Client, Agent and Broker: An Analysis of Subordination in Paul's Christology from a Graeco-Roman Perspective

  • Benedict Kent

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis addresses the question of how the exalted Jesus relates to the God of Israel in Paul's theology, and the function of Jesus' subordination within that relationship. In approaching christology, scholars frequently turn to analogies that can shed light on the portrayal of Jesus as a divine figure, such as the analogies of Adam, angels, the Davidic king, and, more recently, God himself. However, the use of these analogies leads the interpreter to emphasise either Jesus' unity with God or his distinction from God as constitutive of his identity. None of these analogies sufficiently balance Jesus' exercising of divine prerogatives with his subordinate role as obedient agent and as mediator to believers. As a different means of approach, this thesis uses a Graeco-Roman first-century understanding of asymmetrical social-relations, namely those between patrons, brokers and clients, to analyse elements of reciprocity, asymmetry and dependence in four christological texts. It employs Greek sources to identify a common perception of patronage and brokerage in Paul's cultural context, along with its associated vocabulary, that can be applied to the interactions between God and Jesus. By reading Philippians 2:6-11, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, Ephesians 1:20-23 and 1 Corinthians 8:6 in comparison with a range of patron-broker-client relationships, we find that Jesus is consistently portrayed as a loyal agent in relation to God and as a patronal benefactor in relation to believers. Jesus' loyal service is a reciprocal response to God's raising and empowering of him and, in turn, determines the way that he is positioned alongside God as an object of worship. In light of the interdependency involved in patron-client relationships, the worship of Jesus also honours God, thus maintaining God's primary position as the Father. Whilst the relation between Jesus' unity with God and his distinction from God is, at times, ambiguous, the analogy of the broker provides a coherent framework for understanding his multifaceted position between God and mankind.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPeter Oakes (Supervisor) & Parkin (Supervisor)


  • Reciprocity
  • Client
  • Agent
  • Broker
  • Subordination
  • Christology
  • Pauline studies
  • Patronage

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