PART I - The Theological Context of the Christian Imperative

    Subtitle: an enquiry into the Church’s self-understanding as the theological context of Paul’s paraklesis

The imperative mood expresses commands or requests. The sum-total of what is required from a Christian may be called “the Christian Imperative”. One of the major questions in the study of the New Testament, and particularly the writings of Paul, is the relationship between the indicative, i.e. statements of fact, and the imperative, i.e. what we should do or think. Many of Paul’s letters are structured with the first part focusing on the indicative and the second the imperative, which is often referred to as his paraklêsis (often translated exhortation or encouragement).

Any discussion of morality in Paul must come to grips with the question of this relationship. Rather than rushing immediately to surface elements it is instructive to first consider the Biblical-Theological framework within which Paul and his readers are working.

The goal of the enquiry is announced:

We read Paul’s Letters over the shoulders of first-century christian communities. There are many preliminary questions to be asked before we can even begin to interpret them, and the answers to these questions (and sometimes even the questions themselves) may differ from one Letter to another. In the following pages, we are concerned with a preliminary question of the most general nature: what are the presuppositions of faith and theology which underlie the self-understanding of these communities and which Paul takes for granted in his paraklêsis? To gain some insight into the christian imperative, we must know how Christians understood themselves: their self-understanding forms the theological context of christian morality. p.1

He describes how the study will proceed:

We lay the foundation for future discussion by examining, first, certain elements in the prescripts of Romans, I Thessalonians and I Corinthians, and then some examples of Paul’s paraklêsis taken from the last two of these Letters. p.2

Updated 2009-10-18 (build:61) by Andrew Fountain