Thanks for the Help, Satan!

Today in my class on Paul’s letters we discussed the passage where Paul tells the Corinthians to hand a particular individual over to Satan. Here’s what one student blogged about it (developing further on a comment she made in class):

1 Corinthians 4:5. “…you are to deliver this man to Satan 4 for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”

Paul suggests giving people over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh, so that their spirit can be saved. I was struck by this. Satan is surprisingly helpful here; you can count on him to do you favors.

“We’ve got this guy, and he’s kind of corrupt. Ah…. if you could take him and give him back when he’s better… yeah. That’d be great. Right, also, if you could come in on Saturday to take away our incestuous pagans? Greeaaat.”

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  • Ian

    Wow – doesn’t that turn the whole “eternal punishment” idea on its head…

  • There are certainly a number of scholars and theologians who’ve disputed the notion of eternal punishment, not on the basis of some independently-arrived-at concept of right and wrong or fairness, but on the basis of the Bible itself.Of course, students are still usually most shocked when I point out to them that eternal punishment and rewards were not even on the radar as a subject of discussion for most of the authors of the Hebrew Bible. For instance, Manasseh king of Judah is singled out for particularly harsh criticism, and yet there is no mention of his eternal fate one way or the other…

  • Ian

    Yeah, I can’t even get “eternal punishment” from Revelation (seems like they are destroyed, no “See them again on the Fourth of July”, as hard as I find it to disagree with the words of a Prophet, even when he is quoting someone else’s words).If I read the conflicts of the Maccabeean period correctly, is it reasonable to see Christianity as the final victory of the Hellenisers in Judaism? I always thought that of the Trinity, that it was the imposition of a Indo-European idea on semitic monotheism, that and the whole development of the church. But the more I learn the more I get the impression that even the NT is Hellenised Judaism. Am I reading things in that aren’t there?

  • Martin Hengel is the scholar most responsible for making us aware that there was no “non-Hellenized” Judaism in the Greco-Roman era, even if there were individuals and groups who opposed certain aspects of more general Greco-Roman belief and practice. It is much like contemporary American Christians who think they can ‘opt out’ of American cultural values, and never realize that, even if they oppose some aspects of American life and values, they are nonetheless thoroughly American in many ways that they won’t realize unless they try living in another cultural context for a while.I think the only respect in which the Hellenizers of the Maccabean era could be said to have heirs in early Christianity is with respect to circumcision, the importance of which came to be downplayed in both movements.

  • Ian

    Yeah, I realise that it would have been impossible not to be Hellenised in the Greco-Roman world…my (Muslim) grandfather talked about the reason they started celebrating Christmas – because the other children brought their toys to school after Christmas. I suppose in Roman-ruled, Aramaic-speaking, Greek-writing first century Palestine there is no “pure” Jewish (or Israelite) thought…I have no African blood that I am aware of, but you can’t grow up in the Caribbean and not be shaped by African culture…

  • Anonymous

    James, I’ve read that the idea of a soul as a separate entity that lives after a person’s death was a Greek idea that would have been foreign to any author of the Old or New Testament. Is that your understanding?Certainly, there is not a single clear statement in the entire Bible that when a person dies, his oer her soul that goes to heaven. I don’t think the word “soul” meant to the authors of the Bible what it means to us today. In Genesis, the word “soul” was used to describe animals created by God, but that word was translated as “being” in the English Bibles.It seems to me that most of the OT authors didn’t even consider an afterlife, and that in the NT, that “eternal life” (prof. Anthony Buzzard of the Atlanta Bible College says it is better translated “life in the coming age”) refers to the resurrection of the dead who are unconscious in the ground.paulf

  • Perhaps handing someone over to Satan is just God’s way of carrying out extraordinary rendition.