Ancient Masculinity and Paul (Once More)

My previous post drew attention to an article that examined Paul’s letter to the Romans though ancient assumptions about gender.  In another article from lectio difficilior (2/2006), Moisés Mayordomo Marin also explores how ancient notions of masculinity inform Paul’s view of sex and gender, this time by analyzing the Corinthian correspondence.  Following the work of Judith Butler, Marin shows that notions of gender in antiquity were performative rather than static and self-evident: to be considered a “man,” it was necessary to stake a claim to masculinity (by looking and acting the part) that others publicly acknowledged.  He then applies this insight to Paul, whose manliness does not always measure up to ancient standards (cf. 1 Cor 9:19-23; 2 Cor 10:1, 10).  He therefore makes efforts throughout the letters to develop arguments that reassert his status as a man so that he might regain control over the Corinthian congregation.  Like many other commentators, Marin notes that the results are ambivalent because Paul’s description of 1) his missionary efforts and 2) the gospel are not always in conformity with ancient conceptions of masculinity.  Gender trouble in Corinth.

Construction of Masculinity in Antiquity and Early Christianity