BE IMITATORS OF ME Peter J Williams

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330 TYNDALE BULLETIN 49 2 1998, words does not appear at all in the Old Testament 3 and the verb only. appears some four times in the apocryphal writings of the Septuagint 4. For Paul fitting objects of imitation variously include Christ or God. himself his colleagues other Christians and other churches. The believer s imitation of appropriate examples is clearly. important to Paul It is a practice which he not only commends but it. is one which he explicitly praises when it appropriately takes place. 1 Thess 1 6 Furthermore it is a practice which he himself. exemplifies thus Be imitators of me as I am of Christ 1 Cor. 11 1 Given the importance placed by Paul on this motif it is. significant that it has received relatively little attention either by. scholars or ministers 5, 3Michaelis 663 fn 7 argues that the notion of imitation of God. is alien to the Old Testament indeed he draws attention to the suggestion that. God is explicitly held to me inimitable W P de Boer The Imitation of Paul. Kampen Kok 1962 29 41 takes a more nuanced view that the raw materials. for the idea are present Later Judaism influenced by Greek thought and. witnessed in Philo was much more content to speak of imitation. 44 Mac 9 23 13 9 Wis 4 2 15 9 The noun copy is found in Wis. 5Three major monographs dealing with the subject were published in the 1960s. W P de Boer The Imitation of Paul A Schulz Nachfolgen und Nachahmen. Studien ber das Verh ltnis der neutestamentlichen J ngerschaft zur. urchristlichen Vorbildethik M nchen K sel 1962 H D Betz Nachfolge und. Nachahmung Jesu Christi im Neuen Testament Beitr ge zur historischen. Theologie T bingen J C B Mohr 1967 Betz locates the imitation motif in the. Hellenistic Mystery cults Since then there have been a number of short articles. considering Paul s use of the motif and monographs by E A Castelli Imitating. Paul A Discourse of Power Literary Currents in Biblical Interpretation. Westminster Louisville 1991 and B Fiore The Function of Personal Example. in the Socratic and Pastoral Epistles Analecta Biblica Rome Biblical Institute. Press 1986 E J Tinsley Some Principles for Reconstructing a Doctrine of the. Imitation of Christ SJT 25 1972 45 notes a perceptible nervousness by. protestant scholars to discuss imitation with regard to Christ More recently this. prejudice may be reinforced by a post modern reluctance to tackle the same. CLARKE Be Imitators of Me 331, This Pauline motif of imitation will be the focus of this. article It will be pursued by considering not only those passages. where he explicitly commends or demands imitation but also by. reviewing verses in the Pauline corpus where imitation is only. indirectly sought It may also be instructive to consider occasions. where the imitation of certain individuals is seen by Paul as ill. advised An important related dimension to this subject will lead us to. consider instances in the corpus where Paul urges his readers whether. as churches or as individuals to provide in themselves examples. for others in turn to emulate,II Imitation in the Pauline Corpus. It has been noted by a number of scholars that Paul is unique in the. New Testament in his exhortation to imitation of himself and that he. explicitly urges this only when corresponding with congregations. which he has founded namely those in Thessalonica Corinth Galatia. and Philippi 6 He variously exhorts these congregations to imitate. him sometimes using the imitate word group,sometimes by referring to himself as an example.
