Category Archives: epistles
In church this week, our parish had the privilege of having the bishop officiate mass. At the beginning of his sermon, he passed on a news item that I had missed. Apparently, Pope Francis made an announcement that the Roman Church accepts evolution, and this news was reported on all the major news outlets. Just as I was feeling all smug about having known this, the went on to explain that this was not news. The Roman Church has never really had a problem with evolution; nor did the Anglican/Episcopal Church, or most of the other mainline denominations. I knew this because the parish priest (or my religion teacher; don’t exactly remember which) had told me this when I was in high school a number of years (OK, it was decades) ago. I was told that the Church had no problem with evolution as long as you believed that God was the ultimate mover behind the process.
Before church I was having a coffee at the local Starbucks and the minister of the Baptist Church that is more or less next door to my Episcopal Church came in. We had had an encounter last spring which led to an exchange of blog addresses, so he came over and we chatted. I was reading (and taking notes on) Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God, and we discussed some issues related to the growth of the various traditions that developed after the death of Jesus. And this is, essentially, what I’ve been talking about in this blog from the beginning: how the set of beliefs that originated (more or less) with Jesus ended up as the Christianity that we know today. And, basically, this is what Ehrman is doing in How Jesus Became God.
So, from reading Ehrman, to having the discussion with Jonathan, to listening to the bishop talk about the view on evolution held by the Roman and Anglican/Episcopal (etc) churches, I was struck by something. Christianity did not spring, full-grown and clad in shining armour, from the forehead of God, or Jesus, or Paul, or the evangelists. In scientific parlance, we could say it evolved. Or, to put it theological terms, we could say that Christianity came to be through a series of revelations. Step-by-step, the higher Truth was revealed to the successive authors until the corpus of what we call the NT culminated in the Gospel of John. And this is exactly how the Origin of Species was revealed to Darwin: through a series of small discoveries that led to a greater conclusion. And note that “discovery” is a viable translation for “apocalypsein”, which literally means something like “unhiding”.
Funny how different paths, different metaphors can lead to the same conclusions.
And here’s the address for Jonathan’s blog: http://theosnob.blogspot.com/
Now, since he’s an ordained minister, his take will naturally be a bit different from mine, but he writes some interesting stuff.
I start this with fresh hopes that I will be able to wrap up the epistle in an expedient and succinct manner. However, given that I printed the combined summaries of Chapters 1-14, and it ran to 32 pages of 11-point Times New Roman (single space; double between paragraphs), that’s probably not bloody likely.
First, let me congratulate myself on my instincts for putting 1 Corinthians in between Mark and Matthew. The stuff we learned, especially in Chapter 15, was hugely important for understanding the historical process by which the early followers of Jesus eventually turned into Christians. The sheer amount of incidental historical information, and the inferences that can be drawn from what is said and what is between the lines is nearly staggering. This letter acts as a real historical check on the gospels. Putting the three epistles that we’ve done together with Mark will give us some really keen insight into Matthew. We will, with some degree of certainty, be able to trace how the stories about Jesus the wonder-worker turned into the Good News of the Anointed, the Son of God. Paul has not6 only corroborated that there were different versions of the Jesus story–he told us as much in Galatians–he has given us some idea of what one of these other traditions taught: that there was at least one tradition that did not believe Jesus was raised from the dead. Given this, I think we are probably justified to think that the followers of this tradition did not believe that Jesus was divine. The two beliefs are not necessarily connected, but there is, I believe, a strong probability that there was such a connection.
That there were different traditions makes complete sense. If you’ve ever seen the “Sermon on the Mount” scene from Life Of Brian, you will understand why. Standing at the back of the crowd, what they hear is “blessed are the cheesemakers” and “blessed are the Greeks”. This is, of course, wildly exaggerated for comedic effect, but it’s an exaggeration rather than something made up of whole cloth. Many people heard Jesus; many of these people heard different things from each other. When they told others about what they heard, these secondary recipients heard different things. And so on. Indeed, saying that there were multiple traditions is–at least, it should be–a commonplace; what would be truly remarkable is if there had been only one tradition. And indeed, scholars discuss the traditions that Matthew and Luke received, whereby they got the stories they share that are not in Mark. Of course, the most famous of these is the alleged Q.
Given what Paul told us about the other gospel, at this point I am more or less convinced that my reading of Mark was at least in the ballpark. I won’t claim complete vindication, but I don’t think I was too far off. I do believe that Mark was heir to two (at least) distinct traditions: a wonder-working human Jesus, and a divine son of God who was raised from the dead. In fact, I more than believe this since Paul has corroborated that there was a strand, a tradition, a group of followers that did not accept Jesus as divine. They did not accept that Jesus had been raised from the dead. I think that’s pretty much beyond argument, let alone doubt. Now, it is a leap to say that this is what the first part of Mark, the Wonder Worker Story (WWS) represents, or to claim that the WWS tradition was identical to the group that didn’t believe Jesus was raised from the dead. But I would hazard to guess that the many who ascribed to the former also ascribed to the latter. The two feel more like two sides of a coin than like separate beliefs. But again, go back to the multiple threads. No doubt that there were different permutations of the same beliefs. For example, think about what Paul says about baptism in 1 Corinthians. It seems like it was not something he fully supported. But given its fully Jewish provenance, James and Cephas and perhaps Apollos did believe this. But James and Cephas agreed with Paul on the resurrection. At least, we can, I think, infer this as a possibility since they all saw the risen Jesus. Given the animosity Paul has for Apollos, I wonder if he was one of the nonbelievers. Again given that Apollos disappears from the rest of the NT, this seems distinctly possible, since he was on the wrong side of history. But it is only an inference.
Paul tells us a good deal about the situation in Corinth in his lifetime.
In the same way, I believe we are justified in reading the second part of Mark as the Christ section; however, we cannot simply assume that it came to Mark by way of Paul. That is, we cannot be sure that Paul stood at the font of the Christ tradition that came down to Mark. We do not know a) where Paul got this tradition (or even if he was the originator); or b) the chain of transmission by which it came to Mark. Much has been made that Mark was not writing in Judea/Palestine; if he were a member of an expatriate Jewish family, he could have picked up Paul’s tradition from one of the Communities Paul established, or nurtured. Or he could have picked it up from someone else, like Cephas or Apollos. Or perhaps one of James’ apostles, who were possibly heirs to both traditions. We don’t know and we can’t know, barring additional evidence.
One thing that needs to be mentioned. I tend to suspect that the Christ tradition originated outside Judea. Why? Stop and think for a moment. The WW stories do not accept Jesus as divine, and do not accept that he was the Messiah. That is pretty much the definition of what separates Christians from Jews to this day. We have noticed several points at which the story has taken on elements that more likely came from a pagan rather than a Jewish background. The first is the idea of a son of god walking the earth, who then (second) becomes a dying and rising god. The idea of a son of god would have been immediately understandable to a Graeco-Roman pagan; Alexander the Great was one, too. Also, the dichotomy between flesh and spirit is very Greek. There are others, but these are perhaps the three major ones; rather, I think these are the most significant. These Graeco-Roman ideas meant that it would not have been necessary for pagans to overcome the aversion to a divine man and a dying and rising god that was felt by the Jews. In light of this, those passages in Mark in which Jesus tells the disciples to keep his identity a secret truly start to make sense. They are intended to explain why Jesus had not been accepted as the Christ in Judea; at least, this seems a likely possibility. On the one hand, Jesus is preaching about the kingdom; OTOH, he’s telling his followers to keep his identity a secret. That is rather odd behaviour for someone who is talking about a kingdom to come.
There are many other themes in the letter, which provide really good insight into what, exactly, Paul believed, and what he taught his community to believe. In this line, I think that commentators and scholars often overlook the level of pastoral guidance that occurs in this letter. I was not aware of it. Paul is a de facto bishop, carrying out the duties of later bishops; but Paul was doing it before the term had been invented, or the need for such “overseers” had been understood.
At this point there are two issues that require attention. The first is the summary of the topics covered in the chapter. There are a lot of them. My commentary on Chapters 1-14 ran to 32 pages of 11-point Times New Roman, single-spaced with an extra line between paragraphs. The comment to Chapter 15 required three installments. The other issue is more subtle, but probably more important, if less tangible. That is the assessment of how the information contained in this letter fits in with Mark and the other letters, and the clues it provides about the status of Jesus’ followers in the first few decades after his death. We will begin by dealing with the first aspect.
I prefer to take the subjects in order of importance rather than sequentially by chapter. Hands down, without a doubt, far and away the most significant topic in this chapter was the statement about followers who denied the resurrection of Jesus. However, since we have discussed this very extensively—if perhaps not adequately—in the summary to Chapter 15, I won’t follow up on that here. It’s only now that I look back that I realize that, by volume or length, the two topics that take up most of the letter are what can be lumped as proper behavior—with emphasis on sexual morality—and the topic of eating food sacrificed to idols.
Behavior gets the lion’s share, and sexual morality gets the lion’s share of that. There was nothing in Mark like this, in the sense of a protracted or extended discourse. Paul goes on—and on—at length. Sexual morality is a very, very big deal for him, to the point that I feel somewhat vindicated in my hypothesis that much of “Christian” morality is, in fact, “Paulist” morality. He is especially harsh on anything that can be described as homosexual practice. As such, he has had an enormous impact on subsequent history, and to this day we are still working out and divided by Paul’s strictures on this topic. I don’t propose to discuss this from a moral standpoint, but the historical context is very important. I made this point in the chapter summaries, that the Hebrews had the herder’s aversion to agricultural fertility rites, which generally included—or were centered on—what Christians would consider promiscuous sex. The idea was to procreate, for the same reason that farm families have a lot of kids: the more kids, the more land one can cultivate, and farming is very amenable to economies of scale. Indeed, this is part of the revelry of “carnivale”, something that the church in the later middle ages fought tooth and nail, and which was only, finally, squelched after the Reformation. The Hebrews had reacted against such rites among the Canaanites, and Paul reacted against such practice by the (upper-class) Greeks and Romans.
But sexual morality is a means; it’s not the end. The end is salvation. Paul says that sexual morality—and other types of morality—are the key to salvation, or to the kingdom; neither ‘of heaven’ nor ‘of God’ are appended to the term. And, given this in conjunction with the need to be sacred on the day of the lord, we are justified in doing a little reasoning based on the transitive property of equality. If a=b, and b=c, then a=c. We are told that drunkards and other practitioners of moral turpitude will not gain the kingdom. In other places, we are told that we need to be pure for the day of the lord—IOW, the Parousia. As such, since morality is the middle term—the ‘b’ of our identity–I believe we are safe in the inference that the day of the lord, the kingdom, and salvation are all the same thing.
Being honest, I am a bit surprised by how implicit all of this is. The central teaching of Christianity is, in my experience, the idea that we live a good life and we receive a reward of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. And yet, none of this is spelled out explicitly. At least, it’s not spelled out in a single, coherent, unified narrative set down in a single place. We have had to piece it together, Now, the failing may be mine; I may be the victim of overheated expectations. Perhaps I should have known better; the point remains, however. Now, a perfectly plausible explanation for this lack of coherence immediately presents itself: Paul was writing a letter to deal with real-world problems faced by a real community. As such, he really wasn’t taking the time to set out a theological position in what was essentially a pastoral letter that was intended to solve the community’s problems. An eminently plausible explanation.
But what about Mark? It is arguable that Mark’s intent was to provide the proto-Christian story, complete with all the details. This would explain why he chose to use what we now call the gospel format, sort of an enriched biography. It includes the figure of Jesus, something Paul doesn’t do. Does Mark set out the salvation narrative any better than Paul? Not really. There are bits and pieces scattered about, but nothing resembling a unitary, coherent, or deliberate narrative description of the idea of salvation. It’s all very jumbled together, much like it is here, with references to the kingdom, or to salvation, or eternal life, or perhaps the Life. Mark’s treatment, in turn, should make us wonder about Matthew’s treatment. How will his explanation of the process of salvation be handled? Will it be more straightforward? If so, I would suggest that this would be a major prop for the argument of Markan priority of the gospels. This is, admittedly, the general consensus, the majority opinion, and I feel very strongly that it is accurate. As I’v said, legends grow, they do not shrink or become condensed. That this is the majority opinion doesn’t necessarily make me feel more secure, since the majority opinion believes in Q, a belief I do not share.
There is one other very interesting aspect of the salvation doctrine. Think back to 1 Thessalonians 4, where Paul tells us that the faithful in the Christ will be raised up into the air to meet the lord coming down from…on high. This sounds something like a mass assumption, using the term used by the Roman teaching of the assumption of the BVM. If one reads this carefully, it becomes apparent that Paul expects this to happen to the faithful while they are still alive. This is not a teaching about an afterlife. The proof–and I use that term in its most definitive sense–of this is Paul’s explanation that those who have already died will not be excluded. Rather, they will precede the living when the trumpet sounds. This is very important. If the faithful are to be assumed heavenward while alive, there is no need for the resurrection of the body. The body will still be alive when taken up to the Christ. What this means is that Paul’s insistence on the resurrection of the body was something that only came about later. The Community of Thessalonika, apparently, had concerns about this. Paul wrote an answer to assuage those concerns. He did this by positing the resurrection of the physical body. Perhaps he did not mean this as a general doctrine, but the passage of time only increased the necessity for this teaching. More people died. Paul is still writing at a time when a considerable number of people who had seen Jesus were still alive, but that number was steadily dwindling. This made a resurrection of the body ever-more imperative. But it was not part of the original teaching of Jesus or any of his followers.
