Date of Award

Spring 1993

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Stockhausen, Carol

Second Advisor

Edwards, R. S.

Third Advisor

Schmitt, John J.


Among the strange, even exotic, things Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, one of the more curious is his thrice-made claim in verses 20-28 that the present reign of Christ will end. The drama which began at his resurrection will conclude with his victory over the last enemy, death, upon which the Son will submit to God in order that, in the words of 15:28, "God may be all in all." This passage has developed a reputation for being a problematic text in Paul's letters. The goal of this study is, quite simply, to understand it as thoroughly as possible. Many commentators have found this element of 1 Cor I 15:20-28 difficult and peculiar. This is not, I think, because what Paul says is somehow intrinsically hard to understand, or because there are insoluble text-critical problems or uncertainties about the translation. The problem seems to lie, rather, in the assumptions and expectations many readers bring to the passage. After all, texts as diverse as the Nicene Creed and Handel's Oratorio The Messiah proclaim that Christ "shall reign forever and ever." But that is exactly the reverse of what Paul says. This dimension of Paul's christology in 1 Cor 15:20-28, in other words, collides with the subsequent theological developments which shape, whether consciously or not, the presuppositions of interpreters. It is not that these developments and presuppositions are wrong, and this study has no interest in suggesting that they are. It is, rather, that they took shape in a historical context and within a hermeneutical framework quite different from Paul's. As a result of this situation, understanding what Paul says and why he says it has not, in my judgment, advanced very far. It is fair to say that critical exegesis has not yet satisfactorily explained the difficult elements of the christology of the passage. This dissertation will attempt that task. Historical-critical methods have, of late, fallen on hard times; at the very least, one must now concede that they no longer can claim interpretative hegemony, since the field now belongs to a plurality of methods. But the genius of historical-criticism is its predisposition to let the text he the text in all its antique otherness, even when that proves costly. In the case of 1 Cor 15:20-28, that is exactly what is needed.



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