Sunday, August 8, 2010

337: Dead Seeds Grow & 1 Corinthians: In Review

1 Corinthians 15-16
"But someone may ask, 'How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?' How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body." - 1 Corinthians 15:35-38

In the beginning of chapter 15, Paul feels the need to remind the Corinthians what the gospel is. As usual, he takes some liberties with the storytelling. He first tells them that Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected. He ends all of these assertions with "according to the scriptures". Paul then says that Jesus appeared to more than 500 people at the same time. He, for good reason, doesn't end this with "according to the scriptures" because it's according to no scripture that I know of.

"Five hundred eyewitnesses" is often cited as conclusive evidence of Jesus's resurrection. Unfortunately it seems that Paul has just completely made this up. There's also the strange assertion by some apologetics that if the Corinthians didn't believe Paul, they could just go ask some of those other witnesses (that Paul says are mostly still alive). They seem to forget that Corinth is over 800 miles away from Jerusalem. I doubt anyone from the Corinthian church swung by Jerusalem to crosscheck Paul's sources. Even if they had, what would they have found? You'd think the twelve would have mentioned these 500 people in their own gospels if they had existed.

Paul next tries to convince people of the resurrection. Apparently some in the Corinthian church don't believe in resurrection, yet still believe in Jesus. Paul rightly says that the story of Christ doesn't make much sense without the resurrection. Paul asks the Corinthians, "Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?".

I'd never heard of this, but apparently people used to (and still do in LDS churches) baptize themselves to give the dead some sort of by-proxy salvation. Far from denouncing this practice, Paul uses it as a main point in his argument. Paul's "approval" of this after-death baptism is a fairly controversial topic, and I've found several websites doing some wild mental gymnastics to get out of Paul's endorsement. After all, if after-death baptism is illegitimate (in the eyes of Paul) why is he using it to legitimize his argument?

Paul then says something strange (he still seems to be on the topic of resurrection), "I die every day - I mean that, brothers - just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord". Is he still talking about bodily resurrection? Is he claiming that he dies every day and is resurrected? This is another rather controversial internet topic. Some say that he meant that every day he recommits himself to Christ, while others say that Paul was referring to the possibility of his martyrdom. Both of these turn Paul's words into a metaphor (and take him way out of context), which really doesn't seem like what he's trying to do here. If he's speaking in metaphor why would he say that he means this just as surely as he means that he glories over them with Christ Jesus. Does he metaphorically glory over them?

Paul's argument just goes down hill from there. Paul says that some ask him "How are the dead raised?". In response to this, he says that seeds must die before they grow. This echoes Jesus's message from the book of John. Needless to say, seeds don't die before they grow (though they may appear to). Again, God (who supposedly inspired this writing through the Holy Spirit) seems to forget some fairly basic things about his creations.

The rest of the chapter is spent talking about how your earthly flesh will be different than your resurrected flesh.

In chapter 16 Paul tells the Corinthians to do what he told the Galatians to do in respect to money collection. There's a couple of things wrong with this. First, why did the compilers of the bible put Corinthians and Galatians so obviously out of order (the book of Galatians is right after 2 Corinthians). And second, why is Paul bothering to tell the Corinthians to do what the Galatians did? How are the Corinthians supposed to know what he's talking about?

In the end Paul just explains what he wants the Corinthians to do. He basically tells them to have their money ready when he gets there so he doesn't have to go around collecting. Paul says that he will send messengers back to Jerusalem with the money. What's so special about Jerusalem? Couldn't the Corinthian church put the money to good use? The early church seems more and more like the Catholic church every day.

Paul ends his letter (like in Romans) with some irrelevant greetings/personal requests. But it's in the bible, so it must have some profound meaning that I'm missing.

1 Corinthians: In Review
Paul's influence on modern Christianity continues to surprise me. From the "body of Christ" concept, to waiting for everyone to arrive before eating a meal. Paul's influence seems to be everywhere. Unfortunately, Paul also seems to have his hand in the Christian subjugation of women (think pre-WWII), and the ostracism of "sinners" by telling the church to cast them out.

My objection to Paul is still the same. Aside from his own testimony he isn't legitimized by anything. Even the apostles only reluctantly allowed him to stay in Jerusalem. It's sad that the message of Jesus, which I might be talked into considering "good" for his time, is being so utterly corrupted by Paul.

Jesus, who didn't have much to say about women, is somehow trumped by Paul who says what women should be subservient to men. Jesus, who never condemned homosexuals, is trumped by Paul who says they should be expelled from church as "sinners".

