Monthly Archives: May 2014

Summary 1 Corinthians Chapter 12

Unlike some of the chapters we’ve read, this one was fairly consistent in theme and topic. Far and away, the bulk of the chapter revolved around the theme that could be summarized as ‘e pluribus unum’. As I mentioned, this is the motto on US coinage, and it means ‘of many, one’. The idea is that the US is made up of many different groups that have come together to form a single unit, a union. As with most matters political, theory and practice may not always match, but that is the point of the motto.

And so it is with Chapter 12. In fact, we get this in two different ways. The first is the many gifts all coming from the same spirit. Or Spirit. It was never called the ‘Holy Spirit” (or sacred breath). The gifts are varied: prophecy, discernment of spirits (good from bad), tongues, healing, miracle, and others. The second iteration involved the theme of one body with many members. The two are complementary, they are mutually reinforcing. And Paul uses this to establish a paradigm for what he was trying to accomplish in Corinth, and probably elsewhere for that matter.

Recall that we met the theme of divisions in the Community of Corinth already in Chapters 1 and 2. Just as the body is composed of many members, so it seems that the Community of Corinth was composed of many different types of people. In particular, we seem to have some fairly extreme class divisions. We got this from previous chapters dealing with the eating of idol food and the manner of how the lordly supper should be celebrated. And it would seem that the Community is coming apart at the seams where the various groups are joined together. To rectify this, Paul has resorted to the idea of the body with the various members: hands, feet, eyes, etc. Some of these body parts may seem to be more important than others, but this apparent difference is illusory. The body needs all its members to function to its fullest capacity. Just so, the Community of Corinth–or any Community–needs all its members to attain its optimal level of function. The lesser members of the Community should not be scorned any more than the less honourable parts of the body should be scorned. Each plays a unique function, each is necessary. In the same way, the various gifts given by the spirit each play a role in the Community: each is important, each should be given its proper due.

Having read not a little of the literature of the pagan world that was written in the years before and after this letter, I can say that the sentiment expressed here is unusual for the time. It is not entirely unique, or entirely novel, but the emphasis placed on a multi-faceted community made up of members from very different backgrounds is bordering on unique. We ran across this in Galatians as well, the famous Jew/Greek, Slave/Free dichotomies, so the idea is not something Paul thought up to deal with the problems in Corinth. Chances are, this was a fairly integral part of Paul’s message to all his Communities. The difference here, I think, is that the divisions along income lines were more pronounced than in other places, or that the upper echelon comprised a bigger portion of the whole than elsewhere, so the fault lines were more acute. Recall the strictures against eating idol food: Paul was concerned that seeing some members eating at idol meals would have undue influence. The point was that it was almost certainly the upper echelon that was participating, since the upper crust would never deign to follow the example of the poor members.

I do want to refer back to the quote Paul gives of Jesus’ words at the Last Supper. I do not believe the words can be ascribed to Jesus. They have a strong ex post facto feel to them; they are the words of someone who knows that Jesus was crucified, was indeed ‘sacrificed’ on the cross. But I think that Paul’s use of the body metaphor here is further indication that he invented the words of Jesus. This sort of invention was very common in the Ancient World; it’s why the Gospel of Judas was not written until 200-300 years after the nominal Judas was dead. Herodotus and Thucydides, the founders of the historical method, routinely put quoted words into the mouth of someone long dead. It was pretty much standard practice for writers at the time.

Moreover, in previous chapters we have seen that Paul is not at all abashed to ‘correct’ Jesus; and he is willing to put forth his own interpretation even though he has no guidance from the words of Jesus. We have discussed Paul’s conversion experience, we have seen how he claims that he did not receive the gospel from any human, but that it came directly from God. Recently, while reading some Mediaeval Latin, I came across a reference 2 Corinthians 2:12. In that passage Paul talks about how he was taken up to ‘third heaven’. This was, possibly, some sort of vision.  My suspicion–and that’s all it is–is that Paul had something like a “Road to Damascus” moment, except that it didn’t actually occur on the road to Damascus. I touched on this in the discussion of Galatians, in which I speculated that the new interpretation of, or relation to The Law; that he suddenly understood Jesus’ message as it pertained to the Law, and this was what set him off on his campaign of conversion. Given this, I think Paul may have been the sort to look inward–to pray, however one defines that term, whether in terms of religion or psychology–and experience continued revelation of Jesus’ message. Now, whether this resembled anything Jesus actually said, as we define historical reality, is wholly another story. But, to Paul, the factual reality of Jesus simply didn’t matter. This is, to some degree, why he seems so unconcerned with anything Jesus did while the latter was alive. For Paul, Jesus was always with him. This, I think, is what Paul means when he talks about the spirit, about ‘being in the spirit’. In short, being in the spirit was probably not dissimilar to being taken up to third heaven. Paul has God and Jesus on speed-dial.

There are a few minor points I’d like to mention. I do not know how culturally Greek Paul was. Being from Tarsus, he was removed from the Jewish heartland, and, as a result, was likely exposed to more Greek ideas than say, James or Cephas. And one very Greek concept was the differentiation between the spirit and the flesh. This distinction, and the emphasis on this distinction was, I believe, much more Greek than Jewish. And, since he is writing to an audience that he tells is largely pagan in origin, I wonder how much he tailored his message to put it in terms a pagan–a Greek pagan–would understand. That is, he put the religious sphere in terms of the distinction between flesh and spirit. As such, Plato got a toehold into Christian thought almost from the start. And, one wonders, if this wasn’t part of the problem that the James Gang in Jerusalem had with his message.

Finally, there was a passage in Verse 13 in which Paul says that the Community was baptised into one body. I wanted to mention this at the time, but I went off on a different tangent and it slipped my mind. This is interesting, largely because Paul seemed so dismissive of the idea of baptism at the beginning of the letter. He was, he told us, not sent to baptise, but to preach the good news (1:17). Given this, I think we must take the idea and practice of baptism very seriously as something historical. This is strong evidence, I think, that Jesus probably was baptised. I have suggested that the gospel writers played up–rather than played down–Jesus’ relation to John the Dunker, but I think that the central point of Jesus’ baptism is likely to be factually accurate. As for Paul’s distaste, the epistle reading in church recently was from 1 Peter, including 3:21, in which the author describes baptism as, not for the cleansing of the flesh, but as an appeal to God for good conscience. Recall that Josephus told us that John’s baptism was not for repentance; one was baptised only after repenting. The actual submersion was intended actually to clean the body, perhaps to symbolise that the spirit was already clean. Given that 1 Peter was probably written 40 years (+/-) after Paul, we get the sense that John’s idea or conception of baptism was still out there. How much more prevalent was it during Paul’s time? Given this, perhaps Paul’s aversion to the practice stemmed from this aspect. It was of the flesh, not of the spirit.

Just a note: When I used terms like “John the Dunker”, or “sacred breath” or the “Anointed”, the purpose is not to be irreverent, or humorous or in any way disparaging. The intent is to make us remember that the words with which we are so familiar were understood very differently by the contemporaries. We are in a rut with these words; they have a very specific meaning for us. These meanings were not present in the First Century. We need to hear them with fresh ears, to realize that “baptism” didn’t mean “christening”, for example, or that the sacred breath was not an entity, or that Christ was not a surname.



1 Corinthians Chapter 12:12-31

So Chapter 12 continues. We finished the last section with Paul’s message of inclusiveness, that there were many different gifts from the same spirit.

12 Καθάπερ γὰρ τὸ σῶμα ἕν ἐστιν καὶ μέλη πολλὰ ἔχει, πάντα δὲ τὰ μέλη τοῦ σώματος πολλὰ ὄντα ἕν ἐστιν σῶμα, οὕτως καὶ ὁ Χριστός:

For just as the body is one, and has many members, so all the members of the body being many are one body, and so is the Anointed.

We were given the words of the Last Supper in the last chapter; I expressed a level of skepticism that they actually dated back to Jesus. Paul seems to have come up with the idea of the body of the Anointed as a metaphor of the Community. We, in English, can say something like ‘the student body’ and mean something not dissimilar to what Paul is saying here. However, the idea of a corporate body was not particularly common among the pagan writers. We can say this in English because of the idea put forth here. I think Paul may have dreamed this up, and he may have been justifiably proud of the metaphor, because it is very expressive of an idea. So I am still skeptical about the “this is my body” actually being something Jesus said. These words are too plainly the words of someone who was aware of the outcome, and Paul is too plainly fond of the metaphor of the corporate body. In fact, “corporation” is derived from the Latin “corpus”, which is “body”. It’s also the root of our word “corpse”.

