Monthly Archives: November 2013

1 Corinthians Chapter 2:9-16

Chapter 2 continues and concludes.

9 ἀλλὰ καθὼς γέγραπται, Ἃ ὀφθαλμὸς οὐκ εἶδεν καὶ οὖς οὐκ ἤκουσεν καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίαν ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἀνέβη, ἃ ἡτοίμασεν ὁ θεὸς τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν.

But it is written thus, “That which the eye did not see and the ear did not hear, and what did not rise up in the hearts of men, that is what God has prepared for the ones loving him.”

The quote is from (Deutero-)Isaiah. Now, my hard-copy Revised English Bible translates this bit of Isaiah a bit differently. Or doesn’t quite include what is here. This brings to mind something that I came across (I’ve forgotten the source) suggesting that Paul was not averse to, um, shall we say, being rather liberal in the cites he used? As in, maybe didn’t get them quite right? Like maybe he sort of, well, manipulated them to fit his needs at the time? I did not note the source because I didn’t take it terribly seriously at the time, either the source or the implication, or both. 

Now, for the most part, I have not actually gone back to the OT on all the cites. Maybe I need to start doing that. Here is what I have for Is 64:4:

…Never has the ear heard, or eye seen any other god who acts for those who wait for him…

Now, the beginning works, the part about eyes and ears, but the rest of it…perhaps not so much. Now, maybe this still constitutes a legitimate cite of Scripture in Paul’s book, or in the attitude of the times. They were a lot less fussy about copyrights, and attribution, and authorship, and exact quotes. So maybe.

But that’s a bit of a sideshow. Here is where breaking up the text arbitrarily to maintain a certain length of my posts is a big problem. Perhaps you will recall that the discussion of V-7 & 8 we were discussing mysteries, and things hidden. Luckily, I didn’t come down on the side of Gnostic-type secret knowledge, because we have here what I think is the answer to the ‘mysteries’. “What the eyes and ears have not perceived…” To me, what this seems to be describing is a sort of an inward spiritual state, in which we experience…things…that we cannot see or hear. At least, that’s how it seems to me at the moment; and it was a moment of inspiration (something breathed into me) that made me consider it thus. It’s what will eventually be called the ‘ineffable’. It hints at a level of mysticism.

It’s something that was wholly and utterly lacking in Mark.

9 Sed sicut scriptum est: “ Quod oculus non vidit, nec auris audivit, nec in cor hominis ascendit, quae praeparavit Deus his, qui diligunt illum”.

10 ἡμῖν δὲ ἀπεκάλυψεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος: τὸ γὰρ πνεῦμα πάντα ἐραυνᾷ, καὶ τὰ βάθη τοῦ θεοῦ.

For to us is God is revealed through the spirit; for the spirit searches all, even (=καὶ ) the depths of God.

What was I saying about being ‘breathed in’ (= in-spiro in Latin) to me? Sort of by definition, that is the spirit, or the Spirit, and that is how God is revealed (Greek = apo-calypse-en) to us. The idea of having some thought breathed into you was not a new idea. This is, after all, the concept behind the Muse; as in, “Sing, O Muse (thea) the wrath of Achilles…” However, I do not know to what degree this was a common idea in the Judaic world. A lot of revelation to Hebrew prophets and visionaries came from a divine source, but it was more the showing, rather than the indwelling. At least, that’s my not-very-well-informed idea of how visions of the things-to-come took place in Jewish literature. I apologize if that notion is not correct. But this could be the origin of the idea of the Holy Spirit inspiring humans.

But perhaps most interesting idea here is the ‘depths of God’. This usage in this manner is unique in the NT. Its the word Luke uses when he tells the disciples to cast their nets into the deep water. More akin to the thought here, Plato used it in the sense of ‘depth of mind’. So, this is certainly the first such usage in prot0-Christian writing. It may represent a step of progression of religious/spiritual thought in the Western heritage.  Whatever else Paul is, he’s something of an original thinker. He brought some new insights into the way we all think of these topics, and how we talk about God and religion.

 10 Nobis autem revelavit Deus per Spiritum; Spiritus enim omnia scrutatur, etiam profunda Dei.

11 τίς γὰρ οἶδεν ἀνθρώπων τὰ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου εἰ μὴ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τὸ ἐν αὐτῷ; οὕτως καὶ τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐδεὶς ἔγνωκεν εἰ μὴ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ.

For who knows men, the things of men, if not the spirit of men, that which (is) in him (=them)? And thus the things of God, no one knows them if not the spirit of God?

 What I’m picking up here is the roots of the idea of the Holy Spirit. By discussing the spirit (breath) in this way, we get the sense that it is something separate from God. In the same way, we have the sense of the spirit of a human as somehow distinct as well. Josephus (Antiquities XVIII 1:3) tells us that the Pharisees believed in an immortal soul, using the term ‘psyche’. Paul tells us in Galatians that he was a Pharisee; perhaps some of this comes from Paul’s belief in an immortal aspect of humans.

The Greeks took ‘psyche’ as the animate breath. The actual spirit, in the sense of the identity of the individual that went down to Hades was the ‘spirit’, the ‘pneuma’ << πνεῦμα >>, which is what Paul uses here. Do these different words matter? I can’t quite tell, at least not yet. This may become more clear as we progress.

But what is clear is that Paul does not feel the need to explain his terms. He writes with the assumption that his audience will get it. Now, his audience in Corinth was, presumably, Greeks. At this point, I’m not sure if the assembly of Corinth was made up of former Jews, or former pagans. If the latter, they may have understood this passage differently than it would have been understood by former Jews, or by the Jerusalem assembly, or even by James, brother of Jesus and Peter/Cephas. In fact, I think part of the issue with the earliest proto-Christians was the difference in these backgrounds, which may possibly be represented by the differences between the Wonder-worker gospel and the Christ gospel. But now that I’ve found that hobbyhorse, I have to be careful about riding it at every turn of events.

11 Quis enim scit hominum, quae sint hominis, nisi spiritus hominis, qui in ipso est? Ita et, quae Dei sunt, nemo cognovit nisi Spiritus Dei.

12 ἡμεῖς δὲ οὐ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ κόσμου ἐλάβομεν ἀλλὰ τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ,  ἵνα εἰδῶμεν τὰ ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ χαρισθέντα ἡμῖν:

But we have not received the spirit of the world, but the spirit that is from God, so that we know the things that (are) from God are gifted (lit = begraced) to us.

The first thing is the sort of anti-Gnostic idea of the “spirit of the world”. For Gnostics (dualists), spirit is good. Did the material (=bad) world have a spirit?  But this is a great indication that our conception of ‘spirit’ may not be what Paul means here. Was the spirit of the world separate from the world? Sure seems like it. Or is it just impossible not to think of it in these terms because we’re so accustomed to thinking of a ‘spirit’ as something distinct from what it inhabits?

Second, we have << χαρισθέντα >> (charisthenta). Here the ‘natural’ meaning is simply ‘given’. But here we can see how translating this as ‘grace’ can leave out a lot of what the word can mean. The Latin uses just the base word for ‘to give’. I prefer ‘gifted’, which, again, became an integral part of what ‘grace’ is. You know, it’s never occurred to me to point out that << χαρις >> (= ‘charis’) is the root of ‘charity’, which is obviously tied up with the idea of giving, but giving freely, and perhaps to those who are in particular need.

Update: I was reviewing the chapter as a whole to prepare the summary when I thought of something that I missed the first time around. “Spirit of the World”. We all know what that is. The concept, the idea, the nuance is thoroughly familiar to us. We know what the “spirit of the law”, or the “spirit of fair play”, or even “school spirit” means. But let’s change this to “breath of the world”? I have said that this a legitimate translation of the term ‘pneuma‘. Latin does not really have the choice of words; both are rendered as ‘spiritus‘. But that doesn’t work in English. So do I have to concede that there are two different ways to understand this in Greek? I believe so, but is that only because of the way we distinguish breath/spirit in English? We can say, “while there’s breath left in my body”; or we can say “while there’s spirit left in my body”. Technically, these could mean the same thing, but we would not ordinarily use the second when we mean the first.

Such are the joys of translation. But this must also serve as yet another warning that we have to pay attention to what the words actually say. This is much more critical in Paul than it was in Mark. 

As a point of reference, see my discussion of first-glance readings in re: V-16.

12 Nos autem non spiritum mundi accepimus, sed Spiritum, qui ex Deo est, ut sciamus, quae a Deo donata sunt nobis;

13 ἃ καὶ λαλοῦμεν οὐκ ἐν διδακτοῖς ἀνθρωπίνης σοφίας λόγοις ἀλλ’ ἐν διδακτοῖς πνεύματος, πνευματικοῖς πνευματικὰ συγκρίνοντες.

And we speak not in the learned words of wise humans but in the teachings of the spirit, comparing spiritual (things) to spiritual (things).

This is again (still?) at least latently dualistic. Just to point out, there are precedents for this in Plato. For him, the acquisition of knowledge, real knowledge and not just an understanding of the world around us, required a venture into the spiritual realm. Matter had to be transcended, so that we entered, ultimately, into the realm of the Forms, and, eventually, the realm of The One. So there is a degree, at least, of Platonism in here.

A lot of what became Christian theology was a fitting of Christian concepts in terms that a Platonist could find amenable, or at least, not objectionable. In fact, Plato was the philosophical basis for Christianity in the West for about a thousand years. The re-introduction of the Aristotelean corpus in the 12th Century, and its incorporation by Thomas Aquinas provided something of a revolution in Christian thought. Aristotle-based Aquinean theology still forms the basis of Roman theology. Prior to that, Plato and his other-worldly emphasis reigned supreme in Western thought. In fact, a true understanding of the Middle Ages, IMO, requires grasping how unimportant the material world was for thinkers. This helps explain the ‘primitive’ nature of a lot of art; the idea of an accurate portrayal of what was, after all, an inexact copy of a spiritual paradigm just seemed pointless. This started to change after Aristotle, and his empirical outlook, became more fully embedded into Western thought, so that Platonism began to seem quaint, and the physical world took on more importance.

13 quae et loquimur non in doctis humanae sapientiae sed in doctis Spiritus verbis, spiritalibus spiritalia comparantes.

14 ψυχικὸς δὲ ἄνθρωπος οὐ δέχεται τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ θεοῦ, μωρία γὰρ αὐτῷ ἐστιν, καὶ οὐ δύναται γνῶναι, ὅτι πνευματικῶς ἀνακρίνεται:

But a natural man does not receive the spiritual things from God, for it is foolishness to him, and he is not able to understand to examine (things) spiritually. 

