Paul's Conception of Time in Apocalyptic Perspective
3. Time in Christ--Not in the Overlap of the Ages
4. Christ Lives Time
5. The Nature of the Exalted Christ's Time
6. The Future in the Exalted Christ's Time
7. Union with Christ and Time
8. Life in Christ's Time: Suffering, Physical Death, and Sin


"What is time? Ann Jervis contends that Pauline interpreters of all stripes have ignored this question for far too long. Replacing the usual contrast between 'this age' and the 'age to come' with 'death-time' and 'life with Christ,' Jervis provokes reflection not only on Paul's view of time but on his Christology, soteriology, and ecclesiology. Her startling proposals require and repay careful attention by all serious students of Paul's letters."

Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Helen H. P. Manson Professor Emerita of New Testament, Princeton Theological Seminary

"The problem that Ann Jervis tackles in this book is arguably the most difficult one in the letters of Paul, not only on its own internal terms but also in its existential challenge to Christian reception of Paul. Jervis gives us a characteristically learned and incisive treatment of all the relevant texts. What is more, she wrestles profoundly with the greatest theological problem of all: the fact of death."

Matthew V. Novenson, senior lecturer in New Testament and Christian origins, University of Edinburgh

"This rigorous and challenging book charts a new course in Pauline interpretation, centering our understanding of the time of the gospel on the crucified and living Christ. Through Jervis's analysis, we learn to ask not only 'What time is it?' but crucially 'Whose time is it?' Essential reading for all serious students of Paul's gospel."

Susan G. Eastman, associate research professor emerita of New Testament, Duke Divinity School

"Jervis's bold intervention mounts a considered and wide-ranging challenge to commonplace accounts not only of the apostle's eschatology but also of his Christology and his account of salvation. She invites us to see afresh how, for Paul, the massive gravity of Christ bends everything around it, including time itself. The result is an extraordinary reframing of the Christian life in terms of the fundamental antimony between Christ's own 'life-time' and the time of death. A welcome provocation!"

Philip G. Ziegler, University of Aberdeen

"I loved this book. I was, by turns, fascinated, charmed, and challenged. It engages some of the deepest questions we face in relation to time, God, and our understanding of Paul--questions that lie at the very heart of existence itself and yet that are seldom placed by Paul's interpreters. It draws throughout on the reflections of some of the finest minds in theology, philosophy, and science, as well as in biblical scholarship. And it engages multiple key Pauline texts with deft, accurate exegesis. But it does so throughout with such elegance and clarity that I was drawn smoothly through its spiraling discussions and arguments to its key insight: the absolute centrality of our existence within the risen Christ and within his life-giving time. An original, powerful, and profound engagement with Paul. In short, a gem."

Douglas A. Campbell, professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School

"For a very long time, discourse about time in the Bible has been conditioned by well-worn expressions such as 'Heilsgeschichte,' 'eschatology,' and 'apocalyptic.' In this volume, however, Jervis offers a much-needed and genuinely fresh perspective on Pauline theology, an approach that has potential to reconfigure the way one might consider the New Testament corpus as a whole. Once begun, the book is hard to put down."

Loren Stuckenbruck, faculty of Protestant Theology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

"Debates about Paul's thought, especially whether it was 'salvation historical' or 'apocalyptic,' often speak at cross-purposes because they leave unexamined Paul's conception of time. In this provocative book, Ann Jervis shines a light on the temporality of Paul's conception of union with Christ. She challenges established explanations (especially the overlapping 'two-age' hypothesis) and asks penetrating questions about our assumed temporalities and whether Paul shared them. The result is a bold and stimulating thesis with far-reaching implications for many aspects of Pauline theology."

Jamie Davies, tutor of New Testament, Trinity College, Bristol

"Surprising, even shocking on first read, Jervis's book forces us to ask if we have read Paul aright at an absolutely central point, and it requires us to seek new patterns of thought in his wake. For that, we should all be heartily grateful."

John Barclay (from the foreword)

The Author

  1. L. Ann Jervis
    © Fotoreflection

    L. Ann Jervis

    L. Ann Jervis (ThD, Wycliffe College) is emerita professor of New Testament at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, in Toronto, Canada. She is a member of the Centre for Ethics at Trinity College, University of Toronto, and a member of the Center of...

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