12 Sicut enim corpus unum est et membra habet multa, omnia autem membra corporis, cum sint multa, unum corpus sunt, ita et Christus;

13 καὶ γὰρ ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι ἡμεῖς πάντες εἰς ἓν σῶμα ἐβαπτίσθημεν, εἴτε Ἰουδαῖοι εἴτε Ελληνες, εἴτε δοῦλοι εἴτε ἐλεύθεροι, καὶ πάντες ἓν πνεῦμα ἐποτίσθημεν.

For also in the one spirit we were all into one body baptized, whether we are Jews or whether we are Greeks, whether we are slaves or free, and all were drunk of the same spirit.

The verb ‘to drink’ at the end of the sentence is actually a passive. “We all have been drunk in the same spirit” would be the literal translation. The KJV and a couple of others render this as ‘were made to drink’, but that’s not a normal rendering of the passive voice. To be honest, I think this was meant as a middle form–we have drunk for ourselves–but the middle form conjugates in a way very similar to the passive, so maybe this is a clerical slip in the ms tradition. Maybe not. But it seems to be the way to explain the circumstances best, IMO. Feel free to disagree.

13 etenim in uno Spiritu omnes nos in unum corpus baptizati sumus, sive Iudaei sive Graeci sive servi sive liberi, et omnes unum Spiritum potati sumus.

14 καὶ γὰρ τὸ σῶμα οὐκ ἔστιν ἓν μέλος ἀλλὰ πολλά.

And for the body is not one member, but many.

Consider this: Paul was trying to create a unitary, or unified Community from a number of disparate elements. He wasn’t preaching to Jews, who shared at least some common cultural ground. The pagans, however, were a varied lot; while most of the Eastern Mediterranean had been culturally Greek for a few centuries, in places this was nominal, a veneer. But Paul is attempting to reach all of these disparate groups. To do so, he comes up with the ‘one body/many parts’ metaphor. It works. It’s a great analogy. It’s something everyone will get. In short, it’s borderline brilliant.

But how much more effective would this be if he could have Jesus call the bread ‘my body’? Now, it could easily have gone the other way, that Paul got it from Jesus. But given the circumstances in which Paul was working, and given the goal he was trying to accomplish, it seems, to me anyway, much more likely that this came from Paul, and entered the Jesus story in through Paul rather than Jesus.

14 Nam et corpus non est unum membrum sed multa.

15 ἐὰν εἴπῃ ὁ πούς, Οτι οὐκ εἰμὶ χείρ, οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ σώματος, οὐ παρὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ σώματος:

For if the foot should say that “I am not the hand, (so) I am not (part) of the body”, for this (reason) is it not of the body?

Because let’s keep in mind that, ultimately, Paul wrote this letter to deal with the divisions within the Community. So why not stress the body metaphor?

15 Si dixerit pes: “Non sum manus, non sum de corpore ”, non ideo non est de corpore;

16 καὶ ἐὰν εἴπῃ τὸ οὖς, Οτι οὐκε ἰμὶ ὀφθαλμός, οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ σώματος, οὐ παρὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ σώματος:

And if the ear says that, “I am not the eye, (so) I am not of the body”, for this reason is it not part of the body?

The metaphor is extended.

16 et si dixerit auris: “ Non sum oculus, non sum de corpore ”, non ideo non est de corpore.

17 εἰ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα ὀφθαλμός, ποῦ ἡ ἀκοή; εἰ ὅλον ἀκοή, ποῦ ἡ ὄσφρησις;

If the whole body is the eye, where is the hearing? If the whole (body is) the hearing, where is the smelling?

The various functions of the various parts of the same body ties back to the variety of gifts that come from the same spirit. As the money in the USA says, ‘e pluribus unum’. “Of many, one”. So it is here. Many gifts, many members, one body, one Community.

17 Si totum corpus oculus est, ubi auditus? Si totum auditus, ubi odoratus?

18 νυνὶ δὲ ὁ θεὸς ἔθετο τὰ μέλη, ἓν ἕκαστον αὐτῶν, ἐν τῷ σώματι καθὼς ἠθέλησεν.

But now God put the members, each one of them, in the body accordingly as he wished.

I don’t think this really requires any comment. I have the suspicion that I’m going to have increasingly less to say as the letter goes on.

18 Nunc autem posuit Deus membra, unumquodque eorum in corpore, sicut voluit.

19 εἰ δὲ ἦν τὰ πάντα ἓν μέλος, ποῦ τὸ σῶμα;

But if  all were one member, where is the body?

He’s extending the metaphor to make his point. And the way he milks the metaphor makes me increasingly suspicious that ‘the body of Christ’ was his idea, and that he put those words into Jesus’ mouth.

19 Quod si essent omnia unum membrum, ubi corpus?

20 νῦν δὲ πολλὰ μὲν μέλη, ἓν δὲ σῶμα.

And now while the members are many, on the other hand the body is one.

Another classic use of the << μὲν…δὲ >> construction which here serves to emphasis the simultaneous contrast and connection between the two clauses.

20 Nunc autem multa quidem membra, unum autem corpus.

21 οὐ δύναται δὲ ὁ ὀφθαλμὸς εἰπεῖν τῇ χειρί, Χρείαν σου οὐκ ἔχω, ἢ πάλιν ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῖς ποσίν, Χρείαν ὑμῶν οὐκ ἔχω:

For the eye is not able to say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” or again the head (cannot say) to the feet “I have no need of you.”

21 Non potest dicere oculus manui: “ Non es mihi necessaria! ”; aut iterum caput pedibus: “ Non estis mihi necessarii! ”.

22 ἀλλὰ πολλῷ μᾶλλον τὰ δοκοῦντα μέλη τοῦ σώματος ἀσθενέστερα ὑπάρχειν ἀναγκαῖά ἐστιν,

But by much it is better (that) the members of the body appearing to be weaker, are necessary.


But it is much better that the members of the body (that) appear to be weaker, are (actually) necessary.

And, of course, just so the members of the Community that appear to be weaker are also necessary. This is a very tightly-written piece of rhetoric on a lot of levels. Paul draws us in with the metaphor of the body and its parts, but of course he is speaking of the Body of the Anointed, united in their faith.

22 Sed multo magis, quae videntur membra corporis infirmiora esse, necessaria sunt;

23 καὶ ἃ δοκοῦμεν ἀτιμότεραεἶναι τοῦ σώματος, τούτοις τιμὴν περισσοτέραν περιτίθεμεν, καὶ τὰ ἀσχήμονα ἡμῶν εὐσχημοσύνην περισσοτέραν ἔχει,

And the things/parts seeming to be less honoured of the body, to these more honour will be given around, and the unseemly things  of us (will–?) have abundant seemliness,

Notice how this sounds a lot like “the first will be last, the last will be first”. The uncouth parts of the body–such as the poorer members of the Community whom the better-off members of the Community scorn–will have the honour…Personally, I think that this may be the genesis of that idea.

23 et, quae putamus ignobiliora membra esse corporis, his honorem abundantiorem circumdamus; et, quae inhonesta sunt nostra, abundantiorem honestatem habent,

24 τὰ δὲ εὐσχήμονα ἡμῶν οὐ χρείαν ἔχει. ἀλλὰ ὁ θεὸς συνεκέρασεν τὸ σῶμα, τῷ ὑστερουμένῳ περισσοτέραν δοὺς τιμήν,

but the seemliness of us have no need. But God mixed the body, to the one lacking (God is) giving abundant honour,

“Blessed you when people insult you, persecute you…because great is your reward in heaven…”

24 honesta autem nostra nullius egent. Sed Deus temperavit corpus, ei, cui deerat, abundantiorem tribuendo honorem,

25 ἵνα μὴ ᾖ σχίσμα ἐν τῷ σώματι, ἀλλὰ τὸ αὐτὸ ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων μεριμνῶσιν τὰ μέλη.

So that there not be divisions in the body, but the members should care for (each) other in the same way.

