Paul and empire : patronage in the Pauline rhetoric of 1 Corinthians 4:14-21

Van Wyk, Roelof Reinout (2011-12)

Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In reading the letters of Paul to the community in Corinth, it becomes apparent that Paul communicated from a position of authority. Given the existence of the mighty Roman Empire at the time of Paul’s writings, it raises questions regarding the ways such Empire would have affected Paul. This study assesses the possibility that Paul was influenced, not only by the material Roman world, but also by the socio-political and social-cultural dynamics of the Roman order. Paul may have utilised such order, but as spiritual leader, he could also have opposed it to his own ends and aims. The purpose of this study is to investigate such dynamism. The point of departure is, firstly to briefly discuss the nature of the Roman Empire that filled the ancient Roman world with coinage, statues, temples, poetry, song and public rhetoric. The ubiquitous Roman Empire enforced itself through power dynamics constituted in physical force, rhetoric, the patronage system and the Imperial Cult. Patronage operated in tandem with other aspects of the imperial system as a means of social control. It leads, therefore, to a more focussed investigation of patronage as one of the significant dimensions of Empire. Honour, prestige and status disparity governed social relations through complex, reciprocal relationships. No one was immune to the social tug-of-war, and within this context, Paul engaged in his Corinthian correspondence. Paul’s first Corinthian correspondence, specifically 1 Cor 4:14-21, is then comparatively investigated in the light of patronage as dimension of Empire. Paul integrated values such as honour and shame, and used the system of patronage in order to achieve his objectives with the Corinthian community. The socio-rhetorical analysis of this section of Paul’s correspondence investigates socio-cultural, intertextual and ideological aspects of the text. 1 Cor 4:14-21 is the culmination of the first part of Paul’s argument for ὁμόνια (concord), and he empowers his deliberation through patronage. He positions himself uniquely as father of the community, which empowers him with patria potestas (absolute authority). He also describes the way the Corinthians should bestow honour upon themselves. Paul’s use of a challenge-riposte and encomium brings all the weight of his argument to bear, upon his mimetic command to μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε (be imitators of me). The findings of this study indicate that Paul also opposes Empire in various ways. He opposes patronage, when he champions allegiance to an alternative Κύριος (Lord) that represents an alternative kingdom. He acts as a broker between Christ and the community, but the reciprocal relationship consists of shameful behaviour. Paul’s application of patronage does not serve to enhance his social position and poses a significant challenge to the norms of patronage in the Empire. The patent and unresolved tension within his rhetoric stretches between liberal use of patronage, and his opposition of aspects of the imperial order, such as patronage and the abuse of power. This leads to the conclusion that Paul still subjected the attributes of Empire to his own objectives. He had more than a purely political or merely spiritual agenda in mind and ultimately this remains the power and mystery of his argument.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: By die lees van die sendbriewe van Paulus aan die jong Christelike gemeente in Korinte val dit op dat Paulus, hoewel in herderlike trant, vanuit ’n gesagsposisie tot die gemeente spreek. Gesien die tyd waarin Paulus geleef het, ’n tydperk van die bestaan van die magtige Romeinse Ryk, rys die vraag onwillekeurig of Paulus as geestelike leier van opkomende gemeentes nie enigermate deur die heersende Romeinse maatskaplike orde beïnvloed is nie. In die onderhawige studie word die moontlikheid van nader betrag dat die sosiaal-politieke en sosiaalkulturele aspekte van die Romeinse bestel Paulus wel kon beïnvloed het. Die wyse waarop Paulus sodanige orde sou kon aanwend of moontlik teëstaan word ondersoek. Die vertrekpunt is dus om allereers die aard van die Romeinse Ryk - gekenmerk deur ‘n eie muntstelsel, tallose standbeelde, tempels, digkuns, sang en openbare retoriek - in hooftrekke uiteen te sit. Die uitgebreide Ryk het sy mag gevestig en gehandhaaf deur middel van kragdadigheid, retoriek, weldoenerskap en die Keiserkultus. Ter verdieping van die ondersoek word weldoenerskap as onderdeel van die Romeinse sosiaalpolitieke orde in fyner besonderhede beskou. Daaruit blyk dat beskermheerskap ter ondersteuning gedien het ten einde doeltreffender maatskaplike beheer uit te oefen. ‘n Verfynde wisselwerking het - deur middel van die dinamiek van eer, aansien en mag - sosiale verhoudings en gedrag beheer: niemand was teen die woelinge van die sosiale stryd gevrywaar nie. Dit was teen hierdie agtergrond van die werklikheid van die magtige Romeinse imperium dat Paulus met die Korintiërs gekorrespondeer het. Paulus word daarna vergelykenderwys ondersoek aan die hand van die gedeelte uit sy brief aan die Korintiërs soos gevind in 1 Kor 4:14-21. Daarin beroep hy hom op waardes soos eer en skaamte, terwyl hy die stelsel van weldoenerskap aanwend ten einde sy oogmerke met die gemeente te bereik. Die sosio-retoriese analise van hierdie gedeelte van Paulus se sendbrief ondersoek sosiaal-kulturele, intertekstuele en ideologiese aspekte van die brief. 1 Kor 4:14-21 is die hoogtepunt van die eerste gedeelte van Paulus se betoog vir ὁμόνια (eenheid) en hy versterk sy argument deur middel van weldoenerskap. Op uitsonderlike wyse posisioneer hy hom as vader van die gemeente: in sy betoog beklee hy hom met patria potestas (absolute gesag). Paulus se gebruik van ‘n challenge-riposte en van ‘n inkomium verleen groter seggenskrag aan sy direktief om hom na te volg; μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε (volg my na). Die uitkoms van hierdie studie is dat Paulus die imperiale orde ook op verskeie wyses sterk teëstaan. Wat Paulus verkondig het te make met ‘n alternatiewe Κύριος (Heer) en ‘n gans andersoortige koninkryk. Hy tree op as ‘n bemiddelaar (broker) tussen Christus en die gemeenskap, maar poog nie om sosiale bevordering te bewerkstellig, soos bepaal deur die norme van die imperial orde nie. Daar is dus ‘n aanwesige spanning in Paulus se retoriek wat dui daarop dat Paulus dimensies van die Ryk, soos weldoenerskap, ondergeskik gestel het aan sy eie doelwitte. Die slotsom waartoe geraak word, is dat by Paulus meer as suiwer politieke motivering enersyds, of bloot geestelike motivering andersyds, aanwesig was. Hierin is sowel die krag as die misterie van sy betoog geleë.

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