You are hereTom Holland's Contours of Pauline Theology

Tom Holland's Contours of Pauline Theology

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By Virgil - Posted on 29 January 2010

Tom Holland: Contours of Pauline Theology

For a couple of weeks I have been selfishly indulging in reading what I think is one of the best books I've read in the past year, Tom Holland's book Contours of Pauline Theology, A Radical New Survey of the Influences on Paul's Biblical Writings. The book is a general overview of primarily the relationship New Testament has with the Old Testament in Paul's eyes. Is the NT a wholesale remaking of what Paul knew to be Scripture, or simply a natural addition, Holland would suggest, an actual continuation of the OT itself.

Another key aspect of the book is Paul's continual return to the "exodus" or "exile" theme, and his perspective on the first century Church being called out of exile, back to Jerusalem, waiting for the second appearance of their Messiah. This is relevant in more ways than one to covenant eschatology students.

I highly recommend this book; it is available free of charge on Tom Holland's website, however I recommend buying it from so that he gets some sort of minimal financial support from us:

Virgil Vaduva

Virgil's picture

You freeloader!! :)

Virgil's picture

Don't worry...Arsenal or Liverpool's time will come; you guys can't keep getting lucky forever! :)

Starlight's picture

Like Virgil I found Holland’s book a welcome addition to the theological discussion concerning the “corporate body” viewpoint. Holland does some excellent work and he actually takes AT Robinson to task on his universalism that he appropriated from his application of the corporate body view that he develops in his book “The Body”. However I do have this issue with Holland’s examination or lack of concerning the “Sin” in his work. Holland being a futurist still wrestles with the leftover effects of the “Sin” being around even though he realizes that “sin” was defeated. What Holland attempts to do is to assign the role of the husband of Romans 7 to “sin” as a separate entity. Basically he divorces the Adamic husband by separating the “death” from the “sin” applying it (sin) to Satan as the Husband and this in his mind appears to answer the question why “sin” is still in effect. This keeps him out of the universalism fold and in good graces with the futurist paradigm but I find no basis for how he has arrived at this conclusion. Below is a former post in which I discussed this issue in a little more detail and especially his inattention to the corporate application found in 1 Cor 15 which would have helped him theologically explain some of these issues.

The following is a post in answer to a point by Rich on DeathisDefeated.

Because Holland grasped the nature of the corporate body viewpoint he is making some correct deductions but he has one problem and it’s a big one. Basically as I see it his futurism smacks him in his face concerning the full application of the corporate body view when he gets to 1 Cor 15. If he had followed through on the Body corporate 1 Cor 15:44, 45 and surrounding verses it should have answered his question about the “body of Adam” aka the body of sin, the body of death, the body of flesh, the body of humiliation and the dead body Israel as Pauline examples. (I cannot find anywhere Holland engages this section at length in his book and it is a glaring exclusion which should be a red light to any full Preterist) Holland is not going to embrace fully the ramifications of 1 Cor 15 as we full Preterist CBV apply as it would ostracize him beyond repair in orthodox circles so he has ran into the proverbial futurist brick wall and cannot utilize those verses to demonstrate that the “body of sin” is the body of Adam.

On page 103 Holland goes in a corporate direction that should catch your attention as he equates the Husband of the body of Sin as Satan and distinctly removes Adam out of the equation as the husband.

Holland page 103.

“Thus there is justification in linking Sin and death in Romans 7-8 with the law of the husband, Satan. The law of the husband is the law of Sin, and is the law of Sin and Death. These are all expressions that cover Satan’s covenantal authority over man who is his bride.”

End quote: Notice how Holland invents an enduring covenant for Satan biologically with man. This is just another approach that folks will come up with and is similar to my big argument with Sam Frost who does a similar biological hedging with Adam but comes at it differently than Holland does.

Holland is working his way toward a corporate application but to get away from his problem with the body of Adam dying and with it the “sin” he has to invent a corporate entity so that “sin” may continue after Adam’s demise. This works well for his futurism church age explanation for the continuance of sin outside the body of Christ. This is the reason that Holland has separated the “body of sin” from an application with Adam. This shouldn’t present the same problem to full Preterist as it does to Holland and futurist who want us all to be in the millennium church age until the resurrection.

