This address begins with a discussion of ethical reasoning in Paul’s letters. The unsystematic character of his ethical discourse and its variety are emphasized. The second part is a comparison of Paul’s ethical discourse with two recent approaches, the ecclesial ethics of Stanley Hauerwas and the discourse ethics of Jürgen Habermas. The third part is a consideration of feminist and womanist ethics as approaches that fundamentally challenge Paul’s ethical reasoning in terms of its authority and usefulness for white women and black women. The conclusion includes the observation that discourse ethics, feminist ethics, and womanist ethics are promising approaches for appropriating Paul’s ethics today because they all take up an important theme in Paul’s letters: the importance of dealing with conflict while maintaining difference.



On norms as indicators of ethical significance, see Ruben Zimmermann, The Logic of Love: Discovering Paul’s “Implicit Ethics” through 1 Corinthians, trans. Dieter T. Roth (Lanham, MD: Lexington/Fortress Academic, 2018), 42–48.


Wayne A. Meeks, The Origins of Christian Morality: The First Two Centuries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 76, 84; see also 151–53.


Compare 1 Thess 2:12: we appealed to you “to live worthily of the God who calls you into his own kingdom and glory”; cited by Wayne A. Meeks, “The Polyphonic Ethics of the Apostle Paul,” Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics 8 (1988): 17–29; here 17. The translations of passages from the letters of Paul are mine unless otherwise noted.


On precepts, see Meeks, Origins of Christian Morality, 76.


On the difficulties of 1 Thess 4:4, see Abraham J. Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, AB 32B (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 226–29.


See also Meeks, Origins of Christian Morality, 85.


For a recent study, see Oda Wischmeyer, Love as Agape: The Early Christian Concept and Modern Discourse, trans. Wayne Coppins, Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2021; German ed., 2015). On the related ethical attitude of humility, see Eve-Marie Becker, Paul on Humility, trans. Wayne Coppins, Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2020; German ed., 2015).


On mimetic ethics in general, see Zimmermann, Logic of Love, 70–72; in 1 Corinthians, see 168–73.


This sentence is language of deliberative rhetoric: Margaret M. Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1991), 33.


On the three sayings (sententiae) of 1 Cor 10:23–24, see Paul A. Holloway, “Religious ‘Slogans’ in 1 Corinthians: Wit, Wisdom, and the Quest for Status in a Roman Colony,” JTS 72 (2021): 125–54; here 144–45, 145–46.


Ian W. Scott, “ ‘Your Reasoning Worship’: λογικοσ in Romans 12:1 and Paul’s Ethics of Rational Deliberation,” JTS 69 (2018): 500–532. See also Hans Dieter Betz, “Das Problem der Grundlagen der paulinischer Ethik (Röm 12, 1–2),” ZTK 85 (1988): 199–218.


Stanley K. Stowers has argued that, in 1 Cor 7, Paul’s ethical justifications rarely appeal to commands of God and never require an abdication of moral autonomy; he also presents these ethical justifications in a way that encourages the audience to think the issues through for themselves (“Paul on the Use and Abuse of Reason,” in Greeks, Romans, and Christians: Essays in Honor of Abraham J. Malherbe, ed. David L. Balch, Everett Ferguson, and Wayne A. Meeks [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990], 253–86; here 264). See also Zimmermann, Logic of Love, 76–78.


On Paul’s attempt to form moral communities, see Meeks, “Polyphonic Ethics,” 17. On the meaning of being “in Christ,” see Teresa Morgan, Being “in Christ” in the Letters of Paul: Saved through Christ and in His Hands, WUNT 449 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2020).


Paul uses the term οἰκοδομή for this process, which Meeks interprets as “resocialization” (“Polyphonic Ethics,” 17).


Maurizio Passerin D’Entrèves, “Communitarianism,” in Encyclopedia of Ethics, ed. Lawrence C. Becker and Charlotte B. Becker, 2nd ed., 3 vols. (New York: Routledge, 2001), s.v. “communitarianism.” See also David G. Horrell, Solidarity and Difference: A Contemporary Reading of Paul’s Ethics (London: T&T Clark International, 2005), 51–53.


Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988), 389–403. See also Horrell, Solidarity and Difference, 63–70.


Stanley Hauerwas, After Christendom? How the Church Is to Behave If Freedom, Justice, and a Christian Nation Are Bad Ideas (Nashville: Abingdon, 1991), 103–7; see also Horrell, Solidarity and Difference, 65. For a discussion of Hauerwas’s views on character and virtue, see Samuel Wells, Transforming Fate into Destiny: The Theological Ethics of Stanley Hauerwas (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1998), 20–35.


On Paul’s use of lists of virtues and vices, see Zimmermann, Logic of Love, 41, 119–21, 141, 192, 203–4. On his use of Stoic ethics, see Runar M. Thorsteinsson, “Paul and Roman Stoicism: Romans 12 and Contemporary Stoic Ethics,” JSNT 29 (2006): 139–61.


Horrell, Solidarity and Difference, 280–81.


Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983), 99–100.


1 Thess 3:12, Gal 6:10, Phil 4:5, Rom 12:17; Horrell, Solidarity and Difference, 261–72.


John Howard Yoder, Reinhold Niebuhr and Christian Pacifism (Washington, DC: Church Peace Mission, 1966).


