Friday, January 03, 2014

Dialogue on 1 Corinthians 5:1-13: Eating with A Sinner

I must admit that a reference to the Lord's supper in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 is a possibility (cf. 1 Cor. 11:23ff). However, my analysis of this account rules out that conclusion for the following reasons.

1 Corinthians 5:1 describes the sin of a Christian brother in Corinth. He is cohabiting with his father's wife (living in an incestuous relationship); even worse, the older men of Corinth--representing the EKKLESIA--are tolerating this immoral conduct. Paul laments that the Corinthians are "puffed up" rather than mourning over the abhorrent deeds of the immoral brother in their midst.

In 1 Cor. 5:3-5, the "apostle to the nations" recommends that the one practicing sin be "delivered up to the adversary." This act is done in order to destroy the sinful "flesh" and preserve the spirit of the believer "in the day of the Lord."

Next, Paul continues to expound on the reason that the sinning believer must be turned over to the Devil. By allowing this one to remain in the midst of the congregation, the EKKLESIA will suffer corruption: it will not be able to rightly observe the antitypical passover: "for even our Paschal Lamb, Christ, was sacrificed" (Emphatic Diaglott). Therefore, the congregation of God must take the action prescribed in 1 Cor. 5:9-13. What is the thrust of this counsel? What action is the EKKLESIA urged to take?


The phrase that really catches my attention here is NUNI DE EGRAYA hUMIN

This part of the verse indicates that Paul is not simply talking about ceasing to share "the meal" with a brother who practices sin--although clearly the EKKLHIA should take this action as well.

The present infinitive middle SUNANAMIGNUSQAI tells me that all association should cease with this person (not just the Lord's evening meal). Elsewhere we are told, "do not receive him into your house nor wish him success" (2 John 10, 11). If you want to discuss the applicability/inapplicability of 2 John 2:7, we can examine that verse too. In sum, I would say that 1 Cor. 5:11 is talking about general association (i.e., "don't even eat lunch with this man"!).

Kathleen Callow makes this point concerning 1 Cor. 5:6-8:

"In this unit Paul urges the expulsion (EKKAQARATE, v. 7a) in the light of the effect of evil on their fellowship as a whole, and of their own status as AZOUMOI--a purified community" (See Linguistics and NT Interpretation, edited by D.A. Black, page 202).

Robertson's Word Pictures supplies this note on 1 Cor. 5:11:

"With such a one, no, not to eat (τωι τοιουτωι μηδε συνεστιειν — tōi toioutōi mēde sunesthiein). Associative instrumental case of τοιουτωι — toioutōi after συνεστιειν — sunesthiein 'not even to eat with such a one.' Social contacts with such 'a brother' are forbidden."


Kyp said...

Well, I agree with your analysis, but it's just not right to apply this on things of which the bible doesn't make a clear statement. Think about brothers that claim, every Christian should partake (memorial) - they will get disfellowshipped for apostasy. Same with conscience choices regarding birthdays, blood, thanks giving, new year. I enjoy reading your blog, but I wonder what you think about these matters. And yes, I'm NOT DF'd, just, as you would name it, an "incorrigible bibliophile".

Edgar Foster said...

Dear Kyp,

What I posted was a dialogue I once had with someone who raised this question. Now you raise an interesting question about reasons for being disfellowshipped which do include apostasy. One thing to ponder is that the Bible strongly condemns sectarianism and those who espouse contentious doctrine. Granted, some things are personal decisions--diet, the use of alcohol, wholesome entertainment and choice of work. But holidays are another matter. There is evidence that the ancient Jews and Christians did not observe pagan holidays. Those things were not a matter of personal conscience. Thanks for reading my blog.

Anonymous said...

Where can we find 'evidence' that the ancient Jews and Christians did not observe pagan holidays? And how reliable is the evidence? Was it beyond Jews and christians to make up rules as they developed. If birthdays celebrations displease God why no mention in the Bible as a practice to be avoided. What of circumcision and baptism, God seems to have no problem with either of those practices which predate both christianity and Judaism.

Edgar Foster said...

I'm sure you're familiar with the verse in Ecclesiastes that says the day of one's death is better than one's day of birth (7:1). We also know that birthdays are only mentioned twice in Scripture and they were observed by pagans both times and bad things happened at those observances.

Two witnesses that we have from antiquity include Origen of Alexandria, who states that birthdays are only celebrated by pagans (not Jews or Christians) and Arnobius of Sicca who is critical of birthday celebrations.

We have to read the Bible within its cultural context. The Jews might have seen no need to have a command against birthday celebrations: they just did not do it.

Circumcision and baptism are not analogous to birthdays. Circumcision started with Abraham and baptism (as practiced by Judaism and Christianity) is not rooted in false religious rites.

Edgar Foster said...

Here are some other remarks I found in my notes:

According to Josephus, the Mosaic Law did not permit ancient Jews to celebrate birthdays since they were
viewed as providing an occasion for the Israelites to drink excessively. The evidence from Christian writers is scant, but we know that both Origen and Arnobius of Sicca condemn birthdays in their writings. Origen
contends that only sinners celebrate birthdays (see the Catholic Encyclopedia). And it
certainly appears that birthdays are rooted in idolatry:

"The various customs with which people today celebrate
their birthdays have a long history. Their origins lie
in the realm of magic and religion. The customs of
offering congratulations, presenting gifts and
celebrating—complete with lighted candles—in ancient
times were meant to protect the birthday celebrant
from the demons and to ensure his security for the coming year . . ." (Schwäbische Zeitung [magazine
supplement Zeit und Welt], April 3/4, 1981, p. 4).