by Robert Brow   February 1999

1 Corinthians

-klytoi agioi- (1 Corinthians 1:2) is often understood as meaning "We are called to be saintly like Saint Francis or Mother Theresa." But the Greek is that we are "named saints" (as in other epistles) just by virtue just of being part of what Christ has done.

This morning at a funeral they had strangely picked "Mine Eyes have seen the Glory of the coming of the Lord." I decided that Saint Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) was right about the American Civil War being a Day of the Lord.

But then she wrote that the Lord died to make us holy in the sense of saintly, or was it in the correct sense of -agioi- saints regardless? And I didn't like the idea that our main function as Christians was to get involved in political liberation, "let us live to make men free." So I changed the model to : "He died to make us free so that the Holy Spirit could transform us from within so that as -agioi- saints we could become the salt that would sweeten the political process." But that made the meter wrong. Rats.

1 Cor. 5:1-5

The word -porneia- comes from -porne- a prostitute (1 Corinthian 5:1). But this is not ordinary -porneia- rather a case of unlawful sexual intercourse -ytis oude en tois ethnesin- which isn't approved even among Greeks (5:1), who were notorious for every other kind of sexual deviation.

What is unlawful is -gunaika tina tou patros exein- In other words this involves -tina echein- someone having -gunaika- a woman -tou patros- of his father (5:1). And the consequence must be -paradounai to toioton to satana- hand over such a person to Satan (5:5)

What did Paul mean by handing someone over to Satan? I assume this was not consigning the man to eternal damnation. That would be a denial of -ina to pneuma sothy- that his spirit may be saved. The two most common explanatory models I have encountered are :

(a) There was some kind of exclusion from the community or being excommunicated from sharing in the bread and wine of communion. This has been used for centuries by both Protestants and Roman Catholics to excommunicate people right and left. But this model allows for Paul later being restored to communion (2 Cor. 2:7). What is not clear is how Satan is involved in -olethron tys sarkos- destruction of the man's body or his fleshly ruin (5:5). One suggestion is that being deprived of communion the man would be in Satan's power to get sick and possibly die (1 Cor. 11:29- 30).

(b) A second model is that in Paul's day there was some way of allowing Satan to harm a person's body, as in the case of Job. This might explain the solemn -sunachthenton umon- gathering with Pauls' Spirit present to do this (5:4). But that would be black magic in my book, and it does not make clear how it would result in the man's salvation.

Neither of these two kinds of explanatory model appealed to me one bit. So using, what Greg Bloomquist called "creative imagination," I wondered if any other model could be constructed to fit the Greek words. What I came up with (sitting in a dismal funeral this morning) was a third kind of model: (c) The man must be handed over to the Corinthian magistrates for punishment. Handing over to a civil court is a -pragma- case -epi ton adikon- before pagan magistrates (6:1) But in that case Paul says that petty grievances between members of the community .should be dealt with within the community, not by going to a civil court (6:2-6).

The difference in 5:1-5 is that incest with his father's wife was a criminal act punishable by Roman law (I am not sure if that is the case ?). That would explain why it was behaviour which was illegal even -en tois ethnesin- among the Romans and Greeks (5:1) .

In St. George's Cathedral in my city of Kingston we had such a case five years ago. An organist, who had abused many of his choristers, tried in a criminal court, and sent to jail. While he was being tried, and even after he was jailed, we still visited and gave him communion. I believe that excommunication in the sense of withholding communion from the ignorant, bad people, and criminals is never right. They need communion, as we do, most of all. In the chapter on fellowship in a previous book, Go Make Learners I argued that, apart from 1 Cor. 5:1-5, there is not one case of excommunication in the New Testament. And when it has been practiced among Roman Catholics and Protestants the results are uniformly bad.

But the Cathedral congregation, many of whom hated to bring the police in, were told it was necessary -ina arthy ek mesou umon- the man be taken out from among you (5:2). In that case it was both for the protection of the choristers, and a necessary means of bringing the man to his senses - ina to pneuma sothy- that his spirit might be saved Paul adds -en ty ymera tou kosmou- in the Day of the Lord (5:5). In the case of the Cathedral the terrible Day of the Lord was the trauma of an incredibly brilliant musician having his career destroyed. He will never be a great church musician again, but I hope he has grown as a Christian.

