A message from the third-greatest Torah teacher of all time Part 1

I was recently challenged (on a another blog) about a couple of verses in 1 Corinthians 10 (verses 23 and 24). The challenger insisted on only reading starting at verse 23 to justify his point, instead of going back to verse 1 which is where Paul begins the teaching and sets the context.

In response I decided to do a quick analysis of 1 Cor 10 to see what Paul is really saying, using the ESV (English Standard Version), which is fast becoming one of my favourites. It tends more towards “word for word” translation (where possible/practical) rather than “dynamic equivalence” (which is more the NIV style).

10:1 For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. (ESV)

What is Paul talking about here? He’s setting up the background which is the Exodus out of Egypt i.e. deliverance from bondage and slavery. Note that it is our Fathers who were delivered i.e. he is expecting his audience to identify themselves as the descendants of those who were actually delivered out of Egypt.

5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

This is pretty self explanatory. Paul’s still setting up the midrash (the teaching out of the principles or “drash” level of understanding of the text). He’s going to develop the principles and then apply them to the context extant in Corinth at the time. He’s not establishing church doctrine, he’s writing to a real congregation with real issues about the everyday life situations that they’re encountering!.

6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

Examples for who?

7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”

He’s quoting Exodus 32:6 – the golden calf incident.

8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.

Numbers ch 25, when Phinehas stopped the judgement of God by running through with a spear those indulging in fornication in the camp.

9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.

Numbers 21:5-10 (Does anyone still want to claim that Paul wasn’t teaching Torah?)

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

Written down for our instruction. In other words, there are principles in these accounts in Torah that we are meant to learn from, that are supposed to inform our decision making and our way of life.

12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

Therefore connects the previous thoughts (the introduction) to the following, the body of Paul’s message.

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

This doesn’t sound like new doctrine to me, in fact, it sounds just like what God told Moses.

15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.

In other words, “You lot aren’t stupid. Judge for yourself and then say I’m not telling the truth.” (A hint of sarcasm here, perhaps? A sign of exasperation?)

16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

Now he’s talking about Passover (Pesach). The “cup of blessing” is one of the cups that is drunk during the Passover Seder. Still teaching Torah…

17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?

Now he’s talking about the Passover sacrifice (which was eaten by the participants in the feast) as well as other burnt offerings that were also eaten. In fact, the only offering that wasn’t eaten was a whole burnt offering. We’re still in Torah, though.

19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 Mb>No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.

In other words, don’t participate in the pagan sacrifices and feasts that are going on all around you in Corinth (and nearby towns) and knowingly eat the meat thus sacrificed. Still teaching Torah (now we’re into Leviticus).

21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.

Don’t mix your worship and say that you’re doing it to YHVH (which is exactly what was going on in the golden calf episode that Paul referred to in his introduction).

You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

Just in case you didn’t get it the first time…

22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Who’s the boss? How do we provoke Him to jealousy? By committing spiritual adultery with other gods, which has been the point ever since Paul started this narrative.

23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

Note the quotes! Paul is quoting others who claim that grace permits them to violate Torah, but clearly states that that “is not helpful” and “does not edify (build up)”.

24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

Don’t think only of yourself, but consider how your actions in this matter affect or influence your neighbor.

25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”

If the meat is sold in the market, you have no way of knowing if it was sacrificed to an idol. If you don’t know, don’t ask. Just don’t actively participate in the feasts and sacrifices and then eat it, because that is idolatry. BTW, that would not include meat that was not food e.g. pig, because they would never buy that for food.

27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.

Same deal. If it is served to you innocently (and it is food, not “not food”) then eat it with a clear conscience.

28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience– 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?

In other words, if someone tells you outright that it had been offered in sacrifice to an idol, knowing that you follow YHVH, don’t eat it because if you do, you’re bringing guilt on them and compromising the image of YHVH.

30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

This sounds like Paul is now taking issue with the attitude of some who had denounced Paul because he ate meat from the markets (or in someones home) in good conscience without checking to see if it had been sacrificed. The whole passage above is to demonstrate the principle of what is defined as idolatry according to Torah i.e. active and willing participation in feasts and sacrifices to pagan idols.

31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

This sounds a lot like something Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes:

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (ESV)

Back to Paul for the final word:

32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

In other words, consider how your actions affect others and remember, you’re representing the Master, so do so with integrity, honesty and sincerity and bring honour to His Name.

Paul was the greatest Torah teacher of his generation (with the obvious exception of Yeshua Himself). You’ll always twist and misinterpret his writings until you study and begin to understand Torah.

Rodney posted at כ״ח באייר ה׳תש״ע (May 12, 2010) Category: Uncategorized

2 Responses Leave a comment

  1. #1john @ ט״ו בסיון ה׳תש״ע (May 28, 2010) 09:33

    You wrote,
    Paul was the greatest Torah teacher of his generation (with the obvious exception of Yeshua Himself). You’ll always twist and misinterpret his writings until you study and begin to understand Torah.

    That is a misunderstanding of 2Peter3:15
    20 minutes with someone with a rational mind will clarify this and the message you have written.
    This is more important than you can imagine.

    • Rodney @ ט״ו בסיון ה׳תש״ע (May 28, 2010) 22:18

      Hi John – Welcome. Perhaps you would care to elaborate. The post was about looking at 1 Corinthians 10:25-26 in context, instead of ignoring the context and forming an entire doctrine based on something that was never intended or implied in the text. I’m not sure exactly what that has to do with 2 Peter 3:15-16, especially when you again consider these verses in context instead of treating them as statements in isolation (remembering that Peter was writing a letter, with no artificial divisions of chapter and verse, as indeed was Paul).

      Feel free to explain further what you mean.