Paul's image of the church as the “body” of Christ in 1 Cor 12:12–26 has been traced back to a wide variety of social and religious contexts, including Gnosticism, the Jewish Scriptures, Second Temple Jewish thought, rabbinic Judaism, the Christian Eucharistic tradition, Paul's “conversion” experience, the teachings of Jesus, Stoicism, and more. Most recently, interpreters have emphasized the similarities between 1 Cor 12 and homonoia speeches associated with political rhetoric. Focusing on the closest parallels to Paul's text (one passage found in Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and another found in the fragments of Hierocles the Stoic), I intend in this article to begin developing a theoretical framework within which to interpret the significance of these parallels to Paul's meaning. The article aims to counteract recent (over)emphasis on ancient cultural commonplaces as a precise matrix for interpreting Pauline parallels and challenges the attending tendency to drown out particularities in the “sea of generalities,” in preference of an explanatory model grounded more firmly in philosophical hermeneutics, the philosophy of language, and established principles in general and cognitive linguistics. The argument emphasizes the inherently “heteroglossic” (many-voiced) nature of any and all discourse, while at the same time emphasizing both the presence of “dominant” voices or echoes, made audible through historical context and linguistic “register,” and the inevitable transformation of language enacted in every new utterance, owing to the fundamentally dialogic and historically contingent nature of language and meaning. Thus, the meaning of Paul's “body” discourse emerges in a tension between a (primarily) Stoic field of reference and novel utterance.

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