Back to Home                                                                                   

 

A Torah Commentary on First

 Corinthians 1-6:

 

Interpreting the Text in Light of

Its Old Testament Roots

 

by

Roland H. Worth, Jr.

Richmond, Virginia

 

© 2011

 

 

 

Reproduction of this book for non-profit circulation by any electronic or print media means is hereby freely granted at no cost—provided the text is not altered in any manner. 

 

If accompanied by additional, supplemental material—in agreement or disagreement—it must be clearly and visibly distinguishable from the original text.

 

 

 

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®.  Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preface  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .      1

 

 

 

Introductory Matters

 

 

Chapter 1:

The Writing and Intents of the Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    8

1.  Authorship (8)

2.  Date of Composition (8)

3.  Place of Writing (9)

4.  Canonicity (10)

5.  The Broad Themes of the Epistle:  An Overview (10)

6.  Doctrine of the Church and Its Leadership (16)

     Notes (19)

 

Chapter 2:

The Corinthian Church in its Historical and Social Context. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     24

1.  Overview of the City’s History (24)

2.  Ports (25)

3.  Economy (26)

4.  Intellectual and Cultural Life (27)

5.  Moral Behavior (28)

6.  Religion (29)

7.  Introduction of Christianity (30)

8.  Local Illustrations of Pauline Allusions (32)

     Notes (33)

 

 

Chapter 3:

Focuses for Conflict within the Congregation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .      43

1.  Paul’s Immediate Reason for Writing:  Rampant Factionalism (43)

2.  Paul’s Sources of Information on the Internal Corinthian Divisions (45)

3.  Sexual Morality As a Source of Disagreement (47)

4.  The Abuse of the Communion As a Source of Discord (49)

5.  The Abuse of Tongue Speaking and Prophecy As a Source of Conflict (51)

6.  Women’s Role in the Congregation As a Source of Division (54)

     Notes (56)

 

Chapter 4:

The Epistle’s Doctrine of the Supernatural. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        59

1.  Doctrine of God (59)

2.  Christology (60)

3.  Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (62)

4.  Doctrine of Divine Justice:  Rewards and Punishments

--Temporal and Beyond (65)

     Notes (67)

 

 

 

Studies of the Text

 

 

 

Chapter 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     68

 

Themes Developed (68)

 

Old Testament Precedent for the Themes of This Chapter (74)

 

Explicit Quotations (74): 

            1:19:  The limits of human insight when it comes to

spiritual matters (74).  

            1:31:  Honor and praise should be directed toward God and His

blessings rather than our own real and imagined

accomplishments (75). 

 

Possible Allusions/Similar or Parallel Concepts (77):  

            1:2:  “Calling on the name of Jesus Christ” (77). 

1:7:  The Corinthians were “eagerly waiting for the revelation”

of Christ (78).

            1:9:  “God is faithful:  the steadfastness and reliability

of Yahweh (78). 

            1:10-13:  The evil of disisiveness among God’s people (79). 

            1:20:  God’s ability to make “foolish the wisdom of this world” (79) 

            1:23:  Christ as a “stumbling block” to ethnic Jews due to His

having been crucified (80).

            1:26-28:  God’s use of the less respected classes of society to teach

their “superiors” wisdom and humility (80).

            1:30:  Believers accept Jesus as “wisdom from God,” “righteousness,”                                       “sanctification” and “redemption” (81).

           

Historical Allusions:   None.

           

Problem Texts (82)

 

            1:1:  Was “the church of God which is at Corinth” one congregation

meeting in one place or did it actually consist of only dispersed

house churches” within the city (82)?

1:12:  What were the convictions of the “Paul(ine),” “Apollos,”

Cephas,” and “Christ” factions he refers to (87)?

            1:15, 17:  Paul’s “unconcern” with baptism (92).

            1:22-23:  Fundamental Jewish and Gentile dislike for the conception

of a crucified Messiah (93).

1:26:  The class/socio-economic composition of the Corinthian

congregation (94).

 

 

Notes ( 95)

 

 

 

Chapter 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    103

 

Themes Developed (103)

 

Old Testament Precedent for the Themes of This Chapter (108)

 

Explicit Quotations (108):

 

            2:9:  Divine decisions that human speculation would not

have anticipated (108). 

