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Todd Penner & Caroline Vander Stichele Unveiling Paul: Gendering Ethos in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16


Der hier vertretene Ansatz spricht zunächst einige Probleme der bisherigen Zugänge zu 1Kor an, die entweder die theologischen Aussagen, die historische Situation oder die kulturelle Verankerung der paulinischen Argumentation als Selbstzweck hervorheben. Anstatt zu schnell die Situation “hinter dem Text” rekonstruieren zu wollen, wird in diesem Beitrag eine sozio-rhetorische Interpretationsmethode angewendet, die Pauli Argumente als Argumentation in den Vordergrund stellt. Er widmet besondere Aufmerksamkeit dem Hintergrund der rhetorischen Kunst im breiteren Bild der sozio-kulturellen Topoi und ihrem ideologischen Kontext im griechisch-römischen Reich des ersten Jahrhunderts gewöhnlicher Zeitrechnung und untersucht besonders ihre Umgestaltung in und durch den paulinischen Diskurs. Aus dieser Perspektive stellt 1Kor 11 nicht nur die rhetorische Durchführung einer bestimmten geschlechter-differenten Form von gemeindlicher Interaktion dar, sondern ist auch - sogar noch grundlegender - an das Selbstverständnis des Paulus geknüpft, wie es in seiner Argumentation nach außen projiziert wird. Anstatt bloß ein Spiegelbild paulinischer Rhetorik zu bieten, wird ein Spiegel vor den Text selbst gehalten, um einen Blick auf den “Charakter” des Apostels zu erhaschen, wie er reflektiert (und gebrochen) wird in und durch seine Rhetorik.

The problems with interpreting the Pauline prohibition against the uncovered head of women in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 have been long standing, but significant shifts in modern gender awareness have made this statement by Paul seem even more out of place in current contexts. Especially since the middle of the twentieth century, this as well as other texts concerningwomen in Pauline literature have been scrutinized.[2] As women became increasingly active as theologians, pastors, and biblical scholars, the discussion and debate regarding the role of women in the Bible and church has grown in importance. In this process, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 has frequently been isolated as one of the more contentious passages. Interpretations have tended to focus on either its content or its context, sometimes with a sharp bifurcation between the two. Central in the interpretation of its content has been the attempt to decipher the arguments Paul utilizes, evaluating them in terms of their implications for women, more specifically, whether or not they favor a more hierarchical or a more egalitarian view of the relation between females and males. As for the context in question, the discussion has concentrated on defining the problem at stake and on reconstructing the situation in Corinth in order to achieve a fuller grasp of what Paul was arguing for or against.

Filling in the Gaps?

In most recent research, at least three approaches to this Pauline text can be distinguished. The first position is represented by scholars such as Judith M. Gundry-Volf. In her recent treatment of the text, Gundry-Volf advances a reading that affirms on the one hand the culturally specific features of the text related to gender differentiation, while at the same time confirming that Paul was after something theological.[3] Her basic point is that while Paul seeks to promote the avoidance of culturally shameful activities, he nonetheless at the same time affirms egalitarian notions both in his arguments from creation and in the christologically-grounded principles of Christian existence “in the Lord.”[4] Such a reading seeks first and foremost to understand Paul’s theological statements in their own right.[5]

In response to this more traditional approach, which continues to center on Pauline theology, some feminist scholars have shifted the focus to a retrieval of the “lost” voice in and behind the text. Working from the perspective of the margins, critics like Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza have developed systematic modes of analysis that seek to recover the perspectives, in this case of women, that have been silenced by the dominant male authorial voice. This mode of analysis chooses to move away from androcentric modes of interpretation to a feminist construction of the text, context, and history of interpretation.[6] The “silencing” of women in these texts by the constituent androcentric aspects of author, community, and reception is countered by reading between and filling in the textual “gaps.”[7] Schüssler Fiorenza in fact has gone on to give a positive assessment of the women in the Corinthian community, viewing their “silencing” as the result of androcentric power play.[8]

A third approach to this difficult passage is represented by Dale Martin, who analyzes Paul’s argument against the background of ancient perceptions of the human body.[9] Martin assesses how Paul’s anthropology and especially his “proven” concern for pollutions invading the community might apply to his uneasiness with respect to female prophecy in the assembly.[10] In this case, understanding both Paul’s “theological” articulation and the views of the Corinthian community itself as products of their contemporary cultural context is thought to illuminate or clarify Paul’s arguments and motivations.[11] But insofar as the rhetorical function of the language is directly related to the situation (problem?) posed by the community in Corinth, Martin, like Fiorenza, also works (albeit more implicitly) from a reconstructed rhetorical exigency of the circumstances. It is this working with/from a presupposed situation that clarifies the cultural logic of the argument.

The approach taken in this essay addresses some problematic features in the previous three approaches. With respect to the theological approach an important problem is the tendency to distinguish the content from the context and to consider Paul’s theological statements as quasi-timeless answers to the temporal questions he discusses. Such a position in essence protects Paul’s rhetorical strategy by resisting the “decoding” of terms, concepts, and strategic modes of argumentation he uses. Rather than making this artificial distinction, we understand “theological” formulations and practices of argumentation as specifically Christian cultural reconfigurations of ancient modes of communication that are truly “incarnational”—they take on all forms and functions of ancient discourse, manifesting the power plays, the value-laden agenda, and the gendered nature of the language and concepts utilized to meet the various ends of persuasion. Herein one comes into closest contact with the patterns of power and dominance that pervade all texts, ancient and modern.[12]

In many respects, the same “hermeneutics of trust” that a theological approach cultivates toward the tradition is exhibited in other approaches as well, insofar as an unknown historical and rhetorical situation is reconstructed on the basis of the text through “mirror reading.”[13] This procedure presumes a rather linear correspondence between text and context. Straight correlations of this nature, however, pay little attention to the complex negotiations that texts can manifest. In the end, more attention needs to be paid to the identity politics that ancient writers articulate in multiple ways in and through their rhetorical strategies.

In a similar way approaches that seek to ground the argumentation in cultural logic and modes of persuasion often assume that Paul’s and the Corinthian’s conceptual world(s) can be constructed with a fair degree of precision. They do so without, for instance, taking into account that evidence for practices of veiling for both men and women in antiquity and conceptions of gender and sexuality are far from uniform. The assumption in this case is that if one can determine how veiling was understood and practiced in Corinth one will also be closer to comprehending Paul’s logic in the passage. But that premise assumes, again, a fairly strict correlation between argument and “reality.”[14] Although a relationship can be presumed to exist between textual argumentation and cultural assumptions and values, it cannot be assumed that culturally embedded topoi will provide the hermeneutical key to the rhetorical logic. In fact, the opposite could well be the case: the rhetorical strategy might be responsible for the manipulation and reconfiguration of such topoi.

