Of Bit Off Tongues: Paul's Heavenly Ascent in Second Corinthians 12:2-4 Vis-a-vis Wittgenstein's Philosophy of Language Open Access

Mikheyev, Moses

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/jh343t084?locale=en
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Abstract

In Second Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul relates a mystical experience in which he was caught up into the third heaven. In relating this experience, Paul assumes that his audience would have found his language intelligible. If so, in what ways was--and is--his language intelligible? In the first chapter of this study, I guide my readers through the text while engaging with modern New Testament scholarship, providing parallel accounts of ancient heavenly ascents. In the process, I demonstrate that the rhetorical force of Paul's argument hinges on the element of the subjective; that is, Paul's contemporaries were both familiar with and experienced such "mysticism." In the second chapter of this study, I look at the function of words, such as "heaven," in Paul's relating of his experience. I then apply Wittgenstein's philosophy of language, focusing on the Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations in particular, to mystical religious experiences. I conclude this project by arguing that while the experience, as related to us using human language, is inexpressible, the words employed function as "limits" on what can and what cannot be said; that is, in showing us what cannot be communicated, Wittgenstein's philosophy, nonetheless, illuminates and expands our understanding of Paul's comment that he "heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell."

Table of Contents

  1. Preface..........Page 1
  2. Chapter 1: Paul's Heavenly Ascent in 2 Cor. 12:2-4: Its Background, Context, and its Modern Interpreters..........Page 5
  • Introduction........Page 5
  • Second Corinthians Context: Paul the Boaster--Pauline Irony and "Boasts of Weakness"..........Page 5
  • Paul and "The Gospel": Of Non-Human Origins and Revelations..........Page 14
  • The Mystical Experience as Inexpressible and Unutterable..........Page 27
  • The Rhetoric of Mystical Religious Experience and the Function of Language: Paul's Heavenly Ascent as a Test Case..........Page 30
  1. Chapter 2: Wittgenstein's Philosophy and Paul's Mysticism
  • The "Early" Wittgenstein: Using the Tractatus to Navigate Mystical Experiences..........Page 34
  • The "Late" Wittgenstein: Philosophical Investigations, Language-Games, and Forms of Life..........Page 43
  • Language-Games..........Page 44
  • Forms of Life..........Page 47
  • Paul's Mystical Experience Vis-a-vis Wittgenstein: How Do Proximal Contemporaries and Distant Moderns Relate to Paul?..........Page 49
  • The Myth of the Soul: To Lose One's Soul and Gain Another's?..........Page 52
  • Of Beetles and Bogus: The Private Language Argument..........Page 58
  • Philosophical Remarks Within a Penultimate Conclusion..........Page 61
  1. Conclusion: What Can Be Said Regarding That Which Refuses to Remain Unsaid?..........Page 65
  2. Bibliography..........Page 69

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