"Weighed Down Beyond our Strength": Trauma, Resilience and Hope in the Pauline Epistles

  • Andrew Wisdom

Student thesis: Phd


The present study evaluates the impact of trauma hermeneutics upon the interpretation of the Pauline epistles. Building on prior research in the fields of biblical scholarship, classics, psychology and sociology, several trauma-informed frameworks are applied to texts from the seven letters of Paul whose authorship is undisputed. I analyse textual excerpts which bear witness to Paul’s myriad persecutions and afflictions through a lens of individual trauma, with a view to unearthing the substantial trauma and suffering which lies below the surface of the Apostle’s writings. I then analyse the first letter to the Thessalonians via a hermeneutical lens of collective trauma, which serves to illuminate aspects of the young Paul’s community-building strategy in the face of collective devastation. The research demonstrates that Paul wrestled with traumatic experiences, which overwhelmed his capacity to cope, at several junctures during his ministry. Moreover, epistolary evidence suggests that he bore markers of traumatic response, including terror and heightened sensitivity to danger. This said, the Apostle’s ministry remains marked by remarkable resilience and hope. Throughout his retelling of traumatic occurrences, and weaved into his pastoral approach to his addressees, is a sense that there is hope even in the direst of circumstances. Thus, although Paul is “weighed down beyond his strength” (2 Corinthians 1:8), he may find meaning in his weakness by depending on the power of the resurrecting God.
Date of Award1 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTodd Klutz (Supervisor) & Andrew Boakye (Supervisor)


  • Pauline Theology
  • Trauma
  • Resilience
  • Hope

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