The Thick Fog & Lamp-Post Syndrome

As I started reading J.P. Kenyon’s Stuart England (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin Books, 1978), and I came across a remark that seems applicable to the state into which scholarship on the Apostle Paul has fallen since the various New Perspectives became influential. Kenyon was addressing the significant reinterpretation of 17th century English history since the 1920s and ’30s, when he wrote (on page 9 of his Preface):

Instead of striding along a brightly illuminated high road, the historian now shuffles uneasily in a thick fog from one lamp-post to another, the lamp-posts wide apart and eccentrically sited, and frequently shifting their position.

Those who (like myself) feel committed to a specific position on Paul perhaps do not feel quite so befogged, but I can’t help but think this describes the current experience of many students new to the field of Pauline scholarship. I suppose this is what always happens when paradigms shift, whether they’re shifting for better or (as I view this shift) for worse.


By the way: thus far I disagree with’s two current reviewers of Stuart England, who find Kenyon boring on the subject. But then, as a fan of the Puritans and a middle school Social Studies teacher, I have a keen interest in this period.


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