briefly, 2 am raw exegesis of 1 Corinthians 8.1


This was a personal fb status literally at 2am Thursday, between one baby going back to sleep and another waking for a bottle. I stand by the core concepts here, but recognize that it’s decidedly unpolished work done on my trusty BlackBerry Z10 with bleary, burning eyes. I still thought it worth mentioning here. I did tweak a handful of typos because I still have a sense of dignity. –b.

***

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up,” is a mistranslation, and a verse frequently used to abuse and sully Christian intellectuals into marginalization and staying out of the affairs of the church. I know this because I’ve seen it happen to others and I’ve had trample all over me with this verse (Exactly who is being puffy in these situations, anyway?)

‘Puffs up’ is Gk. ‘physioo’, as in physical, but English translations (obviously) denote inflation. Inflation, though, should have a ‘pneuma’ base or root, and certainly Paul, master of creating compound words and word-pictures in the Greek would be explicit this way. Why would he write ‘physioo’ if he’s not talking about something physical?

On the other hand, ‘love builds up’ is ‘oikodomeo’, a Pauline compound specialty joining ‘oikos’ (the Greek family unit) and ‘domeo’ (dual meaning, probably intentional, the act of building…as well as the Roman family unit.)

The (partial) verse should read closer to ‘knowledge is good for the self, love is good for the home.’ Paul is NOT saying that knowledge is sinful or counterproductive to the life of a Christian; after all, the man was Sanhedrin-trained and fluent in Roman and Jewish laws and customs!

Paul is, by virtue of the entire verse in question and the larger context, speaking directly to the issue of eating food sacrificed to idols in the Roman home, precisely because it was an issue threatening Christian families within that specific sociocultural location. The knowledge of food sacrificed to idols bows to the reality that not eating would rip the family apart and threaten Christian witness specifically designed to work within such intimate settings!

The reality of the matter is that nothing ‘puffs up’ more than ignorance.

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