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562 Journal of Biblical Literature

sis . . . arguing that 2 Cor. 10-13 ought to be identified with the 'painful letter' written
prior to 2 Cor. 1-7," in apparent ignorance of the work of A. von Hausrath and J. H.
Kennedy. DeSilva nowhere engages the long history of German scholarship, nor does
he even make use of the extensive history of research in the first volume of M. Thrall's
ICC commentary.
Numerous editorial lapses and a general stylistic infelicity make deSilva's work dif-
ficult and tedious reading. The slim volume comes with a page of errata, but several mis-
takes go undetected (pp. 1, 60, 61, 81).
DeSilva's interpretation of 2 Corinthians is shaped by strongly countercultural atti-
tudes. According to de Silva, Paul seeks throughout the epistle to combat "worldly
norms" in the church at Corinth and among rival missionaries (pp. 64, 70, 111, etc.).
Paul seeks to reassert his parental authority over the rebellious congregation (p. xi).
DeSilva's Paul is the embattled leader of a countercultural organization whose members
and leaders are tempted by the values of a pluralistic world. This portrait of Paul will
prove congenial to Christian readers who are similarly oriented toward "the world."
Laurence L. Welborn
United Theological Seminary, Dayton, OH 45406

Paul s Gift from Philippi: Conventions of Gift Exchange and Christian Giving, by G. W.
Peterman. SNTSMS 92. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Pp. xi + 246.
$54.95.
Paul's supposedly grudging acknowledgment of the Philippians' gift in Phil
4:10-20 has vexed one commentator after another. Since no direct expression of thanks
is to be found in the passage, Paul's seemingly starchy response strikes many as pecu-
liarly ungracious and has been dubbed a "thankless thanks." Some have argued that Paul
felt demeaned when offered money and, flustered by the Philippians' gift, resorted to
euphemisms when talking about it. C. H. Dodd, in trying to penetrate the mind of Paul,
offered the psychological interpretation that Paul hated money: "He can scarcely bring
himself to acknowledge that money was welcome to him and covers up his embarrass-
ment by piling up technical terms of trade, as if to give the transaction a severely 'busi-
ness aspect.'" Others have claimed that Paul gently rebukes the Philippians for their gift
because they had breached an agreement not to infringe on his avowed policy of self-
reliance (a strange view since Paul lauds them for "reviving their care for him" after a
hiatus of some years). Still others have argued that this acknowledgment of the gift
appears so unreasonably late in the letter that it must have been sent as a separate thank-
you letter and was affixed to other letters to the congregation by a later editor. These
explanations have failed to recognize that modern, Western assumptions about the
proper etiquette for expressing gratitude for gifts did not hold sway in the first-century
Mediterranean world. According to modern decorum, Paul's response may appear
rather boorish; but theories spun from assumptions derived from our own conventions
all too frequently misinform our reading of first-century texts.
Studies have erred in explaining the placement of the passage in the letter and the
nature of Paul's "thanks" because they have failed to take into account the sociological
framework of friendship in which it was written. Peterman's work, a revised dissertation
Book Reviews 563

