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A Torah Commentary on First

 Corinthians 7-12:

 

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      

 

 

 

 

Chapter Seven   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3

 

Themes Developed  (3)

 

Old Testament Precedent for the Themes of This Chapter (16)

 

            Explicit Quotations:  None

 

            Possible Allusions/Similar or Parallel Concepts (17):

 

                        7:1:  “Touch[ing] a woman” as a euphemism for a sexual touching (17). 

                        7:1, 7:  Adopting a life of celibacy (17).

                        7:2-4:  The propriety of the sexual relationship within marriage (18).

                        7:4:  The reciprocal nature of the sexual relationship (19).

                        7:5-6:  The propriety of periods of fasting and prayer postponing

the normal sexual relationship in marriage (19). 

                        7:10-12:  The assumption of the permanency of marriage among

God’s people (21) 

                        7:11:  In case of two believers separating, they are to remain

unmarried or be reconciled” to their original mate (22). 

                        7:13-16:  The propriety of a marriage with an unbeliever (22). 

                        7:16:  Remaining in a marriage with an unbeliever keeps the door

open for the partner’s conversion (24). 

                        7:19:  The primacy of obedience over the rituals of the law—

specifically circumcision (24). 

                        7:20, 24:  Remaining in the “same calling” one was in when

becoming a Christian (24). 

                        7:26:  The coming of “distress” upon God’s people (25). 

                        7:31:  Believers should “use” the benefits and opportunities of

this world” rather than “misusing” them (25).     

           

          Historical Allusions:   None 

           

Problem Texts (26)

 

                        7:1:  “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (26). 

                        7:5:  Temporary sexual abstinence for the purpose of “fasting

and prayer” (28).

                        7:6:  What is the “concession” and what is the “commandment”

under consideration?  (29).

                        7:6:  Paul’s preference for celibacy:  Preference, not a denigration

of those who chose marriage (30).

                        7:7-8:  Was Paul ever married? (31).

                        7:10-11:  “The Lord” Himself had dealt with the question of the

divorce of believers and had prohibited it (32).

                        7:12-13, 15:  In contrast, Paul and “not the Lord” was delivering

new instruction to deal with situations of divorce between

believers and unbelievers (33).

                        7:14:  How is one’s spouse “sanctified” by the marriage and one’s

children “holy” rather than “unclean” (36)? 

                        7:16:  The possibility of the other marital partner being saved as

the result of the preservation of the marriage (38).

                        7:21:  Slaves and the opportunity to become free (39).

                        7:26:  Was the expectation of Jesus’ prompt return the rationale

behind Paul’s ethical teaching (40)? 

                        7:26:  What is “the present distress” (42)?

                        7:36-38:  Is a father/daughter or the future wife/husband under                                                   consideration (46). 

                        7:39:  A widowed person may remarry “only in the Lord” (49).

                        7:40:  Does Paul consider himself inspired in giving his

judgment (50).

 

 

Notes (51)

 

 

 

Chapter Eight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .      65

 

Themes Developed (65)

 

Old Testament Precedent for the Themes of This Chapter (71)

 

            Explicit Quotations:  None.

 

            Possible Allusions/Similar or Parallel Concepts (71):    

                        8:1:  “Knowledge” as encouraging destructive pride (71). 

                        8:3:  God knows our love for Him (72). 

                        8:4:  An “idol is [really] nothing in the world” since there is

only one true God (72) 

                        8:5:  The pervasiveness of idolatry (73). 

                        8:7:  Things sacrificed to idols (73). 

                        8:11:  Becoming a stumblingblock that causes others to do

what they are convinced is sin (74). 

           

          Historical Allusions:  None

           

Problem Texts (75)

 

                        8:1:  Under what circumstances would Christians be likely to

eat “things offered to idols” (75)?

                        8:10:  Why and under what circumstances would a Christian be

eating in an idol’s temple” (80)?

 

 

Notes (83)

 

 

 

Chapter Nine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .      89

 

Themes Developed (89)

 

Old Testament Precedent for the Themes of This Chapter (97)

 

            Explicit Quotations (97):

                        9:9:  The Torah’s concern for the humane treatment of

animals (97) 

 

            Possible Allusions/Similar or Parallel Concepts (98):    

                        9:7-8:  It is a natural law that one is benefited by the work

one does (98). 

                        9:13:  The right of those who served the temple to be temporally

benefited for their work (99). 

