Chapter

“I Have Learned to Be Content”

Colleen Shantz

in The Bible and the Pursuit of Happiness

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199795734
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979691 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199795734.003.0008
“I Have Learned to Be Content”

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Paul’s letters afford unique access to happiness in the Bible, because they speak directly in Paul’s own voice. Paul himself says his life contained much suffering, which leads to the question of how he could be understood to be (or claim himself to be) happy. Using Martin Seligman’s typology of the three kinds of happy lives, the chapter argues that both the pleasurable life and the good life were largely beyond Paul’s reach. What Paul found instead was the meaningful life. That meaning, derived from the pattern of Jesus Christ, was precisely one that turned conventional notions of honor on their heads. It was this transformed understanding of happiness that enabled Paul to establish and nurture early communities of Christ-followers. These groups, then, provided the social cohesion needed to generate further happiness. This is what kept Paul from turning bitter, and this is what enabled him to face the worst circumstances, even the possibility of his own violent death, “with what might properly be called happiness.”

Keywords: happiness; Paul; Martin Seligman; suffering; honor; death; meaningful life; early Christian communities

Chapter.  7309 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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