directed by Graham Stanton at Kings College, London, seeks to redress this lapse.
Developing insights from Peter Marshall's Enmity in Cornth: Social Conventions in
Paul's Relations with the Corinthians, Peterman anchors his study of the text in its social
context, painstakingly examining typical and deeply embedded social obligations regard-
ing the exchange of gifts and then applying the insights to the NT text. The investigation
of these cultural conventions reveals that Paul expresses gratitude in a way appropriate
to the sociological framework in which he lived while molding the expectations regard-
ing gift exchange and social reciprocity in accordance with the gospel.
Peterman recognizes that Paul would have been deeply influenced as much by his
scripture as by pervasive social norms and wisely begins by examining giving and receiv-
ing in the OT and extrabiblical Jewish literature. This inquiry offers a chance to compare
and contrast it with Greco-Roman customs. OT didactic texts make clear that relation-
ships between giver and receiver also involve God and therefore are perceived not as
bipolar but as triangular. Giving is encouraged as praiseworthy behavior that God will
reward. Later Jewish texts (Sirach, Philo, Josephus), however, move closer to Greco-
Roman thinking according to which the one who receives a benefit must return it in
some form and the one who gives may rightfully expect some return. Peterman's exami-
nation of giving and receiving in Jewish literature is quite important because Paul does
not always keep to the beaten track of societal custom. It provides a helpful background
for understanding Paul's metaphor describing the Philippians' gift as a sweet-smelling
sacrifice to God. The implication is that the bond between them is triangular because
God will repay them when Paul himself is in no position to reciprocate.
The third chapter examines giving and receiving in the Greco-Roman world to dis-
cern how the conventions governing social interaction worked. Seneca's On Benefits
becomes the primary guide for understanding social practice associated with gift
exchange, and other literary and nonliterary texts are drawn upon to supplement or sup-
port this work. A social quid pro quo dictated relationships: anyone who received a gift
or benefit was obligated to respond in kind. Gifts and favors therefore could not be
taken for granted but placed serious obligations upon the recipient. Giving was the
foundation of any friendship between individuals or between an individual and a group,
and bestowing benefits was expected to win thanks. The beneficiary became indebted
and must show gratitude through some kind of repayment. Any notion of divine reward
for giving was absent. Consequendy, benefactors normally gave to those deemed worthy
to receive and with the means to reciprocate. When there was disparity in the giving, the
one who out-gave the other gained status as the superior while the other moved down a
rung in the status ladder. Receiving a gift consequently put one under considerable
social and financial pressure. If one could not reciprocate in kind, one was expected to
return the favor by bestowing honor and praise, and/or offering verbal thanks. Gratitude
to a superior was most frequendy expressed by acknowledging the affection and good-
will received and professing a sense of debt. When the relationship was on an equal foot-
ing, however, an expression of verbal thanks was considered inappropriate. Peterman
cites P. Merton (29 August 58 CE) as the best proof text for this convention. In this letter,
a certain Chairas wrote to a friend that a great show of thanks was unnecessary for
friends and that giving thanks in words was necessary only for those who are not friends.
Peterman's study of papyrus letters reveals that verbal gratitude was expected only
"when writing to someone who was socially superior." A verbal thanks would have been
564 Journal of Biblical Literature

interpreted as solicitation for further benefits. Peterman's investigation of Greek and


Roman practices of gift exchange shows that Paul's "thankless thanks" fits ancient proto-
col among intimates. What is remarkable about 4:10-20 is not that Paul does not say
thanks but that he does not say, "I am indebted to you."
Peterman also helps explain the use of business terminology in Paul's response.
Word studies have shown that dosis and lmpsis (4:15) were used in the commercial
sphere for business transactions, but they have not shed any light on why Paul chose
such terms. Peterman gathers evidence from the broader social context to show that giv-
ing and receiving (credit and debt) had been co-opted as common metaphors to
describe the mutual obligations incurred by friendship. Paul did not use commercial
terms out of embarrassment but because it was a normal way to talk about relationships.
On the other hand, Pilhofer (Philippi, vol. 1), whose work was published after Peter-
man's was submitted, argues from inscriptional evidence that the phrase has nothing to
do with friendship issues but relates to cultic presentation of honors on one who makes
some significant contribution. This raises the question of how one adjudicates the rela-
tive value of differing data. Peterman clearly leans toward literary evidence as more reli-
able in helping us to understand social conventions.
In the fourth chapter Peterman turns to Philippians to examine Paul's missionary
partnership with the Philippians as revealed in the first two chapters of the letter. The
verbal and conceptual parallels between 1:3-11 and 4:10-20 suggest an inclusion and
indicate to Peterman that Paul was more interested in providing a response to the
Philippians' support than has been previously recognized. He argues for translating the
opening words of Paul in 1:3 ,"upon your every remembrance," which means that Paul
refers to the Philippians' gift in the first words of the thanksgiving section that sets the
agenda for the letter. He seeks to explain why Paul does not mention any sense of debt
for the gift by showing that Paul gives it a theological twist. They have a unique bond
from a working partnership that transcends social reciprocity. Paul's emphasis on their
partnership in the gospel, how the cause of advancing the gospel governs his life, and
how it should control theirs as well, serves as preparation for his direct response to the
gift in the final chapter. As Paul has served them sacrificially (2:19-20), they have
responded sacrificially.
The next chapter interprets the thank-you section in 4:10-20. Peterman makes the
case that Christian presuppositions informed by the OT rather than Greco-Roman con-
ventions guide Paul's recognition of their gift. Studies that interpret his response only
from sociological categories and literary conventions tend to err by neglecting how Paul
can recast social customs in his theological forge. For Paul, the gospel embraces every-
thing, including friendship, and shapes it. He wants to make certain that his acceptance
of the gift is not misinterpreted, and he uses theological categories to check any possible
misunderstanding stemming from Greco-Roman assumptions about gift exchanges and
to create a new attitude toward gifts and giving that accords more with a Christian mind-
set. Rather than expressing any social debt, Paul commends the Philippians for their
Christian maturity, affirms that they receive spiritual benefits from giving, and that God
(not he) will repay them. More than an expression of gratitude, Paul's concluding
remarks in the letter give instruction on what "such sharing means for the life of the
Christian community."
Book Reviews 565

