The boundaries of Christology: 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 and its exegetical substructure

Anthony J Chvala-Smith, Marquette University


In 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 Paul maintains three times that Christ's reign, established at the resurrection, will end: at the parousia (15:24), when death is vanquished (15:25-26), and when he has brought everything into subjection (15:27-28). Exegetes regularly soften or ignore this "christological reservation." It has been insufficiently explored, and its origin and function consequently remain opaque. Paul's statement that in the end God will be "all in all" (15:28c) also remains obscure. A need exists for a critical analysis which aims at explicating these and other enigmas. This dissertation argues that the key to 1 Cor 15:20-28 is found in understanding both its literary form and its use of Scripture. Methodologies pioneered by Dodd, Borgen, Gerhardsson, Stockhausen, and Stegner supplement classical historical-critical methods to recover Paul's exegetical argumentation. 1 Cor 15:20-28 is an apocalypse, a literary revelation which weaves biblical texts into a new narrative about eschatological mysteries. Paul uses Psalms 110:1 and 8:7 with their literary contexts to show, among other things, that the messianic age is a time of conflict. However, the thesis of this dissertation is that pivotal themes of 1 Cor 15:20-28--Christ's abdication at the end (15:24), death as the last enemy (15:26), and the Son's subjection to God (15:27-28)--ultimately derive from Daniel 7:1-27. Insights into how apocalypses use Scripture help substantiate this claim. Paul's christological reservation, and the parallel notion in some Jewish apocalypses of a temporary messianic kingdom, are traced to an exegetical tradition which reads Daniel 7:13-14 against 7:27. Paul finds in Scripture and Israel's faith the boundaries of christology. His christological reservation is vital to his argument with the Corinthian opponents. They believe that they now rule, because their incorporation into Christ discloses their true identity as spirit. Paul sees their position as jeopardizing monotheism; his apocalypse intends to reaffirm the theocentric framework of his gospel.

Recommended Citation

Chvala-Smith, Anthony J, "The boundaries of Christology: 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 and its exegetical substructure" (1993). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9325672.