Congratulations Malcolm Gordon - 7th Jul 2021

Congratulations Malcolm Gordon whose paper won the ANZATS Award.

Below is Malcolm's summary of his winning paper:


Paul’s use of the Gethsemane story in Romans 8:15-39?

In a recent paper for the Australia and New Zealand Association of Theological Studies conference, I argued that Paul, in his famous passage in the second half of Romans 8, is drawing on the memory of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane. Even at a glance, you’ll notice that the prayer Paul references in Romans 8:15 is the same as Jesus’ appeal to God in Mark 14:36: ‘Abba, Father.’

I also managed to show that Paul and Mark are drawing on the same passages from the Old Testament – although in different ways. Mark presents Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane as an experience of isolation, in which Jesus protests against the Father’s will and questions the necessity of the suffering that awaits him (see his prayer in Mark 14:36). Paul’s depiction however, does not question the Roman believer’s struggles, but presents it as a joining with Christ in his glory, “if indeed we share in his sufferings...” (Romans 8:17). I suggest that Paul draws on Gethsemane to show how Jesus chose to suffer freely, even though it was against his will (Mark 14:36), and so showed himself to be God’s Son, rather than God’s slave – a theme that is crucial for Paul (Romans 8:16). Paul draws on this because he is wanting the Roman believers to understand their suffering as a sharing in Jesus’ sonship of God – making them children of God alongside him, providing they emulate Jesus’ obedience. Here Paul leans more heavilty on the ‘not my will but yours’part of the Gethsemane tradition, rather than the ‘take this cup from me’ dimension.

This is really interesting for understanding the way early Christians understood suffering. Mark seems to have understood resistance and protest as part of faith’s response to suffering, whilst Paul depicts a more accepting, obedient stance, trusting that this suffering was part of creation’s ‘groaning’ in anticipation of the new age (Romans 8:22-23).

This piece fits into my overall research in which I am trying to understand how the earliest Christian’s responded to suffering, and how they drew on the Jewish practice of lament, embodied in many of the Psalms. As a minister, I think the lament tradition offers people of way of understanding their suffering which keeps their experience and their faith in conversation. I am due to finish my doctoral studies in early 2022.

Malcolm Gordon

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