bible blog 1736

Today the blog continues its examination of St. Paul’s Corinthian correspondence. Previous material on this topic and on Genesis and Mark, can be accessed from my archive. Biblical references can be placed after as can particular topics eg. John 3:16; or obedience. The daily headlines are reminders of the world we live:

1 Corinthians 10 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

10 For, brothers, I don’t want you to miss the significance of what happened to our fathers. All of them were guided by the pillar of cloud, and they all passed through the sea, 2 and in connection with the cloud and with the sea they all immersed themselves into Moshe, 3 also they all ate the same food from the Spirit, 4 and they all drank the same drink from the Spirit — for they drank from a Spirit-sent Rock which followed them, and that Rock was the Messiah. 5 Yet with the majority of them God was not pleased, so their bodies were strewn across the desert.

6 Now these things took place as prefigurative historical events, warning us not to set our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Don’t be idolaters, as some of them were — as the Tanakh puts it, “The people sat down to eat and drink, then got up to indulge in revelry.”8 And let us not engage in sexual immorality, as some of them did, with the consequence that 23,000 died in a single day. 9 And let us not put the Messiah to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by snakes. 10 And don’t grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the Destroying Angel.

11 These things happened to them as prefigurative historical events, and they were written down as a warning to us who are living in the “time of the end.” 12 Therefore, let anyone who thinks he is standing up be careful not to fall! 13 No temptation has seized you beyond what people normally experience, and God can be trusted not to allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. On the contrary, along with the temptation he will also provide the way out, so that you will be able to endure.

Paul here embarks on a passage which is probably obscure to most modern readers. They key to it is a comparison between the children of Israel after the escape from Egypt and the recently converted Corinthians. The danger in both ceases according to Paul, is over-confidence combined with lack of discipline. The behaviour of the people of Israel in the desert was for many Jewish interpreters, a process of “putting God to the test” with ceaseless demands for attention rather than learning how to be free people. Some of the details here are a bit obscure- the wandering rock certainly doesn’t come from scripture but  from Jewish legend.But Paul is using the details of the BIble passage to point out similarities with the Corinthians. 

1. The Jewish people and the Corinthians had been liberated by God, the former from  Egypt and the latter from the power of sin and death.

2. Both had been “immersed” (baptised) although the Jewish baptism “into Moses” is their dip in the red sea!

3.They both ate and drank spiritual food and water, that is, manna, quails and water from the rock, in the case of the Jewish people, the bread and wine of the Lord’s Meal in the case of the Corinthians.

4. Out of frivolity and idolatry the people of Israel grieved God and Moses. The “knowledge party” in Corinth should not take their rescue by God for granted, and fall into sexual wrongdoing or idolatry. The warning about sexual misconduct comes from Numbers 25, where God sends a plague on the people because they had sex with foreign women under the aegis of Baal, the God of the Canaanites.(Anyone who thinks Paul is severe on this kind of thing should have a look at Numbers 25…)

I wonder what the average Corinthian made of this rhetorical journey into the details of the Torah. I suppose the diaspora Jews among them might follow it and perhaps explain it to the others. Did the Corinthian Assembly have copies of Torah scrolls? My guess is that they didn’t and would have been reliant on Jewish converts for any detailed reference to the scripture.To that extent the passage seems to me a doubtful move by Paul, who reaches into his Pharisaic store, for ammunition against his foes. In this case he may have been firing blanks.

Paul wants to bolster an argument with reference to the scripture. Preachers often do this to their congregations and official church spokespersons to the general public. It rarely carries conviction, as even those who know the scripture may not feel it is appropriately applied, and most people will simply not know it and will view the argument as gobbledygook. Arguments of this sort have to be made from something basic like the character of God or Jesus; and the connections with the contemporary world have to be rationally argued.

For those trained in the Bible, like me, Paul’s comparison is rational enough, and gives him a ready interpretation of what’s happening in Corinth: the people in their arrogance, are tempting God, which may prove disastrous for them.

(A totally different view of the scripture about the snakes can be seen in John’s gospel which says, “As Moses lifted up the bronze snake in the wilderness, so that Son of Man will be lifted up” a reference to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.)

I find the scriptures of the whole Bible a store of wisdom and a guide for faith, but my guess is that even many worshipping believers today view me a freak. They have not much knowledge of the Bible and little inclination to seek it. I suppose I may have contributed to this trend as I have insisted that the true word of God is Jesus, and that scripture only becomes a word of God as it witnesses to Him. A person’s salvation is unlikely in my view to depend on their knowledge of Hebrews 12:8 (“then are ye all bastards”- KJV). But I cannot see how the Christian churches can survive without a culture of Bible reading. In the days before general literacy believers were told the great stories and helped to remember them by images in stained glass and other media; and the Reformation churches grew out of the availability of printed bibles. We need not accept the reformation slogan of “Scripture Alone!” but I find it hard to imagine believing without wanting to read at the very least, the Gospels. As it is, this blog is the record of my daily diligence and daily discoveries.

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