Since some of us CC see Adam as the covenant head then “sin” being destroyed was not a problem because it is related to Law/commandment and was not applicable to those outside of covenant where one would find themselves as non believers. Those outside of covenant were and are still separated from God simply because you cannot be in fellowship with God without a covenant relationship. The old covenant faithful were in jeopardy of the “sin as related to Law” because until Christ destroyed it they could not enter fully into God’s presence. Holland simply doesn’t understand the distinction of the “sin under Law”. The discussion of the “sin” then is a covenant one related to those who were in covenant but could not have life because of the ineptitude of that mode of existence with God thus the reason for its replacement. It is amazing that Holland has gotten as far as he has being a futurist but again he has developed a systemized understanding that is getting close but no full banana yet until he works in 1 Cor 15 related to Adam as the body corporate.

1Co 15:21-22 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. (22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
35 But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?"
42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead.
44 It is sown a natural body
45 Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"
47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust;
48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust
49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

1Co 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

What Holland gets absolutely correct is the covenantal bondage with Adam; he just simply doesn’t understand the covenant application of the “sin” inherent with Judaism and its tie to Adam and not strictly to Satan.


davo's picture

Norm: This keeps him out of the universalism fold and in good graces with the futurist paradigm…

Lol Norm, can't you see it… Holland's misconstrual leaves him out of the "universalism fold" and happily in futurism – thus futurism's antitheses "prêterism" must needs be closer to the universalism he is apparently trying to avoid. ;)

Just messin' with ya bro :)

Starlight's picture


Yes, Holland was obssessed with A.T. Robinson's Universalism too. I worry about both though. ;-) LOL

Just messin back bro ;)

mazuur's picture


We it's about time you get around to reading his book you slacker :)

Yes, it is a very good book, but like Norm pointed out, he is still a futurist and still has some problems to resolve. e.g. sin=satan, which he invents to make his futurist system work out.

I posted a question/conclusion a while back concerning something Tom developed in his book. I merely took his conclusion and carried it through into Preterism. Of course the results just didn't work. And then after thinking about it for a bit longer, and after Norm putting his two bits in, I soon realized why. Anyway, take a read here ==>

Don't get me wrong though. Tom's over all concepts (exodus theme) I think is right on. Personally, I don't think it will be too much longer before he finally puts the pieces together and becomes a Preterist. His book shows he is getting close.



Virgil's picture

Rick, I know - you can almost feel his excitement when he writes about the "body" of God's covenant people, so you are right...he will only grow from there and probably start understanding the resurrection that way as well. Maybe NT Wright is next. :)

mazuur's picture


Yes, the Resurrection. That is the one subject he is completely inconsistent with. Why he doesn't take his corporate "body" concept and apply it to the Resurrection (1 Cor. 15 specifically) I just don't understand. Probably just a simple case of his futurism blinding him. I mean there is a reason Paul used Present Passives all the way through 1 Cor. 15. The "body" (corporate/"body of Christ") was being raised during the 40 year transition period. It was the "natural body" (body of Adam) that was being put to death, while the "spiritual body" (body of Christ) was being raised. Until people see the progressive dying and raising throughout the NT, which of course doesn't jive with today's understanding, and why the translators simply ignore Paul's grammatical uses, they will stay in their ignorance. If one were to simply combine Tom's (and the Apostles Paul's) corporate body concepts (and Exodus theme), and Paul's grammatical usage, one couldn't help but come to the truth of the Resurrection (corporate body view aka King's view). It's all a matter of getting people to consider it and taking a fresh look. The chains of traditionalism are stronger than iron.

Sorry, I know I'm preaching to the choir.



Virgil's picture

Your observation really enforces the 40 years "new exodus" period in the first century that preterits point to. John opens the way through water for God's people, and Ieshua leads them into the promised land, through the destruction of a huge city.

Nah...that's all just a coincidence!

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