Monthly Archives: March 2014

1 Corinthians Chapter 9:15-27

Chapter 9 continues with Paul continuing to discuss the situation of an apostle.

15 ἐγὼ δὲ οὐ κέχρημαι οὐδενὶ τούτων. οὐκ ἔγραψα δὲ ταῦτα ἵνα οὕτως γένηται ἐν ἐμοί, καλὸν γάρ μοι μᾶλλον ἀποθανεῖν ἤ τὸ καύχημά μου οὐδεὶς κενώσει.

But I did not use any of these things. I did not write about them in order that in this way they should be in me (= ‘be mine’), for it is better for to die than (have) someone  make my glory empty (or vain).

I chose rather an unfortunate place to break, but there were no obvious topic changes, and the chapter is too long for one post. So, Paul is referring back to the end of V-14, and the ‘things’ are the rights or privileges to which one is entitled as an apostle.

Just in case we’ve lost track of where we were, the idea of what an emissary of Jesus could expect in the way of…”recompense” from the Community is a pretty significant issue. What is at stake is the potential difference between what Jesus “said” in Mark 6 vs. what Paul seems to be saying here. There may not be a contradiction; Mark relates that Jesus said that those sent out should accept what was offered. But Mark does not say that those sent out should expect to be offered. In that was we have something that seems to conflict, if not quite contradict. I bring this up because the emulation of ‘apostolic poverty’ became the root of most of the heresies of the later Middle Ages. If these earliest apostles, or emissaries, or those sent out did not exactly live in poverty, but traveled with something like a retinue, then that kind of changes the way we should interpret Jesus’ message.

The thing is, it seems to be Paul, rather than the other emissaries, who was living the more modest life. That is his boast, and he would rather die than have this point of pride taken from him. Which tells me that the other emissaries were not exactly living modestly when they were on their preaching tours.

I find it interesting that this chapter of 1 Corinthians does not get more attention from the QHJ people who are trying to track down that original message of Jesus.

15 Ego autem nullo horum usus sum. Non scripsi autem haec, ut ita fiant in me; bonum est enim mihi magis mori quam ut gloriam meam quis evacuet.

16 ἐὰν γὰρ εὐαγγελίζωμαι, οὐκ ἔστιν μοι καύχημα: ἀνάγκη γάρ μοι ἐπίκειται: οὐαὶ γάρ μοί ἐστιν ἐὰν μὴ εὐαγγελίσωμαι.

For if I am preaching the good news (lit = ‘goodnewsing’), it is not my boast. For necessity is laid upon me. For woe is to me (= ‘is mine’; dative of possession) if I do not goodnews (i.e., preach the good news).

First, we all know that what gets translated as ‘gospel’ is, literally, ‘good news’ in Greek. Or, rather, it’s ‘goodnews’, since the “good” part is a prefix, so it’s one word. So, ‘preaching the good news’ is actually the verb form of ‘good news’, so, in Greek, the ‘preaching’ part simply isn’t there. “To goodnews” is a proper verb. 

Secondly, Paul is on one of his odd little rhetorical excursions with this whole ‘boasting’ thing. He has to boast about not being a burden; since he has to preach, he can’t boast about that. Once again, we’re talking about Paul’s peculiar foibles rather than his message.

16 Nam si evangelizavero, non est mihi gloria; necessitas enim mihi incumbit. Vae enim mihi est, si non evangelizavero!

17 εἰ γὰρ ἑκὼν τοῦτο πράσσω, μισθὸν ἔχω: εἰ δὲ ἄκων, οἰκονομίαν πεπίστευμαι.

For if I do this (preach) willingly, I have my payment. If I do it unwillingly, I will have been entrusted with a dispensation. 

This is kind of an odd sentence–or thought–construction. He will be rewarded if he does it willingly, but will still get his draft notice if he does it unwillingly. I think the point is that Paul is under compulsion, in some way, to preach, whether he wants to or not. God has chosen him; it’s not Paul’s place to turn down the honour bestowed upon him to undertake this mission.

17 Si enim volens hoc ago, mercedem habeo; si autem invitus, dispensatio mihi credita est.

18 τίς οὖν μού ἐστιν ὁ μισθός; ἵνα εὐαγγελιζόμενος ἀδάπανον θήσω τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, εἰς τὸ μὴ καταχρήσασθαι τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ μου ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ.

For what is my payment? In order to be preaching the gospel unpaid I will place the gospel, so that not to be over-used as my power in the preaching the gospel. 

Wow. That’s awful. So, how about,

For what is my payment? In order to set for the gospel (properly), I will preach it without pay, so that I do not use fully (and so abuse) the power I have that is derived from preaching the good news.

Obviously, the second version has a lot more thoughts and ideas that are not expressed in the first version, but all of these thoughts are, I believe, at least latent, or implied in the Greek. At least, this is a translation that I believe is faithful to the spirit–although certainly not the letter–of the original.

As for what Paul is getting at, this is Paul at his passive-aggressive best. He is trying to bolster his position with respect to the other emissaries. That is, as he did with Apollos earlier in the letter, now he is trying to score points against the emissaries sent, most likely, by James. Paul is even attempting to go one up on Peter as well, because the latter has been lumped in with these other emissaries–rhetorically, at least–those who travel with a retinue, or who place significant demands on the community where they are preaching.

The question is, I believe, Paul’s motive for doing this. Is he just trying to find a way to set himself apart? OK, but why? We came across this attitude in Galatians and 1 Thessalonians: Paul is very defensive about his status and his role. I assume it’s because he never met the living Jesus as some of these others did, and I think he was aware, acutely and even painfully, that others belittled his message because of this. He felt like a second-class apostle, I think, because people perceived him this way. Is this why Paul is so scarce with the details of Jesus’ life? Does he downplay Jesus  the Man in order to deflect his listeners from the realization that Paul had never seen or heard Jesus when the latter was alive? Was this sort of a rhetorical sleight-of-hand, as it were? Look over here, at the Risen Christ, so that you don’t look over there at the man who was alive. 

If I am even partially correct–and I think the evidence is pretty strong that I am–this causes all sorts of problems for the history of Christian belief. How badly did Paul distort the original message of Jesus, whether wittingly or without realizing how far off-track he’d gotten? It’s no wonder the QHJ people stay far, far away from Paul.

18 Quae est ergo merces mea? Ut evangelium praedicans sine sumptu ponam evangelium, ut non abutar potestate mea in evangelio.

19 Ἐλεύθερος γὰρ ὢν ἐκ πάντων πᾶσιν ἐμαυτὸν ἐδούλωσα, ἵνα τοὺς πλείονας κερδήσω:

For I am being free from all, so I am the slave for all, so that I will profit (0r gain) the most.

