Imitation Of Paul And The Church’s Missionary Role In 1 Corinthians -- By: Robert L. Plummer
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Imitation Of Paul And The Church’s
Missionary Role In 1 Corinthians
[* Robert Plummer is instructor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2825 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY 40280.]
Did Paul want the churches he founded to engage in active missionary work? Though an affirmative response to this question has long been assumed by a majority of scholars, 1 this traditional understanding has recently been seriously questioned. 2 One point of contention in the debate is
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the meaning of Paul’s commands to imitate him. 3 Did Paul in fact expect his readers to imitate him in evangelism? 4 The present study will seek to answer this question by studying the imitation texts in 1 Corinthians. The objective is to discover, according to Paul’s explicit indications, whether his commands to imitate him include an evangelistic component.
I. The Broader Context Of Paul’s Imitation
Command In 1 Corinthians 11:1
Just as the modern English injunction “imitate me” is inherently ambiguous, only the context of Paul’s command clarifies what sort of imitation he expected. 5 Before turning to the immediate context of Paul’s imitation
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command in 1 Cor 11:1, we first need to investigate its broader epistolary setting. 1 Cor 11:1 appears at the close of Paul’s response to the Corinthians’ division over eating εἰδωλόθυτον, “idol meat” (chaps. 8–10). 6 Certain “strong” 7 members of the Corinthian community are eating meat sacrificed to idols (8:1–9) and attending “non-religious” banquets that gather in pagan temples (8:10–11). 8 “Weak” members of the community, however, view such activities as having religious significance and are themselves being incited to partake in such meals. From the weak members’ viewpoint, when they “give in” and partake of questionable food, they engage in idolatrous syncretism. Thus, the weak are being led to s...
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