Since the work of Sanders, the question of participation has been at the center of Pauline soteriological debates. In this article, we argue that the salvation-historical and apocalyptic aspects of Paul's thought can be integrated by means of what might be called “cultic theosis.” We begin by looking at the way the cult figured prominently in Jewish eschatological hopes (e.g., Isa 2:2–3; 56:3–7; Ezek 40–48; Mal 3:1–3). We also show that in certain texts it was linked to participation in divine realities or what could broadly be described as “theosis” (e.g., Sir 50:1–22; Philo, Somn. 2.188–89; 2.231–32; 4Q511 XXXV, 3–5; 1QHᵃ XI, 21–22; 4Q400 II, 1). It is against this background that we investigate Paul's cultic language in 1 Corinthians. Not only does Paul view the church as the eschatological temple (1 Cor 3:16–17; 6:19), according to him it is through the ongoing cultic life of the church that believers participate in the body of “the man from heaven” (1 Cor 10:16–17; 15:47–49) and enter into the presence of heavenly realities (1 Cor 11:10). Moreover, our survey of Jewish texts illuminates Paul's account of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 11:23–26), which itself evokes cultic imagery (e.g., Exod 24:3–11). Specifically, it explains the way Paul describes participation (κοινωνία) in Christ through the eucharist (1 Cor 10:16–17) in terms of Israel's sacrificial worship, through which the people become “sharers” (κοινωνοί) in the altar (1 Cor 10:18).

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