Temple And Holiness In 1 Corinthians 5 -- By: Brian S. Rosner

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 42:1 (NA 1991)
Article: Temple And Holiness In 1 Corinthians 5
Author: Brian S. Rosner


Temple And Holiness In 1 Corinthians 51

Brian S. Rosner

Why must the incestuous man be expelled from the Corinthian ἐκκλησία in 1 Corinthians 5? Paul Minear concedes concerning this passage that ‘it may be easy to grasp the commands Paul gave, but it is far from easy to grasp the reasoning that lay behind these commands’.2 An important motif of exclusion from the community in the OT and early Judaism is temple and holiness; sinners were excluded to maintain the sanctity of God’s temple.3 Following a survey of the OT/Jewish evidence for this motif,4 this short study considers whether one of the reasons Paul insists on the expulsion of the sinner in 1 Corinthians 5 is in order to restore the holiness of God’s temple, the church.

Holiness is associated with community exclusion in the Pentateuch through two terms, חרם 5 and כרת,6 which arguably have links with 1 Corinthians 5:5. In the Scriptures חרם is associated with holy war and is a curse directed against people and objects which must be excluded because of contact with foreign gods. In Deuteronomy 7:26 and 13:14–18 the ‘ban’ is imposed because of the illicit spoils of war and outright idolatry respectively (cf. בדל in Deut. 29:20). Along with the common כרת formulae of the first four books of the Pentateuch,7 this material emphasises the holiness of Yahweh and the need for Israel to be holy. Contamination is also a common theme; whoever takes possession of a devoted thing must himself be devoted, along with his house and even town. Thus in the holiness motif, a person or thing must be removed because of the holiness of God who has sanctified the community.

Related to this holiness motivation for exclusion from the community is OT teaching on exclusion from the temple. William Horbury’s study of the practice of excommunication in pre-rabbinic Judaism

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