Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Thesis Proposal

For those who might be interested, what follows is the research proposal which I will be pursuing half time for the next two years. 40,000 words later and I will have my masters degree! I have just started reading towards this today and will be sharing questions and insights from my research with you as things go on, so here it is. Let me know what you think :)

[edit: in response to comments about the accessibility of this post a translation is provided here]

Paul's Somatic Ecclesiology: The background, function and effect
of ‘τὸ σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ’ as a metaphor for the Church

Σῶμα is a significant concept in Pauline theology, and ‘τὸ σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ’ is perhaps even more so in Pauline ecclesiology. However there is no consensus as to how the phrase should be understood. As a Hellenised Jew the apostle Paul could have potentially drawn upon Hebrew anthropology, Greek anthropology and Greek political philosophy to construct ‘the body of Christ’ as a metaphor for the Church. This thesis will examine Paul’s use of this metaphor in the four principal scriptural loci in which it is found, i.e. Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians and Colossians.

The primary methodology of research will be detailed grammatico-historical exegesis of the texts and consideration of the rhetorical intention of the letters in the respective situations to which they were written. However, where theological or sociological insights are informative they will be employed. It is expected that the exegesis will illuminate which anthropological or philosophical source or sources Paul is drawing on to construct the metaphor. Once a reading of the individual texts has been completed they will be compared in order to examine how the function of ‘the body of Christ’ differs in each respective rhetorical context, if at all. Finally the contributions of the findings for Pauline theology will be explicated, with particular focus on ecclesiology. The thesis will hence be significant for reflection on contemporary ecclesiology and church praxis and for engagement with a number of interpretive conversations currently centred on these texts.


  1. Best of luck with your thesis, Jon. I am interested, not sure how much I'll understand... your thesis sounds very intellectual and clever :)

  2. Thanks Faye. Well that is one reason why I am doing this blog. I have to write like that, in order to be understood in the academic world. But I need to be able to write in a way that people who don't read books for a living (most of us) will appreciate as well. In fact I'm finding the really clever thing is to write about these sort of ideas without all the academic technical language. So this blog is practice for me in doing that.

  3. As interesting as this sounds - believe me, I am very interested - you seem to be violating one of your blog intentions "keeping things totally accessible" with this blog.
    I've just read your previous comment to Faye, but this blog doesn't reflect that.

    Having just said that, I will be following very closely the developments in your thesis... and maybe even get around to sending you some of my thoughts.