Monday, February 3, 2014

Corinth's Communion (part 18)

In the process of considering whether or not this concern about the imposition of the cultural honor and shame system is a legitimate approach to take in an attempt to understand Paul’s concerns, the larger movement of the letter to the Corinthians, and the singular importance of the meal to the early Christian communities, it is appropriate to here revert to the fifth chapter of the letter, to continue to build an awareness of the structure of the mounting argument about the body of believers that comprise the church community that takes place within the letter, and perhaps culminates in Paul’s communion dissertation of the eleventh chapter.  

Bearing in mind the short discussion of the historical facts of the symposium that has been previously presented, while also keeping in mind that Paul’s letter will be read to the gathered church (not in silent isolation and contemplation), and perhaps strategically read in the midst of the meal that will eventually devolve into the symposium (which some in the church were probably imagining to be an example of the messianic banquet), is necessary to the effort to attempt to hear the Apostle in the same circumstances in which his initial hearers found themselves. 

As was seen through the reading of much of the sixth chapter, when it is read in the light of a meal and the symposium, a great deal of illumination is on offer when coming across words such as “Your boasting is not good.  Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough?” (5:6)  The very mention of bread could function as an indicator that Paul wanted (and expected) this letter to be read in conjunction with the church’s meal, while the mention of boasting calls attention to the boasting that was a regular and accepted component of the symposium.  

Going on, Paul writes, “Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough---you are, in fact, without yeast.  For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (5:7).  This use of Passover terminology presumes that this church, located in a Gentile city and presumably populated by Gentiles, has been well-instructed in the history of Israel, so as to properly see themselves as a part of that continuing narrative of the covenant people, as apart from an understanding of the exodus the talk of Christ as Passover lamb would fall on ignorant ears. 

At a meal, with the messianic feast of the Lord’s Supper and what it communicates about the church and its role as emissaries of the kingdom of God in view, the recipients of the letter go on to hear “So then, let us celebrate the festival (whether the actual Passover or simply the Lord’s Supper in recognition of the messianic feast in which the Passover is consistently called to mind to provide the messianic-banquet-informed communion with its depth of meaning) not with the old yeast, the yeast of vice and evil, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth” (5:8). 

Not only does the talk of yeast and bread strongly indicate that a meal is taking place and is the setting of the gathering of the church and the reading of the letter, and not only do the mention of yeast and bread serve as additional references to the Passover in particular, but it is also the case that such talk calls to mind that which would have been part of the oral traditions concerning Jesus that were then in circulation.  Specifically, those traditions are likely to have included Jesus’ reported reference to the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod, which could certainly produce thoughts of the two great feasts over which Jesus presided (found in the Gospel of Mark, which may have been the earliest and most widely know thread of Jesus traditions within the orally oriented church community).  

No comments:

Post a Comment