Read my notes on Chapter Three: Intertextual Echo in Romans here.

2 Cor. 3:1-4:6 - A Reading

Hays identifies echoes of the letter-spirit dichotomy in Jer. 38:33 and Ezek. 36:26 which combines the picture of God writing on the heart with fleshly hearts replacing stony ones (p.129). For Hays, the letter-spirit opposition is between “inscription” and “enfleshment.” The point is that Paul’s ministry “centres not on texts but on the Spirit-empowered transformation of human community” (p.130). This is important because in 2 Cor., the church is demanding written letters of recommendation. Paul is fighting against this.

Hays argues that in 2 Cor. 3:13, telos should be interpreted as “goal” or “purpose” rather than “end” (p.137). He has an interesting reading of Exod. 34 and Moses' veil, suggesting that what Moses veiled was God’s glory. Those who belong to the new covenant have removed the veil and do truly behold God’s glory, in contrast to the Israelites who couldn’t bear it and focused on the script.

The implications are wide-ranging, one of which is that “Paul’s reading of the sacred text (Exodus 34) reveals that revelation occurs not primarily in the sacred text but in the transformed community of readers” (p.144). This is in line with Hays' proposal that Paul’s hermeneutics is essentially ecclesiocentric. Thus, “the veiled telos is […] the glory of God in Jesus Christ that makes itself visible in fleshly communities conformed to Christ’s image” (p.146).

The Text Transfigured

This concluding section reinforces Hays' earlier points about Paul’s ecclesiocentric hermeneutic. “His radical proposal is to reject all text-bound criteria for discerning authenticity. The new covenant, he insists, is marked and attestd by God’s writing on hearts, not in script: the ministry of the new covenant is attested by the formation of communities whose lives, transformed by the Holy Spirit, bear undeniable witness to the truth of God’s work in their midst” (p.150-1).

Thus, “in Paul’s new covenant hermeneutic, there is no true reading without moral transformation, and there is no moral transformation without true reading” (p.152).