Friday, February 06, 2015

Paul's Quotation-Response Style, and Women Remaining Silent

About half-way through Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, he turns his attention to addressing issues they had written to him about:
HCSB 1 Cor 7:1 Now in response to the matters you wrote about:
As he deals with these issues, he seems to adopt a style that I have often used myself. He first quotes something from their letter, and then gives his response to that quote. We see that here in the first issue he addresses.
HCSB 1 Cor 7:1 “It is good for a man not to have relations with a woman." But because sexual immorality is so common, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.
The Corinthians are saying that it is good to avoid sex, and Paul's response is that this attitude leads to sexual immorality, and the proper "fix" is not to avoid sex, but to have a spouse.

On the next topic, concerning idols, he again quotes the letter they had written to him, and then provides his response:
HCSB 1 Cor 8:1 About food offered to idols: We know that “we all have knowledge." Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up. ... About eating food offered to idols, then, we know that “an idol is nothing in the world,” and that “there is no God but one.” ... However, not everyone has this knowledge.
The Corinthians are saying, "We have knowledge", and Paul responds, "Yes, but don't get all snooty; opt for love."

The Corinthians are saying, "We don't have to worry about idols; they're nothing", and Paul responds, "Yes, but not everyone has your knowledge; stop being bad examples to those people."

He then addresses their loose lifestyle, which they have adopted because they recognize that as Christians, they have freedom from restrictive law which their Jewish forbears did not.
HCSB 10:23 “Everything is permissible," but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible," but not everything builds up. 24 No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other person.
The Corinthians are spouting the slogan that "everything is permissible", but Paul is correcting them that even so, not everything is helpful or constructive, and such things should be judged in the light of how they do or do not help the other person.

I think you can see the pattern now. I want to show just one more example, and then a passage that looks similar to that example, which has been a point of contention for centuries.

This last example is back in chapter 6, wherein again the Corinthians are saying, "Everything is permissible" (v. 12). They're saying "Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food" (v. 13), having no effect on one's moral standing.

And in fact, this latter phrase agrees with what Jesus had said earlier:
HCSB Mark 7:18 And He said to them, “Are you also as lacking in understanding? Don’t you realize that nothing going into a man from the outside can defile him? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into the stomach and is eliminated." (As a result, He made all foods clean.) 20 Then He said, “What comes out of a person—that defiles him.
But the Corinthians were also applying this philosophy to sexual encounters, to which Paul answers, using the food-stomach relationship they had used:
HCSB 1 Cor 6:13b The body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
Paul continues his explanation, and in both verses 16 and 19, he uses a conjunction, "or", to start his sentence. Different versions render it in various ways:

HCSB Don’t you know...

ESV 16 Or do you not know...
YLT 16 have ye not known...

ISV 16 You know ..., don’t you?

KJV 16 What? know ye not...

The emphasis is that Paul is trying to get their attention with this conjunction. I think the KJV probably renders it best: "What?"

Maybe even add an exclamation point: "What?! Don't you get it?! Your body is a temple for GOD! Stop using it to sin!"

Now I want to turn to the last passage I mentioned. This same conjunction is also used in chapter 14. The text just before it, which I'll quote from the KJV, says:
KJV 1 Cor 14:34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.
35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
But now look at the very next verse:
36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
This is in a passage wherein all the Christians have just been urged by Paul to use their God-given gifts within the church assembly to build up the members. Right in the middle of this passage is this short aside wherein Paul seemingly tells women to stay silent, and then immediately says, "What?! Has God given his gifts only to a select few?!"

Now, consider that for the past few chapters, Paul has been quoting what the Corinthians say, and then correcting what they say.

Is that perhaps happening here? Are the Corinthian men telling women to stay silent in the church assembly, appealing to some law which doesn't exist in the Law of Moses? Is Paul then correcting that false doctrine by pointing out that God hasn't spoken only through men who are saying this? (After all, women were the first people to be tasked with telling the good news (to men!) that Jesus was risen from the dead - Matt 28:5-7).

I believe it's a concept worth considering.

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