Christians tout Paul as a perfect convert to Christianity. But some of these seemingly un-Jesus (for lack of a better adjective) concepts seem to stem directly from the ideas of the Pharisees, which Paul was before he was a convert. After all, subjugating women and the condemnation of homosexuals is an idea directly out of the Old Testament. It seems a little ridiculous to point out that the New Testament condemns homosexuals, based on the ramblings of a former Pharisee.

Christians would do well to recall that they belong to "Christianity" not "Paulianity".

This article is all about how we should be inspired by none other than Paul. This should be good:
The Apostle Paul wanted everybody to know about Jesus Christ, the anointed One. After all, Paul's life was totally transformed by Jesus. Through his own personal experience, Paul knew that Jesus was the only Savior and hope for mankind. Having tormented Christians, bringing many to death, Paul understood that the change within his own life, had to be supernatural and real.
Why don't I get a Jesus visit? The answer I always get from this is, "If you were visited by Jesus then you wouldn't have to have faith". Paul is allowed to be completely faithless, but I'm not? It doesn't seem very godlike for Jesus to give eternal salvation to some (through personal appearances) but not others ("others" being pretty much everyone else). Maybe I just haven't sent enough Christians to their deaths like Paul.
In a world of instant pudding, fast foods, DSL, and all the other convenient "fast" things available to us, people in our culture often forget about commitment. Frequently those who do make radical changes, because of their commitment to Christ, are labeled fanatics. That can actually be a compliment, because according to the dictionary, "fanatics simply are persons marked and motivated by a cause." Commitment is also a positive thing, and is described as "a pledge to do ­ state of being bound emotionally or intellectually, to a course of action or to another person or persons."
Yes, it's the instant pudding and DSL (wait, DSL is fast?) that's made me unable to commit to Jesus. And fanatics are "marked and motivated by a cause", but they also occasionally fly planes into buildings. I don't think you're being complimented.
Paul most assuredly knew that following Jesus Christ, would take total commitment. He was not one to "water down" truth. Unfortunately many people are hearing a different Gospel today. Jesus is the only One that brings us to God. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6 KJV) Jesus also stated, "Anyone who puts a hand to the plow, and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62 NLT)
Paul didn't "water down" the truth, he just plain old made shit up. It's interesting to see that the second quote (Luke 9:62) is widely accepted. The context of this was that a potential follower of Jesus wanted to "look back" and say goodbye to his family. Jesus responds by saying that he cannot even say goodbye without being made unfit for the Kingdom of God. I'm not sure how this "screw your family" message is useful for converting people (which this article is surely trying to do).
I want everybody to know, that Jesus died on that cruel cross, just for you. You can receive Jesus as your Savior and Lord right now. When you pray with all of your heart, He hears and answers. Jesus will never turn you away, as you come to Him with a sincere heart, with a decision to follow Him all the days of your life. "and the one who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out." (John 6:37 NAS)
Just for me? Well I guess everyone else is in trouble. "Jesus will never turn you away", except for in the quote the writer just mentioned where Jesus says that you're not fit for the Kingdom of God if you want to go say goodbye to your family.

If my world of instant pudding and DSL has taught me anything, it's to not commit your life to something that seems blatantly contradictory and false.


  1. 1 Corinthians 15 is one of the most important sections of the Bible, especially for understanding early (or relatively early) Christianity. In this comment I'll discuss verses 1 to 11.

    First of all, it is often argued by scholars that some or all of this was interpolated. In particular, verses 5 to 11 are likely to have been added later. But even so, they would've been added before the Gospels had circulated, making them early 2nd c. at the latest.

    In verses 1-2 we can see that Paul is going to lay out his gospel. Keep in mind that this is not something that is new to his readers - he is reiterating what they already believe. But he is summarizing the important parts, the fundamental message, of their beliefs. He explicitly (v. 2) tells them that this is by which they are saved. And he also emphasizes that this is what they believe - it is not a recital of historical facts but rather a creed that one must take on faith ("otherwise, you have believed in vain").

    1 Cor 15:3: "For what I received I passed on to you." The verb that he uses here for "received" can either mean received from someone else or received directly from God/Christ. It's not clear which he intends - on the one hand, he's talking about beliefs that he shares in common with the Jerusalem apostles, who predated him, but on the other hand he has insistent elsewhere (e.g., Galatians) that he received his gospel from no man. The list of appearances in vv. 5-7 would obviously have come from some one else, but Paul probably wasn't including them in his creed (as I'll soon explain), even if he had written those verses, which is debatable.

    "that Christ died for our sins"
    First of all, why does this creed begin this way? Do you see that something important is missing? Namely, why isn't there any mention of Jesus in this creed. Nowhere does Paul say, "Jesus was (or is) the Messiah (Christ)"! And it's not as if one can argue that, well, the Corinthians would know that already so there wouldn't be any reason to mention it, since Paul tells us (v. 1) that they know Christ died for our sins, too, but that doesn't stop him from repeating this.

