This was waiting for me when I came home today, after week of being away… And I couldn’t have been happier to see it. As a matter of fact, I kissed the cover. Sorry, but Kenneth Bailey is an awesome author and I cannot wait to to read this book! (A lot better than those other Baileys – Scott and Jeremiah)
Paul was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, steeped in the learning of his people. But he was also a Roman citizen who widely traveled the Mediterranean basin, and was very knowledgeable of the dominant Greek and Roman culture of his day. These two mighty rivers of influence converge in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. With razor-sharp attention to the text, Kenneth Bailey examines the cultural milieu and rhetorical strategies that shaped this pivotal epistle. He discovers the deep layers of the Hebraic prophetic tradition informing Paul’s writing, linking the Apostle with the great prophets of the Old Testament. Throughout, Bailey employs his expert knowledge of Near Eastern and Mediterranean culture to deliver to readers a new understanding of Paul and his world. Familiar passages take on a new hue as they are stripped of standard Western interpretations and rendered back into their ancient setting.
Beyond me – at this point – but I would encourage you to join the conversation.
All the major commentaries on 2 Corinthians suggest a sequence of events in Paul’s interactions with that church. If you can see an aspect in which a published sequence is more convincing than mine, please explain it in the comments. I will then send you a free 2 Corinthians commentary of your choice if yours is the best (or only) comment!
1st Timothy 2.19-15 has been explained a variety of ways, from the extreme to the ‘Paul obviously didn’t write this’. For those of us who believe that he did, and can see that this passage stands in opposition to other passages which indicate equality for women, we are left with either a contradiction or a twist. What exactly did Paul mean as he wrote that to Timothy, especially given his previous statements about women?
For the second time in as many weeks, Daniel Kirk has incited the biblioblogosphere –
But we need to say more about this passage as well. Because not only does the ancient church serve as a living counter-point to this passage of scripture, almost every modern-day church does as well—even those who cling to the prohibition of women teaching on the basis of a commitment to the Bible as the inerrant word of God. To see how this is so, let’s broaden our vision to the other commands contained in this paragraph.
Many times, people focus on Phoebe (Romans 16.1) as an example of the woman’s role in primitive Christianity – but what about Chloe?
For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. (1Co 1:11 NKJ)
We know several things about the background of 1st Corinthians, the first and foremost, that the local church was undergoing factionalism. At this time, local congregations did not meet in a large assembly hall, but in homes, perhaps many homes, throughout the city. Further, we know that women were rarely given the same social standing as men.
Who was Chloe to the Church at Corinth? William Ramsey (Historical Commentary on 1st Corinthians) notes that most likely, considering the weight that Paul placed on her representative’s testimony, she was an outsider to the local squabbles in the congregation. This is plausible considering that Paul did not take sides in the letter, but sought to bring both back to the one foundation. Had he adopted one side over the other, it would have muted his voice. Paul goes so far as to figuratively place himself and Apollos at the head of the divisions so as to not single out the true instigators of the troubles (1st Cor. 4.6). This has to add weight to the mention of Chloe’s name as the instigator of the the letter. Further, as Calvin (on his commentary) points out, Paul didn’t mention ‘some of the household’ of Chloe had reported these things to him, but all those of the household. It would be absurd to believe that Paul hid the culprits of the report behind the head of the household and those who brought what could have been a condemnation from Corinth on the entire household.
What made up a household in Roman times? According to Florence Dupontv (Daily Life in Ancient Rome), the household was made up of more than just the immediate family and hangers on, but slaves, freedmen and women, including aunts, uncles, cousins, and ex-in-laws. Families to the Romans were more about alliances and contacts than our notion of Traditional Marriage. Considering the Roman rules on marriage, bloodlines, and property ownership, it is difficult to see Chloe, as mentioned here, as anything but the head of the house – whether by widowhood or not. Normally, a woman would be considered as a part, or perhaps apart, from her husband’s household, owing more to the male ownership of women and a tool to carry on the bloodline or to forge alliances than to an actual marriage of love. If it is Chloe’s house, it is the exception to the rule; if it was another’s house, such as Chloe’s husband, son, or brother, then they would have been mentioned. The weight of evidence suggests nothing more than this was her house, and she was the head of it.
So, who exactly is Chloe? First, she is the exception to the rule in ancient Roman Society. Secondly, she is not an exception to the rule in Pauline thought. As we have mentioned Phoebe who was a deaconess in the early Church, we’ll move to three other highlights in Paul’s doctrine:
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did. (Rom 16:7 NLT)
Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. (Rom 16:3 NLT)
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28 NLT)
First, here, Junia is a feminine name, and Paul counted her among the Apostles (note, the term ‘apostle’ means a wide range of people. Only later did it come to fully stand for the Twelve.) Second, it was against custom to present the name of the wife before the name of her husband. Third, as we will cover later, those in Christ did not operate in the same social structure as those in the world around them. For in Christ, there was no respect of a person based on their style and manner of their birth.