Underlying these observations is the larger issue of what texts in fact tell us about authors, communities, ideas, and the interrelationship between them. The assumption of this essay is that argumentation in the ancient world was a multifaceted and complex endeavor and that one has to be cautious, as a result, in reaching firm conclusions beyond the discourse displayed in the text. Rather than trying to reconstruct the situation “behind the text,” it seems therefore more productive and illuminating instead to focus on the issue of Paul’s self-presentation at the intersection of his rhetorical strategies and his conceptual world. As far as our own approach is concerned, we have adopted a socio-rhetorical method of interpretation that stresses Paul’s argument as argumentation, paying close attention to the grounding of rhetorical persuasion in the broader patterns of socio-cultural topoi and their ideological contexts in the Greco-Roman empire of the first century of the Common Era, examining particularly the reconfiguration of these in and through Pauline discourse.[15] In this mode of analysis, the aim is to connect as closely as possible Pauline argumentation and apostolic character. These elements cannot be separated from one another, since the goal to persuade the audience in a specific direction necessitates a particular self-presentation of Paul, and, vice-versa, Paul’s own literary construction of his ēthos demands a particular kind of argument in which this character is to be constructed. It is thus worth exploring these features, investigating especially their intersection and assessing the way in which the discourse operates both to secure the “assent” of the audience and, in the process, to reflect and manifest the character of Paul. Moreover, the two interrelated aspects of argument and ēthos shift our attention away from historical issues at stake to the engagement of more essential matters of identity that are pivotal to ancient rhetorical theories of proper comportment and oratorical display.

From this perspective, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is not just about the rhetorical enforcement of a particular gender-distinctive form of community interaction, but is even more fundamentally tied to Paul’s “understanding” of himself as it is projected outward in his argument. In what follows, then, the focus shifts from reconstructing the theological statements, the historical situation, or the cultural moorings of argumentation as an end in itself toward an examination of Paul’s self-image as it is manifested in the argumentative strategies he employs and the images of the subjects he manufactures and reconfigures in the process. Rather than offering a “mirror reading” of Paul’s rhetoric, we will attempt to hold up a mirror to the text itself, hoping to catch a glimpse of the apostle’s “character” as reflected (and refracted) in and through his rhetoric.

Establishing Ēthos: Paul in “Proper” Perspective

Ēthos Argumentation

Since the substantiation of the character of the speaker was one of the most important features of ancient rhetorical theory, we set forth first our understanding of ēthos argumentation before turning to 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.[16] Of particular interest are explicit statements related to ēthos argumentation in Greco-Roman antiquity, which highlight more specifically the proper establishment of the speaker’s character, as well as the appropriate construction/depiction of the character of those on whose behalf or against whom the orator is speaking. Ēthos argumentation thus has several distinctive trajectories within a speech, moving between speaker and subject (i.e., that of which/whom is spoken). It is also one of the main bridges between the orator/narrator and the audience/spectator (one can only persuade if one properly detects and/or constructs the ēthos of the hearers). While the rhetorical discussions of ēthos argumentation acknowledge that ēthos has a particular function in the course of the elaboration of an argument, the entire speech as a whole can be understood readily (often explicitly, always implicitly) as establishing and maintaining the “character” of the speaker, his subject, and his spectator, all of which live beyond the life of the speech. This moves us, finally, towards viewing the ancient world as embodying a culture of persuasion, which, if taken seriously, means we must reexamine the complex intersection, multifaceted configuration, and constant negotiation of rhetoric and life.[17]

This emphasis on “character” in ancient composition coheres well with the assessments of ēthos one finds in writers from Aristotle to Quintilian.[18] In his Poetics, Aristotle defines ēthos as that which happens when “speech or action reveals the nature of a moral choice…” (1454a).[19] Not surprisingly the quintessential emphasis has been on moral quality as the central focus of what Aristotle, at least, meant by “character.”[20] Indeed, in this view, the narrative reveals the moral character of the actor precisely by making his or her choices apparent (since the “outer” appearance of their logos or ergon reflects something about their “inner” nature).[21] As Stephen Halliwell notes,

the basis of character for Aristotle is constituted by developed dispositions to act virtuously or otherwise. These dispositions are both acquired and realized in action; they cannot come into existence or continue to exist for long independently of practical activity… character represents the ethical qualities of actions… dramatic characterization… must [therefore] involve the manifestation of moral choice in word or action…[22]

Characterization, in this view, involves four specific elements: the presentation of good characters, appropriateness, likeness (i.e., representative of the human class), and consistency of character. While Aristotle was concentrating on the composition of particularly tragic (and to a lesser extent epic) composition, these same premises also infuse his discussion on ēthos in his Rhetoric (2.12-17): the connection between outward reflection and inner integrity is equally as essential there.

It is precisely this moral quality of ēthos that extends to the Roman rhetorical reception. Indeed, we might well envision the “stage” of Roman public life as one long process in the establishment of one’s ethical “core,” which was in large part the external performance and manifestation of ergon and logos.[23] Cicero aptly demonstrates how ēthos could be applied to the persona that the speaker creates:

Now, since the emotions which eloquence has to excite in the minds of the tribunal, or whatever other audience we may be addressing, are most commonly love, hate, wrath, jealousy, compassion, hope, joy, fear or vexation, we observe that love is won if you are thought to be upholding the interests of your audience, or to be working for good men, or at any rate for such as that audience deems good and useful. For this last impression more readily wins love and the protection of the righteous esteem…You must struggle to reveal the presence, in the cause you are upholding, of some merit or usefulness, and to make it plain that the man, for whom you are to win this love, in no respect consulted his own interests…zeal for others’ service is applauded (de Oratore 206-207).[24]

There is a clear intersection of the speaker’s ēthos here with that of both the audience’s and the subject’s. The speaker wants to be “loved” (by his client and his audience), and can secure this by “appearing” to represent the “good” and “useful.” Moreover, by appealing to topoi, the speaker can also invoke the perceived (and manufactured) ēthos of his audience (“zeal for others’ service is applauded”). In this context the rhetorician “paints” characters “in words,” constructing “upright, stainless, conscientious, modest, and long-suffering under injustice” ēthē for his subjects (cf. Aristotle, Poetics 1554b). Moreover, the manner of the delivery also establishes the character of the speaker: “for by means of particular types of thought and diction, and the employment besides of a delivery that is unruffled and eloquent of good-nature, the speakers are made to appear upright, well-bred and virtuous men (boni viri)” (184). Cicero goes on to argue that when one addresses any audience, not only is the orator’s “talent” on trial, but even more importantly his “attributes” are being scrutinized; virtues such as “loyalty, sense of duty and carefulness, under whose influence even when defending complete strangers, we still cannot regard them as strangers, if we would be accounted good men (viri boni) ourselves” (192-93). The virtues the orator displays publicly are intrinsically connected to those elicited in the speech itself. Thus, his own beneficence, one of the more important elements of the “character” of the “good man,” is manifested in his rhetorical demonstration of his concern for the well-being of others—even strangers.