‘Natural’ is interesting. First, the root of the word is ‘psyche’, so there’s a bit of misdirection. The Latin is clearer: ‘animalis’. At least to English speakers. So the ‘natural’ state of humans does not include the spiritual element, or component. Then how is that obtained? Is the spiritual aspect somehow grafted on to our ‘natural’ state? Is there really an apparent problem with this? How can we accept spirituality, or become spiritual, if in our ‘natural’ state, we lack a spiritual capacity?

These were the sorts of questions that led to the idea of prevenient grace, whereby God, of his own goodness, bounty, and unlimited love for humanity. This idea came primarily from Augustine, who was very big on Paul, and Martin Luther was a devotee of both. The end result was predestination, which we will discuss more fully when we get to Romans (which may be a while), where the idea is most fully present in Paul. The problem is that Paul was not a systematic thinker. He was not an ivory-tower academic with the time and leisure to think through the implications of what he said the way that someone like Thomas Aquinas was. Even Augustine was something of a seat-of-the-pants sort of thinker, who responded to actual problems actually faced by the Church in his time, and he did not have the opportunity to consider his positions fully, or in depth. He needed to answer questions that were facing him NOW. The first was the Donatists, and the second, which led to predestination, was the Pelagians who claimed that humans could merit salvation by their own efforts.

Again, the basic problem is that the NT was not designed as a theological argument. The gospels were designed as the story of who Jesus and/or The Christ was; the epistles were advice on how to follow Jesus/the Christ. So things were said, like the passage here, that had implications that only became apparent after people had had a few centuries to read and digest the actual words of what had become Scripture. The Roman Rite recognized the problems of such ‘hanging implications’ from the outset, which is why Catholics are not as big on Scripture as most of their Protestant confreres. Indeed, from approximately the Fifth through the fifteenth century, reading Scripture by lay persons was discouraged. In this way, the clergy could provide what a friend described as “the Bartlett’s Quotations version” of the Bible, in which the appropriate quote was doled out to meet the needs of the moment. The solution of the humanists, and eventually Martin Luther, was to take Paul at his word, and say that one must simply believe. (This is a gross oversimplification, but it’s a deep and thorny topic, which is truly–if unfortunately–outside the scope of the present forum.)

14 Animalis autem homo non percipit, quae sunt Spiritus Dei, stultitia enim sunt illi, et non potest intellegere, quia spiritaliter examinantur;

15 ὁ δὲ πνευματικὸς ἀνακρίνει [τὰ] πάντα, αὐτὸς δὲὑπ’ οὐδενὸς ἀνακρίνεται.

The spiritual person, on the other hand (=  δὲ ) examines/judges all, while he himself is examined by no one.

The spiritual person examines all; contrast: the unexamined life is not worth living (Socrates, via Plato’s Apology). You tell me.

Really, though, the most interesting part of this passage is the second half: the spiritual person is examined by no one. Here’s another hanging implication. This implies, and pretty much entails, a personal relationship with God, that is not mediated through the agency of a professional priest-caste. By no one. It doesn’t say ‘by the elders of the community’, or ‘by someone more spiritually complete’. It says, by no one. Now, this will be more or less contradicted shortly, which is a really terrific indication that Paul was not concerned with the idea of taking things to their logical conclusion and then seeing if these extreme positions were compatible. That is what the Scholastics of the late Middle Ages did, which was what caused the humanists to become so disgusted with the hair-splitting arguments about angels dancing on pinheads (which was actually a discussion about infinity, and infinities). Perhaps Paul did not intend this to be unqualified, but that is what he wrote. Again, another example of why a lot of Christian theology did not fully develop for several centuries. In fact, some topics (predestination) have never been fully resolved on the whole. Calvin solved the problem by positing predestination to Hell, as well as to Heaven. Other groups have not been willing to take this position.

15 spiritalis autem iudicat omnia, et ipse a nemine iudicatur.

16 τίς γὰρ ἔγνω νοῦν κυρίου, ὃς συμβιβάσει αὐτόν; ἡμεῖς δὲ νοῦν Χριστοῦ ἔχομεν.

For who knows the mind of the lord, who instructs him?  But we have the mind of Christ.

Here we have another quasi-cite of Isaiah, the middle part about instructing God.

But second, what does this mean, having the mind of Christ? In particular, how does it follow from the sentence before? I guess it’s the contrast between not knowing the mind of God, but knowing the mind of Christ.

Now, this brings up another interesting theological question. We can’t know God’s mind, but we can know the mind of Christ. If we can know one, but not the other, does this not imply–or entail– that the two are not the same? That is, how does this fit with the idea of Two Persons in One God? I’m not sure it does. At least, it requires that we come up with a not-immediately-obvious explanation. I can come up with all sorts of metaphorical ways to interpret this, and some that even cleave tightly to the words as written. But that’s the point: I have to stop to think about it. The explanation needs to buck the immediate, first go-round meaning of the words in their most basic sense. So here we have another indication that Jesus as part of the Godhead did not exist in Paul’s time, just as it had not truly taken hold for Mark. It had to wait for Matthew.

Now, we can say that Paul did not consider Jesus to be divine, but that he had become divine at the Resurrection. Indeed, this is, from what I gather, the ‘standard’ interpretation of Paul’s Christology. But it’s still a long way from “In the beginning was the Word…”  This posits, mostly, the identity of Jesus with God the Father. Now, John also has the passage about not coming to the Father except through the Son, and that sort of Jesus-as-intermediary by virtue of his human nature can easily be applied to this passage. But again, the point is that we have to stop and apply the metaphor, or whatever you want to call it. That is not the natural, obvious, common-sense, first-glance meaning of the expression.

As a point of reference, see my discussion of breath/spirit in re: V-12. “Breath in my body” vs. “spirit in my body” can mean the same thing, but they really don’t.

16 Quis enim cognovit sensum Domini, / qui instruat eum? / Nos autem sensum Christi habemus.

1 Corinthians Chapter 2:1-8

Chapter 2 begins. The next two posts should be fairly short, which may be a welcome relief after the last two.

1 Κἀγὼ ἐλθὼν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἦλθον οὐ καθ’ ὑπεροχὴν λόγου ἢ σοφίας καταγγέλλων ὑμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θεοῦ.

And I coming among among you, brothers,  I came not according to authoritative words or preaching in wisdom to you the mystery of God.

This echoes a sentiment in Galatians; Paul is being humble, but the question is, compared to whom? “Authoritative” words sounds, to me, like a reference to members of the Jerusalem Assembly, to people who could state that they had known Jesus, or that they were representing people who had known Jesus. Paul has this tone of defensiveness in a lot of his writing. He seems, IMO, to have a decided inferiority complex. This, I suspect, came from his competition with the James Gang.

“The mystery of God”. Not the “kingdom of God”. Does that matter? I tend to think it doesn’t, but I’m open to arguments to the contrary. A quick aside: there is nothing particularly sinister, or even mysterious about the Greek word << μυστήριον >> (mysterion). It simply refers to a part of the rite, or the ritual, that was only revealed to the initiated. “Mystery Religions” were plentiful at the time, all with their own peculiar secret, most of which have been lost because the secrets were reasonably well-kept.

So what do we think the ‘mystery’ was? Not to be a spoil-sport, but this could simply refer to the eucharistic meal, which would qualify as a ‘mystery’ in the ancient sense of the word since it was reserved for the initiated. Of course, it could be more significant than that, but it’s not necessary that it be so. 

1 Et ego, cum venissem ad vos, fratres, veni non per sublimitatem sermonis aut sapientiae annuntians vobis mysterium Dei.

2 οὐ γὰρ ἔκρινά τι εἰδέναι ἐν ὑμῖν εἰ μὴ  Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν καὶ τοῦτον ἐσταυρωμένον.

For I did not judge (= ‘decide’) to know anything among you other than Jesus Christ, and him having been crucified.

About the Greek: in order to smooth this into something resembling English, all of my crib translations render this as:

                      …For I determined/decided not to know anything among you…

If you think about mine vs. the crib translations, they come to the same thing. Sort of, anyway. It’s just the beauty of translating.

As for the meaning, or the intent, once again, Paul is doing a bit of a two-step to get around both the strictures of Jewish Law and the rigor of Greek philosophy. He’s not going to try to present a case based on Talmud, or present a logical argument. He’s simply going to talk about the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ, because that’s all there is, and that’s all that’s necessary.

2 Non enim iudicavi scire me aliquid inter vos nisi Iesum Christum et hunc crucifixum.

3 κἀγὼ ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ καὶ ἐν φόβῳ καὶ ἐντρόμῳ πολλῷ ἐγενόμην πρὸς ὑμᾶς,

And I in weakness and in a great fear and (great) trembling was among you,

The humility again. “Fear and Trembling”. This is the title of a book by Kierkegaard. In a sense, this sort of gives the lie to Paul’s protestations of ‘weakness’. A lot of his sort of throw-off lines (through a glass and darkly) have become fixtures in the imagery of English (can’t speak to other languages).

OK, humility. That’s all very fine and good, but what does this imply? It would seem to imply that his competitors preaching the other gospel(s) perhaps do come in with a case based on the Talmud, or an argument that would impress Socrates. Perhaps Apollos was a philosopher. At this point, it’s hard to say, but Paul tends to protest too much, which makes me think that he was up against something, and that he tried to turn his weaknesses into a strength.

 3 Et ego in infirmitate et timore et tremore multo fui apud vos,

4 καὶ ὁ λόγος μου καὶ τὸ κήρυγμά μου οὐκ ἐν πειθοῖ[ς] σοφίας [λόγοις] ἀλλ’ ἐν ἀποδείξει πνεύματος καὶ δυνάμεως,

And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive (words) of wisdom, but in the manifesting of the spirit and power.

This sort of reminds me of the question on a job interview: “what is your biggest weakness?”. The clever applicant knows how to “admit” to a weakness that, lo! turns out to be a strength! This repeats what he said in 1 Thess 1:5, when Paul tells us (brags?) how he preached in power and the sacred breath. Here he repeats the boast (?), but sort of qualifies it with his “weakness”. His lack of sophistication and rhetorical polish is more than made up for by the power of the message, and perhaps the force of Paul’s delivery. Perhaps we should consider Paul to be charismatic? The sort who can carry a crowd, but perhaps also the sort who, when he is not in front of them, those who heard the message maybe lose some of the sense of power that Paul put forth, so the erstwhile audience starts to wonder what the bid deal was? Why had he seemed so persuasive? Or, Paul may have been one of those terribly earnest people who wear their heart on their sleeve, and they seem to be so eager to persuade you that you sort of go along for the moment, only to reconsider after some reflection. This might explain why his assemblies were ripe for persuasion by the ‘other gospels’.  Paul, of course, won out in the end. His works became canonical, rather than those of Apollos (assuming, for the sake of argument, that Apollos wrote anything). And maybe it’s because of phrases like “fear and trembling” and “through a glass darkly”. Paul belonged to the winning side; his side wrote the histories.

