Thursday, February 16, 2006

1 Corinthians 7 verse 5

In 1 Cor 7:5, Paul writes:
mh. avposterei/te avllh,louj( eiv mh,ti a'n evk sumfw,nou pro.j kairo,n( i[na scola,shte th/ proseuch/ kai. pa,lin evpi. to. auvto. h=te( i[na mh. peira,zh u`ma/j o` satana/j dia. th.n avkrasi,an u`mw/nÅ’ (‘Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control’ NRSV)
A problem that has concerned some is how to understand the relation between the two clauses starting with hina. Rather impressive, even if perhaps slightly convoluted, is Thiselton’s translation:
‘Stop depriving each other of what is due in marriage, expect perhaps by mutual agreement for a specific span of time, that you may find unhurried time for prayer, and then come back together again. The goal would be nullified if Satan went on putting you through trials beyond your self-control’ (Thiselton, 1 Corinthians, p. 497)
Just a thought, but could the two clauses be more directly related, in that the times of prayer are themselves a source of temptation?

Let me expand a little: I don’t mean the prayer times were a cause of temptation in the purely inward fantasy sense (as Theißen), but rather, given the Corinthian believers’ previous experience of sexual rites including women in certain city cults (like, e.g., that in the cult of Dionysos as described by Livy), Paul was sensitive to the tendency of the Corinthians to make association of present religious activities with older pagan ones (as with the ‘meet sacrificed to an idols’ issue).

Or has this line of reasoning been explored before?


At 2/16/2006 12:59 AM, Anonymous Volker said...

I haven't done a study on this verse, so I don't know whether your line of thought has been explored before. But here are two potentially critical issues for your theory:
1) I think the practice of early Christian prayer differs so significantly from that of the cultic temple setting that I think that psycho-spiritual associations with the latter can be ruled out. In other words, prayer to Jesus will not bring the prostitute to mind.
2) The explicit reason why Paul does not want married couples in Corinth to abstain from sex for too long is expressed by the phrase "because of your lack of self-control". I guess that Paul would have made it a bit more explicit had he wanted to see the reason in the ever-present temptations of the temple cult. But even if temple-prostitution was in the back of his mind, what difference would this make to prostitution in general which is clearly (part of) his concern (6:16; 7:2 [porneia])?

At 2/16/2006 9:30 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Well that scuppers my nice few ideas!

But seriously, as to point 1) I'm not sure that Paul would have been as confident given the ethical challenges posed by the church (esp. related to Abendmahl). 2) The concern is about what is in teh back of Paul'S mind, not the strategy throughout teh chapter, and the context here is religious devotion, hence my association in this verse with the temnple cults.

But these were just idle thoughts, and nothing serious. It's the sort of theory that would make a worthwhile article, but I wouldn't find it interesting enough to be honest. I prefer things more concrete.

But thanks for your thoughts, Volker. I'll have to post a few more things on Corinthians given that we are both going through this corpus of Pauline correspondance at the moment.


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