Skip to main content

Returning to Paul's Vision in 2 Cor 12



Mystic or Sarcastic? Visions and Revelations in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10.  Part 1


Many moons ago I suggested that the account of Paul's vision in 2 Corinthians 12 might not be 100% sincere but may in fact have been sarcasm or irony. At the end of last year I revisited this idea with a paper for ANZABS (Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Biblical Studies) and have become more convinced that this reading deserves consideration. The argument is far from complete at present. I suggest research needs to be done into the use of irony in Greek rhetoric and into accounts of visions in contemporary literature, and my own exegetical work is only cursory, however my hunch is that this further work would serve to confirm my thesis.



The question arose for me whilst researching 1 Corinthians a couple of years ago when I came across an article by Jorunn Økland, a Norwegian theologian at the university of Oslo. She compared  Paul’s understanding of the self in 1 Cor 15 with that of 2 Cor 12 and commented. “2 Corinthians 12 presents us with the nice taxonomies and sorted worldviews of 1 Corinthians 15 starting to dissolve and collapse when confronted with Paul's own boundary breaking experience. For how can Paul - and modern interpreters - mediate and negotiate his experience within the parameters of the taxonomy that the experience exceeds?" *

If this Paul had this incredible experience 14 years ago, how is it that he did not incorporate it into his anthropology and cosmology of 1 Corinthians? My studies in  1 Corinthians had convinced me of Paul’s commitment to somatic Christianity, rooted in physical reality, relationships and ethics of bodily life – this passage seemed to undermine that with its description of a potentially out-of-body experience. Surely when Paul was writing 1 Corinthians this extraordinary experience should left its mark on his theology? What could be a reason for this inconsistency? One possible reason would be that Paul did not have such a vision as 2 Cor 12 describes, but he is in fact using irony to mock his opponents. I will develop my argument for this in subsequent posts but for now I simply want to point out how unlike any of Paul's other recounted spiritual experiences is the vision of 2 Cor 12.

* Økland, Jorunn, “Genealogies of the Self: Materiality, Personal Identity, and the Body in Paul's Letters to the Corinthians” in Metamorphoses: Resurrection, Body and Transformative Practices in Early Christianity, Seim & Økland (eds), (New York, Walter de Gruyter, 2009) 83-108, p101

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why Dr Charles Stanley is not a biblical preacher

Unusually for me I was watching the tele early on Sunday morning and I caught an episode of Dr Charles Stanley preaching on his television program. Now I know this guy has come under some criticism for his personal life, and that is not unimportant, but it is also not something i can comment on, not knowing the facts. His preaching is however something I can comment on, at least the one sermon I did watch.

He started off by reading 2 Timothy 1:3-7. Which is a passage from the Bible, so far so good. He then spent the next 30 minutes or so talking about his mum and what a great example of a Christian mother she was. Now nothing he said or suggested was wrong, but none of it actually came from scripture, least of all the scripture he read from at the beginning. It was a lovely talk on how Stanley's mother raised him as a Christian despite considerable difficulties and it contained many useful nuggets of advice on raising Christian kids. All very nice, it might have made a nice…

The false link between suicide and mental illness

One characteristic of human society is the tendency to keep doing something over and over again despite it not working. One example would be our approach to incarcerating criminals to punish them instead of rehabilitating them, compounding their trauma and making it harder for them to live productive law-abiding lives when they get out. But this is the "common-sense" approach, the intuitive human response to the failings of others, punish them and they wont dare do it again. It has never worked, ever, but let's keep doing it. Secular society is screwed because it cannot comprehend that its vision is blurred by sin and therefore knee-jerk, common sense solutions are usually destructive and counter-productive.

So it is with our response to suicide. To kill yourself must be the response of the weak minded and sick - so the thinking goes - so to combat rising suicide we treat individuals medically. Yet suicide is a perfectly rational response to a world as broken as ours and…

The Addictive Power of End Times Speculation

The mighty Rhett Snell has picked up his blog again (I wonder how long he'll last this time), check out his theory on why people get so into annoyingly unbiblical end times nonsense.

I think that where codes-and-calendars end times theology is dangerous, is that it can give a sense of false growth. We read a theory online, or hear it from some bible teacher, and we come to think that we have mastered an area of our faith. A bit like levelling up in a computer game, or Popeye after he’s eaten some spinach. At worst, we begin to believe that we’ve taken a step that other Christians have not; that we’ve entered an elite class of Christianity.