The problem is that in such situations other church members are kind hearted, and shrink from decisive action (5:2). Paul felt he had to be tough with the situation in his day, and we have to be equally tough minded in our day.

In such a model what would be the meaning of -paradounai to toioton to satana- hand over such a person to Satan (5:5)? In Ephesians 2:1 we are described as having been transferred into the kingdom of grace (Ephesians 2:5) into the kingdom of living -kata ton archonta tys exousias tou aeros- according to the ruler of the power of the air, obviously Satan. By having the man arrested, he is handed to the sphere of law and just deserts. But in the Church we are loved regardless.

The advantage of this model is that can be expanded to two difficult verses in Matthew's Gospel. If we are angry with a brother or sister (Matt. 5:22), better be reconciled, or you will both end up in a civil court where one of you will go to jail, and both will be paying legal fees to the last penny (Matt. 5:25-26). In a quarrel between Christians (Matt. 18:15-17) the matter should be settled privately, with two or three witnesses, or by their -ekklesia- church. It is only, if all else fails, that the offender should be treated as -o ethnikos- the person of the world outside, and litigation might be needed to recover what has been misappropriated.

We therefore have a model of our church as the Kingdom in which we are loved, accepted regardless, and treated as under grace. And the world outside where people are sued, and judged, and excluded. Jesus said we should render to the government (Caesar) what is required by law, and to God what he wants for his church (Matt. 22:21).

When a model can make sense in our current church situations, and in other books of the New Testament, I am not going to be impressed by an explanation that only fits a single text. So I live by the two kingdom model until someone comes up with a better one.

Finally I wondered how Paul's principle of criminal justice might apply to us? Abusing little boys and young men is a serious crime in Canada. It was not a criminal act in the Greek world of Paul's day. Obviously one cannot hand someone over to justice if there is no criminal law against that act.

Where a crime is clearly defined by the laws of the land, we can hand criminals over to be tried by the courts in our country. But with all other kinds of ignorance, failures, character faults, and imperfections, we welcome sinners to communion with us (even when they are in jail), and trust the Holy Spirit to change them in his own way in due course.

1 Cor. 7:1-16

This is an astonishing model of loving mutuality in marriage. And it comes from a man who a few years before had been a male chauvinist rabbi living by a typically patriarchal model. Every day as a rabbi he had prayed "Blessed be thou, of God, for not making me a woman." But in the mind of the spiritually recycled Paul, there is a total mutuality in Christian marriage :
It is mutually monogamous - ekastos tyn eaoutou gunaika echeto kai ekasty ton idion andra exeto- a man has his own wife, and a woman has her own husband.(7:2).

They each respect the other's sexual needs -ty gunaiky o anyr tyn opheilyn apodidoto omoios de kai y guny to andri - the man first her what she has a right to, and she does the same for him (7:3). Each of them -exousiazei- has authority over the other's body (7:4). The might abstain from sex, but only -ex sumphonou- in symphonic harmony so they can -scholasyte ty proseuchy- give themselves to prayer together (7:5).

Paul recommends celibacy for those who are gifted in this way (7:1, 7,8) equally for both men who are widowers and women who are widows (7:8) As regards divorce, the command of Jesus, not Paul's opinion (7:10), is that -gunaika apo andros my choristhynai- a woman should not leave her husband, and -andra gunaika my aphienai- a man should not divorce his wife (7:10,11).

The case is different where the partner of either the woman or the man is - apistos- presumably does believe in Jesus' kind of love (7:12). Paul's opinion, which he didn't get from -o kurios- Jesus himself (7:12) is that in either case if the -apistos- unbelieving partner -suneudokei oikein met' autou, autys- wants to continue in the same house, it would be best -my aphieto- not to put him or her out (7:12-13).

The reason for this is that an unbelieving man -ygiastai- is sanctified by his believing wife in exactly the same way as an unbelieving woman is sanctified by her believing husband (7:14). Whatever the word -ygiastai- meant for Paul, it is often better for the marriage to continue. In a break- up the children are -akatharta- not so easily cleansed by the Holy Spirit (7:15).

