Paul and the Rhetoric of Reversal in 1 Corinthians (Malcolm): A Review

As I work to gather the treasure trove of new New Testament scholarship of 2013-2014 into a long PDF report or two, the mid-Atlantic and east coast of the U.S. are gearing up for violent winter storm Juno, which shall just graze us here in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but will dump several feet of snow on our neighbors to the northeast. In the meantime, you can feast on this recent review at Themelios of Matthew Malcolm’s recent work, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reversal in 1 Corinthians: The Impact of Paul’s Gospel on His Macro-Rhetoric, Cambridge 2013.

Malcolm is a sometimes blogger here at Corinthian Matters and runs his own blog with plentiful Corinthiaka at Cryptotheology. I saw him deliver a brilliant talk on the subject of his book (“kerygmatic rhetoric”) at the international meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature conference in London several years ago. I was not surprised to see this positive review.


Paul and the Rhetoric of Reversal in 1 CorinthiansHere’s the Abstract: “The first letter to the Corinthians is one of the most discussed biblical books in New Testament scholarship today. Despite this, there has been no consensus on its arrangement and central theme, in particular why the topic of the resurrection was left until the end of the letter, and what its theological significance would have been to the Corinthian church. Matthew R. Malcolm analyses this rhetoric of ‘reversal’, examines the unity of the epistle, and addresses key problems behind particular chapters. He argues that while Jewish and Greco-Roman resources contribute significantly to the overall arrangement of the letter, Paul writes as one whose identity and rhetorical resources of structure and imagery have been transformed by his preaching, or kerygma, of Christ. The study will be of interest to students of New Testament studies, Pauline theology and early Christianity.”

And a taste of Drake’s review at Themelios:

“The letter of 1 Corinthians is greatly discussed within New Testament scholarship. One of the matters that needs resolution is its arrangement and central theme. In other words, is there any particular reason as to why Paul begins with wisdom, proceeds to sexual immorality, then on to weak and strong brothers, the use of spiritual gifts, and then concludes with the resurrection? Is he addressing the greatest needs at Corinth first, or is there some reason as to why he has arranged the letter in this way? Several scholars have seen these issues within 1 Corinthians to be unrelated while others find a continuity of thought. Matthew Malcolm proposes that it is the nature of Paul’s preached message that accounts for the movement from cross and sacrifice to resurrection. He believes that this provides the better explanation over appeals to Greco-Roman rhetoric or Jewish literary methods….

Paul and the Rhetoric of Reversal in 1 Corinthians contributes significant data to the question of the coherence and arrangement of the epistle. It rightly accentuates how Paul’s message of the crucified and risen Messiah provides a key theme for considering the arrangement of the entirety of the letter. It also rightly encourages a theological and pastoral consideration of the letter. It will be of great interest to those working in Pauline theology, Corinthian studies, and rhetorical studies.”

Read the rest of the review here.

New Testament scholarship reports tomorrow or Wednesday, I hope.

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Categories: Books and Articles, Religion, 1 Corinthians, Religion, St. Paul

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