1 Corinthians 5-8
Wow where to begin. Just read it…
The Good: V 6-8 – Not exactly good, but funny. There’s another yeast analogy, and then the passage segues into “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Read out of context, that quote is very familiar from my church-going days; it was used on Easter Day. It was obviously cherry-picked for the readings, and I had no idea of its origin. It just cracks me up now that I know… it’s obvious why we never read any of the verses that come before or after.
The Bad: Paul begins by addressing mere rumors. Yes, having sex with one’s stepmother does violate the standards of acceptable behavior in most societies, but does it really warrant the severity of Paul’s reaction here? For example, is it worse than the behavior of some of the OT characters? Like Lot sleeping with his daughters? David betraying Bathsheba?
In v 3, Paul states that he has already passed judgement on the sinner. Cross-check this verse with Matthew 7:1 or Luke 6:37 (not that there’s any indication anywhere in the bible that Paul ever heard any of the words of Jesus).
The Ugly: V 5 says to hand the offender over to Satan for destruction of the flesh; I’m not sure exactly how one does this, but it can’t be good; it’s probably cruel or violent or both.
V 9-13 I don’t know what’s worse here – the fact that Paul is telling congregations to shun and disfellowship those who violate the code of conduct, or that he’s OK with a double-standard of behavior. He clearly doesn’t care if people outside the church are greedy or cheat people; it’s not a very caring attitude to say to heck with the rest of the world. If he truly cared about humanity, he would care about the welfare of all. But then he advocates social shunning for offenders inside the church – an emotionally cruel practice that still continues today.
Quotes: V 7-8, obviously.
The Good: V 12 – if you take this as general advice (ie out of its context related to sexuality), it’s a pretty good axiom. But that’s a big if. Hey, I’m trying to find something good in here…
The Bad: V 15-20 give us the whole ‘body of Christ’ and ‘the body as a temple’ analogy, which I always found a bit creepy, even back when I attended church. And what’s with the prudish attitude in v 18? Sexual ‘immorality’ is the worst sin you can inflict on our body? Seriously? And worse, v 19 clearly states that we do not own our own bodies. Think about the implications of that…
The Ugly: V 1-8 These verses tell believers that if they are wronged, they have no business appealing to a secular judge or court. They need to keep the disgrace within the church or just accept injustices done to them by other believers and leave it at that. And only members of the church (and that would be only those in power, for sure) should rule on disputes or offenses. Never let shame fall on the church by airing your grievances before unbelievers! The implications of these verses is sickening. The SAB points out that they are the basis for JW’s disfellowshipping those who complain about sexual abuse – but it’s not only JW’s! What about the abuse scandals in the Catholic church? What about the Duggars? It’s beyond reprehensible.
But Paul’s not done. In v 9-11 he lists 10 groups of people who he’s sure will never see heaven (how does he know who gets in? And who made him the judge?) – and look at this list. Here they are from the KJV with modern translations where appropriate: fornicators (sexually immoral), idolaters, adulterers, effeminate (male prostitutes), abusers of themselves with mankind (homosexuals), thieves, covetous (greedy), drunkards, revilers (abusive/slanderers), extortioners (cheats/swindlers). Note how he lumps all these together and then claims that Christians have been ‘cleansed’ of all these sins, or ‘made right with god’. He implies that they are all personal choices and all equally bad. How is being a homosexual comparable to being a swindler or an alcoholic comparable to a thief? His insensitivity boggles the mind.
Quotes: the ‘body is a temple’ crap. Christians lap it up.
You’ll want to read this one in the KJV and then compare it to a modern translation to get a sense of what was originally intended (or somewhat close) as opposed to how it is interpreted now. OK, time for our sex ed/marriage counseling session.
The Good: I read v 3-4 in 3 translations (including KJV), and all appeared equitable ie the advice seems to apply equally to both partners in a marriage. One point for Paul if he really wrote it that way; I expected sexism. The first clause of v 5 (“Defraud ye not one the other” in the KJV) is translated as “Defraud ye not one the other” in the NIV and interpreted as “Do not deprive each other of sexual relations” in the NLT. It appears to apply to both partners, too.