The verb here is a bit tricky. It can mean ‘to profit’, and it can mean ‘to gain’. Now, these can be synonymous, or ‘to profit’ can be a synonym for ‘to benefit’. So, he could be saying, ‘so I will benefit the most (people). Or, he could be saying that if he were writing in English, but he’s not. So the idea is that he wants to gain the most people, as in converts. In these next few verses we get Paul trying to be all things to all people, all to benefit them by showing them the means to salvation.

19 Nam cum liber essem ex omnibus, omnium me servum feci, ut plures lucri facerem.

20 καὶ ἐγενόμην τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὡς Ἰουδαῖος, ἵνα Ἰουδαίους κερδήσω: τοῖς ὑπὸ νόμον ὡς ὑπὸ νόμον, μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον, ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον κερδήσω:

And I have become to the Jews as a Jew, so that I will gain (perhaps, ‘win over) Jews. To those under the law ( I have been) as one under the law, while not being under the law, so that I will gain those under the law.

More along the same vein. Of course, by being all things to all people, we are, to some degree, starting down the path that leads, eventually, to the idea that the end justifies the means. I honestly don’t think Paul would accept that kind of morality, but he’s showing us how to get there. Sometimes–and here is a great example–I think that Paul is a bit too earnest for his own good. Words like this have caused problems in the years subsequent to their being written.

20 Et factus sum Iudaeis tamquam Iudaeus, ut Iudaeos lucrarer; his, qui sub lege sunt, quasi sub lege essem, cum ipse non essem sub lege, ut eos, qui sub lege erant, lucri facerem;

21 τοῖς ἀνόμοις ὡς ἄνομος, μὴ ὢν ἄνομος θεοῦ ἀλλ’ ἔννομος Χριστοῦ, ἵνα κερδάνω τοὺς ἀνόμους:

To those without the law, (I am) as one without the law, but not being without the law (i.e., I am not actually without a law) of God, but in the law of Christ, so that I gain (win over) those unlawed.

Of course, “unlawed” is completely uncouth, but that’s the literal Greek. “Lawless” would be technically correct, but that has a very different connotation in English. Really, here, it’s most likely just meant to refer to pagans.

21 his, qui sine lege erant, tamquam sine lege essem, cum sine lege Dei non essem, sed in lege essem Christi, ut lucri facerem eos, qui sine lege erant;

22 ἐγενόμην τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν ἀσθενής, ἵνα τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς κερδήσω: τοῖς πᾶσιν γέγονα πάντα, ἵνα πάντως τινὰς σώσω.

I have become weak (or possibly ill) for the infirm, so that I will win over the weak/ill. To all I have become all, so that I will save others by all means.

Well, here is ‘the end justifies the means’. He is so intent on his goal that he fully does not see anything potentially wrong with adopting such a…malleable attitude.

22 factus sum infirmis infirmus, ut infirmos lucri facerem; omnibus omnia factus sum, ut aliquos utique facerem salvos.

23 πάντα δὲ ποιῶ διὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, ἵνα συγκοινωνὸς αὐτοῦ γένωμαι.

I do all things on account of the good news, so that I become a sharer of it.

I don’t doubt this expression of Paul’s enthusiasm.

23 Omnia autem facio propter evangelium, ut comparticeps eius efficiar.

24 Οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ ἐν σταδίῳ τρέχοντες πάντες μὲν τρέχουσιν, εἷς δὲ λαμβάνει τὸ βραβεῖον; οὕτως τρέχετε ἵνα καταλάβητε.

Do you not know that those running in the stadion, all run on the one hand, but on the other (only) one takes the prize? In this way, run so that you may take it.

Thestadionwas a race of about 200 meters that was one of the feature events of any athletic contest. Years were often marked as “when Hippocrates won the stadion in the Olympic Games”.  As time went on, the ‘stadion‘ evolved into a standard length, which then evolved into a stadium such as we know it. [note: -um ending is the Latin equivalent of the -on ending in Greek, the “standard” ending for a neuter singular noun.] The thought expressed here became a commonplace in the business world about a decade ago, as a means of justifying only giving the top performer a raise: “you all competed, maybe you all broke the record, but only one of you won”. This is why I point out the danger in some of the things that Paul says.

24 Nescitis quod hi, qui in stadio currunt, omnes quidem currunt, sed unus accipit bravium? Sic currite, ut comprehendatis.

25 πᾶς δὲ ὁ ἀγωνιζόμενος πάντα ἐγκρατεύεται, ἐκεῖνοι μὲν οὖν ἵνα φθαρτὸν στέφανον λάβωσιν, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄφθαρτον.

All those who compete become master of all, on the one hand they (do) thus in order to receive a corruptible crown, but, in contrast, [ δὲ ] we are incorruptible.

“Master of all” is perhaps a bit over the top; it’s referring to athletic training and the sorts of obstacles an athlete has to overcome in order to become a champion. 

This is potentially very significant. << φθαρτὸν / ἄφθαρτον >>. The first is the base word; the second, with the <<ἄ->> (alpha) prefix is the negation. So, “corruptible/incorruptible”. It’s significant because this is among the very first (if not the first) explicit references to an incorruptible–as in, eternal–state that we’ve come across. The passage in 1 Thessalonians 4 in which we will rise into the air to meet the Christ coming on the clouds carries the implication  as it says that, afterwards, we will be with Jesus << παντοτε >>, which, I think, is better rendered as ‘always’ rather than ‘eternally’. Yes, the words overlap, but ‘always’, I think, has much more of a limited sense. “We always go to church” is very different from “We go to church for eternity” (Even if church does seem like it takes an eternity some mornings…)

So the point is, we are encountering a point–perhaps the point–in which the idea of eternal life as the reward to the faithful is truly starting to surface as an idea unto itself. 1 Thess 4 implies it; here we get another step down that path. We will have an incorruptible existence. Given the distinction of flesh and spirit that Paul mentions so frequently, and the Greek distinction between the perishable flesh and the eternal spirit, one can’t help but infer that this is what Paul means by ‘incorruptible’; he means, ‘spiritual‘. As someone who studied the Greeks, I do have a bias, but it is very important to remember that this distinction between flesh and spirit, material and immaterial, with the attendant implications of corruptible vs. eternal, was a Greek, and not a Hebrew concept. 

And to take this off solid ground and launch a flight of fancy, is it coincidental that it appears in a letter to a Community in Greece? Did this Community have an impact on Paul’s thought? Did Paul choose this metaphor because he knew it would have particular resonance for this Community? Nothing exists in a vacuum. Having studied how the same ideas combine and re-combine over centuries, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some cross-fertilization going on here, that Paul’s message was altered by its context in Corinth. I can’t prove it, but I wouldn’t be surprised. However, given that the idea would continue to develop, I think we have to consider the possibility.

