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Paul as Infant and Nursing Mother

Paul as Infant and Nursing Mother: Metaphor, Rhetoric, and Identity in 1 Thessalonians 2:5–8

Jennifer Houston McNeel
  • Book Info
    Paul as Infant and Nursing Mother
    Book Description:

    Explore the significance of maternal metaphors in the writings of a first-century male missionary and theologian

    Paul employed metaphors of childbirth or breastfeeding in four out of the seven undisputed epistles. In this book, McNeel uses cognitive metaphor theory and social identity analysis to examine the meaning and function of these maternal metaphors. She asserts that metaphors carry cognitive content and that they are central to how humans process information, construct reality, and shape group identity.


    A focus on "identity" as the way in which people understand themselves in relation to one another, to society, and to those perceived as outsidersExamination of metaphor as part of Paul's rhetorical strategyIntegration of the work of philosopher Max Black with the work of cognitive linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-967-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Metaphor as Rhetorical Strategy
    (pp. 1-26)

    At their core, Paul’s letters are attempts to persuade. Each time he wrote, Paul hoped to convert his audience to his way of thinking regarding one or more topics. He had a variety of means by which to accomplish his purpose, such as emotional appeals, logic, and references to the Scriptures. In addition to these, Paul’s use of metaphor also ought to be considered, for it is one of the most important literary tools that he used to persuade his audience to adopt his point of view. His metaphors do not simply decorate the text, but are designed to affect...

  5. 2 Establishing the Text, Grammar, and Translation of 1 Thessalonians 2
    (pp. 27-60)

    The second chapter of 1 Thessalonians contains several thorny textual and grammatical issues. Before proceeding to an evaluation of the infant and nurse metaphors found in 2:7 it is necessary to establish the text and context of this verse. Of central concern is the text critical matter of whether Paul described himself and his coworkers as νήπιοι (“infants”) or ἤπιοι (“gentle”) in 2:7. Clearly, an analysis of Paul’s presentation of himself as an infant will depend greatly on the conviction that this should be considered the original reading of the text, as will be demonstrated. Interpretation of the nurse metaphor...

  6. 3 Historical and Social Backgrounds of the Infant and Nurse Metaphors
    (pp. 61-98)

    The previous chapter established the text and context of 1 Thess 2:7, but more background information is needed in order to explore in greater depth the metaphors found in this verse. While the study of written metaphors is primarily a literary endeavor, historical research has a crucial role to play as well. Metaphors do not have meaning in a vacuum, but only within a cultural context in which the speaker and the hearer of the metaphor share a common understanding of the target and source domains. Therefore, in order to understand a metaphor employed outside of one’s own culture, one...

  7. 4 Literary Background of the Infant and Nurse Metaphors
    (pp. 99-122)

    Having considered the historical and social realities that stand behind Paul’s presentation of himself to the Thessalonians as an infant and nurse, it is also important to consider the literary background of Paul’s metaphors. In some cases, the passages discussed in this chapter may have directly influenced Paul’s shaping of the infant and nurse metaphors. For example, Paul’s familiarity with the Hebrew Scriptures was such that certain passages from those writings may have been in Paul’s mind as he composed 1 Thess 2:7. In other cases Paul may have been unaware of the existence of these texts, but exploring them...

  8. 5 Paul as Infant and Nursing Mother among the Thessalonians
    (pp. 123-154)

    As discussed in chapter 1, metaphor was one of Paul’s rhetorical strategies, employed to convince his readers of his point of view. Metaphors are not merely fancy ways of speaking or writing but carry cognitive content and guide human thought processes; therefore, they play an important role in the construction of individual and social reality. When a metaphor describes an individual or the group to which he or she belongs, it has the power to create and shape identity. Since identity and behavior are linked, metaphors influence both the thoughts and the actions of individuals and groups.

    After Paul left...

  9. 6 The Metaphors, the Letters, and Paul the Apostle
    (pp. 155-174)

    Chapter 5 traced the entailments of the infant and nurse metaphors of 1 Thess 2:7 as interpreted through metaphor theory and social identity analysis in the context of Paul’s larger rhetorical goals in the letter. This analysis helped illumine the ways that these metaphors work to encourage the Thessalonians to view Paul and one another through the lens of kinship, thus strengthening these relationships, encouraging behaviors appropriate to the kinship group, defining a new group identity for the Thessalonians grounded in the Christ-believing community, and solidifying the Thessalonians’s confidence in Paul and in the gospel he preached. This final chapter...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 175-190)
  11. Ancient Sources Index
    (pp. 191-196)
  12. Modern Authors Index
    (pp. 197-200)
  13. Subject Index
    (pp. 201-204)