Paul’s View on Christian Suffering: Honor Discourse as a Lens

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The work of John H. Elliott and David A. deSilva has demonstrated the value of reading Paul's positive utterances on the topic of Christian suffering (e.g. Phil 1:29) as embedded in an honor discourse. In his letters, Paul uses the rhetoric of “divine reversal,” in which the shame of Christians—their suffering as discriminated against—is transformed into the opposite: honor. Continuing in this direction, in this article I examine Paul’s honor discourse in Rom 8:12–39, where much of the suffering does not seem to occur “for Christ's sake.” I argue that experiences of suffering in Romans 8 are linked to notions of mortality and sin and therefore not characterized as honorable. Comparing Romans 8 to Paul’s honor discourse in Philippians leads me to conclude that Paul's positive evaluation of the harsh reality of suffering does not apply to all kinds of suffering. Moreover, I argue that we need to find more nuanced ways to speak about Paul’s positive stance on Christian suffering.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-137
JournalJournal for the study of Paul and his letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


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