One of the possible implications of the idea of the physical assumption is the actual meaning of the word ‘saved’. We have discussed this; the root sense of the word ‘to save‘ is the preservation of the physical body. “To save one’s life” in a literal sense. If the body is to be taken up, then its preservation becomes a very important concern. So, early on, we are not talking about a disembodied spirit, or soul, going to its reward; we are talking about a body. And think of it this way: while we are talking about eternal life as a reward, the whole idea of eternal punishment of any sort is very sketchy. In fact, it has so far been nonexistent in Paul, and was only mentioned once or twice, very much in passing, very much in an offhand manner, in Mark. Perhaps the idea was that the body was saved as a reward for faith, but the bodies of those who were not faithful decayed in the ground. Hence, the talk about ‘being saved’; hence the talk about ‘being saved’ means saving the body so it could be taken up physically to…wherever it was going. We have not seen any sort of description of ‘heaven’. That does not come into being, biblically, until the Book of Revelation. That was written several generations after Paul, or even after the evangelists. Again, this will be an important them to note as we read Matthew.
The idea of an immediate Parousia, of the coming of the kingdom, of course, has tremendous implications for what Jesus actually taught. At this moment, it feels an awful lot like decisive proof–again in the strict sense of the word–that Jesus did preach an end-time that would come, and very soon.
Or, the other possibility is that Jesus taught no such thing at all, but that this is something that grew up later. I introduce this right now as a logical position rather than as a position or a case that I can argue. It is possible that Jesus spoke of the coming kingdom in very metaphorical terms, like the “prophecies” in Daniel, but that his followers–like, well, Paul–took this a step further. “Have I not seen the Lord?” he asks in 9:1. This was discussed in one of the summaries to Chapter 15, so I won’t belabor the point. In fact, let’s leave all this pending future evidence.
As for the topic of eating food sacrificed to idols, while this consumes a significant section of the chapter, thematically it doesn’t really require too much discussion in summary. This is sort of the flip-side of the discussion in Galatians. There, the discussion was about how far one has to go to accommodate Jewish practice’ here, it’s a question of how far one can go to accommodate pagans. Personally. I believe that Paul came up with a measured and very sensible response on this question. It’s not the food that matters; it’s the company. In particular, it’s the company of idols. My last HS religion teacher once told me “Roll in the mud, some of it’s going to stick”. And I think that is more or less what Paul had in mind. If someone has joined the Jesus Community, leave the old way of life behind. That is psychologically sound advice.
It is eating of another kind that we turn to next. This letter provides some really interesting information about the Lordly Supper, the Last Supper. The treatment here is a bit…confusing, or perhaps internally inconsistent would be the better description. It appears that the Corinthians are treating this like a meal, a full meal. And this is causing problems within the Community because the wealthier members are dining, while the poorer members are going hungry. From what Paul says, it seems that people are bringing there own food into the communal worship, or dining area? I end that with a question mark because the process and logistics are not entirely clear. I infer that the meal is certainly not prepared communally, or there would likely not be a problem. But there is a problem, and it’s another source of division in the Community. But then later, Paul reminds the Corinthians that he had ‘handed over’ the tradition directly from the Lord. He then sets out the words that Catholics and Episcopalians (at least; these are the only two I’m familiar enough with to speak to directly) are accustomed to hear during the part of the mass known as, IIRC, the Consecration.
There are two problems. First, if Paul gave them the tradition he received from the Lord, then why did the Community stop following Paul’s guidelines, and start following this other practice, in which the members eat an actual meal. Is this part of the ‘other gospel’ that Apollonius was preaching? Is this something from Cephas? The question is, in short, which of these two practices are authentic? Or, are either of them authentic? Now, Paul tells us that he received the tradition ‘from the Lord’. But, since he never met Jesus, he could not have gotten it directly from Jesus. He could have been told about it by Cephas, or someone who was there. But that is not ‘from the Lord’, but comes by way of human agency, and he claims he did not receive his instruction from any mortal. This is the third or fourth time that Paul says he got something from Jesus; in 9:1 he asks, “Have I not seen the Lord?”
This was also part of the discussion about Chapter 15. Paul is very willing to use Jesus–or, more properly, the Lord, or the Christ–as his source for all his teaching. That is another way of saying that Paul taught by divine inspiration. By revelation. This is not the sort of transmission of knowledge that an historian can recognize. In such a case, the historical judgement has to be that the words Paul sets down in the letter are not words that Jesus spoke. I came to the same conclusion when we encountered Mark’s version of these words. They are the words of someone who knew what was about to happen; they are prophetic. From the historian’s point of view, that pretty much means they were written after the fact. But when? Also, I was reading a piece by James Tabor, and he pointed out that the idea of ‘drinking blood’ is wholly contrary to Jewish dietary practice. In fact, part of what makes meat kosher is that the blood has been drained out. So in his opinion, it doesn’t make sense that Jesus would tell his disciples to ‘drink his blood’.
Which brings us to the second problem with all of this. From the way this is written, does anyone else get the impression that Paul is imparting these words for the first time? I believe they have that feel. Now, as an historical argument, that is–as my first year Latin prof used to say–absolutely risible. [ from the Latin, rideo, ridere, risi, risum, to laugh, so it’s “laughable” ] But think about it: if this is what he implemented, why does he need to repeat the whole process? I mean, sure, it makes sense that he would write it out so that they have it and can use it. I suppose. Because what we have to understand here is that Paul is talking about having the Corinthians celebrate a symbolic meal, rather than a real one. We have to ask ourselves, which practice is more in keeping with the mores of the times? Back then, sharing a ritual meal was part of a lot of pagan cult. When Jews have a Seder, it’s an actual meal; there are symbolic trappings, but it’s a real meal. Given these two things, doesn’t it make more sense that the symbolic meal was the innovation? And let’s recall that we began this part of the discussion with the topic of idol meat; is it a coincidence that Paul is providing instructions on a symbolic meal in the same breath as he’s discouraging the actual meal of a pagan sacrifice?
There is one other theme that deserves mention. This is Paul’s use of the body metaphor to explain how all members of the Community have a role to play, and all are equally important. Paul delineates some of the various gifts different members may have: speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, and prophecy, to name a few. Interestingly, prophecy does not seem to be a particularly awe-inspiring gift. The point is that this was a remarkably progressive attitude for his time. It’s remarkable enough for our time, when money and status still make some people more equal than others. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the famous passage about Love. As mentioned, “agape” is not a word used by Classical–or secular–authors. Paul has introduced a new concept of Love into the world, and he spends several paragraphs describing what this new love is like. This is justifiably one of the most famous (the most?) passages in all of the Pauline corpus, a staple at weddings. While the love between two people committing themselves to each other for life is not exactly what Paul had in mind, his definition of “agape” is broad enough to include this love, so this passage very much belongs in a wedding ceremony. The combination of this new definition of love, and the idea of a single body of believers, represent a spectacular innovation into the thought world of the World. These two concepts, which are arguably two facets of the same idea, is truly original thinking, a truly novel idea, a very important step forward in human thinking and belief.
To sum, here is a partial list of the topics discussed:
- Not a big proponent of baptism
- Divisions within the Community
- Rivalry with Apollos
- Sexual immorality, and the need to be pure to enter the kingdom
- Food sacrificed to idols
- The Last Supper, and the change to a symbolic meal
- Paul’s willingness to speak on his own authority, sometimes claiming it was a revelation directly from the Lord
- Multiple gospels; one includes the belief that Jesus was not raised from the dead
- The adoption of pagan ideas about a god on earth
- Apostles have a right (lit = ‘power’) to claim support from the Community. Is this the basis of the sending out of the apostles in Mark?
- Paul (unconsciously) posits a distinction between Jesus and God
- Marriage, of a follower to a pagan; Paul takes it upon himself to say it’s acceptable
- Women are to keep their heads covered and their mouth shut during worship; not what we would call progressive, but it is a rather harsh reminder of the times
- The Resurrection Body
There are others, but I believe this gets to the most of them.
And at long last, let us turn to Matthew.
At last, the final chapter of this letter. Since there is a certain amount of greetings and pleasantry, this may not take so long as it would otherwise.
1 Περὶ δὲ τῆς λογείας τῆς εἰς τοὺς ἁγίους, ὥσπερ διέταξα ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Γαλατίας, οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ποιήσατε.
Regarding the collection for the holy ones, in this way I have arranged the communities of Galatia, so that also I will do for you (= I will do the same for/with you).
Purely an administrative matter. I suspect, but do not know, that this was an extension of the temple tax paid by Jews. I suspect, but do not know, that it no longer went to the temple. I suspect that this has something to do with James request in Gal 2:10 that Paul remember the poor. It appears that Paul believed in redistribution of income.
1 De collectis autem, quae fiunt in sanctos, sicut ordina vi ecclesiis Galatiae, ita et vos facite.
2 κατὰ μίαν σαββάτου ἕκαστος ὑμῶν παρ’ἑαυτῷ τιθέτω θησαυρίζων ὅ τι ἐὰν εὐοδῶται, ἵνα μὴ ὅταν ἔλθω τότε λογεῖαι γίνωνται.
On the first day of the week, let each of you give beside himself (= each of you put a little aside), laying up that which will he has been granted to him (according to his means), so that there will be no collection when I come then.
The opening prepositional phrase, << κατὰ μίαν σαββάτου >> gave me some problems. Having looked into this, it appears that “sabbath” came to be a synonym for “week”. At least, that’s what everyone agrees it means. I suppose it makes sense, so I’ll let it go at that. There is quite a bit of slippage between Classical Greek and NT Greek.
Since you probably can’t tell from the clumsy translation, he is instructing them to put aside an amount commensurate with his income. The idea is to have the donation already collected so that there would be a collection upon Paul’s return, IOW, he’s putting them on an installment plan. This is a good administrative practice, assuming, of course, that it was followed. Otherwise, you would end up in a situation in which Paul would return and there would be no collection. Of course, that is probably what happened anyway.
2 Per primam sabbati unusquisque vestrum apud se ponat recondens, quod ei beneplacuerit, ut non, cum venero, tunc collectae fiant.
3 ὅταν δὲ παραγένωμαι, οὓς ἐὰν δοκιμάσητε, δι’ ἐπιστολῶν τούτους πέμψω ἀπενεγκεῖν τὴν χάριν ὑμῶν εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ:
When I come, if you may be allow, through letters I will send them to carry the gift of you to Jerusalem.
If it be allowed that he come, as in, God willing that I come…The money is to go to Jerusalem, it appears, since he will send the Jerusalem Community the money and note that the money came from the Corinthians. Since the money is going to Jerusalem, is it going to the temple? Or to the community there? I’m guessing the latter, since this is the promise James extracted from Paul.
3 Cum autem praesens fuero, quos probaveritis, per epistulas hos mittam perferre gratiam vestram in Ierusalem;
4 ἐὰν δὲ ἄξιον ᾖ τοῦ κἀμὲ πορεύεσθαι, σὺν ἐμοὶ πορεύσονται.
Because if it be proper and I go, with me they will go.
This is about Paul accompanying those taking the money to Jerusalem. Assuming, of course, that they trust him to do so. This seems to be a bit of micromanaging on his part; does he accompany the gifts from all the Communities? No, he can’t possibly. So why with this group? Does he not trust them? Is the “if I am worthy” sort of a sly innuendo that perhaps the Corinthians may not be trustworthy? Or that they cannot be counted on to collect the money in the first place?
These are the reasons why Paul is not a systematic thinker. This is a very practical, very down-to-earth bit of administrative effort. He has to expend time and energy on this sort of thing, which can be a huge distraction from considering religious doctrine.
4 quod si dignum fuerit, ut et ego eam, mecum ibunt.
5 Ἐλεύσομαι δὲ πρὸς ὑμᾶς ὅταν Μακεδονίαν διέλθω, Μακεδονίαν γὰρ διέρχομαι:
I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia, for I pass though Macedonia.
There have been numerous attempts to come up with an itinerary for Paul by correlating these sorts of things with the journeys in Acts. However, since I don’t particularly believe that Acts is historically reliable, I’m not really sure how much faith I would put in these attempts at reconstruction.
5 Veniam autem ad vos, cum Macedoniam pertransiero, nam Macedoniam pertransibo;
6 πρὸς ὑμᾶς δὲ τυχὸν παραμενῶ ἢ καὶ παραχειμάσω, ἵνα ὑμεῖς με προπέμψητε οὗ ἐὰν πορεύωμαι.
Towards you with luck I will remain and I will winter, so that you send me where I may go.
6 apud vos autem forsitan manebo vel etiam hiemabo, ut vos me deducatis, quocumque iero.
7 οὐ θέλω γὰρ ὑμᾶς ἄρτι ἐν παρόδῳ ἰδεῖν, ἐλπίζω γὰρ χρόνον τινὰ ἐπιμεῖναι πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἐὰν ὁ κύριος ἐπιτρέψῃ.
For I do not wish now to see you en route; for I hope to remain with you some, if the lord allows.
7 Nolo enim vos modo in transitu videre; spero enim me aliquantum temporis manere apud vos, si Dominus permiserit.
8 ἐπιμενῶ δὲ ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ἕως τῆς πεντηκοστῆς:
I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost.
I believe I mentioned previously that I only just became aware that Pentecost was actually a Jewish holiday before it entered the Christian calendar. In the OT it meant the fiftieth day after Passover. Here, I think, is a clear case of being able to take the Argument from Silence as meaningful. The Christianization of Pentecost did not start before the writing of Acts, which was a full generation after this letter. The word Pentecost itself occurs only three times in the NT; once here, and twice in Acts. As such, Paul’s casual use of the date is pretty clear proof that the story of Pentecost–as Christians understand the term–was a later development, not one dating back to the original group of Jesus’ followers.
8 Permanebo autem Ephesi usque ad Pentecosten;
9 θύρα γάρ μοι ἀνέῳγεν μεγάλη καὶ ἐνεργής, καὶ ἀντικείμενοι πολλοί.