Balancing this emphasis on moral character is the idea that the speaker must also demonstrate imperium over the audience: “If they surrender to me…of their own accord lean towards and are prone to take the course of action in which I am urging them on, I accept the bounty…” (187).[25] In this we glimpse just how much is at stake for the orator: his identity stands on trial, his virtue in limbo, his power and authority in need of demonstration. Not surprisingly, Cicero has explicitly linked his own identity (conquering the audience, making them submit to his will/skill, seizing the glory of the vanquished, manifesting supreme virtue) to the act of making the argument and persuading the audience. In this way, Cicero readily demonstrates the high stakes involved in ancient rhetorical combat: status could be won or lost in the course of persuasion. Moreover, with the dual emphasis on beneficence and imperium, we see also how rhetorical practice and prowess rather easily shifts into an imperial and imperializing discourse.


Character and Masculinity in Ancient Rhetoric

It is important to keep in mind that the characterization of the speaker was not something that was constructed in the act of speaking alone, it was also embodied in his physical display and comportment of the body (i.e., the physiognomic connection).[26] Thus, from delivery to composition, from opening to closing, the speech or narrative defined the essence of the individual. Erik Gunderson aptly captures this:

It is in performance that one acts out this authentic essence, that one performs the vir bonus; here it is exposed and evaluated, appreciated or derided….in Latin persona is not just personal “character” but also the mask that a character on the stage wears, a mask that is stylized and revelatory of character. Becoming a good man implies learning to assume one’s own face as a mask… Oratorical performance is ideally the performance of the vir bonus. This performance is not merely the donning of a mask or semblance, but a performance that ought to lend credence to the notion of truth, of an essence underlying appearances. Thus one is in a sense making manifest to the world a soul, a fact of the person. Similarly, this soul needs to be seen and appreciated by other souls, by other Romans.[27]

Gunderson here refers explicitly to the performative aspect of oratory, but this statement could just as readily apply to any public display (written or oral) of a rhetorical act/ing in the ancient world. We would perhaps push this assessment even one step further, since it is not only in “performance” that one “exposes” the vir bonus, but the exhibition itself is also an integral part of the process of becoming such a male as this.

Flowing out of this general context of ancient rhetorical thinking, speaking, composing and acting, the gendered nature of this culture of persuasion must be highlighted as a constituent feature of ēthos argumentation. Indeed, if the goal of the orator is virtus and imperium,[28] then the discourse itself is fully coherent with establishing these facets of the rhetorician’s larger character presentation. It is interesting in this light to observe how the gendered character of ancient writers and speakers was constructed in narrative discourse. In the Lives of the Sophists, for instance, Philostratus relates a story in which the emperor verbally attacks the orator Philiscus, who “gave offence by the way in which he stood, his attire seemed far from suitable to the occasion, his voice effeminate, and his language indolent and directed to any subject matter rather than to the matter at hand.” The emperor responds with a sharp attack on Philiscus’s masculinity: “His hair shows what sort of man he is, his voice what sort of orator” (623). The public comportment of the orator, especially his adoption of female mannerisms, is linked here to his lack of control (in this case of the subject matter).[29]

Similarly, Lucian, in his amusing satire A Professor of Public Speaking, encourages his “protégé” to avoid at all costs the “vigorous man with hard muscles and a manly stride, who shows a heavy tan on his body, and is bold-eyed and alert” (9). Plato’s “philosopher-king” (“that hairy, unduly masculine fellow” [10]) is to be abandoned for the “handsome gentleman with a mincing gait, a thin neck, a languishing eye, and a honeyed voice, who distils perfume, scratches his head with the tip of his finger, and carefully dresses his hair, which is scanty now, but curly and raven-black…” (11; cf. 12, 15). With this adoption true virtue (modesty, self-mastery, respectability) is to be tossed out. Instead the orator is encouraged to embrace the mantle of “shamelessness” (15; cf. 22). Most striking, Lucian counsels that such a person should be “elegant…and take pains to create the impression that women are devoted to you…the public…will infer from it that your fame extends even to the women’s quarters” (23). Lucian even suggests that this orator ought to be proud of being labeled “effeminate.” The final “insult,” however, is Lucian’s suggestion, by way of offering advice, that this man should imitate women in being talkative and catty.[30]

The last example comes from Seneca’s short epistle describing how “degenerate” styles of speech arise in different time periods. He recites the Greek proverb that a “man’s speech is just like his life,” which coheres closely with the notion of ēthos developed above. Seneca goes on to state: “Wantonness in speech is proof of public luxury…A man’s ability cannot possibly be of one sort and his soul of another. If his soul be wholesome, well-ordered, serious, and restrained, his ability also is sound and sober. Conversely, when one degenerates, the other is also contaminated” (114.2-3). Seneca goes on to delineate the character of a certain Maecenas, who, in a time of civic strife, appeared in public with two eunuchs, “both of them more men than himself” (6). He was excessive in his heterosexuality, a sign of his effeminate nature (i.e., lacking in self-mastery),[31] and all his “unusual, unsound, and eccentric” character qualities were reflected fully in the patterns of his speech (6-7). While this orator allowed his hair to grow long,[32] he nonetheless “plucked” his beard (21). The final insult in character occurs when Seneca suggests that this effeminate style and comportment is the result of an effeminate soul, which turns kingship to tyranny over the individual (25).[33] This is perhaps one of the strongest statements on the relationship of comportment, persuasion, and the construction of masculine identity in the ancient world. At stake in speaking and acting in the public forum is nothing less than the battle for creating and maintaining one’s ideal male identity, often at the expense of someone else’s.[34]

The outward manifestation of ēthos should therefore be regarded as essentially a gendered concept in the ancient world, focused on establishing not just character, but the essence of male demeanor for an audience.[35] Moreover, in the rhetorician’s verbal and physical comportment the moral nexus of ēthos was at stake: virtue had to flow naturally from ordered speech as well as suitable and moderate comportment, expressing control. Indeed, as Seneca assures us, such outward manifestations are reflections, finally, of the inner soul. Most importantly, then, there is a clear connection between one’s ability to rule and his masculine comportment. Oratory, as the basic training for civic life and virtue,[36] was thus intrinsically concerned to associate the ability to speak with manly deportment as preconditions for citizenship (cf. Epictetus 3.1.27-35) and the ruling of empire,[37] based on the premise that the outward ethos of the Roman male revealed something basic about the inner character of Roman imperial aspirations. This also holds true for the use of ēthos in 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul similarly uses his discussion of the body to calibrate his own identity with respect to God and the Corinthian community.


