UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Paul and the body in I Corinthians Iddon, Miranda


The purpose of my thesis is to understand the way Paul of Tarsus uses notions of the human body in I Corinthians. Paul's theories of the body have strong links to the Judaism of the late Second Temple Period and first-century Greek culture. These became strong influences in the way he regarded the human body and its application to resolving issues in his undisputed letters. The main themes concern the immaterial aspects of the body, and the individual body as a reflection of the greater social body. Within Greek culture, immaterial aspects of the body were highly regarded, which often caused the material fleshly body to be disregarded. However, Proto-Rabbinic Jewish perceptions towards the body heavily influenced Paul to take the opposite stance from the Greek and argue for a different view of the body. Paul also used the metaphor of a united-individual body to reflect the importance of the united social body for the purpose of eliminating arguments and divisions within the Corinthian community. Three of Paul’s central themes regarding the perception of the body are unity, purity, and bodily control. Unity related to whether the body is itself united and how it relates with other individual bodies as part of the social body, which is created and maintained through control and purity. Paul indicates that when the physical body is controlled and kept pure, all aspects of the body, both material and immaterial, can then honour God. Through this communication, Paul argues against the duality of body and soul and advocates a unity between the material and immaterial parts of the body. Purity can be regarded as a form of protection and control; however, it does take on different forms when related to aspects of the body. Purity is concerned with maintaining the holiness of the body and thus producing a reflection of God. Control of the body is necessary for abstaining from sins that will negatively affect the body. Paul's teachings concerning the body affect the individual body, but have a greater purpose in maintaining the cohesiveness of the social body.

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