4 et sermo meus et praedicatio mea non in persuasibilibus sapientiae verbis sed in ostensione Spiritus et virtutis,

5 ἵνα ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν μὴ ᾖ ἐν σοφίᾳ ἀνθρώπων ἀλλ’ ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ.

So that your faith may not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Again, Paul has used this distinction before, this time in Galatians. There, the good news was not revealed to him by mere humans (meaning Peter, and especially James), but directly from God through the Christ. In informal logic, this would be called the ‘appeal to authority’; maybe Paul can’t convince you with his arguments, so he’ll claim that his words came from a higher source.

Getting back to the comment on V-4 about Paul’s earnestness, I think it should be–and very likely was–very obvious that Paul truly believed what he was saying. That his belief was consuming, thorough, and all-inclusive, wholly devoid of doubt. This, I think, likely came through to his listeners. And this is, indeed, a powerful attribute in a speaker, especially when describing faith. As such, it is easy to see how Paul and his listeners would attribute this to the power of God, flowing strongly, with Paul as its conduit.

This also, I think, explains why Paul is so dismissive of logic and argument and pretty words. To him, the message is so absolute that any attempts to “pretty it up” amount to obfuscation, and Paul would recoil from this in horror.  

5 ut fides vestra non sit in sapientia hominum sed in virtute Dei.

6 Σοφίαν δὲ λαλοῦμεν ἐν τοῖς τελείοις, σοφίαν δὲ οὐ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου οὐδὲ τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτουτῶν καταργουμένων:

We speak wisdom among those completed (perfected), but not the wisdom of this age, or the wisdom of the rulers of this age that is being destroyed;

Just a reminder, that the Greek is “final” or “the end”, but this is in the sense of “completed” and so, “perfected”. So wisdom is spoken with the perfect, but a special kind of wisdom. It’s the wisdom of the true believers, those for whom the message is so strong and so pure that the simple message becomes the essence of wisdom. This is, at the root, anti-intellectual, because it’s a wisdom of faith. Martin Luther would understand this, and speak this language 1,500 years later. 

“Rulers of this age” became part of the Gnostic tradition. The archons (rulers) were part of the heavenly host that the Gnostics were so fond of that they created dozens of different denizens of the other world. I have no idea if this is a term that Paul coined, or if he assimilated it from the general milieu about him. Was he the author of the idea? Or just a participant? “Gnosticm” as it has come to be defined did not fully exist during Paul’s lifetime, based on the sources we have available to us. It seems to have been a phenomenon of the Second Century, with Marcion coming in as the first full-fledged Gnostic, or proto-Gnostic. I should note: Marcion rejected most of the canonical NT; but he did believe retain the works of Paul in his revised canon.

6 Sapientiam autem loquimur inter perfectos, sapientiam vero non huius saeculi neque principum huius saeculi, qui destruuntur,

7 ἀλλὰ λαλοῦμεν θεοῦ σοφίαν ἐν μυστηρίῳ, τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην, ἣν προώρισεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων εἰς δόξαν ἡμῶν:

( continuing from V-6) rather, we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery (a secret), the one which has been hidden away, the one God pre-ordained from before the age towards our glory,

Well, the idea of a secret wisdom should help explain my last comment, about Marcion, the Gnostic who accepted Paul as canonical. Now, given the nature of ‘mystery’ religions, this need not mean ‘secret’ to the extent we might take it today. In addition, this theme of ‘mysteries’, or ‘things having been hidden’ are not common in Paul, nor in the NT as a whole. As such, I’m not entirely sure we should make too much of this, especially if we bear in mind the way ‘mystery’ was generally used in the Ancient World.

7 sed loquimur Dei sapientiam in mysterio, quae abscondita est, quam praedestinavit Deus ante saecula in gloriam nostram,

8 ἣν οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἔγνωκεν, εἰ γὰρ ἔγνωσαν, οὐκ ἂν τὸν κύριον τῆς δόξης ἐσταύρωσαν.

(cont’d from previous verse) which none of the rulers of this age have recognized, for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the lord of glory.

So the ‘mystery’ apparently is the knowledge that Jesus was the Christ. The rulers of this age were not aware of that, which is why they crucified him. Now, if they had known Jesus’ identity, and had not crucified him, what would that have done to God’s plan? Would Jesus still have become the Christ? That may be a semi-facetious question, but OTOH, it really isn’t. The Christ became the Redeemer who redeemed our pawn ticket, and so he became the ransom. Interestingly, though, we have not come across the idea of Jesus as the sacrifice. Not yet.

8 quam nemo principum huius saeculi cognovit; si enim cognovissent, numquam Dominum gloriae crucifixissent.

Baptism, Redemption, and the Historical Jesus

This started as part of the Summary to Chapter 1; however, the topic sort of took on a life of its own and grew into something that stretched beyond just a Summary. As such, I decided it needed to be a stand-alone post.

The touchpoint with Chapter 1 is the issue of the quarrels that Paul mentions; what were these dissensions that divided the Jesus Assembly of Corinth? This is a truly significant piece of historical information. It’s one of those instances in which the argument that “this is so embarrassing that it has to be legitimate” really holds, IMO. The fact of the cross is another, but it’s not germane to this particular discussion. A third instance of this is Paul’s attitude towards baptism.

That Paul took the time to write such a well-composed letter to the community of Corinth is, I think, evidence that the community was important to Paul; in fact, that’s almost a tautology. Why was it important? I think part of the reason is that it was fairly large; large enough to have differing factions who had different beliefs, and that these differences were sufficient that Paul felt it necessary to address their existence. One or two dissenters out of twenty are oddballs; twenty or thirty dissenters out of 200 are schismatics. A group of that size can, theoretically, split off and start their own group. When they do that, they may become heretics, and this happened with increasing frequency as time passed. I believe that the dissensions mentioned here and in Galatians indicate that this was a problem that cropped up within the first decade, or at least the first generation after Jesus’ death. This was not something that was the result of an essentially Jewish message being translated into Hellenistic philosophical thought.

So what were the causes of these differences?

I think it is safe to say that the role of baptism was very likely one of the differences in messages put out by some combination of Cephas/Peter, Apollos, and Paul. This explains, IMO, Paul’s dismissive attitude. He cannot remember who he baptized; a handful, a household, but maybe there were others. Or maybe not. This does not sound like an attitude I would expect if baptism were seen as the entrée point into the Jesus community, as it became later. Rather, it seems like something that Paul perhaps did, but against his better judgement, and that he wasn’t exactly thrilled to be doing it. If Paul was not keen on baptism, the implication is that either Cephas or Apollos, or both, were proponents of baptism. I have to leave Apollos out of the equation; he is a name and nothing more, and this is where so many historical theories jump the rails. One starts with a distinction, adds an inference, and then leaps to a set of connections for which there is no actual evidence. As such, I won’t speculate on what Apollos taught, as opposed to what Paul or Peter taught.

The thing is, baptism was part of the Jewish tradition. There’s a good chance it was adopted after the practice of John the Baptist made the ritual popular. Now, we don’t know exactly what John taught, but there is, IMO, absolutely no reason to believe that he deviated from what a mainstream Jew (if such a person existed) accepted as, well, acceptable. This is, I believe, a valid inference given what both the gospels and Josephus tell us about John’s popularity; the latter, frankly, gives the impression that John was the more popular of the two. At least during their respective lifetimes. Assuming that we can trust these sources, it seems unlikely that John taught anything too radical; people with radical agendas don’t become popular in their lifetime. Baptism, of course, shows up in Mark, even if it does not play a very prominent role outside the baptism of Jesus. When Jesus sends out the Twelve, he does not instruct them to baptize. We have no story of Jesus baptizing anyone. This was not, in all probability, a core practice of Jesus and the Twelve during Jesus’ lifetime.

This cluster of facts, I think, supports my idea that, over time, the evangelists played up the connection to John, rather than trying to sweep it under the rug.

Then why did proto-Christian communities begin performing this ritual? When did they begin performing this ritual? Someone was perpetuating this tradition, and it wasn’t Paul.
And which “tradition” is this? I posited the existence of a “Christ” tradition and a “Wonder-worker” tradition. Paul is obviously of the Christ-tradition. For Paul, and for the people who created the message contained in the second half of Mark’s gospel, Jesus was The Christ, The Messiah. The adherents of this tradition did not have many (any) doubts. The same cannot be said of Jesus in the first half of the work. There, Mark is, at best, ambivalent. Now, I have dubbed this the “Wonder-worker” half; that’s not inaccurate, I believe, because the miracles that Jesus performs in this half of the gospel have a very prominent place. In fact, I think it can be argued that they are the central theme of this part of Mark, which is why I gave it the name I did. However, the name is also slightly facetious, and perhaps slightly too narrow. For our purposes, the salient feature may not be the miracles, but Jesus as a man who was (probably) not the Messiah. This would keep Jesus inside the bounds of Hebraic monotheism. As such, it’s not hard to take the step to positing that this was the tradition of James, brother of Jesus.

Something occurred to me. Jesus was the leader of the Jesus sect for, perhaps, three years. That’s the traditional number. But let’s say it was five, or even ten, that Jesus had been preaching for ten years before his death. That’s a long time. But James was the leader of the group for about 30 years if we accept the traditional date of Jesus’ death as around 33, and James’ death as around 62. That’s 29 years, three times as long as Jesus. I think it would be naïve, or foolish to think that James did not impose a lot of his beliefs, or attitudes, or emphases onto the good news that was being preached. In fact, it would be impossible; no human can run a show that long without leaving big chunks of herself behind. So the tradition of Mark 1-7 was three times more likely to reflect James’ beliefs than Jesus’ teachings. OK, that’s a bit overstated, but I think we need to consider this in some fairly extreme terms in order to get past the mental rut we’re all in concerning Jesus.

So a Jesus who was still human and (probably) not the Messiah could be perfectly Jewish. James set a great store on Jewish customs and the Law; at least, that’s what Paul said. Baptism also fits perfectly into a Jewish context and milieu. Ergo, it’s probably not too much of a stretch to believe that it was James and his followers who were the proponents of baptism. And, given the history between Paul and James, this would be another reason why Paul was rather contemptuous of the practice. In the same vein, the idea of Jesus as Redeemer does not fit nicely into a Jewish context; rather, it’s something that pretty obviously (IMO) belongs to the Christ tradition.

