An anthropological approach to the New Testament? : a critical analysis of Mary Douglas's "Grid/group" model with respect to understanding the dynamics of the early Corinthian church, as alluded to in 1 Corinthians, and particularly 14:33B-36 & 11:17-34.
The last three decades has seen a significant shift in the discipline of New Testament studies. In particular we have observed the rise of the social sciences and with them, new methodologies which have eclipsed the more traditional "criticisms" such as form criticism and source criticism. New Testament scholars have realised that we can no longer afford to ignore these advances, and have produced a prolific amount of work which draws upon sociology in particular, and also social anthropology and psychology. Despite the consensus that the social sciences are able to provide invaluable tools for the study of the New Testament, the research that has drawn on these tools has not been without critique. A common thread to these evaluations is that the focus is so exclusively social scientific that the text often becomes lost in the endeavour. When the text is referred to, it is used not unlike a proof text - to prove the suspicions one has already formed. Similarly, we have noticed that those literary studies which relate more to the structure, plot and themes of a text may become so focused on specific words, tenses and so on, that the actual people and context of the text become lost in the exercise. Therefore our challenge is to develop an approach that takes both the social sciences and the text into equal account. This thesis is then an experiment in method. In the quest for an inclusive and holistic approach to the New Testament, we propose to combine Mary Douglas's anthropological "grid/group" model with a series of questions developed by Howard Kee which are aimed at "Interrogating the text". Having discussed a number of methodological considerations we suggest a four step approach which we believe will enable us to analyze the New Testament from a comprehensively anthropological perspective, while at the same time considering the text responsibly and fully. As a test of our methodology we first analyze the complete text of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, and then compare our approach with a similarly anthropological method adopted by Stephen Barton in his 1986 article entitled, Paul's sense of place: an anthropological approach to community formation in Corinth (1) which discusses the specific texts of 1 Cor. 1:17-34 and 14:33b-36. The results of this test were mixed. On the one hand our methodology provided a detailed examination of the views held by both the Corinthians and Paul which we were able to contrast. Our use of Douglas's "grid/group" "model also allowed a certain amount of prediction as to how these players would likely have responded to events. However, we discovered that the questions used to "Interrogate the text" are somewhat tedious and repetitive. Therefore, some modification and refinement of these questions would be advocated. (1.) New Testament Studies, vol. 32, pp. 225-246.