Paul and the Emergence of Christian Textuality

by Margaret M. Mitchell

Forthcoming Nov 2017 from Mohr-Siebeck

Mitchell Paul and Christian TextualityThe essays by Margaret M. Mitchell collected in this volume were published over a roughly twenty-five year span of time, and range in scope from the treatment of a two-word phrase (περὶ δέ, “now concerning,” in 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians) to the role of “the written record” in the formation, diffusion, and ultimate success of the Gentile Christ-believing mission in the first three centuries. At the heart of these studies are two main claims: an insistence that it was by no means predictable that textuality would be a crucial medium of the Christ-believing apocalyptic missionary movements, and the contention that in a significant way it was the influence of the self-styled “apostolic envoy,” Paul, that made it so. This extends from the flexible poetics of his accordion-like “gospel narrative” that could be expanded and contracted to encompass and address with sophistication all kinds of issues in occasion-specific written texts, to the theological grounding of that gospel proclamation κατὰ τὰς γραφάς (“according to the scriptures,” 1 Cor 15:3–4), to the religious logic of “envoyage” and “epiphany” that animated his self-understanding of mediated presence of Jesus Christ crucified, to the powerful poetics of epistolary literature that enabled the absent Paul to speak from a distance and so even the dead Paul to continue to speak to generation after generation in a trans-local and trans-temporal religious community formed in relation to these texts, their claims, and their ritual embodiments. The story of the development of an early Christian literary culture is not ancillary to a proper study of the “rise of Christianity” but is a key to it, the isolation of a major strand of its DNA and its processes for replication across time and space.