Pauline Character and the Corinthians

NT scholars often shun the idea that Paul could have employed such cultural models (both implicitly and explicitly) of communication. It is noteworthy, for instance, that at the end of his treatment of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, Bruce Winter concludes that the problem in Corinth was the Corinthian community’s involvement in the “power politics of the body politic in Roman Corinth.”[38] Winter seems to exclude here even the possibility that Paul was similarly involved in such “power politics,”[39] failing as a result to take into consideration the function of rhetorical constructions of the body politic in Pauline argumentation. As Willy Braun notes, “in ancient Mediterranean societies…bodies do not merely behave ideologically or symbolize the values of the body politic; they are ideological constructs, and body-selves and body practices both express and affect beliefs and compliance with those beliefs.”[40] We would do well, then, to pay closer attention to how Pauline persuasion functions.

Turning to 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, the recent statement by Lauri Thuren with respect to Paul’s use of pathos appears very much to the point: “a study of [Paul’s] persuasive techniques calls for a greater caution in making any claims about the feelings, intentions, and motives of the real author beyond the text.”[41] Although, if one accepts the nature of ēthos outlined above, particularly the major premise that the rhetorical “actor” constructs his character and persona in the act of writing and speaking, it seems even more likely to be the case that the historical and social situation behind 1 Corinthians is much more veiled than the author of the text. Yet, beyond his own personal construction and maintenance of this identity, there is little else that Paul is interested in revealing.[42] Thus, Thuren’s statement is true but also misleading, because we can move from text to author, but within the constraints of the methodology outlined above. The Paul of the text is in fact the “Paul” the author most desires to give to (and be for) his readers.

In this context, virtus and imperium, which are integral to the ēthos of the orator, are equally present in Paul. We see him adopting, for example, the mantle of the paterfamilias; he is the master of the household and the “broker of God’s patronage.”[43] Viewed in this light, the most critical component of Paul’s self-presentation in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 seems to be his concern for order in the Christian community,[44] which he “manages” according to his own sense of values and authority.[45] The “power politics of the body politic” is substantively embedded in this image, for, as David Amador notes, the final conclusion in 11:16 is “a power move, pure and simple: the last resort of a weak argument.”[46] Given his ēthos and persona in the text, it is no wonder that Paul places so much stress on the ordering and gendering of the household, which not surprisingly reflects the ordered deity/cosmos.[47] Paul exercises control over the community, placing special emphasis on “suitable” hairstyles and veiling practices, but the orderedness of the Corinthian body does not stop here; rather, it is part of Paul’s larger goal of body control in 1 Corinthians to promote a distinct, ordered, moderate, upright community that reflects the “glory” of God, which is the “glory” of Paul as well.[48] If people imitate Paul as he imitates Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1)[49] and play their appropriate role, stay in their “suitable” place, and adopt their “natural” comportment within the rhetorical sphere of the Corinthian body, there is indeed enough “glory” to go all around. These associations, however, are not accidental, but are generated in large part from the rhetorical moves Paul makes in the process of constructing his discursive character.

This becomes even more clear when one takes into account the connection between household and nature that is prevalent in Pauline discourse, because the ontological arguments serve to fuse the order of the household with the order of the natural/created world. They ground the household in “divine” realities and powers that justify the social hierarchy Paul desires to maintain and control. Thus, Paul both asserts his interest in order and in control (self-mastery over himself and mastery over his community).[50] The move towards political discourse that seems to lie just beneath the surface in this framework is illuminated by Bruno Blumenfeld: “Paul…is the ideological guardian of the processes and structures of imperial power. Paul’s political objective was to make the empire endure, to ward off its decay by steeling it with a Christian ribband.”[51] This is an important observation, not only because it moves us away from those interpretations that see Paul as fundamentally opposed to empire and its network of power relations, but also because it helps explain why the household was so important to Paul: it was a microcosm of empire. As Cynthia Briggs Kittredge notes, “Paul’s language replicates and reinscribes imperial power relations.”[52] We see, then, that his appeal in 1 Corinthians 11:16—his rhetorical power play—demonstrates that, whatever else, Paul wants to preserve this hierarchy in the household, not least because it reflects his concern with the hierarchy of the empire.

Within Paul’s apocalyptic framework, of course, one neither finds support for the Roman empire nor an appeal to the empire in his argument.[53] Rather, he uses the arguments from creation and nature to undergird a social and cultural structure that Paul deemed fundamental to his own identity (and to that of the Corinthians). This discourse, while fairly conservative in terms of its rendering of images, nonetheless presumes a predominantly male audience, or at least has that as its focus: the (re)constitution of female comportment in the text lies “under” the male’s (even granted the concession to interdependence in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12). Therefore, while female comportment is quintessential to Paul’s argument/concern, the function of this discourse has less to do with specific female identity in the Corinthian body and more to do with inscribing male domination and power over those constructed as in need of control. One can argue that the “body” as a whole stands to gain from proper “bodily” comportment all around, both sexes included, and this is partly true. Yet, the predominant cultural value-system out of which Paul is operating and which he inscribes on the Corinthian body, and indeed seeks to promote as the basis for his own identity for the audience, has to be seen from a (Greco-Roman) male perspective.

In light of these associations the emphasis on female comportment in 1 Corinthians 11 is worth examining further. While scholars like Dale Martin have argued that in the ancient world there was good reason to control women—their “uncontainable sexuality” threatens to pollute the social order of the community[54]—the question remains whether this fully accounts for Paul’s self-comportment in the text. What does Paul gain by controlling women in this way? One possible avenue of exploration may rest in the patriarchal power that is evinced in controlling powerful women. Susan Fischler, in her work on the role of women in the images of the imperial cult, suggests that inclusion of women in imperial iconography was critical for displaying imperial dominance:

As male authority figures, the emperors and their heirs were displayed as revealing the prowess of the heroes and the stately attributes of the first citizens of the empire. But to complete the image of the patriarch, the emperors also needed to display control over their household. They needed a wife or other female authority figure who was restrained and maternal, whose body was seen as fertile and thus symbolic of the continuity of the dynasty.[55]

Fischler further notes how these women in turn were also portrayed as powerful, having their image associated with potent goddesses. For Fischler this entrenches the masculine dominance of the imperial male: the emperor controls powerful women, and this says something about his ability to control his empire. In this respect, it is intriguing to see some of the connections between Fischler’s observations about imperial iconography and Paul’s image of “control” over women in 1 Corinthians 11. These women are prophesying,[56] and in the ancient world this was viewed as a boundary-crossing activity.[57] Thus, from Paul’s own depiction, this is no ordinary household: it is a social body that channels the divine (seemingly on a frequent basis). And Paul depicts it as his task (and within his power and ability) to control this potent (and precarious) situation.

