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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 Seven: Summary and Conclusions


C H A P T E R S E V E N Summary and Conclusions 7.1. Concluding Statements At the beginning of this study, I proposed the hypothesis that the concept of wor- ship in Paul is a composite and comprehensive one, involving a personal religious relationship between the worshipper and God. This relationship is communicated and established by various actions or levels of action. I also included in my hy- pothesis the idea that worship in Paul seems to be related in one way or another to the presence of the risen Jesus in the worshipping faith communities. Since Paul is our earliest NT writer, a study on the origins of Christian worship must begin with Paul as our earliest source. I proceeded to address the problem that the subject of worship in Paul’s writings is one which has been given little attention, a point which has been recognized by a number of Pauline scholars.1 The subject of worship is usually approached from a very broad and general perspective which involves approaching it as a standard concept in the NT, at least when it is ap- proached using only the English word worship. This has tended to lead readers in the direction of assuming that “worship” was a standard concept that was shared by writers like Paul. One of the problems I addressed is the tendency among scholars to explain worship instead of defining it. Neyrey has noted this problem: “Most biblical scholars interested in this topic tend to...

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