2 Corinthians 10-13
The Good: If I ever come across anything good, I’ll point it out.
The Bad: V 1 – Paul appeals to the gentleness and kindness of Christ – I guess he never heard what Jesus said in Matthew 10. V 7-8 – Paul seems to be addressing opposing factions within the church; that didn’t take long, eh? And he’s determined to quash dissent and come out on top.
The Ugly: V 4-6 – Gotta knock down the stronghold of human reasoning, capture people’s rebellious thoughts, and teach them to obey. Those who disobey will be punished! Thought-crime is a reality here…. I no longer need to wonder why Christians think it’s OK to be anti-education and anti-science.
Quotes: Yet again, the verses that I find most problematic are the ones believers cherish.
The Bad: V 3-4 are revealing if you understand the social climate at the time of Paul’s writing. The events in the years prior to the Jewish-Roman wars, which resulted in the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, were a time of great political and social unrest and instability. And as we all know, religion thrives in such an environment. When people are suffering in this life, they are more apt to fall for bogus supernatural claims promising them future happiness or a peaceful afterlife. Judaism was surrounded by pagan religions featuring dying and rising gods and struggles between good and evil, and from this cocktail of circumstances and beliefs arose the idea that the Messiah, as foretold in the OT, would come to save the Jews etc etc. So lots of guys grabbed the opportunity to claim that they were the Messiah. Jesus was only one of many many many. That’s why in the gospels (e.g. Matt 11), we heard people ask Jesus if he was the Messiah or if they should expect someone else.
In that context, v 3-4 show that Paul’s preaching – his version of Christianity – was competing against myriad other versions, other doctrines, and other preachers who claimed to know a different Christ/Messiah. And of course, Paul is convinced that his version is the True Christianity TM, and he doesn’t want his followers to be suckered in by all those false hucksters of other churches; they are but servants of Satan (v 12-15). Nothing much has changed in 2000 years, has it?
V 8 – Preachers are justified in doing whatever they have to do to get money to continue preaching, even if that means taking it from other churches. And v 23-33 – Superhero Paul is at it again – boasting about his persecution. He sure loves to glorify suffering – no wonder religious right wingnuts like to claim there is a War on Christianity – they see themselves as martyrs for the cause.
Quotes: The stuff about the false apostles and the angel of light (v 14).
The Bad: Paul was on a crazy drug trip, and he had an out-of-body experience (v 2-3). But to prevent him from being too proud of his visions, god provided a thorn in his flesh (v 7). (Now we know the origin of these familiar expressions.)
So now Paul boasts again of the weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that he suffers for Christ (v 10). In v 12, he claims that he has performed signs, wonders, and miracles to demonstrate that he is really an apostle. Really? First we’ve heard of it – and no examples or evidence of these are provided. V 16-21 make it apparent that there were accusations of corruption in the leadership of the early church, disputes among members, and disciplinary issues. Was it ever thus…. religion was no leader in morality then, and it isn’t now.
The Good: Paul’s final words in v 11 are positive – except that they totally don’t fit with the rest of the chapter.
The Bad: Pretty much the rest of the chapter; except for the verses that qualify as Ugly. V 2-3 Exactly who made Paul the judge, jury, and executioner? And who made him chief poo-bah? What an ego! And what proof is he gonna provide that Christ speaks through him? More visions?
V 7-10 – Paul demands obedience, intends to demonstrate his authority, and expects that his followers will accept his ‘correction’, whatever he believes their misdeeds are. What the hell is the matter with people that they tolerate this kind of treatment? He’s just another tyrannical cult leader!
The Ugly: V 1 Paul quotes Deuteronomy 19:15, that a case cannot be tried unless there are at least two witnesses. This is one of the verses used by some churches (JW’s for sure, but others) to justify the non-investigation of sexual molestation cases, which of course rarely involve two witnesses.
V 5 – if you don’t accept Jesus, you are a reprobate. The language here is toned down in modern translations to testing if your faith is genuine, or similar wording. But the JKV uses ‘reprobate’. In modern English, the word reprobate refers humorously or affectionately to an unprincipled person (rascal, scoundrel, rogue, rake, etc). But in Christian theology, it means a sinner who is predestined to damnation. No doubt in my mind which usage is intended here…
Quotes: V 14 – used at the conclusion of many many church gatherings I attended – not necessarily services, but choir practice or board meetings. I can still here my old choir director saying ‘Let us close with the Grace’ and then we would recite this verse. I never knew where it came from. Now that I know I want to barf.