We Regard No One From a Human Point of View: Part 1, Apocalyptic Epistemology

One of the most influential articles that established an apocalyptic reading of Paul was J. Louis Martyn's "Epistemology at the Turn of the Ages," published in 1967. I'd like to take a few posts to summarize this seminal work.

Martyn's analysis is focused on the meaning of 2 Corinthians 5.16-17:

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
What does Paul mean when he says, "We regard no one from a human point of view"? What is this "human view" and how, exactly, is that view changed into something different? And what does Paul mean by "new creation"?
To set the table for how Martyn is going to attempt to answer these questions, John Barclay, Joel Marcus, and John Riches, in their introductory comments in a volume devoted to Martyn, make the following observation:
Paul's letters reflect a keen awareness of the fact that in the human scene something is terribly wrong, and needs therefore to be set right...When we sense this ominously dark side to the human scene, as Paul perceives it, and when we note that Paul takes as his major theme the announcing of good news, we are not surprised to find him repeatedly referring to the setting right of that which has gone wrong.

We may be surprised, however, to find in Paul's letters virtually no use of certain words we often employ in connection with righting what is wrong. When he speaks to human beings of their wickedness, should he not call on them to repent? And should he not say that, after repenting, they can be assured of the peace and rightness that comes with forgiveness? Yet, in all of his references to the righting of what has gone wrong, Paul makes no significant reference to repentance and forgiveness. 
If not upon repentance and forgiveness, then what does Paul focus on? What sets the world right? 

According to Paul, what sets the world right is the liberating actions of God to set humanity free from dark enslaving powers. This focus upon God's liberating activity is what marks Paul as an apocalyptic thinker. 

What is crucial for human persons, then, as observed in 2 Corinthians 5.16-17, is less about forgiveness than epistemology. Can we see the new thing God has done and is doing?

Notice in 2 Corinthians 5.16-17 what sets the world right isn't human action but the arrival of God's "new creation." Paul's concern, then, is less moral than perceptual. Are we still regarding the world, and Christ especially, from "a human point of view"? Or can we see, as Paul encourages, that everything has been made new? 

This is how an apocalyptic reading of Paul comes to focus upon epistemology

God has done a new thing. Can you see it? That is the crucial question.

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