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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 Six: The Purpose and Ultimate Goal of Worship in Paul


C H A P T E R S I X The Purpose and Ultimate Goal of Worship in Paul 6.1. Preliminary Remarks Paul as we have seen viewed worship as a relationship between the human subject, either individually or collectively with others, and the divine object: God. We saw that at several points in his letters Paul also included the risen Jesus within the worship context of the faith community, particularly in the area of invocation, prayer, including his wish prayers in his epistolary salutations. We also saw the use of hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs being sung to the risen Jesus, although this only appears in Eph 5:19.1 In this chapter, I seek to investigate what Paul perceived to be the Zielangabe, the purpose and the ultimate goal of worship. What is the end purpose of worship, and what is achieved ultimately in worship according to Paul? In order to examine these questions, we turn to an important passage which many scholars believe was rooted in the worship environment of the early Christian movement, namely, the Carmen Christi (Phil 2:6–11). I deal with the Carmen Christ because of its climatic point which ends with the glory of God. The Carmen Christi also appears to contain some overlap with what we have examined in this book, particularly the place of the risen Jesus in Christian worship, the expressions of bowing the knee, and confession. Most importantly the Carmen presents a trajectory that begins with Jesus and ends...

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