Flesh And Spirit In 1 Cor 5:5: An Exercise In Rhetorical Criticism Of The Nt -- By: Barth Campbell

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 36:3 (Sep 1993)
Article: Flesh And Spirit In 1 Cor 5:5: An Exercise In Rhetorical Criticism Of The Nt
Author: Barth Campbell


Flesh And Spirit In 1 Cor 5:5:
An Exercise In Rhetorical Criticism Of The Nt

Barth Campbell*

I. The Interpretation Of 1 Cor 5:5

“You are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor 5:5, NRSV). Whatever interpretation one adopts regarding Paul’s disciplinary action against the incestuous adulterer in 1 Cor 5:5, that interpretation hinges on the meanings of flesh (sarx) and spirit (pneuma) in the passage. The two clauses “for the destruction of the flesh” (eis olethron tēs sarkos) and “so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (hina to pneuma sōthȩ̄ en tȩ̄ hēmerā̧ tou kyriou) have been understood by interpreters to define the nature of the delivery to Satan (the eis-clause) and its result (the hina-clause).

Interpretations that have been promulgated by scholars range from the believable to the somewhat fanciful. Most commentators opt for one of three understandings of Paul’s disciplinary sentence ( paradounai tō̧ Satana̧). (1) Some believe that the delivery to Satan will eventuate in a wasting physical illness suffered by the sinner.1 (2) Others believe the expulsion to lead to the destruction of the transgressor’s sinful nature.2 In

* Barth Campbell, a doctoral candidate in NT at Fuller Theological Seminary, lives at 1701 Scenic Drive, No. 108, Modesto, CA 95355.

either instance the repentance and ultimate salvation of the offender eventually ensue, even though Satan is the instrument of the effective discipline. (3) Still others regard the sentence pronounced by Paul to mean physical death at Satan’s hand.3

In addition to the three major interpretations mentioned above are several minor ones. I designate them as minor because of the limited scholarly acceptance they have won. A delivery to the Roman civil magistrates,4 a secret execution,5 a self-atoning physical death,6 and a delivery to purgatory7 are all explanations th...

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