Christ's Body in Corinth: The Politics of a Metaphor (Paul in Critical Contexts)

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9780800662851: Christ's Body in Corinth: The Politics of a Metaphor (Paul in Critical Contexts)

Yung Suk Kim takes up the language of "body" that infuses 1 Corinthians, Paul's most complicated letter, and the letter that provides us the most information, and poses the sharpest questions, about social realities in the early church. Kim argues against the view that in speaking of the church as Christ's body Paul seeks to emphasize unity and the social boundary. Against the conventional rhetoric of the "body politic" in Greco-Roman philosophy, Kim argues that Paul seeks rather to nourish the vitality of a diverse community and to criticize the ideology of a powerful in-group in Corinth, a message of particular importance for contemporary global Christianity.

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From the Author:

The interpretation of the "body of Christ" in 1 Corinthians is a pressing concern in the present context of a diversified global church because its predominant interpretation as an ecclesiological organism characterized by unity and homonoia (concord) serves as a boundary marker that tends to exclude the voices of marginality and diversity. This traditional reading, while plausible, ignores a deeper, ethical meaning of the "body of Christ" as re-imagined through his body crucified, which questions an ideology of hegemonic power in both the Corinthian context and today. From the perspective of a different conception of community and of soma christou in the image of Christ crucified, this metaphor of soma christou becomes a metaphor for a way of living through which the Corinthian community is expected to live as a Christic body, identifying Christ's body with the most vulnerable and broken bodies in the community and in the world, an issue that we are to grapple with and resolve. Read this way, Paul's theology continues the legacy of Jesus tradition in terms of deconstruction (critique of religion and culture) and reconstruction (advocacy of the beloved community for all). Paul's theology should be reclaimed as such so that we might truly appreciate what he lived for. That is why I wrote this book.

From the Inside Flap:

Reading as a citizen of an increasingly diverse postcolonial world, Yung Suk Kim protests the scholarly consensus that reads Paul's language of the "body of Christ" in 1 Corinthians as a metaphor for social unity, current in Hellenistic and Roman philosophical and political discourse, in which the integrity of the social body required the vigilant maintenance of group boundaries and the harmony of its members. Kim points out the potential of this reading to promote coercive patterns of enforced unity in the contemporary world. Kim argues instead that in speaking of the church as Christ's body, Paul relies upon the metaphoric language of embodied vitality and growth, seeking instead to nourish the life-giving practices of a diverse community and to oppose the ideology of a powerful in-group that threatens to "disembody" the Christic body in Corinth. Reading the language of soma christou exclusively from a sociological lens fails to comprehend the important christological coordinates of Paul's thought, which nevertheless have clear and urgent social and political implications. Paul's exhortation is a message of particular importance, Kim suggests, for us who seek to discern the true value of difference in the contemporary world.

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