I am presenting a paper at a colloquium on theological interpretation this month. I put myself in for this last year, knowing full well that I would regret it but having committed to do it have to do something. This should hopefully be a reworking of the last chapter of my MTh thesis but I have been away from the material so long I'm worried even I'm not going to be convinced by my arguments! I'm going to get started on the paper in the next few days, be keen to hear any initial reaction or questions to the abstract. This will be my first proper presentation at an academic colloquium and there are some fairly heavy weight contributors so it will be inspiring and perhaps intimidating. It will hopefully also result in a book so will be a first publication for me so I will try not to screw it up!
Paul’s Unconventional Sexual Ethics: A Theological Reading of 1 Cor 6:12-20
David Horrell argues that Paul’s argument in 1 Cor 6:12 – 7:16 is based on the “presumption” that sex with a prostitute is illicit, while sex with a spouse, believing or not, is permitted. He claims that, “while Paul uses arguments about holiness and bodily union with Christ to support and promote his sexual ethics, the substantive ethical convictions themselves are not derived from these arguments but are already assumed.” Likewise, Bernard Lategan, in a study on Paul’s ethics in Galatians, comes to a similar conclusion: that the content of Paul’s ethics is merely conventional but that “Paul develops a new understanding of what ethical responsibility entails – an understanding that flows directly from his theological assessment of the new existence in faith.” Thus for Horrell and Lategan Paul’s motivation and responsibility for ethical behaviour may be transformed by his theology, but the actual ethics are both “universal” and “conventional.” In opposition to this view, this paper will give initial consideration to what a conventional 1st century ethic of prostitution might be, with particular reference to Josephus and Dio Chrysostom. Paul’s own ethic will then be explored revealing both a radical contrast to the conventional ethics of his contemporaries and a robustly theological ethic constructed from the perspectives of God, Christ, and the Spirit. Finally it will be argued that, in this instance, a theological reading of the text has served as a valuable corrective to the readings produced by the social science methodology of Horrell and others.