‘I Say, Not The Lord’: Personal Opinion, Apostolic Authority And The Development Of Early Christian Halakah -- By: Peter Richardson

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 31:1 (NA 1980)
Article: ‘I Say, Not The Lord’: Personal Opinion, Apostolic Authority And The Development Of Early Christian Halakah
Author: Peter Richardson


‘I Say, Not The Lord’: Personal Opinion, Apostolic Authority And The Development Of Early Christian Halakah

Peter Richardson

The Annual Lecture Of The Institute For Biblical Research, 1978 1

Of all of the attempts - whether direct or indirect - to deal with the question of apostolic authority, none gives as many indications of a sensitivity to the problem posed by personal opinion as 1 Corinthians 7. An assertion of authority is, of course, always open to the interpretation that it is merely a dressed up or aggressive form of opinion; especially is this possible in a situation of hostility. It comes as no surprise, then, that it should be 1 Corinthians that gives interpreters of early Christianity the best example of what seems to be a careful distinction between opinion and authoritative utterance, for the Corinthian setting is fraught with tension. Likewise it is no surprise that the same letter is sprinkled with numerous indications of hostility towards Paul.

The subject matter of chapter 7 is sexual relationships, and it is possible that in part this subject matter accounts for the distinctions that are made. It is the contention of this paper, however, that the form of the distinctions is important, indeed essential, to a proper understanding of this chapter. It will be argued that Paul is engaged in developing halakah, and therefore that any approach which is satisfied merely with the contrast between opinion and authority cannot explain

the curious pattern of statements.2 This pattern may be laid out simply as follows:

-’I say this by way of concession, not of command’ (v. 6)

-’. . . I give charge, not I but the Lord . . .’ (v. 10)

-’. . . I say, not the Lord . . .’ (v. 12)

-’This is my rule in all the churches’ (v. 17)

-’. . . I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion . . .’ (v. 25)

-’I think . . .’ (v. 26)

-’I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you (v. 35)

-’But in my judgement . . . And I think that I have the Spirit of God’ (v. 40)

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