From here, it’s a pretty short step to what feels like very solid ground to support my hypothesis that Mark had these two different traditions that had to be welded together. And “welded” is probably a better metaphor than “woven”, since the two traditions don’t have much overlap, except for the Chapters 8-10. These three feel like the weld, the transition section, the stuff Mark made up, or inferred, or thought necessary to make the two separate traditions fit together at all. We absolutely know that Jews foundered on the idea of Jesus being the Messiah, and certainly on the idea of him being divine. This ambivalence is present in Mark; Paul, who is the earlier source, OTOH, is dead certain that Jesus was the Christ.

That seems to be retrograde motion, downgrading Jesus from Messiah to person. This can be explained in one of two ways. The first is that Paul taught Jesus as the Messiah, and as time went on, followers became less certain of this, resulting in Mark’s notable ambivalence. The second possible explanation is that there were parallel tracks to the Jesus tradition, one of them teaching Jesus as the Messiah, the other telling stories of him being a wonder worker who talked about the kingdom of God, but who was very much still a Jew. Mark encountered both these traditions, which were parallel in the technical sense of the term: they did not intersect. Mark’s task was to make these two traditions intersect.

The second possibility seems much more likely on its own merits. It seems very unlikely that Jesus became less divine over time, especially given Matthew. Because, when another fifteen or twenty years have passed after Mark, Matthew wrote his gospel. In this portrayal, Jesus is not only the Messiah, but also divine, the literal ‘son of God’, defined or put in terms that any pagan would have understood completely.

IOW. the arc of the tradition is bending towards making Jesus a greater figure as time passed. Jesus becomes more like Paul’s Christ; in fact, he becomes Paul’s Christ and more. The tradition does not pull back from Jesus being the Christ, as would be required in the first explanation for Mark’s ambivalence. The ambivalence still existed when Mark wrote; it was gone by the time Matthew wrote, at least in the texts that came to be considered canonical and ended up in the NT.

This, in turn, has enormous implications for the Historical Jesus. It means that looking for the real, historical Jesus in Matthew, Luke, or John is probably a fool’s errand. The story of Jesus was growing. That means that new stuff was being made up to justify the more elevated status of Jesus. This means the stories were drifting further from their historical anchors. This means the stories become less historical as time passes. This means Matthew and Luke are seriously compromised as potential historical sources. This means that the closest we are going to get to Jesus is in Mark. Yes, Mark, not Paul.

Why not Paul? Because Paul has already decided that Jesus was The Christ, a figure of divine and metaphysical significance, one who changed everything. As such, Paul has no interest in Jesus the man. Mark, OTOH, encountered the tradition of Paul as well as another tradition, in which Jesus was not the Christ. This tradition, being more firmly anchored in, and attached to Judaism, declined to make Jesus the Christ, and certainly declined to see Jesus as divine. This was, most likely, the tradition expounded by James, the brother of the Lord. Of all Jesus’ followers, surely James is the one least likely to see Jesus as anything beyond a very special man. After all, he had known Jesus as a kid. In addition, James was still a stalwart Jew, who believed that Jesus was a Jew, and that all who followed Jesus should be Jews. This tradition would be the one that saw Jesus as a man, and would have been reluctant to elevate Jesus to the status of Messiah.

This is why Mark was ambivalent. This is why Paul disparaged baptism. This is why Paul and James had trouble seeing eye-to-eye. Yes, it was about Jewish practice, but that was because James insisted on a much stricter Jewish interpretation of who Jesus was. Jesus was not the Messiah, whereas Paul believed that he was. The disagreement went beyond circumcision and dietary practices: it went to the root of who—or what—Jesus was. No, we have no evidence for this. Why not? Because it would be clearly in Paul’s best interest to suppress this part of the disagreement. Just think of the PR angle: the brother of Jesus did not think Jesus was The Christ, but Paul did. No wonder Paul’s defensive about the pillars of the community in Jerusalem! The very people who had known Jesus did not agree with Paul. Damn straight Paul is going to suppress this. And no wonder he got so scared when James’ followers visited the Galatians.

OK, well. This obviously went well beyond a summary of the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, so I had to make this a stand-alone post. Because I believe this idea–and that’s all it is: an idea, an hypothesis, a piece of (possibly wild) speculation. But I do believe this is what the text—as we have it—is telling us. This is why I thought it would be very interesting, very beneficial, and very telling to jump back to Paul after reading Mark. They are, after all, our earliest sources. They are as close as we’re going to get to the historical Jesus. The Jesus portrayed in Matthew, Luke, and John is something very different from the Jesus that walked the earth.

Summary 1 Corinthians Chapter 1

When I completed the last post on the chapter, and started to consider what had happened, my first thought was that this was a fairly nondescript bit of writing, Yes, there was the ‘not sent to baptise’ and the ‘redemption’ of V-30, but there wasn’t much else.

Wrong. Very, very wrong.

As I said in the intro to 1 Corinthians, this is one of Paul’s masterpieces, an example of “considered”, or “systematic” thinking. Reading this, we get the sense that it went through a couple of drafts before Paul sent it off to Corinth. I did not necessarily get that feeling from 1 Thessalonians, and only marginally from Galatians. This, however, feels like a finished work, something that has been thought about and revised. As such, it’s really the first piece of… theology (for want of a better word) ever produced by what became the Christian tradition. That alone makes it significant, but it’s even more significant due to the subject matter, the several ideas it contains.

Seemingly the least important, theologically, is the idea of the cross seeming like foolishness, or a stumbling block to those who don’t follow Jesus. But this theme, and the way Paul handles it, have what I would consider to be enormous historical implications. Paul takes on ‘the problem of the cross’ directly, facing it head-on, and he makes a very serious attempt to disarm it, to turn it against the critics. This implies that Jesus was indeed crucified. Both pagans and Jews used the cross against the followers of Jesus, each for their own reasons. Given this, I think we are fully justified in accepting Jesus’ crucifixion as historically verified. More, Paul doesn’t deny it; rather, he turns it into a source of pride. He comes very close to bragging about it. He goes on the offensive with this. So Paul’s reaction, IMO, is further corroboration that Jesus was crucified. Now, this doesn’t mean that Jesus was a zealot; it means that he annoyed the Romans and they decided to punish him.

In the Old West of American legend, there were judges who were known as ‘hanging judges’. This honorific (immortalized in a Bob Dylan song) implied that these judges sentenced criminals–or those charged as criminals, which may be a very different thing–to be hanged for any infraction, real or imagined. From what I gather, Pilate was a ‘crucifying governor’; he crucified a lot of people in his tenure. The number of crucifixions eventually got him recalled to Rome. (Per Aslan, anyway. But I have heard it about Pilate elsewhere, although I can’t remember the source.) To me, this means that Pilate was crucifying more than just insurrectionists. It’s simply a matter of supply. Yes, Judea was restive in the first century, but Josephus doesn’t mention anything large during Pilate’s tenure. As such, I’d say that Pilate applied this punishment to a sizeable variety of accused criminals.

Secondly, we were told that there were quarrels, or divisions in the ranks of the Corinthians. These stemmed, apparently, from who had baptised whom. Leading baptisers appear to have been Cephas and Apollos, and the very strong implication is that these two leaders had messages that differed from the other. This also has huge historical implications. It demonstrates, pretty conclusively, that the followers of Jesus had different interpretations of who Jesus was, or what his significance was, right from the start. Paul wrote this less than a generation after Jesus’ death, and yet different cliques already had different messages. This confirms what Paul told us in Galatians, when it was Paul vs. the James Gang from Jerusalem. Now, Cephas is one of the leaders; was his message that of James and those who believed the Jewish law (read: circumcision) should be enforced on all new members? That’s the easy way out, to take Peter as simply James’ tool. However, given that Peter was not one to dietary laws when James was not around, I’m not inclined to believe that he was, at this later date, now a strict adherent of the approach taken by James. As for Apollos, well, who can tell? But I for one would love to know how his message—or that of Peter—differed from that of Paul.

One possible difference in their messages is Paul’s rather scornful attitude towards baptism. He was not sent to baptise, but to preach the good news. That is huge, and it’s a very different message from the one that came to be the orthodox as set out in John. What Paul’s attitude implies, IMO, is that baptism was something one of the other groups preached; he, OTOH, didn’t really see the value of this. Now, baptism was, most likely, inherited, or taken from the practice of John the Baptist. As such, it was pretty much part of the Jewish tradition since the Baptist came squarely from, and remained well within that tradition. The story that Josephus told of the outrage his execution caused, I think, demonstrates John’s mainstream appeal. He was probably one of those cranks that not many people paid attention to while alive, but who crossed into “beloved” status once he was dead. So, the way that this part of the Jesus tradition is significant, I think, when taken in conjunction with the next point.

We also saw the introduction of the concept of humility as a valued behaviour. We did bump into this in Mark, in a somewhat attenuated form, perhaps, but it was present. And, significantly, it was in the second half of the gospel, which I am (rather clumsily) calling the Christ-tradition. This is distinct from the Wonder-worker tradition of the first half. Baptism, OTOH, was prominent in this first half. So, Paul is obviously of the Christ-tradition; he holds out humility as exemplary behaviour, which is found in the Christ-tradition half of Mark, and disparages baptism, which belongs to the Wonder-worker tradition. Since we know which tradition Paul preferred, can we use this to infer that James was more a proponent of the Wonder-worker tradition?

Finally, the last theme introduced was the idea of ‘redemption.’ We talked about this a lot during the discussion of 1 Cor 1:30, so I just want to sum it up here. This is the first use of the word in proto-Christian writing. Of the evangelists, Luke is the only one who uses it. Paul uses it sparingly, here in 1 Corinthians and a few times in Romans. It’s used a few more times by the Deutero-Pauline writers (Ephesians, Colossians, Hebrews). And yet, it is perhaps the central concept of Christianity: Jesus died for the sins of all, to redeem—to ransom—all humans from…what? Certainly from death, by granting eternal life. I suppose. And to whom is the ransom paid? The Devil? Why should God have to “pay” to satisfy a subordinate power? I don’t bring these points up to cast aspersions on Christian beliefs; these topics have been discussed since Constantine, at least*.  I bring them up to demonstrate just how much of Christian belief was created in the first few centuries after Jesus’ death. Again, so much of what “everybody knows” about Christianity is built from inferences. This doesn’t make it wrong, or untrue, or bad; it simply illustrates how…incomplete the theology of the NT really is.