Paul displays the characteristics of someone who was highborn – he was the product of a marital union which netted him Roman citizenship – and a Pharisee. He was a member of the ruling class in ancient Palestine, and indeed, for much of the world due to his Roman citizenship. he was well-educated, and no doubt connected. Yet, for Paul, after Christ, he became no one. While we find that Paul does respect roles for men and women (some would dispute the letters in which this is showcased) he is careful, I believe, to keep them equal as humans, and further, to remind us that the social structure of the outside world is not the social structure of the Church.
It is possible that Chloe was indeed head of the household; however, since not only did she send out messengers to report to Paul, was she something more than the head of a household, an anomaly in and of itself in ancient Rome. Returning to the point that her name was mentioned, she had to have served in a more secure position than a simple ‘pew filler.’
Justin, in his ‘Dialogue with Trypho the Jew’ (63.5) speaks of the Church,
Moreover, that the word of God speaks to those who believe in Him as being one soul, and one synagogue, and one church, as to a daughter; that it thus addresses the church which has sprung from His name and partakes of His name (for we are all called Christians)
The term ‘catholic’ is not one that is usually held in high esteem among Fundamentalists. This is due solely to the fact that it is associated with Rome, which is the ‘arch nemesis’ of Fundamentalism; however, the word very simply means ‘universal’. It was this meaning that Polycarp and the Smyrnans used, as well as Ignatius and others in describing the universal Church versus the local congregation. It was not until many years later that the ‘c’ was capitalized.
It was the local congregations that held the immediate attention of Polycarp and Ignatius, both Bishops – or overseers – of the flock, but in each action and though, with each word, both men looked at the Church in a universal light. The orthodoxy in one congregation must be the orthodoxy in another congregation. Although practice might be based on culture, the fact remains that the universal Church have one foundation and one Doctrine, for the One God.
One of the issues that envelopes any organization of men is politics. Politics is a monitor that has involved itself in the lives of men since the very beginning. ‘Sides’ form often in families, businesses, nations, cities, and yes, even local congregations. In the primitive Church, many heretical doctrines developed which caused splits. Several of these was due to the political factions which developed around personalities rather than fixing our eyes upon Jesus Christ.
In the 3rd letter from John, we read of a division caused by a man who thought himself better than the rest,
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. (3Jn 1:9-11 NKJV)
This certain Diotrephes, whose name most likely started his error (meaning nursed by Zues) has refused to hear the missionaries sent by the Apostle John, who by this time, was the last remaining Apostle. By refusing to hear the men that John sent, it was equal to refusing to hear the Apostle. Like all good schismatics, Diotrephes went further – he forced those that would hear from John out of the Church!. John gives us only Diotrephes’ ego as the reason for this problem.
In the congregation at Corinth, there was a problem. The politics of division had began to draw lines among the brothers and the sisters.
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. (1Co 1:10-16 NKJV)
Chloe had brought the Apostle Paul some terrible news – the Church was divided. Divisions were forming. Some where claiming to follow Paul while others were claiming to follow Peter and yet others, Apollos. Some still maintained Christ as their Lord and Master. Paul pleads with them to maintain unity.
Even today in the Church, factionalism may develop in the Body of Christ. One may think himself pass over for the spot of overseer, or perhaps one family may think themselves preeminent above the others and seek to build themselves up over the Church, setting the rules and having all things come through them, much like Diotrephes. Other factions start because of doctrines, but even this is to be avoided. If a doctrine is being taught that is contrary to God, then anchor yourself and pray that God moves. Too many times, people like to start out on their own, but what faith does this show? Surely God can take care of His flock.
The factionalism that developed in the Corinthian Church destroyed the testimony and mission of that Congregation. Paul reminds them of the unity that comes through the Cross, as well as reminding them of their calling – to preach the gospel. The Unity of the Body of Christ – the Church – is Paul’s theme in Ephesians as well, but it is the Church here at Corinth that brings about Paul’s words and corrections. A few people had taken their eyes of Christ, and looking upon mortal man, made political divisions in the Body.
I grew up in a Church that purports the same doctrine as the Church to which I attend now, but as a caveat to this Doctrine, the pastor taught against others who held this doctrine, often making his opinions of them into factual doctrines that must be held to while making himself the sole spokesman for the Church. This pastor would rather have associated with those of similiar doctrine, or less than similiar doctrine, than with those of like doctrine. He purposely divided us from the larger Church organization by these teachings and f it seems scarred some forever. He sought division when unity would have helped him to grow. I had to overcome a lot of these erroneous doctrines – especially the doctrine of division – before I could actually anchor myself down. Even today, the spark of disunity has to be watered down occasionally, but at least now it is a spark and no longer an eager fire.
