Final Examination of
for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Friday, November 9, 2012
2 p.m., Caldwell Room 125
Paul’s Call to Imitation: The Rhetorical Function of the Theme of Imitation in Its Epistolary Context.
Director: Frank J. Matera, Ph.D.
The Pauline call to imitation is one of the most distinctive aspects of Pauline thought. The explicit call to imitation occurs five times in the non-disputed Pauline letters: 1 Thess 1:6; 2:14; 1 Cor 4:16; 11:1; and Phil 3:17. It is a call to imitate the example that Paul sets before the community to which he writes. Although these letters are the only ones in which Paul explicitly calls others to imitate him, the theme of imitation occurs throughout his writings.
The monographs and articles that have addressed the theme of imitation in Pauline thought use either the historical-critical method or a rhetorical method to develop their thesis. This study examines the rhetorical function of the theme of imitation in its epistolary context. The rhetorical situation of the community to which Paul writes is an important element in the study of his letters. Therefore, examining each call to imitation within the rhetorical situation of the community to which Paul writes provides a clear understanding of his call to imitation.
Although each call to imitation is found within a different rhetorical situation, this study argues that with each call to imitate him, Paul establishes a new set of community relationships to which each believing community must adhere. Within this new set of relationships there are four themes that are crucial to Paul’s call to imitation: humility, suffering, unity, and salvation. These four themes form the shape and structure of true community life.
Paul’s call to imitation and his desire to create this new set of community relationships requires believers to live in humility and to be willing to endure suffering. The purpose of this imitation is to create unity within the community so that at the parousia all believers will share in salvation. Through his own example and the example of Christ, Paul demonstrates the example he calls others to imitate.