Monday, July 20, 2009

Diana Swancutt and Paul’s Pedagogical Approach

Diana Swancutt defines the formation of identity as ‘a specific group’s definitional response to an intercultural exchange, particularly of different peoples’ stereotyped cultural conceptions of the “other”’ (2001: 7-8). This definition accords well with Tajfel and Turner’s understanding of the process. Swancutt argues that Romans is an extended protreptic designed to form the identity of gentiles who are to identify with Israel; thus ‘he transforms’ what Israel means (9). Swancutt does not follow Francis Watson’s critique of Israel, which I'll discuss in a future post. Rather she argues that these gentiles are ‘to recognize the unsurpassed value of Judaism as their dominant cultural identity’ but she does understand Paul to be ‘changing its [Israel’s] characteristics to fit their needs’ (9). It is not clear why Swancutt’s approach requires this differentiated approach to universalistic identity. Her arguments actually align more precisely with the particularistic approach to social identity (Campbell 2006: 75).

Paul’s identity as a teacher of gentiles is central to the work of Swancutt and describes his writing ‘as a rhetoric of identity’ (2001: 255; 2006: 8). Her work on Romans is useful in the context of 1 Corinthians 1-4 in that she recognizes that some within Rome were socially identifying with ‘Romanitas’ and were ‘rejecting Jews and their Jewish identity in favour of the advantages of Romanitas’ (255). A similar social identification was likely occurring in Corinth. In fact, Swancutt considers this possibility by referring to 1 Cor. 1-4 as ‘[a] deliciously subtle argument’ that may be seen as a ‘shorter example’ of Paul’s ‘extended protreptic demonstration’ from Romans (8). Swancutt’s work is also helpful in its emphasis on Paul’s pedagogical approach in 1 Corinthians, though she too quickly assumes that the teaching and learning discourse is Graeco-Roman in nature, as well as reducing mimēsis to its function within the Greek east, both of which have been recently addressed by Kathy Ehrensperger (Swancutt 2006: 8-10; cf. Ehrensperger 2007: 117-30; 137-55). Also, Swancutt’s approach is somewhat undermined, if Campbell’s argument that Paul is not capable of being a complete example for gentiles is substantiated (2006: 153).

Swancutt understands ‘Paul’s practice of instructing them in scripture’ as that which provides correction with regard to their current social identification (11). In an earlier work, she argues that Paul’s use of Israel’s scriptures provide insight into the ‘early socialization practices of Christ-confessing communities composed predominantly of Gentiles’ (2003: 127). In Corinth, noting the reference in 1 Cor. 10:4 to ‘Christ as Rock’, Paul’s use of the Psalms served his rhetorical purpose in addressing issues of cultural identity and group unity in 1 Cor. 8-10 (2003: 134-40). Swancutt’s work resonates with many of the same concerns that I have with regard to how we are to view Paul’s agency in the formation of Christ-movement identity. What was Paul's role in the formation of this identity? Are letters an effective means of forming a group's social identity?

Campbell, W.S. Paul and the Creation of Christian Identity (LNTS, 322; London; T&T Clark, 2006).
Ehrensperger, K. Paul and the Dynamics of Power (LNTS, 325; New York: T&T Clark, 2007).
Swancutt, D. ‘Pax Christi: Romans as Protrepsis to Live as Kings’, (Ph.D. thesis, Duke University; Durham, North Carolina, 2001).
Swancutt, D. ‘Christian “Rock” Music in Corinth?’, in H.W. Attridge and M. Fassler (eds.), The Psalms in Jewish and Christian Textual, Liturgical, and Artistic Traditions (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003).
Swancutt, D. ‘Scripture “Reading” and Identity Formation in Paul: Paideia among Believing Greeks’, (Paul and Scripture Seminar – SBL November, 2006).

No comments: