Vernon K. Robbins

Sociorhetorical Interpretation

Emory Studies in Early Christianity

Rhetoric of Religious Antiquity

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1 Corinthians 9:14 Oral-scribal intertexture

Paul: 1 Corinthians

Later in chapter 9, Pauline discourse presents a recitation of a saying of Jesus. At this point, the interactive relation between transmission of written and oral text in early Christianity becomes even more evident. 1 Cor. 9.14 reads as follows:

In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

An expanded version that enumerates items an apostle should not take is present in Matthew 10.9-10:

Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food.

The negative enumeration of items appears clearly to be an expansion of 'the laborer deserves his food'. An alternative form of expansion exists in Luke 10.7-8:

And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.

In this instance there is expansion both before and after 'the laborer deserves his wages'. The Matthean version refers to 'food' in a context that discusses items other than food that are not to be taken and the Lukan version refers to 'wages' in a context that discusses food.

Underlying these varying expansions lies the Q tradition of the saying 'For the laborer is worthy of his food/wages [reward]', (Matt. 10.10/Luke 10.7). There are important points here for our present discussion of oral-scribal intertexture. Pauline discourse recites 'in its own words' a saying it attributes to Jesus. In other words, even though Paul's recitation has a direct relation to the saying attributed to Jesus in Matthew and Luke (and thus is Q), not one word of the Pauline recitation is the same as the recitations in the gospel tradition. Pauline discourse recites this saying with two articular occurrences of the noun gospel (to euangelion). Moreover, it uses a favorite verb in Pauline discourse, 'to proclaim' (katangello). Thus, instead of 'the laborer' as the one who receives, Pauline discourse refers to 'the one who proclaims the gospel' (tois to euangelion katangelousin). Neither the noun 'gospel' nor the verb 'proclaim' occurs in the Q material (Kloppenborg 1988: 220, 223). Rather, he who labors, labors for 'the kingdom' (Matt. 10.7/Luke 10.9). In other words, Pauline discourse reconfigures the conceptualization of the 'worker' in terms of 'the one who proclaims the gospel'. As we saw in the inner textual analysis of 1 Cor. 9, one of the effects of Pauline discourse is to evoke the image of 'one who proclaims the gospel' as one who uses all dimensions of the body 'to do the work' of the gospel. In the process of communicating this concept, which is embedded in the vocabulary of the saying attributed to Jesus, Pauline discourse takes 'the language of the saying' over into its own vocabulary field. In a very forceful way, therefore, the recitation of a saying of Jesus in 1 Cor. 9.14 'Paulinizes' language that it attributes to Jesus.

The remaining words in 1 Cor. 9.14 show how completely Pauline discourse has taken over the language of the saying attributed to Jesus. The Q tradition says that the worker 'is worthy of' or 'deserves' (axios) either his 'food' (Matt.: hê trophê) or his 'wages' or 'reward' (Luke: ho misthos). Pauline discourse recites this in terms of 'getting a living' (zên). This is also very interesting, since other verses of 1 Cor. 9 refer specifically both to eating (9.4, 7, 13) and to receiving a 'wage' or 'reward' (9.17, 18). Pauline discourse again reconfigures the conceptuality of 'reward' or 'wage', however, by embedding it in discussion of 'the gospel':

What then is my reward/wage? That in my preaching of good news (euangelizomenos) I may make the gospel (to euangelion) free of charge, not making full use of my right in the gospel (en t� euangeli�). (1 Cor. 9.18)

Pauline discourse recites the language of Jesus tradition in 'the words of' Pauline discourse and by this recitation it reconfigures the saying so it supports Pauline conceptuality concerning proclaiming the gospel rather than the conceptuality of the Q tradition.


From: Vernon K. Robbins (1996) The Tapestry of Early Christian Discourse: Rhetoric, Society and Ideology, London: Routledge: 122-124.

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