“Is He in Here or Up There, and When Do I Change my Clothes?” – Mapping Conceptual Metaphors for Resurrection in the Undisputed Pauline Epistles

Like other first century Hellenistic Jews, Paul conceptualizes resurrection via concepts of VERTICALITY (e.g., upward movement, reversal of up and down) and PROXIMITY (e.g., nearness to the Lord), both of which in relation to a SOURCE-PATH-GOAL image schema (thus yielding notions of teleology and purpose). In addition to these rather common ways of speaking about resurrection, Paul also conceptualizes death and post-mortem life via concepts of CONTAINMENT while simultaneously placing strong emphasis on notions of change. For example, Paul describes the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:18 as having fallen asleep in Christ (i.e., CHRIST IS CONTAINER conceptual metaphor). Later on in the same chapter (15:53-54) the apostle also conceptualizes post-mortem somatic transformation as an instance of putting on clothing (i.e., CLOTHING IS CONTAINER conceptual metaphor). This latter example is certainly not unique to the apostle, though it does highlight the extent to which Paul structures notions of post-mortem transformation via concepts of CONTAINMENT (comp. 2 Cor 5:1-5). Existing along side these examples are those passages where Paul speaks of contemporary Christian experience using language of death and resurrection. It is curious that in such cases Paul frequently intermingles concepts of CONTAINMENT with more familiar descriptions of (for example) VERTICALITY (e.g., Phil 3:1-11). This paper explores the various ways that differing conceptual structures meaningfully cohere with one another in the undisputed Pauline epistles. Drawing on cognitive linguistic theories of image schemata, conceptual metaphor, and conceptual blending, this paper focuses specifically on the embodied grounding of Paul’s understanding of resurrection. It will be suggested that the Pauline emphases on both change and CONTAINMENT are interdependent, and further that the undisputed Paulines reflect a complex metaphor system whereby the concept of RESURRECTION is understood by differing (at times incongruent) image schemata and conceptual metaphors.