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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 Four: Description of Pauline Worship in Light of Language


C H A P T E R F O U R Description of Pauline Worship in Light of Language In this chapter, we will examine the language Paul employs for worship and observe the nuances of these words as Paul utilizes them in their respective con- texts. Our purpose in exploring the various words Paul uses for worship is to see what each of these words mean, and what they individually contribute by way of their respective meanings to the overall subject or picture of worship. We will treat each of these words by looking at their lexigraphical definition as well as their use in Hellenisitc literature including the LXX. We will track their place in the Pauline letters and seek to understand Paul’s purpose in using them, and what he intended to communicate by their usage. Among the words Paul uses for worship, latreu,w, seba,zomai, proskune,w, and douleu,w are verbs and thus denote action. We will also examine the word qrhskei,a. These words are generally trans- lated as “worship” in English translations of Paul’s letters. Paul not only viewed worship as a personal relationship between the worshipper and God, he also saw worship in terms of action which highlighted the relationship of the worshipper and God, and also reinforced the distinction between the two. Paul’s use of these various words to communicate the notion of worship indicates and confirms my conviction that unlike the univocal English word worship, Paul did not have one particular...

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