Paul the spiritual guide : a social identity perspective on Paul's apostolic self-identity
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Scholarly understanding of Paul's self-conception in his use of the title 'apostle' has remained minimal throughout the history of biblical scholarship. Few have ventured to describe Paul's understanding of his apostolic self-identity beyond the basic notion of his being 'sent' to preach the gospel. The most frequent suggestions are that Paul understood himself to be a prophet or a philosopher. But these suggestions are faulty because they emerge from hermeneutical methods that are unable to discern how self-identity is revealed in discourse. The purpose of this thesis is two-fold. First, I attempt to clarify Paul's understanding of his apostolic self-identity. My research reveals that when Paul identified himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ to the Thessalonians and Corinthians he conceived of that identity within the conceptual framework of a spiritual guide. Paul believed that God was calling him to be a spiritual guide to the followers of Jesus in those cities, leading them from an initial faith in Jesus as Lord to the consummation of that relationship on the day of Jesus' return, guiding them through all the twists and turns along the way. Second, in developing this argument, I attempt to clarify a method of reading ancient texts with insights from the social sciences. I demonstrate that it is not only possible, but that at times it is necessary to use the social sciences in order to further our hermeneutical abilities for understanding biblical texts.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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