If one imagines the community reading Paul’s words as a group of artisans linked by common vocation and workspace, is one able to understand this text more clearly? I believe so. The passages related to work, to community living, to physical labour have much more meaning when the community is visualised as a working community of manual labourers… The social world of artisans creates a new backdrop for understanding these letters. As I read Paul’s words, I see a community of skilled artisans who have gathered in their workroom to hear his letters read. They pause from their task, wipe the dust from their hands, and listen to their artisan-colleague, Paul, who in earlier days shared their same tools and workspace. In that context of dust and death, craft and faith, the members of the community learn how to live more closely in relationship to God and to one another.
See McKinnish Bridges, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 8, 10.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Church in a Workship?
McKinnish Bridges, in her recent commentary on the Thessalonian correspondence argues that the Church in Thessaloniki was composed of artisans who met in their workshop as a voluntary association.
It's a fascinating proposal that I'll be giving some careful thought.