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Reflection on the first letter to the Corinthians

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Reflection on the first letter to the Corinthians

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  • October 23, 2006
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There is no word in these verses about Corinthian factions, and there's hardly anything much about Christians. Instead, it's all about Jews and Greeks. All of their avant-garde philosophies, all of their theories about worldly matters, all of the ways in which those sophisticated idolatries demand signs or want proof and thereby arrive at what they call wisdom. Sure, they stroke their beards and sip their sherry and have their silly little circular conversations with one another and get written up on a piece of parchment but they wouldn't know real wisdom, Paul says, if it slapped them in the face.

If they want to know real wisdom, Paul says, they've got to stand on their heads and behold the way the world looks when it's upside down. Only when they're standing on their heads will they be able to see that their wisdom look like foolishness--what with its attempt to invent God in their own image! Only then will they begin to get that the foolishness of the cross is a scandal to the Jews because, for Jews, gods don't dwell with people as well as it is a lack fo understanding to the Greeks because, for Greeks, gods don't die. The Jews believe that God dwells far removed from people in the holy of holies, but the foolishness of the cross depicts a God who comes to dwell in the dirt and grime of human life. And the Greeks believe that God does the sorts of things that wise people do, but the foolishness of the cross is when weakness becomes its own kind of strength, which goes against all logic for the Greeks. So that, for both Jew and Greek, what God is up to in our midst rebuts what we expect and assume about God. The God that Paul is talking about is so above what we can imagine as our notions of God so partial and off-the-mark.

It's a very important argument! But, like I said, it appears to be a colossal change of subject! What does it have to do with all the factionalism that Paul is so steamed about in that church in Corinth? Unless. . .unless, as a...