Body now and not yet: an exegetical study of the Apostle Paul’s anthropology, eschatology, and ethics in first Corinthians
Martini, Jeromey Quinn
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My study is a first step toward understanding the lived experience of the earliest followers of Christ. Restricting my study to Paul’s portrayal of believers in 1 Corinthians, I focus where Paul’s anthropology, eschatology, and ethics converge, asking: How does Paul propose believers live as bodies in the eschatological tension that comprises Christ’s resurrection and return – believers belonging still to the κόσμος, already to Christ? My primary aim is to establish the premises that in 1 Corinthians believers are indistinguishable from bodies: believers are bodies. I establish my premiss by closely examining Paul’s concept of death as he argues it in 1 Corinthians 15. I argue that there Paul portrays believers consistently as bodies: whether bodies dead or bodies alive, believers are bodies. My aim, secondarily, is to relate that premiss to the believer’s lived experience as Paul portrays it. If Paul portrays believers always as bodies, how does he expect believers-as-bodies to live in the world as he conceives it? I apply my premiss to Paul’s contention in 1 Corinthians 6 that πορνεία uniquely violates the body. Before unpacking Paul’s argument about πορνεία and the body, however, I first address the question: What is πορνεία? After reviewing competing proposals on πορνεία’s meaning, I examine primary Second Temple sources on πορνεία before proposing that πορνεία functions in the Second Temple period chiefly as an othering term, distinguishing the faithful from ‘Others’. I then turn to 1 Corinthians 6.12-20 and Paul’s argument concerning believers-as-bodies and πορνεία. I conclude that Paul there presents believers as bodies that belong already materially to the Lord, though they belong still to the κόσμος that contests the Lord. Believers are bodies ‘in Christ’, in the κόσμος, constituent of each. I approach Paul exegetically and ideationally. I read Paul’s arguments and their inherent logics as they present themselves to me and I defend my reading of them. I make no claims about the social reality Paul’s arguments represent, nor do I claim either a foundational or a final reading of 1 Corinthians, Paul, or Paul’s followers. I offer in the end the barest beginning of an examination of the lived experience of the earliest recorded followers of Christ – a platform from which to consider more broadly lived experiences in Christian origins. I achieve a perspective from which to assess Paul’s followers, concluding with some ideas for further study.