There is probably one further consideration that should be noted in this connection: the proper comportment of women in particular says something very important about the nature of Paul’s community, and hence about Paul himself. It reveals a particular Pauline concern for self-mastery/disciplina. This connection is insightfully articulated by Sandra Joshel:

Discipline was necessary not only for the acquisition of empire but also for ruling it. The denial of the body to the self speaks the denial of social power to others; a Roman’s rule of his own body provides an image of Roman domination and a model of sovereignty - of Roman over non-Roman, of upper class over lower, of master over slave, of man over woman, and of Princeps over everyone else…[58]

This perhaps provides us with some appreciation of Paul’s interest: the counter to chaos is an ordered and structured Christian community, in which women “know their place.” For Paul, this structure is an essential part of his own sense of self-mastery; control of his own body (1 Corinthians 7) is the starting point for his domination of others (1 Corinthians 11). The female body in turn becomes the cultural and rhetorical battleground for the maintenance of ēthos in Paul. Thus, as Paul paints his character, he quite naturally does so by using the Corinthian women as his canvas. The result is that the ekklēsia as “household” has here fully realized the aims of empire.[59] Seen in this light, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 becomes a powerful statement about Paul’s status as paterfamilias and the function of the Corinthian community itself in Paul’s ēthos argumentation. Here we catch a glimpse of why the “household” is so important to Paul: it is his “public stage” in Corinth and beyond; the projection of his ability to control, order, and dominate.[60]

Yet, it would be wrong to leave the impression that this imperium, created and then exercised in the discourse, is devoid of any so-called virtue, as Paul is also quite concerned to express his beneficence towards his subjects. Paul’s sense of taking care of his community, looking out for their interests, in part simply keeping them in line with what “nature” teaches, all of this constructs a figure concerned about the well-being of his subjects. In line with the statements of the deified Augustus on the temple in Ancyra, we see here a “power-broker” who intends to embody beneficent kingship rather than merciless tyranny. This in fact also at the heart of Margaret Mitchell’s study of 1 Corinthians, where she argues that Paul’s main deliberative aim in this text is to promote concord and harmony in the Corinthian community,[61] with 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 accenting Paul’s goal of dissolving factionalism. In this attempt, Paul “subordinates the issue itself to the overall concern for the unity of the church” and concludes with a “reconciliatory argument” that has the “conservative leanings typical of arguments of concord.”[62]

The effort to create concord in the Corinthian community is certainly the impression that Paul works hard to create and maintain, projecting here the image of a beneficent ruler, who cares deeply for all of those under his care.[63] Thus, while Paul insists on an ordered community, he also seeks to display his earnest regard and concern for his subjects. This combination, again, places his language and framework fully at the intersection of the household and empire. Unlike the depilated male “spectacle” of Seneca’s Maecenas, Paul comports himself as a true citizen of the polis, and his legacy is clearly a community of the “unplucked.” This, in the end, serves to ratify the image that Paul has asserted all along: he himself is as “hairy” as they come.

This final point leads to an even deeper dimension of ēthos argumentation that is taking place: fundamental to the moral/ethical persuasion of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is Paul’s concern to create this community in his own image. This means, in essence, that while Paul constructs his own character in the text, he also seeks to “characterize” the Corinthians. The concern for bodily comportment demonstrates the connection in ancient rhetorical culture between outward appearances and the inner soul. On the one hand, Paul’s establishment of his character in 1 Corinthians 11 is exactly that: his discursive self-comportment reflects and projects his “inner nature.” On the other hand, the Corinthian community represents an outward manifestation of Paul’s ēthos. They are a visible expression of the paterfamilias, reflecting something about the ordered nature of their founder. Paul therefore seeks to establish the character of the Corinthians so that they too will imitate his virtus and imperium. And this public comportment of the ekklēsia says, finally, much about the God who has appointed Paul and whom Paul so willingly promotes. Of course, it comes as no surprise, as Paul’s use of the arguments from nature and creation suggest, that this God embodies the same character as Paul: the gendered hierarchy is affirmed by a beneficent deity, who exerts imperium over all. This deity is as virile as Paul’s potent rhetoric. But it is a circular image, for the gendered deity finally falls back on Paul, validating ontologically the ēthos of his foremost apostle.

Conclusion: Virtus and Imperium in Interpretation

In his reading of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, David Horrell has recently argued that Paul’s “purpose seems clearly to be the establishment of ‘proper’ distinction between men and women and not superiority or authority.”[64] In light of the discussion here, however, the various rhetorical features of the argument and the establishment of the Pauline ēthos would seem to challenge such an assessment rather strongly. Given the cultural ethos of antiquity, the attempt to emphasize “distinction” brought with it a gendered vocabulary and conceptual framework that sought to inscribe masculine identity in empire, which in turn most suitably characterized the body politic in its civic and religious duty and devotion. The “ontological” category in this case rested comfortably in the lap of the virile Greco-Roman male. For Paul, the orderly church that he constructs represents a particular kind of identity over against a world that in the Pauline apocalyptic framework is fast devolving. Any notion, however, that Paul offers a radically different value system or politics needs serious reevaluation: one cannot overlook the dominant socio-cultural (and rhetorical) paradigms that control his articulation of gender identity in this text. There is no area “outside” of the realm of the Greco-Roman gendered cultural context in Paul; it is the cultural mode of discourse that Paul affirms, which is not to say that it is a “patriarchal” or “male” framework in toto, or that “egalitarian” notions are in principle excluded. The picture is more complex than that.

In our view, however, masculine identity in the ancient world must be seen as the starting point for understanding Paul’s characterization of himself and the “ideal” church that is his embodied ēthos. While 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is often utilized for insight into Pauline theological ideas of creation, in fact what we see is “theology” veiling here the rhetorical combat for identity, which Paul is all too willing to win through his appeal to creation/nature. As Judith Butler points out, the “very concept of sex-as-matter, sex-as-instrument-of-cultural-signification, is a discursive formation that acts as a naturalized foundation for the nature/culture distinction and the strategies of domination that that distinction supports.”[65] The binary opposition between sex and gender on the one hand and nature and culture on the other are in that case not just similar but interrelated. They are mutually supportive dualisms that affirm the ancient cultural framework of masculine identity delineated herein. Gundry-Volf’s articulation therefore needs to be reversed: Paul does not have a “theology of gender,” but a “gendered theology” that permeates all aspects of his discourse and thinking, resulting in, as Moore notes, a Pauline world that is devoid of significant female presence, especially in the “inner sanctum of Pauline theology.”[66]

Finally, the broad pattern of Paul’s use of rhetorical strategies of masculinity and their embodiment in the values and tactics of empire suggests that any attempt to argue from the “gaps” in this androcentric text to “‘a radical democratic’ understanding of ekklēsia [that] entitled all those gifted with the charisms of the Spirit to ecclesial leadership”[67] is bound to fail. The idea that later Christian developments were responsible for the adaptation and accommodation of this egalitarian structure to the “kyriarchal order of the Roman state” misses the point that all early Christian texts are embedded in the rhetoric of empire, which, while reconfiguring the language of Caesar to the ends of Christ, does not subvert its substantive aim: domination through virtus and imperium. Thus, the “gaps” in the text are still thoroughly “male” in nature, and these ultimately say much more about Paul than they do about the community behind the projected Pauline image. In the end, for better or worse, the gaps loom large, but the fissures in Paul’s self-presentation offer a tantalizing substitute for those who are interested in understanding the powerful narrative dynamics that ground if not impel the origins of Christian discourse.


