September 30, 2007
(By the way, NEXT week is General Conference. We won’t be meeting at the church building, but rather watching it on TV or going to the Stake building to view it.)
1 Corinthians 11-16
This week’s lesson skips chapters 7-10. My personal opinion is that there are some real gems in these chapters that, especially if you haven’t read 1 Corinthians before and you want a more complete experience, you shouldn’t miss. So, I suggest you include them in your week’s study. In particular, I think noting the various JST changes are important and 1 Cor. 8:6, 9:14, 24-27, 10:12-13 should be highlighted. I believe these verses are some examples of Paul’s spiritual strength and divine direction in his writing.
1 Corinthians Chapter 11:
Paul often gets a bad rap as being anti-woman. I think we’re using our 21st Century glasses to view him if this is our opinion. Chapter 11 is all about order, especially the patriarcle order within the church system. Viewing this orderly structure outside the church system is dangerous. Also, remember the historical social setting and don’t try to superimpose this onto our time because it won’t work.
v. 1: Why would Paul begin this thought on order this way? What does it teach us about what follows?
v. 2: The NET (New English Translation) Bible reads this way: “11:2 I praise you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I passed them on to you.” The NIV (New International Version) reads this way: “I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings just as I passed them on to you.” Compare these to the KJV. What differences do you see and what do you make of them? The Greek word for “ordinances” here is used in the KJV New Testament elsewhere but translated as “traditions.” Why might the translators have chosen to use “ordinances” instead of “traditions” here and not elsewhere? How does the use of the word “custom” at the end of verse 16 play into the above consideration, especially regarding the covering of the head?
v. 3-10: There are a lot of various interpretations of these verses, depending on your predisposition. My NIV Study Bible offers these various opinions. Opinions aside, there are some important observations that might help you as your form your own opinion: 1. In v. 4 Paul uses “head” to mean first a covering and second God; 2. A veil or covering gives honor or signifies that something is holy; Paul is specifically speaking about public worship situations where there are men and women in attendance; Paul is specifically speaking about a husband and wife relationship; the NET Bible notes say “Paul does not use a word specifying what type of “covering” is meant (veil, hat, etc.). The Greek word he uses here (ἐξουσία exousia; translated symbol of authority) could be (1) a figure of speech that may substitute the result (the right to participate in worship) for the appropriate appearance that makes it possible (the covered head). Or (2) it refers to the outward symbol (having the head covered) as representing the inward attitude the woman is to possess (deference to male leadership in the church).”
Another perspective is offered by friend Cheryle M: “I have been reading Neil Elliott’s LIBERATING PAUL: The justice of God and the politics of the Apostle, and finding it fascinating. For instance, according to Elliott, the instruction regarding head covering in chapter 11 is actually given to the MEN, who have been inappropriately covering their heads (v. 4). Why is this inappropriate? We know that Jewish men covered their heads, but these were not Jews. Again, why is this instruction necessary to the Corinthian men? Elliott writes (p. 209): “Paul also proscribes one of the most widely recognized gestures of Roman piety when he insists that men may not cover their heads in prayer in the Christian ekklesia, as a Roman would normally do when he came before the gods of the city. Paul declares that this ordinary gesture dishonors their “head,” who is Christ (11:2-16)”
Elliott argues that to read this passage as concerned with women’s head-coverings makes the passage almost impenetrable: “It has proven just as difficult to explain why Paul, who clearly endorses the women’s right to pray and prophesy in the assembly, should apparently want to subordinate them symbolically to a mascualine hierarchy; or why, for their part, women who had supposedly thrown off such head coverings in an enthusiastic gesture of equality in the Spirit would be persuaded by Paul’s supposed counterarguments about “propriety.”
Instead, Elliott says, the whole point of the passage is that 1) the head of every man is Christ and 2) “any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head,” that is, Christ (11:4).
He further explains: “This gesture on the part of a pious man was common enough, indeed ubiquitous, in Roman religion. Pulling his toga up over his head was “the iconographic mark of a sacrificant presidenting over a specifically Roman ritual,” .. . and several scholars have argued this is the most plausible context of 1 Corinthians 11: 2-16.