* I alluded to this work before, but Norman Cantor’s Medieval History has a terrific intro-like discussion of these topics. But make sure you get the First Edition. I cannot praise the book highly enough, especially for someone looking for a serious introduction–and a bit more–to the Middle Ages.

1 Corinthians Chapter 1:18-31

This will conclude Chapter 1. It’s a bit of a long stretch, but there’s no real natural break, so it was a question of one section that’s too long, or two that are two short.

18 Ὁ λόγος γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν, τοῖς δὲ σῳζομένοις ἡμῖν δύναμις θεοῦ ἐστιν.

For the account of the cross to those being destroyed is foolishness, but to those being saved, us, it is the power of God.

Here we are, less than a chapter in, and already we need to quibble over translations. Did that even happen a handful of times in Mark? I don’t think so. First, << λόγος >>. This is an incredibly complex word because the range of possible definitions is enormous. At root, it’s simple, “word”. As in, “In the beginning was the Word” << Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος >>, which is the metaphysical opening of John’s gospel. But it means so much more than that, and any time it’s encountered, we have to stop and really, really think about this. The KJV, interestingly, chose “preaching”, which is truly a stretch, IMO. It’s legitimate, but “preach” has connotations that are not usually in the Greek. The NASB and ESV went the safest root, and used “word”. While this is obviously consistent with John 1:1, “the word of the cross” is borderline meaningless in English, I think. Well, not exactly meaningless, but something of an odd concept. The NIV went with “message”, which isn’t that far from my choice of ‘account’. 

It always, always bears to remember that << λόγος >> is the root for “-ology”, as in bi-ology, psych-ology, & c. It’s also the root of “logic”. And Aristotle didn’t say a human is a rational animal; Aristotle spoke Greek. He said man was a “zoon logon echein“. This is probably best translated as “living creature with reason (as in, rational capacity). So I always get a bit…well, I harrumph a bit when I see this rendered as “word”, except in places where that’s what it obviously means. Here, I don’t think that’s what it means. The Latin ‘verbum‘ is a much narrower concept. At root, it means ‘word’, but it can also mean conversation, discourse, & c., so it covers that part of the spectrum of “logos“. Now, I have the distinct impression that St Jerome’s choice of “verbum” to translate “logos” in John 1:1 is how it ended up as “in the beginning was the word“, rather than “organizing principle”, which I would prefer. Now, yes, Erasmus and all the Reformation translators of the NT went back to the Greek, but they were all educated in Latin. Seeing “verbum“, they fell into the base meaning and we got “word”. Luther, for example, gave his congregation “das Wort“, which, of course, is the root for “word” in English.

Second, we have “save” << σῳζο->> . Now we saw this in Mark. But, I hope you will recall that the usage was different in the first half of the gospel (Chapters 1-7) than it was in the second half. In the first half, it referred to “saving one’s physical life”. In the second, it became “saved” as in, “the opposite of damned”. So that it seems to mean “saved” in the second sense of the word, saved in regard to eternity, or…something. Remember the scenario of 1 Thessalonians: those followers of Jesus who are strong in their faith will be lifted into the heavens to join Jesus who is coming down on a cloud. This, IMO, supports my contention that the second half of Mark’s gospel, the “Christ” story, derives in some way from the Pauline tradition rather than the Wonder-Worker tradition.

But the concept of ‘being saved’ has not really occurred all that often in Paul yet; at least in the two other epistles that we have read. It has been used once, in 1 Thessalonians, so it’s truly difficult to say with confidence what the concept means. I would assume that it’s connected with the idea of being lifted up to heaven, but this is nowhere stated explicitly. This is why so much of what we believe is the constructions and inferences of later generations.

Finally, the idea of ‘foolishness’. We’ll pick this up in the next verse.

 18 Verbum enim crucis pereuntibus quidem stultitia est; his autem, qui salvi fiunt, id est nobis, virtus Dei est.

19 γέγραπται γάρ, Ἀπολῶ τὴν σοφίαν τῶν σοφῶν, καὶ τὴν σύνεσιν τῶν συνετῶν ἀθετήσω’.

For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set as naught the intelligence of the intelligent.”

First, sorry about “set as naught” but that’s the first definition in Liddell and Scott, and I couldn’t resist. But in this instance, the archaic feel, I think helps clarify. Or rather, the meaning of the phrase is so powerful that it overcomes the problem of the archaic language.

 Second, this is a quote from Isaiah. It’s one of those sections where God is angry because he is worshiped with empty words, so he’s going to take retribution. This idea of the wise being foolish is rather peculiar to Paul. It’s interesting to speculate what it is in his background that makes him take this tack. Is it because he was a Pharisee, who was presumably held to be wise because he was so knowledgeable in Scripture? And now that he sees faith, rather than knowledge, as the key to salvation, the idea of being wise seems sort of ridiculous? Or, at least, pointless? Or is this a shot at cultural Greeks, for whom wisdom, and the love of wisdom (philo-sophia) was held in such high esteem that he found it ridiculous or vain? 

Both? Neither? It’s difficult for me to say at this point, but something to consider. Perhaps it will provide some insight into Paul’s other beliefs, or into the way Paul views the world.

19 Scriptum est enim: “ Perdam sapientiam sapientium / et prudentiam prudentium reprobabo”.

20 ποῦ σοφός; ποῦ γραμματεύς; ποῦ συζητητὴς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου; οὐχὶ ἐμώρανεν ὁ θεὸς τὴν σοφίαν τοῦ κόσμου;

For where is wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the one disputing of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

(Greek note: << συζητητὴς >> is unique to Paul.  It’s formed from a word that means ‘to dispute’, with some legal/debating sort of sense. As such, I think that he’s trying to get across the sense of something like what we would consider an attorney. )

The anti-wisdom continues. This anti-wisdom is a thread that has run through most of Christian history. It’s not always been predominate; quite the opposite. In fact, the resurrection of this attitude was one of the death blows to the Mediaeval Scholastic world-view, leading ultimately to the Reformation.

20 Ubi sapiens? Ubi scriba? Ubi conquisitor huius saeculi? Nonne stultam fecit Deus sapientiam huius mundi?

21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔγνω ὁ κόσμος διὰ τῆς σοφίας τὸν θεόν, εὐδόκησεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος σῶσαι τοὺς πιστεύοντας.

For, since in the wisdom of God, the world does not know through the wisdom of God,  God is pleased through foolishness of the announcement (preaching) to save those believing. 

I think that’s clear? The idea is that, God in his wisdom chose not to allow (?) the world to understand things according to God’s wisdom. Rather, because the announcement he made (what is being preached) is so foolish, only those believing will be saved.

Now, here we get a clear distinction for the faith/wisdom-knowledge dichotomy that still runs like a red line through Christian belief. And, since faith has been given precedence, this has often led to an attitude that is actively anti-science, or anti-learning. It was present at the beginning, too, when Christians debated the vanity of learning the Classical authors, with a significant proportion actively proposed to the idea. It is still with us. I don’t want to go all judgemental, so I’ll leave it at that.

But again the idea of being saved, without actually telling us what this means. But I think that ‘saved’ here, again should be taken in the sense of eternal, rather than temporal, life.

21 Nam quia in Dei sapientia non cognovit mundus per sapientiam Deum, placuit Deo per stultitiam praedicationis salvos facere credentes.

22 ἐπειδὴ καὶ Ἰουδαῖοι σημεῖα αἰτοῦσιν καὶ Ελληνες σοφίαν ζητοῦσιν,

And since the Jews ask for a sign, and the Hellenes (Greeks) seek wisdom,

Comment deferred

22 Quoniam et Iudaei signa petunt, et Graeci sapientiam quaerunt,

23  ἡμεῖς δὲ κηρύσσομεν Χριστὸν ἐσταυρωμένον, Ἰουδαίοις μὲν σκάνδαλον ἔθνεσιν δὲ μωρίαν,

While we are announcing (preaching) Christ crucified, the Jews on the one hand are scandalized stumble on this, while on the other hand the Gentiles think we’re morons,

(Greek note: I essentially transliterated ‘scandalized’. However, in checking the crib translations, they all rendered this as ‘stumbling block’, which is the real meaning of the word. So I bowed to the better translated and altered mine.)

(Greek note: a rare instance of the full << μὲν…δὲ >> construction, so I translated as such. It’s such an elegant formation; I wish there was something equivalent in English. The hand/hand thing is cumbersome.  Also, <<μωρίαν>> is the root of the English word ‘moron’.)

This is why I asked the question about whom Paul had in mind when he introduced the anti-wisdom theme back in V-19. Here he clearly has the Greeks seeking after wisdom–vainly, as Paul would see it–in mind. 

23 nos autem praedicamus Christum crucifixum, Iudaeis quidem scandalum, gentibus autem stultitiam;

24 αὐτοῖς δὲ τοῖς κλητοῖς, Ἰουδαίοις τε καὶ Ελλησιν, Χριστὸν θεοῦ δύναμιν καὶ θεοῦ σοφίαν:

but to those so called, Jews and Greeks, Christ (is?) the power of God and the wisdom of God.

To be honest, not entirely sure what this means. 

KJV: But unto them which are called,both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

NASB: but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

“Christ” and “wisdom” are in the accusative case; we might imagine and accusative + infinitive, but there’s no infinitive. No verb at all. As you can see, the KJV and the NASB (and ESV & NIV) really can’t do anything with it, either.  What am I missing? I’ve looked at this a couple of times, over a couple of days, but…nothing.

24 ipsis autem vocatis, Iudaeis atque Graecis, Christum Dei virtutem et Dei sapientiam;

25 ὅτι τὸ μωρὸν τοῦ θεοῦ σοφώτερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐστίν, καὶ τὸ ἀσθενὲς τοῦ θεοῦ ἰσχυρότερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

That the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom than (that) of men, and the weakness of of God is stronger than (that) of men.

Don’t think this requires much comment. It’s basically the sort of abasement of lowly humans before the might and majesty of God that’s been going on as long as humans have been aware of God.

25 quia quod stultum est Dei, sapientius est hominibus, et, quod infirmum est Dei, fortius est hominibus.

26 Βλέπετε γὰρ τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι οὐ πολλοὶ σοφοὶ κατὰ σάρκα, οὐ πολλοὶ δυνατοί, οὐ πολλοὶ εὐγενεῖς:

For look at your calling, brothers, that not many are wise about material things, not many are  powerful, not many are well-born.