 IOW, the Community should be a true community.  If you read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, you will find similar sentiments to the ones Paul is expressing here. However, that should not take away from how radical this idea is for the time. The idea of a community in which all cared for each other was not exactly standard procedure for the First Century. The idea of the king taking care of his people pre-dates Hammurabi, but the sort of community that Paul is advocating had very few–if any–precedents.

25 ut non sit schisma in corpore, sed idipsum pro invicem sollicita sint membra.

26 καὶ εἴτε πάσχει ἓν μέλος, συμπάσχει πάντα τὰ μέλη: εἴτε δοξάζεται [ἓν] μέλος, συγχαίρει πάντα τὰ μέλη.

And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with: if one member is glorified, all the members rejoice with.

Paul takes the first verb, “to suffer” and repeats it with the prefix <<συμ>>, which is ‘with’. It’s clever rhetorically because it sort of plays one off the other. He uses another <<συμ>> verb in the second half of the second clause, even if he doesn’t directly repeat the verb exactly.

26 Et sive patitur unum membrum, compatiuntur omnia membra; sive glorificatur unum membrum, congaudent omnia membra.

27 Ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε σῶμα Χριστοῦ καὶ μέλη ἐκ μέρους.

You are also the body of the Anointed, and a member of the part.

“I am the vine, you are the branches.” Except in this place, it’s “you are the branches, the Christ is the vine”.

27 Vos autem estis corpus Christi et membra ex parte.

28 καὶ οὓς μὲν ἔθετο ὁ θεὸς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρῶτον ἀποστόλους, δεύτερον προφήτας, τρίτον διδασκάλους, ἔπειτα δυνάμεις, ἔπειτα χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων, ἀντιλήμψεις, κυβερνήσεις, γένη γλωσσῶν.

And that which God placed in the community first the apostles, second the prophets, third the teachers, then the powers, then the gifts of the healings, assistance, governors, then the types of tongues.

 All English translations render << δυνάμεις >> as ‘miracles’. Note that the Latin is <<virtutes>> . It is not rendered as  << miracula >> (plural form of ‘miraculum‘).  The base meaning of the Greek word is ‘power/strength’. It also forms the base of the Greek word for “I am able”. We discussed this in the reading of Mark. I bring it up here because this is one of the two times that Paul uses the word in the sense of ‘miracle’; or, perhaps this is one of the two times that moderns have chosen to translate it as ‘miracle’. The Latin word from which we derive ‘miracle’ is based on the word for ‘to see’. So, it means, ‘look at that!’ As such, you can understand the transition from ‘power’ to ‘look at that!’ Now, I think the reason for  using  << δυνάμεις >> / <<virtutes>> is plain enough. It is meant to tell us that Jesus or God had literal power over the world, which allowed them to change the natural course of events. In Latin, this idea of power over events conflated with the idea that the exercise of this power was something worth seeing. ‘He has power to cure a leper! Look at that!’

When I first read this, my instinct was that Paul was corroborating that Jesus was a wonder-worker. He exhibited this power. But, look again. And look at Galatians 3:5 which is the only other time that modern (or ancient) translators chose to render the word as ‘miracle’. But Paul isn’t talking about Jesus. Both in this passage, and in Gal 3:5, Paul is talking about the power that God demonstrates. In other words, Paul doesn’t talk about Jesus as a miracle-worker. 

Why not?

Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? Why doesn’t Paul talk about Jesus’ miracles? For that matter, why doesn’t Paul talk about Jesus? But the fact is, he doesn’t, except for the quote from what became known as the Last Supper. That really needs some explanation, especially since some of the most Jesus-like stuff, about the body of the Anointed, may have originated here.

28 Et quosdam quidem posuit Deus in ecclesia primum apostolos, secundo prophetas, tertio doctores, deinde virtutes, exinde donationes curationum, opitulationes, gubernationes, genera linguarum.

29 μὴ πάντες ἀπόστολοι; μὴ πάντες προφῆται; μὴ πάντες διδάσκαλοι; μὴ πάντες δυνάμεις;

But are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all miracle workers?

In the previous comment, I didn’t get to the content of the verse. Paul is setting out the means God has provided to help the Community. At first, I was surprised to see apostles come before prophets, mainly because, by ‘prophet’, I was thinking in terms of Elijah, Isaiah and the like. Indeed, some modern commentators take it so. However, Calvin and others take this as prophets contemporary with himself. As such, the apostles rank higher. Now, note that ‘miracle/wonder-workers’ are ranked below teachers. This, I think, provides some insight into the way ‘wonder-workers’ were viewed in antiquity. They weren’t exactly high on the list. As such, Josephus’ referring to Jesus as a wonder-worker wasn’t entirely complimentary. Is this why Paul doesn’t talk about Jesus’ miracles?  I think this is a distinct possibility.

Of course, the other possibility is that the Jesus of whom Paul was aware was not considered a wonder-worker. Rather, he was the Anointed of the second part of Mark, the section of the narrative that didn’t include the miracles.

29 Numquid omnes apostoli? Numquid omnes prophetae? Numquid omnes doctores? Numquid omnes virtutes?

30 μὴ πάντες χαρίσματα ἔχουσιν ἰαμάτων; μὴ πάντες γλώσσαις λαλοῦσιν; μὴ πάντες διερμηνεύουσιν;

Do all have the gift of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret (tongues)?

One of the modern commentaries I looked at stated that healings were actually miracles. This was in reference to an earlier verse (12:10), but I understood what was meant. We call the healing of the bleeding woman a miracle. It seems that Paul may not have classified that that act as a miracle. What does that say? It says that healers were of a lower order than miracle workers. But most–or at least a significant percentage–of Jesus’ miracles are healings; healings and exorcisms make up most of the supernatural interventions in Mark. But Paul is saying that these gifts could be given to ordinary humans. As such, they would not be the mark of the Anointed, as we believe them to be.

Think about that. Then go back to the “split” I proposed in Mark. The first part about the wonder-worker, the second about the Anointed, the divine.

30 Numquid omnes donationes habent curationum? Numquid omnes linguis loquuntur? Numquid omnes interpretantur?

31 ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ χαρίσματατὰ μείζονα. Καὶ ἔτι καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν ὑμῖν δείκνυμι.

Be zealous for the better gifts. And yet upon the hyperbolic road I will show you. (I will show you the more excellent road).

31 Aemulamini autem charismata maiora. Et adhuc excellentiorem viam vobis demonstro.

First, a note about the vocabulary. The first word, << ὑπερβολὴν >>transliterates to ‘hyperbolen’, which is obviously the origin of  ‘hyperbole’. In English, this has the connotation of going too far, often in praise. Not so much in Greek. The literal sense is to ‘throw beyond’, as with an arrow, or a rock from a sling.

One question: is it easy to tell from what we’ve read here which are the ‘better gifts’? Are miracle-working and healing included in the category of the ‘better’ gifts? In the list, they are numbers 5 & 6 out of nine; pretty much by definition, they cannot be part of the ‘better’ gifts. Based on their placement in the list, they are in the middle. Actually, one is the middle term and the next is in the bottom half. And yet these are traits that, to many interpretations, that showed that Jesus was indeed the divine Son of God. Paul doesn’t think quite as highly of them.


1 Corinthians Chapter 12:1-11

So we start Chapter 12.

1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν πνευματικῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν.

Regarding spiritual things, brothers, I do not wish you to ignore them.

Given the Greek attitude that spiritual things were of a higher order of existence than earthly things, this injunction would not be out of place for a pagan Greek.

This just occurs to me: Would a Jew talk about “spiritual” things? To contrast with the concerns of humans, would a Jew not have been more like to talk about “holy” things? Given my lack of background in Hebrew, I can’t look to see what the underlying Hebrew word might be, so I really am in no position to judge this. Nor do I know enough about Jewish beliefs of the time to consider it from that perspective. One interesting question to ask here would be: what was Paul’s native tongue? If it was Greek, then I may not be too far off the mark, here. Based on what I know, I’m not sure there is enough evidence to say whether–or not–Paul was a native speaker of Greek. We can say he probably was/wasn’t based on what we know about Tarsus, but we probably can’t be certain. But I could be wrong about that.

So, if I’m saying that Paul was a native speaker of Greek, am I just being a Classicist, who sees pagan influence lurking behind every shrubbery and metaphor?

