This book examines the way that Paul presents himself as a guide into mysteries, a “mystagogue,” in 1–2 Corinthians. By describing himself as a type of mystagogue for the community, Paul was following a precedent in both Jewish and non-Jewish sources for invoking mystagogic language to engage in polemics with a rival. In opposition to the precedent, however, Paul understands the mystagogue to be a bi-partite figure—comprised of both foolishness and wisdom simultaneously. C. Andrew Ballard argues that ancient mystagogues were often described in two disparate ways: figures of power, and figures of weakness and foolishness. Paul synthesizes both aspects of the mystagogue in his self-presentation to the Corinthians. The figure of the mystagogue, as a wise-fool, was useful to Paul because it was descriptive not only of his own experience as a suffering yet authoritative apostle, but also of the experience of his deity, the suffering and glorified Christ. By presenting himself as both a powerful and foolish mystagogue, Paul could argue that he was a more authentic imitator of Christ than his opponents in Corinth, who boasted in self-exaltation instead of self-humility. In this way, Paul used the character of the mystagogue as a strategic rhetorical tool in his communication with the Corinthians.
C. Andrew Ballard is adjunct instructor of religion at Fordham University.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Defining Mystagogues in the Mystery Cults of Antiquity
Chapter 3: Initiation into Philosophy and Truth, Part One: Metaphorical Mystagogues in
Classical, Hellenistic, and Early Imperial Literature
Chapter 4:Initiation into Philosophy and Truth, Part Two: Metaphorical Mystagogues in Jewish Literature of the Hellenistic and Early Imperial Periods
Chapter 5: The Duality of the Mystagogue: Power and Foolishness
Chapter 6: Initiating Paul, Part One: The Appropriation and Disruption of the
Mystagogue in 1 Corinthians
Chapter 7: Initiating Paul, Part Two: The Appropriation and Disruption of the Mystagogue in 2 Corinthians
Ballard’s To Know All Mysteries offers an extensive, well-researched, and insightful study of 1 and 2 Corinthians in relation to a vast topic—the Greek mystery religions and the figure of the mystagogue, who would lead an initiate into esoteric knowledge. Ballard’s volume makes a compelling case that Paul incorporates the trope of the itinerant mystagogue into his self-presentation to the Corinthian community. Anyone interested in Paul’s use of mystery language in 1 and 2 Corinthians should read this book.
There is a growing trend among scholars of Christian origins, myself included, to interpret Paul as a Jewish mystic. Ballard draws upon an impressive command of primary sources, current theory, and the history of interpretation, to argue that the pagan mysteries also inform Paul's mysticism, and that in the eyes of his gentile recruits he presented as a powerful "mystagogue". The case he makes is learned, measured, and persuasive. The last two chapters on the Corinthian letter archive will need to be consulted by anyone working on those letters. This is an important and timely book. Paul scholars are very much in Ballard's debt.