I’m just cleaning out some old stuff, and I came across this: Logos 2, from 1996! Ahh those were the days…
Continued archaeological work in Corinth…
Originally posted on Corinthian Matters:
The American School of Classical Studies Excavations at Corinth announced on Friday the conclusion to their 2015 season which focused this season on continuing excavation in the Frankish quarters, conservation of the Good Luck mosaic, excavation in the area of South Stoa, 3D scans of the Fountain of Peirene, among others. Here’s the news release from Friday:
Our 2015 excavation season at Corinth has come to a successful end as the third session supervisors, Emilio Rodriguez-Alvarez, Phil Katz, and Anna Marie Sitz, wrap up their final reports over the next week. Evidence for the construction date of the Church in the Frankish area will be bolstered by the large numbers of coins retrieved. Elina Salminen excavated and studied burials from the area. Larkin Kennedy acted as the site supervisor and Rossana Valente assisted in the pottery sheds. Conservation and anastylosis also continue in the Frankish area. In the Agonotheteion…
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I’ve often heard it said that Luke’s depiction of Paul’s Areopagus speech is intentionally evocative of Socrates’ Athenian trial. So Hansen (‘The Preaching and Defence of Paul’ in Witness to the Gospel) says:
Paul’s connection with early Greek philosophers is strengthened by the way that Luke weaves several allusions to Socrates into his narrative. Like Socrates, Paul engaged in dialogues ([dielegeto]) ‘in the agora ([en te agora]) every day with those who happened to be there’ (17:17). Also like Socrates, he was charged with proclaiming ‘foreign divinities’ ([Xenon daimonion], 17:18). So like Socrates, Paul was put on trial to give account of his ‘new teaching’ (17:19). Luke indicates the favourable reception which the Areopagus address should receive from his readers in the Greek world by this association of Paul with Socrates. (310)
Copan and Litwak (The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas) make a table of comparisons (38):
Joshua Jipp (‘Paul’s Areopagus Speech,’ JBL 131/3, 2012) presents Paul as ‘Socrates Redivivus’ and says:
Luke portrays Paul, like Socrates, on trial before the most revered tribunal in the ancient world to demonstrate the incongruity that exists between the Christian movement’s understanding of God and the polytheism that characterized the ancient world. (574)
I’m fine with the idea that Luke is pitting Paul’s God against the philosophers, but I’m not so convinced that Luke expects hearers to see a comparison between Paul and Socrates here. Here are my hesitations:
- A major point in Plato’s description of Socrates’ trial is that he was not tried by philosophers, but by a jury of ordinary people, headlined by accusers who didn’t like philosophy
- The idea that Socrates introduces ‘new divinities’ is not a particularly important or memorable point of the Apology. Rather, the accusation by Meletus is explicitly that Socrates leads people away from belief in any sort of god. I think Grube’s translation of the relevant section is probably right: ‘Socrates is guilty of corrupting the young and of not believing in the gods in whom the city believes, but in other new spiritual things.’ (24b) But these ‘new spiritual things’ do not go on to be of importance in the speeches. Indeed, Socrates insists upon his obedience to the existing Greek gods
- I don’t find the link concerning the agora to be particularly strong or striking – would a first century hearer of Acts really recall that Socrates had made this reference? Although Plato does present Socrates in the marketplace, his more memorable settings are elsewhere
- Although it is possible to hear coercion in the language that Luke uses to describe Paul being brought to the Areopagus (as Jipp carefully and appropriately demonstrates), the story as a whole just doesn’t give me this impression: the people want to discuss ideas, and when Paul says something objectionable, they don’t try to arrest him, they simply scoff, or else seek to hear him further – or else they believe. And Paul leaves freely
I’m open to having my mind changed – I’m not dead against the possibility. But I don’t think the possible link is as likely or strong as it’s sometimes made out to be.
The name most famously associated with the idea that the Corinthians were stricken with an over-realised eschatology is Anthony Thiselton, who proposed this at length in his 1978 article, ‘Realized Eschatology at Corinth.’
Here’s an account of what he argues in that article, and how it relates to his more recent views since the article came out…
The key question that the article seeks to address is: What situation/s best explain the varied problems that we see exhibited in 1 Corinthians? Thiselton recognises that a frequent answer to this question in the twentieth century had been: Gnosticism. But here Thiselton seeks to make a case that there is a viable alternative to this idea: the Christians of Corinth were gripped by a twofold problem:
- Realised eschatology – meaning a distorting radicalisation of Paul’s own teaching that believers are presently ‘new creations,’ who participate in Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and have the Spirit of God
- An enthusiastic theology of the Spirit – meaning that they think of themselves primarily as ‘Spiritual,’ and they understand that this manifests itself in particularly visible ways
Thiselton finds this twofold issue to have better explanatory power than Gnosticism for the range of problems in Corinth. Against detractors of this view such as Earl Ellis, Thiselton argues that this underlying theological orientation pervades the letter:
I suggest that far from relating only to one particular passage [i.e. 4:8-13], the eschatological approach pinpoints a single common factor which helps to explain an otherwise diverse array of apparently independent problems at Corinth. (512)
Thiselton goes through each main section of 1 Corinthians to demonstrate that this is the case.