[1] This essay represents a revised version of a paper that was presented at the “Rhetoric, Ethic, and Moral Persuasion in Biblical Discourse Conference” in Heidelberg, Germany (July 22-25, 2002). See also: Rhetoric, Ethic, and Moral Persuasion in Biblical Discourse (ed. T. H. Olbricht and A. Eriksson; New York: T & T Clark International, forthcoming).

[2] See the brief summary of the issues and studies in Antoinette Clark Wire, The Corinthian Women Prophets: A Reconstruction through Paul’s Rhetoric (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990), 220-23.

[3] Judith M. Gundry-Volf, “Gender and Creation in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16: A Study in Paul’s Theological Method,” in Evangelium, Schriftauslegung, Kirche (ed. J Ådna et al.; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997), 151-71.

[4] Gundry-Volf, “Gender and Creation,” 163.

[5] See more recently, Marlis Gielen, “Beten und Prophezeien mit unverhülltem Kopf? Die Kontroverse zwischen Paulus und der korinthischen Gemeinde um die Wahrung der Geschlechtsrollensymbolik in 1 Kor 11,2-16,” Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 90 (1999): 220-249; Jason D. BeDuhn, “‘Because of the Angels’: Unveiling Paul’s Anthropology in 1 Corinthians 11,” Journal of Biblical Literature 118 (1999): 295-320; Francis Watson, “The Authority of the Voice: A Theological Reading of 1 Cor 11.2-16,” New Testament Studies 46 (2000): 520-536; and Lambertus J. Lietaert Peerbolte, “Man, Woman and the Angels in 1 Cor 11:2-16,” in The Creation of Man and Woman: Interpretations of the Biblical Narratives in Jewish and Christian Traditions (ed. G. P. Luttikhuizen; Themes in Biblical Narrative 3; Leiden: Brill, 2000), 76-92.

[6] See Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s explicit articulation of her methodology in “Remembering the Past in Creating the Future: Historical-Critical Scholarship and Feminist Biblical Interpretation,” in Feminist Perspectives on Biblical Scholarship (ed. A. Yarbro Collins; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985), esp. 55-63.

[7] Schüssler Fiorenza, “Remembering the Past,” 60.

[8] Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her. A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1983), 226-233; and her Rhetoric and Ethic: The Politics of Biblical Studies (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999), 2, 117, 121-22. Cf. Clark Wire, The Corinthian Women Prophets, esp.116-34; as well as the assessment of Bernadette Brooten: it was their refusal “to wear the sign of submission that caused Paul to write on the subject and to formulate a theology of headship as theoretical support for the practice of veiling” (“Early Christian Women and Their Cultural Context: Issues of Method in Historical Reconstruction,” in Feminist Perspectives, 82).

[9] Dale B. Martin, The Corinthian Body (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 229-249.

[10] Martin, Corinthian Body, 242-48.

[11] See the similar position of Troy Martin, “Veiled Exhortations Regarding the Veil: Ethos as the Controlling Proof in Moral Persuasion (1 Cor 11:2-16),” in Rhetoric, Ethic, and Moral Persuasion in Biblical Discourse (ed. T. H. Olbricht and A. Eriksson; New York: T & T Clark International, forthcoming).

[12] Elizabeth A. A. Castelli, Imitating Paul: A Discourse of Power (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991), 119-136.

[13] This refers to the technique of reading from what is explicitly argued to that which is allegedly being responded to in the text, attempting to draw out the unknown by reversing the logic of the stated argument (for e.g., esp. Clark Wire, Corinthian Women Prophets, 12-38). For critical comments on this approach, see George Lyons, Pauline Autobiography: Toward a New Understanding (Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 73; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985), 96-105.

[14] Cf. the various approaches surveyed by David E. Blattenberger, Rethinking 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Through Archaeological and Moral-Rhetorical Analysis (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997).

[15] We are particularly indebted to the work of Vernon K. Robbins, especially his Tapestry of Early Christian Discourse: Rhetoric, Society, and Ideology (New York: Routledge, 1996).

[16] As John W. Marshall notes, “though ethos is almost universally praised as an extremely powerful means of persuasion…what treatment it has received [in ancient and modern theories and applications] is confused and confusing” (“Paul’s Ethical Appeal in Philippians,” Rhetoric and the New Testament [ed. S. E. Porter and T. H. Olbricht; Journal for the Study of the New Testament: Supplement Series 90; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993], 358). For discussion of the major elements of ēthos in ancient rhetorical theory, see the treatments by Manfred Kraus, Tom Olbricht, and Jerry Sumney in Rhetoric, Ethic, and Moral Persuasion in Biblical Discourse (ed. T. H. Olbricht and A. Eriksson; New York: T & T Clark International, forthcoming).

[17] Vernon K. Robbins describes a “rhetorical” culture as one in which speakers and writers compose “both orally and scribally in a rhetorical manner” (“Progymnastic Rhetorical Composition and Pre-Gospel Tradition: A New Approach,” in Synoptic Gospels: Source Criticism and the New Literary Criticism [ed. C. Focant; Bibliotheca ephemeridum theologicarum lovaniensium 110; Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1993], 110; see also his “Writing as a Rhetorical Act in Plutarch and the Gospels,” in Persuasive Artistry [ed. D. F. Watson; Journal for the Study of the New Testament: Supplement Series 50; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991], 145-49).

[18] Some scholars have argued for significant differences in the understanding and use of ēthos between the Greeks and Romans. It is suggested that the Romans made a shift to a more strongly emotional use of ēthos and pathos, away from Aristotle’s focus on their appropriation as specific, rational arguments (see esp. Steven J. Kraftchick, “Pathē in Paul: The Emotional Logic of ‘Original Argument’,” in Paul and Pathos [ed. T. H. Olbricht and J. L. Sumney; Society of Biblical Literature Symposium Series 16; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 2001], 47-57; and James M. May and Jakob Wisse, Cicero: On the Ideal Orator [New York: Oxford University Press, 2001], 34-35). It is probably best, however, to think of a difference in degree and emphasis rather than any type of fundamental divide: in the Roman tradition there is clearly an argumentative, rational quality to the use of the milder emotional appeal of ēthos, especially in terms of its connection to the topoi (Tamsyn S. Barton, Power and Knowledge: Astrology, Physiognomics, and Medicine Under the Roman Empire [Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994], 110-111).

[19] All citations from ancient authors are from the Loeb Classical Library.

[20] Stephen Halliwell, The Poetics of Aristotle: Translation and Commentary (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), 140.

[21] See Elizabeth S. Belfiore, Tragic Pleasures: Aristotle on Plot and Emotion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 94-95; and Nancy Sherman, The Fabric of Character: Aristotle’s Theory of Virtue (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 79-83.

