Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Understanding St 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 remembered God's advice to His creations. He 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 snakes replied: "We're adders! We need logs to multiply!" (Logarithms).

Anyway ... after this mental distraction which I am prone to from time to time, I re-read Paul's Chapter 7 - Verse 1 where he clearly says "A man does well not to marry".

Then he goes on to say that if people are married they should have sex whenever the other person, partner, desires it; unless you have stopped to pray for a while before starting again.

I gulped and looked at him without saying a word.

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. I'll bet if Paul could read this, he would be both flattered and amused, Victor! On a serious note, though, I know the early Christians thought Christ's return was going to happen any minute, and Paul was urging them not to take on commitments that would distract them from worshiping God. At least, that's what I think, for what it's worth.

    1. Thank you Martha. Yes, I had heard that the early Christians thought that Christ's return, (i.e. the end of the world and judgement day), was imminent. I wonder why they thought that, because Christ never mentioned it. If I remember right, He said no one knows the date or the hour of the judgement day. (Can't find it right now in the Bible). It will come like a thief in the night. So what led them to think it would happen soon?

      Paul was very complex character and a lot of his writings are difficult to interpret.

      I know he talked a lot and sent people to sleep. (I remember that from my Religious studies lessons). Once he talked so much that someone fell asleep and fell out of the window to his death.

      "And after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we sailed from Philippi, and five days later we rejoined them in Troas, where we stayed seven days. On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Since Paul was ready to leave the next day, he talked to them and kept on speaking until midnight. Now there were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a certain young man named Eutychus, seated by the window, was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell from the third story and was picked up dead.But Paul went down, threw himself on the young man, and embraced him. “Do not be alarmed!” he said. “He is still alive!” " Acts 20:7-10

      I am not sure whether the man was actually dead or not, or whether Paul brought him back to life. It's amazing the things one remembers from school lessons. But this one sticks in my mind.

      I wonder what the Corinthians thought when they received his letter. "Oh ... not him again!!!"

      God bless. Keep smiling.

  2. Hmm... now I'm wondering if St. Paul wasn't the original barrister?
    You've just reminded me. It's been many years now, but my mother used to prepare a most comforting beverage … warmed honey milk.

    1. I agree Mevely. If you read that paragraph of Paul's letter, although repetitive, it has many clauses and sub-clauses like a legal document.

      Warmed milk with honey and a dash of brandy is wonderful on a cold day; or a warm day, or any day.

      God bless.

  3. Aren't you glad that you got married. You have such a lovely mother-in-law. That's one of the benefits of being married. :)

    1. Yes indeed, Bill. She's really lovely !!!!

      God bless you always.

  4. Yes, so very deep thoughts mixed in your humorous musings today. Martha Jane and Myra both said it better than I can!

  5. Such humorous musings Victor! I smiled all the way through. As a single gal, I've taken this verse to mean as it's perfectly fine to be single. You're not any less welcome as a Christian, and don't have the distractions of a spouse. Even though Paul and Jesus never married, being single still seems like being the 'odd' ones in churches! So us singles tend to grab onto these verses sometimes. :)

    1. It is so nice to see you visiting me here again, Lynn. Thanx. We would like to see you here often.

      Being single is a vocation just as being married or being a minister/priest/nun etc ... in the church. Everyone is welcome and everyone has a role to play. Being single leaves a person with more time perhaps to serve God in ways a married person cannot because of their commitments. Yes, being single can seem odd in some churches; this is part of the hypocrisy of some Christians, I fear.

      The reason Paul was single, I believe, is as Martha says above; at the time, early Christians thought that Christ would return soon.

      God bless you, Lynn. I hope and pray you are well.

  6. Thanks for explaining the whole thing to me.



God bless you.