Discerning Corinthian Slogans through Paul’s Use of the Diatribe in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 -- By: Denny Burk

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 18:1 (NA 2008)
Article: Discerning Corinthian Slogans through Paul’s Use of the Diatribe in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Author: Denny Burk


Discerning Corinthian Slogans through Paul’s Use of the Diatribe in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Denny Burk

Criswell College

Commentators continue to disagree over the presence of Corinthian slogans in 1 Cor 6:12-20. Yet the context and form of 6:12-20 suggest that at least some of these words should be read as interjections from real Corinthian interlocutors. In order to verify this thesis, I argue for (1) the presence of diatribal features in 6:12– 20 and (2) the features that indicate that Paul has made a special adaptation of the diatribal form to address real Corinthian interlocutors. The structure of Paul’s diatribe suggests the presence of Corinthian slogans in vv. 12, 13, and 18.

Key Words: Paul, 1 Corinthians, diatribe, slogans

1. Introduction

Modern commentators on 1 Corinthians have had to wrestle with the question of whether 6:12-20 contain Corinthian slogans to which Paul is responding. A cursory look at the commentaries reveals that the presence or absence of slogans of this sort has a dramatic effect on the exegesis of this passage. If slogans are present in this text, then some of the words that would otherwise appear to be Paul’s actually belong to the Corinthians. More and more, scholars are concluding that at least some of these verses reflect slogans that were being bandied about in the Corinthian church.1 Yet there are many who remain skeptical. Because the resolution of this problem is indispensable to a proper interpretation of the passage, it is hoped that this study will move the discussion forward at least a little bit.

Commentators have been all over the place in setting forth which parts of these verses comprise slogans and in establishing what criteria should be used for identifying slogans of this sort. As Roger Omanson has argued, at least four items present a challenge in any study of possible slogans in the book of 1 Corinthians:

(1) interpreters usually do not state clearly how they have determined that Paul is quoting someone else’s words; (2) there is no agreement among translators and commentators on which verses are quotations, nor is there agreement on where each quotation begins and ends;

(3) translators do not agree on the sources of the quotations; and

(4) there is no agreement on how to translate key words in several of the quotations.2

Of Omanson’s four challenges, no doubt the most critical problem is the first: “interpreters usual...

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