            2:16:  Maintaining humility when faced with the instructions

of God (110). 

           

Possible Allusions/Similar or Parallel Concepts (111):    

 

            2:1:  Non-eloquent spokesmen for God in the Old Testament (111). 

            2:4-5:  Paul’s preaching as backed not by the power of human

reasoning “but in the power of God” (112).

2:6-7:  God as possessor and revealer of “wisdom” that no mortal

can gain by study, research, or insight (115).  

            2:6:  The “wisdom” of earthly “rulers” is ultimately frustrated and

they are “coming to nothing” in their defiance of  the Divine (116).  

            2:8:  “The Lord of glory” (116). 

            2:10:  The Holy Spirit as revealer of God’s will (116).

            2:11:  The inner “spirit” of a person “know[ing] the things” that

are within the heart and mind (117). 

            2:11:  The degree of God’s wisdom (117).

            2:14:  God’s will is “foolishness” to those who are unable to think in

terms of anything beyond their “natural” selves

and the world immediately around them (117). 

             

 

Historical Allusions:   None

           

Problem Texts (118)

 

            2:3:  Paul’s physical and/or mental condition when preaching

in Corinth (1:18). 

            2:6, 8:  The identity of the “rulers of this age” (119).

            2:12:  The influence of the environment for encouraging hostility

to the gospel message (120).    

2:15:  “He who is spiritual judges all things” (120).   

 

 

Notes (121)

 

 

 

Chapter 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     126

 

Themes Developed (126)

 

Old Testament Precedent for the Themes of This Chapter (132)

 

Explicit Quotations (132):

 

            3:19:  The clever person’s schemes ultimately backfire when their                                                          purposes and intents defy the Divine will (132). 

            3:20:  The smartest person still suffers failures of his or her practical

and theoretical reasoning (134). 

 

Possible Allusions/Similar or Parallel Concepts (135):    

 

            3:5-9:  The comparison of encouraging others to follow God’s will

with planting and growing a crop (135). 

            3:6:  Even when human labor is involved in producing a result, when

it is an act in obedience to God’s will Yahweh should be given

the credit for its success (136). 

            3:8:  Individual rewards from God based upon individual

accomplishment (136). 

            3:10-11:  The need for building upon the right spiritual foundation,

which is Jesus Christ” (136). 

            3:13:  The testing of God’s people by the testing “fire” of life’s                                                   adversities (137).

            3:14:  The person who converts an individual who remains steadfast

will “receive a reward” (137). 

            3:16:  The individual who is part of God’s people is a “temple of

God” (138).  

            3:16:  The Holy Spirit as “dwell[ing] in” believers (138). 

            3:17:  The person who “defiles the temple of God” will bear severe                                            retribution (141). 

            3:18:  Self-deception easily arises in a person who is overly

confident of how clever (wise”) he or she is (141). 

            3:22:  No one should “boast” of how great or important they are (142). 

 

 

Historical Allusions:   None 

           

 

Problem Texts (143)

           

            3:13-15:  Testing “by fire” of one’s earthly work (143).

            3:21:  “All things are yours”--in what sense? (145) 

 

 

Notes (145)

 

 

 

Chapter 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    151

 

Themes Developed (151)

 

Old Testament Precedent for the Themes of This Chapter (156)

 

Explicit Quotations:  None

 

Possible Allusions/Similar or Parallel Concepts (157):    

           

            4:2:  The need for “stewards” to be “faithful” in fulfilling the duties

and obligations as representatives of their superior(157). 

4:4:  The fact that our own personal judgment finds nothing wrong

with us, does not guarantee that the “Lord” will reach the

same conclusion (157). 

            4:4:  Our ultimate judgment by “the Lord” (158). 

            4:6:  The danger of uncontrolled pride in others (158).  

            4:8:  The Corinthian delusion of greatness as an accomplished

reality (160).

            4:10:  Mockery as a teaching tool (160).

            4:14:  Paul was not attempting to “shame” his readers but to “warn”

them of conduct dangerous to their spiritual welfare (161).

          4:15:  The idea of spiritual parentage (161).