For the great and strong gate opens to me, and those lying against me are many.
On the one hand, I chose to be more poetic, rendering <<ἐνεργής>> as “powerful”, rather than “effective”. OTOH, “those lying against me” should really be rendered as “adversaries”.
As for this, it seems a bit of a contradiction. The gate is open, yet enemies are many. Wouldn’t the enemies close the gate? I’m apparently missing the metaphor.
9 ostium enim mihi apertum est magnum et efficax, et adversarii multi.
10 Ἐὰν δὲ ἔλθῃ Τιμόθεος, βλέπετε ἵνα ἀφόβως γένηται πρὸς ὑμᾶς, τὸ γὰρ ἔργον κυρίου ἐργάζεται ὡς κἀγώ:
If Timothy should come, look about so that he be unafraid towards you, for he works the work of the lord also as I.
Not sure why Timothy would be afraid. I suppose, going into a new situation can be difficult even now. But think about back then, when Timothy would probably have to travel for a month to get there, and then walk into what may be a tricky situation, given the divisions within the community.
10 Si autem venerit Timotheus, videte, ut sine timore sit apud vos, opus enim Domini operatur, sicut et ego;
11 μή τις οὖν αὐτὸν ἐξουθενήσῃ. προπέμψατε δὲ αὐτὸν ἐν εἰρήνῃ, ἵνα ἔλθῃ πρός με, ἐκδέχομαι γὰρ αὐτὸν μετὰ τῶν ἀδελφῶν.
So let no one despise him. Send him in peace, so that he may come to me, for I expect him with the brothers.
It appears Timothy would be sent if Paul can’t make it. Again, the hand of the administrator, and it’s a deft one. He’s making contingency plans. Working in a corporation as I do, I understand the need for and benefit of such plans.
11 ne quis ergo illum spernat. Deducite autem illum in pace, ut veniat ad me; exspecto enim illum cum fratribus.
12 Περὶ δὲ Ἀπολλῶ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ, πολλὰ παρεκάλεσα αὐτὸν ἵνα ἔλθῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς μετὰ τῶν ἀδελφῶν: καὶ πάντως οὐκ ἦνθέλημα ἵνα νῦν ἔλθῃ, ἐλεύσεται δὲ ὅταν εὐκαιρήσῃ.
But regarding the brother Apollos, I have asked him many times that he may come to you with brothers; and every time it was not his wish that he come, he will be free when the time is convenient.
Bit of a dig at Apollos. He’s been asked to come many times, but has not. But he will come when it’s convenient.
12 De Apollo autem fratre, multum rogavi eum, ut veniret ad vos cum fratribus, et utique non fuit voluntas, ut nunc veniret; veniet autem, cum ei opportunum fuerit.
13 Γρηγορεῖτε, στήκετε ἐν τῇ πίστει, ἀνδρίζεσθε, κραταιοῦσθε:
Be watchful, stand in the faith, be manly, be strong.
13 Vigilate, state in fide, viriliter agite, confortamini;
14 πάντα ὑμῶν ἐν ἀγάπῃ γινέσθω.
Let all of you be in love.
14 omnia vestra in caritate fiant.
15 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί: οἴδατε τὴν οἰκίαν Στεφανᾶ, ὅτι ἐστὶν ἀπαρχὴ τῆς Ἀχαΐας καὶ εἰς διακονίαν τοῖς ἁγίοις ἔταξαν ἑαυτούς:
I also beseech you, brothers: you know that the house of Stephen, that is the leader of Achaia, and to the deacons of the holy ones he has arranged.
The bit about the house of Stephen is rather a parenthetical insertion. Achaia was a region in Greece, west and south of Corinth.
15 Obsecro autem vos, fratres: nostis domum Stephanae, quoniam sunt primitiae Achaiae et in ministerium sanctorum ordinaverunt seipsos;
16 ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ὑποτάσσησθε τοῖς τοιούτοις καὶ παντὶ τῷ συνεργοῦντι καὶ κοπιῶντι.
So that also you subject yourselves to them and with all in cooperating and laboring.
Instructions. Again, more administration.
16 ut et vos subditi sitis eiusmodi et omni cooperanti et laboranti.
17 χαίρω δὲ ἐπὶ τῇ παρουσίᾳ Στεφανᾶ καὶ Φορτουνάτου καὶ Ἀχαϊκοῦ, ὅτι τὸ ὑμέτερον ὑστέρημα οὗτοι ἀνεπλήρωσαν,
I am glad that upon the return of Stephen and Fortunatus and Achaikos, that your wants they will fulfill.
Not much to say.
17 Gaudeo autem in praesentia Stephanae et Fortunati et Achaici, quoniam id quod vobis deerat, ipsi suppleverunt;
18 ἀνέπαυσαν γὰρ τὸ ἐμὸν πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὑμῶν. ἐπιγινώσκετε οὖν τοὺς τοιούτους.
For they refreshed my spirit and that of you. So be aware who they are.
Again, not much needs to be said.
18 refecerunt enim et meum spiritum et vestrum. Cognoscite ergo, qui eiusmodi sunt.
19 Ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς αἱ ἐκκλησίαι τῆς Ἀσίας. ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς ἐν κυρίῳ πολλὰ Ἀκύλας καὶ Πρίσκα σὺν τῇ κατ’ οἶκον αὐτῶν ἐκκλησίᾳ.
They salute you the communities of Asia. They salute you in the lord Aquila and Prisca with the assembly in their house.
Now here is a point. So far, I’ve been translating ‘ekklesia‘ as ‘community’; here, I rendered it as ‘assembly’. Having a community in their house doesn’t quite make sense. Having an assembly, or perhaps better, a gathering in their house makes a lot of sense. Having a church in their house is possible, but completely anachronistic. This is why rendering ‘ekklesia‘ as ‘church’ doesn’t work at this juncture.
One minor point. By “Asia”, Paul is referring more or less to modern Turkey.
19 Salutant vos ecclesiae Asiae. Salutant vos in Domino multum Aquila et Prisca cum domestica sua ecclesia.
20 ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἀδελφοὶ πάντες. Ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ.
They salute you all the brothers. Salute each other (or probably ‘yourselves’) with the holy kiss.
“Salute each other” is an example of the middle voice. “Salute yourselves” would actually be the more accurate, but in English that comes across as too reflexive. You plural, salute yourselves plural; or, ‘each other’.
20 Salutant vos fratres omnes. Salutate invicem in osculo sancto.
21 Ὁ ἀσπασμὸς τῇ ἐμῇ χειρὶ Παύλου.
My salutation by the hand of Paul.
Here he literally means his signature. Now: the question is, did he write the whole thing? Did he dictate it and have someone else make the revisions? Interesting question, for which there is no answer. However, here he is telling us that he signed it personally.
21 Salutatio mea manu Pauli.
22 εἴ τις οὐ φιλεῖ τὸν κύριον, ἤτω ἀνάθεμα. Μαρανα θα.
If someone does not love the lord, let him be damned. Marana tha.
I have no idea what the Marana tha means; apparently, neither does anyone else. The, Vulgate, the KJV, & the NASB do basically what I did and transliterate it. The ESV and NIV change this to “Come Lord”.
22 Si quis non amat Dominum, sit anathema. Marana tha!
23ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ μεθ’ ὑμῶν.
The gift of the lord Jesus (be) with you.
Here is where “the grace of the lord” sounds ever so natural. The problem is, it would be really loading the word with modern connotations. “Grace” would best mean something like the “grace” in “grace period”, a period in which past transgressions are forgiven. Granted, that is sort of what the Christian idea of grace is, but the latter has too much additional baggage. It tips the scale too far.
And this is one of the rare occasions when Paul uses the name of Jesus, rather than the Christ. And, he uses only the name Jesus. There can’t be too many instances of this in Paul.
23 Gratia Domini Iesu vobiscum.
24 ἡ ἀγάπη μου μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.
24 Caritas mea cum omnibus vobis in Christo Iesu.
My love (be) with all of you in the anointed Jesus.
So, there we have it. Given the length of the last summaries, and the paucity of anything truly remarkable in this chapter, I am going to dispense with a summary for Chapter 16. The remarkable points involve the use of Pentecost in an non-Christian sense, the collection, and, possibly, the discussion of the ‘ekklesia‘ in the home of Aquila and Prisca.
If we continue to add parts to the summary for this chapter, I will need to write a summary of the summaries. This should be fairly short. Let’s have at it by starting with a question.
Is there any connection between the themes of the raising of the body and the idea of salvation? In this day and age, the orthodox answer would, of course, be “no”. The bodies of all will be raised and judged and sorted, each getting its just desserts. The question, however, is was that what Paul believed?
To answer this, let’s consider the verb “to save”. As has been noted earlier, when Mark used this verb, he most often meant “to save the physical life”, that is, the life of the body. For example, it’s the verb used to describe the healing of the bleeding woman; however, in that case it’s usually translated as “made whole”. So the word had this physical connotation even when Mark was writing several decades later than Paul. Even in Matthew and Luke, the word often refers to the body. Paul did not use this word in either 1 Thessalonians or Galatians; his use of it here is, remarkably, more ambiguous than it is in the evangelists. Here in 1 Corinthians, it may refer to the body, but the general sense I get from the word is of something else; however, it’s ambiguous. It could be taken in different ways.
When we read 1 Thessalonians 4, the part about rising up to meet the Christ in the clouds, what sense do we get from that? Personally, it seems to me that Paul is referring to bodies rather than disembodied spirits. It seems that way; but it is not at all clear, or made explicit that this is what he means. This in turn means that we have to conjecture or infer what Paul means from…whatever we can. The actual evidence for Paul’s intentions ranges from slim to none. “…it seems to me…” is not evidence. It is conjecture; however, if we only took a stand on what we could prove, then there would be no academic category called “biblical studies”. I tend to suspect that there is a correlation between raising the body and being saved as an individual. I think the latter rests on the former, but there is very little I can offer as evidence. This is something that I will continue to examine as we get to Matthew and beyond.
Somewhat tied up in this is the idea that the Christ died for our sins. But the connection is very tenuous. Or, rather, I think the weakness is that this is not a theme that Paul dwells upon; at least, he has not so far. Three of the four uses of the word ‘sin’ in 1 Corinthians come in this chapter; the word was used three times in Galatians, and one of them was sin in a generic sense. And, interestingly, all seven uses of the word in Mark occur in the first two chapters, and three of them relate directly to the Baptist and his preaching in the first chapter. The word disappears from Mark’s vocabulary after Chapter 2.
Why is that? Unfortunately, that question is rhetorical, because I do not have any real answer for it. I have suggested that this is because the word and the concept were strongly linked to the Baptist, and through the Baptist to the Wonder-Worker Jesus. Given that we saw that Paul, perhaps, was not so keen on baptism (Chapter 1), I still believe that this is possibly the reason Paul is not so keen on this theme. Paul does talk about living moral lives, and being blameless on the day the lord returns, both of which imply a concern with sin and both its avoidance and repentance. The problem for Paul, I think, was that the idea of sin was too much wrapped up in the concept of the Law and its ‘do this/don’t do that’ thinking, while he was concerned with the idea of faith; the idea that Luther and others would turn into sola fides. Notice the difference between how he talks about Jesus/the Christ dying for our sins vs the length in which Paul discusses the Christ’s resurrection being a victory over death. Paul begins the chapter with the former, but ends it much more ( very much more) strongly with the latter. Yes, the two are connected; but, as I see this, Paul apparently feels much more strongly about the latter. Of course, this could simply be something like confirmation bias on my part. I don’t think so, but it could be.
Finally, I’d like to mention the idea of the resurrection body. Perhaps this should have been covered in the previous section, but that one was already too long. It is my sincere belief that this section has the feel of something that Paul was making up as he goes along. I mentioned that the idea of raising a decomposed body was bizarre, if not macabre, to the ancient mind. I pointed out how this was made explicit in the story of Lazarus. Again going back to 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul seems to expect that the Ascension of the Faithful (my term; got something better?) would happen while people were still alive; that is, it would occur pre-mortem, not post-mortem. That was why Paul had to stop and explain that those who had “fallen asleep” in their faith would not be excluded from the ascension. A disclaimer like this would not be necessary unless the idea of the Ascension of the Faithful was expected to be something that happened while Paul was still alive. Note that there, Paul did not talk about a resurrection body for those who predeceased the Parousia.
Now, the problem is that words have implications of which the author may not be aware of when he speaks or writes them. This is especially true when the words are written when these words become subject to a great deal of parsing and scrutiny. Look at how economists still argue about what Adam Smith meant in Wealth of Nations. So when Paul included the predeceased, others started thinking about the implications of this. Wouldn’t their bodies have decomposed in the meantime? As Paul would say, “Of course not!” But, why not? Because of the… resurrection body! It’s a spiritual (pneumatikos) body, not an earthly one!
[Note: I just noticed the inherent contradiction in that term; how can it be spiritual and a body? In our sense of the two terms, they are more or less mutually exclusive, at least when used in philosophical discussion. ]
This is not to say that Paul was making this up as he was writing. Rather, I suspect that he came up with the solution previously, in response to questions before. That is why he was able to go on at such length on the topic. I think delineating this process is important, because it seems to show how the thought developed. Remember, as of this writing, there was not Matthew, Mark, or Luke. There was no virgin birth and no Ascension and no Holy Spirit, let alone a Trinity. Virtually everything we know about Christianity was still in the future, so Paul had to take care of problems as best he could on his own. The degree of his success in this task is remarkable. It has been said (at least by me) that Paul, like Augustine, was not a systematic thinker. Neither of these individuals had the luxury of retreating into an ivory tower and the leisure to think these questions through in a methodical fashion. Both were faced with the rough-and-tumble of actually running a set of congregations. In such circumstances, anything could happen, and often did. It was in such circumstances, one suspects, that the question about decomposing bodies arose. Paul answered the question, but that led to further questions, so the idea grew more elaborate. The thing about Paul, and this is something I get from reading him, is that he was not one to experience prolonged bouts of self-doubt. Yes, he often felt put upon, but he was convinced he worked harder than anyone (15:10). And yes, he has a tendency to feel self-pity (15:10), but he is not one to feel self-doubt. The good news was revealed to him directly by God, without a human intermediary. So, with God providing the answers, how could he go wrong?
