SBL Proposal Accepted: Paul’s Comfort Language in 2 Corinthians

I was delighted to hear today that my proposal to the 2 Corinthians: Pauline Theology in the Making Seminar at SBL in New Orleans has been accepted.  Here it is:

The meaning and function of Paul’s ‘comfort’ language in 2 Corinthians

While scholars are generally happy to note the predominance of the language of comfort (parakaleô / paraklêsis) in 2 Corinthians 1.3-7 and 7.5-16 and often make passing reference to its potential background in biblical traditions of eschatological comfort, there is a surprising reluctance to explore the implications of this exegesis for our understanding of the overall purpose of 2 Corinthians.

Beginning with the observation that the letter opening is the place where we might expect the apostle to introduce important elements of the subsequent argument, in this paper I go on to consider the evidence for an eschatological reading of Paul’s comfort language in 2 Corinthians 1.3-7 and use this as the basis for an exploration of the role of the opening section in establishing the letter’s ‘rhetorical situation’. Paul’s employment of the ‘comfort’ topos establishes key aspects of Paul’s subsequent argumentation: namely that the apostolic proclamation and consequent suffering of Paul and his co-workers should be understood as the mediation of God’s eschatological comfort and deliverance to the Corinthian community. The Corinthians in turn have the opportunity to play a reciprocal role in this divine drama as they respond to Paul’s apostolic proclamation, participate in apostolic suffering and thereby reject the message of alternative ‘apostles’. Thus, far from being driven solely by the specific experiences in Asia that Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 1.8-11, the unusual form of the epistolary opening in 2 Corinthians serves to clarify the wider rhetorical purposes of the letter.

Now, I need to do the funding application!