Paul the Apostle, His Life Letters and Thought— Part Seventeen

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p. 268— He suggests that if you read 1 Cor.5.1-2; 2 Cor.12.21; 2 Cor. 2.5-10;2 Cor. 7.11 in that order (he thinks it is the chronological order), you learn that one man sinned, was supported by some of his fellow believers. Paul wrote in his harsh letter that on his next visit he might have to expel many and mourn their loss, but with the harsh letter and Titus’ visit the man finally repented and the majority instead of expelling him punished and forgave him and Paul accepted this solution. Paul then also forgave the one transgressor (2 Cor. 2.10).

p. 271— 2 Cor. 1-7 reveals two of the things Paul cared most about— the moral rectitude of his converts renouncing sexual immorality and loyalty to him.

p. 273— Apparently almost all of the issue Paul discusses in 1 Cor. are issues the Corinthians themselves had raised. There seems to have been a few years between the founding of the church in Corinth and the writing of 1 Cor. (noting the reference to a previous letter in 1 Cor. 5).

p. 274– One of Sanders proofs that Paul was not educated in Jerusalem is that he seems to not know how to formulate halakot for behavior, and so he has to clean up messes after the fact rather than giving moral instructions in the first place. Sanders thinks Paul thinks that good behavior simply should result from possessing the Spirit as fruit of the Spirit, or it should be self-evident what counts as blamelessness.

p. 275—The general instructions he seems to have given to his various churches include— live by the Spirit, love your neighbor, imitate me or Christ or both, and be blameless.

p. 276—The highest gift the Corinthians can aspire to is the gift of prophecy, they cannot aspire to be apostles. The gifts are ranked from first (apostles) to last (tongues). He stresses that all Christians have gifts of the Spirit just as they all have the Spirit, all gifts are equally essential, and all members of the body of Christ are necessary parts of the whole. All gifts are worthless without love.

p. 277—“to solve the problem of being excessively proud of speaking in tongues, Paul besides making this the least important gift, adds specific limitations.”

p. 278— “From Paul’s discussion, we learn that speaking in tongues was babbling unintelligibly.” [Here Sanders makes the mistaking of assuming that Acts 2 is about glossolalia, and so Paul and Luke differ on whether it was intelligible speech or not.] The Corinthians were eager for spiritual gifts, especially the more showy ones [that were like ecstatic speech in Greece] and they took Paul’s instructions to live by the Spirit and imitate him, him who says he speaks in tongues more than them all, to be encouragement to do what they were doing.

p. 279– in 1 Cor. 12-14 union with the Spirit which produces spiritual gifts, seems more important than union with Christ.

pp. 280-81— He makes the interesting suggestion that the reason the church moved away from having the Lord’s Supper in the context of a real meal is because of the stratifying nature of ancient meals, the move to do the L.S. separately was “so that all participants would be equal.” (p. 281).

p. 282—He finds the instructions about women’s head-coverings puzzling. In regard to hair, Paul seems to assume that current social practices were what was ‘natural’. The best evidence suggests that Jews followed standard practices in that day, and Paul had been to Judaea and here he suggests men should have short hair, but not women (Sander’s notes that this casts a doubt on all these pictures of Jesus with long hair). Since nature give long hair as a covering for women, she should cover it further, by wearing a veil (says Sanders). [The because of the angels clause may mean— Gen. 6.1-2, so wear a veil so angels don’t lust after these women, or wear a veil to protect yourself from those lusty angels.]

p. 283— Paul is good at coming up with arguments, less good at producing reasons, and in this case he finally just says, if you want to contest this, then you simply have to accept that the church has no other practice. Sanders notes that on the wall painting at the villa of Mysteries at Pompeii, we see a woman being initiated into the practice without a headcovering though generally women wore headcoverings in public and Paul is not talking about that, he is talking women doing so in worship who pray and prophesy. So Paul’s real reason (and Sanders calls it an educated guess) for the headcovering is that it was a customary practice of decent women in his day. There may be another reason— men who wore their hair long were seen as effeminate (even the slaves??) and so homosexual whereas women who wore their hair short were viewed similarly unnatural (see p. 284).

p. 284— Paul was theologically radical, but socially conservative. He was concerned to give no unnecessary offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church, or outsiders visiting the church.

p. 285— It’s impossible to reconcile 1 Cor. 14.33b-36 with 1 Cor. 11 or with the prominent role women like Phoebe seem to have played in Paul’s churches.

p. 286— so he concludes, particularly in the light that some mss. have these verses after vs. 40, that these verses, 33b-36 are a later interpolation. But if it is genuine he says—-

p. 287— “Thus we have the one true contradiction in Paul’s letters of which I am aware.” He adds “I do not think that Paul would have told Phoebe or Junia to shut up if the Spirit moved her to prophesy.”

Paul wrote more about sex than about any other specific problem of behavior. One of the reasons for this is that Judaism and pagan culture disagreed on homosexual activity.

p. 288— [One thing that is clear about Sander’s reading of Paul’s ethics is he assumes a good deal of it is ‘interim ethics’ because he assumes Paul believed that the return of Christ was necessarily imminent. This is a mistake.]


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