The research project focuses on the apostle Paul’s phrase “being ‘in Christ’”, more specifically it’s meaning, usage, and how it functions as a metaphor.
While representing one of Paul’s most concise and striking ways of describing the new reality of those who believe in Christ as their lord, it is hard to grasp as to what is actually meant by the phrase, how the apostle imagines ‘being in Christ‘ and how he came to use it in the first place. It occurs in all of Paul’s letters and even increases in its density in the deutero-Pauline writings. Its different variants, such as ‘in the Lord’ or ‘in Christ Jesus’ are used interchangeably. This also makes it necessary to consider what Paul meant by ‘Christ’ or ‘lord’.
While “in Christ” represents one of Paul’s most concise and striking ways of describing the new reality of those who believe in Christ as their Lord, it is hard to grasp as to what is actually meant by the phrase, how the apostle imagines “being ‘in Christ’” and how he came to use it in the first place. “In Christ” and its variants appear very frequently in many different contexts and syntagms, and they appear to be of vital importance to the apostle. In addition, Paul employs similar phrases such as “Christ in me”, “with Christ”, or “through Christ”, which seem to be connected to “in Christ”. Yet thus far scholars have not reached a consensus regarding the background and understanding of the phrase, although the controversy has been going on since Adolf Deissmann’s seminal work from 1892.
In order to solve the issues at hand, the project thoroughly analyses the key passages, especially regarding the function and meaning of “in Christ” within the whole segment as, well as concerning the metaphoricity conveyed in the text. Furthermore, how one interprets the Greek preposition en plays a vital role in understanding the whole phrase. Therefore, finding parallels to the syntagm from contemporary Greek sources will help to illuminate how Paul used “in Christ” and what he tried to communicate with it. Finally, the project casts a further look at “in Christ” language in the deutero-Pauline letters, the similar phraseology in the Johannine literature, and in the book of Acts.
Ultimately, gaining a better understanding of how and why Paul speaks of “being ‘in Christ’” will help to grasp his theology better.
Thus far, it has become clear that the phrase is a spatial metaphor which signifies the new existence of the believers as opposed to their previous lives before faith and baptism. The passages are heavy with figurative language, much of which is spatial as well. Moreover, the phrase conveys a close connection with and dependence on Christ and his deeds.
This project will most likely be completed in the winter semester of 2019/2020.
This Ph.D. thesis is being written within the program Ancient Languages and Texts (ALT) of the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies (BerGSAS).