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The Political Economy of Eating Idol Meat: Practice, Structure, and Subversion in 1 Corinthians 8 through the Sociological Lens of Pierre Bourdieu*

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image of Horizons in Biblical Theology

Abstract This paper intends to delve into the political economy of the symbolic practice of eating idol meat in 1 Corinthians 8 from a Bourdieuian perspective. My contention is that Paul attempts to undermine the Roman socioeconomic system by substituting a dietary habitus of abstention for a dietary habitus of consumption. In Bourdieu’s view, the Roman colony of Corinth can be seen as a religious field consisting of a conflict over different capital between the strong and the weak. Through rhetorical strategies, Paul enables the weak to subvert the hierarchical structure as embodied in the practice of idol meat consumption, while simultaneously urging the strong to surrender the claim to their authority. Thus, while deconstructing an old, colonial habitus of consumption, Paul reconstructs a new, postcolonial habitus of abstention.

Affiliations: 1: Vanderbilt University, Graduate Department of Religion Nashville, TN


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