Back to study: Witherington 1 & 2 Corinthians

I have resumed studies once again this semester. I am studying 1 & 2 Corinthians and because of time and available subject restrictions, I am taking this class via distance learning. This is not my favourite studying format… as I like to engage in the class discussion which can go from one tangent to the other as we engage in the text. Our textbook is Ben Witherington’s, Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians

20% of our subject work load comprises of weekly forum posts on the set reading from this text, and as has been my normal practice in the past, I intend on posting them here also. This is my first post.

Reading 1

I found that the information on the religious, ethnic, financial / industrial, location and class distinctions helped form a coherent sociological framework and contextual back ground in understanding Corinth. This understanding is important as it informs us of the distinctive sociological nature of the Corinth church, which then gives us the foundation of understanding what Paul is writing and why.

Here we find the strength of understanding the varieties of rhetorical communication which was used in that era, which gives us the key to understanding Pauls letters. My only criticism is that the author didn’t spend more time explaining the rhetorical devices of communication and why they were useful – though I note that this may come through the later readings.

I have had the privilege of preaching with a translator once to some Koreans. The translator followed my every move. If I waved my arm, he would wave his arm, if I stepped to the left he would step to the left. With this experience in mind, Witherington’s explanation of Paul’s rhetorical intent of his letter to be a direct personal communication to the church made much sense. His messengers would read his letters to the church similar to the way the congregation would experience my preaching through the translator.

This distinctive understanding then causes us to Selah (stop, pause and reflect) on the common conservative methodological approach of reading the New Testament. This approach reads within the framework of forming a propositional truth based faith / systematic theology.. Instead of proof texting, we are now forced to look more deeply at what Paul is saying, how is he saying it, who he is saying it to and why is he saying it.

His foot notes are very extensive and informative; they took me on many tangents, such as is found in note 12. The explanation of the Apostle changing his name to Paul from Saul was fascinating, in that Saulos has connotations of how a prostitute walks. This tangent in of its self makes for a potential worthy essay and future research.

About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
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3 Responses to Back to study: Witherington 1 & 2 Corinthians

  1. Dave Black says:

    Please do write a follow up on the Saulos thing. I had always assumed that this name was a badge of honor — first king of Israel and all that. I also was under the impression that Paul was his Roman name (given at birth) and that he used it because he had begun his Gentile mission.

    “He was born into an orthodox Jewish family, and as his father was a Roman citizen, he inherited this distinction, a rare one among eastern Jews. In Jewish circles he bore the name of Saul, but in the Gentile world he was commonly known by his Roman cognomen Paullus, Anglicized as Paul […]

    Saul’s father was a Roman citizen… [so] Saul was born a Roman citizen… As a Roman citizen, he had a Roman name, consisting of three parts: praenomen, nomen gentile and cognomen.2 What his praenomen (first or personal name) and nomen gentile (family name) were we can only guess; his cognomen, however, was Paullus, by which (in its English form Paul) we usually call him.

    In family circles, however, he was known by his Jewish name Saul.

    2. The threefold Roman name may be illustrated from the full names of such famous Romans as Gaius Julius caesar, Marcus Tullius Cicero, Lucius Cornelius Scipio. …”

    – F. F. Bruce, The Spreading Flame (Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1958), p. 18, 81

    • Craig Benno says:

      I will do a post on that footnote. I thought it was an interesting tangent. I wonder though, within the Jewish framework, if having king Saul’s namesake is a good thing or bad?

      I can’t remember if he referenced another author or it was his own thoughts about it either, will look in the morning and get back to you.

  2. Pingback: Paulos / Saulos: The name change. « Trinitarian Dance

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