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1 Corinthians 10:1-13

You can read the text here.

Paul continues to issue a dire warning, mostly to the strong. He continues with another set of examples, however, these are examples to avoid imitating, drawn from Israel's time wandering in the wilderness. Their status before God, from a superficial perspective would seem to be clear. They had been baptized and had been consumed spiritual food and drink just as the Corinthians had.[1] Nevertheless, God judged them (and implicitly he could judge the Corinthians depending on their conduct).

In fact there were a series of judgments for a series of failures. Idolatry, sexual immorality, putting God to the test, and complaining. The first two have obvious import to the Corinthian situation as they are the concerns addressed in the past few sections. The other two may be forward looking, especially the issue of complaining, as Paul may anticipate grumbling at his advice to strong leave off eating meat in temples.[2] Paul urges the Corinthians to heed their n…
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How Little Things Change

From The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

"Why the Jews?" I asked Salvatore. He answered, "And why not?" He explained to me that all his life preachers had told him the Jews were the enemies of Christianity and accumulated possessions that had been denied the Christian poor. I asked him, however, whether it was not also true that lords and bishops accumulated possessions through tithes, so that the Shepherds were not fighting their true enemies. He replied that when your true enemies are too strong, you have to choose weaker enemies. I reflected that this is why the simple are so called. Only the powerful always know with great clarity who their true enemies are.

Was Paul's Law Observance Inconsistent?

In our most recent post on 1 Corinthians we covered chapter 9. In that post when commenting on 9:19-23, I stated that, following Mark Nanos, Paul changed his basis of argument in his preaching depending on his audience. In saying this I was resisting the standard interpretation that Paul varied his behavior, particularly in relation to the law depending on his audience. Since I'm breaking with the consensus a bit, I thought I should give a fuller explanation of why I cam to that conclusion. But first let's present the text from the NRSV:

19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win t…

1 Corinthians 9:1-27

You can read the text here.

Paul continues to offer his own example as one where, for the sake of others, he has laid down his rights. He is an apostle after all. No one in the community would have higher status than he did. Certainly he (and his coworkers) had rights to financial support and also the personal support of a wife while he traveled just like Peter and the other apostles. Nothing could be more natural than for him to share in some financial benefit for his labors. Paul makes this point using a number of obvious analogies from normal life and Scripture. Others took advantage of this, should not Paul and his coworkers?

Paul does not make use of his rights because it would be a hindrance to the proclamation of the gospel. It would prevent some from coming to salvation. He is willing to endure anything for the sake of the advancement of the gospel, something the strong are not willing to do. The source of this commitment is rooted in Paul's transformed heart. He wants abo…

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

You can read the text here.

Paul continues to address issues that impact the health and well-being of the body and this time responding directly to a question from Corinth, eating food (mainly meat) that had been dedicated to an idol. However, knowledge that gives one a sense of superiority or status is not real knowledge in Paul's eyes because it lacks love, which is the critical thing as the goal is building the community. The knowledge that really counts is not what you know, but by whom you are known, namely God.

Paul grants that idols don't have don't have an objective existence, for there is only one God and one Lord who created everything including the powers worshiped by the Gentiles. They are on a lower rung which if understood that way does seem to make eating food offered to them an non-issue.

Not everyone has this understanding. They may have participated in idolatrous practices for so long that they cannot disassociate idol food from cultic worship. Seeing the…

Book Review: Labor of God

For my first proper book review in nearly five years, I figured I'd try something of manageable length, recent vintage, and high popularity, so I selected Labor of God: The Agony of the Cross as the Birth of the Church by Thomas Andrew Bennett. Including end notes it only stretches to 125 pages, but in that brief space Bennett clears the ground and then lays on us a novel metaphor for understanding the atonement.

Bennett begins the book noting how the ironic it is that we have completely lost the scandal of the cross. Atonement metaphors began as an attempt to make sense of the scandal. Now, the metaphors have become so worn that they no longer make sense of the atonement, they have anesthetized the cross of its power. Bennett seeks to reinvigorate our theology, "to more faithfully reckon God's agency in the death of an innocent rereckon its violence, to reinvestigate its purpose, to see it in a new logic, even a new telos" (p. 2 emphasis mine). The pro…

1 Corinthians 7:25-40

You can read the text here.

Paul continues to give advice related to sex and marriage, now addressing the unmarried congregants. While he does not have a direct statement from the Lord to draw from, his advice is weighty given the position he has been granted by the Lord. If possible, he thought it better for single men among the Corinthians to remain that way for the time being. In all likelihood there was a recent or ongoing famine that made family life difficult, a famine which was a pointer to the end to which they were all awaiting.[1] Being overly concerned about familial concerns would detract from ones ability to be wholly devoted to the Lord, and during times of hardship that distraction is acute. There is nothing wrong with the decision to get married but staying single allows less divided devotion to the Lord. Paul applies this basic point to three categories of people: men engaged to previously unmarried women[2], previously unmarried women, and widows.

In both circumstanc…