Elliott writes quite a bit more about this, more than I can probably quote, but finally he says: “The thrust of Paul’s argument is rather that for a man to adopt in the ekklesia a gesture recognized throughout the empire as the sign of pietas, and thus to emulate the emperor’s own virtue, would dishonor the man’s head, since that “head” is Christ – the one whom Caesar’s subordinate in Judea had crucified. . . . Corinthian images of both Augustus and Nero worshiping with their heads covered invited the channeled wealth and power upward to the emperor; even to feel awe and reverence before the sacred trappings of piety in which the imperium was cloaked. Paul declares such reverence incompatible with the headship of Christ.” (211)
Further, v. 5 clearly shows that Paul EXPECTS women to pray and prophesy in church, even to lead in this way. ”
Try to imagine the occassion that instigated Paul’s writing on this topic. See vs. 16-19 here. What do they tell us is happening in Corinth? Could you imagine a similar scene today in our meetings? Have you ever experienced such a scenerio personally?
v. 11-12: These are beautiful verses explaining the relationship between a marital couple. It should encourage you regarding Paul’s views on women and marriage, when otherwise you might think Paul antagonistic toward them both. How do these verses affect you in your own view on marriage, men and women? How does Paul’s writing support or contradict the Proclamation on the Family?
v. 20-34: What do you think is happening during church meetings in Corinth? From Jim F.’s notes: “Verses 17-19: Some early Christians celebrated the ordinance of the Sacrament by having a meal together. Evidently this was the practice in Corinth. When Paul speaks of them “coming together” he is speaking of them coming together to share that meal. What is his complaint in verse 17? The words translated “divisions” (verse 18) and “heresies” (verse 19) are synonyms, and “heresies” is not a good translation. “Factions” would be better. How is their problem with the Sacrament related to the problem that Paul addressed in the beginning of the letter? In verse 19, Paul seems to think that there is at least one good thing that comes from these factions. What is it?
Verses 20-22: They are coming together and they are eating, but why does Paul say they are neverthless not partaking of the Lord’s Supper (the Sacrament)?
Verses 23-25: Why does Paul feel that he needs to tell them how the ordinance of the Sacrament began? What does he mean when he says “I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you” (verse 23)?
Verse 26: What does it mean to “shew the Lord’s death”? Is that related to the fact that Paul preaches “the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18)? Why does Paul add “till he come”? Why would the Sacrament no longer be needed after Christ returns?
Verse 27: The Greek word translated “unworthily” is the negative form of a word meaning “worthy,” just as is our English word. The Greek word translated “worthy,” originally meant “weighty” or “valuable,” which suggests that to be unworthy is not to be weighty or not to be concerned with weighty things. Given that, how might we understand what it means to take the Sacrament unworthily? How do we take it worthily? If we take it unworthily, why are we “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord”?”
1 Corinthians Chapter 12:
v. 1-3: What does Paul not want the Corinthians ignorant of? Note that the JST changes the “say” in v. 3 to “know.” See Moroni 10:3 here.
v. 4-11: See also D&C 46 & Moroni 10 here for comparrisions. Which gift is the most important? See v. 31 and Chapter 13. What is the “more excellent way?”
v. 12-31: Paul is expert in using the Socratic Method for teaching. Why would he use this method? When else do you see the gospel being taught using this method and by whom? Is this a helpful model for us as we teach? If so, to whom and when? If not, why not?
TEACHING IDEA: In our class on Sunday we will have a demonstration by a class member of the Socratic Method of teaching and how Paul used it and how we might follow in his teaching method as we, too, teach others the gospel.
1 Corinthians Chapter 13:
From Jim F.’s notes: “This is perhaps the most famous chapter in the New Testament. There are good reasons for that, but one consequence is that we often read it as if on automatic pilot, understanding it through the things we’ve heard said about it rather than directly from itself. So, to understand the chapter itself better, ask yourself why Paul writes this in response to their question about gifts of the Spirit. In other words, how is chapter 13 related to chapter 12, particularly to 12:31: “But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way”? And how is what he teaches in chapter 13 related to what he says at the beginning of chapter 14: “Follow after [i.e., seek] charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy”? (Don’t forget what Paul said about prophecy in 13:2 and 8.) Another way to ask the same question: why does Paul interrupt his discussion of spiritual gifts (chapters 12 and 14) with this discourse on Christian love?”
Step back to the previous chapter for a moment. Are you able to answer the question: What is the best gift? What is the more excellent way of attaining them that Paul is going to show us? Keep both these questions in mind as you read Chapter 13. Why do you think the Corinthians needed this portion of the letter? Do we as a church or individual need this letter today?