This is interesting.Here we have a statement from Paul that the members of the congregation are, essentially, of the lower classes: not wise, not powerful, not high-born. This fits nicely with the injunctions of the (later) gospels about how the poor and the meek will inherit the kingdom. Now the assumption has always been that Jesus taught this; but given the temporal precedence of this letter, I now suddenly wonder if the preaching about being poor and meek is not something that, far from tracing back to Jesus, was an after-the-fact addition to the message, an after-the-fact validation of the sort that had gathered in Jesus’ name. More, let’s remember some of what we said about James, and the latter’s injunction to Paul (as reported in Galatians) that Paul should/must ‘remember the poor’ (Gal 2:10). Remember, we did not encounter all that much about the poor in Mark, and especially not in the first half of the gospel. There was the rich young man in Mark 10, and the eye of the needle, but not much else. Why not? Perhaps because that was not Jesus’ message? That the command to poverty was something that developed later?

I’m truly beginning to believe that Mark did write somewhere other than Judea, or even the Eastern Mediterranean. I am truly getting the feel that Mark had access to these two different traditions, and he did his best to combine them, but that he did not quite grasp what the situation on the ground was, and how the two different traditions interacted–or didn’t. Mark’s narrative has the feel of a translation by someone who’s not quite fluent in the language. And I don’t mean Greek or Aramaic, but the language as spoken by Jesus’ followers at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, in Judea, or Syria, or the environs.

26 Videte enim vocationem vestram, fratres; quia non multi sapientes secundum carnem, non multi potentes, non multi nobiles;

27 ἀλλὰ τὰ μωρὰ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεὸς ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τοὺς σοφούς, καὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεὸς ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τὰ ἰσχυρά,

Rather the foolishness of the world God chose in order that he might shame the wise, and the weakness of the world God chose in order to shame the powerful.

First, I think “powerful” doesn’t mean Herculean strength; I believe it’s political or social power, the sort that would be enjoyed and wielded by those well-born. Perhaps that’s obvious, but it wasn’t necessarily so to me.

Actually, what this sounds like is the message in the beginning of the second half in which Jesus says the last shall be first, and the leader must be the servant of all. It ties in nicely with the injunctions in the opening chapters of the second half to become like a child, who was neither wise nor powerful. But again, is Paul making this point because Jesus made it? Or did “Jesus” later make the point to explain why the ecclesiae were composed of the sort of people that assembled in Jesus name?

Remember: almost nowhere does Paul recount anything that Jesus said before the crucifixion. Is Paul doing that here? Given the rest of Paul’s message, that seems like it might be unlikely. Since the Jesus communities became groups of the lower classes, maybe the message that Jesus intended it to be this way was projected backwards by later writers. Because let’s remember that the full-throated message of Christianity really begins with Matthew, who probably was writing in the environs of the Holy Land. The writing of Matthew’s gospel has traditionally been located in Antioch, or Syria. IOW, much closer to the site of Jesus’ life, and it was written close to a generation after Mark. During the interim, perhaps the identity of the proto-Christian (if not full-blown Christian) community had become more pronounced.

Speculation, to be sure, but it seems to fit the facts of the texts that we have, does it not?

27 sed, quae stulta sunt mundi, elegit Deus, ut confundat sapientes, et infirma mundi elegit Deus, ut confundat fortia,

28 καὶ τὰ ἀγενῆ τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τὰ ἐξουθενημένα ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, τὰ μὴ ὄντα, ἵνα τὰ ὄντα καταργήσῃ,

And the non-well-born-ness (sic) of the world and the contemptableness God chose, the things not being (powerful/well-born), in order that he might make useless/destroy the things being like that (i.e., powerful, well-born)

Boy, that was a bit convoluted, but it’s pretty much word-for-word with the Greek. Trust me, it’s much more elegant in Greek. This is a quite nice turn of phrase. This brings us back to the discussion about whether Paul wrote his own Greek, or if he dictated and had a secretary (an amanuensis) sort of clean it up and polish it. So far, the Greek seems a bit more shiny than it did in Galatians, so that’s entirely possible. Or, maybe Paul has just gotten better at it. 

28 et ignobilia mundi et contemptibilia elegit Deus, quae non sunt, ut ea, quae sunt, destrueret,

29 ὅπως μὴ καυχήσηται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ.

So that all flesh (=everyone; here, best translated as ‘no one’) may not boast in front of God. 

The idea of boasting before God seems a bit strange; I suppose we should think of the Pharisee in Luke’s story, praying ostentatiously in the front of the church. When we get to that, will I remember to connect back to this cite? Let’s hope so.

The thing is, we have to remember that humility was more or less a Christian invention. Achilles, and the Greeks in general, boasting about one’s prowess was not only expected, but seen as exemplary behaviour. I am not certain if the same held true for Hebraic culture, if the Pharisee was the norm, or the reductio ad absurdum.

29 ut non glorietur omnis caro in conspectu Dei.

30 ἐξ αὐτοῦ δὲ ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ὃς ἐγενήθη σοφία ἡμῖν ἀπὸ θεοῦ, δικαιοσύνη τε καὶ ἁγιασμὸς καὶ ἀπολύτρωσις,

By him (antecedent = God, V-29) you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom for you from God, (and became) the justification, and holiness and ransom 

Comment at the end…

30 Ex ipso autem vos estis in Christo Iesu, qui factus est sapientia nobis a Deo et iustitia et sanctificatio et redemptio,

 31 ἵνα καθὼς γέγραπται, Ὁ καυχώμενος ἐν κυρίῳ καυχάσθω. So that, as it is written, “Let the one bragging brag in the Lord”.

31 ut quemadmodum scriptum est: / “ Qui gloriatur, in Domino glorietur ”.

First, the quote in V-31 is from Jeremiah 9:23-24. I guess we are here seeing the beginnings of Christian humility, wherein humans are not to pride themselves in any accomplishments because, in the final analysis, it’s all about what God has granted us. This idea was not, IMO, very well developed in Mark. The only real references to it came when Jesus said that we have to become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven, or when he said that the first shall be last, or when he told the disciples that the one who would be the greatest had to be the servant of all. And even these are not really quite the same thing as what Paul is saying here. However, that is, I think, picking nits; the idea is that of being humble, and there are a number of ways this can be approached. And what I consider being humble, may not seem so to someone else. After all, being child-like may not seem as humbling as being the servant of all.

One more thing about the humility theme. Once again, it’s something that does not show up in the first seven chapters. This theme makes its appearance in Chapter 9, and runs through Chapter 12. This is the second, half, what I am saying is the “Christ half”, vs. the Wonder-worker half of Chapters 1-7. It will be interesting to see how many of Paul’s themes show up in that first half.

Finally, the last word of V-30: << ἀπολύτρωσις >>. Note that the Latin is << redemptio >>. All four of my crib translations render this as ‘redemption”, which is obviously a direct borrowing of the Latin. For the Christian, this is a very significant word. But what did Paul mean by it? First, let’s note that this word is used once in Luke, twice in Romans, and here; later it will show up in Ephesians, Colossians, and Hebrews, a total of nine times. As such, it’s hard to argue that this is a central theme of the NT. Even John does not use the word. For Christians, the meaning is obvious, and it’s more or less synonymous with “salvation” or “saviour”.  It is very important to remember, however, that, in its Greek form, and especially in Latin, the base sense of the word is to redeem, as we redeem an item from a pawn shop. That is, we pay money to get something back.

Part of the meaning in both Greek and Latin is “ransom”. Now, it bears to remember that capturing people in combat and then selling them back to their own side was a very prominent and lucrative business in the ancient world, and continued to be in the Middle Ages. We, of course, most associate the word with the ransom (which is really just a form of redemption) paid to kidnappers. The thing is, these all pretty much describe what Christians mean by ‘redemption’. At least, this is very close to the way the word is used in the Roman Rite, the one with which I’m most familiar.

Now, it is very important to realize that this is the first use of this word by (proto-) Christians. Paul also expressed a very similar idea in Gal 3:13, when he talked about Jesus buying our freedom from the curse of the law. These two usages taken together provide a sense that Paul is creating an interpretation of the meaning of Jesus’ death. Or, it can be said that he is creating the meaning of Jesus’ death, the meaning that will become the orthodox interpretation of the central tenet of Christian belief.

IOW, this is a very big step in the development of Christian theology.

1 Corinthians Chapter 1:10-17

Chapter 1 continues….

10 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἵνα τὸ αὐτὸ λέγητε πάντες, καὶ μὴ ᾖ ἐν ὑμῖν σχίσματα, ἦτε δὲ κατηρτισμένοι ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ νοῒ καὶ ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ γνώμῃ.

For I implore you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that you all say the same things, and that (there) not (be) divisions among you, that you may be completed in the same mind and the same knowing.

Divisions. Frankly, I don’t think that enough emphasis has been placed on this. I talked about it before we did Mark, and it seems even more important now. There were multiple message streams. Different groups apparently had different views, or interpretations, if not outright separate beliefs. And here, it seems the same occurred even within what was nominally the same group. Imagine the differences that would have developed between groups in different cities, or towns, especially if the Good News was brought by Paul to one group, and by Apollos (see below) to another. And remember the guy casting out demons in Jesus’ name, even though he wasn’t part of the group (Mk 9:38)? Was he also preaching? What was his message?

Those are not rhetorical questions. Assuming that we can take this as in some way historical, it matters. It matters a lot, and it’s a shame that it hasn’t gotten more attention than it has (which is, as far as I can tell, about none). Is it historical? Given what Paul is telling us, I don’t see why we should doubt it. Paul provides a first-hand account by a primary source; historians cannot ask for better evidence. He was there; he saw it; he wrote it down (or maybe his secretary did after Paul dictated it). Primary, eyewitness evidence. And there is no reason to think that things improved between Paul and Mark; that is, there is no reason to think that the number of interpretations of Jesus decreased. It would be just the opposite. And again, this is not an inference based on likelihood; given the amount of time the early Church Fathers spent combating heresy, we know that the problem of multiple, differing interpretations only continued for the next,  oh, 500 years, continued on for another 500 in the Greek Empire, and then started up again in the Latin West. The differing interpretations have not abated. 

Given this, my idea that Mark encountered two separate strains, which he then welded together, is not hard to imagine. It seems like a gross oversimplification, if anything.

10 Obsecro autem vos, fratres, per nomen Domini nostri Iesu Christi, ut idipsum dicatis omnes, et non sint in vobis schismata, sitis autem perfecti in eodem sensu et in eadem sententia.

11 ἐδηλώθη γάρ μοι περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί μου, ὑπὸ τῶν Χλόης ὅτι ἔριδες ἐν ὑμῖν εἰσιν.

For it has been stated to me about you, my brothers, about the household of Chloe, that there is contention amongst you. 