Peterman next investigates selected texts from 1 and 2 Corinthians; Rom


15:25-31; Phlm 17-19; 1 Tim 5:4; and Rom 5:7 to show that Paul was fully aware of
social practices but rejected or engaged in them as the situation dictated. The priority of
the gospel determined how he responded when issues of social reciprocity arose in his
dealings with his churches. The study closes with final conclusions, implications, and
three appendices: the relevant texts from Seneca's On Benefits, other examples of the
use of the phrase "giving and receiving," and options wandering preachers and philoso-
phers had for support.
Peterman presents a clear, concise, and well-mapped thesis which is a welcome
addition to recent studies exploring the social conventions underlying NT texts.
Whether or not Peterman is right in every detail of exegesis, he is right on the basic
methodology that interprets Paul's response in light of the broader context of actual
social practice rather than concocting readings based on modern expectations or word
studies that do not interface with social usage. Ignoring the conventions that made up
the complex fabric of relationships in the ancient world has caused scholars to stumble
badly when interpreting Phil 4:10-20. Peterman provides convincing arguments that
Paul's thank-you was not an afterthought or a tacdess expression of ingratitude. Peter-
man's work has already borne fruit in Fee's commentary on Philippians, which adopts
and develops many of his insights in the exegesis of 4:10-20. Fee, for example, stresses
that its climactic position at the letter's end means that Paul's final words of gratitude for
their partnership in the gospel and in his affliction are "left ringing in their ears." Peter-
man's work also adds to our knowledge of conventions of social reciprocity in the Greco-
Roman world and provides weighty countervailing evidence against arguments that
would chop the letter to the Philippians into an assortment of separate letters sent at dif-
ferent times.
David E. Garland
George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, Waco, TX 76798

The Theology of Paul the Apostle, by James D. G. Dunn. Grand Rapids/Cambridge, UK:
Eerdmans, 1998. Pp. xxxvi + 808. $45.00/29.95.
Into this massive volume Professor Dunn has poured both his vast learning and his
passion for his hero, Paul. The result is detail (sometimes, perhaps, tedious) wedded
with engagement (sometimes, certainly, enthusiastic).
In his "Prolegomena" the author lays out the basic judgments that determine the
structure and character of what is to follow. It is important to mention a few. (1) "Theol-
ogy" is to be assigned a breadth that includes worship and ethics. "A theology remote
from everyday living would not be a theology of Paul" (p. 9). (2) Paul's theology must be
constructed out of a synthetic analysis of all the authentic letters. (3) Yet Paul's theology
is more than the sum total of the statements in his letters, since they imply and depend
upon a larger theological structure. Dunn uses the image of the iceberg: what we see
suggests much of what we cannot see. This is dangerous water (the reader will pardon
the metaphor), since it provides opportunity for the researcher to find just about any-
thing. What Dunn finds is a flourishing Judaism, complete with frequent allusions to
^ s
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