From Jim F.’s notes: “Verses 4-7: What does it mean to be long-suffering? We use the word “patient,” which means “passive” or “waiting.” What does “long-suffering” connote? (Remember that in King James’ English, “suffering” didn’t necessarily mean that one felt pain; it meant that one endured or allowed something.) What is envy or jealousy and why is it inimical to love? How do we vaunt ourselves (brag)? What is wrong with doing so? Why is it incompatible with love? What is the problem with being puffed up? Does Paul’s teaching about Christian wisdom help us see why bragging and pride are forbidden by love? (Compare 1 Corinthians 1:29-31.) What is unseemly behavior (verse 5)? (See the footnote.) Why would unseemly behavior make one unloving? What does it mean to seek one’s own, i.e., to see one’s own advantage? We could replace “thinketh” in “thinketh no evil” with the word “calculates” and we would improve the translation. When would a person calculate evil? What does it mean to rejoice in iniquity (verse 6)? When do we do that? Here is another translation of verse 7: “It keeps all confidences, maintains all faithfulness, all hope, all steadfastness.” What do you think of saying “keeps all confidences” instead of “bears all things”? Which fits Paul’s teaching better? Another, fairly literal translation, is “covers all things.” What do you think of that translation? If you think that the King James translation makes more sense, can you explain what it means to bear all things? Think about Paul’s teaching and try to make your own “translation” of verse 7.”
At this point, can you define CHARITY? In what way does Paul define CHARITY? Is it a helpful exercise to substitute the word CHRIST for charity? What might you learn by so doing?
v. 12: The term “glass” can be translated as “mirror.” From the NIV: “Grk “we are seeing through [= using] a mirror by means of a dark image.” Corinth was well known in the ancient world for producing some of the finest bronze mirrors available. Paul’s point in this analogy, then, is not that our current understanding and relationship with God is distorted (as if the mirror reflected poorly), but rather that it is “indirect,” (i.e., the nature of looking in a mirror) compared to the relationship we will enjoy with him in the future when we see him “face to face” (cf. G. D. Fee, First Corinthians [NICNT], 648). The word “indirectly” translates the Greek phrase ἐν αἰνίγματι (ejn ainigmati, “in an obscure image”) which itself may reflect an allusion to Num 12:8 (LXX οὐ δι᾿ αἰνιγμάτων), where God says that he speaks to Moses “mouth to mouth [= face to face]…and not in dark figures [of speech].” Though this allusion to the OT is not explicitly developed here, it probably did not go unnoticed by the Corinthians who were apparently familiar with OT traditions about Moses (cf. 1 Cor 10:2). Indeed, in 2 Cor 3:13-18 Paul had recourse with the Corinthians to contrast Moses’ ministry under the old covenant with the hope afforded through apostolic ministry and the new covenant. Further, it is in this context, specifically in 2 Cor 3:18, that the apostle invokes the use of the mirror analogy again in order to unfold the nature of the Christian’s progressive transformation by the Spirit.”
What else can you learn from Paul’s use of the mirror metaphore?
TEACHING IDEA: Take a large mirror to class and use it as the object lesson for this section of scripture, allowing students to note the relationship available and denied through viewing another person through a mirror.
1 Corinthians Chapter 14:
v. 12: Here is a great homilee: “See that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.” What does this teach us about spiritual gifts?
v. 20: I like the NET Bible here: “Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking. Instead, be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.”
21: This is a quote from Isa. 28:11-12.
v. 34-35: In light of 11:2-16, which gives permission for women to pray or prophesy in the church meetings, the silence commanded here seems not to involve the absolute prohibition of a woman addressing the assembly. Therefore (1) some take be silent to mean not taking an authoritative teaching role as 1 Tim 2 indicates, but (2) the better suggestion is to relate it to the preceding regulations about evaluating the prophets (v. 29). Here Paul would be indicating that the women should not speak up during such an evaluation, since such questioning would be in violation of the submission to male leadership that the OT calls for (the law, e.g., Gen 2:18). The JST helps a lot here! Paul is speaking about order within the church, similar to the beginning of Chapter 11. Note the last verse of this chapter and how this is combined with the seeming confusion that would occur from many people speaking at once in undiscernable tongues.