Comment deferred for  moment.

11 Significatum est enim mihi de vobis, fratres mei, ab his, qui sunt Chloes, quia contentiones inter vos sunt.

12 λέγω δὲ τοῦτο, ὅτι ἕκαστος ὑμῶν λέγει, Ἐγὼ μέν εἰμι Παύλου, Ἐγὼ δὲ Ἀπολλῶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Κηφᾶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Χριστοῦ.

But I say to you this, that each of you say, “I, on the one hand, am of Paul, but I one the other am of Apollos, but I am of Cephas (Peter), while (but) I am of Christ.

Here is the Apollos I mentioned in the comment to V-10. Now, one of the factions is that of Cephas, Peter. Given what we were told in Galatians, about how Peter tended to defer to James, can we infer that this would be the Judaizing faction of James? Well, we can infer it, but with how much confidence? I would put it well within the realm of likelihood; we know that this faction existed, and we know that Peter was part of it, so I would put the probability somewhere above 80% that this is what Paul means. And (likelihood > 80%) is a pretty good answer for an issue this diffuse that occurred that long ago. And we know what Paul’s group believed, more or less. What about Apollos? How did he differ? How much did he differ? Did he differ? Those questions cannot be answered with much more than about 10% likelihood, IMO. In fact, it would be closer to zero than ten.

The “I am of Christ” I think…well, I don’t know exactly what to think. Is this the same as Paul’s group? If so, then why distinguish the two? Is this just a rhetorical flourish, without real meaning? Entirely possible, with a likelihood around 30% (based on speculation, without any really hard evidence). Is it simply a stand-in for the ‘true’ (or ‘True’) interpretation? The likelihood of this is probably about the same 30%, which would mean that it’s better than 50/50 that there is no real doctrinal difference in this position in relation to the other three.

12 Hoc autem dico, quod unusquisque vestrum dicit: “ Ego quidem sum Pauli ”, “ Ego autem Apollo ”, “ Ego vero Cephae ”, “ Ego autem Christi ”.

13 μεμέρισται ὁ Χριστός; μὴ Παῦλος ἐσταυρώθη ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, ἢ εἰς τὸ ὄνομα Παύλου ἐβαπτίσθητε;

Has Christ been divided? It wasn’t Paul who was crucified over you, or in the name of Paul that you were baptised.

This comment about baptism is interesting in light of how this develops.

13 Divisus est Christus? Numquid Paulus crucifixus est pro vobis, aut in nomine Pauli baptizati estis?

14 εὐχαριστῶ [τῷ θεῷ] ὅτι οὐδένα ὑμῶν ἐβάπτισα εἰ μὴ Κρίσπον καὶ Γάϊον,

I give thanks to God that I baptised none of you except Crispus and Gaius.

Now, this is interesting: Paul, presumably, established this community of followers of Jesus, but he only baptised two of them. That would strike me as odd, given the emphasis that is later put on baptism.

14 Gratias ago Deo quod neminem vestrum baptizavi, nisi Crispum et Gaium,

15 ἵνα μή τις εἴπῃ ὅτι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα ἐβαπτίσθητε.

As a result, no one can say that in my name he was baptised.

He seems to be bragging about this, doesn’t he? Or, if not bragging, then perhaps relieved?

“As a result” is, technically, a bit of a loose translation of <<  ἵνα >>, but I believe it’s justified.

15 ne quis dicat quod in nomine meo baptizati sitis.

16 ἐβάπτισα δὲ καὶ τὸν Στεφανᾶ οἶκον: λοιπὸν οὐκ οἶδα εἴ τινα ἄλλον ἐβάπτισα.

For I also baptised the household of Stephan; the rest I don’t know, if I baptised anyone else.

He doesn’t remember? That’s a bit odd, isn’t it? Shouldn’t this be a memorable moment in the life of the community? In the life of the new member of the assembly? What is up with Paul’s attitude here? Seriously, doesn’t he seem to be dismissive, at the least of baptism?

16 Baptizavi autem et Stephanae domum; ceterum nescio si quem alium baptizaverim.

17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου, ἵνα μὴ κενωθῇ ὁ σταυρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

For Christ did not sent me to baptize, but to evangelize (= “preach the good news”), not in wisdom, so as not to invalidate the cross of Christ.

17 Non enim misit me Christus baptizare, sed evangelizare; non in sapientia verbi, ut non evacuetur crux Christi.

Taking the last bit first: wisdom would somehow invalidate the cross of Christ. This is why I made the comment in V-5 that it was unusual to hear Paul talking about wisdom in a positive way.  But we will pick up on this in the next post on Chapter 1.

Before that, we have a !Holy Toledo! moment that is something of the culmination of the past few verses in which Paul seems not terribly keen on the idea of baptism. For Paul says, “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to evangelize”. How does this square with “…unless you are born again of water and the Holy Spirit…” That is, unless you are baptized. And yet Paul, apparently, puts no value on this practice. In fact, he seems downright disdainful of it . Perhaps what we have here is an excellent indication of the “Two (at least) Jesus” theory that I’ve now put forward. If you’ll recall, my idea was that the Wonder Worker part of Mark was derived, ultimately, from the Baptist/Wonder-Worker? Jewish wing of the movement, which I suspect was headed by James. Paul, of course, is from the Christ/Gentile wing of the movement, which was led by, well, Paul. I believe this split persisted for possibly hundreds of years. The former was responsible, I believe, for the Didache, and for the portion of the so-called “Pseudo-Clementines” known as the Recognitiones.

We know, we absolutely know that there was a big variety of opinion on who Jesus was, and what he meant. There were possibly dozens of groups with peculiar ideas about Jesus the person, Jesus the Saviour,  Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Son of God. It is very, very important that the last three of these terms were not necessarily synonymous for a very long time even though, to modern Christians, they are, if not interchangeable, then descriptions of various aspects of Jesus. Paul and James had disagreements, apparently about cult practice: the disputes were about circumcision, unclean food, & c; this is not stuff that directly attaches to Jesus personally. or Jesus as the Christ. But they may indicated disagreements about the nature of Jesus, here using the term ‘nature’ in its theological sense: his human vs his divine natures. Credit where it’s due, Aslan pointed out that raising Jesus to divine status took the belief in Jesus out of the realm of Judaism, with its emphasis on a strict monotheism. As such, the Judaic wing of the movement would likely have resisted this elevation of Jesus.

The thing is, baptism is a cult practice. It’s a ritual. It has its roots in Judaic tradition and practice. As such, it’s part–at least peripherally–of The Law, and we know how Paul felt about The Law. Given these two premises, it’s not hard to deduce that Paul probably wasn’t a big fan of baptism, because, to him, it smacked of traditional cult practice. Believing was what mattered to Paul. It sounds like he did baptize, but perhaps reluctantly. So this almost off-hand remark–perhaps–gives some additional insight into the status quo in the years on either side of 55 CE.

1 Corinthians Chapter 1:1-17

We now return to Paul, where it all started. First Corinthians and Romans, are probably Paul’s two most-quoted, and most-read works. I think it will be easy to see why. These two works feel much more like well-considered, thought-out, composed pieces, rather than letters tossed off, possibly in anger as with the Galatians. As such, they are the fonts of much of Pauline theology. 1 Corinthians is most famous, of course, for the “love is patient…” section, which is among the most beautiful passages in the whole NT. But there so much more as well. So, let’s get started….

1 Παῦλος κλητὸς ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ, καὶ Σωσθένης ὁ ἀδελφός,

Paul, called Apostle of Jesus the Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes the brother,

Apostle. I don’t know about anyone else, but to me, “apostle” means “The Twelve Apostles”. We discussed this in Mark, when Jesus called his followers, and again in Chapter 6 when he sent them (apostellein) out to preach and exorcise demons. In Mark. The Twelve were never referred to as “apostles”, let alone as “the apostles”. Honestly, this is really just a minor point, but it’s worth noting if only to serve as a sterling example of how popular notions can and do overtake the actual circumstances. This is the sort of misconception that was largely responsible for me undertaking this venture.

And he’s ‘called’ apostle. This is an annoying little phrase that really make interpreting anything extremely difficult. The problem is, it can have completely contradictory meanings: he is called one, but he isn’t really one; or he is called one, because he is one. Which is it? Is he complaining because people don’t respect him as one? Or believe that he shouldn’t have the title? Or is this just a literary quirk with no real significance? It’s the sort of thing that academics can argue over for centuries. Do we know Sosthenes from anywhere else? That’s a real question.

1 Paulus, vocatus apostolus Christi Iesu per voluntatem Dei, et Sosthenes frater,

2 τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ, ἡγιασμένοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, κλητοῖς ἁγίοις, σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐπικαλουμένοις τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶνἸησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ, αὐτῶν καὶ ἡμῶν:

To the assembly of God that is being in Corinth, to those having been sanctified (lit = ‘made holy’) in Christ Jesus, to (those) called holy, with all those called in the name of our lord Jesus Christ in all places,  of theirs and our own (places).

Not much to say about this. Sort of a garden-variety greeting.

2 ecclesiae Dei, quae est Corinthi, sanctificatis in Christo Iesu, vocatis sanctis cum omnibus, qui invocant nomen Domini nostri Iesu Christi in omni loco ipsorum et nostro:

3 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

Grace to you, and the peace of God our father and the lord Jesus Christ.

First, we have “the Lord Jesus Christ” three times in three verses. Second, I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: if God is our father, as Paul says here, then we are all sons of God. This seems like such an (ahem) elementary piece of deduction, but it also seems completely lost on a lot of writers. Or perhaps I’m missing something?  I just read in Aslan how, by calling Jesus the Son of God, Paul thereby considered Jesus a literal son of God. IOW, ‘Son of God’ is not equal to ‘having God as our Father is not the same as being a Son of God’.

Now, even given the difference in the way the terms are used, I really don’t think Aslan is on solid ground when he makes this distinction between the way Paul uses the term vs Matthew uses the term. Honestly, what Aslan is describing sounds a lot more like a description of Herakles, who was a son of (a) god in a literal sense. But then, that’s sort of been my point, too.

Aslan does make the valid point that the NT was not written by Jews from Jerusalem, whose native language was Aramaic, but Jews from the Diaspora, whose native language was likely to have been Greek.  Speaking Greek, in a culturally Greek milieu gave access to different thought processes, ideas, and even analogies, synonyms & antonyms, etc. Think of it this way: a Muslim who grew up in a Westernized country like England, where they grew up speaking English which gave them access to the whole American cultural style would probably have some different perspectives than someone who grew up in a small city in Jordan and only spoke Arabic.

