Coming Back to Life in and through Death: Early Christian Creativity in Paul, Ignatius, and Valentinus


  • Frederick S. Tappenden McGill University


This paper examines notions of coming back to life in/through death in the writings of Paul and two of his second century interpreters: Ignatius of Antioch and Valentinus. I demonstrate that, in the Pauline tradition, there are many ways of mapping notions of death and life to the human body. My departure point is 2 Corinthians 3–4, where notions of life in death and life through death are configured in relation to recurrent spatial metaphors of verticality, proximity, and containment. With these spatial mappings in view, I turn next to Ignatius of Antioch and Valentinus, demonstrating that the conceptual tension Paul proposes in 2 Corinthians tends to be parsed out and prioritised differently among his early readers. Ignatius and Valentinus utilise the same spatial categories as Paul, though they do so with different emphases: Ignatius stresses all the same somatic spaces, though he does so with a different connective logic; Valentinus, on the other hand, tends to prioritise notions of proximity and containment over those of verticality. In the end, though Paul is quite forthcoming regarding the body and its place in his resurrection ideals, his early readers build on and modify this somatic element. Paul’s thinking about resurrection is marbled by interpretive creativity that attempts to negotiate both the apostle’s own writings and the lines between death and life for those who follow in his footsteps.

Author Biography

Frederick S. Tappenden, McGill University

Frederick S. Tappenden is a faculty lecturer at McGill University, where he teaches in the areas of New Testament and Christian origins. His research focuses on Paul and the reception of Paul in the opening centuries of the Common Era. He is the author of Resurrection in Paul: Cognition, Metaphor, and Transformation (SBL Press, 2016), coeditor of the forthcoming Cognitive Science in Biblical Interpretation (Sheffield Phoenix), and author of several articles on resurrection in early Christianity and ancient Judaism. Dr. Tappenden also maintains the website, Texts & Translations, which serves as a hub for online, open-access editions of ancient Mediterranean writings.





Section II: The Material and Conceptual Porosity of Death