V 12-16 outline rules for marriages between believers and non-believers, and at least they’re fair (ie equally apply to husbands and wives.) The idea that having one believer in the home somehow ‘sanctifies’ the rest of the family sort of creeps me out a bit, but better that than having Paul trying to break up marriages, (we dealt with issue this back in Ezra), or having non-believers coerced into participating or prevented from leaving.
V 25-40 offer some clues to the context of the whole chapter, and make Paul’s advice about marriage appear more reasonable than one might initially think. It’s clear that he believes the world will end soon and that there is little time left for earthly concerns. He also writes in a time of great social and political unrest. So it’s possible that he’s advising people not to marry because the responsibility of a family detracts from their focus on preparing for the apocalypse (or whatever). If that interpretation is correct, however, there is no reason to follow the advice today.
The Bad: The footnote to the NLT for v 1 says that in the original Greek the verse reads pretty close to what the KJV says (not to touch a woman). The NLT translators render this as “good to abstain from sexual relations”. Well can you blame them? What else could it mean? V 2 adds the ‘but’, like an afterthought… OK, if you must! Just exactly how twisted was Paul? He continues on in v 5-7, with the advice not to deprive one another of sex, unless it’s to pray… hahahaha! He would really prefer that all believers be like himself (and exactly what he means by that isn’t specified, but it is interpreted as single).
In v 8-9 we get the famous ‘better to marry than to burn’ line. What does Paul mean? Literally burn in hell? I used to think so, but maybe not. In context, I can see 2 ways to interpret these verses. He may be saying is that if you are not married, it’s better to stay single; but if you cannot control your urges, it’s better to marry than to burn with lust/passion. That how modern translations render it. Alternatively, it could be that if you are unmarried and cannot control yourself, and your lack of control leads to fornication (sex outside of marriage), then you will burn in hell for that sin. Quite a different meaning! So which is it? Are the modern bibles interpreting correctly, or just trying to clean up another nasty passage? V 10-11 prohibit divorce, but read carefully; it’s not clear whether the conditions apply equally to husband and wife.
V 18 – hahaha! I get the point, (come as you are, everyone welcome) but is circumcision reversible? Even today with skilled plastic surgeons? And v 20-23 – is Paul condoning slavery here, or not? I can’t make head nor tale of it no matter which version I read.
Note that v 32-34 are clearly among those used to support clergy/priests/nuns being unmarried/celibate.
The Ugly: At first I didn’t think that this chapter was too horrible, but then I read this…
Quotes: V 7 and 23 seem to appeal to believers, but both of them make me squirm.
The Good: V 2 – a truism if there ever was one, Paul. Pot, meet kettle! And V 8 – Paul recognizes that following religious dietary laws doesn’t make one any better or worse as a person. This issue was divisive in the early church. It’s been discussed before in relation to keeping Kosher; here he’s addressing Greek believers wondering whether it’s acceptable to eat food dedicated to the pagan gods. I’ve gotta agree with Paul here – who the heck cares????
The Bad: The second part of v 1, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.”, translated as “knowledge puffs up while love builds up” in the NIV, and interpreted as “while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church” in the NLT. Nothing wrong with saying love is good, but put this way it pits the two goals against each other, when they are entirely compatible. There’s a cloaked negative statement about learning here.
After saying that what one eats doesn’t matter, Paul backtracks on his words in v 9-13, basically saying that even although it’s OK to eat ‘pagan’ food, it might be better not to, because doing so may give ‘weak’ Christians the idea that the pagan gods or religion are also OK. Gotta set a good example. Oh for pity’s sake!
The Ugly: hey, 2 chapters in a row with nothing truly horrible.
Quotes: this chapter doesn’t seem to inspire modern Christians much