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Greatest Moments in Class Part 1

April 13, 2009

This week we were discussing Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. I read aloud verse 5:11:

But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. (NIV)

One of my students shot up her hand and asked: “But isn’t that what Jesus did? Didn’t he get in trouble for associating with the wrong crowd?”

I responded by putting my finger to my lips and whispering loudly: “Shush. Don’t point out the contradictions!”


5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 13, 2009 9:09 pm

    Well now… I would say, it’s the fact they “call themselves a brother” yet do these things.
    Otherwise the whole “but its totally cool to eat foods offered to pagan gods” part would not fit either.

    It’s cool to hang out with sinners who recognise their sin, but if someone is sinning but thinks they can just get away with it and still consider themselves a fine upstanding fellow, that’s where the problem arises. Shunning them is a way to make them wake up and take notice.

    The sinners Jesus hung out with generally tended to know they were sinners. Their humility drips through the pages.
    Also… Jesus is God. Paul et al are just mortal men, even if they have some kind of magic apostolic powers, they’re still not God or Godlike. It could just be a warning to avoid temptation.

    I think it’s unfair to assume contradiction rather than attempt to clear it up. But I was told that by a rabbi.

  2. April 13, 2009 9:35 pm

    That strikes me as a plausible way to reconcile the apparent contradiction (although I don’t believe Jesus was divine or that his friends’ humility “drips through the pages”).

    However, I’m unconvinced that possible explanations are always the best explanation. I recently read an essay be a colleague who said when he was in college he argued to his professors that the contradictory accounts of Goliath’s death could be reconciled if only we posited that there were two Goliaths. Although that’s certainly “possible,” he notes that this explanation was really wishful thinking on his part.

    I recently saw Bart Ehrman suggest (rightly in my mind) in an interview that most people collapse the differences in the gospels so much that they end up destroying the uniqueness of each. You can’t hear the unique voice of Matthew if when reading it you’re just trying to make it fit with the other gospels.

    I don’t always assume contradiction but I also think that leaping to reconcile apparent contradictions may result in twisting the text.

  3. April 14, 2009 6:41 am

    It doesn’t seem that much like a leap to me.
    Probably because that’s how the practice of excommunication actually works. You can’t excommunicate someone who doesn’t claim to be Christian, and you don’t excommunicate them if they are repentant.

  4. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    April 14, 2009 7:07 am

    I wasn’t criticizing your explanation—I didn’t mean to suggest it was a leap—I was just responding to your last line about the principle of always trying to clear up contradictions …

  5. bradcorban permalink
    April 28, 2009 11:17 pm

    I like the fact that rabbis enjoyed “clearing up contradictions” by doing so in a creative way, without an attempt to end the conversation. They weren’t engaged in some sort of “pure” logic, but rather were attempting some sort of artistic coherency for the text.

    But I also love the contradictions. They are part of why I love the bible. It offers a variety of voices. The book would be terribly boring if it was all written by the same person or by people brainwashed by the exact same ideology.

    Surely Jesus, as a rabbi, was onto this. He spouted out paradoxes left and right. “If you seek to save your life, you’ll lose it…”; “The first shall be last…”; etc.

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