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Pauline Theosis: Significant for Ephesians Authorship?

One of my most favorite authors, NT scholars, bloggers, and persons, Michael Gorman, was kind enough to have a copy of his latest book sent to me. (Thanks also to the folks at Eerdmans for sending it my way.)

Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology examines an implicit conclusion of Gorman’s earlier book, Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross(Eerdmans, 2001), explores in more detail a theme found in some of the chapters in Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters (Eerdmans, 2004), and develops in more depth an argument in Reading Paul (Cascade, 2008). “This new book unpacks the claim that cruciformity is theoformity, or theosis” (2).

I plan to write a short post for each of Gorman’s chapters.  But initially, after skimming the whole, I began to wonder what this discussion of theosis in Paul’s narrative soteriology might have to contribute to our understanding of Ephesians, specifically the authorship of this disputed letter.

Gorman ends his introduction with a description of “what is perhaps at the core of Paul’s theology.”

a narrative soteriology of Spirit-enabled full identification with and participation in the God revealed in Christ crucified, such that the gospel of God reconciling the world in Christ becomes also the story of God’s justified, holy, Spirit-led people in the world. (8)

Then in a footnote, Gorman says that this book “should be seen as a first step in the direction of theosis, with a special focus on the relationship between theosis and justification. Among the themes that will deserve subsequent attention are adoption as God’s children, life in the Spirit, the body of Christ, Adam typology, interchange/exchange, and the resurrection of the body and the nature of eternal life” (8 n.22). I highlight the first three of these other themes because I find them to be important themes in the book of Ephesians (see 1:5; 3:16; and 1:22-23, respectively; see also the cruciform theme of co-resurrection in 2:6). In addition, Gorman himself points to Eph 3:19 as an example of the theme in his discussion. He cites 2 Pet 1:4 as “the classic scriptural text for the doctrine of theosis,” and says “there is no parallel text in the undisputed Pauline letters” (5). But he does call attention to Eph 3:19 and its language of being “filled with all the fullness of God” (5 n.14).

I say all of this because if Gorman’s argument for theosis in Paul is convincing, and if it is right to see strong themes of theosis in Ephesians, then proponents for Paul as author of Ephesians might have something to work with here.

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2 Comments»

  And his hair was perfect… | Inhabitatio Dei wrote @

[…] Spinks also takes a look at Michael Gorman’s latest book on Theosis in […]

  Brian LePort wrote @

This sounds like a great book. Do you see seeds of this same Pauline thought when reading Romans 4 & 8. There is a lot about the Spirit, sonship, and inheritance, which seems to include the new creation. These themes seem to arise in Ephesians as well. And it seems theosis is the one doctrine that does a good job of connecting all the dots.


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