25 Omnis autem, qui in agone contendit, ab omnibus se abstinet; et illi quidem, ut corruptibilem coronam accipiant, nos autem incorruptam.

26 ἐγὼ τοίνυν οὕτως τρέχω ὡς οὐκ ἀδήλως, οὕτως πυκτεύω ὡς οὐκ ἀέρα δέρων:

Therefore, I run in this way not as uncertainly, I fight this way not as one beating air, 

Full comment at the end, but ‘beating the air’ is probably best rendered, or at least thought of, as ‘shadow boxing’. The verb in the clause,’pukteneo’ is related to the Latin “pug“, both of which mean ‘fist’.  So a ‘pugilist’ is a boxer.  If you’ll recall, athletic contests, like running and boxing, were popular with the Greeks. The ancient  pentathlon included both running and boxing.  Castor and Pollux–aka The Gemini–aside from being skilled with horses, were also renowned as boxers. And the corruptible crown of the previous verse is a reference to the crown of laurels awarded to winners of athletic competitions; the original form of the Olympic gold medal. So we see another intrusion of Greek influence.

We ran across another form of this word–pugmeback in Mark. I gave this some milquetoast translation, and it was pointed out in an excellent comment that the root of the word is ‘fist’. So, I changed it to ‘belligerently’.

26 Ego igitur sic curro non quasi in incertum, sic pugno non quasi aerem verberans;

27 ἀλλὰ ὑπωπιάζω μου τὸ σῶμα καὶ δουλαγωγῶ, μή πως ἄλλοις κηρύξας αὐτὸς ἀδόκιμος γένωμαι.

But I beat upon my body and enslave it, not as one preaching to others, but myself becoming rejected.

27 sed castigo corpus meum et in servitutem redigo, ne forte, cum aliis praedicaverim, ipse reprobus efficiar.

The last clause could be rendered, ‘to show that I practice what I preach’. Or something.

The concept of beating the body in order to enslave is a continuation of the ascetic streak in Paul’s thought and practice. We have already discussed this a number of times, but we see that this is a very important theme for him.

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1 Corinthians Chapter 9:1-14

So we being Chapter 9. We are now beginning the second half of the letter.

1 Οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐλεύθερος; οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος; οὐχὶ Ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν ἑόρακα; οὐτὸ ἔργον μου ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν κυρίῳ;

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our lord? Are you not my work in the lord?

How does he manage to pack so much into so few words? I mentioned Hemingway; he would have been impressed by Paul’s ability to compress a lot in a little. 

First, there is a very sharp transition from the end of Chapter 9. Not sure there’s any significance to this, but it shows how Paul’s mind jumps topics. This is a man with a restless mind.

Second, we’re going to skip over the part about being an apostle and get right to the part about having seen Jesus. This is really significant. He has not “seen Jesus in a vision”, or “as a revelation”, but he has just “seen Jesus”. This, I think, ties back to what he said back in Chapters 6 & 7, when he was talking about how he came to his own judgements based on what sounded a lot like divine inspiration, the inflowing of the sacred breath. Ultimately this takes us back to what he said in Galatians 1:12. There he told us how the gospel had not come to him through any human agent or teaching, but he had received it through a revelation (apocalypseos) directly from Jesus himself. 

All of this tells us that Paul takes his source of knowledge very seriously. But it also tells us that Paul is convinced of the authenticity of his insights, and it tells us that he was not afraid to follow these insights. Why would he be? This is the revealed Word of God, after all. While this may certainly be true, it does not help in the quest for the historical Jesus. Indeed, we have to ask how far Paul drifted from anything Jesus said. And, more importantly, we have to ask just how much influence Paul had on subsequent writers. If the Evangelists were aware of what Paul said, how much did they pass on that did not come from Jesus? A great example is the removal of Jewish dietary  restrictions: Paul held these to be inoperative for non-Jews;in Mark, Jesus says that there are no unclean animals; in Acts, Peter has a dream telling him the same thing. I have already argued that Jesus said no such thing; had he, there would have been no debate on the topic between Paul and James. We have seen that the celibacy issue–by Paul’s own admission–originated with Paul, and not with Jesus.

How much else originates with Paul?

Finally, we have to ask how much impact this statement had on Paul’s perceived standing in the Community. Remember, he was in a struggle with Apollos; does Paul state that he has seen Jesus specifically because it was known that Apollos had not? Of course, members of the Community must have known that Paul had never met Jesus, either, so one wonders how this claim was taken by them. Did they understand that Paul was, perhaps, speaking metaphorically here?

1 Non sum liber? Non sum apo stolus? Nonne Iesum Dominum nostrum vidi? Non opus meum vos estis in Domino?

2 εἰ ἄλλοις οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος, ἀλλά γε ὑμῖν εἰμι: ἡ γὰρ σφραγίς μου τῆς ἀποστολῆς ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν κυρίῳ.

If to others I am not an apostle, but, on the contrary, I am to you; for my sign of the apostles is you in the lord.

or–

Perhaps I am not an apostle to others, but I certainly am to you. The mark of my apostleship (?) is you, as a community in the lord.

Or something like that. The chain of logic isn’t exactly ironclad here, but I think this sort of reinforces what I was saying about the last verse: Paul, it seems, is a very fervent believer in revelation as granted by, or through Jesus. This is the origin, it seems, of what became known as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Given this belief, it would be self-evident to Paul that a Community of Jesus could not exist if he was not filled by this sacred breath. Again, to stress: he believes this, with his whole being, body, mind, and soul.This certainly would give him power as a speaker; the power of sincerity. This, in turn, explains more thoroughly Paul’s argument earlier in disparaging the wisdom of the world–as propounded by Apollos.

2 Si aliis non sum apostolus, sed tamen vobis sum; nam signaculum apostolatus mei vos estis in Domino.

3 Ἡ ἐμὴ ἀπολογία τοῖς ἐμὲ ἀνακρίνουσίν ἐστιν αὕτη.

My defense (lit = ‘apologia’) to them judging me is this.  

or, modernised–

This is my defense against those judging me.

In a case language like Greek, where word order is not particularly important, the first word and the last words of a sentence receive particular emphasis. One of the annoying aspects of Roman oratory is that you often have to wait until the end of a very long sentence to find out what the verb is; that was deliberate. The idea was to keep the audience on tenterhooks, hanging on your every word until !POW!. You hit them with the payoff. Just so Paul held the ‘this’ until the last word; not for mystery, but for emphasis.  The English version would be …THIS is my defense….

 3 Mea defensio apud eos, qui me interrogant, haec est.

4 μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν φαγεῖν καὶ πεῖν;

Do we not have the worthiness to eat and drink?

