Slogans in 1 Corinthians -- By: Jay E. Smith
BSac 167:665 (January-March 2010) p. 68
Slogans in 1 Corinthians
Jay E. Smith is Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.
In 1 Corinthians 6:18 Paul seems to have drawn a distinction between sexual immorality and all other sin: “Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the [sexually] immoral man sins against his own body.”1 This verse has baffled interpreters for two millennia.2 A theologian friend of the author has attempted to explain the alleged distinction in this verse in terms of the Trinitarian nature of God and the imago Dei. In short, he tries to explain how the imago Dei and the Trinitarian nature of God combine to isolate sexual immorality as a unique sin—that is, how sexual immorality is in a class by itself, set apart from all other sins or categories of sins.3 His proposal is complicated and
BSac 167:665 (January-March 2010) p. 69
the logic difficult to follow. Nevertheless, his theory strikes one, at least initially, as very sophisticated, exhibiting profound insight into biblical anthropology.
A philosopher friend has pursued a different explanation along the lines of Augustine’s theory of evil as a privation of the good. This led Augustine to argue, “Corruption cannot consume the good without also consuming the thing [the being or person] itself.”4 When applied to 1 Corinthians 6:18, this line of thought yields the idea that sexual immorality corrupts not just the body but consumes the whole person, that is, destroys a person’s mind, conscience, and active moral-discerning ability and thus destroys the capacity for knowing and loving God.5 In simplest terms sexual immorality ignites a flame that eventually destroys one’s basis for knowing and loving God. This theory has great potential, especially since it attempts to think deeply and precisely about the nature of sin, the relationship of the body to the soul, and how sin affects the body and the soul.
However, both colleagues seem to be unaware that many New Testament interpreters see in 1 Corinthians 6:18 the presence of a Corinthian slogan—one of the Corinthians’ rallying cries or watchwords that Paul parroted back to them.6 The presence of
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