Marks of Oppression: A Postcolonial Reading of Paul's Stigmata in Galatians 6:7

in Biblical Interpretation
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Abstract

In this essay I examine Gal. 6.17 in hopes of recovering an interpretation of Paul that demonstrates Paul's self-identity as a slave. To be more specific, I investigate Gal. 6.11-17 in light of current studies in postcolonialism, in order to see the influences that the Roman Empire had upon Paul in regard to Paul's understanding of his stigmata ('marks'). The purpose of this article is (1) to evaluate the contemporary historical and social-scientific interpretations of the stigmata and argue for the importance of understanding these 'marks' in light of ancient rhetoric, (2) I will argue to situate this discussion within a postcolonial dialogue with a specific definition of postcolonialism that rejects overly simplistic 'dualistic' rubrics and investigates a text looking for domination/coordination/subordination relationships, (3) reconsider Paul's stigmata in light of the slavery metaphor by comparing Paul's stigmata to the ancient slave concept of basanos, and (4) offer a new interpretation of the stigmata as it reveals Paul's suppressed status as a colonized Jew looking for an alternative language to express his deep need for a master worthy of his loyalty. The results may be less than desirable, but I hope to both make people aware of the slave metaphor, and stimulate thought as to other meaningful metaphors that might be considered to understand Paul's relationship to Christ as it is conceived within a postcolonial optic.

Biblical Interpretation

A Journal of Contemporary Approaches

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