<< ἐξουσίαν >> gets translated as ‘power’ in the KJV, and as ‘the right’ in more modern translations. It means all that, but the idea here, I think is, ‘are we not worthy?’

Comment deferred.

4 Numquid non habemus potestatem manducandi et bibendi?

5 μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα περιάγειν, ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱἀδελφοὶ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ Κηφᾶς;

Do we not have the power to lead around a sister as a wife,  just as both the rest of the apostles and brothers of the lord and Cephas?

Here is some interesting information. Contrary to what the Roman Church later held, the apostles, including Peter, were married. As were the brothers of the lord, presumably meaning James and others. So the apostles were not necessarily celibate. And recall, Mark mentioned that Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law; one obtains one of those by marrying. And this reflects back on Paul’s marital status. Was he unmarried? To repeat, this would have been very unusual for a man of his time of any substance–and Paul obviously came from a background that included some education, which implies, or required, that his family had some stature. Plus, as a Pharisee, it would have been expected that he marry; as indeed, as it was expected of pretty much any man, regardless of social stature.

AND–not only were the other apostles, and the brothers of the lord, and Cephas married, but they brought their wives along with them when preaching. Don’t know about the rest of you, but I was not at all aware of this. But then, there are large chunks of this epistle that I have never encountered in any church, of any stripe. And I do not recall hearing about this passage while reading about the debates that became the Reformation, and I mean from either side. I do not recall coming across this from the Protestant side. Now, that maybe only means that I need to get out more; I am hardly an expert on the Reformation (or pretty much anything else, come to think of it).

AND–is it just me, or does Paul seem a little miffed at this? That the others are bringing their wives with them? 

5 Numquid non habemus potestatem sororem mulierem circumducendi, sicut et ceteri apostoli et fratres Domini et Cephas?

6 ἢ μόνος ἐγὼ καὶ Βαρναβᾶς οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίανμὴ ἐργάζεσθαι;

Or do only I and Barnabas not have the power to not be employed?

I believe he is a bit miffed. 

6 Aut solus ego et Barnabas non habemus potestatem non operandi?

7 τίς στρατεύεται ἰδίοις ὀψωνίοις ποτέ; τίς φυτεύει ἀμπελῶνα καὶτὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἐσθίει; ἢ τίς ποιμαίνει ποίμνην καὶ ἐκ τοῦ γάλακτος τῆς ποίμνης οὐκ ἐσθίει;

For who is a soldier (lit = ‘soldiers’, as a verb) on his private means? Who plants a vineyard and the fruit of which does not eat? Or who feeds flocks and of the milk of the flocks does not eat?

Yes, definitely miffed. 

7 Quis militat suis stipendiis umquam? Quis plantat vineam et fructum eius non edit? Aut quis pascit gregem et de lacte gregis non manducat?

8 Μὴ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ταῦτα λαλῶ, ἢ καὶ ὁ νόμος ταῦτα οὐ λέγει;

And do I speak only as a man? Or does the law not also speak of this?

The syntax here is difficult to capture in English. The first question has a negative in it, but it’s pretty much impossible to get this negative into our English rendering. 

Here, Paul has worked himself up into something of a self-righteous snit. He’s right, he acts properly, but those others…well, maybe not so much.

8 Numquid secundum hominem haec dico? An et lex haec non dicit?

9 ἐν γὰρ τῷ Μωϋσέως νόμῳ γέγραπται, Οὐ κημώσεις βοῦν ἀλοῶντα. μὴ τῶνβοῶν μέλει τῷ θεῷ;

For in the law of Moses it is written, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading (threshing) grain.  Is not the care of oxen to God? (dative of possession…)

The idea here is threshing grain, separating the kernel from the chaff, here by having an ox tread on the ears to break them open and allow the wind to blow the chaff away. Muzzling the ox prevented the ox from eating any of the grain; Moses commands against this, probably because agricultural theory at the time considered it better, more effective, to let the ox eat while it was working. So the upshot of this is ‘labor is worthy of its hire’. That is, people should be paid for their efforts. 

9 Scriptum est enim in Lege Moysis: “ Non alligabis os bovi trituranti ”. Numquid de bobus cura est Deo?

10 ἢ δι’ ἡμᾶς πάντως λέγει; δι’ ἡμᾶς γὰρ ἐγράφη, ὅτι ὀφείλει ἐπ ‘ἐλπίδι ὁ ἀροτριῶν ἀροτριᾶν, καὶ ὁ ἀλοῶν ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι τοῦ μετέχειν.

Or does it (the law) say all this on account of us? For has it been written on account of us, that upon hope the one plowing ought to plow, and the one treading (the grain) upon hope of partaking in this (i.e., the grain being threshed).

Paul has been going on now for some time, caught up in what is very close to self-pity. This is one of the problems with Paul: the idea is to get a sense of what the Community believed, what it practised, but we end up spending a lot of time talking about all of Paul’s little personality quirks, like his sense of inferiority.

10 An propter nos utique dicit? Nam propter nos scripta sunt, quoniam debet in spe, qui arat, arare; et, qui triturat, in spe fructus percipiendi.

11 εἰ ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν τὰ πνευματικὰ ἐσπείραμεν, μέγα εἰ ἡμεῖς ὑμῶν τὰ σαρκικὰ θερίσομεν;

If we sowed the spiritual things in you, have we not more reaped the fleshly aspects of you?

Paul is in accusatory mode; he sowed the good spirit, but is getting the bad corporeal results. IOW, they are not treating him as he believes he should be treated.

The whole point here is that, apparently, the other apostles, traveling with a retinue that included their wives, took full advantage of their position in order to live like exalted personages. Apparently, Peter may have done the same. Paul, OTOH, feels like he was slighted; he worked for his keep, he didn’t want to be a burden, he made only modest demands, if he demanded anything. We got all of this in Galatians, too. Paul tries to be humble, unassuming, undemanding, and his ‘reward’ is to be treated like a lowly servant. (And I mean servant rather than slave, for often a slave was almost part of the family; one owned a slave, so the slave was a permanent fixture. A servant, OTOH, could be dismissed at a moment’s notice.)

If Paul was treated like this consistently, and by different Communities, what does this say about him? Thinking about this, I’m wondering if it may say more about the social context of the time. Humility of demeanour is a Christian invention; back then, exalted persons acted like exalted persons, and were treated like exalted persons. The one who was self-abasing, I suspect, ran the risk of being treated like a menial, because persons of merit were not self-abasing. They boasted. Achilles, for example, is to us pretty much insufferable because of that baneful wrath engendered by that overweening pride. So, really, we have to admire Paul; he is, almost single-handedly, created a new paradigm of behaviour. That is seriously impressive.