7 and sometimes in less explicit language, In broad terms there have been three contrasting responses to. analysis of the Pauline mimesis motif 8 first imitation of Paul consists. in conformity to his gospel and is used by Paul as a means of. demanding obedience Michaelis secondly Paul is not specific about. the content of the imitation but uses the motif as a rhetorical device to. reinforce his power and thereby define his group s identity Castelli. 6E Best Paul and his Converts Sprunt lectures 1985 Edinburgh T T Clark. 1988 68 notes that with regard to congregations which he has not founded he. does nonetheless enjoin imitation of Christ Rom 15 2 3. 7Phil 3 17 2 Thess 3 9, 8I am grateful to C D Agan Moral Imitation in Early Christian Literature. unpublished article for his assessment of the scholarly treatment of the motif. E J Richard First and Second Thessalonians Sacra Pagina Collegeville. Liturgical Press 1995 66 adopts a similar analysis. 332 TYNDALE BULLETIN 49 2 1998, and thirdly the focus is on emulating the self giving humility of the. apostle and his motivation is the edification of believers de Boer. Where many scholars have responded to the earlier studies by. Michaelis and de Boer few have answered Castelli s conclusions She. approaches the subject from a Foucauldian post structuralist. perspective with the premises that truth is relative the recovery of. authorial intent is impossible and texts have a coercive force on social. relations a text should be analysed for its effect rather than its. meaning 9 She argues that Paul s use of mimesis language is entirely. consistent with its wider use evident in Graeco Roman sources. namely that it is a tool of social control to promote sameness 10. Consequently to interpret such instructions as simple ethical. injunctions not only fails to grasp the deeper content which would. have been plain to a first century reader but also ignores the power. dynamic which is latent 11, It is not intended in the course of this paper to undertake a. detailed critique of Castelli s method 12 but by looking again at Paul s. repeated references to exemplary behaviour in himself and others 13. 9Castelli Imitating Paul 24 argues that the Pauline letters should be regarded as. a site at which power is negotiated brokered or inscribed or even as a record. of the conflict,10Castelli Imitating Paul 15 119 21.
11Castelli Imitating Paul 16 17 She coins the phrase fallacy of self evidence. and criticises 23 those who assume the transparency of textual reference while. remaining silent on the question of the interestedness of the text. 12For a critical assessment of Castelli s use of Foucauldian theory see A C. Thiselton Interpreting God and the Postmodern Self On Meaning Manipulation. and Promise Edinburgh T T Clark 1995 140 44 and S Gathercole The. Influence on New Testament Studies of Post Structuralism with Special Reference. to John Dominic Crossan and Elizabeth Castelli unpublished B A dissertation. University of Cambridge 1996 Also Agan Moral Imitation in Early Christian. Literature writes In the final analysis Castelli s critique reads more as a. critique of modern society than of Paul s theology and she assumes rather than. justifies her hermeneutic of suspicion One must grant her presupposition that. power hungry authority figures often employ rhetoric to advance their own ends. it is not as clear that one must grant her presupposition that Paul was consciously. or not a wolf in shepherd s clothing, 13Cf Richard First and Second Thessalonians 66 where not expressly with. regard to Castelli he notes the difficulty when the scope of examples is limited. CLARKE Be Imitators of Me 333, we shall see that her understanding of the texts is a clear misreading of. their context and that rather than occluding the ethical element of. his injunctions this constituent of the motif remains most apparent. 1 1 Thessalonians, An important starting point for our study is to observe one of the. earliest extant occurrences in the Pauline corpus of this motif namely. in the Thessalonian correspondence In a letter in which Paul strongly. and repeatedly commends his readers for their Christian lives cf. 1 Thess 1 3 3 6 4 10 he additionally commends them for their. imitation of him and his life,You know what kind of men we proved to be. among you for your sake And you became imitators,of us and of the Lord for you received the.
word in much affliction with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit so. that you became an example to all the, believers in Macedonia and in Achaia 1 Thess 1 5b 7. We see in these verses a cycle of example and imitation. which is here explicitly stated but proves to be a continuing theme. through the first two chapters of the epistle Paul Silvanus and. Timothy 1 Thess 1 1 recall for their readers and hearers their own. conduct when they had earlier visited Thessalonica and founded the. Christian community there In a process which demonstrates. considerable pastoral success the writers highlight the fact that. during their evangelistic visit they had been in their conduct a model. for the Thessalonians in turn the Thessalonians, had proved to be imitators of both them and Christ. and so successful were the Thessalonian, Christians in that imitation that young in their faith they also became. a model for the believers in both their local, province of Macedonia in northern Greece as well as in the more. 334 TYNDALE BULLETIN 49 2 1998, distant province of Achaia in the south What characteristics were the.
