Original Research

The epistemological irony of postcolonialism: A perspective from Paul’s flesh-Spirit dichotomy

Philip la G. Du Toit
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 44, No 1 | a2972 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v44i1.2972 | © 2023 Philip La G. Du Toit | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 August 2023 | Published: 16 November 2023

About the author(s)

Philip la G. Du Toit, Department of New Testament, Faculty of Theology, North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Among other things, postcolonialism claims to react against western epistemology. Although postcolonial approaches react to the traditional tendency in colonialism to silence the Other by political, social and economic structures and ideologies, non-western identity is often categorised in a way in which identity formation is argued to be based on a naturalistic process of social construction and myth-making. The way in which identity is perceived in western epistemology, including the in-Christ identity, is largely influenced by a naturalistic stance, which is a prominent tendency in western epistemology. In contrast, non-western epistemologies often perceive spiritual beings and powers to be real, which are considered to intervene in human affairs. The irony within most postcolonial approaches is thus that they critique western power structures but continue to utilise western, naturalistic epistemologies to deconstruct religious experience. In this contribution, this discrepancy is explored and evaluated against the often-misunderstood flesh-Spirit dichotomy in the Pauline corpus.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: In respect of epistemology, this research overlaps with the field of philosophy, and in respect of identity theory it overlaps with the field of social sciences. The discussion of postcolonial biblical criticism itself is interdisciplinary in that it involves New Testament exegesis, its underlying epistemology as well as its interpretative methodologies.


postcolonialism; flesh; spirit; epistemology; Paul; naturalism; supernaturalism; identity; emic

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