What Paul Never Said: A New Look at Pauline Temple Metaphors

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Paul frequently employs metaphors of Temple, sacrifice, priesthood, and libation in relation to Christ, the community of believers, and himself as an apostle. Many have argued that Paul uses these metaphors to replace or transform the Temple worship to the worship of Christ. A systematic analysis of the entire collection of Paul's cultic metaphors, particularly those that relate directly to Jesus, leads us to new conclusions about the limits of his Temple discourse. First, Paul uses a sporadic and somewhat incidental list of metaphors. For example, the Christian believers are a sacrifice while the Corinthians are a Temple. The Romans are a sacrifice, but Jesus too is the sacrifice (Rom 8:3; 12:1; 1 Cor 3:16-17). Paul never weaves together his scattered cultic metaphors into a cohesive argument or theology that hints at a substitution for (and rejection of) the Temple. Second, Paul does not dwell on his metaphors and does not develop them into a complete argument about the Temple cult. He limits the scope of the metaphor to a specific functional, rhetorical role. Third, Paul never says that Jesus' death was a sacrifice, nor does he claim that Christ replaces the sacrificial system, at least not explicitly. Paul's cultic metaphors should be compared to the use of Temple imagery in the Letter to the Hebrews. Here the author builds his entire doctrine on the idea that Christ is the high priest who offered himself as a sacrifice in the heavenly Temple. Various detailed cultic components are tied together into a systematic theology of atonement in the heavenly Temple. In contrast, Paul's cultic message appears to be very thin. He does not seem to be interested in replacing the Jerusalem Temple, but rather in using its powerful symbolism to convey the holiness of Christ, the community of believers, and the apostle.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2019
EventThe SBL Annual Meeting - San-Diego, United States
Duration: 23 Nov 201926 Nov 2019


ConferenceThe SBL Annual Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States


Dive into the research topics of 'What Paul Never Said: A New Look at Pauline Temple Metaphors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this