1 Corinthians Chapter 10:14-32

At the end of the last section, Paul was talking about temptation, and how God will not tempt us beyond our power to resist. Thinking about that now, it does seem as if that rather came out of nowhere…

14 Διόπερ, ἀγαπητοί μου, φεύγετε ἀπὸ τῆς εἰδωλολατρίας.

Because of this, my most beloved. flee from idolatry.

And speaking of coming out of nowhere, this isn’t exactly a non sequitor with the previous verse, but it does hearken back more to Chapter 9. I guess this connects with the way some of the Jews grumbled, etc? I’m honestly not sure about that. It occurs to me that in Galatians, there were several very rough patches of Greek; I don’t seem to be encountering as many of those here; now, is that because Paul’s Greek has gotten better, or mine has? Whichever, what I seem to be running into here is that there are patches in which the thought process, or the connections between thoughts are a bit dodgy. It’s not that they don’t make sense per se; it’s that the train of thought is not exactly easy to follow.

14 Propter quod, carissimi mihi, fugite ab idolorum cultura.

15 ὡς φρονίμοις λέγω: κρίνατε ὑμεῖς ὅ φημι.

I speak as to wise ones: you judge what I say.

Not exactly fraught with theological import; commenting on this letter is as much about getting a handle on Paul as it is getting a handle on what the proto-church thought and taught. This is another example of Paul at his most sincere, where I truly feel like I can tell why this man was such an effective organizer, of why people would listen to him, and believe him, and convert.

15 Ut prudentibus loquor; vos iudicate, quod dico:

16 τὸ ποτήριον τῆς εὐλογίας ὃ εὐλογοῦμεν, οὐχὶ κοινωνία ἐστὶν τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ; τὸν ἄρτον ὃν κλῶμεν, οὐχὶ κοινωνία τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐστιν;

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the association of the blood of the Anointed? The bread which we broke, is it not the association of the body of the Anointed?

OK. This is a very important point in the development of Christianity. For those of you who belong to a denomination of Christianity that includes a Eucharist in the service will be familiar with the idea of the bread and wine as the body and blood of Jesus. The “cup of blessing” refers to wine and he’s explicit about the breaking of the bread. And the word I translated as “association” could be rendered as “communion”. So we are talking about what has become the sacrament of the Eucharist. So, as we’ll see in a bit, this is something that we can trace back to the historical Jesus.

16 Calix benedictionis, cui benedicimus, nonne communicatio sanguinis Christi est? Et panis, quem frangimus, nonne communicatio corporis Christi est?

17 ὅτι εἷς ἄρτος, ἓν σῶμα οἱ πολλοί ἐσμεν, οἱ γὰρ πάντες ἐκ τοῦ ἑνὸς ἄρτου μετέχομεν.

That to one bread (and) one body we are many, for all from the one bread we partake. (or– we many are one bread, one body…)

The metaphor of the body and bread is extended.

This is hugely important, and I do not believe that it gets, or has gotten all of the attention it deserves. The idea of a collective was not terribly common in the ancient world. It was not unprecedented: the Stoics held the idea of a universal siblinghood of all persons; and, really, this connectedness is a reasonable and logical inference from Plato’s idea of The One, the Unity of Everything. Still, this moves that idea ahead a notch, and we should expect that Christianity introduced some novel concepts, or some novel recombinations of older concepts. That’s why there are tens of millions of Christians alive today, and barely a handful of Stoics. And it’s those places where we move beyond what has come before that should interest us. Because, offhand, I cannot think of another ancient thinker who expressed the idea of community in these terms.

So seriously, this is obviously a very early bit of thinking.  Just to peek ahead, we will come to this idea again in Chapter 11 of this letter, which is a big reason I wanted to do this letter after doing Mark. Because, like it or not, Paul does give us the most unfiltered look back at the real, live, historical Jesus. Yes, by Paul’s day, Jesus was being talked about, a lot, but the legend of Jesus had not had time to develop. One very interesting thing is that each sucessive gospel introduces a whole lot of information that was not in the one previous. What this indicates is the continued growth of the legend. A great analogy, I think, is the Arthur legend. It was added to for hundreds of years before it was written down, and then it grew even more. Merlyn, actually, was probably there from close to the beginning, and Launcelot and Guinivere may have accrued thereto early on, but Galahad and Bors and Perceval, the Holy Grail and Mordred (I’m a fan) were all literary creations of the 12-14th centuries, and many of these originated in countries other than England. This will be something we look at closely when we get to Matthew.

