The paper will be given in the Hermeneutics seminar (my second year giving a paper there).
Here is the title and abstract:
Mirroring-Reading Paraenesis and Moral Discourses in an Ancient Letter: Sexual Immorality in Romans and 1 Thessalonians as Test-cases
Over twenty years ago, Prof. John M.G. Barclay wrote a seminal article (JSNT 31: 73-93) on the important subject of ‘Mirror-Reading a Polemical Letter’. Barclay demonstrated concern for how scholars reconstructed the nature and arguments of presumed opponents (especially in Paul’s letters); he argued that often such mirror-reading lacks methodological precision and care. His proposed criteria have aided in refining scholarly approaches to studying epistolary polemics.
The act of mirror-reading, though, takes place even when ‘opponents’ are not of primary concern. There is also the matter of the author’s approach and response to intra-church moral concerns. Historical and social reconstructions are sometimes useful for the purpose of determining whether the author was exhorting his readers in a generic way (standard paraenesis), for preventative reasons, or for reparative purposes. This paper will explore a methodology, building on the work of Prof. Barclay, for mirror-reading moral discourses and paraenesis cautious of overinterpretation and other pitfalls. The matter of sexual immorality in 1 Thessalonians and Romans will serve as test-cases.
In my thesis I did a lot of mirror-reading and the thought kept coming across my mind – ‘Why is Paul hammering away at this issue here in imperatives? Are they struggling with this issue? Is it just a standard request with no grounding in the audience’s behavior?’
On some occasions I found it hard to believe that Paul would be repeatedly making such commands if there were really no serious issues among the letter recipients. Anyway, we will see how this goes. Perhaps it will become an article, maybe not…
NB: the Hermeneutics seminar gave me a full session (90 min.) for this, which means 45 for the paper and quite a bit of time for questions. So, if you are coming to the BNTC, please consider attending my paper as I would enjoy feedback.