[22] Stephen Halliwell, Aristotle’s Poetics (London: Duckworth, 1986), 151-52. See also Tim E. Duff, Plutarch’s Lives: Exploring Virtue and Vice (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 13-14.

[23] See further H. Wayne Merritt, In Word and Deed: Moral Integrity in Paul (Emory Studies in Eearly Christianity 1; New York: Peter Lang, 1993).

[24] The “love” of which Cicero speaks may better be classified as pathos (since it is more extreme in nature), but one is dealing with degrees of separation at this point (cf. Quintilian, 6.2.12).

[25] Quintilian’s treatment of the same comes fully into line with Cicero’s assessment of ēthos: “The ēthos which I have in mind and which I desiderate in an orator is commended to our approval by goodness…the chief merit in its expression lies in making it seem that all that we say derives directly from the nature of the facts and persons concerned and in the revelation of the character of the orator in such a way that all may recognize it” (6.2.13). Quintilian similarly suggests that since ēthos focuses on moral character, the orator ought to be “a man of good character and courtesy (bonum et comem virum)” (6.2.18). The rhetorician’s own “excellence” in character is at stake in all of this, both constructed within the speech and displayed without. In the end, while the subject is always central to the rhetorical act itself, it can also be viewed as a conduit or medium between the speaker and audience for the latter’s public recognition of the former’s superior qualities in logos and ergon.

[26] See especially Maud Gleason, Making Men: Sophists and Self-Presentation in Ancient Rome (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995); and her shorter summary, “The Semiotics of Gender: Physiognomy and Self-Fashioning in the Second Century C.E.,” in Before Sexuality: The Construction of Erotic Experience in the Ancient World (ed. D. M. Halperin et al.; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 389-415.

[27] Erik Gunderson, Staging Masculinity: The Rhetoric of Performance in the Roman World (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000), 89.

[28] On the close association of these two categories of male identity, see Craig A. Williams, Roman Homosexuality: Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 132-35. Since virtus originally designated military prowess, it is easy to appreciate how this denotation of “manliness” could connect closely with imperium (Stefan Weinstock, Divus Julius [London: Oxford University Press, 1971], 230-33).

[29] Joy Connolly notes the association of female-like behavior in Roman oratory and the negative social characteristic of servitude (“Mastering Corruption: Constructions of Identity in Roman Oratory,” in Women & Slaves in Greco-Roman Culture [ed. S. R. Joshel and S. Murnaghan; New York: Routledge, 1998], 147). In a similar vein, Max Küchler provides examples from contemporary literature that show that being shaved was considered both a mutilation and indecent (Schweigen, Schmuck und Schleier: Drei neutestamentliche Vorschriften zur Verdrängung der Frauen auf dem Hintergrund einer frauenfeindlichen Exegese des Alten Testaments im antiken Judentum [Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus 1; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1986], 79-82).

[30] See further, Joy Connolly, “Problems of the Past in Imperial Greek Education,” in Greek Education in Greek and Roman Antiquity (ed. Y. Lee Too; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 357-58.

[31] Amy Richlin, The Garden of Priapus: Sexuality & Aggression in Roman Humor (rev. ed.; New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 222.

[32] In some contexts, long hair was deemed to be a sign of effeminate males; Richlin, The Garden of Priapus, 139; Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, “Sex and Logic in 1 Cor 11:2-16,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 42 (1980): 483-88; and Blattenberger, Rethinking 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, 66.

[33] For similar associations between one’s ability to rule and their public comportment (including overtones of inappropriate Greek influence), see Suetonius’s treatment of Otho (12.1).

[34] On the association of non-Roman (i.e., Greek) oratorical habits and the depiction of effeminacy, see Catherine E. W. Steel, Cicero, Rhetoric, and Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 30-31; and Catharine Edwards, The Politics of Immorality in Ancient Rome (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 102.

[35] Cf. James A. Harrill, “Invective Against Paul (2 Cor 10:10), The Physiognomics of the Ancient Slave Body, and the Greco-Roman Rhetoric of Manhood,” in Antiquity and Humanity: Essays on Ancient Religion and Philosophy (ed. A. Yarbro Collins and M. M. Mitchell; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 204.

[36] J. Connolly, “Problems of the Past,” 342-43, 349, 353.

[37] On masculinity as a “public virtue” in the ancient world, see Halvor Moxnes, “Conventional Values in the Hellenistic World: Masculinity,” in Conventional Values of the Hellenistic Greeks (ed. P. Bilde et al.; Studies in Hellenistic Civilization 8; Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 1997), 268-70.

[38] Bruce W. Winter, After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 141.

[39] See the excellent criticism of this wide spread assessment of Paul’s rhetorical “purity” by Mark D. Given, Paul’s True Rhetoric: Ambiguity, Cunning and Deception in Greece and Rome (Emory Studies in Early Christianity 7; Harrisburg: Trinity Press, 2001), 95; cf. also David Amador, “Interpretive Unicity: The Drive Toward Monological (Monotheistic) Rhetoric,” in The Rhetorical Interpretation of Scripture (ed. S. E. Porter and D. L. Stamps; Journal for the Study of the New Testament: Supplement Series 180; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 61-62.

[40] Willy Braun, “Physiotherapy of Femininity in the Acts of Thecla,” in Text and Artifact in the Religions of Mediterranean Antiquity (ed. S. G. Wilson and M. Desjardins; Studies in Christianity and Judaism 9; Waterloo, Ont: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2000), 220; cf. Arthur J. Droge, “Discerning the Body: Early Christian Sex and Other Apocryphal Acts,” in Antiquity and Humanity, 307.

[41] Lauri Thuren, “By Means of Hyperbole (1 Cor 12:31b),” in Paul and Pathos, 113.

[42] What is meant here is not “individuality” in the modern sense, but overt rhetorical and ideological constructions and projections (cf. Halliwell, Aristotle’s Poetics, 151).

[43] Stephan J. Joubert, “Managing the Household: Paul as Paterfamilias of the Christian Household Group in Corinth,” in Modelling Early Christianity: Social-Scientific Studies of the New Testament in Its Context (ed. P. Esler; New York: Routledge, 1995), 216-17. Rollin A. Ramsaran notes that Paul’s use of maxims earlier in 1 Corinthians “directly support Paul’s ēthos” and “focus on the ability to guide and speak and on the appropriateness of doing so” (Liberating Words: Paul’s Use of Rhetorical Maxims in 1 Corinthians 1-10 [Valley Forge: Trinity Press, 1996], 35). Ramsaran goes on to note that Paul also places himself in the role of the “father of the faith” (37). One should also stress the associations of Paul’s developing “character” with the prevalent image of the emperor as “father” (Eva Marie Lassen, “The Use of the Father Image in Imperial Propaganda and 1 Corinthians 4:14-21,” Tyndale Bulletin 42 [1991]: 127-36; idem, “The Roman Family: Ideal and Metaphor,” in Constructing Early Christian Families: Family as Social Reality and Metaphor [ed. H. Moxnes; New York: Routledge, 1997], 112-14; Weinstock, Divus Julius, 200-205), including also the latter’s role as the intermediary between the divine and human realms and his ability to control the empire from one place through the use of letters (Clifford Ando, Imperial Ideology and Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire [Berkeley: University of California, 2000], 371-72).

