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Durham e-Theses
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Pain and Paradox: The Transformative Function of Strength in Weakness in 2 Corinthians

WHITE, BENJAMIN,GRANT (2019) Pain and Paradox: The Transformative Function of Strength in Weakness in 2 Corinthians. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 25 January 2022.

Abstract

This thesis first outlines the consensus that 2 Corinthians is a defense or an exposition of Paul's apostleship, in which Paul confronts a rebellious community with his experience of strength in weakness (e.g. 4.7a; 12.9-10). However, this major motif is rarely analyzed as a theological paradox despite being presented as two opposed but simultaneously true realities. More importantly, interpreters have not considered its relevance to the most immediate context of 2 Corinthians: a pained community (2.1-7; 7.5-16). This thesis considers the purpose of 2 Corinthians in light of Paul's paradox of strength in weakness, especially the extent to which Paul actively ministers to the Corinthians: consoling, instructing, and explaining how Christ redeems their brokenness.

An investigation of the Corinthian situation explores the use of λύπη (pain) in antiquity and considers whether the community's pains in 2.1-7 are distinct from their short-lived 'godly grief' (7.5-16). It is argued that these pains are ongoing and that the Corinthians understand weakness merely in opposition to strength, thus embodying a polarity of strength or weakness. An analysis of texts concerning strength in weakness (1.3-11; 4.7-15; 6.1-13) clarifies the nature of Paul's paradox, distinguishes it from a polarity, relates these dynamics to the literary integrity debate, and demonstrates how experiencing the paradox would enable the Corinthians' reconciliation with Paul.

Finally, an analysis of the theological climax, 12.1-10, distinguishes the proposed transformative function of the paradox from ontological and revelatory interpretations. The central thesis is that Paul presents his experience as a paradigm by which the community learns how Christ can transform their experience of pains through the strength in weakness paradox. This suggests that 2 Corinthians is neither primarily nor generally concerned with Paul's apostleship; rather, it is a pastoral document that aims to increase human potential through weakness, without rendering that weakness inherently redemptive.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:pain; paradox; weakness; pastoral; Paul; 2 Corinthians; Corinth
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:07 Feb 2019 15:03

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