Thessalonians imitating, It is reported that the Thessalonians proved to be imitators of. Jesus the ministering apostle and his team in their reception of the. 1 Thess 1 6 The question is whether they were, imitators simply by virtue of receiving the word or by receiving it. in much affliction or by receiving it with the joy of the Holy. It may be argued that they did not become imitators of us. and of the Lord 15 simply by virtue of receiving the word for it is self. evident that they imitated the Lord in neither the fact nor the. circumstances of their conversion 16 The two other lines of. interpretation are that their imitation lay either in the opposition which. all faced Paul his team the Lord and the Thessalonians or in the joy. which accompanied that conversion, 14Richard First and Second Thessalonians 67 notes these three options. focussing either on the participle or on the first adverbial phrase. or on the second adverbial phrase, His conclusion is the focus of Paul s thought is not on the difficulties. nor even on the acceptance of the word but rather on the note of joy which. has resulted in the Thessalonians becoming an example to others. 15It is noted that various commentators consider to be a self. correction or afterthought see Castelli Imitating Paul 91 who argues. unconvincingly that the addition of and the Lord is an attempt by Paul to add. authority to his message, 16E Best A Commentary on the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians.
BNTC London A C Black 1972 77 Paul does not elsewhere confine. imitation of himself to the period of initial Christian decision Best nonetheless. argues that the imitation is in the manner albeit not the fact of conversion. namely in the context of suffering but he notes the associated difficulty that. Christ did not receive the word op cit 78,CLARKE Be Imitators of Me 335. A number of commentators17 limit the Thessalonians. imitation to the element highlighted in the first of the adverbial. phrases namely oppression from without 18 It is clear from. 1 Thessalonians 1 6 that they had accepted the gospel in the face of. much pressure cf 2 Thess 1 4 Later in the, epistle Paul reminds them not only that he also had persevered in. preaching the gospel to them despite great opposition. 1 Thess 2 2 a perspective which is witnessed in Acts 17 1. 9 but also that persecution is to be considered the lot of believers. 1 Thess 3 3 4 It would also have been recognised that Jesus. himself continued to minister in the face of considerable opposition. and in this sense the Thessalonians are imitators not only of Paul but. also of Christ 1 Thess 1 6 19, In 1 Thessalonians 2 14 Paul again praises the Thessalonians. for their imitation In this case it is of neither himself nor the Lord but. of other Judean churches in Christ Jesus 20,For you brethren became imitators of the. churches of God in Christ Jesus which are in Judea for you. suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did. from the Jews 1 Thess 2 14, 17C A Wanamaker The Epistles to the Thessalonians A Commentary on the.
Greek Text NIGTC Grand Rapids Eerdmans 1990 82 argues that Because. their conversion had occurred in spite of opposition and distress and they had. remained faithful in the face of continuing opposition cf 3 1 5 their persistence. served as a source of encouragement and inspiration to other groups of believers. in their region After debating whether the aorist participle is temporal or. instrumental he concludes 80 81 that the elements of both persecution and. joy are significant Cf also Best The First and Second Epistles to the. Thessalonians 76 77 where his argument considers the punctiliar aspect to the. aorist ejgenhvqhte This means that the emphasis in imitation must be placed on. the way in which they received the word i e with much tribulation rather than. on the fact of reception, 18Contra A J Malherbe Paul and the Thessalonians Philadelphia Fortress. 1987 46 48 who argues that the here is the psychological turmoil which. follows conversion rather than external opposition. 19This opposition which Jesus faced is more explicitly referred to in 1 Thess 2 15. in terms of his death at the hands of fellow countrymen. 20It is noteworthy that in both 1 Thess 1 6 and 2 14 the imitation clause is in. considering Paul s use of the motif and monographs by E A Castelli Imitating Paul A Discourse of Power Literary Currents in Biblical Interpretation Westminster Louisville 1991 and B Fiore The Function of Personal Example in the Socratic and Pastoral Epistles Analecta Biblica Rome Biblical Institute Press 1986 E J Tinsley

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