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Paul's Emotional Regime: The Social Function of Emotion in Philippians and 1 Thessalonians

JEW, YUN,SHERN,IAN (2017) Paul's Emotional Regime: The Social Function of Emotion in Philippians and 1 Thessalonians. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This study is an investigation of the function of emotion in the social formation of the believers in the Pauline churches. In his letters, Paul speaks often of his own emotions, and also promotes certain emotions while banishing others; all this surely indicates that emotion has an important role to play within the believing community. However, in New Testament studies, the study of emotion is still at an embryonic stage. This thesis, which represents the first thesis-length treatment of emotion in the Pauline letter corpus, attempts to take the discussion forward. It argues that for Paul, emotions are integral to the proper formation and stabilizing of Christian identity and community, because they encode structures of belief and influence patterns of sociality.

Chapter 1 reviews the nascent scholarship on emotion in Paul’s letters and the wider New Testament, and also surveys the state of play of emotions research in the sciences and social sciences. In chapter 2, we examine emotion in Stoicism, the dominant philosophical influence of the day, focusing particularly on joy and grief—the two emotions that we take up and investigate exegetically in chapters 3 and 4, which concern, respectively, joy in Philippians, and grief in 1 Thessalonians. Finally, in chapter 5, we enlist the sociological notion of the “emotional regime” to explore how authorized emotions are constructed and reinforced in the Pauline communities. I conclude by offering an account of emotion in Paul, contrasting it with Stoic thinking.

Taking its cue from current emotions research, which highlights the cognitive and social dimensions of emotion, this thesis proposes that as Paul sees it, right patterns of feeling stem from, and indeed embody, right patterns of belief, and that the social display of sanctioned emotions upbuilds the communal life of the believers. Furthermore, such right emotions, by squaring felt experience with held beliefs, and demarcating social boundaries between Christians and others, have powerful integrating and differentiating functions that profoundly influence identity and belonging. These conclusions have potentially far-reaching implications for our overall understanding of the social formation of the early believers, not least in terms of how a hitherto neglected aspect of that socialization—Paul’s emphasis on the affective dimensions of personal and communal life—is brought into active conversation with the theological realities that were believed to shape all of human existence and the practices that undergirded and sustained these beliefs.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:03 May 2017 14:29

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