Recent Submissions

  • Paul’s Subversive Leadership: Gift-Giving, Patron-Client Relationships, and Leadership in the Pauline Correspondence

    Middleton, Paul; Button, Mark David (University of Chester, 2023-03)
    This thesis presents the argument that Paul deliberately subverts normal practices associated with gift-giving and with patron-client relationships, which he expects to be adopted by the communities to whom he is writing. As such, contrary to other studies, I argue that there is no tension between Paul’s egalitarian vision, and with the hierarchical language that he employs elsewhere. Whilst there is equality between members of the church, leadership and authority are necessary functions to help create healthy churches, and mature and Christ-like individual members. I bring together two distinct areas in this study. Primarily, this thesis is concerned with the social world in which the Pauline congregations lived, specifically customs related to gift-giving and the various relationships through which gifts were exchanged. The second chapter situates my argument within the wider body of literature offering both an analysis of contemporary scholarship, and Paul’s historical context. Although the vertical dimension has been given significant attention, the horizontal dimension is less explored. The third chapter outlines the various ways in which Paul subverts the normal patterns of gift and reciprocity. I demonstrate this by considering the three gift lists – Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, 27-28 – showing that Paul offers the congregations a different way of sharing gifts with each other. Chapters four and five address the apparent tension that exists between that subversive, egalitarian approach, with the hierarchical approach expressed elsewhere. Although Paul appears to remove status differences, and flattens hierarchy, he maintains a position of authority for himself (and others) at other times. Chapter four addresses the wider issues of power, authority, and leadership, arguing that Paul presents himself as a patron of the congregation, as well as shifting the focus away from the structures to the nature and character of leaders. Chapter five surveys several letters where issues of authority and leadership arise and I demonstrate that there too, Paul offers several subversive moves that transform the way his patronal position functioned. He is in no doubt, however, that such authority is necessary so that the Gospel is protected and so that the congregations continue to function as they should. The conclusion summarises the main findings ultimately showing that the concepts of equality and hierarchy, for Paul, work in harmony for the benefit of all. I also offer suggestions for further study, as well as offering thoughts on how some of the issues raised might inform conversations about church leadership today.