Monday, April 11, 2011

1 Corinthians 4:19-21

From time to time, I will be selecting certain passages from the Bible that seem to have a moral dimension to them, and judging them. I won't often, if ever, consider the factual issues of the Bible, i.e., historical or scientific facts, since such questions are dealt with in far greater detail and by those far more qualified than I in other publications. I will use the King James Version primarily, but will occasionally contrast that with other modern translations.

Today's selection was suggested by my wife: 1 Corinthians 4:19-21. I hadn't been aware of this particular passage before, so I checked out the chapter, trying to see if maybe there was a context that could mitigate the boldness of it. I could not find such a context. Here's the text:

19But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. 20For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. 21What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? (KJV)
For comparison, here's the New International Version of 2011:
19 But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. 20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 21What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit? 

For background, Paul is writing to the Corinthians because he's heard some disturbing tales of dispute and division amongst the church members there. He has a variety of things to say about the divisions, of course, but here he's saying that those who have been speaking arrogantly against him, and causing division, will be answering to him when he gets there. It's not the words they say that he intends to test, but their power.

Might makes right. Let's not engage in discussion and debate, for that's arrogance. Power. I will shut you up, because I have it, and you don't. Whatever happened to turning the other cheek? I suppose he does ask if he should arrive and be meek instead, but he also makes it clear which choice he prefers.

Paul has been held up as one of the more important writers of the Bible, so this is pretty damn interesting, wouldn't you say?

Judgement: Immoral.

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