Androgynous Pauline: Queering Gender Expressions in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 Introduction At Abilene Christian University, the predominating discourse towards biblical exegesis circulates around two methodologies, the synchronic (social-rhetorical) and diachronic (historical-critical) approaches.1 Although both methods are required for valid exegesis, the tendency to gloss over nontraditional hermeneutics could tentatively result in detrimental ministry, specifically to nontraditional people groups. Failure to see through diverse perspectives almost always results in tragedy. Therefore, the purpose of this short exposition is to highlight the value of nontraditional hermeneutics, by exposing Pauline androgyny located within 1 Thessalonians 1:2-12. In order to justify such an audacious claim, the pericope is approached through the perspective of queer theory. Yet before illuminating over androgyny, this analysis will first explore queer terminology and methodology. Following the summary, the remaining pages will seek to vindicate Paul as androgynous by centering on his transgressive gender expressions. Queer Terminology: Three Definitions There are three common utilizations of the term “queer.” First, there is a reductive and pejorative usage of “queer,” ubiquitous in fundamentalist communities. Second, “queer” is commonly known “as an umbrella term that refers collectively to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning, and other individuals who identify with non-normative sexualities and/or gender identities.”2 Third, “queer” not only infers an individual’s gender or
For more on synchronic and diachronic exegetical strategies, see Michael, Gorman, Elements of Biblical Exegesis: A Basic Guide for Students and Ministers (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), 13-15. 2
Patrick, Cheng, Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theory (New York: Seabury Books, 2011), 3. 1
Michael Van Huis BIBL 440.J1
sexual identity, but Joseph Marchal asserts that “queer” also functions as an “a mode of examining the processes that cast certain people and practices into categories of normal and abnormal.”3 This exposition centralizes on the third, verbal use of “queer.” Queer Theory: Primer on Deconstruction, Butler, and Foucault Queer theory emerges out of poststructuralism, a linguistic and philosophical school, primarily known through Jacque Derrida’s deconstruction theory.4 In essences, deconstruction involves an “inversion and reinscription of traditional philosophical opposition.”5 To deconstruct is to undermine and transfigure traditional binary or categories. For example, take the malefemale binary. The ontology behind the concept of being male is contingent upon what being male is not. In order to be a male, implies not being a female. The same logic goes with the ontology of being a female. In order to be a female, one must not be a male. The semantics constituting gender ontology involve an endless array of sociopolitical questions. If the prior ontological deductions are true, what does it mean to be male? What does it mean to be female? Apart from the biological implications, are there particular tasks, modes of expressions, or certain activities a specific gender can or cannot do? Are there certain activities males or females should not do in light of their prescribed gender? What about human beings born with both male and female genitalia, or human beings who are attracted towards their same gender? What about individuals identifying under a sexuality that are outside the LGBTQI trajectory, such as individuals identifying under pansexuality or two-spirit? 3 Joseph Marchal, “Queer Approaches: Improper Relations with Pauline Letters,” in Studying Paul’s Letters: Contemporary Perspectives and Methods, ed. Joseph Marchal (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012), 210. 4 For more of an exhaustive elaboration on the historical development and praxis of...