Greek Study: 1 Cor 6:12-16

Today, we’ve several more verses:

12) Παντα μοι εξεστιν, αλλα παντα ου συμφερει. Παντα μοι εξεστιν, αλλα ουκ εγω εξουσιασθησομαι υπο τινος.
13) τα βρωματα τῃ κοιλιᾳ και ἡ κοιλια τοις βρωμοσιν. ὁ δε θεος και ταυτην και ταυτα καταργεσει. το δε σωμα ου τῃ πορνεια αλλα τῳ κυριῳ, και ὁ κυριος τῳ σωματι.
14) ὁ δε θεος τον κυριον ἣγειρεν και ὐμας εξεγερεῖ δια της δυναμεως αυτου.
15) ουκ οιδατε οτι τα σωμα ὑμων μελη Χριστου εστιν; αρας οὗν τα μελη Χριστου ποιεσω πορνης μελη; μη γενοιτο.
16) η ουκ οιδατε οτι ὁ καλλωμενος τῃ πορνῃ ἓν σωμα; Εσονται, γαρ φησιν, ὁι δυο εις σαρκα μιαν.

Now, for a rough translation:
12) “All things are permissible,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are permissible,” but I myself will not be mastered by anything!
13) “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food.” But God will destroy both of these! The body is not intended for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
14) God raised the Lord, and he will raise us also through his power.
15) Don’t you know that your bodies are members of Christ’s body? Should I then take the members of Christ’s body and join them to the body of a prostitute? Absolutely not!
16) Or don’t you now that the one who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her body? For it says, “the two will become one flesh.”

Some notes
12-13a) I love Paul’s quotations of the Corinthians slogans, and the force with which he corrects their thinking. The second correction in verse 12 is particularly forceful, where Paul uses the pronoun εγω when it’s not necessary. It’s for that reason I added the kinda awkward “myself.” Paul certainly wants the Corinthians to follow his example and not the example of those flaunting their “freedom in Christ.” Paul correction goes so far in verse 13 that he calls for God’s judgment.

13b) This is a puzzling piece to me, and I’m not quite sure how to interpret the datives. It’s not uncommon in Greek to leave the verb implicit, and Paul does it here. Usually the verb ειμι (to be) is implicit. Apparently the food saying had wider implication than simply justifying gluttony. It seems the Corinthians were using it in a general sense: my desire for an object justifies me fulfilling that desire. Thus, if I want sex, it’s okay for me to engage in temple prostitution (this is a common argument today, even if it’s left implicit). Paul can’t stand this, which is probably why he makes such a strong statement about “God destroying both of these.” Paul’s corrective here is that our bodies are not for πορνεια (same root word as prostitute, something like sexual immorality) but for Christ. He then throws in the extra little bit that I can’t completely wrap my head around: “και ὁ κυριος τῳ σοματι,” “and the Lord for the body.” Paul undoubtedly has his “church as the body of Christ” metaphor in mind here, and I think Paul is saying that Jesus’ intention is toward his Church. I’m not really sure how to unpack this further though. How exactly is the “Lord for the body” or “intended for the body?”

14) Paul links proper behavior with resurrection. Basically, our physical bodies matter for two reasons. One, the Lord was raised in a physical body. Two, God will raise us in physical bodies like he did for the Lord. Thus, what we do in our physical bodies now is extremely important, as they are part of God’s good creation.

15) The body metaphor comes out very clearly in this verse. I wasn’t really sure how to translate μελη.  Literally, it refers to a part of the body. I don’t like the word member since we don’t really use that to refer to a part of the body, but part didn’t sound right either. In characteristic fashion, Paul uses some argumentum ad absurdum. He makes a ridiculous deduction (we should join Christ with a prostitute!) to show the absurdity of the Corinthian behavior.

16) Paul continues his scolding of Corinthian sexual behavior, this time with a scriptural quotation. In Greek, the verb εσονται (will become) is split off from the rest of the quotation by the linking words γαρ φησιν (for it is said). By doing this, I believe Paul is emphasizing even more the ramifications of sexual immorality, the “oneness” of the two participants. In engaging with a prostitute, you are assuming her identity.

Next up are verses 17-20. I may do a summary of the whole chapter afterwards as well.


P.S. This passage does not serve to condemn the many who are tragically trapped and exploited in the sex trade every year. Paul makes it clear in verse 11 that some of the Corinthians had indeed come out of prostitution. The prostitution going on in this city was likely temple prostitution, which had a cultic, pagan quality to it. The end of sexual exploitation is something Christians are called to work for in the present, even if it won’t be ended entirely until the Lord returns.

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