1 De spiritalibus autem, fra tres, nolo vos ignorare.

2 Οἴδατε ὅτι ὅτε ἔθνη ἦτε πρὸς τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε ἀπαγόμενοι.

You know that when you were pagans, you were going to mute idols, as you were led.

So,  we are talking, at least primarily, about a (formerly) pagan audience. So my comment, or question, regarding the “spiritual things” of the previous verse would have resonated with those raised in the Greek world of thought. We all know that many of the later Patristic thinkers were well-versed in Plato, and that they adapted the NT to the Platonic worldview. However, perhaps it started earlier, even here with Paul. He was a Diaspora Jew, raised in Tarsus, and versed in Greek to some degree; did this background initiate the transition to Hellenistic philosophy already at this early date?

2 Scitis quoniam, cum gentes essetis, ad simulacra muta, prout ducebamini, euntes.

3 διὸ γνωρίζω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ λαλῶν λέγει, Ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν, Κύριος Ἰησοῦς, εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ.

Therefore, I make it known to you that no one speaking in the spirit of God says, “Damn Jesus!” and no is able to say, “Lord Jesus,” if not (unless) in the holy spirit.

But first, if we are “in the spirit”, is that the same thing as the spirit being in us? The latter is ‘in-spiration’, the spirit ‘breathing in’ to us. That seems different from the idea of being ‘in the spirit’, in which we are the actor rather than the receptacle. Is there a difference? Seems like it; but, even if we agree that there is a difference, is this a distinction that makes a difference? IOW, is the end result the same? Probably. The point here is, I think, that Paul did not pay a lot of attention to the sorts of analogies, or metaphors, or the figurative speech he used. This caused no end of problems for later commentators, and those thinkers trying to work out the implications of the words of the Bible as they exist.

This is the sort of thing that will make the later discussions/debates/arguments about grace so compelling and so difficult. One can extrapolate all sorts of stuff from this passage. If no one ‘in the spirit’ can curse Jesus, does this mean that humans cannot resist the spirit of God? Can grace be resisted? If we are in the state of grace because God has so…graciously and gratuitously granted this favour, can we still commit sin? Some say yes, otherwise there is no free will. Some say no, based on passages like this.

Now, there is, of course, more to it than this; nothing is so simple as I’ve put it, but this does, I think, give us some indication of why the later arguments were so thorny. And those of you who know Scripture better than I do (which is probably a lot of you), will understand the apparent contradictions that exist throughout the NT. As I have said, Paul himself seems to come down on both sides of the argument about salvation by faith vs. salvation by works within Romans.

3 Ideo notum vobis facio quod nemo in Spiritu Dei loquens dicit: “ Anathema Iesus! ”; et nemo potest dicere: “ Dominus Iesus ”, nisi in Spiritu Sancto.

4 Διαιρέσεις δὲ χαρισμάτων εἰσίν, τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα:

For there are differences of gifts, even from the same spirit.

A bit of a non sequitur from the previous verse, but there you go. Perhaps ‘change of topic’ is a better description.

4 Divisiones vero gratiarum sunt, idem autem Spiritus;

5 καὶ διαιρέσεις διακονιῶν εἰσιν, καὶ ὁ αὐτὸς κύριος:

And there are differences of ministries, also from the same Lord.

This is the beginning of a very famous part of this epistle, and I think it’s a great example of why Paul was so successful. And I think this is a reason why the message that Paul spread was, ultimately, so successful. I’m tempted to say that this appreciation and valuing of different gifts represents a the concept of inclusion, but the passage about women covering their heads should tell us that seeing anything too modern is anachronistic. Be that as it may, it is a message that does broaden the range of acceptance: one no longer has to be wealthy or well-born, or have a talent for rhetoric (which was highly prized at the time; see the discussion about Apollos in chapters 2&3, etc.) to be valued in the Community.  It’s very definitely a huge step forward in a very class-conscious society.

5 et divisiones ministrationum sunt, idem autem Dominus;

6 καὶ διαιρέσεις ἐνεργημάτων εἰσίν, ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς θεός, ὁ ἐνεργῶν τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν.

And there are differences of activities, also from the same God, the one performing all in everything.

The translation of that last clause is a bit clumsy, but I hope the meaning is across. Note that he has used the << δὲ>> in the second clause of the last two verses to connect all three of them together. This shows the many ways this connective particle can be used. And he repeats the root of <<ἐνεργημάτων>> as the verb in that last clause, once again making a rhetorical linkage. Rather a nifty piece of Greek, and very clear.

6 et divisiones operationum sunt, idem vero Deus, qui operatur omnia in omnibus.

7 ἑκάστῳ  δὲδίδοται ἡ φανέρωσις τοῦ πνεύματος πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον.

For to each is given the manifestation of the spirit towards (the) profit.

My translation is pretty much literal. The four English translations I use all add something like, ‘the profit of all’, or ‘the common benefit’, or something such; the Vulgate below, OTOH, sticks with the Greek and does not elaborate. Now, I agree with the English translations, but I want it to be very clear that they have added something that is simply not (explicitly) in the original. Even the KJV does this. Now, of course the case can be made that the ‘for everyone’ is implicit in the Greek, and I wouldn’t particularly object. But, again, just to be clear, it is not in the Greek.

And another point: the word that I have rendered as “manifestation” is used in this only by Paul. He used it twice, once here, and again in 2 Cor 4:2. But note that the Vulgate pointed us in that direction by rendering it as <<manifestatio>>. Again, I’m not saying the translation is wrong; it is well within the parameters of the root word (which, at base, means ‘appearance’), but let’s just be aware that what we have is, essentially, a consensus translation of the word. It’s what seems to make the most sense, so we’ve all agreed that this is what the word means.

7 Unicuique autem datur manifestatio Spiritus ad utilitatem.

8 ᾧ μὲν γὰρ διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος δίδοται λόγος σοφίας, ἄλλῳ δὲ λόγος γνώσεως κατὰ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα,

For, on the one hand, to one via the spirit is given the reasoning of wisdom, but to another the reasoning of knowing according to the same spirit.

Note << λόγος σοφίας…λόγος γνώσεως >>. The word <<λόγος>> (logos) is repeated twice. In the Vulgate and the KJV and some later English translations, it’s rendered as “the word of wisdom…word of knowing”. Don’t know about you, but I’m not entirely sure what that means. Now, “word” is the base meaning of “logos”, but here, I think, it’s too literal (I also think the same thing about John 1:1). Some of the more modern translations render this as ‘the utterance of wisdom…’; however, to be honest, I’m entirely sure what that means, either. How about ‘the reasoning of wisdom…’? Doesn’t that sort of get at it a little more effectively? The word logos has an enormous range of meanings; it’s the -ology root on the-ology, ge-ology, anthrop-ology & c. As such, ‘word’ in English cannot begin even to imply the range of possible meanings carried by the Greek here. As such, over-translating this as ‘word’ is a disservice to the underlying meaning of the original by severely limiting the range of the semantic field.

8 Alii quidem per Spiritum datur sermo sapientiae, alii autem sermo scientiae secundum eundem Spiritum,

9 ἑτέρῳ πίστις ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ πνεύματι, ἄλλῳ δὲ χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων ἐν τῷ ἑνὶ πνεύματι,

To the other faith in the same spirit, but to another the gift of healing in the one spirit,

Comment deferred

9 alteri fides in eodem Spiritu, alii donationes sanitatum in uno Spiritu,

10 ἄλλῳ δὲ ἐνεργήματα δυνάμεων, ἄλλῳ [δὲ] προφητεία, ἄλλῳ [δὲ]διακρίσεις πνευμάτων, ἑτέρῳ γένη γλωσσῶν, ἄλλῳ δὲ ἑρμηνεία γλωσσῶν:

But to another the actions of power, to another prophecy, to another determination of  spirits,

“Determination of spirits” would be the ability to judge between them. This is usually rendered as ‘discernment’, and I don’t disagree, but I think this grinds the root of the word into nothingness.

More importantly, what this means is the ability to tell a good spirit from a bad spirit. The later church was convinced that the pagan gods were demons. Note, they did not say the pagan gods did not exist; they existed to be sure. Rather, they were agents of evil, and not of good. They could perform suspensions of the natural order; when done by Jesus, these are miracles; when done by a priest of Zeus, they were wonders. Hence, Josephus calling Jesus a wonder-worker was not exactly, or not entirely a compliment. 

