Paul and death: A question of psychological coping
The present investigation looks into the attitudes toward death in Paul’s authentic letters and puts them in relation to modern theories of psychological coping. Drawing on psychologically oriented hermeneutic theory, and theories about psychological coping in particular, I will make an attempt to read each letter as relating to the historical situation and as emanating from a specific person’s subjective appraisal. Paul’s letters frequently refer to persecution and violent death, and to aid in psychological coping is often integral to their purposes, which makes the perspective of psychological coping akin to the genre of these letters. In the course of a tentatively assumed chronological order of 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans, Philippians, and Philemon, I will show how Paul moves from the perception of Jesus dying for the faithful to the understanding of himself dying with Jesus. His coping strategies concerning death are gradually transformed from conservative and deferring coping styles, to a more self-directing coping style, to collaborative and transformative coping styles, and finally to a new sense of collaborative and deferring coping style in prison. The last case of deferring coping carries the traits of generosity and flexibility even in the face of death, which is in contrast to his previous letters.