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The Apostle Paul on Satan: New Book

March 21, 2016

I’m pleased to note a newly published book by a former PhD student:  Derek R. Brown, The God of This Age:  Satan in the Churches and Letters of the Apostle Paul (WUNT 2.409; Tuebingen:  Mohr Siebeck, 2015).  This is a lightly revised form of Brown’s PhD thesis submitted here in 2011.

Others have examined Paul’s references to “principalities and powers” and related phenomena in a more generic manner, but Brown’s innovative study focuses on the questions of why Paul mentions Satan and how references to Satan function in his letters.

Instead of a diachronic approach (e.g., where does the idea of Satan come from?), Brown takes more of a synchronic approach, seeking to form a picture of how Satan is referenced in literature roughly contemporary with Paul (and/or literature used and read by Paul).  But the heart and real contribution of Brown’s study lies in the chapters dealing with Paul’s references to Satan in the context of key features of Paul’s theology and view of his mission, and chapters dealing with the references to Satan in Paul’s letters (Romans, 1 Thessalonians, 1&2 Corinthians).

Brown notes similarities to the Jewish context in Paul’s references to Satan, and also interesting differences, and both must be taken into account.  In particular, Brown argues (cogently to my mind) that Paul’s specific references to Satan are shaped by Paul’s view of his own calling and mission — which specifically involved the formation of churches–and which Paul saw as a special responsibility in the fulfilment of God’s eschatological programme.  That is, Paul saw himself as a salvation-historical figure, not simply one missionary among others.

And so Paul saw Satan as particularly concerned to oppose him and his mission.  This is why Paul’s references to Satan are largely in statements where Paul is mentioning opposition to his mission, including direct attacks by Satan upon his person.

Congratulations to Derek on a fine thesis and on the publication of this book!


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