I recently heard word that my proposal to SBL New Orleans got accepted.  Here’s a summary of that paper and of my PhD thesis…

Becoming ‘Gods’?: 2 Cor 3:18 and Theosis

In recent years, the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of deification, or theosis, has become more popular as a soteriological category for Westerners. Most of the discussion has occurred on the theological level (e.g., with the Finnish Interpretation of Luther), but more attention is beginning to be placed on biblical texts.  Unsatisfactory attention has been given to 2 Corinthians 3.18 although it is central to the emerging debate.  Rather than producing another history of religion investigation of this passage, I explore to what extent we find here (some of) the essential ingredients of what later came to be regarded as theosis.  After first addressing preliminary methodological issues associated with this history of interpretation approach, I then address the passage itself.  Since 3.7-18 serves as an explication of 3.6b, the climax of the Spirit giving life comes in 3.18.  With exegetical problems in each phrase of 3.18, conclusions based on the verse alone are tentative at best, and thus the following context is quite important.  Lest Paul give the idea that all believers are simply transformed into Christ’s image of glory, he qualifies the nature of current existence in 4.7-18 by emphasising participation in Christ’s death as well as his new life, characterised by inward renewal and physical resurrection.  Accordingly, ‘this momentary, light trouble is producing an eternal weight of glory for us’ (4.17).  As a result, when Paul talks of the Spirit’s work of transforming believers into the image of Christ, in the current age this image is characterised by both his death and his life.  Accordingly, christosis may be a better description of this glorification process rather than theosis.  However, in this passage we see themes such as participation in divine glory and incorruption by means of the beatific vision which are central to patristic descriptions of theosis.

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