European Association of Biblical Studies Annual Meeting location:Lisbon date:3-6 August 2008
“You yourselves are our letter,” (2 Cor 3:2) writes Paul to his Corinthian community in a refutation of letters of recommendation. Embroiled in a conflict with rivals and trying to win back an alienated community onto his side, Paul’s choice of writing a letter instead of making an immediate visit to deal with the conflict has led some to speak of Paul’s ‘epistolary presence’, his assertion of apostolic presence and voice without a physical appearance (Johnson 2006). Employing Social Memory theory along the lines of what has been done in the Gospel of John (Thatcher 2005), I would like to explore possible reasons why Paul wrote this particular letter to Corinth. Perhaps some answer lies in the idea of Paul’s letter as a locus of community-identity (Asano 2005 on Galatians) and the hypothesis that 2 Corinthians 3 is the theological narrative Paul uses to legitimize his community’s physical relocation out of the synagogue and into the house-church (Blanton 2007). Engaged in rallying people onto his side, I aim to investigate Paul’s role in identity construction and memory modulation for the sake of in-group purposes.