This article, originally presented as the presidential address at the 2021 SNTS meeting, held virtually via Leuven due to Covid-19 conditions, investigates the nature of Pauline interpretation, past and present. It brings into the scholarly conversation a neglected ancient source, John Chrysostom's occasional homily on 1 Cor 7.2–4 (Hom. 1 Cor. 7–4 (CPG 4377)), and provides an analysis of key passages showing how the late antique orator-bishop seeks to turn Paul's words from the fifties to Corinth into a magical incantation, and, as inscribed on various materials, a talisman against the evils associated with porneia. The article concludes with defence of the category ‘Christian love magic’ and an argument that New Testament studies constitutes a unified field which should unite (rather than separate out) the work of philology, historical contextualisation, literary criticism, humanistic commitments and hermeneutical sophistication as we trace and analyse the ways human agents construct meanings with New Testament texts, then and now.