by Eve-Marie Becker
Translated by Wayne Coppins
Series edited by Wayne Coppins and Simon Gathercole
Translated from German into English for the first time, Paul on Humility seeks to reclaim the original sense of humility as an ethical frame of mind that shapes community, securing its centrality in the Christian faith. This exploration of humility begins with a consideration of how the concept plays into current cultural crises before considering its linguistic and philosophical history in Western culture. In turning to the roots of Christian humility, Eve-Marie Becker focuses on Philippians 2, a passage in which Paul appeals to the lowliness of Christ to encourage his fellow Christians to persevere. Becker shows that humility both formed the basis of the ethic Paul instilled in churches and acted as a mimetic device centered on Jesus’ example that was molded into the earliest Christian identity and community.
"In this erudite and lively study, Eve-Marie Becker sets Paul’s concept of humility in its Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian contexts. In so doing, she shows how his creation of the neologism tapeinophrosune (‘humility’) in Philippians 2:3 reveals his fully developed ecclesial ethos of humility as communitarian and political, not individual and systematized as in classical (and later Christian) understandings of virtue ethics. Paul’s turn to the Christ model in Philippians 2:6–11 aims, she argues, to unite the community in the ‘one mind’ (2:2) of humility, seeking the common good over individual interests, thereby to serve as a sign of the coming justice of God. Becker’s concern is not merely antiquarian. Beginning with the modern ambivalence toward Christian ‘humility’ (think Nietzsche), Becker calls for ‘cultural memory work’ (Kristeva) to recollect the ‘new impulses of thought set in motion by Paul,’ now overlooked or forgotten, but critical to the conversation about justice in contemporary Western culture. Readers who wish to connect Pauline exegesis with both ancient and contemporary political thought will be richly rewarded by this volume."
~Alexandra R. Brown, Fletcher Otey Thomas Professor of Bible, Washington and Lee University