This divisions, spiritually speaking, are child abuse. When you build your congregation based on the division of another, when you bolt and run, when you cause controversy, when you are caught teaching your children that the pastor is not about God, or that others are better than who God has anointed, then you teach your flock that the needs of the individual outweigh the unity of the Church and the need of the gospel. When these members ‘grow up’, they more often than not turn to divisive actions themselves which further splits the unity of the message. Those that remained years after the split more often then not will find themselves far removed from the the doctrine and Truth of the Church. For those that merely threaten split, or disassociation in order to get there way, again, more often than not, they will be found soon after split and disassociated.
There there are others, because they don’t get there way, bolt and run.
While others claim family.
Still yet others claim preeminence in the congregation.
All forsaking unity for the individual. The Church is a corporate experience not an individual relationship, although the individual relationship is produced by the corporate experience. The Church should be a united body of believers, universal – no one congregation above another or different in doctrine than another. The same is well said of the individual believer.
In several places in the New Testament, the Word of God is served up in culinary terms:
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? (1Co 3:1-4 NKJV)
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:12-14 NKJV)
So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander. Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. (1Pe 2:1-3 RSV)
The state of the Corinthian Church was deplorable. They had welcomed in envying and strife, warfare among brethren, by aligning themselves with one or another. 1st Corinthians is written to a congregation of the Church in turmoil. Factionalism had divided the people; Paul was now writing, warning, hoping, that they could pull themselves together. Not finding our topic this factionalism, we turn to the meat of the issue, Paul’s desire to have the congregation move past the simple things of the word of God and into things that will give them growth.
Robertson, in his Word Pictures, states, “Paul did not glory in making his sermons thin and watery. Simplicity does not require lack of ideas or dulness. It is pathetic to think how the preacher has to clip the wings of thought and imagination because the hearers cannot go with him. But nothing hinders great preaching like the dulness caused by sin on the part of auditors who are impatient with the high demands of the gospel.”
Paul essentially calls the Corinthian Christians infants, childish, in need of parenting. He chastises them over their quarrelsome nature and it was this nature that prevented them from growing in God. They lacked the strength to move from milk to solid food, to meat.
In Hebrews 5:12-14, the author then expresses his disappointment that his readers have not become teachers by now, but are still in need of receiving elemental teaching. He says that they have need of someone to teach them “the elemental teachings of the words of God.” What they need to be taught is the basic teaching from the “words of God” by which is meant the scriptures. In the author’s view, something has gone wrong in the spiritual development of his readers, and that seems to be their wavering in their faith, their lack of interest in going forward into spiritual maturity. The author’s statement could imply that his intended readers were an elite group who should have been exercising leadership in the larger community by now. The author then in 5:12b uses the metaphor of milk and solid food to represent their spiritual state: they are still, to use accurate language, breast feeding at the word when they should have been weaned long ago. He says, “You have come to need milk and not solid food.” The use of the metaphors of milk was common in the Hellenistic world, including Philo. It is clear that “milk” is synonymous with “the elemental teachings of the words of God” (5:12a). The use of the verb “you have come to” implies that the readers have slipped back into the spiritual state of infancy.
Paul is talking not about those that are new, or truly infants, but those that had refused, or slipped back from, maturity. These people, we all know of them, refuse good sound doctrine. They refuse to grow, often times cutting off their legs so that they may doing nothing but sit.
From John Chyrsostom
But how do our “senses” become “exercised”? By continual hearing; by experience of the Scriptures. For when we set forth the error of those [Heretics], and thou hearest today and to-morrow; and provest that it is not right, thou hast learnt the whole, thou hast known the whole: and even if thou shouldest not comprehend to-day, thou wilt comprehend to-morrow.
“That have,” he says, their “senses exercised.” Thou seest that it is needful to exercise our hearing by divine studies, so that they may not sound strangely. “Exercised,” saith he, “for discerning,” that is, to be skilled. (Chrysostom )
Chrysostom is right – spiritual exercise is the constant reading, or hearing, and the experience of the Scriptures. We must first have repentance, and then baptism, and them the indwelling, but beyond that is the life of the Christian. The life of the Christian is not an immediate stop, but a journey. To discuss doctrine is a futile –or religious – exercise, but a necessary element of the Christian life.
For a moment, Chrysostom points our the main part of a developed doctrine, of a doctrine that is known and experienced by the entire Church – heretics. When the Church meets these false prophets, it must have a ground on which to stand, and an experience is generally not enough – if it was, then at no point would any heresy developed to the point of schism. When we know the doctrine, when we have feasted upon the very Word of God, then when we hear these heresies, and they will become more apparent as the Day wanes, then we may prove what is right and what is Godly.
Finally, we see Peter encouraging his readers to long for that pure spiritual milk that gives strength to the infant Christian, but in way does it mean for the Christian to stop there. We must grow as Christians beyond repentance, beyond baptism, beyond the indwelling. We must explore the Church, the doctrines behind repentance, baptism, and the Spirit of the Living God. The doctrines of the Godhead, of the Church, of the Incarnation – the every essentials of salvation – must be learned, and thus taught.