So, as I said, Paul is our most unfiltered look at what Jesus might have actually said. And, given what we will find in Chapter 11, this idea of e pluribus unum, from many the one, is very, very likely something that Jesus actually said.

Now, given that, the next step is to ask: is this what Jesus meant when he talked about the kingdom? The becoming one through the analogy of the bread? JD Crossan goes on and on (and on) about the significance of the shared meal in the ancient Mediterranean world. And I think he’s probably correct about this since RL Fox says much the same thing about pagans. Community meals were–and still are–a means of fostering, well, community. What perhaps is interesting, and most novel about Jesus’ idea of this shared meal is that it focused on bread, rather than a slaughtered animal. That certainly doesn’t get enough attention. Now, yes, Jesus himself provided the meat, or was the meat, as it were, but the act of substituting bread as symbolic meat is, truly, an innovation. We need to look a that in more detail.

17 Quoniam unus panis, unum corpus multi sumus, omnes enim de uno pane participamur.

18 βλέπετε τὸν Ἰσραὴλ κατὰ σάρκα: οὐχ οἱ ἐσθίοντες τὰς θυσίας κοινωνοὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου εἰσίν;

Look at Israel, regarding the flesh (in this case, ‘meat’ would be better, IMO): are not those eating the sacrifice sharing of the altar?

I will discuss this in more detail in the summary to this chapter, but this actually goes back to Chapter 8. He’s still talking about the idea of eating meat sacrificed to idols. And he compares the Jewish practice, which was the standard practice for temple-based animal sacrifice: the priests and the staff essentially derived much of their sustenance–if not income–from the sacrifices. Jewish practice was basically the same as the practice in most of the Near Eastern empires, and the Greek practice was similar, even if done in many temples rather than in The Temple.

18 Videte Israel secundum carnem: nonne, qui edunt hostias, communicantes sunt altari?

19 τί οὖν φημι; ὅτι εἰδωλόθυτόν τί ἐστιν; ἢ ὅτι εἴδωλόν τί ἐστιν;

So what am I saying? That idol-sacrifice is something? Or that idols are anything?

Having made the comparison to Israel, he has to backpedal and clarify that he’s not actually comparing the worship of God in Jerusalem to be at all the same as the worship of gods in Greece (or elsewhere).

19 Quid ergo dico? Quod idolothytum sit aliquid? Aut quod idolum sit aliquid?

20 ἀλλ’ ὅτι ἃ θύουσιν, δαιμονίοις καὶ οὐ θεῷ [θύουσιν], οὐ θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς κοινωνοὺςτῶν δαιμονίων γίνεσθαι.

Rather, (I am saying) that they sacrifice to demons, and not to God they sacrifice, I do not want you to become communicants with demons.

The idea that pagan gods were actually demons has a long history in the Church. But let’s consider the implications of this. Calling them demons is very different from calling pagan idols inanimate objects of stone or wood. By being demons, Paul is acknowledging that they are indeed animate creatures, presumably ones with supernatural powers. Hence, Mark Chapter 3, when Jesus is accused of casting out demons via the power of Satan.

What this, in turn, entails is that these supernatural creatures had supernatural–or non-natural–powers, and so they were able to effect, for example, ‘miraculous’ healings. Except followers of Jesus would not call them ‘miracles’, but ‘wonders’ (at best). So, to call someone a ‘wonder-worker’ is not necessarily a neutral term. My God performs miracles; your ‘god’ performs mere ‘wonders’. But this latter is still an implicit admission that someone’s ‘god’ actually has the power to perform what could be called miracles. Unless, of course, one is going to argue that only the acts of a truly beneficent deity–in short, the Christian God–can be called ‘miracles’. I will concede that as a possible definition. Regardless, these demons could perform supernatural healings. Paul accepted this.

