New College, University of Edinburgh

New in the Oxford Handbook of Pauline Studies: Laura Dingeldein on Paul the Letter-Writer

“In examining the ways in which letter writing helped Paul achieve his goals of positioning, community building, and moral formation, I consider evidence from Paul’s own letters, other primary sources from the classical Mediterranean, and recent scholarly literature on ancient epistolography. As will become clear in the ensuing pages, my arguments regarding the functions of the epistolary genre rely primarily on the claims of intellectuals belonging to the upper social, political, and economic echelons of the classical Mediterranean (such as Greek philosophers, Roman statesmen, and epistolary theorists). My reliance on evidence from the upper echelon of ancient Mediterranean culture is, in part, unavoidable: ancient writings on the functions of the epistolary genre tend to come from the hands of those occupying this stratum of society. However, my use of this evidence also betrays my own understanding of Paul’s educational background, his place among ancient Mediterranean letter writers, and his location in the world of Roman religion. In short, I am convinced by others who have argued cogently for an understanding of Paul as a literate, freelance religious specialist who displayed intellectual and textual skills as he worked to promote the Christ movement among Gentiles (see, e.g., Wendt 2016). These intellectual and textual skills can be seen in Paul’s use of rhetorical devices, his deployment of basic philosophical concepts, and his interpretation of sacred Judaean writings. Paul’s skills in these areas suggest that Paul had some intellectual and educational affinities with philosophers like Seneca and aristocratic statesman like Cicero, even if there were still noticeable differences between Paul and these Romans in terms of their ethnicities, political stations, social statuses, economic means, and degrees of education.”

–Laura Dingeldein, “Paul the Letter-Writer,” in Oxford Handbook of Pauline Studies

  • CSCO Team,
  • 14th July 2020

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