Paul And His Contemporaries As Social Critics Of The Roman Stress On “Persona” -- By: V. Henry T. Nguyen

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 59:1 (NA 2008)
Article: Paul And His Contemporaries As Social Critics Of The Roman Stress On “Persona”
Author: V. Henry T. Nguyen

Paul And His Contemporaries As Social Critics Of The Roman Stress On “Persona”

A Study Of 2 Corinthians, Epictetus, And Valerius Maximus1

V. Henry T. Nguyen

This dissertation explores Paul’s approach to the social conflicts involving Christian identity in 2 Corinthians. In order to grasp the dynamics of ‘social identity’ in the world of the New Testament, this study examines the concept of persona, especially the Roman stress on persona, which denoted a person’s identity in the Graeco-Roman social world in the first century AD. In addition, this study examines Paul’s critique of social identity in light of two other figures—Epictetus and Valerius Maximus—and their critiques. All three social critics react against a conventional (or popular) view of persona, which is a large preoccupation with the superficial features that expressed identity and persona (e.g. rank, status, and eloquence). In the case of Paul, this study analyses the Corinthian correspondence, especially 2 Corinthians, to show that some of the conflicts in the Corinthian church resulted from the Christians’ adoption of the conventional values of identity that were prevalent in Corinth. Paul’s conflict with the Corinthians is clearly seen in their superficial assessment of his persona as lacking the appropriate credentials for an apostle (e.g. 2 Cor. 10:10). In order to combat this misconception of Christian identity in the church, Paul reacted to the Corinthians’ conventional values of identity by promoting and projecting a subversive Christ-like

identity, which is a visible embodiment of the dying and life of Jesus Christ.

In the introductory chapter, Chapter One, this study is explained to be interested in ‘social identity’—that is, an individual’s identity in society, and how that identity was perceived and used in social relations. In particular, this study is interested in looking at the social relations involving Christian identity. The introductory chapter also points out the significance and need of this study, since scholars of the New Testament and of ancient history have largely ignored the important ancient concept of persona which conveyed the notion of ‘social identity’ in the Graeco-Roman world. In particular, New Testament scholars have overlooked this social concept because they have not recognised a correlation between persona and πρόσωπον. The chapter additionally explains the method employed in this study to be a combined method of a social concept study, social history...

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