Matthew Malcolm wonders, “Was Paul Faking ‘the Weak’?” in I Cor 8-10. This entertains David Garland’s suggestion that I Cor 8-10 doesn’t advise what is usually assumed — that the “strong” should restrain their freedom for the sake of the “weak” — but rather that any association with idols is off-limits for Christians period. The “weak” didn’t exist, according to Garland; they served as a hypothetical construct for Paul’s point that idolatry should be avoided at all costs.
Malcolm cites four reasons advanced by Garland in support of this view, and I’d like to focus on the last two:
• In 1 Cor 8, the problem is not that the weak might have their faith shaken and compromised; the problem is that the weak might be “strengthened” to eat idol meat (and thereby be destroyed)
• By chapter 10, Paul’s argument – which started off gently by using the hypothetical example of weak brothers – becomes emphatic and uncompromising: Flee idolatry!
Mark Nanos has made similar points, but not to show that the weak didn’t exist. They existed in large numbers: they were non-Christian outsiders. On this line of thinking, Paul’s concern is not that the weak will revert to idolatry out of any supposed insecurity, but that they will never turn away from it. This naturally plays into the next point, that Paul is in fact urging Christians to avoid idolatry in chapter 8 as much as chapter 10. But again, contra Garland, the weak refer to pagans who stand as potential converts. (For that’s what defines a pagan: they eat idol meat without any qualms; that’s why they’re weak.) Once we see this, we needn’t suppose that Paul was “faking” the weak.
With Malcolm in the end, we should regard the essential point of I Cor 8 being that the strong should restrain themselves for the sake of a real group of others. But those others were predominantly unbelievers — pagans whom Paul fears would get wrong ideas if they saw Christians exercising their freedoms indiscriminately. Such behavior would give potential converts the idea that Christianity was a syncrestic religion (that they could simply add Yahweh/Christ to their own pantheon), or alternatively, make Christians look like hypocrites who don’t really believe in the exclusivist claims they preach.
As in Rom 14-15, Paul urged Christians to forsake their freedoms in the company of outsiders in order to win them to the gospel efficiently.
As Mark Goodacre has noted, N.T. Wrong’s blog is now password protected, and I’m sure this had a lot to do with it. But Wrong’s maneuver could be an act of subterfuge — I mean, we know his first death was followed by a resurrection. Mark wonders if another one is on the way, and I’m betting so, for greater things down the road. The anti-bishop has too much up his sleeve to stay buried underground.
Now this is stirring the pot.
(A Guest Review by Leonard Ridge)
What’s there to say about James Crossley’s new book? Not much. Misguided in every aspect of its intention, actually misguided at its core, this resolute display of polemic masks ambitions the author will never realize. His targets? Media hounds, bloggers, and academics, all who supposedly share a lot in common despite their opposite politics. If you’re a biblioblogger who has stereotyped or attacked Arabs in any way, if your reporting of hot-button items (like the Temple Mount) even remotely smacks of partisanship, or if you’ve refused to openly condemn Anglo-American foreign policy given half a chance, then you’ve probably taken a hit or two in this book.
Take the insufferable Loren Rosson. You can get a pretty good idea as to how he is critiqued in his own review for the Nashua Public Library. Loren’s review is kind enough, but then why shouldn’t it be? His politics are almost as bad as Crossley’s, so it’s hard to understand the fuss between them. Crossley doesn’t like stereotypes? Too bad. If he spent a considerable amount of time living abroad in various areas he’d feel differently. Loren respects those he stereotypes? Good. He can go back to Africa and stay there.
It burns me to see liberal multiculturalists set apart in debate, when underneath the smoke-and-mirrors they’re essentially on the same page. I’ve complained about Loren and the Context Group in the past. Crossley is no better. He shoves reality into the dirt and pounds it to within an inch of its life. When the screed is over, we’re left feeling raped, having endured 199 pages, ultimately, for what? A crash course in Political Correctness 101? How to be good little anti-Zionists? To be impressed by the way Crossley scores points against countless bloggers, while going to bat for (of all people) Jim West? To learn that the “Jewish Jesus” isn’t so Jewish that he doesn’t feed supersessionist interests? (Bill Arnal already taught us that.) Patronizing nonsense, all of it, but bound to find favor in circles that send me running to the nearest office of the Euston Manifesto.
Skip this crazed monstrosity and read a cheap spy novel instead. I couldn’t get through it without interludes of exercise and fresh air, and I’m still feeling soiled.
N.T. Wrong has taken the initiative to pull together the thirty-seventh Biblical Studies Carnival which never got done for the month of December. One highlight that he mentions is James Crossley’s new book, Jesus in An Age of Terror, which I’ve read, though note that it’s currently unavailable in the U.S. (amazon.com and Baker & Taylor still list the inaccurate Dec ’08 release date).
UPDATE: Since Wrong has closed his blog, the carnival is moved to Jim West’s.
Bloggers are intimately familiar with hobby-horse commenters, and for some time I’ve been meaning to single out a few for honorary notice. Yesterday’s developments in the comments under James Crossley’s latest post convinced me it was time to do this.
The following are the top three hobby-horse kings of the biblioblogosphere, those who enjoy pushing their pet theories at every possible opportunity (even when the subject is off-topic), to the near exclusion of other interests. Each authors a blog. And each has left zillions of comments (only a few are showcased below) on many different blogs, as if redundant repetition will earn as much respect as the attention they attract.
(1) Geoff Hudson. Hobby-Horses: Everyone under the sun is Jeffrey B. Gibson in disguise. Various conspiracy theories involving the reworking of Paul’s letters (see the many comments consolidated under one post), which were originally about purifying the temple of animal sacrifices. Almost everywhere in biblioblogdom, Hudson leaves piles of repetitive and confusing comments, usually in dialogue with himself as much as others. He earns the top slot for sheer volume.
(2) Leon Zitzer. Hobby-Horses: All biblical scholars are unscientific, antisemitic, and liars. Scholars are engaged in a witch trial against Judas (see comments). Zitzer laments (see comments): “Biblical scholars suppress debate… They create a faux science so they will appear to be scientific. But real science is forbidden by virtually every scholar as far as I can see. If that seems like a strong statement, I should tell you that it is an eminently provable statement…I seem to be all alone in this. That’s how it goes with science.”
(3) Steven Carr. Hobby-Horse: Paul denied that Jesus’ corpse was raised from the dead. See further here, here, here, and here (all in comments) for redundantly predictable restatements. To be fair, I don’t think Carr is entirely wrong insofar as what he argues against, only that he doesn’t allow for more ambiguity and tension in the Pauline view of the resurrection.
I want to offer congratulations to our Hobby-Horse Kings for an unrelenting perseverance, and for holding their ground in the face of so much mainstream ignorance.
Yes, and Stephen Carlson is going to be the editor of this ambitious, amorous project.