Paul's Elaboration of a Jesus Chreia

Whereas the influence of progymnastic rhetoric on the Gospels has been widely recognized in recent scholarship, Paul’s use of the chreia has been almost completely neglected. This is a surprising state of affairs, given the presence in one of Paul’s letters of a passage that conforms more closely to ancient descriptions and examples of this literary form than do most of the synoptic Gospel units commonly recognized as chreiai, namely, the pre-Pauline tradition recited in 1 Cor 11:23b–25. In this paper, I will first of all offer a critique of the common form-critical designation of this unit as a “cultic aetiology.” Then I will set out to demonstrate the chreia-like character of the isolated tradition. Finally, I will explore the points of contact between Paul’s subsequent commentary on the tradition in 11:26–34 and the pattern of chreia elaboration suggested by the ancient rhetorical textbooks known as Progymnasmata.