May, Alistair Scott
The body for the Lord : sex and identity in 1st Corinthians 5-7.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This thesis attempts to contribute to the study of identity formation in early Christianity by exploring the part played in this by sexual ethics. To this end it focuses on 1Corinthians 5-7, as the longest discussion of sex in the New Testament. Unlike many previous studies, this study sets out to consider these chapters as a unified discourse, and to consider them in the wider context of the epistle as a whole.
The study engages in a close reading of the discourse, paying attention to how Paul's ethical instructions themselves, and his rhetoric (used to describe and evaluate insiders and outsiders), contribute to establishing Christian identity. It examines how convictions about Christian ethics and identity govern relations with outsiders, internal regulation, and reactions to social institutions. Particular attention is paid to Paul's 'body language' and what it might reveal about the relations of individual, Christian group and wider society in Paul's thought.
Chapter one explores the concept of identity. It argues that identity is largely dependent on the subjective perception and evaluation of difference. The work of anthropologist Frederik Barth and social psychologist Henri Tajfel are used to reflect upon how social identities interact, both at the psychological level of the individual and at the sociological level of the group, and to provide resources for the study of 1Cor. It is noted that social groups require to establish a positive social identity for their members, and that this is always comparative in nature. How such comparisons operate, how they generate group stereotypes, and how the language of ingroup/outgroup comparison can be used to control the activity of ingroup members, are also explored. Chapter two examines the lessons learned with a brief consideration of the discourses of some Roman writers. It investigates how they used sexual ethics and rhetoric in the maintenance of group identity and the process of group control. Chapter three then takes an overview of 1Cor, considering the context into which Paul writes and the objectives he has in writing. In particular it explores Paul's rhetoric in 1Cor 1-4, and how his description and evaluation of insider and outsider serves to construct identity and control behaviour.
The remaining chapters scrutinise 1Cor 5-7 in depth.
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