Given the discussion about the Parousia, the Ascension of the Faithful, and the resurrection body, let’s go back to the question of “being saved”, and whether the implication was for the physical body. First, there is the idea in 1 Thessalonians in which Paul expected the Parousia and the Ascension of the Faithful to occur while he was still alive in a physical sense. This means that there would be no need for a resurrection of the body because the body had never died. Taking this as a given, as a basis for Paul’s thought, it is entirely consistent to believe that “saved” meant the physical body. Remember: Paul doesn’t talk about sinners being condemned to Hell. He is completely silent on the matter. As such, it only makes sense that “saved” should refer to the physical body. The soul would go along for the ride, of course, but it was the body–and not the soul–that would be saved.
Keep in mind that for the past 1,700 – 1,800 years, Christians have become accustomed to understanding a distinction between “body” and “soul”. In most histories of philosophy, this is called “dualism”, meaning that the human individual is composed of two separate and distinct (as in discreet) elements: body and soul are fundamentally and entirely different from one another, and the two do not mix. In developed, or mature Christian doctrine, it is the soul that is saved. I am not sure that Paul, and possibly Mark, saw it that way. However, let’s keep an open mind about this and examine further when we get to Matthew.
That should do it for this chapter. One more, and it will be on to the Matthew.
In Part 1 of this summary, we considered that there may well have been/probably were early followers of Jesus who did not believe Jesus had been divine, and did not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. The next topic, in order of importance, is a consideration of what Paul meant when he said he had “seen Jesus”.
This is another topic on which the conventional wisdom has settled based on a consensus reading of the various resurrection stories, especialy Matthew and John. “Everybody knows” about the empty tomb, and the man or men inside and the appearance to Mary of Magdelene. “Everbody knows” about how Jesus walked the earth for 40 days, eating and conversing with his disciples, until he ascended into heaven. “Everybody knows” this latter part, even though the story is only found in Luke. What no one seems to know is that Jesus appeared to Paul. That is in exactly none of the stories related by the evangelists. Why not?
The simplest answer to this question is that none of the evangelists knew this. It is not a great stretch to imagine that they were unaware of the existence of either Galatians or 1 Corinthians. But the tradition holds that Luke had been a disciple of Paul. Why was Luke, then, unaware that Paul had seen Jesus?
Again, the simple answer to this is that Luke was a disciple of a disciple of Paul, so he got the story at one remove. But let’s think about Luke’s gospel for a moment. In many ways, it’s the fullest of the gospels. Our conception of the Nativity is based, for the most part, on Luke: the census, the stable, the manger, the shepherds who were sore afraid at the appearance of the multitude of the heavenly host, all of which are only in Luke. And there are other stories about Jesus’ life that are only in Luke: the story of the 12-year-old Jesus teaching in his “father’s house” and the Ascension.
Just so, it is Luke alone of the evangelists who mentions Paul, even if it comes in an epilogue called Acts that is not properly part of the good news of Jesus. And Luke actually does tell us that Paul did, in fact, see Jesus. Sort of. We are told at least that he heard Jesus, and that the voice emanated from a light from Heaven that Paul saw. I would suggest that this is “Luke’s” interpretation of what Paul meant when he said he ‘saw’ Jesus. I would also suggest that this vision “Luke’s” interpretation of what Paul meant when he said that God revealed the good news to Paul directly, without an intermediary human agency. Paul was talking about a conversion experience, and “Luke” told the story in his own, dramatised, way,
And I would suggest that this is what Paul meant when he said that Jesus was seen by Cephas and the 12 and the 500 and, finally, by James and the apostles, and then Paul. When Paul says that he and others ‘saw Jesus’, I believe that he means that they understood, as by a bolt of light from heaven, that Jesus had been raised from the dead and was, indeed, the Christ. This is the essence of the message about the Christ: one “saw” him because the Christ had been raised from the dead after the crucifixion. Whether it was the seeing of the Christ that caused the faith in the raising, or the faith that caused the vision is largely a matter of conjecture, although I would suspect the former. I believe this interpretation provides the best explanation, and the best reconciliation for the apparenty contradictory statements made by Paul and Luke. They don’t contradict each other; Luke interprets Paul by putting a dramatic spin on Paul’s words.
What, in turn, are the ramifications of this interpretation?
“Seeing Jesus” was what distinguished the Christ-story from the wonder-worker story. The wonder-worker was a man; a great man certainly, an agent of God most likely, but still a man. In contrast, the Christ was divine, whether by adoption as Paul and Mark seem to suggest, or from birth as the later writers tell us. When the people mentioned–Cephas, the 12, the 500, James, and Paul–“saw Jesus” after the latter’s death would–or at least could–mean they came to understand that Jesus had been raised from the dead, that he was indeed the Christ. In some ways, this suggests an allegorical or metaphorical understanding of “seeing”, but I’m not sure that we use a term like “metaphorical” without being guilty of some horribly anachronistic thinking.
Remember Pelikan’s quote: “the sky hung low in the ancient world, and there was a great deal of traffic in both directions”. As RL Fox describes at length in Pagans and Christians, seeing divine entities was the stock-in-trade of numerous pagan temples, especially those dedicated to healing. There, an individual slept in the temple precinct in the hopes of being visited by the god, usually in a dream, and the latter would either effect the cure on the spot, or tell the suppliant what steps to take to be cured. And there is the famous story in Herodotus in which the would-be tyrant of Athens dressed a tall woman as Athene and had her drive a chariot and lead the aspirant into Athens. This demonstrated he had been chosen by Athene. Now, maybe not everyone took the woman to be the goddess in our scientifically literal sense, but the point was made–and accepted. After all, the woman wasn’t struck dead for impersonating Athene, so perhaps the goddess looked favourably on the enterprise after all.
The point is that the boundary between what we would describe as ‘natural’ vs. ‘supernatural’ was much thinner and more flexible back then, if it existed at all. I am suggesting that Paul “saw” the risen Christ in the same way that we “see” the point of an argument. I am not suggesting that Paul, necessarily, had a vision, or saw the Christ in a dream, but I don’t think we should take his statement that he saw the Christ to mean something like the stories told in Matthew and Luke. My sense is that Paul “saw” the Christ pretty much exactly as one sees the point in an argument: with a flash of insight that is nearly palpable. He had a conversion experience, even if it wasn’t on the Road to Damascus. I believe that this experience led Paul to believe that the Christ had, indeed, been raised from the dead, with all the attendant implications. In discussing Galatians I suggested that the conversion experience may have had something to do with understanding the difference in the Law and Faith. Now I suspect that I may have been premature; or, perhaps this new understanding about the Law and faith may have come during the time he spent in Arabia (Gal 1:17). For I would suggest this sojourn in Arabia is when God chose to reveal the message of the Christ to Paul without the benefit of a human intermediary.
And it is especially important to understand that I am not calling Paul a liar, or saying he was deluded. No. He truly believed what he “saw”. To him it was as real and as solid as the keyboard I’m using is to me right now, or the computer screen is to you. Rather, what Paul saw was True, even if we may doubt the factual accuracy. But, for Paul, the failing would be on our part for having such a narrow conception of reality.
To finish this topic, I want to discuss the order of the sightings. The first was Cephas. In Galatians, Paul told us that Cephas and James, brother of the lord, did not necessarily see eye-to-eye on some topics. Now, the complete expunging of James from the gospels is a topic unto itself. Was James not one of the original followers? Did he only come ’round after Jesus’ death, at which point he tried to place himself at the head of the Jesus movement? Personally, I believe he does survive, as “James the Lesser” in the gospel stories. I have little faith in the existence of James, the son of Zebedee; that was, I think, a clever way to replace the brother James with someone else of the same name. One of the arguments (using the term loosely) for the veracity of the James Ossuary was that the name “James” was not common. And yet, it appears twice within the twelve. I find that curious, and very suggestive. But the point is that Cephas and James had their differences; more, Cephas tended to agree with Paul, at least on the matter of the Jewish dietary laws. Did they also disagree–at least, at first–on whether the resurrection had occurred?
From an historical point of view, we must be very conscious that the idea of Jesus being raised from the dead was hugely important for any number of reasons. For our purposes, the most important is that this takes us completely outside “mainstream” Judaism. So, if James was intent on remaining a Jew–perhaps seeing Jesus as the latest Prophet–the the idea of the resurrection would have been a huge problem for him. He could not believe–or even accept–this and still remain a traditional Jew. Is that why James is so far down on the list of those to whom Jesus appeared? Because it took James longer to accept that Jesus had been raised from the dead? I think it might. Recall the rancour with which Paul spoke about James in Galatians; that seems to be gone here. It would be tempting to think that James accepted the idea of the resurrection between the writing of the two epistles, but I think that is taking it too far. More likely, James had conceded on the points of dietary law, and no longer insisted that pagan converts had to become Jews. I do suspect James held out longer on the resurrection than others since the list Paul gives clearly represents a time sequence. My suspicion is that this holdout may have something to do with him being ignored by the gospels.
When weighing evidence regarding what people believed in the first years of the proto-church, the context that we have to keep in mind is that there were different gospels, by which I mean different tellings of the Jesus story. This is not speculation, or even an inference based on the “two sections” that I see in Mark’s gospel. Rather, this is an established fact. Paul told us this in 1 Thessalonians, again in Galatians, and he has both reaffirmed and extended the affirmation here. He has extended it by telling us what one of these other gospels preached: that there was no resurrection of the body. This is one of those “inconvenient facts” that biblical (and other) scholars use to demonstrate veracity: there is no benefit to Paul to admit another story; therefore, the likelihood of it being true increases. A lot. Paul is telling us that there were differences of opinion on the most basic fact of the Jesus belief: that he was raised from the dead. It would be difficult to imagine something more inconvenient.
Two final points regarding Paul’s list. First, recall that I had serious doubts about the existence of the Twelve. The inclusion of the Twelve on Paul’s list is pretty clear evidence that the Twelve did exist; however, it does not prove that the Twelve dated back to Jesus. Given the confusion of the names in the lists given by the various evangelists, and the sequence of their choosing, I strongly suspect that the Twelve was instituted later. Given the association with Peter, I would suggest that this was something that he created, and that he deliberately chose twelve as a symbol of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. However, the point is far from proven. But what I think is proven by this statement is that the Twelve were not the Twelve Apostles. In Paul’s list, the Twelve are mentioned first and associated with Cephas; the apostles, however, represent a different group, one that is associated with James. And this correlates with Paul’s description that James “sent out” (= “apostellein“) what we might call missionaries that followed in the wake of Paul’s conversions. As such, we cannot, I think, talk about the Twelve Apostles, since they were pretty clearly two separate groups. Yes, one can quibble on this, and come up with all sorts of clever ways in which we can get this to work out, but I firmly believe that Paul’s description is pretty much conclusive.
The other point is a bit more subtle. Cephas is the first named. Paul was the last, and he claims the least. However, in a sequential list like these, the first and last names are often the two most remembered. That is why movie stars often opt for the end of the list when they are not the primary star. By holding himself for last, what we remember are Peter (Cephas) and Paul. It’s a very clever rhetorical trick, and Paul is not altogether lacking in rhetorical tricks and techniques.
There are a few more items that deserve attention, so I will save them for a third installment.
We are very clear that this was a long chapter. More, though, it was extremely rich, full of significant themes and dense with information. Nothing, however, compares to Paul telling us that someone is preaching that there was no resurrection of the body. And apparently this teaching also meant that the Anointed, the Christ had not been raised from the dead, either. Shame on me, perhaps, but I had never encountered this part of this letter before; however, there are a lot of parts in this letter which I had never encountered.
It would be difficult, I think, to overstate the ramifications of the existence of this belief. Jesus’ resurrection is the central tenet of the Christian religion. Without the resurrection, Jesus was truly just another wonder-worker. That there were purported followers of Jesus who did not believe that the resurrection occurred is startling. That this belief dates back to within a decade of Jesus’ death is both astonishing and to be expected. I say this because I believe it establishes, beyond reasonable doubt, that the Divine Jesus was a creation of a later time. Or more accurately description perhaps is that the Divine Jesus narrative became dominant, overshadowing the Wonder-Worker narrative, only after a certain amount of time had passed. If Paul did not create the narrative of the Divine Christ, then he at least pushed the ball forward and got it rolling with some momentum. Mark carried it, if perhaps reluctantly at first, forward far enough that Matthew was able to become the first author that placed a truly divine being in the center of what was by then the proto-Christian universe. The process was taken further, or at least reinforced by Luke, and culminated in the words of John 1:1: “In the beginning, was the logos…”
This reinforces, I believe, my contention that Mark was very much on the fence about Jesus. At least, it reinforces my theory that Mark received two very different views of Jesus and then tried then to weave, or weld the two different stories into a unified narrative. In the first part, more than a third, but less than a half,. Mark records the story of the Wonder-Worker. But somewhere around Chapter 7 the transformation into the Christ begins. It reaches a culmination in Chapter 9, with the story of the Transfiguration. In a way, Mark’s narrative echoes the transformation of the view of Jesus, the man of whom people still talked, into the divine son of God who was, or at least became, the Christ. For Mark, Jesus may not have been divine at birth as he was by the time Matthew wrote. I think Mark truly believed that Jesus was directly connected to God, and that Jesus became the Christ while still alive, but he was writing at a time when the story of the wonder-worker was still too strong to be disposed of easily. Or, more likely, I believe, he wanted to reconcile these two different streams into a single, unified whole, thereby producing a single belief system. Mark wanted an orthodox narrative.
