Hurd-was Paul being fair?

In The Origin of 1 Corinthians one of the perspectives of John C. Hurd, Jr. was that Paul was being a little unfair to the Corinthians.

Paul saw the members of the congregation as children.  He was their beloved father.  They were both children and childish.  He states and implies their immaturity several times.  One way that is not apparent in English is that when Paul refers to their practice of speaking in tongues, he uses a word that also means infantile babbling.

When Paul describes love in 1 Corinthians 13, he shows that he views the Corinthian church as representing the opposite qualities.  They are impatient and unkind.  They are jealous and boastful.  They are arrogant and rude.  They insist on their own way.  They are irritable and resentful.  They rejoice in the wrong rather than the right.

It would be surprising if the Corinthians saw themselves in this way.  Hurd thought that the letter the Corinthians wrote to Paul not only raised questions they had about his teaching, but raised objections they had about the way Paul viewed them.

Hurd illustrates the misunderstandings between Paul and the Corinthians by considering the question of meat offered to idols.  Many scholars have interpreted the question as reflecting a dispute within the Corinthian Church.  Some thought it was OK to eat meat sold in the market that had first been offered to pagan idols.  After all, they would have said, we know that idols do not represent anything real.  The other party would have avoided such meat on the grounds that eating it was incompatible with the rejection of paganism.

In a long argument, considering the positions of many other scholars, Hurd comes to the conclusion that the Corinthian’s dispute was with Paul rather than with one another.  Paul had changed his position.  He had written to them to stop eating meat sacrificed to idols.  But the Corinthians object that Paul is being inconsistent.  He had eaten such meat when he was among them. Not eating the meat seemed to contradict what he taught about Christians participating in society.  Not eating such meat seemed to contradict what Paul taught about the unreality of idols.

So Paul has to partly walk back his statements while arguing that love for others (Jews) may require giving up some of one’s freedom to eat what one wants.  The important point for Hurd is that Paul has been put in the position of arguing against his own previous behavior and teaching.  In seeing the consistency of the Corinthians as childish, Paul may be unfair.


About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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