Seeds and Bodies
: Cosmology, Anthropology and Eschatology in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49

  • David Richard kirk

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


This study examines 1 Corinthians 15:35-49, a passage that has caused scholarly puzzlement. The content of Paul’s argument has been generally understood to emphasise discontinuity between the present human body and the body of the resurrection. However, Paul’s use of the seed motif then seems to contradict ancient understandings of seeds; the purpose of his cosmological descriptions becomes opaque; and, at some points, elements of his argument appear redundant. This study answers Troels Engberg-Pedersen’s call for a ‘cosmological’, rather than a ‘cognitive’, understanding of Paul’s language, and brings together both causal and functional analyses of Paul’s argument. By recognising both the philosophical background to Paul’s motifs and his use of Old Testament intertexts, a new understanding of the passage is achieved. Furthermore, an examination of religious practices in Corinth provides the basis for proposing a reconstruction of the situation addressed by Paul.
The study demonstrates that, in seeking a ‘cosmological’ reading, a fresh interpretation becomes possible; an interpretation that resolves some of the puzzles attending existing readings. Paul’s seed material in vv.36-38 can be seen to accord with ancient understandings of seeds, and to emphasise continuity rather than discontinuity. An intertextual analysis of vv.39-41 identifies Psalm 8 as the hitherto undetected intertext which structures Paul’s thought. Paul’s argument portrays continuity between the present and eschatological ages, with Paul constructing a model of correspondence that emphasises a renewed cosmos as the context for the resurrection. A further model of correspondence in v.45 then allows Paul to write of the agency of Christ in the resurrection, and also the character of raised humanity (vv.47-49).
Date of Award1 Oct 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
SupervisorJason Maston (Supervisor) & Andrew Clarke (Supervisor)

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