          4:21:  The punishing rod (162)

 

 

Historical Allusions:   None

           

Problem Texts (164)

 

            4:5:  “Judge nothing . . . until the Lord comes.”  Nothing? (164)

            4:6:  Did the Corinthians have literal Pauline, Cephian, Apollonian,

and Christian sects or are they substitute names for the

guilty parties (165)?

            4:6:  Where is it “written” that we are not to think too highly

of ourselves (166)?

            4:15:  The difference between “fathers” and “instructors” (167)

 

 

Notes (168)

 

 

 

Chapter 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    171

 

Themes Developed (171)

 

Old Testament Precedent for the Themes of This Chapter (178)

 

Explicit Quotations (177):

 

            5:13:  Those guilty of extremely inappropriate behavior must be

removed from God’s people (177).  

 

Possible Allusions/Similar or Parallel Concepts (178):   

 

            5:1:  The spread of bad news about the moral failures of

God’s people (178). 

            5:1:  “Incest:  Old Testament regulations on sexual relationships

with parents and equivalent close kin (178). 

            5:1:  Evils so extreme that even bad people avoid them (181). 

            5:2:  Congregational members were to “mourn” (rather than to be

blasé or proud) of clear-cut moral evil in their ranks (181). 

            5:6:  The degenerative impact of a “small” amount of evil on the entire                                        congregation (182).  

            5:7:  The Passover (183). 

            5:8:  Observing our “Passover” feast of obedience to Christ without

being spoiled by “leaven” (183.  

            5:11:  Old Testament condemnations of the six sins that are

specified (183).                       

          5:11:  Not to eat with the morally outrageous (184). 

 

Historical Allusions:   The Passover (185)

           

Problem Texts (185)

 

            5:1:  The nature of the incest in Corinth (185). 

            5:2:  Regardless of the nature of the kinship relation, why did the

Corinthians tolerate such extreme conduct (187)? 

5:4-5:  The nature of the penalty to be inflicted upon the incestuous                                            individual:  a formal and public repudiation in the church

assembly itself (188).

            5:5:  The goal of such public repudiation:  salvation through being

handed over to Satan and “the destruction of the flesh” (189).

            5:9:  What was the “epistle” in which Paul instructed the Corinthians

to avoid “sexually immoral people” (191)?

            5:9, 11, 13:  The discipline was to involve shunning all social

relationships with the individual (193).

            5:11:  Other offenses by believers that Paul lists as proper to cause

social shunning (195).   

 

 

Notes (197)

 

 

 

Chapter 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     206

 

Themes Developed (206)

 

Old Testament Precedent for the Themes of This Chapter (206)

 

Explicit Quotations (212):

 

            6:16:  Sexual expression’s uniting of the two genders (212). 

 

Possible Allusions/Similar or Parallel Concepts (213):

 

            6:1:  Standards for lawsuits in ancient Israel (213). 

            6:2-3:  God’s people as “judg[ing] the world and even “angels” (213).  

            6:6-7:  There are times when it is better to accept loss than to

contest an issue (215). 

            6:8:  “Cheat[ing]” others what they are due is bad enough, but

even worse when they are our own co-religionists (216). 

            6:9:  The moral unacceptability of both parties in a homosexual

relationship (216). 

6:11:  We do not have to be the prisoners of the moral failures

of the past (218). 

            6:18:  “Flee[ing]” sexual misbehavior (219). 

 

Historical Allusions:  None  

           

Problem Texts (220)

 

            6:2-3:  In what sense will “the saints . . . judge the world” and even                                            “angels” (220)?

            6:4-5:  The nature of the individual to decide legal controversies

among coreligionists (222). 

            6:5:  The nature of pagan law courts in civil matters (224).

            6:9-10:  Attempts to limit the condemned heterosexual and homosexual                                                 misconduct to prostitution (226). 

            6:12-13:  In what sense were “all things . . . lawful” for Paul (229)? 

            6:15:  The nature of the prostitution condemned by Paul (231). 

            6:17:  In what sense are Christians “one spirit” with “the Lord” (232)?

            6:18:  In what sense are sins “outside the body” but sexual misconduct                                       uniquely a transgression against one’s “own body” (233)? 

