Paul, the ‘Real’ Man: Constructions and Representations of Masculinity in 1 Corinthians
The search for theological and biblical resources that align with redemptive masculinities is a noble one. In this paper, I show how such a search has to be tempered by a nuanced and careful use of biblical interpretive tools, so that the very constructions, which we wish to destabilise as harmful, are not re-inscribed through a hasty declaration of “redemption” where none exists. The text of 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5 can arguably be used for such purposes. In this text, Paul seemingly draws on a “vulnerable masculinity” by claiming not to employ a sophisticated rhetorical method of speaking, common to the cultural milieu of the time and especially characteristic of a powerful masculinity. He apparently jettisons such rhetorical power for a more embodied and vulnerable masculinity, allowing the embodied crucified Christ to serve as the ultimate display of wisdom. While this theory of “vulnerable masculinity” is certainly appealing in light of the search for redemptive masculinities, in this paper I will show that this text actually re-inscribes notions of dominant masculinities and indeed hypermasculinity.