Janelle Peters, «Crowns in 1 Thessalonians, Philippians, and 1 Corinthians», Vol. 96 (2015) 67-84
The image of the crown appears in 1 Thess 2,19, Phil 4,1, and 1 Cor 9,25. However, the crowns differ. While the community constitutes the apostle’s crown in 1 Thessalonians and Philippians, the crown in 1 Corinthians is one of communal contestation. In this paper, I compare the image of the crown in each of the letters. I argue that the crown in 1 Corinthians, available to all believers even at Paul’s expense, is the least hierarchical of the three crowns.
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76 JANELLE PETERS
ual is stationed in the bowels of another person. Jean-Noël Aletti
has argued for a more literal translation: “Le mot grec spla,gcna,
traduit littéralement ‘entrailles’, désigne métonymiquement une
tendresse, compassion, ou miséricorde forte, qui prend tout l’indi-
vidu et le porte à faire l’impossible pour l’autre” 31. Just as Christ
empties himself, it would appear that Paul empties himself in par-
ticipating in the lower end of the somatic economy of the body of
Christ. Paul, the priest who wears the Philippians as a crown more
valuable than gold, also inhabits the viscera of the sacrificial ani-
Athletic games were often linked to religious festivals and ideo-
logy in Greek and Roman tradition; so the extended discussion of ath-
letics in Phil 2,2-14 (cf. 2 Clem. 7.3) does not necessarily disrupt the
interpretation of the crown as a priestly symbol. By at least the sec-
ond century C.E., stephanitic games dedicated to deities were called
“sacred games” 32. Given that Paul’s famous statement that “to live
is Christ and to die is gain” (v. 22) comes several verses after he longs
for the community from within the bowels of Christ (v. 8) in Philip-
pians 1, it is possible that Paul is creating conceptual overlap among
the spectacle as funerary games, the athletic games as commemora-
tive funerary games, and the sacrificial duties of priests 33.
At the heart of both Greek athletic competitions and Roman
gladiatorial games, of course, lay a triumph over death, the redemp-
tion of the human sacrifice that is the nature of mortality 34. An ath-
letic victory crown does not simply commemorate the prowess of
the individual athlete, nor does it simply emulate the success of a
previous great athlete. The crown points past the individual wearing
it to the memory of another individual to be honored by the athletic
accomplishments of the victor. In this way, the immortality attached
to the patron of athletes, Herakles, is achieved in these games. The
athletic games in the Iliad, the centerpiece of the Greek canon even
in antiquity, are funerary in nature. Moreover, the most proximate
ALETTI, Saint Paul, 50.
H.A. HARRIS, Greek Athletes and Athletics (Bloomington, IN 1966)
252-253. Cf. Plutarch, Amat. 753d, Aem. 33; Diodorus Siculus 4.4.4.
Lohmeyer interprets the crown in Philippians as the martyr’s crown
based on Rev 2,10; 3,11, cf. Phil 4,4. See E. LOHMEYER, Die Briefe an die
Philipper, an die Kolosser und an Philemon (Göttingen 1953) 164-165.
T. WIEDEMANN, Emperors and Gladiators (London 1992).