                        9:16:  The obligation to teach the truth one is aware of (99). 

                        9:27:  Teachers must bring themselves in “subjection” to God’s

will or   face rejection by Him (100). 

           

                    Historical Allusions:   None

 

Problem Texts (101)

  

                        9:1-18:  The propriety of an apostle working to support himself

rather than being financially provided for by

church members (101).   

                        9:9-10:  How does something written about oxen have its “real”                                                             application to support of ministers (102)?

                        9:14:  Where did Jesus command that “those who preach the

gospel should live from the gospel” (104)?

                        9:15:  Paul’s preference for secular work to church support (106). 

 

 

Notes (109)

 

 

 

Chapter Ten  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .      114

 

Themes Developed (115)

 

Old Testament Precedent for the Themes of This Chapter (124)

 

            Explicit Quotations (124):

                        10:7:  The moral excesses connected with the worship of the

golden calf (124). 

                        10:25-26, 28:  Precedent for eating all types of meat without

questioning it’s origin (126). 

 

            Possible Allusions/Similar or Parallel Concepts (127):    

                        10:6ff.:  The use of Biblical history to teach moral right and

wrong (127). 

10:12:  Recognition that we are never so morally upright that sin

is impossible (128). 

                        10:13:  God being able to deliver a person from a temptation

that would otherwise be overpowering (128). 

                        10:15:  The challenge to those who claim to be “wise” to judge

the validity of what is being taught (128). 

                        10:18:  The concept of a “fleshly” versus “true” Israel (129). 

10:20:  Idol sacrifices are actually sacrifice to “demons” (130).  

                        10:21:  Partaking of the “cup” and “table” of demons through

idol worship (131). 

                        10:22:  The danger of “provok[ing] the Lord to jealousy (132). 

                        10:31:  “Glory” is to be given to God in all of life, even in

partaking of nourishment (133).  

           

                    Historical Allusions (133):  

                        10:1-3: The crossing of the Red sea (134). 

                        10:1:     The language of how “all our fathers were under the

 cloud (135).

                        10:3-4: Being given “meat” and “drink” in the wilderness (136).

                        10:5:     Death in the wilderness as punishment for their sin (137).

                        10:6:     Desire for evil things (138). 

                        10:7:     The conduct associated with the golden calf incident (138).

                        10:8:     Mass sexual immorality; mass deaths in retribution (138).

                        10:9:     “Tempt[ing]” God/Christ and destruction by the

serpents’ bite (138)

10:10:   Complainers destroyed in the wilderness (139)  

 

                       

Problem Texts (140)

 

                        10:4:  The “rock” that followed the Israelites in the wilderness

was Christ (140).

                        10:8:  Twenty-three thousand “fell” in “one day” as the result

of sexual immorality (142).

                        10:11:  The moral teaching value of Old Testament example (145) 

 

Notes (146)

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     153

 

Themes Developed (156)

 

Old Testament Precedent for the Themes of This Chapter (167)

 

            Explicit Quotations:  None.

 

            Possible Allusions/Similar or Parallel Concepts (168):    

                        11:4:  The propriety of women “prophesying” (168).  

                        11:4-5:  Male/female public praying or prophesying with head                                                    covered/uncovered (169).        

                        11:17-18:  Religious worship is not inherently a virtue (170). 

                        11:21:  The impropriety of exulting in one’s prosperity while

others who one personally knows are lacking the makings

of even a decent meal (171).  

                        11:27-29:  Spiritual self-examination in the Old Testament (172).

 

          Historical Allusions:  None.

           

 

Problem Texts (172)

 

                        11:1:  What are the “traditions” the Corinthians were to

maintain (172)?

                        11:4:  Male head covering rejected during prayer:  Why the

divergence from later synagogue customs (173)? 

                        11:5-6:  The tension in regard to women prophesying between

chapters 11 and 14 (174).   

                        11:10:  Women are to have “a symbol of authority” on their

heads “because of the angels”.  ”.  In what sense is it a

symbol” and how do the “angels” become involved

in the matter (176).

                        11:13-15:  What is the head covering a woman is expected

to wear (179).

                        11:21-22, 34:  The nature of the feasting that had been introduced

into the church assembly (181).

                        11:23:  The origin of Paul’s teaching regarding the

Communion (183). 

11:24-26:  The Communion as a memorial of Jesus’ death (185).  

