Thursday 17 July 2014

Understanding Paul's letter to the Corinthians

I entered the house after delivering another load of tents to the local Outdoor Pursuits Shop.

Paul was sitting at the table writing on another pile of parchment papers.

“Hello” I said, “would you like a hot drink?”

“What have you to offer?” he asked without looking up.

“Hot boiled fish water sweetened with honey …” I replied casually.

“The same old brew …” he mumbled in disgust, “when will someone discover coffee, or tea or hot chocolate drink?”

“There’s also hot milk and honey from the Promised Land!” I said encouragingly; but he did not answer.

I asked him what he was writing.

“It’s a letter to the people of Corinth …” he said, “I have to finish it today and send it before postage costs go up yet again …

“They’ve asked me for advice on how to live … just basic advice. I mean … can’t these people think for themselves. Here, have a read” he continued, as he passed me some bits of parchment which smelled like old goat skins.

I read … “Chapter 7 - Verse 1”

For some reason Paul always wrote his letters by numbering every chapter and every verse. I don’t know why he did that. Must be some affectation of some kind I suppose. He wrote:

“A man does well not to marry.”

“Hein?” I thought, “what’s he on about?” I kept on reading what seemed to be rather personal advice to these Corinthian people; albeit good advice I must say, and then again, at Verse 7 he wrote:

“Actually, I would prefer if all of you were single as I am …You single people and widows, it is better if you continue to live alone; just as I do …”

I stopped and looked at him writing there. I wondered why he’d never got married. Perhaps having met my mother-in-law he got frightened out of matrimony altogether.

But his advice made no sense. How can he possibly say a man should not marry, and in fact he’d prefer all of them to remain single and live alone?

I asked him “How would people multiply if they followed your advice?”

“What’s Mathematics to do with it?” he replied without looking up, “they can learn their multiplication tables like every one else!”

“No …” I said hesitantly, “I mean … you know … doing it … having babies …”

“Oh … I gave them a let out clause in Verse 9” Paul continued nonchalantly, “I told them if they can’t control themselves they’d better get married anyway.

“I really can’t understand those people … why can’t they distract themselves by playing card games, or Monopoly or similar board games. The shops are full of them!”

I kept on reading and I must admit I got a bit embarrassed at the personal advice which followed. He meant well, I suppose, and maybe those Corinthians were a little slow on the up-take and needed very detailed advice on how to live as early Christians.

Then at Verse 26 he repeated his opinions again.

“If a man is unmarried he should stay this way. If he is married he should not get rid of his wife!”

“Charming” I thought, “no doubt he’s considered the costs of divorce and alimony when giving this advice.

But then his letter continued:

“Are you unmarried? Then don't look for a wife ... I would rather spare you the everyday troubles that married people will have.”

Well, my mother-in-law certainly has had an influence on him; I thought.

I got out of the house somewhat more confused than those Corinthians will be when they receive this letter.

I was met by my wife and mother-in-law coming home from a shopping trip. Before I had time to welcome them mom-in-law said:

“What are you doing lazing in the sun? Have you no work to do?”


  1. Irony--I just finished rereading these letters---interesting take, Victor. NOT exactly where I went--but certainly interesting AND memorable!

    1. It's not very clear why Paul was so against marriage. I'm sure my mother-in-law had something to do with it.

      God bless you, Lulu, and thank you for your visit.

  2. I wish I had read that letter 23 years ago. It would have saved me some wedding costs. ;)

    1. I'm sure you don't mean that Manny. Although Paul seems to have been let down by a girl-friend, or something. I wonder how many of the Disciples were married. Peter was.

      God bless.

    2. I don't mean that. I was just trying to be funny. Peter is the only one I am aware that was married.

    3. I realised you were joking Manny. I'm surprised though that Peter could have been the only married one. I wonder why nothing is mentioned about the marital state of the other disciples; or even the evangelists. Was Luke married for instance? Would the Gospels have been written if he, and the others, had to go shopping every week, mow the lawn, take out the trash can, drive the kids to school or whatever ... sorry ... my mind was wondering for a moment ... oh dear ... and listen to the mother-in-law and all ...

      God bless.

  3. Hi Victor! I know that Paul felt that the Lord was coming back very soon, so no one should be busy doing anything except purifying themselves.

    As I look back on the passages now, it does seem very disparaging of marriage. I suppose he saw a lot of people paying attention to themselves, and getting distracted away from faith? Who knows. But Jesus hasn't come back yet, so it's a good thing not too many listened to that part of the letter. You know, 'multiplication' and all that!
    Have a good weekend my friend!

    1. Hello Ceil. Yes, I understand that Paul thought the world would end soon. I wonder what the other Disciples thought. Why didn't Peter put him right? Or Luke who travelled with him in his voyages.

      I suppose it's because Paul was rather caustic in his comments and quite cutting. I understand when he was shipwrecked in Malta, and was keeping warm by the fire, a snake bit him. Paul was not hurt but the snake required urgent medical treatment.

      Glad no one took up Paul's multiplication advice. When God said "Go forth and multiply!" I am told that a couple of snakes ignored Him. A year later God returned and found everyone had multiplied except the two snakes. He asked for an explanation and the sankes replied: "We're adders! We need logs to multiply!"


      Have a splendid weekend, and a smile when you read the above. God bless.

  4. OK--logarithms---CRACKED ME UP!!!

    1. A mathematical joke adds up to many smiles.

      God bless you Lulu.

  5. ((( “What are you doing lazing in the sun? Have you no work to do?” )))

    If you don't mind me saying "IT" Victor #1, I think that your mom-in-law must spend a "LOT" of time with Aunt Gert rude! "I" mean Gertrude nowadays. Right? LOL :)

    God Bless

  6. ((( )))

    Gee I forgot this link!

    1. Mom-in-law and Gertrude ... what a combination!

      God bless you and yours.

    2. Great song ... I also liked his "If I were a carpenter".

      God bless.

    3. He was born ten years after me and long story short, I'll simply add that this is one Bronx waif who God didn't forget.

      God Bless his soul

  7. Victor - in all my years of pondering the Bible, I have never thought about the exact moment when Paul "wrote" one of his letters. (Or dictated to Luke) And while you can't blame me for being a tad skeptical that it happened exactly as you have outlined here, I thank you for the laughs and the inspiration. God Bless you.

    1. It did, Michael. It happened as I said, because I was there.

      Great to see you here again. God bless you.



God bless you.