Social autarkeia

In a 1999 article in Neotestmentica , Stephan Joubert observes that Paul teaches that God’s grace enables the Corinthians to experience autarkeia , “self-sufficiency” (2 Corinthians 9:8). The word is a common one in Stoic ethics, describing the placid contentment of the sage regardless of the external circumstances. Joubert thinks Paul has a different conception of this state, however:

“Paul fills this provocative term with new meaning. According to him the divine charis always ( pantote ) provides in all the Corinthians’ needs ( en panti ), both materially and spiritually. In fact, God’s grace is not merely sufficient, it is abundant and inexhaustible, thus enabling the Corinthians to excel ( perisseuein ) in all good works. Therefore, the autarkeia that they experience as a result of God’s grace does not lead to independence from others in terms of financial and spiritual needs. Paul rather implies that God’s charis provides them with sufficient resources in all areas of their life so as to use it to the advantage of fellow believers.”

In the framework of the gospel, autarkeia is not an individualistic virtue but a social one.

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