11 Si nos vobis spiritalia seminavimus, magnum est, si nos carnalia vestra metamus?

12 εἰ ἄλλοι τῆς ὑμῶν ἐξουσίας μετέχουσιν, οὐ μᾶλλον ἡμεῖς;  Ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐχρησάμεθα τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ ταύτῃ, ἀλλὰ πάντα στέγομεν ἵνα μή τινα ἐγκοπὴν δῶμεν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

If others of you share in the worthiness (power), can we not as well? But we have not used this power (for ourselves), but we bear all things so that we do not give some hindrance to the good new of the Christ.

Here I agree, or I follow the KJV. For the word that the KJV and I have translated as “power”, more modern translations render as “right”, or “rightful claim.” That’s not wrong, but it gives a very different implication to this passage. The Latin is “postestate”, which is also “power”. Now, one can argue, correctly, that to exercise a right over someone is to exercise power. But “right” is too bloodless. This is a power relationship, something that can be taken and not something that was granted. Or, at least, it was not granted by the Community to Paul, but by someone in a position of authority. Someone, that is, with power. 

So, the question becomes “who made this grant of power?” Did this come from Jesus? Somehow, I don’t think so. Do you? Really?

Of course, we all recall the part of Mark (6:7-13) when Jesus sent out the Twelve. He gave them (supposedly) instructions not to take any bread, or anything similar on their journey. The implication is that they were to be supported by the communities in which they preached. But he tells them to accept what is offered; he does not say that the Twelve have the right–no, the power–to demand that the communities support them. That is what Paul’s statement here says: that he has the power to make this demand, and the Community has the obligation to support Paul, or another preacher of the Good News.

So I don’t think we can derive this power from what Mark tells us. So, if not Jesus, then who? Well, some other apostle, of course. Someone of prestige, someone with authority. Someone, in other words, very like either Peter or James. Those two certainly would have had the stature; or their emissaries. Puts sort of a different spin on things, doesn’t it? What this implies, of course, is the imposition of a set of norms that were created sometime between the time of Jesus and the time Paul is writing. So again, another layer between us and Jesus.

12 Si alii potestatis vestrae participes sunt, non potius nos? Sed non usi sumus hac potestate, sed omnia sustinemus, ne quod offendiculum demus evangelio Christi.

13 οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ τὰ ἱερὰ ἐργαζόμενοι [τὰ] ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ ἐσθίουσιν, οἱ τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ παρεδρεύοντες τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ συμμερίζονται;

For do you not know that the temple workers, they eat out of the temple, those by the altar, (those) serving the altar, divide into portions together?

“Divide into portions” is very unfortunate, but it’s very accurate. The idea is that those working in the Temple, at the altar where animals are sacrificed, share–they get a portion–of the sacrifice. IOW, they work for food. Back in Chapter 8 when we were discussing the pagan practice of a communal meal at a sacrifice, I admitted my ignorance of Jewish practice on this. Here we are told that those assisting in the sacrifice get a share. Or, are we talking about Jewish practice, or still about pagans? It’s difficult, perhaps even impossible to tell. But, it doesn’t matter. The idea is that those helping in the sacrifice are entitled to eat from it. The implication, of course, is that Paul is entitled to the same consideration.   

13 Nescitis quoniam, qui sacra operantur, quae de sacrario sunt, edunt; qui altari deserviunt, cum altari participantur?

14 οὕτως καὶ ὁ κύριος διέταξεν τοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον καταγγέλλουσιν ἐκ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ζῆν.

In this way also the lord ordained to those preaching the good news should live from the good news.

14 Ita et Dominus ordinavit his, qui evangelium annuntiant, de evangelio vivere.

Well, prove me wrong! It was the lord (Jesus) after all! 

Well, supposedly. After all, on this, Paul would really only have the word of James or Peter. And either of them would have had a vested interest in telling the story that the lord did ordain this. Not that they were lying; here we are once again slipping into the mindset of 21st Century secular thinking. Maybe the Lord didn’t say this exactly, but this is what he meant. Surely. This goes back to the idea of writing something under the name of someone more famous. Like the gospels that were not written by Mark or Matthew. We keep confounding Truth with factual accuracy, and–as I hope I’ve made clear by this point–were not necessarily the same thing for someone living in the First Century of the Common Era. Certainly, the institution of this in Mark 6 is very, very weak if this was meant to be the institution of the way that preachers were to be supported. Could Jesus not have been more definitive about this?

This next thought, at this point, is a complete tangent, but here goes: Are we so sure that the writers of the gospels expected that someone hearing the miracle stories would necessarily expect that the miracle happened literally? At this point, I’m beginning to wonder.

 

Summary 1 Corinthians 8

The ostensible topic of Chapter 8 is whether or not a follower of Jesus can, or should, eat food that has been offered to idols. As explained, the sacrifice of an animal in the Greek world was not just the burning of said animal. Rather,  it was a means of redistributing wealth; those who could afford the animal helped feed those who could not; but it was also, perhaps most importantly, a communal meal. Paul talks about those reclining in the temple; meals in the ancient world were eaten reclining on couches (at least, communal meals rather than workaday, practical meals). R L Fox, in Pagans and Christians, describes what are essentially dining halls attached to many temples, just as many churches today have a basement or similar area for holding communal activities like, well, meals. This is an indication of the social aspect of a ritual sacrifice.

[ Caveat: the next section, the discussion of the composition of the community in Corinth is solely based on the internal evidence of the text itself. Just as some (at least) modern commentators note that Apollos was an Alexandrian Jew, some modern commentators may have additional knowledge about who these members were. I am not aware of any external evidence, but that is the argument from silence; just because I don’t know about it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The potential fallacy of this position is strengthened here because I have not studied this topic to any great extent. So, I am only using the text of 1 Corinthians. I am not even cross-checking against Acts, largely because I am very skeptical of the historical accuracy of that work. So, what you read here may be contradicted by what you read elsewhere. I do not suggest that you should accept my thesis over that of others; I only ask that you keep what I am saying here in mind when you read alternatives. I doubt that I’m wholly right; but I equally doubt that I’m wholly wrong. The best source of information we have about the community of Corinth is what Paul has written here. 2 Corinthians may have more to tell us, but that is for a later time. ]

Paul’s concern about attending these communal meals, perhaps, gives us a clue as to the composition of the community in Corinth. He is concerned about those who are in the habit of attending these meals, and what the sight of members of the Jesus Community at these meals may have on other members of the community. Those “of the habit” are obviously of pagan–rather than Jewish–background. And their potential to influence other members of the Community indicates that these members were of a fairly high social standing; that’s code for “they had money”. As I stated, the snobbery of the pagan world is probably hard to overstate; given this, members with money were very, very unlikely to be influenced by members without money. So there was a sizable contingent of fairly wealthy pagans in the Community (as I will now refer to followers of Jesus) of Corinth.

