Persecution, Persuasion & Power
Readiness to Widthstand Hardship as a Corroboration of Legitimacy in the New Testament

By James A. Kelhoffer
December 2010
Distributed by Coronet Books
ISBN: 9783161506123
465 pages
$197.50 Hardcover

James A. Kelhoffer examines an often overlooked aspect of New Testament constructions of legitimacy, namely the "value" of Christians' withstanding persecution as a means of corroborating their religious identity as Christ's followers. The introductory chapter defines the problem in interaction with sociologist Pierre Bourdieu's concept of "cultural capital." Chapters 2-10 examine the depictions of persecuted Christians in the Pauline letters, First Peter, Hebrews, Revelation, the NT Gospels, and Acts. These exegetical analyses support the conclusion that assertions of standing, authority, and power claimed on the basis of persecution play a significant and heretofore under-appreciated role in much of the NT. It is also argued that depictions of persecution can have both positive implications for the persecuted and negative implications for the depicted persecutors in constructions of legitimation.

An epilogue considers later examples of early Christian martyrs and confessors, as well as John Foxe's " Book of Martyrs ." The epilogue also addresses the ethical and hermeneutical problem of asserting the withstanding of persecution as a basis of legitimacy in ancient and modern contexts. This problem stems from the observation that, although the NT authors present their construals of withstanding persecution as a basis of legitimation as if they were self-evident, such assertions are actually the culmination of numerous presuppositions and are therefore open to dissenting viewpoints. Yet the NT authors do not acknowledge the possibility of competing interpretations, or that oppressed Christians could someday become oppressors. Accordingly, this exegetical study calls attention to an ethical and hermeneutical problem that the NT bequeaths to the modern interpreter, a problem inviting input from ethicists and other theologians.


Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, No. 270


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