 

 

Notes (235)

 

 

 

 


Preface

           

This commentary has three central goals:

            (1)  To provide an overview of the divisions of Paul’s arguments—how they are developed and interlock; in short, to encourage the modern reader to put the text in its intended context.   “Proof texting” is potentially fine and good, but the two quickest ways to subvert its value is by either ignoring what the verse actually says--unconsciously interjecting into it the gloss of what we’ve been told it says or means--or by ignoring the context in which the statement is made.  The context—the “overview”--needs to be understood in order to assure that we haven’t taken the ensuing textual argument in a direction other than the apostle intended.

            (2)  To present analysis of controversial texts that stress in a concise form not only the dominant interpretation, but also the alternatives that exist to challenge it.  What makes them tick and how have they held up to the challenges made against them?  As one attempts to prepare a commentary on the entire Pauline letter, one immediately becomes painfully aware of just how many different matters the book discusses, on each of which there is often a variety of vigorously and loudly defended positions.  Many of them justify a volume in their own right!  Hence it is impossible to provide all that one might like on these various matters.  If you did, you would have an encyclopedia and not a commentary.  Relative brevity has been essential--but not so short that subjects can not be given a decent over-view.

            Hence I have attempted to present a concise analysis of the various interpretive options that are available and the reasoning behind them.  It is quite possible that the reader will decide that the ones I opt for are not the best ones.  Even if that should be the case, the reader will still be well versed as the other possibilities that are available.  After all, a good commentary is not designed to do your thinking for you but to provide an aid and stimulus as you judge the matters for yourself.

            (3)  Finally it is the purpose of this work to bring to the front and center the intense and detailed degree to which Paul’s argumentation routinely incorporates a detailed knowledge and embracing of the wisdom and insights of the Torah.  Not just occasionally by introducing selected “proof texts” but comprehensively, buried deep in the very assumptions and arguments that he makes.  (Although the “Torah” properly refers just to the opening five books of Moses, we will utilize it as verbal shorthand for the entire Old Testament.  The entire work is referred to, upon occasion, as “the law and prophets” in the New Testament and the latter utilizes “the law” = narrowly, the Torah, Books of Moses, in allusion to other parts of the Old Testament as well.  Hence the propriety of this broader usage.)

            Paul has those writings so deeply engrained in his unconscious, as this book will document, that a similar world, moral, and religious view are woven throughout the very grain of his arguments.  He gives no indication in the bulk of cases of even “intending” them to be viewed as Old Testament based; they have become so internalized in his very soul that they are now part of his spiritual essence as well.  A conscious reliance on the Old Testament is not even required; he just does it automatically.

            To be quite candid, since this commentary is designed to be Torah-centered, I originally calculated that a volume on Corinthians would be one of the easiest of the New Testament writings to approach from this perspective.  With a predominantly Gentile [Page 2] audience the amount of Old Testament dependent or based material had to be modest--didn’t it?  I suppose I should have known better from my earlier published and non-published studies.  Between the large number of such precedents and the substantial number of interpretive issues, I discovered that the material would not fit within the confines of one volume and do justice to the data.  Hence we have had to divide Corinthians into multiple volumes and even then exercised caution in keeping the material within reasonable length:  too long and the reader will not be interested in “plowing through” it all; too short and there will not be enough to make the effort worthwhile.  Hopefully, I have struck a good balance between the two needs.

            The primary Bible translation quoted throughout is the New King James Version, with major supplementation from my own Alternative Translation and Paraphrase (see below).  No translation is without its problems, but for years the NKJV has been at the top of my very short list of on-going favorites—having displaced after years of usage both the Revised Standard Version and the New American Standard Bible.  Alternate readings from other translations are given upon occasion and identified as to their source. 

These include such versions as God’s Word (GW), the New American Bible (New Testament section in the Revised Edition) (NAB), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and the Revised Standard Version (RSV).

            I preached and wrote for years from the RSV and it still holds up well.  The GW I find, well--fascinating is the only word I can come up with.  Through the ingenious substitution of equivalent language for the “tried and true” traditional verbal formulations, it often provides insight that is otherwise missed. 

            The NRSV is perhaps the dominant translation in “mainstream” religious circles at the moment but, in my judgment in spite of good renderings in certain places, overall, it does not measure up to its predecessor.  (More than a few of its efforts to “degenderize” the text strike me as hasty and sloppy—the resulting unnatural sound (to English speaking ears) are reminiscent of reading “Young’s Literal Translation” at its worst.)  The NAB represents the fruit of modern Roman Catholic scholarship and is another useful tool for translation comparison.   

