Paul and the image of God
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In this thesis, I make the following case. (1) While instances of the imago Dei in biblical and second-temple Jewish sources are diverse and pluriform, they are nonetheless illuminating for Paul’s imago Dei theology. (2) However, this theology is best explained on the hypothesis that Paul, like Philo and the author of Wisdom, made use of ‘intermediary speculation’ in which the kosmos came into being via an intermediary ‘figure’: in the latter’s case sophia and/or the logos and in Paul’s case the pre-existent Jesus. (3) In this connection, while the resources of the Jewish wisdom tradition (e.g. Prov. 8; Sir. 1; 24; 1 En. 42; Wis. 7; and Bar. 3–4) did not provide Paul with the precision afforded by the ‘prepositional metaphysics’ of the philosophical tradition (cf. 1 Cor. 8.6; and Col. 1.15–20; cp. John 1.3, 10; and Heb. 1.2), the general contours of that tradition—in which sophia attended to the creation, maintenance and salvation of the kosmos—were appreciated and appropriated in Paul’s imago Dei theology. (4) Beyond this, a few features of Paul’s imago Dei theology—especially his collocation of εἰκών (‘image’) and πρωτότοκος (‘firstborn’) (cf. Rom. 8.29; and Col. 1.15) and his ‘teleological’ construal of the imago Dei conception, in which Jesus serves as the archetypal ‘image’ to which believers will ultimately be conformed (2 Cor. 3.18; Rom. 8.29; cp. Phil. 3.21)—strongly suggest that Paul was here influenced (directly or indirectly) by Middle Platonic intermediary doctrine. (5) On the basis of points (2) through (4), therefore, it is wisdom christology, rather than Adam (and/or ‘imperial’) christology, which serves as the principal background of Paul’s ‘image christology’. This ‘image christology’, furthermore, in which Jesus serves as the protological and cosmogonical image of God, is an instance of ‘christological monotheism’. In this regard, Jesus is included in the one activity (creation) which most clearly demarcates the ‘unique divine identity’ in second-temple Jewish thought. (6) Finally, my argument concerning the way in which Paul adapts certain features of the philosophical imago Dei tradition encourages a fresh reading of two major Pauline texts: 2 Corinthians 2.17–4.6; and Colossians 1.15–20; 3.10. In these texts, I contend, Paul casts essentially inner-Jewish debates in philosophical dress. While the substantive issues are ‘inner-Jewish’ issues, Paul presents his opponents and/or opposing views as bound up with a futile and/or deceitful philosophy, while he presents himself and his sympathisers as people who attain to the telos of true philosophy: the image of God (2 Cor. 3.18; and Col. 3.10; cp. Rom. 8.29).
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2023-11-06
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 6th November 2023
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