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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Built: (re)constructing masculinity and authority in 1 Corinthians 7 Wilkinson, Kevin Wayne


This thesis contains two movements. In the first chapter, I evaluate the Apostle Paul's self-presentation in the city of Corinth (as reconstructed through his Corinthian correspondence). Employing the insights of recent scholarship on gender in antiquity, I arrive at the conclusion that Paul's deficiency as a public speaker, his unnamed physical affliction, and possibly his circumcision combined to feminize his image. All three of these characteristics contravene the Greco-Roman canons of masculine appearance and deportment. And, although the social situation in Corinth is by no means clear, it appears that some were challenging Paul's leadership on the basis of his damaged masculinity. In chapters 2 and 3, I explore one element of the Apostle's self-presentation that may have ameliorated his problematic image: sexual renunciation. Self-control in the culture of antiquity was closely associated with the masculine activity par excellence, control over others. Thus, by simply practicing this virtue, Paul was making a meaningful statement both about his body and about his ability to lead. I go on, however, to identify the places in 1 Corinthians 7 (Paul's only extended treatment of marriage and celibacy) where he diverges from classical models of ascetic practice. I contend that these very alterations to the meaning of self-control further rehabilitate his damaged masculinity. This thesis is intended to be, not only a contribution to the social history of early Christianity, but also part of a broad movement in contemporary scholarship to destabilize the foundations of 'masculinity' in the West.

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