William Rehg, Insight and Solidarity: A Study in the Discourse Ethics of Jürgen Habermas, Philosophy, Social Theory, and the Rule of Law 1 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), xv, 2. See also Horrell, Solidarity and Difference, 53–63.


Rehg, Insight and Solidarity, 2.


Rehg, Insight and Solidarity, 3.


John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971).


Rehg, Insight and Solidarity, 3–4.


Rehg, Insight and Solidarity, 5.


Rehg, Insight and Solidarity, 7.


Rehg, Insight and Solidarity, 8.


The material in this paragraph relies on Rehg, Insight and Solidarity, 38, 39, 77, 82–83.


MacIntyre, Whose Justice?, 343–44; quotation from Rehg, Insight and Solidarity, 91.


For Rehg’s views presented in this paragraph, see Insight and Solidarity, 91–92, 214–15.


Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, “Paul and the Politics of Interpretation,” in Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, Israel, Imperium, Interpretation; Essays in Honor of Krister Stendahl, ed. Richard A. Horsley (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2000), 40–57, here 42; for the quotations and discussion in this paragraph and the next one, see 43–48.


Quotations in this paragraph are from Schüssler Fiorenza, “Paul and the Politics of Interpretation,” 48, 54, 57.


Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, “The Rhetoricity of Historical Knowledge: Pauline Discourse and Its Contextualizations,” chapter 6 in Rhetoric and Ethic: The Politics of Biblical Studies (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999), 129–48, here 148. See also Antoinette Clark Wire, The Corinthian Women Prophets: A Reconstruction through Paul’s Rhetoric (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990).


Karin B. Neutel, A Cosmopolitan Ideal: Paul’s Declaration “Neither Jew nor Greek, neither Slave nor Free, nor Male and Female” in the Context of First-Century Thought, LNTS 513 (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015), 30–42; for discussion and quotations in this paragraph, see also 42–66, 70 (cf. 140–43), 232 (cf. 240–41).


Adela Yarbro Collins, “No longer ‘Male and Female’ (Gal 3:28): Ethics and an Early Christian Baptismal Formula,” Journal of Ethics in Antiquity and Christianity 1 (2019): 27–39; here 30–35.


Schüssler Fiorenza, “Rhetoricity of Historical Knowledge,” 170–71.


Cf. Schüssler Fiorenza, “Rhetoricity of Historical Knowledge,” 173.


Lisa M. Bowens, African American Readings of Paul: Reception, Resistance, and Transformation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2020); on Howard Thurman and Albert Cleage as exceptions, see 229–38.


Col 3:18–20 and/or Eph 5:22–6:4; 1 Thess 4:9–10, Gal 6:2, Heb 13:1; Bowens, African American Readings, 21–22, 25.


Bowens, African American Readings, 28–29.


Katie Geneva Cannon, “The Emergence of Black Feminist Consciousness,” in Feminist Interpretation of the Bible, ed. Letty M. Russell (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1985), 30–40.


Cannon, “Emergence of Black Feminist Consciousness,” 40.


Angela N. Parker, “One Womanist’s View of Racial Reconciliation in Galatians,” JFSR 34 (2018): 23–40; here 25.


Mitzi J. Smith, “Introduction,” in Insights from African American Interpretation, Reading the Bible in the 21st Century: Insights (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2017), 1–21, here 18.


Sheila Briggs discusses this approach: “Can an Enslaved God Liberate? Hermeneutical Reflections on Philippians 2:6–11,” Semeia 47 (1989): 137–53, here 138–39. She interprets Phil 2:6–11 as one of those texts “of which it is unclear whether their effect on the original communities and individuals . . . was conserving of the oppressive social order or produced criticism of and dissatisfaction with it, and even some measure of action towards transformation” (139; italics original).


Jennifer T. Kaalund, “In Christ, but not of Christ: Reading Identity Differences Differently in the Letter to the Galatians,” in Minoritized Women Reading Race and Ethnicity: Intersectional Approaches to Constructed Identity and Early Christian Texts, ed. Mitzi J. Smith and Jin Young Choi, Feminist Studies and Sacred Texts (Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2020), 23–43; for Kaalund’s ideas presented in this paragraph, see 36–37.


Kaalund, “In Christ,” 39.


Kaalund, “In Christ,” 40. See also her essay “ ‘You Can’t See What I Can See’: Reading Black Bodies in Galatians,” in Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation, ed. Cain Hope Felder, Thirtieth Anniversary expanded ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2021), 324–38.


Angela N. Parker, “Feminized-Minoritized Paul? A Womanist Reading of Paul’s Body in the Corinthian Context,” in Smith and Choi, Minoritized Women, 71–87; for Parker’s ideas presented in this paragraph and the following one, see 71–72, 76–79.


Parker, “One Womanist’s View,” 24–25.


Parker, “One Womanist’s View,” 33.


Parker, “One Womanist’s View,” 34. In Paul’s time slaves were branded for offenses such as running away or stealing (Otto Betz, “στίγμα,” TDNT 7:657–64, here 658–59). The same was the case in the American colonies (Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. “branding,” https://www.britannica.com/topic/branding-identification).


Parker, “One Womanist’s View,” 38.


Parker, “One Womanist’s View,” 39.


Parker, “One Womanist’s View,” 39–40; quotation from 39.


Zimmermann, Logic of Love, 235–39; compare Meeks, “Polyphonic Ethics.”

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