The Most Problematical Scripture and Understanding Paul
NCW 75, April-June 2002
Q. What, in your opinion, is the most problematical chapter and book in the Bible?
A. The Scriptures are not, as we know, discerned save through the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). Intellectual exegesis, whilst at times very useful, does have severe limitations, as is evidenced by all the disagreements that beset scholars when it comes to making Bible translations.
In my opinion (others may well make a quite different choice), 1 Corinthians is the most controversial and difficult biblical book to understand, and especially chapter 7. Most would agree, I think (and I have the apostle Peter's support in this area - see 2 Pet.3:15-16), that Paul is at times hard to follow, not because he is in error (as various heretics like the Ebionites and some modern Messianics teach) but because of the shere scope and depth of the revelation of Christ given to him. It is not easy, as the prophets would readily testify, to render into language the spiritual things of eternity.
By way of illustration, we can look at two possible translations of the first verse of chapter 7. The first is the traditional understanding and which was pushed hard for centuries during the Catholic hegemony because of its doctrine of the necessity of a celibate priesthood, for it is from this chapter (and one other badly translated one) that the Catholic hatred of marriage and sex stems. In the traditional rendition, it reads:
"Now to deal with the matters you wrote about. A man does well not to marry..." (TEV).
But this controversial passage which, as it stands above, totally contradicts Torah, may also be rendered:
"Now to deal with the matters you wrote about. You say that a man does well not to marry..." (TEV, alternative marginal rendition).
Clearly this prologue changes the whole meaning of the chapter depending which rendering you accept. What shall we do? Quite simply, we must choose the translation which harmonises with what goes before and not that which accommodates a preconceived doctrine.
This chapter poses other problems because of its local character: it is addressing a congregation in deep trouble. Put bluntly, the Corinthian colony was out of control, it was profligate, was strongly influenced by pagan practices (such as false tongues), and was immoral. Further, it was simultaneously being persecuted by non-believers. The apostle was dealing with a colony teetering on the edge of rebellion and threatened with total destruction. As such, therefore, he had to mingle harshness with diplomacy. It is from this book that nearly all the charismatic heresies have sprung.
An added problem with 1 Corinthians is that the apostle openly says that on some occasions he is expressing his own views and is not necessarily conveying direct revelation from Yahweh. Thus in a situation, such as the Corinthian one, where sexual immorality was rampant, celibacy was certainly desirable while these former pagans got their libidos under control. In addition, with so much persecution and the impossibility of raising families under such conditions, remaining unmarried was certainly an attractive alternative. Under such conditions, a man would indeed do well not to marry (v.1). However, because of unbridled sexual passion, which always springs when sexual mores are lowered, getting married is definitely preferable to being waylaid in sin because of an inability to control ones hormones (v.2).
There are many parallel themes running through chapter 7. In view of the confusion and uncertainty, it is better to live as Yahweh has called a person in any particular moment of time (vv.17-24). The issue of slavery thus becomes a secondary one to learning to become Christ's slave in holiness.
Paul has been accused of being an anti-Torah and a misogenist (woman-hater), which he was neither. And he has been accused of being many other things too. Of all the apostles, he has been the most maligned. Because people have misunderstood him, he has become an unwilling stumbling block to the salvation of many. Since none of us witnessed the events surrounding the Corinthian crisis, and since we are far removed from its milieu by nearly two millennia, it is hardly surprising that Paul is misunderstood. Knowing that this would be a problem later in NCCG/BCAY with new members coming from many different backgrounds - and indeed, experiencing anti-Pauline sentiments from some of the members in the early days of this work, I have, on at least four occasions, received direct revelation on this apostle. In the first, received in 1988, Yahweh said:
"It is said by some that the Gospel of Paul is not the Gospel of Christ but is some other gospel. But I say unto you that there is no Gospel of Paul, neither a Baptism of Paul, neither a Church of Paul (1 Cor.1:12-15), but there is one Gospel, one Baptism, and one Church/Assembly, even that which was established by the Son of Man. And these three are one. The writings of Paul contain many degrees of Light, from that which is Zadokian to that which is Patriarchal, for My servant was endowed in many of the mysteries, but these were revealed only in part unto the Gentiles. Behold, there was none more valiant in his testimony of Me than Mine apostle Paul, and thus I have preserved his words in the Writings of the Hebrews (Bible) as an eternal witness unto all men. Many have not understood him because he administered Light on many levels, and in some matters he gave only his opinion (2 Cor.8:10); and all these things I shall reveal unto you if ye have desires for them. Therefore thou shalt not despise the writings of Paul for they are the testimony of salvation through Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) of one who counted himself the greatest sinner and became a servant to all men for My sake. Even so. Amen" (OB 67).
The following revelation was received in 1989 in answer to my prayer, "Did Thy servant Paul make his calling and election sure, O Lord?"
"My servant Paul received the more sure word of prophecy and made his calling and election sure, and hath entered into the highest reward of the faithful. He laboureth as a minister of flame, going from place to place in the world of spirits preaching the Gospel of Salvation unto many generations of the sons and daughters of Elohim (God). And behold, if ye will likewise fight the good fight, enduring unto the end, then ye also shall receive a crown of righteousness which I, the Lord, give unto all those who love Me (2 Tim.4:7-8). Amen" (OB 176).
Revelation received in 1991 (OB 296:2-4) confirms that Paul operated in the same spirit of the Torah and the prophets such as Moses, and another received the same year admonishes us to imitate his works (OB 315:14).
Thus from the very earliest days of this work the authority of Paul's ministry and writings have been confirmed and where there has been confusion or dispute over the meaning of some of his harder sayings, revelation has invariably resolved it. Much time and effort has, in addition, been used by the Apostolate in exegesis to resolve a number of conflicts concerning tongues, the place of women, the use of headscarves, and similar issues.
Seen in the context of the whole Gospel and the whole Bible revelation, in addition to understanding local conditions and needs, and the fact that Paul taught on different levels of the Gospel, the apostle's writings are found to be harmonious and worthy of the claim to divine inspiration that has been attributed to them for nearly two millennia. Trouble and disharmony results only when one tries to set Paul up against Torah for this results in many 'gospels' and promotes denominationalism. In measuring Paul, we must use the teachings of Christ as our ruler - and in measuring Christ, we must use Torah in the same way. There is no disharmony or contradiction in the writings of the apostles, but rather a gradual unfolding of light and truth.
This has always been NCCG/BCAY's position and will remain so. We anathematise all forms of Ebionism (which denies Paul was a true apostle and taught heresy) and attempts by anyone to bring disrepute upon any of the apostles, remembering as we must that these men have the calling to judge the twelve tribes of Israel (which includes you and I). We are under their authority today and in eternity through Yah'shua (Jesus) our Lord.
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