Summary 1 Corinthians Chapter 4

To be quite honest, I am very unfamiliar with what we have read so far in this letter. 1 Corinthians and Romans are the two most-quoted of Paul’s letters, and yet I am not sure if I’ve ever heard anything that we’ve discussed either cited, or even read during church.  My assessment of Chapter 3 carries also for this: it is not terribly interesting from a thematic sense. Thus far, what we have gotten are largely pastoral, rather than theological, issues.

But whereas Chapter 3 was Paul more or less specifically chiding Apollos, Chapter 4 has directed the scolding to pretty much the assembly at large. They are prideful, but in the wrong things, and this grows from what was said about Apollos in the previous chapter. Their attention is turned to the wrong things; they are concerned with words, and not the power of the kingdom. He promises the return of the Lord, at which point all secrets will be revealed, which is a warning that they need to take heed.

This touches on the idea of the Parousia, but that’s about all it does. The interesting thing is, I suppose, that Paul doesn’t feel the need to go into this further. The interesting thing is what Paul has not said. This is the third or fourth time (at least) he’s referred to the coming of Jesus, but, aside from the bit about him coming down from heaven on clouds with the angels, he’s never really described it. And I don’t mean just the manner of the return; he has never really discussed what it means. Here, we are told that secrets will be revealed. Contrary to what we might expect, given our 21st Century perspective, is that the revealing of secrets is not said to be accompanied the meting out of deserts. Paul only mentions the praise, presumably for those with pure motives. He does not mention potential punishment. To the best of my knowledge, he has not brought that up in any of the text that we’ve read. So again, the interesting bit is what he hasn’t said. The other odd bit about this reference to the Parousia is that one does not get the sense that it will be the Romans who suffer God’s wrath. Rather, it seems like it will be false preachers like Apollos.

There was also another section in which Paul indulged in one of his bouts of self-pity. He described how he is buffeted by blows, reviled, cursed, and all the rest. But, once again, Paul is reticent at the wrong time. Who was doing this? Acts certainly discusses some of the problems Paul encountered. We haven’t discussed this, but it’s an issue lurking beneath the surface: how accurate is the story of Acts? Because, in contrast, we have James and the Jerusalem assembly seemingly operating more or less in the open at the same time that Paul was running into his difficulties. This has given me the wild idea that some of the problems Paul ran into were done by those loyal to James. However, this is wildly speculative. But we will discuss this further.

So the two interesting themes were the Parousia and the persecutions. Unfortunately, both of these were oblique references at best.


About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on December 31, 2013, in 1 Corinthians, epistles, Paul's Letters, Summary and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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