Continuity and Change
The Methodist Theological School in Ohio
Summer Semester 2010
L. L. Welborn, Visiting Professor
Discover point of correlation between my point of ministry and ministry of first century Christians.
Ekklesia is formal name for voting place in community – when Paul uses as ‘church’, is making comparison.
Module 1 –
Sociological – insight into the social realities that helped to shape the NT can make the NT intelligible, but more importantly, applicable.
Paul uses this model himself. (1 Cor 1:26) These are the same three decisions Aristotle uses in his divisions in the Greek city in his politics. Wise = educated. Powerful = wealth (dynatoi). Nobly-born = birth. So in Corinth, some were, some weren’t – not many, but a few. Paul is making a social description of the Christian community – not individuals, but the group. That makes is sociological.
Celsus – anti-Christian writer, late first century. Ho alethes logos (the true story) he wrote. Was destroyed by Christian, but have large portions retained by Origen in his contra-Celsus. Celsus: “These Christians are all just a bunch of washer-women/day-laborers/mule-drivers.”
We’re dependent on survival of sources. The interests that shaped our sources weren’t always seeking to give us the information we now want. Speaking about God’s activity, HS, instead of describing sociological nature of groups.
We ask: how do we obtain information about the social circumstances of the early Christians from the religious expressions in our sources? There are very few explicit social statements. Mostly Paul is proclaiming, exhorting, poetic, etc.
How do we recover social reality, including practice of ministry, from these religious texts?
What is a sociological statement? It seeks to describe and ultimately explain interpersonal behaviour with reference to those characteristics that transcend the personal.
Implies that a sociological question is less concerned with what is individual, more concerned with what is general.
Sociological questions are less concerned with singular conditions of specific situation than with structural relationships that apply to several situations.
Three-fold method, for NT, but also applicable to my analysis of my context.
1) constructive – concerned with interpretation of those texts which have explicit (even if pre-scientific) sociological content. Gather all texts of that nature. (ie Church history documents)
2) analytical – seeks to infer the underlying the social reality from kerygmatic, ethical, ritualistic religious expressions
3) comparative – considers text and other evidence that come from the environment of early Christian groups – what’s happening alongside text. We can figure out what is unique about Christian group. Highlights similarities, but differences.
Constructive: a few NT statements with explicit sociological content. Acts 4:32-37. Is it idealism? Romanticized? Sure.
Every statement has to be subjected to three tests: (Example: Acts 13:1)
Reliability – Do we know if Manaen was a member of the court? Luke as name-dropper. Points out lots of wealthy folks, of status. Gives information to us about what a later generation believed was possible.
Validity – What can we infer from reliable evidence. Manaen would have lost status/power because of Herod’s exile. He at one time belonged to upper class.
Representativeness – not the biography of Manaen, but the question of whether on the basis of Luke’s statement, we can refer anything about Christian teachers generally. Does Luke mention status because he was only one with background? Or other reason? If others, this is representative statement.
We get information about content, and who reported content.
Analytical – most fascinating? Focusing on unusual helps us look at background, usual. Ie Acts 11:26: We infer that before this, weren’t called Christians, weren’t seen as totally separate from Jews. We also look for events that recur. Ie Mark: Jesus comes into ‘region’ of a city, not polis itself. Early Jesus movement isn’t a city movement, but countryside. Conflict: exposes to view the structures which are ordinarily hidden – like a lightening flash. In most cases, entire groups are parties to conflicts, not just individuals, who might be spark plugs. Extraordinary lights up terrain of ordinary. Ie 1 Corinthians 8 & 10. We may also draw inferences from articulated norms. Social rules by which we live in groups. Primitive Christian norms come to us by explicit direction (Thou shalt not: Laws/commandments) or implicit by regularly exhibited behaviour. Ethical/judicial norms. Non-observance is punished. 1 Cor. 5. Didache. Norms come to us in ethical conflict. Inferences from symbols.
Symbols in our religious life are the result of a metaphorical process. Images in daily life transferred to spiritual themes. Image/object or object/image. Ie “Body of Christ.” Fostering sense of community over individuality. Ebionites – “the poor” – not social condition, but radical/totally dependence on God.
Poetic symbols. Parables. Rural persons. Parables compress normal experiences into penetrating scenes of social life.
Mythical symbols – don’t open window directly on social reality, but making something ‘other’ their scene. Like actions of gods, angels, or demons. Ie Symbol of possession by demons: intensification of earthly oppression.
Relationship between mythological and sociological that is most important to us.
Comparative – Christianity has parallels in pagan and Jewish sources.
As pastors, we have to move beyond descriptive to prescriptive. Sometimes have to go against the grain!
Module 2 – Types of Leaders
Question between Paul and other leaders: who was an apostle?
