Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Reflections on 1 Corinthians (Greek Text)

paul5 And so begins the final series of reflections on my time at Highland Theological College as a theology undergraduate.  The 1 Corinthians module is a Greek text module and is a first semester Year 4 module, meaning that I was taught this module by Dr Mike Bird during his last semester at HTC.

The module aims to equip the student to interpret this letter in its historical setting, to discover its theological and ethical significance for today and hopes (according the the blurb) to discover the student demonstrating ‘comfortable familiarity with the methods and resources required for Greek textual exegesis’!

Here are a few of my highlights:

  • Mike getting us to read and translate from a copy of the p46 manuscript (not easy when you’re attuned to UBS4)!
  • Reading on historical setting and archaeology in Corinth.  Thiessen on social stratification was hugely interesting for gaining an insight into the background of the letter, as was Murphy-O’Connor on archaeology at Corinth.  I think it was Bishop Stephen Neill who wrote about the need for eminence in the fields of the exegete, the theologian and the historian in order to be successful in probing Christian antiquity.  I think the successful exegete or theologian (or Christian) must be at least mindful of the importance of  history, even if he or she cannot achieve eminence as a historian!
  • Reading Richard Hays on ‘The Conversion of the Imagination’ in NTS 45 (1999).  If you have the slightest interest in Pauline eschatology then try to get your hands on this paper.  I think this really was one of the most important things I read all year.
  • Interacting with Pete Enns’s stuff on the extant ’Moveable Well’ tradition that seems to stand behind some of Paul’s material in chapter 10.
  • Writing the assessment paper on the resurrection body in chapter 15.  The role of vv38b-41 in Paul’s argument is not immediately apparent, but it seems clear to me that in this chapter Paul is making a direct allusion to the second triad of the creation narrative of Genesis 1.  Therefore, far from this section inviting limitless conjecture as to the future ‘glory’ of the resurrection body being like the glory of the stars, Paul actually sees the resurrected body taking its appropriate place within the second triad of a renewed creation, where each body has its appropriate ‘glory’.  It would seem to me that this indicates a continuance of the framework provided by the first triad of creation, which is not mentioned but assumed.
  • Grappling with psychikos and pneumatikos (again, for the assessment paper).  It’s not easy to decipher the significance of psyche, especially since in 1 Corinthians it appears with negative connotation in 2:14 and 15:44 and without negative connotation in 15:45.  I can’t go into details here, but basically I think that the answer lies along the same trajectory as Paul’s use of sarx, which can possess both negative and neutral meanings.  In short, there is an aspect of psyche and sarx that must be done away with, but nevertheless the bodily nature of the resurrection is maintained, such that we will still be psyche (but not psychikos) and sarx (but not sarkikos) - our existence will be best described as pneumatikos.