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- 1 Corinthians.; Wisdom.; Rhetoric.; Philosophy.; Stoicism.; Paul.
thesis / dissertation description
Against recent trends, this dissertation argues that the divisive “wisdom” addressed in 1 Corinthians can be characterized most nearly as a Christian development of Stoic philosophy, espoused mainly by a few individuals among the church’s wealthier and more educated members. Though Stoic connections with the Corinthians’ wisdom have long been noted, in considering the possibility of philosophical training in the church no study to date has had recourse to the refined socio-economic data that has emerged over the last ten years. Still less has anyone attempted to cull the full breadth of evidence for the Stoic thesis from across the whole of the letter. The present dissertation attempts to draw all of this data together for the first time. The dissertation unfolds in six chapters. The first chapter offers a general introduction and a history of Corinthians scholarship on “wisdom.” Chapter 2 argues that the regnant, rhetorical thesis (to which the Stoic thesis is offered as an alternative) owes more to its account of the eminence of rhetoric in Corinth’s broader social milieu and to the methodological trends in current Corinthians scholarship than it does to careful analysis of exegetical, lexicographical, and historical details. Chapter 3 addresses the question of methodology. It is argued that reconstruction should begin, not with a mirror-reading of Paul’s denials (e.g., 1:17; 2:1, 4, 13), but rather with the full gamut of Corinthian language quoted and of Corinthian problems narrated throughout the letter. Chapter 4 attempts to construct a profile of the church’s social world, paying especial attention to the socio-economic status of church members and the question whether any may have received some formal philosophical training. Chapter 5 brings the study to its culmination. Treating the full spectrum of Corinthian language and problems seen in the letter, it is argued that an essentially Stoic perspective provides a unifying explanation for all the letter’s dominating topics, and is the only single perspective that can satisfactorily do so. Chapter 6 provides a concluding summary and reflections on why the Stoic thesis has not yet been widely accepted.