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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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Conclusion 263


Conclusion We began our study by asking “What’s in a name?”, with the observation that the New Testament household codes, having been identified as a cohe- sive parenetic unit, had received treatment as a discrete literary phenomenon within their larger letter contexts. The scholarly scrutiny devoted to the HT form has led to the demarcation of the household code as a genre, evidencing a number of characteristics unique to its New Testament expression. A sur- vey of form-critical investigations regarding its provenance and adoption as Christian parenesis illustrated the remarkable diversity of opinion regarding the HT’s original form and function. The location of this traditional Urtafel, however, whether conceived as Christian catechism, Jewish tradition or Hel- lenistic economic theory, was shown to be unanimous: it lies somewhere outside of the composition and concerns of the New Testament text. The HT, then, as we find it in Colossian and Ephesians, has been regarded as a pro- fane or lightly christianised import; any connection to the style and theologi- cal concerns of the larger letter has been assumed to be insignificant. The resultant isolation from its New Testament context has led, inadvertently, to the disenfranchisement of the HT as a vehicle of genuine Christian ethics. Without diminishing the importance of form-critical findings, this result is quite likely due, in part, to the methodological limitations of diachronic analysis. In concert with the tendency of form-critical studies to isolate the HT from its context, the nature of the admonitions present further difficulty. The HT...

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