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Scripture, Texts, and Tracings in 1 Corinthians

Now out from Lexington Books and Fortress Academic is Scripture, Texts, and Tracings in 1 Corinthians (affiliate disclosure), edited by Linda Belleville and B. J. Oropeza. The volume is the first in a new series that seeks ways forward beyond current impasses in the study of Paul’s relationship to his Scriptures.


This volume is the first to be released from the Society of Biblical Literature’s current “Scripture and Paul” seminar. Three others are forthcoming in the series that will address Romans, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians.

Traditional comparative approaches to Paul and Scripture often index Paul against one or another textual form of his Scriptures. These approaches then “attribute the textual differences to Paul’s creative genius or overactive imagination” (xiii).

Both the seminar and the series of volumes issuing from it, however, are particularly sensitive to how this approach often “overlook[s] the biblical and extra-biblical tradition-history in which Paul stands” (xiii). As such, the series is interested in treatments of particular texts—in this case, within 1 Corinthians. It is also concerned with methodological resolutions for “scholarly gridlock” in the study of Paul’s relationship to Scripture (xiii).

To this end, the 1 Corinthians volume includes an introduction by the editors and a dozen essays from various contributors. It also includes an afterward by Christopher Stanley, the long-time leader of SBL’s prior “Paul and Scripture” seminar. The various essays tend to focus on particular texts or themes and provide methodological reflection along the way.

1 Corinthians 15

Roughly one quarter of the volume addresses various aspects of 1 Cor 15. My own contribution falls within this group. This essay reconsiders an older hypothesis about Paul’s reference to baptism in behalf of the dead (1 Cor 15:29). In particular, I explore this reference as a possible allusion to texts like Lev 21–22 and Num 6 and 19.

[B]aptism on behalf of the dead appear[s] with greater clarity when the reader takes time to ponder Paul’s use of the rich Scriptures of his heritage.
– Raymond F. Collins, Brown University

Much more could have been said about interpretation than we were able to accommodate in the volume. Since submitting the essay, my thinking on 1 Cor 15 in general and v. 29 in particular continues to evolve. So, watch for further discussion along these lines in the future.

Understanding Paul’s Use of Scripture

Methodologically, ongoing discussion of “Paul’s use of Scripture” continues to be greatly indebted to Richard Hays, especially in his Scripture in the Letters of Paul (YUP, 1989). That indebtedness is clear in this volume as well.

Thematic Coherence as Topical Coherence

I’ve previously tried to nuance and sharpen further the basic criteria Hays proposed for identifying Paul’s fainter references to Scripture. If you’re interested, you can find this in Sacred Texts and Paradigmatic Revolutions (affiliate disclosure; Bloomsbury, 2013), especially pp. 50–55. In working on 1 Cor 15:29, however, I realized “thematic coherence” is more multi-faceted than is often assumed.

For Hays, “thematic coherence” primarily focuses on determining whether a possible allusion fits the topic of a particular Pauline passage. In Sacred Texts and Paradigmatic Revolutions, I urged that this “fit” be determined by Paul’s context, not a modern one. But I described thematic coherence essentially as Hays does in Scripture in the Letters of Paul.

Thematic Coherence as Rhetorical Coherence

Looking for this kind of thematic coherence is good and necessary. But as it turns out, looking for this kind of thematic coherence alone is incomplete. Themes emerge not just topically in what Paul argues by means of Scripture. They also emerge rhetorically in how Paul argues by means of Scripture.

That is, “thematic coherence” is not simply a question of topical fit with the argument of any given Pauline pericope. It is also a question of rhetorical fit with the whole complex pattern of hermeneutics we see in Paul’s letters. As that pattern emerges, we get additional information about the kind of behavior Paul exhibits toward Scripture. And with this information, we can then ask whether another potential allusion fits that larger rhetorical-hermeneutical pattern:

as themes emerge in the rhetoric of how Paul uses Israel’s Scripture, similarities in such rhetorical themes—in the ways Paul interprets and deploys Scripture—can provide additional points of comparison for confirming potential transumptions (171).

Regrettably, space constraints didn’t allow more substantive reflection on this point in the essay itself. But it strikes me as another helpful question to ask as we think about how Paul interacts with his Scriptures.


