While we cannot consider every facet of the Second Vatican Council that Protestant scholars have engaged, there are three remaining issues worthy of briefly considering here: reactions to Vatican II’s position on the Priesthood, the Liturgy, and Religious Freedom. It is important to note with Martin Marty that during Vatican II very little was actually said concerning contemporary concerns such as female ordination and clerical celibacy, and thus many Protestant and Catholic differences on these issues are not directly the result of Vatican II. The council did weigh in on several matters pertaining to priests however. In the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, the council affirmed that celibacy was to be “embraced and esteemed as a gift” among priests. Additionally, priests were called to avoid greediness, to develop their spiritual lives, to engage the sacred scriptures and Church Fathers, to remain aware of current events, and to take vacation every year. Such praxis-oriented concerns, combined with calls for lay participation in the ministry of the church, suggest a commitment to collegiality of all levels of church hierarchy. This collegial view of the church includes the leveling of authority within the official hierarchy, though maintaining the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, including the restoration of the historical office of deacon. However, significant differences continue to exist between Protestant conceptions of the priesthood of all believers and the Roman conception of a celibate clergy. Continue reading
First Century Corinth was arguably one of the most important locales for Paul of Tarsus as he propagated his message about Jesus of Nazareth in the first century, as literary evidence suggests that he wrote at least three letters to this Roman city and stayed there for some time when he wrote his letter to the church at Rome. Scholars have long noted that Paul touched on a number of issues within the Corinthian church in the canonical letters of First and Second Corinthians, including a number of issues involving the human body and sexuality. In The Corinthian Body, Dale B. Martin examines Paul’s first letter to Corinth within the context of ancient constructions and ideologies of the human body (xi). In this work Martin argues that the theological differences reflected in Paul’s first letter to Corinth stemmed from conflicts rooted in differing ideological constructions of the human body, and that these differences were between Paul, along with the majority of the Corinthian Christians, who viewed the body as threatened by polluting agents and a minority of relatively elite Corinthian Christians who emphasized hierarchical balance in the arrangement of the body without much concern for bodily boundaries and pollution (xv). Martin links this divide in Corinth to positions on the human body in relation to the socioeconomic status of the majority, the Weak, and the elite minority, the Strong (xv). While Martin does not seek to directly link Pauline thought with Greek medical theories concerning the body, he does argue that discourses concerning the ancient body were driven by ideological constructions that viewed the human body in certain ways due to societal influences and interests (xii). In attempting to discern different ideologies of the body within the Greco-Roman context, Martin purposes to examine ancient concepts of hierarchy and pollution, especially as they are at work within Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (xii). This review will summarize Martin’s work within the paradigms of hierarchy and pollution in the Greco-Roman world and offer an assessment of the strength of his claims that interpretation of I Corinthians should consider the ideological differences between Paul and the Strong concerning the human body. Continue reading
We begin with Richard B. Hays’ perspective found in First Corinthians: An Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. As we examine the context, his interpretation of First Corinthians 11.2-16, and the conceptions of body that come from this passage, we will find that Hays conceives of the human body found in First Corinthians to be socially gendered.
Contextually, Hays emphasizes the importance of reading First Corinthians with the consciousness that modern readers are eaves dropping on a portion of an ancient conversation between Paul and the church at Corinth. Concerning his approach to the text, Hays writes that interpretation involves a “process of distancing ourselves from the text enough to see its foreignness and then allowing the text to draw near again and claim us.” Regarding Corinth, he notes the importance of remembering that Paul’s Corinth existed as a commercial city full of sporting games that was well acquainted with political prowess. Additionally he argues for contextualizing Corinth as a colonial city full of people seeking upward mobility. Socio-religiously, Hays indicates the importance of understanding the diversity of deities and centers of worship within Corinth, especially the Corinthians reputation (at least among the Athenians) for sexually promiscuous worship and the Jewish presence within the city. Also noteworthy was the apparent socioeconomic diversity likely represented within any given house church. Hays locates two occasions for Paul’s writing to Corinth, the first of which was Paul’s reception of a letter from “Chloe’s people” concerning dissensions among the Corinthians on matters of sexuality, legal disputes, abuses of the Lord’s Supper, and controversies concerning the resurrection of the dead. Additionally, the Corinthians had written Paul asking for advice on sex within marriage, food sacrificed to idols, spiritual gifts, and Paul’s collection for Jerusalem. As Hays understands it, this two-fold communication from the city indicated to Paul a church in a moment of division and crisis—hence his multiple letters to the congregation. Paul’s response to these issues are framed within theological terms, however it seems clear that not every concern would have been understood by the Corinthians as a necessarily theological issue, perhaps causing even greater divisions in the church. Continue reading