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Trinity Lectures 2019

“St Paul on the Absence and Presence of Jesus”

A theological truth that many Christians in Singapore hold dear is the presence of Jesus. They believe that Jesus is present with them in the Spirit or through the spiritual realm. This realm is often thought of in relation to a simple dualistic ontology, where reality is split into visible matter and invisible spirit. Since this invisible realm is always enveloping us, any talk of Jesus’ presence should be quite simple and straightforward. Unfortunately, this feeble notion founders on the rich and profound teaching of the New Testament.

The fifth biennial Trinity Lectures addresses this topic so that we may be enriched in our understanding of how Jesus is present with us. The rationale of out ongoing series of biennial Trinity Lectures is to bring the best of Christian scholarship to address topics relating to our walk and witness as Christians in Singapore. The form in which these lectures take is intentionally adapted to the needs of ordinary churchgoers.

Professor Markus Bockmuehl, the Dean Ireland Professor of Biblical Exegesis at Oxford University, has been invited to be the speaker. The highly accomplished and widely published NT scholar is especially known for his research on Paul and Peter.

Trinity Lectures 2019 will be held at TTC chapel on four successive nights, from 29 July to 1 August. Each lecture begins at 7.30pm, and there will be opportunities for questions to be asked. The topics to be covered are:

Lecture 1: The Pauline Problem: Where is Jesus Now?

Lecture 1 introduces the problem of where Paul envisages the Post-Easter Jesus: is he here or somewhere else? We will probe necessary definitions and contexts for that problem, including questions arising from its treatment in the recent history of New Testament scholarship. Three widely supposed Pauline sublimations of the presence of Jesus are briefly examined and critiqued: the presence of the Spirit as the substitute of Christ with the Spirit, the believer’s union with Christ, and the church as the body of Christ.

Lecture 2: Seeing the Present and Coming Lord: Vision and Transformation

Lecture 2 turns to Paul’s account of the risen Jesus as present and absent, from his encounter on the Damascus Road to experiences of despair in Macedonia and hope in a Roman jail. Paul the visionary and mystic manifests a lively yet diverse awareness of both the absence and the real presence of the body of Jesus, seen and unseen, as we will find especially in relation to 1-2 Corinthians and Galatians – with Romans somewhat unexpectedly less prominent.

Lecture 3: The Coming Jesus and the Departing Paul

Lecture 3 deepens our inquiry to examine development of an eschatological dialectic between presence and absence, between Paul’s expectation of the ‘coming’ Lord and his desire to ‘depart’ and go to the Lord (Philippians).  Added to this is the growing emphasis on the heavenly location of Jesus in later Pauline letters, and we close with a consideration of the ‘canonical’ Paul’s vision of presence and absence in the rest of the New Testament, including in Acts, Hebrews, 2 Peter and James.

Lecture 4: The Presence of Jesus and the Footprint of Paul

The final lecture explores in what ways this ‘canonical’ Paul’s view of Jesus’ presence and absence shaped the ‘footprint’ of Pauline effect and memory in the early centuries. We will examine this vision of the presence of Jesus through the three lenses of (1) the Paul of the church catholic; (2) the alternative second and third-century Pauls of Christian apocrypha, Marcion and Gnosticism; and (3) the construct of Paul through the eyes of his non-Christian opponents, from the first century to the rise of Islam.  An overall Conclusion will offer a synthesis to close the lecture series.

All are welcome to this great time of learning! To register please click here.