Boundaries, Not Barriers: A Sociolinguistic Examination of Ingroup-Outgroup Concepts in 1 and 2 Corinthians
Since God designed humans to communicate and relate to one another socially, the divinely inspired human authors make use of language in ways consistent with sociolinguistic schema common to other members of humanity. The aim of this thesis is to investigate the sociolinguistic phenomena that occur in the insider-outsider designations Paul employs in his pastoral correspondence with the Corinthians. By focusing on the dynamic words Paul chose to designate members of the Corinthian Christian ingroup (“us”) and the outgroup (“them”), we will more closely observe what he was teaching his beloved congregation. The ingroup designation ἀδελφός contains connective, familial ideas, and is meant to emphasize the unity of faith shared by members of the Christian ingroup. Paul also demonstrates linguistic creativity in his use of ἄπιστος, as he draws the boundary of group membership by defining outsiders as those who lack the key characteristic of members: faith. Before arriving at these points, the relevant sociolinguistic concepts will be defined and then applied to the pertinent passages in 1 and 2 Corinthians, where Paul uses the aforementioned designations as well as others that are pertinent to the discussion. Paul’s word choices are not meant to create barriers between insider and outsider, but healthy boundaries. The terms that draw these barriers are each meant to cause reflection on a key aspect of our identity within the community of faith.