Childs begins his book by surveying recent Pauline scholarship and how rarely (if ever) the subject of canon is ever raised. This is understandable from the perspective that sees ‘canon’ a later construct used by the church to signify a set of writings as authoritative. Of what consuequence could their decision have for the task of understanding Paul.
However, as Childs points out to speak of a Pauline theology is to presuppose a Pauline corpus. Once we begin to speak in these terms we have started using canonical language. To speak of ‘a “Pauline corpus” is to enter into
‘the arena of how the historical letters were received, treasured, and shaped, which is of course a canonical question. Can one really search for a Pauline theology when the voices of those are missing who preserved his letters explicitly for an ongoing theological function within the early communities of Christian faith?' (p.3)
'The purpose of this monograph is therefore to explore the exegetical and hermeneutical implications of canon for understanding within the context of the church' (p3.)
In other words this is primarily a book about how the concept of the canon informs our reading of Paul.