restricted access 7. Pauline Theological Counseling of Love in the Language of the Zhuangzi
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7 Pauline Theological Counseling of Love in the Language of the Zhuangzi A Reading of Love in 1 Corinthians in a Chinese Philosophical Context K. K. Yeo Introduction Paul’s series of rhetorical interactions with the Corinthian Christians (as evident in a rhetorical analysis of 1 and 2 Corinthians) can be read as the apostle conducting “counseling sessions” with the divisive, narcissistic, arrogant, and problematic house churches in Corinth (Yeo 1995; Thiselton 2000: 26, 37, 41–47). Almost no Pauline scholars have attempted to read Paul in this way, perhaps out of fear of being anachronistic.1 Yet scholars studying the Chinese Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi (c. 369–286 BCE) have no such reservations (Craig 2007; Huh 2004; Jung 1958; Rhee 1995; Skogemann 1986); needless to say, Western philosophers and writers have embarked on cross-cultural readings of the Daoist texts with much courage and curiosity.2 My intention here is not to make any historical claim about an encounter between Zhuangzi and Paul (c. 2 BCE–64 CE). Rather, my attempt is to read 1 Corinthians through the eyes of the Zhuangzi (the philosopher’s work goes by his name), noting the kind of intertextual relationship that can exist between the two documents for a reader of both classics. Here, I interpret the theology of love in 1 Corinthians as Paul’s way of counseling the problematic church at Corinth. I begin by reading Paul’s theology through the philosophical language of love in the Zhuangzi. I then demonstrate that despite cultural and linguistic differences between Paul and Zhuangzi, the Zhuangzi elucidates 1 Corinthians for Chinese readers familiar 117 with the language of classical Daoism. For readers unfamiliar with a Daoist worldview, this article enriches their understanding with a cross-cultural reading of 1 Corinthians. Love and Christology in 1 Corinthians as Paul’s Theological Response The radical problems found in the churches at Corinth reflect an increase in the type of Christian “love-patriarchalism” (Theissen 1982: 122)3 that Paul hopes will shift toward internal wholeness and external transformation.4 In his rhetorical strategy, Paul employs the cruciform love (agape) to rebuild the body of Christ at Corinth. Paul’s “theological counseling”5 of the Corinthian Christians encourages them to love one another and to love God for the purpose of transforming the distorted body of the Greco-Roman world (Martin 1995; Kim 2008). Both the Zhuangzi and 1 Corinthians emphasize love as selflessness or self-offering generosity. Throughout the epistle, Paul prescribes love as the remedy to three serious problems. First, responding to the problem of dullness of worldly wisdom, Paul in 1 Cor. 2:9 quotes the Ascension of Isaiah (or paraphrases Isa. 64:3) in order to prove that God through his Spirit has revealed the crucified Messiah to those who love God. Second, responding to the problem of a “personality cult” in the church, Paul uplifts the apostles’ “love in a spirit of gentleness” (4:21) with believers so that they may become the beloved (4:14, 17; cf. 15:58). Third, responding to the problem of the selfclaimed “strong” and “knowledgeable” ones who are coercing brothers and sisters with a “weak conscience” to eat food offered to idols, Paul admonishes that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (8:1). It is telling that the conclusion of 1 Corinthians (16:1-24) ends with love: “Let all that you do be done in love. . . . Let anyone be accursed who has no love for the Lord. . . . My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus” (16:14, 22, 24). This ending serves as the reminder that love is what they need most. No wonder that, of all the Pauline epistles, 1 Corinthians is the only letter that has an encomium on love (13:1—14:1; agape).6 Paul’s purpose is to explain love as the most excellent way of life for Christians to live out their faith according to the paradigm of Christ. In other words, Paul is eulogizing Christlike love. One can easily substitute the word love with the word Christ in 1 Corinthians 13.7 The Pauline Christology in 1 Corinthians supplements and clarifies his theology of love. In 1 Cor. 1:1-9 (introduction), a Christology of the cross (crucifixion) and of the body (corporeal unity) stands out as Paul’s thesis. Though the word love is absent, it is obvious that Christ’s self-offering on the 118 | 1 and 2 Corinthians cross is the result of love...


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