Bradley Bitner’s new book on Paul’s political theology, published last month with Cambridge University Press, looks to offer an interesting approach to understanding the opening chapters of the New Testament letter of 1 Corinthians. Here are the details from the publisher page:
Bitner, Bradley J. Paul’s Political Strategy in 1 Corinthians 1-4. Cambridge University Press, 2015.
Introduction: constituting the argument
Part I. Constitution and Covenant in Corinth:
1. Paul and politics
2. Law and life
3. The Corinthian constitution
4. Traces of covenant in Corinth
5. Constituting Corinth, Paul, and the assembly
Part II. Constitution and Covenant in 1 Corinthians 1:1-4:6:
6. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 and the politics of thanksgiving
7. 1 Corinthians 3:5-4:5 and the politics of construction
Conclusion: comparison of constitutions.
This volume examines 1 Corinthians 1-4 within first-century politics, demonstrating the significance of Corinth’s constitution to the interpretation of Paul’s letter. Bradley J. Bitner shows that Paul carefully considered the Roman colonial context of Corinth, which underlay numerous ecclesial conflicts. Roman politics, however, cannot account for the entire shape of Paul’s response. Bridging the Hellenism-Judaism divide that has characterised much of Pauline scholarship, Bitner argues that Paul also appropriated Jewish-biblical notions of covenant. Epigraphical and papyrological evidence indicates that his chosen content and manner are best understood with reference to an ecclesial politeia informed by a distinctively Christ-centred political theology. This emerges as a ‘politics of thanksgiving’ in 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 and as a ‘politics of construction’ in 3:5-4:5, where Paul redirects gratitude and glory to God in Christ. This innovative account of Paul’s political theology offers fresh insight into his pastoral strategy among nascent Gentile-Jewish assemblies.