How Are The Apostles Judged? A Note On 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 -- By: Craig A. Evans
JETS 27:2 (June 1984) p. 149
How Are The Apostles Judged? A Note On 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
Faced with a young, strife-ridden church that has become divided into several factions loyal to various apostolic figures (1 Cor 1:10–3:4) the apostle Paul explains the proper role of the apostle in accomplishing his God-given ministry (3:5–9) and affirms that the work of each apostle will be judged (3:10–15). To illustrate the relationship of the apostle to the church, Paul develops two metaphors, one agricultural (3:6–8) and the other architectural (3:10–15). Whereas both metaphors illustrate how the apostles contribute to each other’s work, the second metaphor takes up the question of how this apostolic work is to be evaluated.
Viewed against the background of party loyalties and the unwholesome emphasis on sophia (which is very likely the catchword of Apollos and his followers), Paul’s use of blepetō (3:10b) sets the tone of warning for the passage. According to the building metaphor, Paul has laid the foundation of Christ (3:10-11) upon which another (presumably Apollos) builds (3:10b). The quality of each apostle’s work will be disclosed by a test of fire at the “Day” (3:13). Work that is good (described metaphorically as precious metals and gems—nonflammable materials) will survive and become the basis of reward (3:12-14). Work that is bad (described as wood, hay and straw—flammable materials) will be burned and so will provide no reward (3:12, 15a). H. Conzelmann has rightly noted that “we have not the scene of the last judgment, but the process of disclosure.”1 In a recent study C. W. Fishburne has argued that 1 Cor 3:10-15 is best understood against the Testament of Abraham 13.2 He has pointed out that much of the vocabulary of 1 Cor 3:13–15 is found in the Testament of Abraham and that Paul appears to be echoing this pseudepigraphal writing.3 However, in I Cor 3:15b Paul deviates from the theology of the Testament of Abraham by affirming that even though a man’s work is consumed by the fire he is nevertheless spared. 4 Fishburne states: “In Paul… the trial of works by fire is not to determine the eternal destiny of a human soul; rather, it serves to be ...
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