11:27-29:  Self-examination as to one’s motives and behavior in

order to avoid partaking in an “unworthy manner” (188). 

11:33:  How large was the Corinthian congregation?  Did the

Corinthian “church” consist of a number of “house

churches (190)? 

 

                       

Notes (194)

 

 

 

Chapter Twelve  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .       207

 

Themes Developed  (208)

 

Old Testament Precedent for the Themes of This Chapter (216)

 

            Explicit Quotations:  None.

 

            Possible Allusions/Similar or Parallel Concepts (216):

                        12:2:  Idols were, by their very nature, unable to tell or teach

any one anything (216). 

                        12:4-11, 26:  Miraculous gifts in the Old Testament

narratives (217). 

                        12:12-25:  The usefulness of each and every church

member (225). 

 

          Historical Allusions:   None.

           

Problem Texts (226)

 

                        12:3:  There are things which the Holy Spirit will never instruct

a person to speak (226).   

                        12:3:  “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy

Spirit” (228). 

                        12:7-10:  The difference between the nine different types of                                                       “manifestation of the Spirit” (229).

                        12:13:  “By one Spirit we were all baptized into one

 body (233). 

                        12:13:  Believers have “all been made to drink into one

Spirit” (234).

                        12:28:  Types of church office and functions (234).

 

 

Notes (236)

 

 


Preface

 

 

            In the first four chapters of the book, Paul struck hard at the divisive mentality of loyalty to cliques.  He never does explicitly tell us whether much or all of the problems he addresses in the remainder of the letter grew out of this loyalty or whether arguments over those issues played the decisive role in their creation.  One could easily imagine it working either way. 

            We don’t really need to know.  Nor did the other congregations of Paul’s day.  The central thrust was the important thing--that the creation of partisan groups was wrong for it transplanted core loyalty from God and Christ to their particular sect. 

            In dealing with the specific “issues” in the church, Paul, wisely, begins with one that virtually no one could hope to credibly defend—incest (chapter 5).  As he vigorously argues, even the most reprobate Corinthian pagan would find it impossible to defend such behavior.  So how could they?  Whatever critics Paul had in the congregation, this had to give them pause:  Paul is clearly right here; what else might he be accurate on that we’ve been ignoring?

            Chapter 6 edges into another matter that created disrespect and contempt for them among outsiders—their taking internal matters of dispute before secular law courts and not settling it themselves.  That outsiders would react this way would have been unquestionable to any one but the willfully blind.  (“Just look at those Christians!”)  Yet here Paul is also edging into the much more disputed areas of internal differences on moral and religious belief and practice. 

            In chapter 7 he surveys the various controversies related to sexuality, marriage, and divorce that faced them in making their personal future decisions.  If he be conceded as having shown good judgment in his arguments in chapter 6, his “judgments” on these matters compelled respectful attention as well.  A “carry over effect,” if you will.  (Important because he wants to convince them and not merely instruct or order them.)

            The question of under what conditions one might eat meat offered to idols, especially in pagan temples, raised two interlocking issues in chapter 8.  The first was due to the bulk of available meat having been technically so offered and that question affected everyone.  The eating in pagan temples concerned the more well off since the facilities were often used as group meeting places and those of the upper stratas were far more likely to be invited to such activities.        

            Personal sacrifices might well be involved in making such decisions.  Yet Paul had clearly made such himself, as he argues at length in chapter 9:  He had a right to local living support, but had abstained from exercising it while among them.  Likewise, the implicit message is that there are times for them to rein in their “rights” as well.  Such self-control is not only theoretically possible but scriptural examples manifest the folly of not exercising it, as he shows through citing the failures of God’s people in an earlier age (chapter 10).

            They were having significant problems in their worship services not only due to personal behavior that violated proper norms, but also by the ignoring of others who were counted as of no importance (chapter 11).  The final chapter in this volume moves the latter matter into a lengthy abstract discussion so they can better understand why this was wrong.  It wasn’t a matter of favoring the well off (their clear desire) or preferring the poorer (which could be an easy misreading of Paul’s words), but that everyone in the congregation was of value.  That was an important lesson in self-respect for those previously looked down upon and a vital lesson in humility for those inclined to do otherwise.

             

 

            Note:  The footnotes in this volume do not include anything more than author and page numbers when the original mention of the work was in the first volume.  The Bibliography will be in the concluding volume.