This week, I am working through 2 Corinthians, chapters 12-13 and Galatians 1-3.
- Verse 2 - This idea of a "third" heaven is somewhat alien to modern Christianity, but was not unknown to ancient Judaism (although sources differ as to whether there were seven heavens, or just three or some other number1). It certainly leaves one to wonder what the "first" and "second" heavens (and others, if Paul understood them to exist as well) were like. Bruce also suggests that the man Paul refers to in the third person is, in fact, himself (verse 5 notwithstanding, and indeed this interpretation makes more sense of how this would be a continuance of boasting, as verse 1 indicates).
- Verses 7-10 - It is impossible to be sure just what Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was.2 It is enough to know that Paul had it, and how he ultimately dealt with it.
- Verses 5-7 - I'm curious as to how Paul imagines that the Corinthians are to "test" their faith. He does not provide details, but considers this self-evident.
- Verses 6-9 - Paul doesn't waste any time before getting to this matter, which he uses harsh words of condemnation about. What was the nature of this "gospel," and what was appealing enough about it that the Galatians would be "so quickly deserting" the real gospel?
- Verses 11-12 - Paul asserts that the real gospel is not of human origin. But surely the proclaimers of the false gospel would make the same assertion, wouldn't they?
- Verses 13-24 - Paul provides evidence to back up his assertion. Would the proponents of the false gospel have anything with which to attempt to rebut such an argument? Would they have "evidence" of their own?
- Verse 3 - Paul makes a point of saying the "not even Titus... was compelled to be circumcised." So why was Timothy?
- Verses 9, 11, 14 - The TNIV accurately preserves the fact that Paul uses the Aramaic version of Peter's name ("Cephas") in these instances, having referred to him as "Peter" in 7 and 8 already. It is presumed that all of these refer to the same person3. Why does Paul switch versions?
- Verse 28: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." - This verse is often cited in defense of women in ministry. Those who oppose women in ministry (or perhaps more accurately, in ordained office) suggest that Paul is only referencing the state of one's salvation in this passage. It seems to me that this passage is not about "salvation" so much as it is about "belonging to Christ." Some may argue that this is the same thing, but it seems to me that "belonging to Christ" is far more expansive than just "salvation," per se. It is definitely more expansive than "salvation" if by that word we are only talking about whether or not a person gets to heaven after they die.
1See F.F. Bruce, 1 & 2 Corinthians, (The New Century Bible Commentary) Eerdmans, 1971, pp. 246-247, although Bruce does not specify what any of these "other" heavens were said to be like.
2Bruce, p. 248, demonstrates this by listing a multitude of diagnoses provided by ancient scholars.
3Although Clement of Alexandria apparently disagreed, identifying "Cephas" with one of the "Seventy" (or Seventy-Two) from Luke 10:1-24. Unfortunately, the work in which Clement wrote this is lost, and we only have a reference from Eusebius telling us so.