            Evolution of this work.  This volume goes back to somewhere in the early 1990s and was then rewritten twice—including adding, as requested, a new translation of Paul’s epistles--before its intended publisher decided it would just not be a feasible project for his firm to publish.  The comprehensiveness of the work had resulted in a manuscript too long for a single volume, and, even more fatally (for even the most idealistic publisher has to make a profit to stay in business), I simply did not have the “name recognition” that might enable them to overcome this hindrance.

            Since then a number of years have gone by and I decided to return to this work once again to produce a final fourth version.  This required the addition of newer literature, including works that at last were giving the New Testament reliance on the Old the kind of attention the subject deserved.  In the process, the length increased from around 200,000 to what is likely to be 300,000 words by the time the work is finished.  In turn, this led to the decision to divide the commentary into three separate volumes, both for the convenience of the user—who may well be interested in only a limited part of the entire analysis—and in order to assure the availability of the work to the public without further delay. 

Revision also involved the addition of two new major interpretive issues:  whether [Page 3] all early churches were solely “house churches” (in chapter 1) and whether the nature of the human resurrection (chapter 15) can be interpreted in a non-physical manner descriptive of first century events.  The first of these is a common assumption across the theological landscape; the latter is a key thesis of a movement that, in the last decade, has become increasingly popular at the “evangelical” end of the religious spectrum.  The nature of individual human resurrection requires far more detailed examination than space will be available even in this study.  The result, God willing, will be a separate book just on that issue and at least twice as long as the projected current chapter 15—itself already clearly the longest in this commentary.

Because these volumes are being released in electronic format and, alas, are unlikely to ever have a printed form, some means of identifying where a statement is found in the text was deemed appropriate.  Hence for reader convenience and reference use, I have identified with a page number every page of the manuscript as it was found in a single spaced version of the material.  (Actual placement of the number may vary a line or two to avoid interruption of the natural “flow” of the text, visibly and in reading.) 

 

 

Alternative Translation and Paraphrase

 

            Although the original intent was to include the full Corinthians text of the NKJV, the length of the commentary—as well as the varying preferred text of different individuals—has led me to abandon this approach in the final revision.  Hence one should read the text of each section in one’s preferred translation and then, for comparative reasons, examine the ATP that is included in each section.

I claim a number of skills, but that of translator is not among them.  Hence when I was requested to provide a fresh version of the text to accompany this commentary, it posed something of a quandary for me.  Traditionally I have viewed one person translations rather cynically:  If it is that good, why isn’t it already part of one of the various widely used consensus versions currently in print? 

            Hence, in spite of a considerable degree of personal cynicism, I proceeded with the effort.  The preparation of the text involved careful consideration of the efforts of seventeen previous translations--building on the collective wisdom of predecessors always seems a prudent policy.  In addition I consulted at length with Jack Gibbert, a now-retired long-term minister among the non-denominational churches of Christ.  His advice, counsel, and suggestions were invaluable in the process of further revision.  The final responsibility for that which was adopted is, of course, my own. 

I count Jack both as a friend of decades and as a capable analyst of the sacred text.  Through the years, he has repeatedly challenged my thinking and ideas.  Sometimes I have accepted his reasoning; in other cases I have rejected it.  In all cases I have been benefited.  Similarly he will find much in this work that will appeal to him and sections that he would have done considerably differently.

            I call this an Alternate Translation and Paraphrase since an element of paraphrase is always present in any translation and in one of this nature it is best to acknowledge it in the “naming” of the work itself:  By the very effort to make “clearer” the intent of the text, it is extraordinarily ease to cross that very thin boundary line between rendition and interpretation, even though it is done out of the best of intentions.  Indeed, so wrapped up are the issues involved in translation and explanation that one may easily cross that line [Page 4] in the mind of the reader when the preparer of the version has not done so in his or her own mind.  

This text is utilized at the beginning of each chapter as the textual divisions of that chapter are discussed.  It is also included as a comparative translation (with the abbreviation, “ATP”) in the commentary itself, with the NKJV being the primary text quoted unless otherwise stated.