It should be recognised that, while he certainly holds that the Corinthians held to a radicalised theology, he is not saying that they directly voice this theological position in all of the problems of the letter. Rather, they assume it in their views and behaviours. They speak and act in ways that de-emphasise the future, and affirm their present Spiritual status. Examples would include their claims to be ‘spiritual’ in chapter 2, their assumed eschatological status when considering matters of food, their assumption that they are not bound by temporal culture in chapter 11, and the activity of the pneumatics in chapters 12-14.
Paul, by contrast, is said to hold to a view of divinely granted ‘newness’ that is progressive, and awaiting a future goal – rather than being fully actualised in the present. He counters their overemphasis on the present, and de-emphasis on the future by advocating for a future Christian destiny, which is dependent on God’s initiative.
So, does Thiselton still hold to this perspective?
I recall reading a review of Thiselton’s 2000 commentary that implied that he no longer held to this view. The view had been criticised by Richard Hays, who said that the problem in Corinth was not too much eschatology, but not enough! NT Wright took sides with Hays on this one. A few years ago… oh, wait… name drop alert… a few years ago Brian Rosner asked me whether this is still Thiselton’s view… and then the year before last, Tom Wright asked me if this was still Thiselton’s view. People seem curious to know! I think the reason people are asking this is because the perspective is less pronounced in Thiselton’s commentaries than one might have expected, given his article.
So here’s my answer: yes, I think Thiselton does hold to this perspective, although it is somewhat qualified. Rather than demanding that the Corinthians consciously held to a radicalised eschatological doctrine, the issue is now more clearly expressed in terms of the Corinthians’ behaviour, which inadvertently expresses an over-realised stance. This stance may or may not have been clearly doctrinally formulated.
I remember talking to Thiselton about this a few years ago, and, in passing, I used the phrase, ‘premature triumphalism’ to describe the Corinthians’ orientation. Thiselton’s face lit up: ‘I like that phrase!’ he enthused. I was confused: ‘But… I got it from you!’ I replied. Thiselton shook his head – he couldn’t remember ever using it! Eventually I found it, tucked away in a throwaway line in his commentary. But anyway, that’s the phrase that I’ve taken on as a good descriptor of the Corinthian situation.
At some point in the future, I’ll aim to engage with views by Hays, Wright, and others.
Was eschatology a key problem in the Corinthian church?
I have my own views on this, but given that I’ll be part of a round-table discussion on this topic at SBL, I’m doing some investigating of what others think. I might post briefly on this from time to time.
Raymond Collins, in his 1999 Sacra Pagina commentary says that the basic problem behind the varied issues in 1 Corinthians is that they lack clear conviction and action as God’s holy church:
The basic issue in 1 Corinthians is ultimately ecclesiological. What does it mean for the Christians of Corinth to be God’s one holy people at Corinth? One after another Paul treats the divisive issues that confront the community. (27)
Collins does think that Paul’s eschatological perspective impacts the way in which he approaches some of the issues in Corinth – notably ‘the charisms in ch.13′ and ‘the fate of the dead’ (27). But he does not seem to think that a thoroughgoing eschatological problem underlies all of the key issues.
See the latest biblical studies roundup here…
Originally posted on William A. Ross:
Get your party hats on, it’s time for the Biblical Studies carnival. For those not familiar with it, the Carnival is a monthly review of all things biblical studies going down inthe known blogosphere. If you’ve never read one before (see Claude Mariottini’s May edition), but like what you see, be sure to keep an eye on Lindsay Kennedy’s blog in a month’s time for the next one, followed by Bob MacDonald in August. If you’re interested in hosting one yourself,Phil Long at email@example.com and ask about it.
Like previous editions, I’ll attempt to subdivide interesting materials into discipline.
General Biblical Studies and Linguistics
Another installment of the Scholars in Press series over at Old School Script,interviewing Tania Notarius
Although the latest post was more culturally focused, it’s worth keeping your eye on Secundum Scripturas
Mike Aubrey discusses “fun data points in Greek”
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I have now finished writing the article I promised for a Christian Newspaper, on 1 Cor 7:10-11. I found it helpful to examine this passage again, and to do some hard thinking about it. Here’s one of the key paragraphs from my article…
What does all of this mean for situations in which one partner is suffering domestic abuse from the other partner? May they separate? May they divorce? May they remarry? As I said above, I think that Paul’s parenthetical section (‘but if she separates’) assumes that there will be times when one Christian partner will detach themselves from their spouse. I think it is entirely appropriate for a spouse who is being violently or sexually abused to do this: to separate from their spouse until that spouse has received appropriate accountability, legal penalty, and rehabilitation. In the mean time, as much as I imagine this to be extraordinarily difficult, I think Paul is calling the remaining spouse to stay single or seek reconciliation in due course. There is still hope for the relationship if the abuser is willing to be reformed. If the offending spouse were to show no interest in being rehabilitated and reconciled, the remaining partner would be wise to remain separated. If the offending spouse then began a new relationship, this would mark the closure of opportunity for reconciliation, and so the remaining partner would be ‘unbound,’ and thus free (though not obliged) to pursue divorce and remarriage.