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Worship and the Risen Jesus in the Pauline Letters


Tony Costa

The very essence of the existential relationship between the human and the divine is communicated by the English word, ‘worship’. Although the word appears to carry a univocal meaning in English, no such word per se exists in the Greek New Testament. The English word at best explains but does not adequately and completely define the dynamics involved in the relationship between humanity and God. Worship and the Risen Jesus in the Pauline Letters approaches the subject of Christian worship in respect to its origins from the perspective of the earliest New Testament writer: Paul. This book seeks to address the relative absence in scholarship of a full treatment of worship in the Pauline Letters. Closely related to the theme of Christian worship in the Pauline Letters is the person of the risen Jesus and the place he occupies in the faith community. This work proposes a proper working definition of, including criteria for, ‘worship’. Paul employed an array of Greek words as descriptors to communicate the various nuances and dimensions related to one’s relationship with God. ‘Worship’ also functioned for Paul as a boundary marker between believers and unbelievers vis-à-vis baptism and the Eucharist. The eschatological and teleological aspects of worship are also examined through a study of the Carmen Christi (Phil 2: 6–11). This study maintains that worship in Paul is not defined by any one word but is rather a composite and comprehensive personal religious relationship between the worshipper and God.


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Chapter Three: A Proposed Definition and Criteria for Worship


C H A P T E R T H R E E A Proposed Definition and Criteria for Worship A working definition of worship and criteria that will be employed and referenced in this research work will be the following: Worship is a personal relational religious act of total submission between a human or spiritual1 subject, either individually or collectively in a group, and a superhuman, divine,2 or heavenly, superspiritual entity or entities, God, a god, or gods, including their representation(s) by way of an idol or idols.3 In this religious context, the human (or spiritual) subject is functionally the worshipper, the active subject, the one who performs the act or medium of worship, and God or a superhuman (or spiritual heavenly) entity is functionally the passive object, the worshipped object, the one who receives the act of worship.4 A religious context is axiomatic for worship to take place. If the act is not performed in a religious context, worship does not take place. The two main ingredients in worship that will be examined are those of personal relationship and action. Relationally, the worshipper is considered to be inferior and dependent on God. Thus, the relationship can be expressed as that of a minor subject (the worshipper) to a major object (God). To communicate and express this relationship between the worshipper and the worshipped, the worship- per engages in various actions or levels of action to indicate his or her inferiority to and dependence on God. These levels...

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