The NKJV, in spite of its virtues, is determined to follow the precedent of the KJV even in those cases where modern critical editions disagree.  For the reader’s benefit, they have provided a wide cross-section of footnotes indicating where that translation differs from either the majority text or the critical text, however.  The ATP will reflect the latter, leading to an occasional “disjoint” when the two translations are compared.  For comparison purposes, renderings of the ATP are interjected directly into NKJV quotations when only a very few words are involved (with “ATP” for identification); when a longer rendering is being compared, it is typically quoted afterwards (again, with the identification of source).

In regard to the many passages quoted to detail the Old Testament principles Paul is either directly or implicitly relying upon, the NKJV is utilized, with occasional other translations being introduced where deemed especially relevant.  Its inclination toward “literalism” is useful due to the very fact that it compels us to consider the text with a minimum of conjecture.  Adding an ATP of these texts was impracticable for it would have required a project covering virtually the entire Old Testament. 

            This Alternative Translation operates under several broad guidelines.  On the one hand we desire to be substantially “literal”; on the other hand we desire to fully communicate the intent of the words themselves, something that literalism can never fully do.  The danger, of course, is that in the effort to bring out the intent we read into the text meanings and purposes that were never contemplated.  If one is too literalistic one does not adequately communicate the original message—indeed one may make it incomprehensible to the bulk of readers who lack decades of study in the text; on the other hand, if one is too paraphrasitic one also hides, alters, or removes the original intention.

            Hopefully we have avoided that danger in this rendition by striking an appropriate balance between the two tendencies.  If we sometimes seem to wander too far in one direction or the other, it is due to our paramount intent of communicating the text’s underlying purpose and meaning rather than stubbornly holding to an absolute consistency in translation style that would undermine that goal.  This is a paramount advantage of a translation/paraphrase that is designed for commentary use rather than as an authoritative text for general consultation. 

 De-genderizing is the common methodology of the day and I must confess major reservations about the approach in spite of its popularity.  The unquestionably “male” term “brethren” is, paradoxically, clearly intended in the original to encompass both male and female.  Yet to arbitrarily replace it with non “male” language allows theological considerations to overrule accuracy and literalness in order to solve a “problem” that was never conceived to be a difficulty until the last decades of the twentieth century.  To insert “brothers and sisters” (as many do) is to add to the text that originally intended to be covered by the first word alone.

[Page 5]           The use of “male” terminology to include both genders served the constructive purpose of teaching early Christians that whatever were the proper “roles” of the two sexes, they shared a spiritual “oneness” in the Lord that transcended gender considerations.  By abandoning this tradition of dual usage, a further barrier is created between male and female rather than diminishing it; it unintentionally tends to replace a recognition of the gender equality within the fellowship of God with an implicit maximizing of gender differences.

The legacy of spoken English itself poses a major problem in that we do not have gender inclusive terms that function as well as the old fashioned “he” and “him.”  Again this double usage reinforced the fact that though there are undeniable male and female differences, the Divine fellowship and message always encompassed both.  The simple fact is that in spoken English, terms like “people” and “persons” and “one” simply fall short on in regard to “naturalness” of the language—at least when imposed uniformly and persistently throughout a text.

The problem is not dealt with fairly when one interjects “Christian,” “believer” or other terminology in its place since these are quite specific terms:  although describing the same group as “brethren” the terminology is not conceptually equivalent--they are describing different aspects of that same group.  Furthermore, it leaves the erroneous impression that the words are used in passages where they are completely lacking in the original—places where the traditional “he” and “him” and “brethren” were used to include both genders.  Uniformly rewriting and rearranging the text to remove the problem (as is the demand) opens one to the legitimate charge that preserving what the text says is far less important than advancing a theological agenda, an approach to scripture translation that would normally be viewed with the most serious reservations and indignation.

Be that as it may, since the Alternate Translation makes no pretense of becoming a generally used translation and since the contemporary fancy is for absolute degenderizing—even when a modest preservation of the traditional double usage of words like “he” and “him” make the text read far more “naturally”--I have attempted to adopt that approach for this version except in those contexts when males are clearly intended as the immediate object of discussion.  Hopefully we have avoided the worst offenses outlined above.  If so, perhaps we will have assisted those who prefer to fine tune and improve present efforts in behalf of “degenderization.”