[ The word Josephus uses is (transliterated) ‘paradox’. At it’s base, it means, pretty much literally, something contrary to expectation. The word Mark used for Jesus’ acts, invariably translated as ‘miracle’, is  (again transliterated), ‘dunamis’, which is ‘power’. Part of this is because our ‘miracle’ comes through the Latin ‘miraculum’. This word is actually closer in meaning to the original Greek ‘paradox’ than it is to our word for ‘miracle’. That is, like “baptism”, it has been invested with a singular meaning. In English, a ‘miracle’ has to be a good thing; that’s part of the a priori understanding of the word. Such was not at all the case with the original Greek, nor the translation into Latin. In short, there is nothing in Greek or Latin that catches the sense of the modern English word ‘miracle’. ]

10 alii operationes virtutum, alii prophetatio, alii discretio spirituum, alii genera linguarum, alii interpretatio linguarum;

11 πάντα δὲ ταῦτα ἐνεργεῖ τὸ ἓν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, διαιροῦν ἰδίᾳ ἑκάστῳ καθὼς βούλεται.

But all these actions (are) the same and in the same spirit, divided to each individually as it wills.

11 haec autem omnia operatur unus et idem Spiritus, dividens singulis prout vult.

The subject of the final verb is pretty clearly ‘the same spirit’. For once, it’s even actually in the nominative case. As such, I believe that the proper pronoun for the final clause should be ‘it’; the KJV, however, chooses ‘he’. I find this confusing, because that seems like it should refer back to those to whom the gifts are divided, but this is obviously open to interpretation.

So just to reiterate: it is very interesting, and very forward-thinking that Paul recognises that different talents are, or can be, equally valid and equally useful. This was not a terribly common attitude when these words were written,  and it’s this kind of inclusiveness that, I think, constituted a large part of the appeal of Paul’s message.

Now, recall that we talked about inclusiveness in our examination of Mark. There were a number of passages that seemed to portray Jesus’ message as one of inclusiveness: when he ate with the tax collectors, for example. But it never quite seemed that this theme really ever took off, or was truly developed, or that it ever really got that much attention. Was that a sort of half-hearted, or half-remembered reprise of Paul’s message of inclusiveness that we are running across here? This is something that really needs to be considered once again when we read Matthew. How prominent is this theme in the second gospel?

Summary 1 Corinthians Chapter 11

This is rather an odd chapter. The main points of interest turn out not to be the main topics Paul discusses. As a result, the main discourse, the main course of the letter rather gets shunted to the rear as what Paul intended as minor points loom very large in the subsequent history of the Church.

A good example of the lengthy discourse that, ultimately, is really only an insight into the views of the time, is Paul’s attitude towards women. At the beginning, we’re told how the man is the head of the woman, just as Jesus is the head of all humans, while God the Father is the head of Jesus. OK, great, women are, or ought to be subservient in his world-view. We get that. Nothing earth-shattering there. But the point of real salience, with the most theological impact is that Paul apparently sees a distinct hierarchy between the Anointed and God. Here we have a very clear indication, I think, of the way Jesus was seen by his earliest followers. In Mark, we saw a very definite ambivalence about Jesus’ divinity; turns out that this ambivalence was probably left over from the way Jesus was seen by Paul and his generation. Many others have suggested that, for Paul, Jesus only became divine, or even became the Anointed when he was raised from the dead by God. And remember the opening of Galatians, with its passive voice: Jesus was raised by God. So, as we discussed the idea of Adoptionism in Mark, who could be–and was–interpreted as saying that Jesus was adopted by God at the former’s baptism, so here in Paul we get what appears to be a definite case for Arianism: that Jesus was lesser than and subordinate to the Father. This is very, very different from “In the beginning was the Word…”

Another topic that occupies a significant amount of the chapter is the question of whether women should have their heads covered when they pray. To most modern readers, and certainly to me, this is very much peripheral to the topic at hand, which is how to be a follower of Jesus and a good member of the Community. This sort of artificial respectability is foreign to my thinking, and I lived through the end of the pre-Vatican II days in the Roman Church. It struck me as pointless then; it strikes me as pointless now. What matters is what is in our hearts, not what’s on our head. And it’s really very interesting to note that Paul, that champion of not following all the strictures of the Jewish law should get hung up on a detail like this. Again, though, there is a large amount of temporal/cultural determinism working on Paul here: men may be free, but women must be kept subservient and veiled. This passage would not have raised the eyebrows of many of the men who heard it.

We also discussed “there must be sects so that the true believers can stand out”. And the emphasis was on ‘there must’. John Calvin–who is one of the more interesting figures in Christian history, IMO (along with Jan Hus)–took this and ran with it in his commentary. Now, ‘there must’ can be read in a number of ways, and with a broad range of stricture in the ‘must’ part. Calvin took this all the way, interpreting the ‘must’ as indicating Divine Ordination of this. “Es muss sein”, as Beethoven said in his last string quartet. It must be. My sense is that Paul would have been horrified by this reading of his words. He wasn’t, I believe, making any sort of cosmic pronouncement; he was much more in a cajoling mode with these words. In this letter, Paul has talked about ‘being all things to all people’. We’ve discussed how this runs–and quickly–into ‘the end justifies the means’. Another way to put this would be ‘whatever works’. Here is a great example of that, I think. Throw out the idea of a dichotomy, and the use of the shadow to bring out the light; use the heretics to emphasize the true believers. It’s a way of diminishing their impact, or at least their importance. The heretics aren’t completely a waste: they can serve as an excellent bad example.

Really, though, the crux of this chapter is the Lordly Meal. Paul recites the words that we have come to associate with Jesus at the Last Supper: this is my body…this is my blood…do it for the remembrance of me. For centuries, readers of these words have taken them as a real link, and the closest link we have, to the living Jesus. I read them that way for years, right up to the point when I started discussing them in the previous section. Only then did it strike me that this may not exactly be what we think upon first glance. Perhaps, once again, Paul is putting thoughts–and this time actual words–into Jesus’ mouth. Again, let me stress that, at some level, I truly believe that Paul believed what he was saying. He has talked about receiving the gospel directly from Jesus, even though the two never met. Paul talked earlier in the chapter about what sounded like praying for guidance, which he then received. In short, I believe that Paul believed that he truly spoke for Jesus, to the point where he had no qualms about pretty much speaking on his own authority, as he did with divorce.

Given this, and given Paul’s comfort with ‘whatever works’, I think we really need to be careful about what we accept as genuinely handed down by Jesus, especially when it comes through the filter of Paul.

So, having said all this, what are we to make of this? It will come as no surprise that these words have been accepted as genuine for centuries, even millennia. So how dare I now, suddenly question the authhenticity? Especially since Paul tells us that he instituted the meal among the Corinthians, using the words he then recites that came to down to him from the Lord. He doesn’t say, however, that they came directly from the Lord, so we could take it that there were intermediaries, such as Cephas. But let’s stop and think about these words, especially those about the cup.

It s the cup of the New Covenant, sealed in Jesus’ own blood. Now, of course, this refers to the spilling of Jesus’ blood that was about to occur. The words are prophetic, a foreshadow of what will occur within the coming day, predicting that Jesus will be dead before the sun sets again. IOW, Jesus is foretelling his own death.

Now, this is certainly within the power of a divine individual, who knows the future. In the same way, it could easily be a prediction based on Jesus believing that he had so outraged the political authorities that he could reasonably predict that they would come after him and kill him. But if Jesus was a wonder-worker, who didn’t particularly see himself as divine, and who really had no reason to suspect that the authorities were coming after him (which, I think, is very possible, if not likely; more on that when we get to Matthew), then predicting a new covenant, sealed in his own blood, is a pretty bold statement. More, it’s an unlikely statement. It is not the sort of thing that a wonder-worker or a Cynic-style sage is likely to say?

In short, aren’t these the words of someone who already knows the outcome?