Now, think about this: Paul does not, or has not, credited Jesus with performing any miracles. One could argue that he did not think that Jesus rose from the dead. In fact, we suggested this way back at the beginning of Galatians: Jesus was raised from the dead by God.

20 Sed, quae immolant, daemoniis immolant et non Deo; nolo autem vos communicantes fieri daemoniis.

21 οὐ δύνασθε ποτήριον κυρίου πίνειν καὶ ποτήριον δαιμονίων: οὐ δύνασθε τραπέζης κυρίου μετέχειν καὶ τραπέζης δαιμονίων.

You are not able to drink the cup of the lord and the cup of demons; you are not able to partake of the table of the lord and the table of demons.

The use of ‘cup’ here should be noted. It’s similar to the way Jesus asked the sons of Zebedee if they could drink the cup that he was to drink back in Mark 10. But it’s more similar to the ‘cup of blessing’ back in V-15. And to the cup of the Last Supper coming up in Chapter 11.

Aside from that, this passage is either an echo of, or a presage of Jesus’ injunction about not being able to serve two masters, or that one cannot serve both God and Mammon? The latter, of course, is the closer fit. So which is it? An echo? Or a presage? I vote for the latter. This is such an excellent place for Paul to quote Jesus; why doesn’t he? Paul referred to Jesus earlier, when he was contradicting what Jesus said. Why not show that, here, he stood with the Lord? of course, why Paul doesn’t refer to Jesus more often is one of the more vexing questions of biblical scholarship, one that is very far from resolved.

21 Non potestis calicem Domini bibere et calicem daemoniorum; non potestis mensae Domini participes esse et mensae daemoniorum.

22 ἢ παραζηλοῦμεν τὸν κύριον; μὴ ἰσχυρότεροι αὐτοῦ ἐσμεν;

Or do we provoke the jealousy of the lord? Are we not stronger than this?

The verb << παραζηλοῦμεν >> can mean one of two things. It can mean ‘to emulate’–and note the Latin translation, ‘aemulamur‘, the root of ’emulate’. Or it can mean ‘to provoke jealousy’, as I have rendered it here. This is per Liddell & Scott, btw. How do these words intersect? Because, in Greek thought, especially in Greek tragedy, by attempting to emulate the gods too closely, one provoked their jealousy. Emulating the gods meant overstepping, thereby committing hybris, and invoking the jealousy of the gods, who thereafter sent down your punishment, your ‘nemesis’.

Because asking if we’re not stronger than being able to emulate the lord doesn’t, exactly, make much sense.

22 An aemulamur Dominum? Numquid fortiores illo sumus?

23 Πάντα ἔξεστιν, ἀλλ’ οὐ πάντα συμφέρει. πάντα ἔξεστιν, ἀλλ’ οὐ πάντα οἰκοδομεῖ.

All is allowed, but not all brings together (confers a benefit; = ‘profits’). All is allowed, but not all builds. (i.e., not all is ‘constructive’ as we would say. And, btw, the verb << συμφέρει >> literally translates to ‘confer’)

First, ‘all is allowed’, or ‘all is permitted’. This is an echo of 6:12, when he was talking about disputes, and lawsuits between, and defrauding of, fellow members of the Community. It’s an interesting expression, and concept. The way it’s used, it almost sounds like Paul is quoting this? My hard-copy Greek text, which is normally well cross-referenced, does not show any cites for the OT. So I  Googled it, and could not find another reference until we get to The Brothers Karamazov, although the translation I saw was ‘all is lawful’. Then it comes up under Nietzsche, in the context of “God is dead, everything is permitted’. I’m going to guess that this is not what Paul had in mind.

But, let’s face it, this does not sound like the sort of thing that Paul would normally say, does it? There is a decidedly libertine aspect of this; or at least, it could easily be interpreted that way. I’m hardly an expert on Herr Nietzsche, but this is the sort of thing that is used against atheists: if there is no God, then what is the basis of morality? If there is no God, can we not say that ‘everything is permitted’? And the use sounds like Paul is quoting the phrase. If that is the case, we have to ask ourselves, did Paul get this from somewhere, someone else? If so, then from whom? Asked another way, whom would Paul quote, or at least cite? Well, as a Pharisee, he’s well-steeped in Scripture; but it doesn’t occur there? Would he cite Greek philosophy? Possibly. But it doesn’t seem to occur in the works of anyone known. Then who?

