Ritual dimension of union with Christ in Paul's thought
The study of the ritual (sacramental) aspect of participation in Christ has long been marginalised in the literature due to an anti-ritual bias that has several strands. Theologically, given the Biblical studies conducted under Protestant, word-centred, faith-focused principles in the past two centuries, any serious study of ritual practices in the nascent Christ movement would face suspicion of opus operatum. Intellectually, the rational approach to the studies of religion, developed during the Enlightenment period that so prized human reason, has led to the downplaying of rituals as superstitious practices, viewing the body as an unreliable source for truth, as opposed to the structure of the mind, where truth is located. Methodologically, the historical-critical approach practised by the Biblical studies guild and guided by text-centred and philologically focused principles, has resulted in the marginalisation of rituals in scholarship; ritual references are treated as a mere metaphor or a theological discourse. To give rituals their rightful place in the study of the New Testament, this study proposes that one needs to treat baptism and the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament as ritual practices rather than mere metaphor, with the aid of frameworks and theories developed in ritual studies. Chapter one of this study surveys the current scholarship on the topic and develops a new theoretical framework, the ritual transformation model, to study baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In chapters two and three, this study applies the ritual transformation model to study these two rituals, while chapters four and five address the exegetical issues of the relations amongst ritual, pistis, and “in Christ” language. In its conclusion, the study demonstrates that ritual and pistis are not antithetical to each other as body versus mind, that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the two cardinal practices of the early Christ movement, and that the New Testament texts point to the religious experience of early Christ followers’ encounter with the risen messiah, an experience that is made accessible by the ritual performance.