To Know All Mysteries: The Mystagogue Figure in Classical Antiquity and in Saint Paul's Letters to the Corinthians

Charles Andrew Ballard, Fordham University

Abstract

This dissertation examines the way that Paul presents himself as a guide into mysteries, a “mystagogue”, in 1-2 Corinthians. By describing himself as a type of mystagogue for the community, Paul was following a precedent in both Jewish and non-Jewish sources for invoking mystagogic language to engage in polemics with a rival. In opposition to the precedent, however, Paul understands the mystagogue to be a bi-partite figure—comprised of both foolishness and wisdom simultaneously. I argue that ancient mystagogues were often described in two disparate ways: figures of power, and figures of weakness and foolishness. Paul synthesizes both aspects of the mystagogue in his self-presentation to the Corinthians. The figure of the mystagogue, as a wise-fool, was useful to Paul because it was descriptive not only of his own experience as a suffering, yet authoritative, apostle, but also of the experience of his deity, the suffering and glorified Christ. By presenting himself as both a powerful and foolish mystagogue, Paul could argue that he was a more authentic imitator of Christ than his opponents in Corinth, who were trafficking in self-exaltation instead of self-humility. In this way, Paul used the character of the mystagogue as a strategic rhetorical tool in his communication with the Corinthians. He did so in order to persuade the Corinthians that he was the legitimate mystery teacher for the community, in opposition to other rival proclaimers of mysteries in the city of Corinth. ^

Subject Area

Biblical studies|Classical studies

Recommended Citation

Ballard, Charles Andrew, "To Know All Mysteries: The Mystagogue Figure in Classical Antiquity and in Saint Paul's Letters to the Corinthians" (2016). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10125237.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI10125237

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