Sherlock Holmes said that, once you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, no matter how implausible, is your solution. Eliminating the OT and Greek philosophy, the one source we are left with that Paul would consider authoritative is Jesus.

Ergo, we have to ask: is this a quote from Jesus?

23 “Omnia licent!”. Sed non omnia expediunt. “Omnia licent!”. Sed non omnia aedificant.

24 μηδεὶς τὸ ἑαυτοῦ ζητείτω ἀλλὰ τὸ τοῦ ἑτέρου.

No one seeks himself, but seeks the other.

This is reminiscent of  the discussion of Love (Eros) in Plato’s Symposium. Love, Socrates says–or, rather, he concludes–seeks what it does not have. Since it seeks youth and beauty, it must be old and ugly.

24 Nemo, quod suum est, quaerat, sed quod alterius.

25 Πᾶν τὸ ἐν μακέλλῳ πωλούμενον ἐσθίετε μηδὲν ἀνακρίνοντες διὰ τὴν συνείδησιν,

Eat all (that is) sold in the meat market, not judging nothing on account of (your) conscience.

Here, it would seem, Paul is addressing Jews. He is telling them not to be concerned about the dietary laws. Or, he could also be addressing those of pagan origin. Perhaps they have been told by Apollos that they, too, need to follow the Jewish dietary laws to be members of the Community. The thing to note is that Paul says this as a matter of settled practice; he no longer has to take the time, nor make the effort to refute any arguments actually or hypothetically made by James and his group.

This seems to be a change from Galatians. I think the inference to draw from this statement is that, while the issue of dietary laws had been settled between James and Paul, the settlement was still recent enough that James or members of his group still thought they could circumvent the agreement. By the time Paul writes this, the issue had been resolved, with the exception of a few die-hards, like (perhaps) Apollos.

Now, let’s go back to the previous verse; what happened to that? What happened to no one seeking themselves, but the other? Should that be taken as why Paul needs to tell them it’s OK to eat from the meat market?

25 Omne, quod in macello venit, manducate, nihil interrogantes propter conscientiam;

26 τοῦ κυρίου γὰρ ἡ γῆ καὶ τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτῆς.

For of the lord (is) the earth and the fullness of it.

I.E., all creation is from God; therefore, nothing edible is unclean.

26 Domini enim est terra, et plenitudo eius.

27 εἴ τις καλεῖ ὑμᾶς τῶν ἀπίστων καὶ θέλετε πορεύεσθαι, πᾶν τὸ παρατιθέμενον ὑμῖν ἐσθίετε μηδὲν ἀνακρίνοντες διὰ τὴν συνείδησιν.

If someone of the unfaithful calls you (apparently to a meal), and you wish to go, eat all the things set before you, not judging because of your conscience.

So dine freely with Gentiles. Eat what they serve.

27 Si quis vocat vos infidelium, et vultis ire, omne, quod vobis apponitur, manducate, nihil interrogantes propter conscientiam.

28 ἐὰν δέ τις ὑμῖν εἴπῃ, Τοῦτο ἱερόθυτόν ἐστιν, μὴ ἐσθίετε δι’ ἐκεῖνον τὸν μηνύσαντα καὶ τὴν συνείδησιν

If someone says to you, this is from a sacrifice, do not eat it on account of the showing (= because of how it appears, how it looks to others), and your conscience.

Eat freely, except for food sacrificed to idols. We’re back to the themes at the end of Chapter 8. I will have more to say about that in the summary.

Paul is concerned about the message being given. Recall, I suggested that this is directed at the wealthier members of the Community, whose example is apt to be followed. And let’s face it, they are more apt to be asked to a meal than the poor members by virtue of the social circles to which each belonged.

28 Si quis autem vobis dixerit: “ Hoc immolaticium est idolis”, nolite manducare, propter illum, qui indicavit, et propter conscientiam;

29 συνείδησιν δὲ λέγω οὐχὶ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἀλλὰ τὴν τοῦ ἑτέρου. ἱνα τί γὰρ ἡ ἐλευθερία μου κρίνεται ὑπὸ ἄλλης συνειδήσεως;

I say your conscience is not of yourself, but of the other.  For is it not in order that someone judges my freedom under the conscience of another? (…does someone not judge my freedom..)