So, like the Arthur legend, the story of Jesus grew over time. Or, at least, it solidified around the basis of Jesus’ divinity.
Because the fact remains that Paul believed, sincerely and deeply, that Jesus had been crucified, and that he had been raised from the dead. And he believed this a generation before Mark wrote trying to reconcile the two traditions. Many people have suggested that, for Paul, it was at the Resurrection that Jesus stopped being a man and became the Christ. There is probably some truth to this, and it would certainly explain Paul’s lack of interest in anything Jesus said or did before the crucifixion. The question is, did others believe this before Paul? That is a very important question. I suspect that others had believed this before Paul. For likely candidates, I would certainly suggest Peter, the 12, and the 500 brothers. I am not as certain about James, presumably that same James who was the brother of Jesus, and who led the Community in Jerusalem. But if context is to be trusted, James apparently commissioned apostles, emissaries that he sent out to talk about Jesus. James comes late in this list; James and the apostles come just before Paul himself. Was this because James, as the brother of the lord, resisted accepting Jesus’ divinity longer than Cephas?
We know, or can infer, that James remained more attached to the Jewish heritage than Cephas. Paul told us as much in Galatians and I see no reason not to accept this testimony. And the idea of a god-on-earth was not part of the Jewish heritage; it was, however, definitely part of the pagan heritage, and specifically the Greek heritage, at least from the time of Alexander the Great. Before that, the belief in an incarnate god was part of the Egyptian belief system. Then, men-becoming-gods entered the Roman heritage, as Julius Caesar became the Divus Julius, whose cult was established and promoted by Caesar’s adopted son and heir, Octavian, who became Augustus. He became a god, too. We have seen other creeping syncretisms with pagan thought: the flesh/spirit dichotomy; but even the idea of the god-who-dies-and-rises was a very, very old motif among the peoples of the Near East and Egypt. However, even a cursory reading of the OT demonstrates the horror with which a devout Jew viewed such pagan thought. Really, the entire OT is a prolonged jeremiad against adopting pagan ideas and practices, so it is not surprising that James may have resisted longer than others.
Given this, and given that no historian is qualified to make a theological statement, we have to say that it is not at all surprising that at least one thread of the traditions that came to Mark taught that Jesus was not divine. As historians, we have to assume the human Jesus gradually came to be seen as something more than human, ultimately becoming one of the Three Persons in One God, and the One Who Would Return, coming down from heaven as we rose to meet him.
So we should not be surprised that some, or many, of the early followers of Jesus may not have believed that Jesus was divine, which means that they probably did not believe that Jesus raised from the dead. These same followers may have believed that Jesus had been divinely appointed or chosen–at least in his own mind and/or that of his followers–but he was not a demi-god, let alone a god, and certainly not God. What is surprising–at least to me–is that Paul corroborates this. In the discussions of Mark, I was very hesitant to state with any degree of certainty that some of Jesus’ followers did not think he was raised from the dead. There is the final ambiguity in Mark that he has no resurrection story. This latter is not conclusive; it could have been lost, or detached, or whatever, but the testimony of Paul himself that there were such non-believing followers should pretty much put that hesitation to rest. We have, I think, as clear a statement about the status of beliefs in Jesus in the first decade after his death as we’re going to get.
Another question: why haven’t I come across this before? I’m not surprised, really, that I’ve never heard this read in any church I’ve attended; but I am surprised that I’ve never come across this in the secondary literature. JD Crossan didn’t mention it (IIRC), but neither did Akenson (IIRC). And I think I would have remembered that. It’s surprising that it’s not discussed more widely because the fact that Paul tells us this has enormous implications for the QHJ.
Offhand, I’m not sure what, exactly, those implications are, but that will come to me as I ponder this further. At least, there has to be some implications for Jesus’ apocalyptic thinking, or possibly a lack thereof. Paul obviously believed that the End was coming; however, he seems to believe it might be a little farther off than he felt in Galatians. Why? Simply because of the passing of time? If so, the question becomes, why did he feel it was so imminent when he wrote 1 Thessalonians? Was it due to Jesus’ teaching? If so, what part(s)? I think this does nail down the teaching of the kingdom as dating back to Jesus. Assuming this to be true, the question then becomes, what did Jesus mean by ‘the kingdom’?
There has been a tendency to associate ‘the kingdom’ with an eschatological event. That is, that the kingdom would come “at the end of times”. Or the end of time. And Mark’s little apocalypse in Chapter 13 seems to confirm this. Or does it? We see Paul becoming less insistent about the Parousia; was the idea of an End Time something that developed later? By this I mean that these stories began to circulate to 1) explain why Jesus had not returned; and 2) to explain the outcome of the Jewish War of 66-70. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul didn’t talk about a time of tribulation–at least, not like Mark would a generation later. Rather, Paul talks about Jesus just coming. There would be no wars, or rumours of wars, no seven angels with seven trumpets; just the Christ coming down from the sky. I don’t think I want to get too far into this right now; with Matthew coming up, that might be the more appropriate time. At this point, we will say that Paul had expected the Parousia very soon in his earlier letters; he expects it less soon now.
Since we’re not even close to being done with the themes of the chapter, I’m going to break. To Be Continued…
Now that the commentary for Chapter 15 has been concluded, I realize it will take a certain amount of time to write the summary. This was a very long, and very rich chapter, with seemingly a myriad of themes requiring long, involved commentary. So bear with me. After this, Chapter 16 will be a breeze, and then we can move on to Matthew. I am very much looking forward to that.
In the meantime, during a chance meeting that resulted in a conversation in Starbucks, I was asked why I use Calvin’s Commentaries. It’s not like there haven’t been more written in the meantime. It’s certainly a legitimate question, and it’s especially a good one, so let me just say a few words about this. It deserves a discussion.
One reason, probably the primary reason, is that Calvin was, in my estimation, a theologian of the first order. Not only that, he was fearless. The idea of Predestination had been around since Augustine, but the Church had always refused to take the problem head-on. Calvin was not so squeamish. He grasped the nettle and said what had been unthinkable: that God created some people only to damn them. Now, I’m not saying I agree with him here, but such a ferocious attitude has to garner respect. He had the courage of conviction to follow his thought to its logical conclusion. This wasn’t original; the implication had been hanging there for a thousand years, and Wyclif really spoke the unspeakable first, but Calvin didn’t flinch from unpleasant implications, and he made his conclusions stick. As such, I wanted to see how he pursued the other aspects of his commentary.
Too, our methods of approach are very similar. He set out the Latin, translated it, and then commented. And he translates the Latin with knowledge of the Greek, even if he does not set this out in dual form the way I have. At the time he wrote, his audience was thoroughly familiar with the Latin Bible, but not so much with the Greek. That knowledge was around; Erasmus worked from the original Greek a few decades before Calvin, but knowledge of Greek was not yet widespread. He was concerned, first, with what the words said, and second–but not secondarily–with what they meant.
Finally, he was trained as a scholar the way I was trained. Of course, the depth of his knowledge far and away exceeds mine; he probably forgot more than I will ever know. But it’s the method he used. He obviously sat through seminar classes–and then taught them–like I did, in which the words were discussed in conjunction with their meaning. As such, I feel an affinity of mindset. The difference is that he was trained as a Biblical scholar, not as an historian. That profession scarcely existed in his time.
This difference in backgrounds is part, perhaps a major part, of the reason that I have come to very different conclusions, and for one very good reason. In his commentaries, in most commentaries, the text is compared to other texts in the Bible; the commentator seeks to bolster her reading by offering evidence from elsewhere, whether OT or NT. This is fine if one is conducting a theological inquiry. It will not do for an historical one. Especially for Paul, one cannot look at things written later–even later letters–and assume any sort of continuity. For historical purposes, to get at the historical implications of Paul’s words and thought, he has to be read in a vacuum, disregarding everything else in the NT. For none of it existed. Paul will be relevant for examination of later writers, but later writers cannot illuminate Paul. We will have to consider whether Paul influenced the later writers, but the evangelists did not influence Paul. Later writers will show us where the thought went as it developed, but they do not shed light onto the time and the thought milieu in which Paul wrote. So there, I must part ways with M Calvin. But I have enjoyed the time I’ve spent with him on the journey.
None of this is meant to imply that there is not a lot to be learned from other commentators. There certainly is. And I pick up things in sermons, too, and good things. This past Sunday’s sermon included the insight that the feeding of the 5,000 was the first church pot luck supper. Brilliant insight. I try to read as much as possible, but, unfortunately, given a day job and a family, what is possible does not always extend very far.
So we (finally) conclude Chapter 15. The previous section got too long, so I had to break it up. This section is fairly short. Chapter 15 has been a very long chapter. However, this is the penultimate chapter, and the ultimate is fairly–or at least relatively–short.
50 Τοῦτο δέ φημι, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα βασιλείαν θεοῦ κληρονομῆσαι οὐ δύναται, οὐδὲ ἡ φθορὰ τὴν ἀφθαρσίαν κληρονομεῖ.
But I say all this, brothers, that flesh and blood are not able to inherit the kingdom of God, nor are corruption and in-corruption able to inherit (i.e., the kingdom of God).
This is an interesting statement. Really, Paul is simply taking the position that he has laid out to the next level. He has said, several times, that the faithful must be spiritual and not tied to the things of the flesh, to worldly matters. And so, it makes sense that the flesh and blood, with their concomitant and inevitable corruption should not inherit the kingdom. But this also puts something of a new twist on the idea, now that we have been told about the spiritual bodies.
This also has implications for the quest for the historical Jesus. This tells us that preaching the kingdom probably does date back to Jesus himself. At least, the implication is there; however, given Paul’s willingness to go off the reservation and create his own doctrine (which is also, in the final analysis, only an inference based mostly on implication), we cannot be entirely certain. Despite this, I would put the probability as better than 75% that it does represent a part of Jesus’ teaching.
That being said, we have to ask how much of what Paul is saying coincides with anything that Jesus said. The probability of that, I think, goes way down. We can take it as given, I believe that Jesus preached a kingdom to come. That would follow pretty much a priori from the preaching of the kingdom. The question becomes, was Jesus’ kingdom to be of this world? Or was it to be something spiritual. Given this statement, I think Jesus was unclear on that, which makes me suspect that Jesus was preaching a kingdom of this world. That is, he was preaching a standard-issue sort of kingdom. I believe this to be a valid inference, very similar to Jesus’ lack of preaching about dietary laws: that there was an issue indicates that Jesus did not say anything about the topic. And so here, that Paul has to make this clarification is a very–very–strong indication that Jesus said nothing about a spiritual kingdom. His kingdom was to be of this world.
Which, in turn, implies a Messiah that was not divine, even if he had been selected by God. Honestly, this is not surprising. Jesus preaching about a human Messiah selected by God would put him squarely into Jewish tradition. The Messiah was to be a new David, which is why there came to be so much stress on Jesus being a scion of the house of David. It was only as time passed and the kingdom did not appear that explanations were required. And really, the language here, I think, is noticeably different from the language of 1 Thessalonians. There was nothing in the tale of the faithful being raised up to meet the Anointed that our bodies would be spiritual. Rather, Paul says nothing about it. Granted, if there’s one thing I learned it in Classics, it’s that the Argument from Silence is a very dangerous thing. However, when Paul goes to the other extreme, I think we can take this to mean that, in places, the silence has enormous implications.
What all of this means is that we are here getting the seeds of the doctrine of a spiritual, rather than a worldly kingdom. Later Christian thought, which reaches us in our own day, of a Kingdom of Heaven that will occur in the afterlife, or at the End Of The World, and be a spiritual kingdom, rather than a worldly one like that of the Romans.
50 Hoc autem dico, fratres, quoniam caro et sanguis regnum Dei possidere non possunt, neque corruptio incorruptelam possidebit.
51 ἰδοὺ μυστήριον ὑμῖν λέγω: πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα, πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησόμεθα,
Behold the mystery I relate to you: not all who have fallen asleep, but we all who have been changed.
And again we must ask what the silence means. Does it mean anything? Not all who die will inherit, but only those who have been transformed. This is fine, but what doesn’t it say? It doesn’t say anything about what will happen to those who have not been transformed. That is, there is no mention of a lake of fire or any of the other images of Hell, or even that the untransformed will even go anywhere. What it sounds like is that the untransformed will simply not be raised. Now, I sneaked a peek ahead, and this may hold, but bear it in mind as we proceed.
51 Ecce mysterium vobis dico: Non omnes quidem dormiemus, sed omnes immutabimur,
52 ἐν ἀτόμῳ, ἐν ῥιπῇ ὀφθαλμοῦ, ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ σάλπιγγι: σαλπίσει γάρ, καὶ οἱ νεκροὶ ἐγερθήσονται ἄφθαρτοι, καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀλλαγησόμεθα.
In a tiny indivisible particle of time, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet; for a trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised uncorrupted, and we will be transformed.
OK, sorry, couldn’t resist. The first two words of the sentence are ‘en atomo’…Transliterated like this, it’s obviously the word from which we got ‘atoms’. In fact, ‘atom’ is a transliteration and not a translation. It simply means ‘indivisible’; and it has always blown my mind that some dude 2,000+ years ago simply deduced that this had to be the way matter was constructed. Now, the fact that we used the word to designate something that can be further divided does not detract from the beauty of this deduction. That what we call ‘quarks’ are a better candidate for the term ‘atoms’ takes nothing from Demosthenes. But the sense that Paul is trying to get across is that this will occur in the smallest amount of time possible. The time span is so small that it’s indivisible.
