It is demonstrable that Paul employs letter-writing effectively to construct “an imagined textual community” (J.M. Lieu, “Letters and the Topography of Early Christianity,” NTS 62 , p. 173). Building on Lieu’s work and using Philemon as a test case, I do two things. First, I show how Paul’s letter-writing functions to create a world in which owner, slave, and their larger community may live in relationship, paradoxically, as friends, family members, and partners in the gospel; and second, I suggest how Paul’s recipients may begin to participate in this construction project as they process textual and extratextual data. In short, my goal is to move from textual analysis alone to acts of its interpretation and reception. To accomplish my task, I integrate cognitive linguistics into a historical and philological approach to exegesis. I also consider how the letter, through the process of reading/hearing, may function as a metacognitive resource for shaping early Christian identity.
Elizabeth Shively is a Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies, Director of Teaching at the School of Divinity, St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews.
Dr Shively came to St Andrews in 2012, having previously taught at Wheaton College, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Candler School of Theology, and having served six years in pastoral ministry. She received her PhD in Religion at Emory University with a primary concentration in New Testament Studies and a secondary concentration in Homiletics. Dr Shively’s specialization is the Gospel of Mark, on which she has numerous publications. In addition, she is Editor for the Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Biblical Criticism monograph Series, on the editorial board of the Journal of Biblical Studies, and prior New Testament General Editor for Bible Odyssey. Dr Shively was elected to the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, was awarded the McCall-MacBain Teaching Excellence Award by the University of St Andrews in 2016, and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).