Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Von Thaden and "slogans" in 1 Cor 6:12-20

A few posts back I shared about my article, the excitingly titled, "The Argument against Attributing Slogans in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20", published in the Journal for the Study of Paul and his Letters. Long term readers of the blog will know that that was based on work done for my Masters thesis way back in 2010. But that is biblical scholarship for you, the wheels generally grind slowly (or not at all).

Anyway, I'm still returning to 1 Cor 6:12-20, there is plenty more to say on the matter (although I promise I do have other interests!) and while doing some research for something else I came across the even more excitingly titled Sex, Christ, and Embodied Cognition: Paul's Wisdom for Corinth by Robert H. von Thaden. His book was published around the same time as my article was under review, so there was no opportunity for us to use each other's work, but we arrive at very similar conclusions.

Obviously you'll have to read the book to get the detailed argument, but von Thaden begins by arguing, far more directly than I have, that the slogan hypothesis is not motivated by exegesis but historical construction.

. . . the genesis of various slogan hypotheses, like that of partition theories from the last century, is the desire to  resolve what scholars view as unsettling or intractable interpretive difficulties. . . a reconsideration of the function of various slogan hypotheses allows for a more nuanced reading of Paul's didactic rhetoric in 1 Cor 6:12-7:7. (p.197)

Like me, von Thaden's concern is that these reconstructions make a mess of the flow of Paul's thought, and he employs the category of didactic rhetoric to argue that Paul inventively uses many different sources to construct his argument, but in doing so does not refute them but employs all the elements together to persuade his audience. So, even if the so-called slogans are phrases that the Corinthians employ as "slogans", that still does not justify dismembering them from Paul's composite rhetorical structure.

Rather than resort to so-called slogans that purport to tell biblical scholars what is taking place "behind" Paul's letter, it makes more exegetical and rhetorical sense to read Paul's teaching 6:12-7:7 as a coherent example of didactic rhetoric . . . (p.199)

I believe that this interpretation restores a rhetorical integrity to the argument found in 6:12-7:7 that the search for Pauline opponents has obscured. (p.201)

So It is very encouraging to find someone following a similar line of thought to me but arriving there independently. I haven't had time to read the whole book, but the bits I have dipped into seem well written and to be extremely thoroughly researched, so check it out if you are into Paul, 1 Corinthians, or things like that! :-) I'll leave the last word to my new friend von Thaden:

I modestly suggest that handling the difficulties of 1 Cor 6:12-7:7 with slogan hypotheses, at least as they have traditionally been deployed in historical-critical studies, creates more problems than it solves. Paul certainly appropriated insights from all manner of resources, but given how paradoxical his thinking is I think it makes the best exegetical sense to put Paul back in control of his argument and to read 1 Cor 6:12-7:7 "without quotation marks."  (p.202)

Let me know what you think! :-)

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