Remember, the approach here is historical, not doctrinal. The biographer Suetonius reports that, shortly before C. Julius Caesar died, people saw all sorts of portents presaging Caesar’s death.  As an historian, one reads such things and says, “sure they did”. And it’s no different for current-day situations. I remember when I was 14 and my grandfather died. The phone rang at 9:30 pm on a Tuesday night, and I immediately thought “Grandpa died”. No, I wasn’t prescient; the phone ringing at that time was unusual, so this tipped off that something unusual had happened. Gramps had been in poor health, so it was just putting one and one together. Jesus stating that the cup was the cup of the new covenant, sealed in his own blood is an entirely different phenomenon. There may have been a Last Supper, or a Last Seder (there is some discussion about this; some believe it was, some believe it wasn’t; I come down in the former camp), but it is highly unlikely that Jesus uttered these words. Even the idea of the body and blood is highly evocative of an animal sacrifice; but again, this is the sort of thing that makes most sense when one knows what is about to happen.

In short, I am very skeptical about the authenticity of the words. Now, it is entirely possible that Paul was told that Jesus had uttered these words, and Paul had no reason not to believe. They may well have come down to him ‘from the Lord’, in the sense that they were told to Paul by someone like Cephas, who had occasion to know what Jesus said. But it is more likely that the words were conceived at some point after the fact.

But, if Paul believed them authentic, that does not change, or affect the message he was trying to get across in this letter. That is what should interest us most. What does Paul mean? Based on a brief survey of commentaries, people like Tertullian thought that the Corinthians were having orgies or something; but Tertullian was one of those patristic thinkers who had sex on the brain an awful lot. As nearly as I can tell, my sense is that Paul is instructing the Corinthians to separate “the Lordly meal” from a regular meal. Rather than make the lordly meal one in which some dined to excess while others went hungry, all should eat before coming, and then partake of the lordly meal. In short, Paul was advising that the lordly meal should be symbolic, in the sense that, while all would eat and drink, it would be to satisfy a spiritual hunger, not a physical one. It should not be like a pagan sacrifice, at which people expected to be fully fed. Hence, what we’re getting is the beginning of the Eucharist in a form not entirely dissimilar to our own.

To close, I just want to mention a few other things. The first is Paul does talk about–or at least mention–the coming again of Jesus. This has been touched upon, briefly, a couple of times. But the idea feels like it’s a lot less urgent than it was in the previous letters. Has the idea begun to recede? Hard to say. Not necessarily, but it is not emphasized. In that vein, we also get some brief discussion about preparing ourselves by judging ourselves; this is the idea of repentance, but that is as old as religion itself. We are still not entirely sure, however, about the means (repentance) or the end (the Life?).

Finally, just a note to remind us that Paul is still not the most lucid writing going. Getting into the mindset of words 2,000 years old, written in another language, can be (is) very difficult. We need to keep this in mind when we start getting too confident that we know just exactly what Paul is saying.

1 Corinthians Chapter 11:17-34

The last section ended with a discussion about how women should cover their heads in worship, and men should not have long hair.

17 Τοῦτο δὲ παραγγέλλων οὐκ ἐπαινῶ ὅτι οὐκ εἰς τὸ κρεῖσσον ἀλλὰ εἰς τὸ ἧσσον συνέρχεσθε.

And commanding this, I do not praise that you come together not towards (i.e., ‘for the purpose of) the good, but towards (for the purpose of) the worse.

Comment deferred. This will pick up in the next verse.

17 Hoc autem praecipio, non laudans quod non in melius sed in deterius convenitis.

18 πρῶτον μὲν γὰρ συνερχομένων ὑμῶν ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ ἀκούω σχίσματα ἐν ὑμῖν ὑπάρχειν, καὶ μέρος τι πιστεύω.

For, on the one hand, first you having come together in Assembly, I hear there are divisions (schisms) amongst you, and I believe there are factions.

This was what Paul was hinting at in the previous verse; they don’t come together for the good, but for the worse. And, really, this picks up from Chapter 1, where Paul mentioned the divisions, without going into it too deeply. 

18 Primum quidem convenientibus vobis in ecclesia, audio scissuras inter vos esse et ex parte credo.

19 δεῖ γὰρ καὶ αἱρέσεις ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι, ἵνα [καὶ] οἱ δόκιμοι φανεροὶ γένωνται ἐν ὑμῖν.

For there must be sects amongst you, so that the approved ones become apparent among you.

First, the word rendered as “sects” would transliterate as ‘haireseis’, the root of  ‘heresies’.  Second, this is fairly typical of Paul’s (lack of) logic: that there have to be sects so that the true believers will be more obvious? And the Greek << δεῖ >> is a third person impersonal with strong implications of necessity. Or even Necessity; and it would not be alien to Greek thought to personify (and, in fact, deify) the idea of Necessity.  

This is a place where we could easily make a mountain out of a molehill. The idea here, I believe, is that Paul is trying to make lemonade out of the lemons of doctrinal dissent. I do not think he is saying that there is some Divine Plan to create heretics in order that the true believers will thereby be more obvious; however, these sorts of passages in Paul have been used exactly so by later commentators and theologians, specifically meaning Calvin. John Calvin was, if not the first, then the most forceful and the most successful proponent of Predestination among Christian theologians. He fully embraced the idea of double predestination, whereby God created some individuals with the specific purpose that they be damned, and Calvin uses this passage to buttress this doctrine. Certainly, that is what the passage says, or can be read as saying.  I don’t want to go too far into this doctrine here; the real discussion belongs in Romans.

19 Nam oportet et haereses inter vos esse, ut et, qui probati sunt, manifesti fiant in vobis.

20 Συνερχομένων οὖν ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ οὐκ ἔστιν κυριακὸν δεῖπνον φαγεῖν,

So you having come together it is not for the same thing(,) to eat the lordly supper.

The Greek doesn’t fit all that well into English. Grammatically, it’s the “lordly” supper rather than the “lord’s” supper because it’s an adjective rather than a possessive noun. The Latin is much closer to English.

Substantively, the lack of common ground is a further indicator of division within in the Community. In fact, it would seem to be the best indicator of problems since the “Lordly Supper” became the central rite of the early Church. It is impossible to say that it held such a role of prominence at this early date; however, here are a couple of things to consider. Paul did not mention the Lord’s Supper in either 1 Thessalonians or Galatians. And let’s remember that this is Corinth, a wealthy city where idol sacrifices were common. So, is it possible that it was here that the idea of the Lord’s Meal caught on? Possible? Yes. Provable? Not even remotely. More likely is that it took time for the Lord’s Supper to take hold as a practice. Further discussion on this topic will follow. 

20 Convenientibus ergo vobis in unum, non est dominicam cenam manducare;

21 ἕκαστος γὰρ τὸ ἴδιον δεῖπνον προλαμβάνει ἐν τῷ φαγεῖν, καὶ ὃς μὲν πεινᾷ, ὃς δὲ μεθύει.

For each brings in his individual meal to eat, and on the one hand, (there is) one who hungers, on the other (there is) one who is drunken.

Now this is an interesting insight. The meal was not communal after all. Rather, each brought in a box lunch, apparently according to one’s individual resources. So one goes hungry while another has a surfeit, and gets drunk on top of that. Not exactly an exercise in Community building. 

Etymology lesson: the Greek here is << ἴδιον >>, which I translated as “individual”.  The Greek word transliterates as ‘idion”; this is the root for our word ‘idiot’ as well as ‘idiom’. To the Greeks, an ‘idiot’ was someone who kept to himself, and did not participate in the political assembly. So the meaning is ‘private’, or ‘individual’. And so an ‘idiom’ is something specific a particular individual, or more usually, to a small subset of speakers of a given language. For example, in Rhode Island idiom, a ‘bubbler’ is a drinking fountain.

21 unusquisque enim suam cenam praesumit in manducando, et alius quidem esurit, alius autem ebrius est.

22 μὴ γὰρ οἰκίας οὐκ ἔχετε εἰς τὸ ἐσθίειν καὶ πίνειν; ἢ τῆς ἐκκλησίας τοῦ θεοῦ καταφρονεῖτε, καὶ καταισχύνετε τοὺς μὴ ἔχοντας; τί εἴπω ὑμῖν; ἐπαινέσω ὑμᾶς; ἐν τούτῳ οὐκ ἐπαινῶ.

For do you not at home have towards the eating and drinking? Or, do you despise the assembly of God, and are you ashamed of those not having? What do I say to you? Will I praise you? In this I will not praise.


Do you not have food at home for eating and drinking? Do you despise the Community of god, and are you ashamed of the poor members? What can I say to you? Will I praise you? I will not praise such behaviour.