The existence of this wealthy cadre would help explain the divisions within that Community. The discussion Paul had previously about maintaining one’s status until the return of the Christ seems to indicate the presence of slaves in the Community; presumably these would be the slaves of the wealthy members. And it is unlikely that the entire Community was comprised of wealthy members. Spoiler alert! Paul will discuss the divisions in the practices of the communal meal, telling us that some of the members ate better than others; this further reinforces the idea of an economically unequal Community. Indeed, this requires a Community so divided. In addition, one might suspect that these wealthier pagans may have been the ones who preferred the eloquence of Apollos to the rough speaking of Paul. As such, this may have given Paul a pinch of resentment against them; as such, he may have found this a convenient excuse for chastising them on this behaviour at the the pagan temples.

With that in mind, I have to confess that it’s very tempting to see this in terms of the argument that Paul and James, brother of the Lord had in Jerusalem. Was it not, almost if not quite, about this very topic? My gut wants me to say ‘yes’, and I went on about this during the line-by-line commentary, but now I understand that Paul is rather more clever than that. He makes a very distinct point of saying that the actual eating of the idol meat is nothing, that it doesn’t matter. This is wholly in keeping with his previous position in the debate with the James Gang.  As such, Paul does not contradict himself as I implied–or stated–that he had.  No. The prohibition that Paul levels is not about the meat, but the consorting. His concern is the precedent, and the influence of those who are doing this. As the wealthy, their behaviour would have been emulated by the lower social echelons. That, and that alone is Paul’s concern. And he is probably correct in both his diagnosis and the prescribed cure.

That being said, I do believe that it is a legitimate question to ask where Jesus would have come down on this topic. More than legitimate, I think it’s a crucial question. After all, Jesus ate with tax collectors. How is this different? How does this incident with Paul reflect on the life that the human Jesus lived?

In my opinion, I do believe this has a lot to say about Jesus, and about the kingdom. Or the Kingdom. There is, IMO, a hole in this topic. Here’s what I mean by that.

Ernest Hemingway is noted for the brevity of his best writing. But the brevity covers a vast knowledge on the writer’s part of this characters. Ernie H said that the author had to know the entire story of the character, even if he left it out. If there is something that the author does not know about the characters, this creates a hole in the narrative. These are the moments when a character does something that does not feel right to the reader. That is because the reader has stepped on a hole; it may be covered up with a floor board, but the hollowness is evident when we read the passage and hear the hole the author left behind.

There is a hole like that here. There is nothing here that tells me that Paul was aware that Jesus ate with tax collectors. And no, it’s not a question that Paul knew that story but chose to ignore it here; it’s that he didn’t know the story. That, IMO, is very good prima facie evidence that the story of Jesus eating with tax collectors had not been invented yet. It is, of course, possible that the story was accurate, but that it had not gotten into wide circulation yet, and that the story had attained this wider level of circulation by the time that Mark wrote; the problem with this as a thesis is the idea that Mark, writing somewhere other than Galilee or Judea, knew the story two generations after Jesus’ death, but Paul, who probably talked to a number of people who actually knew Jesus, did not know the story. This, certainly, is possible. And it is also possible that Paul had heard the story but forgotten it.  But think about this: if Jesus had eaten with tax collectors, a very un-Jewish thing to do, why did Paul not use this in his debate with James? No, the two situations are not analogous, but they do overlap. If Jesus bucked tradition, then why would Paul not feel justified to throw this in James’ face when the latter was trying rein in the former?

As such, I’m rather skeptical of the historicity of Jesus eating with tax collectors. Yes, this is ultimately a judgement call, but this is what the historian must do: make judgements.

Then, if the story is not historical, if the idea of the inclusion-and-fusion of disparate sorts of people was not part of Jesus’ message, then we have to step back and ask what Jesus did preach about.  Did he preach about the kingdom/Kingdom? If so, what did it mean? Was there an element of a radical social upheaval, in which the sinners and the tax collectors and the righteous Jews would all join together as common members of the Kingdom? Without the story of Jesus doing this, the likelihood that such a social upheaval was part of Jesus’ message takes a serious hit below the waterline. In my opinion, anyway.

In his book St Saul, Akenson makes a big deal about how absolutely wrong it is to start our quest for the historical Jesus by reading the gospels. I agree wholeheartedly. More than that. JD Crossan and a lot of his colleagues are spending time peeling apart the alleged words of Jesus as recorded in the gospels, trying to reduce them to the legendary Q, or the Sayings Gospel. Instead, they should be reading Paul and seeing what sorts of things Paul leaves out. Those are the holes that help us decide where the gospels embellished. I cannot wait to get to Matthew.

1 Corinthians Chapter 8

The last chapter was extremely long. This one is on the short side.

1Περὶ δὲ τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων, οἴδαμεν ὅτι πάντες γνῶσιν ἔχομεν. ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ, ἡδὲ ἀγάπη οἰκοδομεῖ.

Regarding the idol food, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge inflates (i.e., puffs us with pride), but love builds.

A couple of things. What I have so clumsily rendered as ‘idol food’ refers to food, specifically meat, that was offered as a sacrifice to one of the pagan gods/goddesses. The thing was, a sacrifice of meat like this was intended as a communal sacrifice, but also a communal meal. Certain parts of the animal (the less edible parts) were burnt completely in offering, but most of the animal was cooked and served to the community. This was a means of redistributing wealth; those at the top of the pyramid often provided the sacrificial victims, but the meat was then shared by those at the bottom. Such sacrificial meals were an important source of protein for the poorer members of the community, so whether or not the meat could be eaten by followers of Jesus was an important question. It was not only a cultic matter; it was a matter of nutrition. Foregoing such food could pose a real hardship on a poorer person, especially one in a town who would not have access to meat on a regular basis. Farmers, of course, could raise chickens or pigs, but not all of them could afford to do so. What this tells us is that the eucharistic meal was truly just that; and it was also something that fit easily into the context of the times. Jesus was not breaking any molds by implementing a sacrificial meal.

[ Note: I am not familiar with Jewish practice on this. I have the sense that the sacrifices were not shared, but I could be 100% wrong about that. However, this passage seems to indicate that sharing the meat was not customary; he is talking about idols, after all, and Jews would not sacrifice to statues of any kind. But, this was Corinth; the practice in Jerusalem–the center of the sacrificial aspect of Judaism–may have been different. ]

Once more Paul denigrates the knowledge of the world, or, perhaps, a ‘sophisticated’ understanding of the issue.

One last thing: the KJV says that “love (charity, actually) edifies”. The Greek word is for constructing an edifice; in Latin, this becomes <<aedificare>>, which is, fairly obviously, the root of ‘edify’, which means ‘to instruct’, usually with moral undertones.I just find it interesting to see how these words change as they develop. Of course, when the KJV was written, ‘edify’ may have meant ‘to build’.