But if a partner who does not believe in the marriage -chorizetai, chorizeto- wants to break up, let him or her go (7:15).Which means that - en toioutous- in such cases -o adelphos y y adephy- the Christian brother or sister -ou dedoulotai- is not bound to continue the relationship, and is thereby presumably free to marry again (7:15).

God has called us to -eiryny- peace. -ti gar oidas, guny, y ti oidas, aner- Who knows, sister or brother -ei ton andra, ei tyn gunaika, sozeis- if you will save your husband or your wife.

Where on earth did Paul learn this model of tenfold total mutuality between men and women? As far as I know there is no example of this anywhere in the ancient world before the coming of the Son of God.   Paul certainly didn't learn it from the Rabbis. The idea of a woman having authority over a man's body, a woman being free to divorce, or a man being sanctified by his wife, would be equally preposterous.

Paul must have got this mutuality model from the other Christians, who could only have got these revolutionary ideas from Jesus himself. I can't imagine Paul getting the model by some kind of direct transfer in a prayer session.

Finally it has occured to me that equality is a good model for men and women in politics. In 1918 the English suffragettes got equal rights to vote, which we now take for granted. Women also got equal rights in the professions, and to some extent equivalent salaries. But no football team ever got to the superbowl by making the linebackers equal to the quarterback. Or giving the coach as many chances to kick as the kicker. For that you need the total mutuality of a team. Similarly I don't think women are really asking for an absolute equality of cooking, laundry, grass cutting, car fixing, breast feeding, and orgasms. If they got what Paul has set out in his model, they would go for that.

The same mutuality principle applies in the -ekklesia- as a body. It not equal time in the pulpit, or the choir, doing accounts, cooking, or presiding at the eucharist that the members long for. Only an opportunity for women and men to express all that the Holy Spirit keeps giving to them for the good of all. You cannot divide a body into male and female You cannot divide a body into male and female members like the French who say -le nez, le manton, le cou, un pied, une jambe, une oreille, une bouche, la langue- etc. In a sensible language like the Queen's English all these members are neither male or female (as in Galatians 3:28).

1 Cor. 10:11

What did Paul have in mind when he used the double plura -ta tely ton aionion katyntyken- ? My lexicon offers some possible meanings for -ta tely- terminations, cessations, last parts, conclusions, ends, goals, outcomes, destinies, ends. But -ta tely- can also be understood as a singular, as can -ton aionion- so as to yield the translation "the end of the age has come."

That's as far as the Lexicon could take me. But being nosy I wanted to see what my favourite Gospel writer Matthew has to say. He speaks of not being forgiven -en touto to aioni oute en to mellonti- neither in the age when Jesus was preaching, or in a future age (Matt. 12:32). That seems to refer to forgiveness in a period after death, which might be same -telos- as Paul speaks of later in the Epistle (1 Cor. 15:24).

But Matthew also uses -telos- for the end in the generation of Jesus' hearers (23:36, 24:24) when the temple and city of Jerusalem would be destroyed (Matt. 24:6, as in 23:36 referring to AD 70). Before that there is to be a preaching of -to euaggelion tys basileias en oly ty oikoumeny- the good news of the Kingdom in the Roman Empire (Matt. 24: 14). And it is interesting that Paul claims this had already happened through his preaching (Colossians 1:23).

But then Matthew tells us that there will be a much more extensive ingathering -ek ton tessaron anemon- the four winds (24:31) -apo anatolon kai dusmon-from the east and the west (Matt. 8:11). That will be after the Messiah (Matt. 24-28) has come to destroy Jerusalem with exactly the same metaphorical portents of the end of a city as when he toppled Babylon (Isaiah 13:6-13).

So for the present, until someone shows me a better model, I think the early Christians viewed the events of the baptism into Moses (1 Cor. 10:2), the crossing of the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:1), and the wilderness wanderings (10:5-10), as -tupoi- models (10:6 as in Acts 7:44) which are - tupikos- typical examples (10:11) of what happens after Christian baptism. And that fits exactly what I find in my life today.

I am also glad that when I get tempted in my Exodus wilderness wanderings the temptations will be common to humans, and God won't permit them to be worse than I can bear. Like a blind mouse running from the carving knife all I need is to find the escape hole (1 Cor. 10:13).