What Paul seems to imply here is that he is actually discouraging the communal meal. He seems to be saying that it would be better for the wealthier members to eat & drink at home, before coming to the assembly. Otherwise, to bring in a substantial meal and eat it in front of those members who don’t have enough to eat only serves to provoke jealousy and resentment. It’s like the wealthier members are rubbing the faces of the poor members in it. At first glance, I want to point to this sort of social bifurcation as another indication of the pagan influence on the Lord’s Meal, but I’m not sure whether this carries. Somehow I suspect that most Jews were pretty much of the same class-conscious mindset. The prayers of the Pharisee and the Publican in Luke make me suspect that Jews felt much the same way. But then, Luke is held to be from a Greek background; of course, whether that is true is another matter.

22 Numquid domos non habetis ad manducandum et bibendum? Aut ecclesiam Dei contemnitis et confunditis eos, qui non habent? Quid dicam vobis? Laudabo vos? In hoc non laudo!

23 Ἐγὼ γὰρ παρέλαβον ἀπὸ τοῦ κυρίου, ὃ καὶ παρέδωκα ὑμῖν, ὅτι ὁ κύριος Ἰησοῦς ἐν τῇ νυκτὶ ἧ παρεδίδετο ἔλαβεν ἄρτον

For I receive from the Lord, that which I also hand over to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was handed over took bread…(cont’d)

23 Ego enim accepi a Domino, quod et tradidi vobis, quoniam Dominus Iesus, in qua nocte tradebatur, accepit panem

24 καὶ εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ εἶπεν, Τοῦτό μού ἐστιν τὸ σῶμα τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν: τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν.

And blessing it he broke it and said, “this is my body, which is for you. Do this in my remembrance.

And here we have it: the institution of the Lord’s Meal.

24 et gratias agens fregit et dixit: “ Hoc est corpus meum, quod pro vobis est; hoc facite in meam commemorationem ”;

25 ὡσαύτως καὶ τὸ ποτήριον μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι, λέγων, Τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐστὶν ἐν τῷ ἐμῷ αἵματι: τοῦτο ποιεῖτε, ὁσάκις ἐὰν πίνητε, εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν.

In the same way he also (took?) the cup after the meal, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, howso often you drink in the remembrance of me.

Comment deferred

25 similiter et calicem, postquam cenatum est, dicens: “ Hic calix novum testamentum est in meo sanguine; hoc facite, quotiescumque bibetis, in meam commemorationem ”.

26 ὁσάκις γὰρ ἐὰν ἐσθίητε τὸν ἄρτον τοῦτον καὶ τὸ ποτήριον πίνητε, τὸν θάνατον τοῦ κυρίου καταγγέλλετε, ἄχρις οὗ ἔλθῃ.

For as often whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, the death of the lord you proclaim, until he may come.

There you are. Having grown up in the Roman Rite, and now belonging to the Episcopalian Church, those are the words of the Consecration. And the nuns used to tell us that the Consecration was the sine qua non of the Mass; if you missed the Consecration, you had not been to Mass. And if you missed Mass without a really good reason, you had committed a mortal sin and were going to Hell unless you confessed it really quickly. 

Aside from the theology, what does this say about the Historical Jesus? Anything? As I was translating these verses, I was sort of wondering if this may have been something that Paul made up. I fully believe he would have absolutely been capable of doing such a thing, and subsequently preaching it good faith, believing wholeheartedly that he had been given the words of the Lord in a revelation. This may sound far-fetched, but it really isn’t. Paul was preaching to people a generation after Jesus died, in a country that had never been aware that Jesus had even been alive. There would have been no way for the Community in Corinth to know what Jesus had actually said and done.

And this is where we, as persons interested in historical process, have to understand what a myth actually is. There’s a Seinfeld episode in which George says “It’s not a lie if you believe it.” And that intimates what a myth is. Perhaps the better one is “if it isn’t true, it ought to be”. A myth is not meant to record historical facts. A myth has nothing do with facts. But neither is it a fairy tale, a nice bit of fiction. A myth is meant to convey a truth; or, rather, a Truth. Or perhaps even just Truth. “Veritas”, as it says over the gate of Harvard, which began its existence as a divinity school. On the one hand, there is no reason to doubt that Paul is faithfully recording the words of the Anointed; on the other, there is every reason to believe that Paul is making this up.

Look at the context: the communal meal has become a source of strife and division, giving rise to schism and sects. (Note: Calvin’s discussion on the different uses of schism and heresy is very interesting.) So then Paul just happens to have a quote from the living Jesus–not from the Anointed, but Jesus, before he died and rose as the Anointed–that will smooth over these differences.  Rather convenient, isn’t it? If Paul had been there, and implemented the communal meal as something begun by Jesus, why did he not tell the Corinthians this in the first place? Why did he not recite for the Corinthians the words from what has become known as the Last Supper? Would that not have been an appropriate time? Why did he wait until later, until the Community is riven by strife? Would it not have made more sense to do it before?

So these are reasons why, I think, we must, at the very least, question whether Paul is reciting words from Jesus, or whether he’s making them up. Much has been made that this is one of the few times that Paul actually quotes Jesus; shouldn’t that be a red flag right there? It should be, if you’re reading this historically, and not textually, or theologically. The fact that these words reflect what is recorded later–much later–in the gospels is taken as corroboration of this quote. But the argument is circular. How do we know the words here are authentic? Because they’re in the gospels. How do we know that the words in the gospels are authentic? Because they’re cited here. (And, BTW, this is the real meaning of ‘begging the question’.)  And here is where having folks with backgrounds in Scripture looking for the Historical Jesus really runs into the shoals. They don’t always ask the right questions.

I went into this passage with the idea that the words were authentic to the historical Jesus. Now, I’m leaning towards their genesis in Paul.

And just to mention, we have the idea of the Lord returning. Given the discussion about the bread and wine, don’t want to go into that here, but note that it was mentioned. Almost casually, almost in passing, which indicates, I believe, that Paul had indeed preached on this to the Corinthians previously. Probably many times.

26 Quotiescumque enim manducabitis panem hunc et calicem bibetis, mortem Domini annuntiatis, donec veniat.

27 Ὥστε ὃς ἂν ἐσθίῃ τὸν ἄρτον ἢ πίνῃ τὸ ποτήριον τοῦ κυρίου ἀναξίως, ἔνοχος ἔσται τοῦ σώματος καὶ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ κυρίου.

Thus, the one who may eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily,  he is liable to the body and blood of the Lord.

<< ἔνοχος >> is a bit difficult to render properly without either being unclear, or adding a bunch of words that aren’t there. The KJV does the former: “he is guilty of the body…”; more modern translations choose the latter: “he is guilty of sin against the body…” So take your choice. It’s difficult to argue against either approach. I tried to split the difference, which works if you think of ‘liable to’ in a legal sense, which is one of the primary definitions of the word.

Regardless, the point is clear enough. If you participate unworthily, you sin. So here is one of many places in which we can quibble about exact meanings even though the intent is clear enough. Honestly, since I’ve been doing this, there are have not been that many instances where a shade here or there matters. We have come across them, especially in the other two letters we read. There, we encountered a number of what I came to call “consensus translations”.

Now, having said that, let’s think about this. If we are unworthy, how do we become worthy? Or, does it not mean it that way? Here, I don’t think it does. It’s an adverb, so it describes the action, rather than the moral state of the actor. That’s not a crucial thing to understand, but given where the Church ended up going in the sacrament of Penance, it’s a distinction worth pointing out, however briefly. 

27 Itaque, quicumque manducaverit panem vel biberit calicem Domini indigne, reus erit corporis et sanguinis Domini.

28 δοκιμαζέτω δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἑαυτόν, καὶ οὕτως ἐκ τοῦ ἄρτου ἐσθιέτω καὶ ἐκ τοῦ ποτηρίου πινέτω:

For let the man himself make himself worthy, and in this way from the bread let him eat and from the wine let him drink.

Hmm. Let’s maybe rethink that last comment. We have to take steps, as yet unspecified, to make ourselves worthy. And, while ‘make oneself worthy’ isn’t bad, but ‘worthify oneself’ would be closer to the idea of the Greek verb. English tends to require  that we add ‘make’ or ‘do’ to create the action of the verb; Greek can contain the idea in the verb itself. It doesn’t change the meaning really, but it is a different dynamic and thought process.

