Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Theology

Abstract

The interpretation of 1 Cor 8-10 is complicated by several factors. Scholars have noted the apparent contradictions in the text (primarily an issue within ch. 8) and also the remarkable changes in Paul's tone (primarily an issue with how 10:1-22 relates to 8:1-13 and 10:23-11:1). I argue that Paul consistently prohibits Christians from eating food sacrificed to idols; by appealing first to their obligation to love other believers and then to their obligation of exclusive faithfulness to Christ. What has largely been overlooked is the way that these arguments are made on the basis on one's understanding of God and idols and the varied representations of God to which Paul could appeal to make his point. The approach of this analysis has been to examine how the representation of God functions in Paul's argument, especially in comparison to other Hellenistic Jewish idol polemics. While this is an argument made about the acceptability or non-acceptability of particular practices, it is an argument made on theological grounds, and these theological underpinnings have been largely unexplored. The majority of Paul's argument draws on streams of interpretation already existing in Judaism. But the role of Christ radically shapes Paul's theological grid and takes the polemic against idolatry in new directions. Both in terms of its communal impact and in terms of faithfulness to God, the controlling thought is the salvific role of Christ. Comparing Paul to other Hellenistic Jewish authors--especially in the way in which they represent God in their idol polemics--provides a clearer understanding of the coherence of Paul's argument. Paul draws on the breadth of representations of God in order to make a persuasive argument prohibiting the Corinthians from eating food sacrificed to idols.

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