Curse Redux? 1 Corinthians 5:13, Deuteronomy, And Identity In Corinth -- By: Guy Prentiss Waters

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 77:2 (Fall 2015)
Article: Curse Redux? 1 Corinthians 5:13, Deuteronomy, And Identity In Corinth
Author: Guy Prentiss Waters


Curse Redux? 1 Corinthians 5:13, Deuteronomy,
And Identity In Corinth

Guy Prentiss Waters

Guy Prentiss Waters is the James M. Baird Jr. Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS.

At first glance, 1 Cor 5:1-13 seems to have little to do either with Scripture or identity formation. For one thing, the chapter lacks a citation formula of any kind.1 Furthermore, the “two-fold” “problem” of a heinous and public instance of πορνεία (v. 1) and of the Corinthian community’s response to this circumstance (v. 2) dominates this chapter.2 Such concerns seem far-removed from the project of identity confirmation.3

On further consideration, however, this portion of Paul’s letter evidences not only an example of Paul’s sophisticated engagement with Scripture, but also illustrates the way in which Paul was engaged in confirming the Christian identity of believers in Corinth. These two concerns, far from running in parallel and non-intersecting lines in 1 Cor 5, are intersecting, even mutually reinforcing. In this chapter, “Paul employs Scripture to foster the conversion of the imagination.”4 This apostolic objective, furthermore, far from lying at the periphery of the argument in 1 Cor 5, sits comfortably at its center.

We will undertake to demonstrate this point along three lines. First, we will observe that in v. 13, the conclusion to Paul’s argument, he is explicitly referencing an “expulsion formula” drawn from LXX Deuteronomy.5 Carefully following the work of both Brian S. Rosner and Richard B. Hays along these lines, we will explore the purposes for which Paul has so engaged this portion of Scripture.6

Second, we will address a problem posed by Rosner’s and Hays’s work but unaddressed by it. To be sure, Paul’s citation of Deuteronomy is indicative of Paul’s conviction that “his Gentile Corinthian readers” have “been taken up into Israel in such a way that they now share in Israel’s covenant privileges and obligations.”7 This citation is furthermore indicative of Paul’s conviction ...

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