Sunday, July 02, 2023

Peri ton Pneumatikon

 But about spiritualities, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. You remember that when you were nations, to mute idols you were led, as you were seduced. Therefore I declare to you that no one speaking in the Spirit of God says, Accursed Iesous, and no one is able to say, Lord Iesous, save in the Holy Spirit. There are different endowments, but the same Spirit; and there are different services, but the same Lord; and there are different enactings, but the same God enacting everything in everyone. 

To each is given the expression of the Spirit for what is beneficial. Thus, through the Spirit to one is given wisdom's word; and to another according to the Spirit, knowing's word; and to another, fidelity in the same Spirit; and to another remediating endowments in that one Spirit; and to another powerful enactings, and to another proclaiming, and to another spiritual judgment, to yet another families of tongues, and to another translation of tongues. And all these things are enacted by one and the same Spirit, distributing to each his own, as He wishes. Because just as the body is one and organs many, so also Christ; and because in one Spirit we were all immersed in one body, whether Judeans or Hellenes, whether slaves or freemen, and all irrigated with one Spirit.

And because the body is not one organ but many, if the foot were to say, Because I am not a hand, I am not the body's, it is not thereby not the body's. And if the ear were to say, Because I am not an eye, I am not the body's, it is not thereby not the body's. Were the whole body an eye, where the hearing? Were the whole hearing, where the smelling? But God has set the organs, each one of them, into the body as He intended. Were all one organ, where the body? Rather: many organs and one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no use for you, or again, the head cannot say to the feet, I have no use for you. But rather, those bodily organs thought to be weaker are necessary. And those which we think more dishonorable in the body, we clothe with superabundant honor, and our indecent parts have superabundant decency, while our decent parts have no use for it. But God has put together the body, giving superabundant honor to the inferior, that there should not be splitting in the body, but the organs may be anxious for each other. If one organ suffers, all the organs co-suffer, and if one organ is glorified, all the organs co-rejoice. You are Christ's body, and organs by partition.

And thus God has set in the assembly first, ambassadors, second, proclaimers, third, teachers, after that powers, after that remediating endowments, directings, families of tongues -- not all ambassadors, not all prophets, not all teachers, not all powers, not all have remediating endowments, not all speak by tongues, not all translate. Commit to the greater gifts. And yet I show you a supereminent way.

[1 Corinthians 12:1-30, my rough translation, at Cat's request. As is always the case with passages that have lists, one can translate the items in the list a number of ways; as usual, I have avoided the most common ones precisely to avoid the most common ones. This is not because the common ones are bad, but because we are so used to them we glide over them.

The second sentence is obscure. Ethne, nations, is usually translated as 'Gentiles'. What the idols have to do with anything else is initially puzzling. One possibility, which has some attraction, is that Paul has in mind Habakkuk 2 throughout this passage. It's not an immediately obvious connection, by any means, but it is true that a number of themes and images in Habakkuk 2 have analogues here, and one could see Paul's description of spiritual things as standing over against Habakkuk's description of the destructiveness of the proud. This would explain the mention of mute idols, and possibly one or two other expressions in the passage.

It's very easy to read Scripture in a super-solemn tone, but Paul seems to be very clearly making a joke, albeit a joke with a serious point, in the paragraph about the body; almost all translations try to euphemize it, but he really does say that our dishonorables we clothe with the most honor and our indecencies have the most decency. Which is, I suppose a first principle of fashion: if it's shameful, make it very presentable; if you have to hide it, make the covering look especially good. Our decent parts can just be decent on their own; our indecent parts get extra decency added to them in clothing the body. Thus we can say that, in bodily matters, rather than look down on the less impressive parts of the body, the more impressive parts recognize the necessity of the less impressive, and are concerned enough with them to care for them and adorn them. And part of the point of the joke seems to be to emphasize the idea that this is true no matter how less impressive, nor even how much they are potentially embarrassing. And the same is true in spiritual matters.

'Spiritualities' is a literal translation of ton pneumatikon, but I think the English colloquial word 'spirituality' really is in some ways pretty close to what Paul has in mind here. 'Splitting' is schisma, which gives us the word 'schism'. It's easily missed, but schism seems to be Paul's primary concern throughout. How does one say, Anathema Iesous? By saying that other parts of Christ's body are not in the same body with you, or else by insisting that everyone has to have the same kind of spiritual life as you; by cursing (devoting to destruction, banning, completely removing), you are cursing Christ's body, and thus Christ. The word I have translated as 'irrigated with' can also be translated as 'made to drink'; the latter is more strictly literal, but the word is also used for irrigation, and it seems to me that this perhaps goes a bit better with 'baptized', which literally means 'immersed'. But if we take the chapter to be alluding to Habakkuk 2, it might well mean 'made to drink', with the drink of the Spirit being opposed to the venomous drink of the haughty.

The 'supereminent way', of course, is that given in 1 Corinthians 13, the way of charity or love (or devotedness, as I often translate agape in these things).]