Teaching, tradition and thaumaturgy : a sociological examination of the polemic of the Pastorals
Much historical-critical work on the opponents in the Pastoral Epistles has resulted in sweeping generalisations concerning their Jewish and/or Gnostic nature. Literary analyses have been somewhat more promising in focusing on the stereotypical nature of the polemic but either fail to do justice to the urgency of the language in the Pastorals or fail to provide a convincing description of the opponents. This thesis approaches the problem of the opponents from a social-scientific perspective. Utilising labelling theory and social control theory from the sociology of deviance, the thesis argues that the Pastorals function as a literary version of a status degradation ceremony whereby previously influential insiders within the communities addressed are transformed into outsiders. Following a survey of approaches to the problem of institutionalisation, the thesis argues that the scholarly consensus (that the Pastorals reflect the institutionalisation of initially charismatic Pauline communities) needs to be revised. It suggests a developmental model for charismatic communities which involves both the process of institutionalisation and the simultaneous, thaumaturgical subversion of that process. This model arises out of the sociological analysis of the development of a contemporary charismatic community and it is argued that developments in the second century CE church, particularly the rise of Montanism, yield results which are consistent with this model. The thesis examines the Pastorals in the light of this developmental model and argues that they reflect a power struggle within the communities between those who advocate an ecstatic spirituality rooted in the memory of a thaumaturgical Paul and the author, who appeals to Pauline tradition and sees Paul as primarily a great teacher.