Secondly, “the trumpet will sound” does not exactly capture the Greek. “There will be a trumpeting” is actually better. The verb is ‘to trumpet’.
Finally, the message of the verse. This basic image has become enshrined and elaborated as the Last Judgement. Revelation picks up on this idea of the trumpet; and adds six more, in addition to seals, phials, & c. Two things: first, note the span of time so small that it’s indivisible. This is very different from the 1,000 year reign of the Antichrist, or even the extended days of tribulation described by Mark. What does this mean? It means, I think, that this is an excellent example of how stories grow with the telling. New sections are created, details are added, the story grows by becoming more elaborate.
I keep coming back to the Arthur legend, and for two reasons: 1) I know it very well, including its historical basis; and 2) it is so appropriate. Launcelot, Parzifal, Bors, all of these characters were invented by later minstrels and bards. Think of the elaboration of the saints, all the stories that developed–were invented–later. Doubting Thomas, who went to India (?) and became Jesus’ twin; Peter crucified upside down; St Christopher who carried the Christ-child. This invention was still going strong in 15th Century England when new saints dressed as old ones appeared, whose cult grew despite the lack of evidence that the particular saint ever lived. Or then, there’s the Song of Roland, based on an actual historical event. We know enough of the real history to know that the Chanson got the enemy wrong. So yes, the Arthur legend is an excellent example of what happens in retelling.
52 in momento, in ictu oculi, in novissima tuba; canet enim, et mortui suscitabuntur incorrupti, et nos immutabimur.
53 δεῖ γὰρ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀθανασίαν.
For this corruptible (body) must put on (one that is) incorruptible, and this mortal (body) must put on (one that is) immortal.
I actually meant to discuss the bit about the dead being raised in the discussion of the last verse, but it’s probably more appropriate here. Dow, do you get the sense from …the dead will be raised…that he only means ‘the faithful’? Honestly, by not excluding, does he imply that all will be raised? I don’t think it follows necessarily that only the faithful will rise, but it’s not really a stretch to take it that way, either. Now, we are told that the corruptible/mortal body must become incorruptible/immortal. To do what? To be raised? Or to inherit the kingdom?
We are conditioned to think in terms of all the dead being raised so that the guilty can be sent to Hell for punishment. Or am I completely misunderstanding how this works? Because Paul is does not seem to be saying anything like that here; there is no mention of punishment. I’m not quite sure how to take this. Again, I believe this is largely because Paul was not clear in his own mind about how this was going to work. Earlier, he had supposed the Parousia would occur soon. Now that time has continued to pass, more people who were faithful in the Christ have fallen asleep. This more or less compelled him, I think, to start coming up with alternatives. And perhaps it was especially imperative to do this here and now, since there is a teaching in the Community at Corinth that the dead are not to be raised. Paul has to counteract that, and quickly.
53 Oportet enim corruptibile hoc induere incorruptelam, et mortale induere immortalitatem.
54 ὅταν δὲ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀθανασίαν, τότε γενήσεται ὁ λόγος ὁ γεγραμμένος, Κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος.
When this corruption puts on incorruptibility and this mortality puts on immortality, then will be the word that has been written, “death has been devoured on the way to victory.”
The participle << εἰςεἰς >> usually has the sense of motion toward. But the motion is often figurative, so when paired with a verb it’s something like a gerund. Here, it’s paired with the noun for ‘victory’, so I chose “on the way to”. This puts across the sense of motion. And this is a cite of, or reference to Isaiah 25:8. This time, it’s the original Isaiah, and it talks about the destruction of death, and the subsequent alleviation of the misery of people.
I’m no OT scholar. Or an NT scholar for that matter. But the cite/ref (it’s not an exact quote, as far as I can tell) is situated in the middle of how the Lord is going to destroy the earth, and then raise up a banquet for all the peoples, at which time death will be destroyed forever (REB paraphrase). Then we are told that Moab will be destroyed to the benefit of Israel/Judah. Given this, the context seems to be more of a this-world, rather than an other-world scenario, in which life will be eternal. So we see how Paul is forging the connection between the two scriptures, and that Isaiah is one of the ones referred to the most.
54 Cum autem corruptibile hoc induerit incorruptelam, et mortale hoc induerit immortalitatem, tunc fiet sermo, qui scriptus est: “ Absorpta est mors in victoria.
55 ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸνῖκος; ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ κέντρον;
“Where (is) yours, death? Where is your sting?”
Per the Vulgate below, this should read: ‘Where is your victory, death?’ And, given the context, I agree.
This second question is a reasonably direct quote from Hosea 13:14. Now, here’s a bit of a sticky wicket. My REB translates the beginning of 13:14 as “shall I redeem him from the grave?” This refers to Ephraim, presumably, a child too foolish to present himself at the opening of the womb at the proper time. Now M Calvin, and my NIV translate this as “I will redeem them…” The plural refers to people, a people. Now, I have to say that the REB is pretty much alone on this; the KJV, NASB, and ESV all follow the NIV.
The thing is, the REB’s reading makes this feel very ironic, because the author seems to be saying that Ephraim is a chucklehead, and is beseeching death to come sting him. But, I think that is all an interesting sidelight; given the way Paul uses the quote, I believe he is reading it with the majority of English translations. But, once again, just because we’ve been reading this book for a few thousand years doesn’t mean we have it right.
55 Ubi est, mors, victoria tua? / Ubi est, mors, stimulus tuus? ”.
56 τὸ δὲ κέντρον τοῦ θανάτου ἡ ἁμαρτία, ἡ δὲ δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ νόμος:
But the sting of death (is) the sin, the power is sin is the law.
Now we’re back to the Law.
56 Stimulus autem mortis peccatum est, virtus vero peccati lex.
57 τῷ δὲ θεῷ χάρις τῷ διδόντι ἡμῖν τὸ νῖκος διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.
But thanks to God, by whom is given to us the victory through our lord Jesus the Anointed.
57 Deo autem gratias, qui dedit nobis victoriam per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum.
58 Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί, ἑδραῖοι γίνεσθε, ἀμετακίνητοι, περισσεύοντες ἐν τῷ ἔργῳ τοῦ κυρίου πάντοτε, εἰδότες ὅτι ὁκόπος ὑμῶν οὐκ ἔστιν κενὸς ἐν κυρίῳ.
In this way, my beloved brothers, become steadfast, immovable, abounding in the work of the lord always, (so) you know that your labour in the lord is not vain.
58 Itaque, fratres mei dilecti, stabiles estote, immobiles, abundantes in opere Domini semper, scientes quod labor vester non est inanis in Domino.
I really don’t get the part about the Law. Death has no sting, by the grace of God, our victory over death through the Anointed, be immovable–meaning, stick with my gospel, not that of someone else–and your efforts will be rewarded. My sense is that this jab at the Law, which he calls the power of sin, is a reference to whomever it was that was telling the Community that the dead do not rise. That is why they are to remain steadfast and immovable, so that they resist the seduction of this other message.
By which I ask: the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the body, as we are told by Josephus. Was Apollos a Sadducee? It’s possible, but likely not necessary. At this point in history, not believing in the resurrection of the body was the majority opinion. It is Paul who is in the minority. Perhaps not among Jews, nor among followers of Jesus, but a minority in the wider world that included the pagans.
One thing I would like to note. I have been told, countless times, that the followers of Jesus described themselves as followers of The Way. And yet, this term has not come up even once in three letters. That is the sort of situation in which, I think, the argument from silence is likely to be valid, rather than spurious. But this will be an ongoing discussion.
My intent was to push through to the end of the chapter, but this simple got to be too long, so I broke it into two not very equal parts.
35 Ἀλλὰ ἐρεῖ τις, Πῶς ἐγείρονται οἱ νεκροί; ποίῳ δὲ σώματι ἔρχονται;
But if someone says, “How are the dead raised? In what sort of body do they come?”
This is getting down to brass tacks, here. These are truly theological inquiries. But the thing to note is that these questions imply a teaching that the body rises, or is raised. This is not metaphorical. It’s literal. That is a very significant development.
35 Sed dicet aliquis: “Quomodo resurgunt mortui? Quali autem corpore veniunt?”.
36 ἄφρων, σὺ ὃ σπείρεις οὐ ζῳοποιεῖται ἐὰν μὴ ἀποθάνῃ:
Fools, you, what you sow, is not made-alive if it has not died. (…is not made alive is a very literal rendering of the compound <<ζῳοποιεῖται>>)
A serious question was posed, and the response borders on an ad hominem attack or simple irrelevance. But let’s read on.
36 Insipiens! Tu, quod seminas, non vivificatur, nisi prius moriatur;
37 καὶ ὃ σπείρεις, οὐ τὸ σῶμα τὸ γενησόμενον σπείρεις ἀλλὰ γυμνὸν κόκκον εἰ τύχοι σίτου ἤ τινος τῶν λοιπῶν:
And what you sow, is not the body that the seed becomes, but the naked grain, if perchance of wheat, or of something of the rest (i.e., something else).
This is the second time that Paul has used the analogy of seed. The first was back in Chapter 3 when Paul was talking about how he had planted the seed and Apollos had tended it. Of course the sower and the seed is a famous parable, appearing in all three synoptics. Now, the question is, did Paul get this analogy from stories of Jesus? Or, did Paul create the analogy? Or, was the analogy fairly common for the time and place? The answer to this question is important; it’s also virtually unknowable. Once again, if Paul got it from Jesus, why doesn’t he say so? …As the Lord said…Wouldn’t that carry some weight? Perhaps, but this is also the sort of argument that I’m going to contradict when we get to Matthew, or certainly to Luke. It’s an “argument” based on one’s suppositions about what an author would do with information that is at his/her disposal. That is really no evidence at all. Or is it?
OTOH, maybe the parable was so well known that Paul knew instinctively that the analogy would be understood. Americans refer to Independence Day as the Fourth of July. Well, every country has a July 4 on its calendar; but in the US the significance of the date is so well understood that it’s not necessary to explain. Against this, however, I would say that the parable of the sower does not show up either in the reconstructed Q document, nor in the Gospel of Thomas. Given that these are supposedly ‘early’ works, this mitigates against the sower being so basic to the corpus of Jesus sayings that Paul could simply assume knowledge of it. Please note that I am not necessarily giving credence to the suppositions that there actually was a Q–I’m not at all sure I believe that; in fact, I’m becoming increasingly hostile to the idea–or that the Gospel of Thomas was an early work–another idea to which I am becoming ever more opposed. The point is simply that it appears that others also do not believe that the sower parable dates to the earliest stratum of Jesus’ beliefs. IOW, for once I’m not out on my own little limb.
So, in effect, we don’t–can’t–know the origin of the analogy. My sense–whatever little that is worth–is that this parable in the gospels did not originate with Jesus, but was a later addition. But, I pretty much feel that way about most of the stuff in the gospels.
37 et, quod seminas, non corpus, quod futurum est, seminas sed nudum granum, ut puta tritici aut alicuius ceterorum.
38 ὁ δὲ θεὸς δίδωσιν αὐτῷ σῶμα καθὼς ἠθέλησεν, καὶ ἑκάστῳ τῶν σπερμάτων ἴδιον σῶμα.
But God will give to it a body as he wished, and to each its own body from the seeds.
I’m a little uncertain about “wished”. Per Liddell and Scott, the basic root of the verb << θέλω >> is ‘to will’. At least, that’s what the Victorians thought. But here we come again to the question of whether Greek and Latin influence the way Victorians thought, or whether the Victorians determined how these Greek and Latin words should be taken. How formal is the writing here? I’ve been immersed in the theological controversies of the later Middle Ages recently, where the idea of God’s will is very prominent. Did Paul mean to say that God willed the body each seed was to have? Or that he wished it to have a particular body? Or that he wanted it to have a particular body? The distinctions are subtle, but real. The three English words overlap, but are not exactly synonyms. But then, how much of my intent is based on reading a lot of very formal works–histories, mainly? Perhaps in everyday usage, the meaning of the word wasn’t quite as strong? Or, that the reader/hearer would understand the proper nuance?
Again, the point here is to underscore just how difficult it can be to find the proper nuance; and sometimes, the more common the word, the more difficult this becomes.
38 Deus autem dat illi corpus sicut voluit, et unicuique seminum proprium corpus.
39 οὐ πᾶσα σὰρξ ἡ αὐτὴ σάρξ, ἀλλὰ ἄλλη μὲν ἀνθρώπων, ἄλλη δὲ σὰρξ κτηνῶν, ἄλλη δὲ σὰρξ πτηνῶν, ἄλλη δὲ ἰχθύων.
All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one of people, but another of beasts, and another of birds, and another of fish.
A bit of a biology lesson; the only quibble is the first distinction. Basically, people and beasts are pretty much the same thing. But there is a moral distinction.
39 Non omnis caro eadem caro, sed alia hominum, alia caro pecorum, alia caro volucrum, alia autem piscium.
40 καὶ σώματα ἐπουράνια, καὶ σώματα ἐπίγεια: ἀλλὰ ἑτέρα μὲν ἡ τῶν ἐπουρανίων δόξα, ἑτέρα δὲ ἡ τῶν ἐπιγείων.
And the heavenly bodies and the earthly bodies: but on the one hand (is) different the glory of the heavenly ones (= “bodies”), but different from the (glory) of the earthly ones.
So our heavenly body is different from an earthly body. This is important information. One wonders whence Paul got this. Or is he making it up as he goes along? Again, I don’t mean to be flippant about this; that is actually a serious question. Where is he getting this stuff?
