Imitatio Christi (1 Corinthians 11:1): How Paul Imitates Jesus Christ in Dealing with Idol Food (1 Corinthians 8-10) -- By: Seyoon Kim Fuller

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 13:2 (NA 2003)
Article: Imitatio Christi (1 Corinthians 11:1): How Paul Imitates Jesus Christ in Dealing with Idol Food (1 Corinthians 8-10)
Author: Seyoon Kim Fuller


Imitatio Christi (1 Corinthians 11:1): How Paul Imitates Jesus Christ in Dealing with Idol Food (1 Corinthians 8-10)

Seyoon Kim Fuller

Theological Seminary

The importance of the theme of imitatio Christi in Paul has long been recognized in scholarship, especially with regard to the two questions: Pauline ethic and the Jesus-Paul debate. It is argued here that imitatio Christi for Paul, while centered on Christ’s self-giving in his incarnation and crucifixion, has the example and teaching of the historical Jesus also in view, and that in dealing with the problem of eidōlothuta in 1 Cor 8-10 Paul concretely draws some of his guidelines from the historical Jesus’ teaching and example.

Key Words: imitation of Christ, “the law of Christ,” Paul’s use of the Jesus tradition, the Jesus-Paul debate, Pauline ethic, idol food, the weak and the strong

In 1 Cor 11:1 Paul calls the Corinthian Christians to imitate him, basing this call on the fact that he himself is an imitator of Christ. So in the passage Paul is calling them in effect to imitate Christ (cf. also 1 Cor 4:16-17; Phil 3:10, 17; 1 Thess 1:6). The same idea seems to be involved when he sets forth Christ as an example for his readers to follow (Rom 15:1-3, 7; 2 Cor 8:9; Phil 2:5-8). But what of Christ does Paul himself imitate? How does he imitate it? What example of Christ does Paul ask his readers to imitate?

1. The Reductionism Of Critical Protestant Scholarship

Critical Protestant scholarship has shown a tendency to affirm that with the thought of imitatio Christi Paul has in view only Christ’s self-giving in his incarnation and death but not the historical Jesus’ teaching and

Author’s note: An abbreviated version of this essay was presented as a main paper at the annual meeting of IBR in Toronto on November 23, 2002.

example. So, for example, Otto Merk in his essay “Nachahmung Christi” claims that with his demand for imitation of Christ Paul “refers … to the inimitable event of the cross, … to the imitation of the pre-existent one, … to the ‘that’ of Jesus’ having come, … to the saving act of God,” but not “to t...

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