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The Colossian and Ephesian «Haustafeln» in Theological Context

An Analysis of Their Origins, Relationship, and Message


James P. Hering

In this groundbreaking study, James P. Hering investigates the theological and ethical motivation that informs the controversial New Testament household codes ( Haustafeln) found in the epistles to the Colossians (3:18-4:1) and Ephesians (5:22-6:9). Within most New Testament scholarship, the household code has been regarded as an imported element within its host letter, reflecting either pagan or embarrassingly sub-Christian values. Is the household code merely a nod to the pragmatic demands of culture, or can it be understood as a reflection of the author’s theological concerns? What can it teach us today? Hering provides a unique analysis of these passages, revealing the Haustafeln in their historical context and examining their theological roots. This book is of vital importance for courses on Christian ethics and New Testament backgrounds.


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Chapter One: Survey and Assessment of Scholarship 9


Chapter One Survey and Assessment of Scholarship Introduction It was the Heidelberg theologian Martin Dibelius who narrowed the field of texts which belong to the now technical term, Haustafel. Haustafel no longer denoted the catechetical teaching derived from a conglomeration of NT hor- tatory texts, but was seen as a type of literary/traditional stratum which could be found within the larger New Testament text. Those biblical texts desig- nated by Dibelius as Haustafeln were Col. 3:18–4:1; Eph. 5:22–6:9; 1Pet. 2:18–3:7; Tit. 2:1–10; and 1 Tim. 2:8–15; 6:1–2.1 His student, Karl Weid- inger, was to follow this list in his 1928 monograph.2 Weidinger’s Hausta- feln proved to be a definitive work on the subject, demarcating for New Tes- tament scholarship those texts which formally belong under the broad Haustafel rubric. Their conclusions were eventually challenged, however, as the Dibelius-Weidinger proofs (Stoic duty lists) were shown3 to be too loosely related in form, mode of address, subject and content to constitute a single, recognisable source which might be considered as the pre-Christian HT Vorlage. The perceived limitations of the Dibelius-Weidinger theory and its proposed texts have introduced a number of positive developments in HT research, particularly the identification and limitation of HT texts. On the one hand, scholars suggested more refined categories to describe the HT form; the Pastoral Epistles, for instance, were omitted from the list due to their gen- eral nature and lack of structure,...

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