Scripture, Texts, and Tracings in 1 Corinthians is now available (affiliate disclosure). The whole volume has already received some very kind praise:

  1. “This impressive collection of essays on difficult passages and larger themes in 1 Corinthians offers new insights into matters that continue to stymie interpreters. The contributors show how Paul, as a sophisticated and practiced interpreter, deeply engages with Scripture to shape his arguments throughout the letter despite using only a few explicit quotations. Their meticulous work produces stimulating results that reveal the Scripture’s influence on Paul’s process of reasoning that often goes undetected. This compilation should spark renewed research in this area.” – David E. Garland, George W. Truett Theological Seminary
  2. “The majority of the work on Paul’s use of Scripture comes from Galatians and Romans and so a volume of 1 Corinthians is most welcome. The studies reveal Paul’s deep interaction with Scripture, even when he is not explicitly quoting it. They also show that Paul is deeply indebted to Jewish traditions of interpretation, even while commending his own Christological interpretations. Many of the insights in this book will set the agenda for future studies.” – Steve Moyise, Newman University, UK
  3. “This collection of papers from one SBL seminar has a unique thematic coherence and consistently high quality. The use of Scripture in 1 Corinthians has been underserved but this anthology goes a long way to fill that gap. The kinds of intertextuality proposed here go a long way toward solving classic cruxes about the discipline of the incestuous offender in chapter 5, the traveling Rock who was Christ in chapter 10, and the nature of the problems with resurrection in Corinth that necessitated chapter 15, along with numerous other issues. This volume is a model of what a collection of scholarly conference papers should look like.” – Craig L. Blomberg, Denver Seminary
  4. Scripture, Texts, and Tracings in 1 Corinthians provides the reader with a remarkable walk through this letter as he or she ponders the complex scriptural matrix from which Paul produced his epistolary gem. While walking, the reader is brought to a fuller appreciation of the soil from which the apostle’s thought has sprung. The many and various ways in which he used the Scriptures of his tradition shed so many shades of light on what he wrote. For example, a rolling stone and baptism on behalf of the dead appear with greater clarity when the reader takes time to ponder Paul’s use of the rich Scriptures of his heritage.” – Raymond F. Collins, Brown University


And for ease of reference, all of the essays included in the volume are:

  1. Paul’s Re-Contextualizations of the Prophets and other Texts in 1 Corinthians 1–2 – Erik Waaler
  2. Paul’s Mystery Thriller: The Use of the Danielic Mystery in 1 Corinthians – Benjamin L. Gladd
  3. Overrealized Eschatology or Lack of Eschatology in Corinth? – Craig S. Keener
  4. The Incestuous Man of 1 Corinthians 5, Septuagint Banishment Texts, and Eating with Sinners – Kathy Barrett Dawson
  5. Curse Redux? 1 Corinthians 5:13, Deuteronomy, and Identity in Corinth – Guy Prentiss Waters
  6. Paul and the Law in 1 Corinthians – Brian S. Rosner
  7. Loyalty to Christ in 1 Corinthians 5–13 and Loyalty to YHWH in Deuteronomy? Paul’s Covenantal Reuse of Deuteronomy – Erik Waaler
  8. Paul’s Christological Use of the Exodus-Wilderness Rock Tradition in 1 Corinthians 10:4 – Linda L. Belleville
  9. Prophecy in Corinth and Paul’s Use of Isaiah’s Prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14:21–25 – Roy E. Ciampa
  10. Baptism in behalf of the Dead at Corinth—and in the Pentateuch? – J. David Stark
  11. A Neglected Deuteronomic Scriptural Matrix for the Nature of the Resurrection Body in 1 Corinthians 15:39–42? – David A. Burnett
  12. Corinthian Diversity, Mythological Beliefs, and Bodily Immortality Related to the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15) – B. J. Oropeza
  13. Afterword: Scripture in 1 Corinthians: Assessing the Status Quaestionis – Christopher D. Stanley


I received my contributor copy of Scripture, Texts, and Tracings in 1 Corinthians in the mail a few days ago. I’m looking forward to working through the other essays in the volume.

I was able to hear preliminary versions of some of the papers in SBL seminar sessions. These were all quite interesting and thought-provoking then, and I’m sure the more developed versions now in print will are still more so.

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