Friday, August 28, 2009

Destroying food and stomachs in 1 Cor 6:13

With regards to the previous post, the loss of speech marks does immediately pose a problem as Paul then appears to be saying "God will destroy stomachs and food" which we, fairly naturally, hear as implying "in the life of the Resurrection there will be no eating." Of course that sounds wrong as we know that both Hebrew and Christian visions of the resurrection life use the image of a feast, and that the resurrected Christ cooked and ate fish as proof of his resurrection. However it is an assumption that this refers to the resurrected life, i.e. that those who are resurrected will experience the destruction of their stomachs. Might it be better to understand this destruction as an act of judgment? After all, here stomach and food have been brought into the discussion not because food is an issue but representing the those deeds which are purely the satisfaction of base desire and those things which have existed purely for the satisfaction of those base desires. The eschatalogical image of feasting is not the joy of having a full stomach but of everyone united in a common act of celebration. And even Jesus' post resurrection acts of eating were focused on his relationship with his disciples (John 21:9-17, Luke 24:36-43). Indeed, later on in 1 Corinthians Paul rebukes the Corinthians for eating and drinking purely to satisfy their appetites instead of showing due regard and love for each other (1 Cor 11). So, perhaps here in 1 Cor 6:13 stomachs and food are a cipher for the gratuitous and selfish satisfaction of base desires which is leading Corinthians Christians to visit prostitutes and it is that that will be destroyed by God along with all other desires and acts which are not rooted in loving communion with God and each other.

Let me know what you think :-)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Speech Marks in 1 Corinthians 6:12

If you have a Bible that has been printed in the last century and you turn it to 1 Cor 6:12 you will probably see some inverted commas around the first few words of text. The general assumption has been that these words are Paul quoting the Corinthians and so they are placed in speech marks in order that the reader does not mistake them for Paul's own words. The problem with this is that Paul does no such thing. In the Koine Greek in which Paul was writing there was no speech marks as such, but they were more than able to show when they were starting a quotation by the use of some other signifier. In fact in 1 Corinthians Paul clearly signals that he is making quotations 32 times for the Corinthians' words, OT citations, and even for hypothetical dialogue partners. So why when no such signal is given do we still get quotation marks in our Bibles? Good question. It seems like it is just one of things that has been repeated so often that now no one questions it, but if you trace it back to the first person to suggest it, Johannes Weiss, you realise that he based it on a minor grammatical point, that doesn't hold any water. Now that is enoguh for me, but Brian Dodd goes further in his excellent article "Paul's Paradigmatic 'I' in 1 Corinthians 6:1" in Journal for the Study of the New Testament, (no. 59, 1995, 39-58) and also makes an excellent and thorough positive argument why these words are not a quotation but Paul's own.

Monday, August 3, 2009

One flesh - what does it really mean?

While we are on the subject of sex, I had a hunch today, as I was working on 1 Cor 6:12-20, that everyone I was reading was being to quick to assume Paul's quotation of Genesis 2:24 was a reference to sex. Now given that the context is a discussion of the theological reasons for not having sex with prostitutes that is perhaps understandable. But it also highlight that among modern Christians "becoming one flesh" has become a euphemism for sex, and perhaps consequently sexual activity has become the defining characteristic of marriage. See for example this or this, both extremely interesting articles from Christianity today. So on this hunch I thought I would consult an expert on what was really meant by one flesh in Gen 2:24. For the Old Testament scholar Gordon Wenham, becoming one flesh, "does not denote merely the sexual union that follows marriage, or the children conceived in marriage, or even the spiritual and emotional relationship that it involves, though all are involved in becoming one flesh. Rather it affirms that just as blood relations are one’s flesh and bone... so marriage creates a similar kinship between man and wife.” [From his Genesis 1-15 commentary, p 71]

So a Biblical view of marriage is not first and foremost about having sex, although that is included, but first and foremost about being family. Joined together, as one flesh, committed and interdependent. I believe this truth, properly applied, could be transformational for many Christian marriages. What do you think?

Now all I have to do is figure out how this changes my understanding of 1 Cor 6:12-20!