Today I read an interesting article by Paul Hartog titled “Not Even Among the Pagans (1 Cor 5:1): Paul and Seneca on Incest” in the 2006 festschrift for David Aune, The New Testament and Early Christian Literature in Greco-Roman Context. Hartog rightly proposes that Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 5:1 concerning incest “that it is not found even among pagans” should be recognized as a rhetorical technique for emphasizing boundaries. After outlining the aversion to incest by Jews, Greeks, and Romans, Hartog rightly concludes that Paul “attempts to shame the Corinthian Christians with the cultural aversion to incest.” (62). Hartog supports his conclusion by highlighting a similar statement in Seneca’s Phaedra 165-173. In this passage Seneca has Phaedra’s nurse tell her that incest between stepson and stepmother is so abhorrent that even barbarian tribes such as the Getae, Taurians, or Scythians condemn it. This passage is important because it appears to be another example of a contemporary author employing the same rhetorical device in order to shame someone with regards to stepson – stepmother incest. Hartog’s piece is excellent for anyone seeking a review of the various examples of the prohibition of incest in Jewish and Greco-Roman sources. Additionally, Hartog provides a compelling argument for reading Paul’s prohibition through the lens of rhetoric as a means for shaming and solidifying boundaries.
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