1 Corinthians 8-9

This evening we are reading through 1 Corinthians 8-9. Within these readings, Paul addresses whether it is forbidden for a Christian to eat meat sacrificed to a pagan god and he addresses the rights of an apostle to compensation. In reading through chapter 8, think about why Paul says it is licit to eat meat sacrificed to an idol, and more importantly, when does Paul say it is not allowed? One of the underlying issues in this chapter is whether or not the pagan gods actually exist. Read 1 Corinthians 10:20 and Ephesians 6:12 for a more complete insight into Paul’s understanding of this issue. For another early Christian perspective on the existence of pagan deities, I have attached chapter 5 from Justin’s Apology to the Emperor Antonius, written in c.150, where he discusses the true identity of the pagan gods. 

In reading through Chapter 9, note how Paul uses Deuteronomy 25:4 (“You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out grain”) as authority for why an apostle should have a right to compensation. Paul takes a law concerning animal husbandry which provides that the working animal should be allowed to partake of the fruit of its labor and applies it by analogy to his present situation. In his book, On Christian Doctrine (Bk.2, ch.10), St. Augustine uses this verse by Paul as the archetype of the figurative reading of Scripture (attached).

During the summer, we have looked at different ways of reading through Scripture this summer. Within his writings, St. Augustine struggles with the appropriate manner to read and understand scripture, especially in his reading of Genesis 1. Within this struggle, he develops several principles to employ when reading the Bible. His first principle laid out in his Confessions, is a two-fold humility. First, Augustine says that we are even to begin reading the Bible we must approach the text with the appropriate humility we show before God himself (a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:17b). Augustine relates that when he first read the Scriptures as a young man enamored with contemporary philosophical discourse, he dismissed them and found them unapproachable. With the Scriptures, he relates that he “saw something not comprehended by the proud, something lowly in the hearing, and veiled in mysteries . . . and (thereby) they appeared quite unworthy to be studied. For my inflated pride was repelled by them.” Book 3, Ch. 6

The second part of our humility before Scripture lies in our inability to fully discern the “correct” reading. Augustine observes that each of us interprets the Scriptures differently. He asks “But which of us, amid so many truths which occur to inquirers in these words, understood as they are in different ways, shall so discover that one interpretation as to confidently say that Moses thought this, and that in that narrative he wished this to be understood.” Book 12, ch. 24. In other words, Augustine doubts that any of us can confidently state that Moses or Paul intended our personal interpretation to the exclusion of other interpretations. Augustine goes on to say that when more than one interpretation may be plausible, that a person’s insistence that their interpretation is the “correct one” stems not from “vision but from vanity” and love of themselves and not of God. Because a Christian of true humility and charity should be able to equally love someone else’s true opinion of the Scriptures. Book 12, ch.25.  Augustine will narrow the scope of what a true opinion may be, but the first step in reading the Bible is a humility of one’s own reading of the same.

Dinner is at 6. No prior reading is required. The menu is hamburgers (with the pledge that no pagan gods will be invoked in the preparation of the same). Discussion around 6:45. Hope to see you here.

“We know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ ‘Knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if one loves God, one is known by him.

1 Corinthians 6:1b-3.

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