40 Et corpora caelestia et corpora terrestria, sed alia quidem caelestium gloria, alia autem terrestrium.
41 ἄλλη δόξα ἡλίου, καὶ ἄλλη δόξα σελήνης, καὶ ἄλλη δόξα ἀστέρων: ἀστὴρ γὰρ ἀστέρος διαφέρει ἐν δόξῃ.
The glory of the sun is other, and the glory of the moon is other, and the glory of the stars is otherwise; for a star differs from star in glory.
An argument from analogy, that has a level of poetic sense about it.
41 Alia claritas solis, alia claritas lunae et alia claritas stellarum; stella enim a stella differt in claritate.
42 Οὕτως καὶ ἡ ἀνάστασις τῶν νεκρῶν. σπείρεται ἐν φθορᾷ, ἐγείρεται ἐν ἀφθαρσίᾳ:
And in this way (is) the standing up of the dead. It (the resurrection) is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.
This is literal, so the tenses/voices are a little off in English. This is so clearly the vegetation cycle of Adonis, and Dionysios, and Osiris that it requires, I think, little comment. From a mythological point of view, Jesus’ connection to this age-old cycle is also clear, as Joseph Campbell demonstrates so effectively.
42 Sic et resurrectio mortuorum: seminatur in corruptione, resurgit in incorruptione;
43 σπείρεται ἐν ἀτιμίᾳ, ἐγείρεται ἐν δόξῃ: σπείρεταιἐν ἀσθενείᾳ, ἐγείρεται ἐν δυνάμει:
It (the body, the resurrection) is sown in dishonour, (but was) raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
Paul is starting one of his rhetorical explanations. Comment deferred.
43 seminatur in ignobilitate, resurgit in gloria; seminatur in infirmitate, resurgit in virtute;
44 σπείρεται σῶμα ψυχικόν, ἐγείρεται σῶμα πνευματικόν. εἰ ἔστιν σῶμα ψυχικόν, ἔστιν καὶ πνευματικόν.
The body is sown in in the soul, the body is raised in the spirit. If the body is living, it is also spiritual.
OK. Here we are with the psyche/pneuma distinction again. Here we can clearly see that translating “psyche” (ψυχὴ) as “soul” (as it often is) doesn’t necessarily work. Here, the inferiority of the psyche to the pneuma is drawn very sharply. In Classical Greek, psyche, generally, meant something like “life”. It was decidedly opposed to the flesh or the body, but it was not synonymous with “pneuma”, either. We can, perhaps, envision psyche as meaning the combination of the body and the breath, so that the creature having both these elements is alive. Yet, at the same time, it was a myriad of psyches that the wrath of Achilles–that baneful wrath–sent speeding towards Hades; so there is a sense in which psyche is separate from the soma, the body.
Liddell and Scott translate “psychikon” as ‘of life’, or even ‘spiritual’. It cites this passage as an instance of the word meaning ‘natural’, which is how the KJV and most others render the word. A single cite of a word like this with a specific meaning in a specific passage makes me very nervous. This is increased when the passage in question is in the Bible. The likelihood of making the word mean what we want it to is immense. In short, we fit the meaning to what we have all agreed that the the passage means, which is a very circular argument.
Nor does the Latin help all that much. The word used to translate psyche, ‘anima’, is the word Augustine routinely used to mean ‘soul’. The Latin “spiritus” is, more or less, a direct equivalent of “pneuma”; so contrasting ‘anima’ with “spiritus” recreates the problem almost exactly.
Do I disagree with rendering psyche here as ‘natural’. Not really. After all, ‘anima’ is obviously the root of ‘animal’, which is something opposed to vegetable; both are alive, but only the animal has breath when it is alive. I suppose one could quibble here; lord knows I do that often enough. But, the point here is to recognise that, really, we do not know exactly what Paul is trying to say here. We do not have enough of his philosophical background to understand, in a complete way, exactly what distinction he was trying to make. That he was making one is clear. But, the problem is that the word ‘psyche’ has become so laden with implication that Paul’s intent is hard to discern. Perhaps we have to leave it that this was a way-station on the way to ‘psyche’ coming to mean what we call a soul.
44 seminatur corpus animale, resurgit corpus spiritale. Si est corpus animale, est et spiritale.
45 οὕτως καὶ γέγραπται, Ἐγένετο ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος Ἀδὰμ εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν: ὁ ἔσχατος Ἀδὰμ εἰς πνεῦμα ζῳοποιοῦν.
And thus it was written, “So it happened that the first man Adam lived in the natural way; the final Adam was made alive in the Spirit.
Here, I have to take psyche (ψυχὴ) as ‘natural. Otherwise, there is no distinction in English to capture what is being said in the first half of this sentence. And that may exactly be the point: that Greek subdivides this body/soul/spirit thing three ways, while English only does it twice. So we cannot quite get at that middle term. Or maybe that’s not it; the problem is, perhaps, that we have reversed the sequence of the last two. Instead of body/soul/breath, we would arrange it body/breath/soul. We think of pneuma as something mechanical, that we use for pneumatic equipment. But we have to understand that the Greeks saw the breath–spirit, in Latin–as somehow superior to the mere soul. Yes, that seems strange to us, but the past is a foreign country. Things are different there.
45 Sic et scriptum est: “Factus est primus homo Adam in animam viventem ”; novissimus Adam in Spiritum vivificantem.
46 ἀλλ’ οὐ πρῶτον τὸ πνευματικὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ ψυχικόν, ἔπειτα τὸ πνευματικόν.
But the spiritual was not first; rather the soul-ness [here, apparently, meaning ‘physical’, or ‘natural’] (was first), then the spiritual.
This is pretty much what I said in the previous comment: body/soul/breath. Part of the problem, I think, is that our words are either from Latin (spiritus), or German by way of Old English. Maybe I should render pneuma as ‘spirit-breath’ in order to get at the two facets that the word had in Greek, one of which is missing when we choose one or the other of ‘spirit’ or ‘breath’. The Greek effectively and simultaneously means both of those. We definitely lose something in the translation when we choose one over the other. “Breath” is too coarse, too common; but “spirit” lacks exactly that direct connection to the human body that is conveyed in ‘breath’.
46 Sed non prius, quod spiritale est, sed quod animale est; deinde quod spiritale.
47 ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος ἐκ γῆς χοϊκός, ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθρωπος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ.
The first man (was) from the dirt of the earth, the second man from the sky.
Of course, what I rendered as “sky” could also be translated as ‘heaven’, or perhaps more properly, ‘heavens’. But “Heaven” is not appropriate in the least. My four crib translations choose ‘heaven’. The Greeks believed that air was finer than–and so superior to–earth, so the finer materials rose into the sky, into the heavens, into heaven, eventually into Heaven. The idea that the good things came from the sky is so Greek, or even generically pagan that it’s startling. Based on my too-limited reading the OT, I really don’t recall where YHWH lived. On Mt Sinai? And where did God and the Adversary have their discussion about Job? I’m not really sure. Both parts of the Bible are pretty sketchy about details like that. Now, by the time we get to Revelations, of course, it’s all settled: God is in the sky. But I suppose it’s not that far off the Hebrew conception of it all. Mt Sinai, Mt Olympos, what’s the difference?
But what makes this so particularly Greek is the idea of light–in both senses of the word, as in non-dark and non-heavy–as good, more refined. Milan Kundera has a really interesting discussion on this in, of course, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. He contrasts the Greek equation of light = good with the later bourgeois notion that good things had substance. A man of substance, being of substantial means, these became good things, because substance implies weight. Now the Greeks agreed that having money was a good thing; they just would not have described it in those terms. Really, when I think of the difference between Greece and Rome, the idea of weight plays a very large role: the Greeks seem to be light, airy, to dance. The Romans, OTOH, have weight–gravitas–they are planted on the earth like their aqueduct in Segovia, Spain, and they march. Zoroastrianism, of course, posited the duel of light and dark, but that was more about the non-dark aspect of “light”; the implication of weight is not really there.
Of course, Paul or any of the Jews could have come up with the idea of God = Sky from any number of sources, or entirely on their own. Joseph Campbell talks about the basic dichotomy of pantheons: the agriculturalists, who revered the Earth Mother, and the pastoralists who revered the Sky Father. The Hebrews, supposedly, started as pastoralists. But I think three hundred years of Greek thought leading to this moment had an impact. As I mentioned before: the empires of the Diadochoi were very different from the empire of the Persians; the successors of Alexander made a conscious effort to unify their realms through the spread of Greek culture. The Persians and those before…not so much.
47 Primus homo de terra terrenus, secundus homo de caelo.
48 οἷος ὁ χοϊκός, τοιοῦτοι καὶ οἱ χοϊκοί, καὶ οἷος ὁ ἐπουράνιος, τοιοῦτοι καὶ οἱ ἐπουράνιοι:
As is the earthly, so are also the earthly, and as are the heavenly, so also are the ones who are heavenly.
48 Qualis terrenus, tales et terreni, et qualis caelestis, tales et caelestes;
49 καὶ καθὼς ἐφορέσαμεντὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ χοϊκοῦ, φορέσομεν καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ ἐπουρανίου.
And in this way we have borne the image of earth, we will carry the image of the heavenly.
49 et sicut portavimus imaginem terreni, portabimus et imaginem caelestis.
This is fairly clear, and it follows his discussion of the resurrection. Upon being raised, our bodies will be transformed. How? I keep going back to the gospel stories of Jesus after being raised, how Matthew and Luke take pains to portray him as having a physical body, to the point that he can eat, drink, and be touched. And yet, the disciples who walked with him to Emmaus did not recognise him. Why not? Because his body had been transformed?
Again, here we see some bleeding in of the pagan conception of deities. To the Greeks, the gods could take human form, and could have a physical presence. This was simply not true in the OT. The divine beings who are physically seen are described, usually, as angels.
Really, though, I think the implication of all of this is that Paul was, indeed, making this up as he went along. And this process, in which questions were asked, or implications were drawn, is how the teachings set down by Paul and then the later writers, formed into what we would recognise as “Christianity”. Read the first volume of Pelikan’s The Christian Tradition: A History Of The Development Of Doctrine on this, and he will explain very clearly that the Holy Spirit and the Trinity are not so much set out in the NT as they are inferred from the NT in response to situations and teachings that arose later. And so it was here; Paul has to explain the raising of the body. Jesus was raised, and all the faithful would be, too. But how? How can this be? Well, it’s because our bodies will be different.
In Mark, we saw Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus from death. But she had only just died. But when Jesus raised Lazarus, John very emphatically tells us he had been buried for four days. Not only that, people feared the stench of decay they are likely to encounter when the tomb was opened. This story, and Paul’s teaching here arose, I think, in response to questions, largely from pagans, for whom the raising of the physical body was a bizarre, if not revolting idea. I do not believe that Paul had this fully worked out in his own head when he wrote these words. It would happen; he truly believed that. As for the how, or how it would be…this didn’t concern him too much. It would be…different. We would pass beyond the physical and become heavenly. What this meant exactly, even in Paul’s mind, is not at all clear. But later writers felt the need to walk this back a bit by insisting that we would not be disembodied spirits, but would have a body that could be recognised as physical, at least in some way. For, becoming spiritual could certainly be read has ‘being a spirit’; i.e., a being without a body. Paul is not completely clear on that, so Matthew and Luke felt compelled to describe the situation with more definition.
We left off with our only hope being in the anointed.
20 Νυνὶ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶ, ἀπαρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμημένων.
And now the anointed was raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
‘First fruits’, of course, refer to an offering, a sacrifice. So ‘first fruits of the dead’ implies…what, exactly? That the dead are sacrifices, it would seem. So Jesus–or the anointed–was the first to die as a sacrifice. That certainly is in line with later Christian thought, so there’s nothing surprising here.
20 Nunc autem Christus resurrexit a mortuis, primitiae dormientium.
21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ δι’ ἀνθρώπου θάνατος, καὶ δι’ ἀνθρώπου ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν:
For since through man (came) death, and (so) through man (c0mes) standing from the dead.
The word here is << ἀνάστασις >>, which means ‘standing up’, as opposed to the more common word, which means, ‘to be raised’. Adding the word “comes” is necessary; Paul is being epigrammatic here, and epigrammatic Greek and Latin means leaving words out. And, of course, this is the whole ‘New Adam’ theme.
21 Quoniam enim per hominem mors, et per hominem resurrectio mortuorum:
22 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ πάντες ἀποθνῄσκουσιν, οὕτως καὶ ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ πάντες ζῳοποιηθήσονται.
For as in (through) Adam all die, in the same way in the anointed all will be made to have life.
‘Made to have life’ is sort of a disassembling of the components of the final word/verb. And now Paul makes the connection to the New Adam explicit.
22 sicut enim in Adam omnes moriuntur, ita et in Christo omnes vivificabuntur.
23 ἕκαστος δὲ ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ τάγματι: ἀπαρχὴ Χριστός, ἔπειτα οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ:
But each in his/her own way (is) set in order; (through the/because of the) first fruits of the anointed then those of the anointed (will partake) in his parousia.
It’s very tempting to connect ‘life’ from V-22 with the parousia in this verse. The parousia, of course, is the return of the Christ on the clouds, as explained in 1 Thessalonians 4:15. Given the proximity and the flow of the words, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch (if any at all) to infer that those being made alive are made so by virtue of the parousia, but please note that the connection is not explicit. Here we should note that this word is used 4 times in 1 Thessalonians, the most famous of which is Chapter 4:15. This is the only time it’s used to refer to the coming of Jesus in this letter. It seems to appear in only one extended passage in Matthew. It crops up again in later epistles, 2 Thessalonians, James, 2 Peter, and 1 John. It does not appear, as a word, in Luke or John.