[44] It is noteworthy in this connection that earlier in 1 Corinthians Paul constructs his ēthos as a faithful “steward” of the gospel (oikonomian pepisteumai; 9:17). See Stephen M. Pogoloff, Logos and Sophia: The Rhetorical Situation of 1 Corinthians (Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 134; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1992), 220-22.

[45] There are, of course, contrasting images of Paul’s self-presentation in 1 Corinthians, which function interdependently to promote various contextualized representations of the apostle in relation to his specific argument. For instance, throughout his writings, Paul not infrequently portrays himself as a “slave” of God, but this functions to enhance Paul’s own stature in his writings (cf. the Pauline use of the rhetorical topos of the “enslaved leader” in 1 Corinthians, detailed by Dale Martin, Slavery as Salvation: The Metaphor of Slavery in Pauline Christianity [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990], 117-18, 124-26). Paul’s image of himself as one of the “weak” in 1 Cor 1-4 is most likely a “cunning” rhetorical move itself (see the excellent discussion by Given, Paul’s True Rhetoric, 90-103).

[46] Amador, “Interpretive Unicity,” 57.

[47] One can glimpse here in nuce the social legitimization of the male “head of household” that will become even more prominent in the Pastorals; cf. David G. Horrell, “The Development of Theological Ideology in Pauline Christianity: A Structuration Theory Perspective,” in Modelling Early Christianity, 235-36.

[48] We have elaborated on the connection of hair/veiling to Paul’s broader discursive environment, particularly with respect to the argument from nature, in Caroline Vander Stichele and Todd Penner, “Paul and the Rhetoric of Gender,” in Her Master’s Tools? Feminist and Post-Colonial Engagements of Historical-Critical Discourse (Global Perspectives on Biblical Scholarship; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature and Leiden: Brill, 2005).

[49] See Castelli, Imitating Paul, 111-15.

[50] Stephen D. Moore, God’s Beauty Parlor and Other Queer Spaces In and Around the Bible (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 158-64.

[51] Bruno Blumenfeld, The Political Paul: Justice, Democracy and Kingship in a Hellenistic Framework (Journal for the Study of the New Testament: Supplement Series 210; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), 283.

[52] Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, “Corinthian Women Prophets and Paul’s Argumentation in 1 Corinthians,” in Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, Israel, Imperium, Interpretation (ed. R. A. Horsley; Harrisburg: Trinity Press, 2000), 108; cf. Antoinette Clark Wire, “Response: The Politics of the Assembly in Corinth,” in Paul and Politics, 127-28; and Droge, “Discerning the Body,” 304.

[53] See further the essay by Mark Given, dealing with the impact of apocalyptic thinking on Paul’s self-presentation in Rhetoric, Ethic, and Moral Persuasion in Biblical Discourse (ed. T. H. Olbricht and A. Eriksson; New York: T & T Clark International, forthcoming).

[54] Martin, The Corinthian Body, 247-48.

[55] Susan Fischler, “Imperial Cult: Engendering the Cosmos,” in When Men Were Men: Masculinity, Power & Identity in Classical Antiquity (ed. L. Foxhall and J. Salmon; New York: Routledge, 1998), 179.

[56] As the context makes clear, “…Paul does not silence the women’s voices, but takes their prophetic role for granted” (Mary Rose D’Angelo, “Veils, Virgins, and the Tongues of Men and Angels: Women’s Heads in Early Christianity,” in Off with Her Head: The Denial of Women’s Identity in Myth, Religion, and Culture [ed. W. Eilberg-Schwartz and W. Doniger; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995], 139).

[57] Martin, The Corinthian Body, 239-42.

[58] Sandra R. Joshel, “The Body Female and the Body Politic: Livy’s Lucretia and Verginia,” in Pornography and Representation in Greece & Rome (ed. A. Richlin; New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 120-21. The uncontrolled female was associated with the descent into moral chaos, particularly important theme of Roman discourse (119; cf. her “Female Desire and the Discourse of Empire: Tacitus’s Messalina,” in Roman Sexualities (ed. J. P. Hallett and M. B. Skinner; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), esp. 230-35; for the related connection of effeminate characterization [including images of uncontrolled/excessive sexuality] and moral decay, see Edwards, The Politics of Immorality, 91-92; Pierre Briant, “History and Ideology: The Greeks and ‘Persian Decadence’,” in Greeks and Barbarians [ed. T. Harrison; New York: Routledge, 2002], esp. 202-208).

[59] Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza has aptly articulated the conjunction of these various elements and their intersection with gender in particular by her use of the phrase “the politics of ‘othering’” (see “Paul and the Politics of Interpretation,” in Paul and Politics, 45-47).

[60] This is not unrelated to the house itself as a forum for public identity in the ancient world, see Edwards, The Politics of Immorality, 138-39, 150-60.

[61] Margaret M. Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation: An Exegetical Investigation of the Language and Composition of 1 Corinthians (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991), 60-64. See also Laurence L. Welborn, Politics and Rhetoric in the Corinthian Epistles (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1997), 43-75; and Martin, Corinthian Body, 39-47. Cf. the explicit use of the term philoneikos in 1 Cor 11:16, which represents the negative side of harmony and concord.

[62] Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric, 262.

[63] In this respect, it is noteworthy, as Martin suggests, that in arguments on concord “yielding to the other and giving up one’s private interest for the sake of the common good is a regular theme of homonoia speeches, and sometimes this entails the stronger yielding to the weaker” (Martin, The Corinthian Body, 42). Yet, we should also note that Paul himself does not yield here!

[64] David G. Horrell, The Social Ethos of the Corinthian Correspondence: Interests and Ideology from 1 Corinthians to 1 Clement (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1996), 173 (cf. 175).

[65] Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990), 37.

[66] Moore, God’s Beauty Parlor, 170.

[67] Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, “Transgressing Canonical Boundaries,” in Searching the Scriptures. Vol. 2: A Feminist Commentary (ed. E. Schüssler Fiorenza; New York: Crossroad, 1994), 7.


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Todd Penner,

is Associate Professor of Religion at Austin College in Sherman, Texas (USA) and


Caroline Vander Stichele

is Universitair Docent in Religious Studies at the University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands). Together they have co-edited Contextualizing Acts. Lukan Narrative and Greco-Roman Discourse (Society of Biblical Literature: Atlanta, 2003) and Her Master’s Tools? Feminist and Post-Colonial Engagements of Historical-Critical Discourse (Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, 2005).

© Todd Penner & Caroline Vander Stichele, 2004,, ISSN 1661-3317