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.

or–

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.

 

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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 May 27, 2014, in 1 Corinthians, epistles, Paul's Letters and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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