  2. 1 Cor 15:12-34 (The Resurrection of the Dead)

    In this section, Paul is attempting to respond to the claim, made by some of the congregation in Corinth, "that there is no resurrection of the dead."

    First of all, logically, how would you expect Paul to respond, if the Gospels were anything remotely resembling historically accurate accounts? We would expect that Paul would list the resurrections of Tabitha, Jarius' daughter, the widow of Nain's son, Lazarus, and/or even Eutychus, whom he raised himself. But as we see, he mentions none of them. Now, perhaps Eutychus didn't really die, and Paul knew that, and maybe the raisings of Tabitha, Jarius' daughter, and the widow's son were also doubted (although in every case the "patient" had been so obviously dead that people were already in mourning and holding funeral rites), but at least Lazarus' resurrection would be indisputable, even if one wanted to argue that it was only temporary because he was going to die again. Certainly any of these examples are better than the lame arguments Paul does offer.

    But even suppose none of those stories was true, and thus Paul couldn't draw on them. What about all the predictions Jesus makes in the Gospels about his own resurrection and the general resurrection of the dead, about his promise of eternal life for those who believe? Surely, Paul would cite any of those quotes if he knew of them, right?! So I guess Jesus never said anything like that, either.

    Then at least you'd expect Paul to give a forceful argument for why Jesus in fact was resurrected, mentioning things such as the empty tomb or the Roman guards. But alas, no hint of that either.

    Instead we get Paul saying that people will be resurrected because Christ was. And if Christ wasn't, well, then he would be wrong. Even even hypothetically states "if Christ were not raised," several times, and the strongest logical consequence of this that he can muster is that if so, then they are contradicting God.

  3. 1 Corinthians 35-58 (The Resurrection Body)

    Again, if Paul had any actual witness testimony of what Jesus' resurrected body was like, why would he waste his time with these lame biological and astrological analogies? Especially since they don't even fit well - he's talking about the change of a body from one state to another; yet his examples include bodies in the same state that differ from one another. Is he saying that resurrected bodies will be different from each the way one star is from another?

    Bryan, note that he's talking about how your earthly body (not flesh) will differ from your resurrected body. He specifically says (verse 50) that the resurrected body will not be flesh.

    1 Cor 15:45. "The first man Adam became a living creature, the last Adam for a life-giving spirit." The verb "became" here actually means to "be created as" - Adam didn't change from one state into another - he started out as a living being. Paul is telling us that the first man was created as a natural being and the last man (i.e., Christ) as a spiritual one. But note that Paul makes no mention of Jesus' earthly existence as a human being here.

    In v. 46 he continues this contrast between the natural man Adam and the spiritual one Christ. No mention is made of the fact that Christ was also natural at one point, or that his resurrection was originally physical, which would disrupt the careful analogy Paul is making.

    If Paul is eager to show the transition from physical bodies to spiritual ones when we are resurrected, why doesn't he just mention Jesus' same transition, instead of a more artificial transformation of Adam into Christ?

    1 Cor 15:47-49: "The first man out of the earth, earthy; the second man the Lord out of heaven; as the earthy, such also the earthy; and as the heavenly, such also the heavenly; and, according as we did bear the image of the earthy, we shall bear also the image of the heavenly."

    The way this is often mistranslated (as in the NIV) makes it seem as though Paul is saying Christ descended from heaven, as if he talking about the incarnation. But in fact, as you can see by reading all 3 verses, in a literal translation, he is saying that Christ is made out of heavenly material the same way Adam was formed out of the earth (according to Genesis). The incarnation is not in view, and actually wouldn't make sense in this context, because Paul would then have to explain that Jesus was also at one point formed from the earth.

  4. 1 Corinthians 16

    1 Cor 16:1. Bryan, the order of the books in the NT is not chronological. Paul's epistles, in particular, are arranged in order of length, with the longest one's first. Whether 1 Corinthians or Galatians was written first is debated by scholars.

    Why were they collecting money for Jerusalem? Paul never says but it could be for the famine mentioned in Acts 11:28. Or else it may be a way for Paul to try to buy legitimacy from the Jerusalem headquarters for his gospel to the gentiles.

    1 Cor 16:11-12. Note the references to "the brothers" and "Apollos the brother." More evidence that the phrase "the brothers of the Lord" does not indicate Jesus' literal blood brothers.

    1 Cor 16:19. Did Aquila and Priscilla move their house church from Ephesus to Rome (cf. 16:3-5)?

    1 Cor 16:21: "I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand." Is someone trying a little too hard to make it look like Paul really wrote this?

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