First, sorry about the awkward translation. Just keep in mind that I am deliberately trying to maintain the grammar of the Greek to help someone else see how this works…

Secondly, that’s what happened to V-24. Paul didn’t forget about it, or put it in there for no reason. 

Finally, as said before: Paul is concerned with the example being set. And he realizes that, too often, perception is reality, that it’s not what we do, or why we do it that counts; rather, what matters is how it’s judged by others. This is not fair, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less accurate an observation.

29 conscientiam autem dico non tuam ipsius sed alterius. Ut quid enim libertas mea iudicatur ab alia conscientia?

30 εἰ ἐγὼ χάριτι μετέχω, τί βλασφημοῦμαι ὑπὲρ οὗ ἐγὼ εὐχαριστῶ;

For if I partake with thankfulness, why am I reviled about which I give thanks?

Here is a case of a passage that’s perhaps a bit too streamlined. He’s partaking in the meal mentioned previously. He’s being reviled, I guess, because he’s eating idol-food, for which he’s giving thanks because he was graciously asked to join the meal. And the answer is that he’s being reviled because of the appearance of it.

Now if you look at the Latin, you will notice ‘gratia‘ and ‘blasphemor‘; the first is the root of grace, the second of blaspheme, but I didn’t translate them as such.  I make an effort not to translate either “gratia” or << χάριτι >> as ‘grace’, because the connotations are too much for the Greek to bear. It’s like an unseen planet: we can only tell it’s there because the orbit something else is affected. So, the gravitational pull of the English word “grace”, especially in context of the Bible, is so great that it distorts the meaning of the original text, I think. We cannot think of ‘grace’ without interpreting it in the context of 2,000 years worth of debate.

And the Greek root for ‘blaspheme’ is a lot like the whole ‘baptism’ thing. It’s a word with a varied, non-specific meaning in Greek that has come to have a single meaning in English. So, again, not to have the English meaning distort the original text, I chose another meaning for “blaspheme”. Most English translations do the same.

30 Si ego cum gratia participo, quid blasphemor pro eo, quod gratias ago?

31 εἴτε οὖν ἐσθίετε εἴτε πίνετε εἴτε τι ποιεῖτε, πάντα εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ ποιεῖτε.

Whether therefore you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.

Not much to say about that. Wish I knew more about Judaism. This thought became so embedded in Christian doctrine that I would like to know the degree to which this is a continuation of Jewish thought, or an innovation of Paul and/or Jesus, or something that subsequent Christians took and made into a big thing.

31 Sive ergo manducatis sive bibitis sive aliud quid facitis, omnia in gloriam Dei facite.

32 ἀπρόσκοποι καὶ Ἰουδαίοις γίνεσθε καὶ Ελλησιν καὶ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ,

Be inoffensive both to Jews and Greeks and to the Community of God,

Comment deferred

32 Sine offensione estote Iudaeis et Graecis et ecclesiae Dei,

33 καθὼς κἀγὼ πάντα πᾶσιν ἀρέσκω, μὴ ζητῶν τὸ ἐμαυτοῦ σύμφορον ἀλλὰ τὸ τῶν πολλῶν, ἵνα σωθῶσιν.

in this way I also please all in all things, not seeking my own profit, but that of the many, so that they will be saved.

33 sicut et ego per omnia omnibus placeo, non quaerens, quod mihi utile est, sed quod multis, ut salvi fiant.

Once again, use Paul as an example. He is all things to all people. But he does this to save as many as possible.

Feels like I’m going out with a whimper here, but I don’t think this requires a lot of comment. These last couple of verses give us further insight into Paul. They illustrate, very effectively, how passionate Paul was about his mission. Above all, he wanted nothing more than to bring the Good News to as many people as possible, so that he could save as many people as possible. To this end, he could justify any means necessary. (We probably should not take that too literally.) This has to be a major component in his success: his sincerity, and the depth of his conviction must have been clear to all who encountered him.

Note: Updates/Corrections made

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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 April 19, 2014, in 1 Corinthians, epistles, Paul's Letters and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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