1 Cor. 11:3-14

I always get shocked when I get to this passage which tells women to keep their hats on. When Paul says -pasa de guny- he seems to refer to any woman anywhere (11:5). But -proseuchomeny y prophyteuousa- suggests a Christian woman could pray and offer messages inspired by the Holy Spirit (11:5) as long as she didn't do it -akatakalupto ty kephaly- with her head uncovered.

That would -kataischunei tyn kephalyn autys- dis honour, disgrace, disfigure her head (11:5). If she doesn't want to have her head covered -keirastho- better shave herself bald as Paul did in Acts 18:18.

This is made even more difficult by the explanation that -kephaly de gunaikos o anyr- the head of a woman is the man, or her man? (11:3). Based on the tenfold total mutuality of 7:1-16, I can't believe that Paul is that quickly backtracking into patriarchy. And then Paul caps it all with saying that a woman must -exousian echein epi tys kephalys dia tous aggelous- have authority on her head to please the angels (11:10). He must have had a model in mind that makes sense of all this. But I am still trying to understand. And it always amuses me that Christians who think it is against -phusis- the nature of things for men to -koma- wear long hair (11:14), are the very people who use pictures of Jesus with hair like a woman (11:15).

One possibility is that Paul is speaking about a particular cultural situation we don't understand. Sister Brigid Emmelia pointed out that the priestesses of the temple of Diana in Ephesus always had their hair shorn.

And since they also functioned as prostitutes, one can imagine why Paul would not want Christian women to give that impression. But that is not the situation here in Kingston, Ontario.

Another explanation I am toying with at present is that Paul was slowly learning to discard his pre-conversion patriarchal ideas, but still had some residual blind spots (as we all do). White Christians took a long time to understand that it was not acceptable to have black brothers as slaves.

And it wasn't till 1918 that devout English men accepted the idea that women could vote, let alone enjoy the mutuality of 5:1-5. It is only very recently that the Christian theologians of South Africa saw the wrongness of Apartheid. Maybe God allowed us to see Paul's opinions at this point in this letter to keep us from thinking he was infallible?

Meanwhile I cannot imagine that if Paul lived in our day he would require my wife to grow her hair long, and wear a quaint hat to go to church.

1 Cor. 14:1-33

My wife Mollie and I have been fascinated by the Charismatic Movement since it swept into the mainline denominations thirty years ago. We delight in the new breath of freedom which has enlivened Anglican worship. We love many of the charismatic songs we have learned, though I admit some are too mushy for my palate. Many of our best and most impressive friends have spoken in tongues, and some use tongues in their daily devotions. But we haven't.

Mollie goes up eagerly for the laying on of hands to receive the gift and I don't, but I think we are both equally open to whatever God wants to give us. I am always impressed when a sensible person, without seeking the experience, suddenly wakes up in the middle of the night speaking in a strange language. So going through 1 Corinthians 12 to 14, I looked again for clues as to what Paul may have had in mind.

The battle to move, at least in theory, from a one male ministry to an organic body of members who have many different kinds of -charisma- (1 Cor.12) is already won in most places. But what do I make of Paul's : -thelo de pantes umas lalein glossais- I wish you all spoke in tongues (14:6). And -panton umon mallon glossais lalo- I speak in tongues more than any of you (14:18).

The only hint as to what tongues are is that they can be either human or - ton aggelon- angelic languages (13:1), and without love a person who speaks in that way -gegona chalkos ychon y kumbalon alalazon- has become a brass gong or a clashing cymbal (13:1).

That got me thinking about Paul's comparison with other musical instruments. -The -aulos eite kithara- flute or lyre (14:7) or -salpigx- battle trumpet (14:8) are, like gongs and cymbals, also -apsucha- lifeless (14:7). They only come to life when they are used to make -diastolyn tois phthongois- a distinction in sounds (14:7) so people can hear what is being played in a concert, or -eis polemon - to obey battle orders.(14:8).

I remember one of our children learned to play the trumpet and another the flute. First we had to buy the trumpet and flute. Then they had to struggle hard to make some sounds. But the intended result was they played in the school band.

So I wonder what model these comparisons are designed to illustrate? Paul refers five times to -oikodome- building up the church (14:4,5,12,17, 27), and he clarifies that the purpose is -pantes manthanosin kai pantes parakalontai- that all present can learn and all can be encouraged or comforted (14:31). That seems to correspond to playing in the school band.

