Uncovering Traditions in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

In: Novum Testamentum
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  • 1 Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA

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One of Paul’s most notoriously difficult arguments begins with praise that the Corinthians have kept the “traditions” just as he “handed over” to them (1 Cor 11:2). Paul does not mention “traditions” after this verse, but this introduction suggests that they play a role in his argument. This essay demonstrates how traditions are part of the rhetorical argumentation of 1 Cor 11:2-16. Paul does not strictly recite teachings that his audience knows but changes them by addition or reformulation. Two modified traditions, in 11:3 and 11:11-12, formulate different perspectives on the relationship between men and women: first, hierarchical, and second, interdependent. The essay proceeds in three parts: discussion of Paul’s παράδοσις language, rhetorical analysis of 1 Cor 11:2-16, and proposal for the two “traditions” and their function in 11:3 and 11:11-12.

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