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Who’s the Fool, and Why? Paul on Wisdom from a South African Perspective 1

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Abstract South Africa is a young democracy but with colonial and Apartheid legacies fresh in the minds of many, the lasting impact and consequences of hegemony still tangible and measurable in a new, democratic dispensation with its own problems and concerns. This is the context within which Paul’s appeal for a different understanding of wisdom and appearance to insist on breaking through the conventions of the day (1 Cor 1:18–31) is considered. Since Empire largely defined wisdom in the first century, Paul’s rhetoric of foolishness can be interpreted as a critique of the imperial discourse of wisdom and power. But Paul simultaneously invoked a new discourse of power through his rhetoric which inter alia depended on scriptural appeal for endorsement or authority. A postcolonial optic enables one to see Paul’s discourse as mimicry, negotiating power as much with discursive Roman colonialism as with the recipients of his letters, and also with the Scriptures of Israel. Such use of discursive power and ambiguity resonates in interesting ways in the South African context.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Old and New Testament, Stellenbosch University 171 Dorp Street, 7600 Stellenbosch Republic of South Africa


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