1 De idolothytis autem, scimus quia omnes scientiam habemus. Scientia inflat, caritas vero aedificat.

2 εἴ τις δοκεῖ ἐγνωκέναι τι, οὔπω ἔγνω καθὼς δεῖ γνῶναι:

If someone seems to have learned something, he does not yet know what he ought to know.

More of Paul’s supposedly non-rhetorical rhetoric. But he’s building his case here; the payoff has yet to be delivered.

2 Si quis se existimat scire aliquid, nondum cognovit, quemadmodum oporteat eum scire;

3 εἰ δέ τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν θεόν, οὗτος ἔγνωσται ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ.

But if someone loves God, that person has learned from him (God).

To some degree, this goes back to what I was saying in Chapter 7 when Paul talked about being shown “compassion” by God. So here, if we love God, God will inform us about what we need. This strengthens my idea that much of what Paul taught was what came to him, by inspiration as we would say, by being filled with the sacred breath. This is, I think. what this passage reflects: love leading to being filled with the knowledge imparted by the sacred breath.

3 si quis autem diligit Deum, hic cognitus est ab eo.

4 Περὶ τῆς βρώσεως οὖν τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὐδὲν εἴδωλον ἐν κόσμῳ, καὶ ὅτι οὐδεὶς θεὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς.

Therefore regarding the meat of the idol food, we know that no idol is in the world, and that none is God except the One.

“Not in the world” means, I think, does not exist in reality. That is, they are not a god. And only the One is God; this is right out of Plato. For him, The One was the unity of all; not exactly what we mean by “God”, but similar in some respects. For Paul to use this expression when writing to a community in Greece, in which Plato was apt to be very familiar seems a deliberate attempt to co-opt the term The One for Paul’s purposes. Certainly, it would be expressing this thought in a concept very familiar to the Greeks in the community of Jesus in Corinth.

4 De esu igitur idolothytorum, scimus quia nullum idolum est in mundo, et quod nullus deus nisi Unus.

5 καὶ γὰρ εἴπερ εἰσὶν λεγόμενοι θεοὶ εἴτε ἐν οὐρανῷ εἴτε ἐπὶ γῆς, ὥσπερ εἰσὶν θεοὶ πολλοὶ καὶ κύριοι πολλοί,

And for whether we are speaking of gods whether in the sky, or upon the earth, as there are many gods and many lords (cont’d)

5 Nam et si sunt, qui dicantur dii sive in caelo sive in terra, si quidem sunt dii multi et domini multi,

6 ἀλλ’ ἡμῖν εἷς θεὸς ὁ πατήρ, ἐξ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς αὐτόν, καὶ εἷς κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, δι’ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς δι’ αὐτοῦ.

but for us one God the father, from whom all and we are in him, and one Lord Jesus the Christ, through whom all and we are through him.   [or: ]

but for us, there is one God, the father, from whom all things are, and we are in him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all are, and we are (as in, exist) through him.

The wording is really rough, but I think the point is clear enough. However, once again, we’re forced to supply words and hope that we get the right ones. In this case, though, it seems straightforward enough. 

Also, we have a foreshadow of John 1:1 here in the idea of all things existing through the Christ. That all existence depended on God (as in YHWH) is certainly within the framework of Jewish thought. That all things exist through, or on account of the Christ, is not. With this and the idea of The One in the previous verse, we are getting a bit of cosmology, or philosophy, or something. 

6 nobis tamen unus Deus Pater, ex quo omnia et nos in illum, et unus Dominus Iesus Christus, per quem omnia et nos per ipsum.

7 Ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν πᾶσιν ἡ γνῶσις: τινὲς δὲ τῇ συνηθείᾳ ἕως ἄρτι τοῦ εἰδώλου ὡς εἰδωλόθυτον ἐσθίουσιν, καὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτῶν ἀσθενὴς οὖσα μολύνεται.

But knowledge is not in all (everyone); some by custom until now of the idols as idol-food would eat, and the the consciousness of them being weak, (was) defiled.  [or: the consciousness of those who are weak was defiled…]

Again, really clumsy translation, but that is how the Greek works. The idea is that not everyone has the knowledge to abstain from eating idol-food; some have been doing so by way of custom, and have been defiled because of their weak consciousness of what is right.

First, this was an issue for the early communities, and it never ceased to be so until Christianity was legalized by Constantine. But, the other thing is to compare this to Jesus’ proclamation that nothing you put in your mouth is unclean. And Paul’s repeated assertions that it is not necessary to follow Jewish dietary laws. This doesn’t quite seem to follow.

To be honest, I never have quite understood the sticking point. Of course, it makes sense in a religiously purist sort of way: “I am the Lord thy God”… I get that. But since that came down from Mt Sinai, the attitude towards other gods had changed. Since the exile, more or less, YHWH was not the primary god, but the only God. As such, really, what’s the big deal about stuff sacrificed to stone statues? The latter have no power, since they’re only inert matter, so, really, what difference did it make? But, this is my position, and it was absolutely not the position of Paul and all the early leaders of what became the Church. Part of it was that, by eating this food, one was partaking in the veneration of…something that was not God the Father. That was bad enough. But, far from being powerless, the gods of other pantheons became demons, so by eating the idol food, one was actively venerating an evil power. However, I’m not quite sure that the proto-Christians had reached that point when Paul wrote this; that demonisation came later.

7 Sed non in omnibus est scientia; quidam autem consuetudine usque nunc idoli quasi idolothytum manducant, et conscientia ipsorum, cum sit infirma, polluitur.

8 βρῶμα δὲ ἡμᾶς οὐ παραστήσει τῷ θεῷ: οὔτε ἐὰν μὴ φάγωμεν ὑστερούμεθα, οὔτε ἐὰν φάγωμεν περισσεύομεν.

But food does not assist us with God; neither (by) if  we don’t eat do we fail, nor if we eat do we prosper.

Well, seems that Paul agrees with me on the theology of this. The idols are merely images, without power, so what’s the big deal? It’s neither good nor bad.

8 Esca autem nos non commendat Deo; neque si non manducaverimus, deficiemus, neque si manducaverimus, abundabimus.

9 βλέπετε δὲ μή πως ἡ ἐξουσία ὑμῶν αὕτη πρόσκομμα γένηται τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν.

But if you look it is not the office of you this stumbling block to become towards the weak.

Again, very clumsy English. By “office”, I mean something like ‘role’, but << ἐξουσία >> has the sense of authority, as vested or granted by virtue of an office of state. “Role” just doesn’t capture that.  

