Paul the Apostle, His Life Letters and Thought– Part Eighteen


He adds that Jesus had prohibited divorce or at least remarriage after divorce but both Jews and Gentiles allowed for divorce. He argues Paul was celibate and would have liked his converts to imitate him. He says Paul was a perfectionist and didn’t leave a lot of room for error in human sexual activity. Paul could call for abstinence because it was only a short time until Jesus returned. [Again, possible imminence is not the same thing as definite imminence of the parousia].

p. 289— He says we can’t tell whether in 1 Cor. 7.1 Paul us quoting the Corinthians or answering a question they raised, and adds Paul does not entirely disagree with the proposition that it would be good if people abstained from sex. He correctly interprets 1 Cor. 7.2-4 and its egalitarian nature, and its advocacy of sex within marriage except when one abstains for prayer, [how then does Paul qualify as an ascetic??]

p. 290— he adds that celibacy in Paul’s view was best, but marriage with regular sexual relations was good and prevent giving way to sexual temptation. His view is the same to the unmarried and the widows— if self-control is too difficult then marry. Celibacy is better than marriage but for most marriage is the right solution to the problem of desire. Marital sex is the only form of sex that is acceptable. He doesn’t think that this contradicts 1 Thess. 4.4-5. One shouldn’t marry merely to satisfy lust, but if they say we can’t wait any longer, he would say then it’s better to marry than to burn.

p. 291—“I do not think we have here a contradiction”, merely an increase in pastoral concern for the converts.

The divorce saying of Jesus, as Paul has it, indicates neither the man nor the woman should initiate a divorce. But if she separates she should stay single or reconcile with her husband.

pp. 292-93— This passage indicate Paul believes that purity could be contagious— the unbelieving partner is made holy and the children are not unclean but holy. Ancient religion was interested in both objective and subjective purity and holiness. 7.14 is about objective purity, and Paul believes that if the Christian stays in the marriage they may save the spouse. Baptism for the dead is another example of transferring purity or sanctification from one person to another. Sanctity by contagion is the idea. Paul believes that purity is stronger than impurity, belief is stronger than unbelief. Paul didn’t worry that contagion could go in the other direction. In Jewish law, purity and holiness are however two different categories.

p. 294— He takes Paul in 7.15 by the phrase ‘is not bound’ to mean that in a divorce situation when the unbeliever departs, the believer is free to remarry. This is a modification of Jesus’ view, but Jesus was not talking about religiously mixed marriages.

p. 295— He makes the huge mistake of translating 7.25 to mean ‘for the time is short’. [This is not what the Greek says— it says because of some event in the past, namely the Christ event,the time has been shortened’. See the work of Bartchy and Doughty. He says the form of the world, its schema is already passing away.]

p. 296— In Paul’s view, the distinction between slave and free is overcome in Christ. The principle here is ‘do not change’ or ‘there is no need to change your social status’, but this is not quite what he says to slaves— he tells them if they are granted permission to change it, to do so. Notice how in 1 Cor. 5.1– though he is writing to Gentiles he writes to them as if they were Jews— there is immorality among you that even scandalizes Gentiles. He wants them to accept Jewish views on morality.

p. 297— Paul seems to have Lev. 18.6-8 about incest in mind here. And Sanders says thus he is probably following the distinction between mother and father’s wife i.e. step-mother here. Sanders thinks Paul assumes that a Christian who sins grievously and who is expelled will die (5.5). Premature death was punishment for unrepentant sin. He notes that it was standard in Judaism to believe that death atoned for the sin and would not be further punished in the after life. (See Paul and Palestinian Judaism, pp. 168ff.). Thus Paul thinks the man’s spirit will be saved in the day of the Lord. The same view occurs in 1 Cor. 11.29-32 where some have died for partaking unworthily of the Lord’s body and blood, but this should be seen as a discipline so one is not condemned with the world on judgment day. He thinks the clause ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus’ modifies ‘the man who did this’. In other words, the man married his step-mother as a charitable Christian act!!! And the Corinthians were proud of his bold following of the Gospel! Maybe the man assumed that with the new creation, old family relations had passed away!

p. 298—and maybe he thought laws like Lev. 18 no longer applied in the new creation. Maybe he thought he was fulfilling love thy neighbor. Sanders thinks that if the man didn’t have theological reason, he would not have stayed in the community, he would simply leave. [But again this is assuming that 1 Cor. 5 is discussing the same immorality as 2 Cor., see above]. Maybe this shows how literally the Corinthians had taken the proclamation there is a whole new creation says Sanders.

p. 301 In 1 Cor. 6.13-20 Paul totally opposes prostitution. Here porneia has its basic root meaning of prostitution. A porne is a prostitute. First argument is that some unions are inappropriate because one has union with Christ— and you don’t link Christ to a porne. But he has a second strong argument— the believer’s body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit and using a porne defiles the temple— Deut. 23.18 LXX.

pp. 302-03– Sanders argues that Paul first thought using a prostitute wrong, and then he thought up reasons and arguments to justify that view. “The argument… is interesting, since it shows that he connects ethics with the idea of participation in Christ and being possessed by the Spirit, not with a supposed doctrine of forensic justification…. The argument about union with Christ and the temple of the Spirit is rationalization to support a point arrived at on another basis: he was a Diaspora Jew.”

p. 303- he says a ‘hetaira’ was a step above a common prostitute, she was a kept woman or mistress.

p. 304– Somehow Sanders thinks Palestinian Judaism was more lenient on prostitution and allowed it to exist, whereas in the Diaspora Philo and Josephus indicate it was banned. But where is the evidence that there was such leniency in Judaea and Galilee— the Gospels suggests the contrary. He uses this as further evidence that Paul was a Diaspora Jew. Partly this is based on Sanders reading of later Jewish lit. namely Judah ha Nasi in B.T. Temurah 4.8. But one cannot generalize from this later statement, and it may be typical of no one but that rabbi. You cannot say “the profession is accepted in the Bible and the rabbis subsequently considered it legal.” (p. 303).

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