So how does one go about making oneself worthy? The injunction, the command is clear. The practice is not. Once again, Paul tosses off something, and the words are left to sit there and grow into something that carried huge implications for future generations of church thinkers.

28 Probet autem seipsum homo, et sic de pane illo edat et de calice bibat;

29 ὁ γὰρ ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων κρίμα ἑαυτῷ ἐσθίει καὶ πίνει μὴ διακρίνων τὸ σῶμα.

For the one eating and drinking (makes a) judgement on himself (by) eating and drinking, not distinguishing the body.

While this is not quite a consensus translation, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher grammatically. Or, maybe that’s just me. Anyway, the idea is that if someone partakes of the bread and the cup–the communal meal–without a bit of self-reflection on the state of her/his own body, then the unworthy partaker has damned (brought judgement) upon him/herself.

Again, I don’t have the background in Jewish practice to know how much of a break this represented from Jewish practice. I suspect not very much, because John was preaching repentance from sins, and this certainly requires self-awareness and self-examination. In the same way, the idea of personal guilt had become pretty much inculcated into the Graeco-Roman worldview, so nothing particularly novel about this.

29 qui enim manducat et bibit, iudicium sibi manducat et bibit non diiudicans corpus.

30 διὰ τοῦτο ἐν ὑμῖν πολλοὶ ἀσθενεῖς καὶ ἄρρωστοι καὶ κοιμῶνται ἱκανοί.

Because of this, in you many are weak and sick, and many have died.

IOW, repent. Wake up and take a good long look at yourself.  Technically, the final verb is “sleeping”; this has often a metaphor for “dead”. And here the verb is passive, which is a bit odd, or unusual. Strictly speaking, I guess it should be ‘are slept’, but the Greek concept of tense does not always correspond to ours. Given all this, I think “have died” is probably appropriate. However, that leads to the even odder implication that Paul is speaking to the dead. How can they make themselves worthy? The answer, likely, is that Paul means this to include ‘dead’ as a category like ‘weak’, in which someone will have trouble taking the necessary steps.

This is, I think, of a piece with a couple of other passages that we’ve encountered, even in this section of this chapter. Either Paul’s thinking, or his dictation, or his amanuensis is a little muddy at times. Given that we ran into situations like that in the earlier letters, I tend to suspect that it’s Paul. We saw this in Verse 19, in which he said ‘it must’, in such a way that John Calvin took this to mean divine institution.  And then the idea of being, or making oneself worthy is not a shining example of clear thinking. And here, it may just be awkward grammar. But it all adds up to a certain opaqueness in Paul’s thought, and the cumulative effect of this can cause–and has caused– some serious problems of interpretation.

30 Ideo inter vos multi infirmi et imbecilles et dormiunt multi.

31 εἰ δὲ ἑαυτοὺς διεκρίνομεν, οὐκ ἂν ἐκρινόμεθα:

But if we judge ourselves, we were not being damned. 

At first glance, this seems like a nicely epigrammatic piece of Greek: succinct, pithy, and balanced by the two forms of ‘krino’. On closer examination, however, the problems appear. First, let’s look at the tenses of the two verbs. The first, << διεκρίνομεν >> is a present indicative active: we judge, with the reflexive pronoun, so ‘we judge ourselves’. The second verb << κρινόμεθα >>, is an imperfect passive. The imperfect is used for continued, or continuous actions in the past: “we used to judge”, or “we were judging”. But it’s passive, and negative, so “we were not being judged”.  This could be something like, “we were not damned repeatedly”,  as in, ‘over the course of time we were not damned by (actor unspecified)”. That is, the unspecified actor could have damned any number of times, but chose not to do so for reasons unknown.

But, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I get an inkling that it didn’t make much sense to St Jerome, either, because he started messing with the tenses and voices of the verbs. In the Latin version, as far as I can tell, both verbs are in the imperfect subjunctive, which isn’t impossible, but it’s odd. This would be something like, “if we should have judged ourselves…we should not have been judged…” But, basically, ‘sub-iuncto’ means ‘to attach below’, ‘below’ meaning in a subordinate position. The subjunctive in Latin is most often a subordinate clause, attached in a subordinate (dependent) condition to the main clause. I have scoured my conjugations in Wheelock and other sources, looking for some way that this form is not an imperfect subjunctive, but with no luck. First person present indicative active of ‘iudico’ would be ‘iudicamus’, which this clearly is not. It’s formed from the infinitive form, rather than either the present indicative or the perfect stem. That, and the ‘-emus’ indicate imperfect subjunctive. My conclusion is that St Jerome already found this construction odd some 1,600 years ago.

The modern English translations, starting with the KJV, put the first verb in the indicative present, but throw the second verb into the subjunctive: If we judge…we would/should not be judged… or something similar. We can quibble that the “would be judged” is a conditional, but that’s kind of what the subjunctive is in Latin, especially.

So the end result is that modern translations seem to have settled on a consensus here. I’m not saying they’re wrong; I’m just saying that the passage is unclear. But then, this is Paul we’re talking about.

31 Quod si nosmetipsos diiudicaremus, non utique iudicaremur;

32 κρινόμενοι δὲ ὑπὸ [τοῦ] κυρίου παιδευόμεθα, ἵνα μὴ σὺν τῷ κόσμῳ κατακριθῶμεν.

But we judging under the lord we are chastened, so that not with the world are we condemned.


But we judging (ourselves), we are chastened by the Lord, so that we are not condemned with (the rest of) creation.

The idea being that, if we take care of our own selves, if we are stern with ourselves, we will be saved, while the rest of the world will be condemned/damned.  So the idea of taking care to follow a moral code is pretty much ingrained in the thought. Of course, both Jews and pagans had moral codes, so this is hardly anything novel to the Community of Jesus.

Does this shed any light on the previous verse? I don’t think so. Feel free to disagree. Now, the thing is, I think the overall idea is clear enough: we need to be aware of how we behave in order to pass muster in the eyes of the Lord when he returns. But then, we are saved by our faith, not our adherence to this moral code; the latter term, of course, could be called ‘the law’, or even ‘the Law’. I don’t want to get into this here, but Paul is decidedly ambivalent about the proper course to salvation. Is it faith? Is it what we believe? Or is it what we do?

32 dum iudicamur autem, a Domino corripimur, ut non cum hoc mundo damnemur.

33 ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου, συνερχόμενοι εἰς τὸ φαγεῖν ἀλλήλους ἐκδέχεσθε.

So, my brothers, we coming together to the eating (of the meal) look for/wait for/expect (each) other.

I’ve begun using the term “Community”, because it’s less charged than “church”, and not as neutral, or as political as “Assembly”, but here we see that ‘community’ is a good term. There is a communal aspect to nascent church, and that sense is wholly lacking from the term “assembly”. 

33 Itaque, fratres mei, cum convenitis ad manducandum, invicem exspectate.

34 εἴ τις πεινᾷ, ἐν οἴκῳ ἐσθιέτω, ἵνα μὴ εἰς κρίμα συνέρχησθε. Τὰ δὲ λοιπὰ ὡς ἂν ἔλθω διατάξομαι.

If someone should be hungry, let him eat at home, so that we do not come together to judge. The rest, when I come, I will organise.

34 Si quis esurit, domi manducet, ut non in iudicium conveniatis. Cetera autem, cum venero, disponam.

The solution is simple: don’t have a communal meal. If you’re hungry, eat before you come.

So why then cite the words of Jesus, about eating the bread and drinking the cup, and doing it in his memory? Is Paul saying that members of the Community should eat for sustenance at home, then come together for the symbolic meal, as Christians who partake in the Eucharist, do today? Frankly, I doubt it.  At first glance, this strikes me as a very  anachronistic attitude. Upon reflection, however, I have to admit that, at some point, the ‘meal’ did become symbolic. By the Middle Ages, when the form of the mass had largely been set, the meal was certainly symbolic, where one is given just a piece of the consecrated bread (but not a sip of the wine. That would be a major point of contention in the later Middle Ages). Is this what Paul is suggesting? It does seem possible, but this is a question perhaps best left to archaeology; what sorts of remains have been found that might shed light on this? 

And notice that Paul is promising to return. He wanted to return to the Galatians, too. Did he ever return? Well, Acts would suggest that he likely did not. The question is whether Acts is trustworthy or not. I suspect it’s not. Maybe Paul did return to some of these Communities.