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Love, Self-Gift, and the Incarnation: Christology and Ethics in Galatians, in the Context of Pauline Theology and Greco-Roman Philosophy

WILLIAMS, LOGAN,ALEXANDER (2020) Love, Self-Gift, and the Incarnation: Christology and Ethics in Galatians, in the Context of Pauline Theology and Greco-Roman Philosophy. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 04 March 2023.


This thesis argues that it is insufficient to define love in Paul as the rejection of all forms of self-interest for the sake of others. In certain scholarly works on Paul, foregrounding Paul’s statements that contrast love with self-interest leads to an interpretative imbalance which distorts or ignores other aspects of love. Situating Paul in the context of Greco-Roman philosophical tradition will open up different interpretative possibilities: for some Greek and Roman authors, loving behaviour does not intend to benefit only the other but rather to construct or to reinforce a relationship of shared interests, in which multiple parties benefit, as an end in itself (chapter two). This thesis uses Galatians as a test case to consider whether Paul’s christology and ethics bear any similarity to this view. Turning to the language of self-giving, chapter three argues that the key phrases διδόναι ἑαυτόν (1.4) and παραδιδόναι ἑαυτόν (2.20) refer in part to Jesus giving himself as gift; in light of other authors who discuss self-gifts, this language signals not that Christ gives himself away in death but that through his death he gives himself into relationship. Chapter four contends that Jesus, in his incarnation, participates in the Jewish human condition to establish believers as actors and to construct an irreducibly mutually beneficial fellowship between God and humanity. Chapter five claims that Paul’s descriptions of prosocial behaviour in Galatians are patterned after his incarnational christology and encourage believers to identify with each other in order to reinforce a relationship of shared interests. This interpretation demonstrates that it is insufficient to describe love in Paul only in terms such as ‘selflessness’, or ‘self-sacrifice’, since they inevitably fail to capture how Paul idealises the ‘sacrifice’ only of the competitive self, and he portrays love as intended to gain the other to fellowship.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Love, Gift, Incarnation, Paul, Christology, Galatians
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:28 Apr 2020 12:22

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