But say the young Mozart could play without having learned, as he composed without having been taught harmony, could he be faulted for not knowing the basics?

That might explain why Paul views tongues as an earlier stage of learning to prophesy. The Old Testaments seem to have had two ways of receiving a message. They could first see a vision as a -seer- and then explain it.

Or they sensed a message in the Spirit, and put it into words for all to understand. Similarly -o lalon glossy eauton oikodomei, do de prophyteuon ekklesian oikodomei- a person who speaks a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies build up a church (14:4). -meizon de o prophyteuon y o lalon glossais- the one who prophesies (in a church gathering) is greater than a person who speaks in tongues. Better speak five words -toi noi mou- with my mind than 10,000 words in a tongue (14:19, as in 14:14-15).

That still frees individuals to use tongues as a means of getting the inspiration they need to pray, praise, bless (14:15-17) or receive wisdom and guidance in private. But to edify others -o lalon glossy proseuchestho ina diamerneusy- the one who can speak in tongues should pray for the ability to put the message into words (14:13). For those who haven't learned this yet, it is acceptable for someone else to -diermeneuy- give an interpretation (14:5). But there should be no more than three such cases in a meeting, and if no one has the gift of interpretation, speakers in tongues should keep quiet (14:26-28).

This little exercise in model theology also frees me from worrying whether I have missed a blessing that every Christian ought to have, and spending the rest of Lent trying to obtain it. I know that the Holy Spirit gives me prayers to pray (as in Romans 8:26), I am often surprised to be filled with thanksgiving, or awed by worship, I expect to see or receive a message for my next sermon, and when I get stuck with my writing I call for inspiration.

I am not a young Mozart who never needed to learn, but I do play my little piece in the symphony of the world wide Church.

It is the Holy Spirit -diairoun idia ekasto kathos bouletai- who distributes privately to each person exactly what he chooses (12:11). So one day he may choose to give me a gift I never expected from my model, and I will be glad. I might even have to change the model I live by.

1 Cor 15:1-7

I was struck by the fivefold -eita- and -epeita- sequence ending up with -æeschaton de panton- (15:5-7). With my fixation on models, I wondered what kind of a historical framework Paul had in mind? He obviously had first hand knowledge of the -eschaton- meeting with the Lord in his own conversion. And he may have been an eyewitness of the first three events in the careful chronological sequence that he gives us : -Christos apethanen, etaphy, egygertai (remains raised), ophthy Kypha, ophthy tois dodeka, ophthy epano pentakosiois, ophthy Iakobo, eita tois dodeka- So I try to imagine what kind of chronological sequence Paul had in mind.  Here is what I come up with for the eight Sundays from Easter to Pentecost:

Easter Sunday (Matt 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-43; John 20:1-23) Doubters Sunday still in Jerusalem (John 20:26-29) Fishing Sunday in Galilee (John 21:1-25) Great Commission Sunday still in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20) 500 Convention Sunday in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 15:6) Jesus' Brother James Sunday (1 Cor. 15:7) Matthias Elected Apostle Sunday (Acts 1:15-26) Pentecost Sunday (Acts 2:1-41)

Why do I assume these events occurred on Sundays, rather than any other day of the week? Luke tells us that Jesus "presented himself alive to the apostles by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). But John tells us that the risen Lord did not appear continuously every day, but rather after certain intervals (John 21:14). So the risen Lord's appearing on successive Sundays seems to me as good a way as any other to explain why Paul got the idea of the Lord's Day from the other Christians (Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10; see John 20:19). This also explains how the second century -synagogue congregations- in each place also got used to meeting on the resurrection day. That is obviously my invented model, not a proof, so I could be very wrong.

But the only way to prove a model wrong is not by picking on details, but offering a better model. NT scholars tell me that the resurrection stories are a mass of contradictions, but that is also a model, not a proof, and they could also be wrong. At least our reading today proves that Paul had some kind of chronological outline of resurrection appearances in mind. And he claims to have taught it as -to euaggelion o euyggelisamyn umin- when he established the -ekklesia- in the city of Corinth (1Cor. 15:1).

 2 Corinthians .....