Abstract of the paper by Nozomi Miura, Japan

The image of body runs through the First Epistle to the Corinthians, providing a coherent imagery throughout the letter. The basic problem that caused most of the Corinthian community’s misunderstandings and deviations from genuine Christianity, derived from its Greek philosophical/religious context which distorted the original Judeo-Christian understanding of “body.” The Corinthian community, tremendously encroached on by Greek philosophical/religious speculations and the “gnosticising” of the Gospel, evinced the two extreme positions—antinomianism and asceticism. Both positions were based on this dualistic anthropological/soteriological assumptions that the human body has nothing to do with salvation. Paul’s persistent assertion of the importance of body—both on practical and metaphorical levels—can be his counterbalance for the Corinthian’s extreme views of spiritualism. Moreover, the series of “body” images demonstrate the incarnational character of Christianity.

Paul offsets Corinthian devaluation of body and their anthropological view, stressing the psycho-somatic unity of human reality. Thus, the Fist Epistle to the Corinthians exhibits Paul’s body ethics. Body (sôma) is one of the important Pauline terms in his theology. I Corinthians contains intensive usage of this term. For a post-Cartesian mind-set in the Western tradition, the word “body” usually signifies physical and material organism as an antithetical term to soul; however, for Paul, the central meaning of body is the actual self, what we might call the psychosomatic entity that I am. Interestingly enough, while the modern understanding of body in the Western tradition is rather similar to that of Corinthians, Paul’s understanding of body, which is rooted in the traditional Jewish anthropological view, is much closer to that of Asian anthropological view (for example, the anthropological view of Zen Buddhism). Therefore, there is a possibility that Asian spirituality can contribute to reconstruct the original sense of the body concept in Judeo-Christian tradition.

Nozomi Miura, rscj is a member of the religious congregation,: the Society of the Sacred Heart. She is a high school teacher with a Master of Arts in Theology and Religious Studies obtained from Loyola University, New Orleans, USA. Among her published works are her Master’s Thesis, The Redactional Study of the Johannine Prologue (John 1:1-18) with a Focus on Jewish Wisdom Traditions; “An Attempt Made in the World of Globalization—Reflections on Social Justice in the Bible and the Jubilee 2000 Campaign,” Journal of TAK (Fall 2004) in Georgetown University (coming), and “Jewish Wisdom Traditions—Personification of Wisdom” in Biblical Theology Bulletin (coming)

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