9 Videte autem, ne forte haec licentia vestra offendiculum fiat infirmis.

10 ἐὰν γάρ τις ἴδῃ σὲ τὸν ἔχοντα γνῶσιν ἐν εἰδωλείῳ κατακείμενον, οὐχὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτοῦ ἀσθενοῦς ὄντος οἰκοδομηθήσεται εἰς τὸ τὰ εἰδωλόθυτα ἐσθίειν;

For if someone should see you having the knowledge in a temple (something like ‘idol-house’) reclining, would not the consciousness of one (who is) being weak be built up with regard to the eating of idol-meat?

The idea is that if someone of lesser understanding should see those sophisticated enough to understand the meaninglessness of eating idol food may give this person of lesser understanding the idea that it’s acceptable to do so. (Note: reclining is a de facto synonym for ‘eating’. What this means is that, to partake of the idol food, one would be engaged in the social intercourse of the meal, reclining on your couch, eating, and being convivial with those who actually worship the idols.

IOW, what Paul is saying is that the important aspect is not the substance of whether this is right or wrong, but the perception of the act of joining the idol-feast. Here Paul is taking another back-handed swipe at those oh-so-sophisticated Corinthians, ever-so-steeped in their pagan learning, who of course understand that this is a matter of no value. But what about those who don’t share this level of sophistication? They may be led astray by the bad example of seeing others, presumably those of stature in the community, associating with idolaters. I say that the sophisticates were people of stature because, presumably, they had the wealth to attain a certain level of education, which a) allowed them to become so sophisticated; b) put them into a social milieu in which hanging out at the local temple of Aphrodite would seem normal; and c) it would be the people of stature who would likely influence those of a lower social stratum; those of higher social station certainly would not be influenced by the actions of a mere peasant, after all. (It is perhaps difficult to overstate the degree of snobbery present among ancient societies. Mark tells us that Jesus was aware of this snobbery, and didn’t approve. And the pagans were probably much worse about it than Jews; in the OT, there are numerous admonitions for the wealthy not to scorn the poor; there wasn’t a lot of this in the pagan canon.

But let’s ask this question. Based on what we ‘know’ about Jesus, which side would he have come down on in this debate? Jesus didn’t demure from eating with tax collectors, after all, and they were certainly more of a bad example than mere idolaters.This, I think, is an interesting and salient point. Now, Jesus lived before Paul, but Paul lived and wrote before Mark, so we’ve got something like a temporal anomaly here: according to Mark, Jesus associated with tax collectors; theoretically, shouldn’t Paul have known this? And yet, in what seems, IMO, to be an analogous situation, Paul is telling his community to do things differently than Jesus supposedly did. IOW, Paul is, once again, contradicting Jesus.

Now, there are a number of possibilities, and a number of permutations. First, the situations are not at all analogous; the tax collectors, after all, were Jews; the idolaters certainly are not. We have to decide if this matters for the message that Paul–and supposedly Jesus–were spreading. I don’t think it does matter, but that’s me. Especially for Paul, who was the apostle to the Nations; why shun the association if the point is to spread the Word?

Secondly, perhaps Paul was not aware that Jesus associated with tax collectors. If not, what does that say about the probability of the historical accuracy of that story? Now, it could be that Paul was just not aware of it, but Mark was; even so, that Paul never heard of it must make us ask just how crucial this story was to the Jesus canon. Or, at least, it must make us ask just how much of what Paul taught was based on what Paul thought, not what he thought was true (or accurate), but what he thought ought to be true (regardless of accuracy). IOW, Paul taught the new that Paul thought was good; if it coincided with what Jesus taught, great. If not, oh well.

Now we will come across Paul citing things that he’s attributing to Jesus the man; he was aware of that tradition about Jesus. That he–seemingly, anyway; or perhaps may be–is contravening a core part of Jesus’ message tells us that Paul was either not aware of this core part of Jesus’ message, or that he didn’t really much care about sticking to that message. Personally, while I wouldn’t be surprised at the latter, I think that Jesus eating with tax collectors may not be historically accurate. This would have serious implications for the core message of Jesus. We need to keep this in mind when we’re reading Matthew next.

10 Si enim quis viderit eum, qui habet scientiam, in idolio recumbentem, nonne conscientia eius, cum sit infirma, aedificabitur ad manducandum idolothyta?

11 ἀπόλλυται γὰρ ὁ ἀσθενῶν ἐν τῇ σῇ γνώσει, ὁ ἀδελφὸς δι’ ὃν Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν.

For the weak will be destroyed by (lit = ‘in’) your understanding, the brother on account of whom (the) Christ died.

So, there we have it. Eating idol food is not a sin; it’s not bad. But, being seen eating idol food may be a detriment to the weak in the community. So what about eating with tax collectors? And why the difference? The idolaters are pagans? But isn’t that the group Paul was allocated?

In all we have an interesting phenomenon here. Paul is being very human in this assessment. He is not being a philosopher, nor a theologian. He understands that there is no metaphysical problem here; rather, the problem is of very human scale.

11 Peribit enim infirmus in tua scientia, frater, propter quem Christus mortuus est!

12 οὕτως δὲ ἁμαρτάνοντες εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τύπτοντες αὐτῶν τὴν συνείδησιν ἀσθενοῦσαν εἰς Χριστὸν ἁμαρτάνετε.

Therefore, sinning against the brothers and striking their consciousness being weak (here= ‘conscience’?) (is) sinning towards (the) Christ. 

So, we have gone from being a bad example to sinning. There is a definite leap in logic here. And the sin

About << τὴν συνείδησιν >>. I have been rendering this as ‘consciousness’; many of the more modern translations give it as ‘conscience’. I have avoided this translation because I think it’s grossly anachronistic; I am not sure a denizen of the First Century would have understood the word. Socrates had his daimon‘, but I have never really run across the term ‘conscience’. 

Again here, I lean towards ‘consciousness’ because it’s closer to ‘understanding’ than it is to ‘conscience’, IMO. The idea here, I think, is that the ‘weak consciousness’, the ‘weak understanding’ will not understand that just eating idol food doesn’t make one an idol worshiper. 

12 Sic autem peccantes in fratres et percutientes conscientiam eorum infirmam, in Christum peccatis.

13 διόπερ εἰ βρῶμα σκανδαλίζει τὸν ἀδελφόν μου, οὐ μὴ φάγω κρέα εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, ἵνα μὴ τὸν ἀδελφόν μου σκανδαλίσω.

On account of which, if the idol-meat causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat, so that I do not make my brother stumble.

13 Quapropter si esca scandalizat fratrem meum, non manducabo carnem in aeternum, ne fratrem meum scandalizem.

<< Skandalizo >>, despite the sound, actually means ‘stumbling block’. So the concern is still the potential influence on others. Honestly, we have to admire him for his high-mindedness and his concern for others. It’s not Paul’s fault that some of his ideas were over-emphasized by later members of the church.