            Beyond the matter of the loss of “natural speech sound” to the English reader when we omit the “he’s” and the “him’s,” the greatest challenge is, probably, in regard to the term “brethren.”  The nearest conceptual parallel that has always included both genders is that of “comrade.”  Originally applied as a term to express the solidarity of those involved in a revolutionary political movement, with the passing of communism it becomes available for participants in what--when actually lived--is a religiously revolutionary movement.  Hence we speak of “comrades,” “spiritual comrades,” and “comrades in the faith.”  

                In certain places where Paul is often viewed as quoting those asking him questions or making assertions to him, we have utilized quotation marks.  We have, however, severely limited how much of the text is placed in quotes because it is our judgment that in a number of cases he is more likely to be partly embracing the assertions [Page 6] being made.  In other words, he is not out so much to fully repudiate them as to mark the reservations and limitations of what has been argued. 

He is, in effect, making “even if this is so” and “but on the other hand” arguments.  These note the limitations of the assertions regardless of whether they are his own teaching or rhetorical questions or whether they represent the wording of those received from Corinth.  

            The conjunctions that begin the verses in traditional translations (such as “for” and “and”) clearly link what is now being said with what has previously been presented.  They do not, however, spell out the nature and intent of the linkage.  Hence we have often spelled out that matter in explicit language rather than require the reader to do so as part of the reading process.  In doing this to the degree to which we have, we far exceed normal custom, yet if the reader is to quickly grasp the likely connection between the immediate verse and the context, such an “expansive” translation/paraphrase (call it either or both) can prove of great benefit to the reader.

A number of other characteristics of the ATP deserve passing comment.

In spite of the marked disinclination of modern translations to retain capitalization when “he” and parallel terms refer to God or to Jesus we have done so for it remains a useful tool to assist the ready comprehension of the context by the reader.  Theoretical rules of “contemporary usage” should always yield to reader usefulness.   

            “Mysteries”—which refers to things hidden rather than things mysterious—is rendered by terms such as “sacred secrets.”

            “Edify” is translated with expressions like “builds up,” “builds up spiritually,” or “spiritual improvement.”

            “Church” is so often synonymous with a place of worship that we have substituted its original connotation of “assembly,” “religious assembly” or “congregation.”

            “Apostle” carries with it the idea of an individual designated as the authoritative representative of another.  Because of the high rank normally assumed in its usage, we have adopted the diplomatic rhetoric of “ambassador” to convey the meaning.

            Except as it becomes a controversy in regard to proper current religious practice, the vast bulk of scholarly opinion readily concedes that in the first century “baptize” referred either predominantly or exclusively to the action of “immersion, submersion, burial in water.” Hence we have utilized this or parallel wording in the translation.  

Modern usage causes “sanctified” to be read as if describing someone extraordinarily pious.  Although that is certainly desirable to be, the actual meaning is far less drastic.  Hence we have spoken of those who are “set apart” for God’s service.  Likewise in regard to “saints.” 

“Justified” becomes “made acceptable.”

“Grace” becomes “Divine favor” or “Divine kindness.”  In a case or two where it is used twice in the same verse, we’ve retained “grace” in one to remind the reader that the common translation should never cause us to lose sight of the concept behind it. 

No strict conformity in translation has been adhered to.  Hence “crucified” is sometimes retained but in other cases replaced with “nailed to the cross.”  “Holy” typically becomes “pure” or “dedicated,” according to context.  Few would have trouble in understanding “gospel” as synonymous with the message of and about Jesus so this has often been retained.  In other places, its meaning of “good news” has been substituted to [Page 7] stress the synonymous nature of the terms and to bring out that easily overlooked aspect of the essence of the gospel.

This translation is not claimed as perfect in execution, merely as one that will hopefully be of value in recasting the traditional wording in a manner that will aid the student of the text to better understand its intents and meanings.  Indeed, upon some occasions, I have even recast the text from a question to the assertion mode that underlies the question in order to give an often read verse a greater impact on our consciousness.  In short, conveying the intent has been a higher priority than strict verbal accuracy or consistency.