It does not appear in Revelations, where I would certainly expect it, but the concept of the return is certainly clear enough there. Nor does the word appear in Mark; however, as with Revelations, the concept is present, but only in the second half of the gospel, the Christ section. One wishes that Paul would explain this a bit more. Why doesn’t he? I suspect it’s because this was the central core of Paul’s teaching.
I don’t think he was passing along the sayings of Jesus. Think about it: aside from the possible references to inclusiveness that we saw before, what of Jesus’ message have we heard about? Yes, we got the “quote” about the Last Supper, but that is all, and I fully believe it was something that Paul–or someone else–made up.
The word parousia was used four times in 1 Thessalonians; that, along with the idea of hardships–which may or may not have meant persecution as we think of it–are probably the two most prominent, or at least most persistent, themes in 1 Thessalonians. In Galatians, the theme was the relation of faith in the Christ to the Law. What have been the prominent themes themes here? Sexual immorality comes to mind, and the several chapters Paul spent arguing his superiority to Apollos. And women’s rightful place, in worship, and presumably in the home.
There have been many and varied strands of argumentation put forward to explain Paul’s lack of interest in anything Jesus said. The most popular, and the one that’s always been my default position is that Paul preached about Jesus when he was physically present. These epistles were not, primarily–if at all–intended as ways of teaching about Jesus. The epistles, rather, were intended to respond to specific questions and specific situations. But I’ve come up with another, which could, conceivably, be considered a variation on that.
As I now see it, Paul was not concerned about what Jesus said because what Jesus said did not matter in the long run. Why? Because there was no “long run”. In Paul’s opinion, Jesus was coming back, and soon. As such, the important thing was not what Jesus said about living your life, because you weren’t going to be living it much longer. The return was imminent. That’s why the topic loomed so large in 1 Thessalonians. That’s why the idea of the body not rising is so important here. It was about making yourself one of those of the anointed (works much better in Greek, or Latin), so that you would be ready when Jesus–or, The Christ–returned.
23 Unusquisque autem in suo ordine: primitiae Christus; deinde hi, qui sunt Christi, in adventu eius;
24 εἶτα τὸ τέλος, ὅταν παραδιδῷ τὴν βασιλείαν τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί, ὅταν καταργήσῃ πᾶσαν ἀρχὴν καὶ πᾶσαν ἐξουσίαν καὶ δύναμιν. then the end, when the kingdom may be handed over to God over, and when, by God all of the rulers and all of those of worth and of power may have been destroyed.
That’s odd; why should the kingdom of God be handed over to God? Perhaps, since the rulers and the powerful will be destroyed, he’s referring in this instance to the earthly realm. And, btw, the verbs are in the subjunctive; I found that a bit odd, too. At first, I thought perhaps it was just me, but I started looking at different grammar books & online sources and I could not exactly come up with a good explanation. The best I can figure is that it’s here meant to signify unreal conditions. But using the subjunctive that way is not exactly the most Greek way to use it. But, there it is.
24 deinde finis, cum tradiderit regnum Deo et Patri, cum evacuaverit omnem principatum et omnem potestatem et virtutem.
25 δεῖ γὰρ αὐτὸν βασιλεύειν ἄχρι οὗ θῇ πάντας τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. For he must reign until he has placed all the enemies under his feet.
Another subjunctive, an aorist variety, as was the second verb in the previous clause. This makes sense, because it’s an unreal condition in the past. In one of the JD Crossan books that I read, he talked about apocalyptic writing as revenge fantasy of the downtrodden. I think we can see that here. Now, the thing is, I didn’t put a lot of stock in the idea that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher; however, given the prominence that Paul gives the theme, I may have to re-think that position. This is a classic piece of revenge fantasy, where the oppressor gets his in the end. But then, a large part of the OT has a lot of this sort of talk, so I need to weigh this evidence out more.
25 Oportet autem illum regnare, donec ponat omnes inimicos sub pedibus eius.
26 ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος: The last enemy, death, will be destroyed will be destroyed.
Now we’re getting into the realm of eternal life. If death is destroyed, what else is there? What is the alternative? So, when we rise up to meet the Christ in the clouds (1 Thess 4:15), we will be rising into eternal life. And this would explain the concern about those who have already ‘fallen asleep’ that was expressed in Galatians, and to a lesser extent, earlier in 1 Corinthians. So the idea of eternal life has entered the arena; it’s part of the thought-world of Paul and his Communities. It’s also present in the last half of Mark, if a bit vaguely. So this was one of the strands of teaching expounded by followers of Jesus. There were others.
26 Novissima autem inimica destruetur mors;
27 πάντα γὰρ ὑπέταξεν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. ὅταν δὲ εἴπῃ ὅτι πάντα ὑποτέτακται, δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάξαντος αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα.
For all are arranged under his feet. But when he would have said that all have been made subject (lit = ‘arranged under’ again), it is evident that he is outside (i.e. not a part of, not grouped with) all those having been made subject to him (God).
This seems a bit odd. Why does this need to be stated? Of course God would not himself be included in those who are made subject to him. That would seem to go without saying, but apparently not.
27 omnia enim subiecit sub pedibus eius. Cum autem dicat: “Omnia subiecta sunt”, sine dubio praeter eum, qui subiecit ei omnia.
28 ὅταν δὲ ὑποταγῇ αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, τότε [καὶ] αὐτὸς ὁ υἱὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς [τὰ] πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν.
But when all have been subjected to him. then the son himself will be subject to all those having been subjugated to him (the father?) so that God be all in everything.
Once again, Paul rather explicitly says that the son and the father are not equal. The son will be subjected under the father, so that God may be absolute. This is not, I think, a very Jewish conception of God. Paul is saying that God is absolute, and that was not always the belief of Jews. YHWH was, originally, only one god among many. This absolutist interpretation feels more Greek, more like Plato, but that could only be the result of my background. I am more familiar with Greek ideas, so I see the Greek idea poking through. We see what we expect to see, or what we know how to recognise.
28 Cum autem subiecta fuerint illi omnia, tunc ipse Filius subiectus erit illi, qui sibi subiecit omnia, ut sit Deus omnia in omnibus.
29 Ἐπεὶ τί ποιήσουσιν οἱ βαπτιζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν; εἰ ὅλως νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, τί καὶ βαπτίζονται ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν;
Otherwise what do they do those having been baptized over the dead? If all the dead are not raised, whom did they also baptize over them?
This was tough for me to translate, largely because I don’t especially get in when I read it in English. Here is the NASB: “Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?”
Apparently, people got baptised for the dead? That is, they stood proxy and were baptised with the understanding, or the idea that someone already dead was actually receiving the benefit of baptism? That does make sense, I suppose. To anyone even halfway familiar with the gyrations people went through on behalf of the dead in the later Middle Ages, this makes sense. Luthere called it “Totenfresserin”; literally, ‘feeders on the dead’. This described the way the Church extorted money from people on behalf of deceased loved ones, to the point that in 15th Century England, a priest could make a good living saying masses on behalf of the deceased at the side altars in the larger churches.
But anyway, this apparently started even here. More important, though are the implications this practice carries for the belief in eternal life. From this we can infer that belief in eternal life was already well-established, at least among, or perhaps within, the communities that Paul had founded; moreover, this belief in the entrance into eternal life was based on the belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead. As such, Paul preached that all who “fell asleep” firm in their faith, would also be raised. But, from what we learned in the last section, someone (Apollos? The James Gang?) was preaching otherwise. It would be very interesting, and it would provide some extremely valuable historical information to know who this was, and what their ‘pedigree’ was; or, perhaps, what the provenance of this teaching was. Did it derive from James? Or Peter? Or someone else? This would very much help untangle the threads of belief in the generation immediately following Jesus. In turn, it would help explain the threads of tradition that reached Mark.
I have said this before: Jesus preached to many people. As a result, many people came away with many different impressions of Jesus’ message, and many of these messages would have flatly contradicted each other. If you have never seen “The Life Of Brian”, there is a scene in which Brian’s mother hears Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount. But she’s at the back of the crowd, and hears “Blessed are the Greeks”. That sort of distortion happened many, many times. Recent research on eyewitness evidence has demonstrated how faulty and plain wrong it often is. And Paul was not even an eyewitness, but someone to whom the message and meaning of Jesus came through direct revelation after the fact.
29 Alioquin quid facient, qui baptizantur pro mortuis? Si omnino mortui non resurgunt, ut quid et baptizantur pro illis?
30 τί καὶ ἡμεῖς κινδυνεύομεν πᾶσαν ὥραν;
And why are we endangered every hour?
I’m sorry, but this is a complete non sequitur. Is it a metaphorical danger? The danger to one’s faith? That is how Calvin interprets this.
30 Ut quid et nos periclitamur omni hora?
31 καθ’ ἡμέραν ἀποθνῄσκω, νὴ τὴν ὑμετέραν καύχησιν, [ἀδελφοί,] ἣν ἔχω ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν.
Each day I die, I affirm by your boasting, [brothers], that which I have in the anointed Jesus our lord.
Here we go with another one of those sentences. In sitations like this, for sentences like this, being a textual analyst, or even an English major would probably be more help. Calvin is not particularly helpful, either. Has the text been corrupted? If not, we’re in one of those passages that we called ‘consesus’ translations’ when we ran across them in 1 Thessalonians, or Galatians. Either that, or your present commentator is simply obtuse. That is a very real possibility.
31 Cotidie morior, utique per vestram gloriationem, fratres, quam habeo in Christo Iesu Domino nostro!
32 εἰ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ἐθηριομάχησα ἐν Ἐφέσῳ, τί μοι τὸ ὄφελος; εἰ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, Φάγωμεν καὶ πίωμεν, αὔριον γὰρ ἀποθνῄσκομεν.
If according to (the manner of) humans, I fought wild beasts in Ephesus, what is owed to me? If the dead are not raised, we should eat and we should drink, for tomorrow we die.
First, the part about fighting wild beasts in Ephesus sounds like being thrown to the lions in the Arena. I don’t especially know why he refers to Ephesus; at the time, it was one of the major Greek cities on the coast of what is now Turkey. And here’s another instance of the fluid nature of tenses in Greek: “I fought” is an aorist, which is the normal tense for describing a discreet act completed in the past. And yet, I do not think we are to take this as meaning that he actually did this. The point is more, “if I should do that, what good will it do for me?” It’s hypothetical, and it does no good if he dead are not raised. And, obviousy, this all smacks of the stories of Christians being torn apart by wild beasts in the arena: their martyrdom won them salvation; so if the dead are not raised, they died for nothing.
I am frankly skeptical about a lot of the martyr stories, and about the general level of persecution Christians faced. There was some, certainly, but I find it difficult to believe that it was occurring at the tine of this epistle Paul was persecuting followers of Jesus, but he was doing it as a Jew, not as a Roman official. That he says this would take place in Ephesus sounds like it’s an offical sort of Roman legal action. Of course, I could be mistaken, and such persecution could have been occurrng at the time of writing; this passage could represent a fairly strong indicator of this, or it could have been a general sort of thing that could happen to a lot of people for a lot of reasons.
As for the last bit about eating and drinking, I miss the part about being merry. To be honest, I had no idea this was the origin of that particlar sentiment. I had even less idea that this line is from Isaiah. Regardless, the implication of ths is clear enough that I can get it: if the dead are not raised, there is no real incentive to be moral, for we’re just going to die (and fairly soon) anyway. And again, I wish I had a better sense of the state of Jewish thought on this. Most Graeco-Roman adjurations to morality were based on appeals to reason in some way, shape, or form. They were not about being moral to attain an eternal reward; or, at least, not something definite. Marcus Aurelius does not advise right-acting because of some sort of reward, although one does sense that he did get something out of it. The idea of ‘virtue is it’s own reward’ is pretty strong in his writing, and one does sense that this slips into the metaphysical.
32 Si secundum hominem ad bestias pugnavi Ephesi, quid mihi prodest? Si mortui non resurgunt, manducemus et bibamus, cras enim moriemur.
33 μὴ πλανᾶσθε: Φθείρουσιν ἤθη χρηστὰ ὁμιλίαι κακαί.
Do not wander. They corrupt good morals with bad colloquies. (That’s a real cop-out; the base meaning is ‘intercourse’, as in ‘social intercourse’. So…I’m still stumped, largely beacuse I tend to be too formal in my vocabulary. “Bad company ruins good morals” seems to be the standard translation for this.)
The theme of morality, while perhaps not overly emphasized, is persistent. I guess it’s partl that I expected to find some moral stricture lurking behind every other word, but I’ve been a little surprised that it hasn’t come up more often. Still, itis there, not altogether infrequently, so I suppose morality has to count as an important theme. I would hesitate to call it a major theme at this particular moment, but that may change.
33 Noli te seduci: “Corrumpunt mores bonos colloquia mala ”.
34 ἐκνήψατε δικαίως καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε, ἀγνωσίαν γὰρ θεοῦ τινες ἔχουσιν: πρὸς ἐντροπὴν ὑμῖν λαλῶ.
Awaken justly, and do not sin, for some have ignorance of God; I say this regarding your shame.
34 Evigilate iuste et nolite peccare! Ignorantiam enim Dei quidam habent; ad reverentiam vobis loquor.
I have rendered this pretty literally, since I couldn’t think of what else to do with it, and rendering literally is kind of what I’m doing here. I’m not sure how one awakens “justly”, but there it is. But then I could not come up with an English equivalent that gets across the sense of movement implied by << πρὸς >>, but nothing came to mind.
As for the content, there really isn’t much to say. But that doesn’t mean that we can add “wake up from your drunken stupor” as the NASB does. That is the sort of flagrant addition to the text that convinced me to take this more literally.