3 gratia vobis et pax a Deo Patre nostro et Domino Iesu Christo.

4 Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῇ χάριτι τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ δοθείσῃ ὑμῖν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ,

I give thanks to my God always about you about (lit = “upon”) the favor of God which is given to you in Christ Jesus,

Εὐχαριστῶ…χάριτι τοῦ θεοῦ…Gratias…in gratia Dei…These are loaded and tricky words. They are the roots of “grace” (the Latin is virtually identical), but they have other meanings as well. The first use is pretty straightforward: Paul is giving thanks, which is a base meaning for the word in both Greek and Latin. It would be very easy–and perfectly accurate–to translate the second usage as ‘grace’, as in, ‘by the grace of God’.Another fine translation would be ‘by the gift of God’. When you throw in ‘by the favor’ of God, it becomes easier to see how we came up with the concept of ‘grace’ that we did.

From about the Third Century through the Reformation, arguments about God’s grace were a staple of theological discussions. There were categories devised, like ‘prevenient grace’, or ‘superabundant grace’ and more. As with Holy Spirit/sacred breath, or Baptist/dunker, the usage of the word led to the first term of each pair to mean something apart, something specific, and something special, as in, out of the ordinary. “Baptism” became a special word, reserved for a special, specific event, even though the base word in Greek is actually quite ordinary. I live on the East Coast of the US, where a franchise called “Dunkin’ Donuts” is ubiquitous; the idea of the “dunkin'” was that people dunked their doughnut into their coffee. So, imagine this as”Baptising Donuts” and you get a sense of the ordinariness of the underlying word. But Holy Spirit and Grace went even further. They became reified, turned into a thing, a noun with a very specific meaning. As such, it’s good to recall that, when Paul wrote these words, he did not mean “Holy Spirit” or “Grace”.

Please recall that I did write a separate entry on Grace.  https://commentingonthebible.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/grace/

Also, I just checked against my crib translations; mine is a little different than the others, mainly because I have kept mine more literal. Here we are, three verses back into Paul and we’ve already encountered a situation where the consensus translation–starting with the KJV–has drifted ever-so-slightly from the original. Please, don’t get me wrong: I do not hold myself as any sort of expert. My translation may not capture the spirit of the original as effectively as the others. My point is that I want to point out where these ‘driftings’ have occurred. The mass-produced translations are produced by people much, much more knowledgeable about Greek–especially NT Greek–than I am. What I offer, in effect, are fresh eyes. I do believe that biblical scholarship needs fresh eyes.

4 Gratias ago Deo meo semper pro vobis in gratia Dei, quae data est vobis in Christo Iesu,

5 ὅτι ἐν παντὶ ἐπλουτίσθητε ἐν αὐτῷ, ἐν παντὶ λόγῳ καὶ πάσῃ γνώσει,

that in all you have been made wealthy within it (“it” = “the love of God”), in all words and in all knowledge, 

At first glance, this strikes me as at least a bit odd for Paul. In other places, he is downright disdainful of “words and knowledge”; however,  this is, I think, rather a specialised type of words and knowledge, those that refer to the wisdom and knowledge of God.

5 quia in omnibus divites facti estis in illo, in omni verbo et in omni scientia,

6 καθὼς τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐβεβαιώθη ἐν ὑμῖν, as the witness of Christ was confirmed in you

6 sicut testimonium Christi confirmatum est in vobis,

7 ὥστε ὑμᾶς μὴ ὑστερεῖσθαι ἐν μηδενὶ χαρίσματι, ἀπεκδεχομένους τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ:

so that you do not come last in any any begracing, waiting for the unhiding of our lord Jesus Christ;

These last few verses do not, I think, have any deep underlying meaning aside from the actual words themselves. Paul wants the assembly to be wise and understanding in the ways of God. The way it’s expressed is interesting: <<last in any begracing>>, but the implication and meaning are clear enough. Note that the word I translated as ‘unhiding’ is transliterated as “apocalypsin”; the root is clear enough. The Apocalypse of John in Latin becomes the Revelation to John. And “unhiding” is a pretty literal translation.

Here’s something interesting. The word I so clumsily translated as ‘begracing’ is rendered as ‘lacking no gift’, or ‘that you come behind in no gift’, or something such. The word is a verb, which is why I chose to put it across in such an inelegant manner. I’m not sure I retained anything extra from the original, except for the way this works. They are being…graced, or maybe blessed; not given a gift. It’s a very different process.

7 ita ut nihil vobis desit in ulla donatione, exspectantibus revelationem Domini nostri Iesu Christi;

8 ὃς καὶ βεβwαιώσει ὑμᾶς ἕως τέλους ἀνεγκλήτους ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ[Χριστοῦ].

And he who (“who” refers back to Jesus in V-6) confirms you blameless until the end in the day of our Lord Jesus [Christ ].

…the end, in the day of our Lord…  This is, I believe, a reference to the return of Jesus, mentioned by Paul in 1 Thessalonians as we saw. This sort of comment makes me really have to go back and re-think all of my thoughts about Jesus as an apocalyptic preacher. When I read Mark, I honestly did not feel like that was Jesus’ underlying message. Granted, I seemed to ‘find’ it in the way the chapters were structured, with a wonder being worked, followed–or concluded by–some indication of how the order was changing and the kingdom was coming about.  But there wasn’t the slightest hint about Jesus showing up on a cloud; at least, not until it pops up abruptly, and without any real prelude, in Chapter 8.

But then, Chapter 8 is when we get begin the transition from the Wonder Worker to the Christ. And Paul is in the Christ tradition…. Bottom line, it seems, is that the idea of the kingdom evolved, or morphed, or changed into the idea of Jesus returning in glory. I haven’t devised a theory on this, but I’m working on it. We can see that Paul firmly believes it will be happening, and that it will be happening soon. Where did he get this idea? Remember, Paul was dead by the time Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed. He is not writing post-facto ‘predictions’; he sees this, legitimately, as a future event.

But why? Does it have anything to do with Jesus being a revolutionary? I tend to doubt it.  But the point is, within 20/30 years, the idea of an earthly Christ, which is the only kind of Christ that existed in the Jewish tradition, had been replaced by a heavenly Christ, and a heavenly kingdom.  BTW: “blameless” << ἀνεγκλήτους >> is only found in Paul. Why only in Paul? I mean, the idea is pretty clearly wrapped up with the Day of the Lord, which presumably means the Parousia.At this time, those ‘blameless’, that is, those not mired in sin, will likely gain the eternal life promised in Galatians 6:8. I believe this is what it means, although there is no certainty in this.

This is an inference rather than a stated fact, and we always have to be aware that an inference is just that. Too often inferences get treated as if they were established facts, becoming the foundation for all sorts of lofty theories. Such theories are liable to come crashing down once the faulty foundation inevitably cracks. But, given the context of Galatians, I believe this inference is fairly solid.

Now, why is this only found in Paul? That Paul has a particular word that he uses, as opposed to a different word used by someone else is not particularly noteworthy. Vocabulary tends to be idiosyncratic, which helps determine whether  a particular work is by a particular author. But what about the concept? The closest parallel in Mark, IMO, is at the end of Chapter 9, when Jesus is admonishing his listeners to mutilate and/or maim themselves by chopping of hands, or gouging out eyes if they cause you to sin.

And note again, that this parallel comes in what I’m calling the Christ half of Mark, Chapters 8-15. I don’t think this is a coincidence. The Wonder Worker talked about repenting–at least, he mentioned it once or twice–but it’s the Christ who seems to be concerned with the ramifications of not repenting, because it’s the Christ who talks about Life, and Eternal Life. So does Paul. And how far are we to take “blameless”? Does that really mean perfect? Or is there a bit of hyperbole involved? At this point, it is difficult to say. The question is whether Paul actually expected the followers of Jesus to be completely blameless–completely without sin–which is, of course, impossible. 

Or is it? Now, over the long haul, yes, of course it’s impossible. But if Jesus was expected momentarily, then maybe not. And maybe we have to stop to consider what they would have considered ‘sin’. Fornication, murder, false witness (which is a very specialised form of lying; minor fibs really don’t count under this category), sorcery….these are the sorts of things we find in “sin lists”. And, of course, there are the commandments: the first three about God, the last seven about our neighbor: don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet, don’t commit adultery….Having grown up in the Roman tradition, there was a clever–and convenient–distinction between venial and mortal sins. Venial sins were the petty ones, the ones that we truly can’t avoid for more than an hour or two at a time. But they were not soul-threatening. Mortal sins–which included skipping Mass on Sunday–were a ‘you’re damned to Hell’ from the moment you commit them till the moment you confess them. Maybe it’s these sins about which Paul is admonishing his congregation? I haven’t murdered anyone lately (or ever); I haven’t stolen anything (well, maybe a few pencils from the office), I haven’t given false witness during any legal proceedings…maybe I’m good? That’s pretty close to blameless….

The point of my self-confession is that these sorts of statements had to be worked out over the course of centuries. The traditions of the early church that eventually ossified into the Roman Rite as practised in the Late Middle Ages evolved, exactly because of statements like this. What does “blameless” mean? Sounds like it could be taken as “perfection”, which is an impossible goal. So does that mean we’re damned the moment we cross the line? That’s why we need a way of doing penance, of being penitent, of repenting our sins, which was eventually elevated to sacramental status to allow the imparting of Grace. These statements that are less than precise, IOW, required litigating in the court of the evolving Church.

A lot of comment over a dozen-and-a-quarter words.

8 qui et confirmabit vos usque ad finem sine crimine in die Domini nostri Iesu Christi.

9 πιστὸς ὁ θεὸς δι’ οὗ ἐκλήθητε εἰς κοινωνίαν τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν.

God is faithful, through whom you are called to the communion of his son Jesus Christ, our Lord.

“God is faithful”. We can count on him to keep his end of the bargain. The word I translated as “community” is << κοινωνίαν >>, which is a form of “koine”, which is the description used for Greek spoken after the kingdoms of the Diadochoi, Alexander’s successors, were established. It’s ‘common Greek’; not as in ‘ordinary’, but as in ‘shared’. So we are called into this community, which is a shared experience for all who participate. God calls us, but Jesus is sort of the community organiser, the one through whom this actually gets done. This will be definitively stated in John, when he says (paraphrased) “you know the father through the son”.

I bring this up because of the connotations that “communion” has for the Roman Rite, where it is synonymous with ‘eucharist’. This conjunction of the words came about because the eucharist was how the community was organised, around the common, the shared, meal.

9 Fidelis Deus, per quem vocati estis in communionem Filii eius Iesu Christi Domini nostri.