Factor: Means of financial support. Who is worthy of it? Who can gather it? What are the marks of a true leader?
Commissioning speeches of Jesus, of 12, of 70. Didache (not a true prophet if ask for more than one night’s supply.)
Two types of Christians leadership had emerged in early Gentile mission.
* Itinerant charismatics. Legitimizes themselves ‘vertically’ by appealing to relationship with God. A “divine charisma.”
* Community organizer. Invests himself/herself completely in new group of people and derives legitimacy from that group. (Paul: you are my letter of recommendation.)
Jesus’ first followers are best described as a renewal movement. (So is Pharisaism, Essenes.) Presuppose small-town Galilean milieu. Confidence of charismatic itinerants in finding support has a religious basis.
When Jesus movement leaves Galilee, can’t count on legitimacy of Jewish piety (as instructed by Jesus), apostles need additional legitimization. (2 Cor. 3:1) Letters of recommendation from Jerusalem. (1 Cor. 9) Rights of apostle, which Paul is not claiming. Gives his arguments more weight?
Jews in Diaspora. World into which Jesus movement is born. “Foxes have holes…Son of Man has no place to lay head.” Eating food out of field – hungry!
1 Cor. 1:12
Corinth and other colonies are stable and booming economically.
Romans 16:23 Duovir (Magistrate) then aedile (city treasurer).
Charismatic begging is not received well in big cities. The cynic philosophers did this, the ancient ‘hippies’, and it didn’t go well! Patron-client relationship. Patronage. The glue that held the Roman economy together.
Transition from begging into patron-client relationship. Apollos, a charismatic.
Paul: 1 Cor. 1:17 “not with eloquent wisdom” – not like Apollos.
18:1-3 Not tent-maker but set-designer! Paul removes himself from both systems – not a beggar, but not part of patronage system either. Wealthy Corinthians don’t understand it. How could Paul refuse their gift?! They saw it as a system of friendship/love. Paul is rejecting friendship. Eloquent wisdom = patronage, Apollos. Not Paul! Not corrupt the gospel, emphasis on messy cross of Jesus.
Others are arguing that Paul is not living by means of gospel as commanded. Jewish Christian apostles seeing him as not obeying – he’s evading requirement of charismatic poverty – he doesn’t trust God enough to supply all needs. They argue Paul is not free, but a slave of his work.
Paul is trying to show that charismatic poverty in context of Corinth is no longer functional, just a privilege, that can be let go. Paul has to reinterpret the words of Jesus to do so. He can relinquish it, and boast of it, that it’s a necessity that God has laid upon him. Renouncing the privilege keeps in spirit, if not letter, of Jesus’ commands. Charismatics need secondary legitimization.
2 Cor. 11:4 Someone is preaching a different Jesus to you. Different spirit, different gospel. Paul doesn’t say what he means by this. (But must not emphasize the cross like Paul does.)
Biblical historians are reluctant to think that theology influences/determines social factors, but in this case, how does say, Apollos’ Christology work? Wisdom Christology?
Book: The Opponents of Paul in 2 Cor.
10:7 – Greek: tis – someone – saying that, implying that Paul does not belong to Christ, or at least so confident that he/someone does belong to Christ. From Apollos’ point of view, Paul’s gospel looks like a needless impoverishment of the gospel. Where has the pride/joy/confidence gone? Style of leadership corresponds with his Christology. Did Apollos’ way appeal particularly to more elite, and Paul’s emphasis on cross appeal more to lower classes?
Paul’s understanding of who he believed God had revealed God’s self to be. 2 Cor. 13:3-4 – Christ, crucified in weakness, is the place where God’s power is revealed to be.
Paul, the Fool of Christ. Paul is the fool, like in theatre. (1 Cor. 3:18) Aesop the slave, Socrates the stone maker.
Module 3 – Models of the Church
Are models from society informing church?
1) Households as basic units – oikos/okia Prisca/Aquilla, Philemon, household of Stephanos, Lydia, Philippian jailor, Crispus. (Don Barker, book on households, containing 30+ people)
(Aristotle describes this in Politics)
Paul’s adaptation had implications, both for internal structure, and group as it relates to larger society. Paul inserts Christian movement into existing structure of relationships. Head of household does business at home, but provides some privacy, intimacy. Paul puts himself in role of some members of the household.
- But also creates potential for emergence of factions. Do factions represent different households? Also conflicts over distribution of household. Head of household had such absolute power. Hierarchical structure. Complicates with church. Maintenance of hierarchy is considered as essential by society. Neither male or female, slave free, etc: what does that do to household that baptized in Christ none of that goes? Women, slaves, get chance or inclination to new identity.
- Does everyone in household really share belief to same degree?
- But advantages of intimacy, etc.
2) Voluntary association - the club, the guild, the cultic association. We know a lot about them because of inscriptions of rules and regulations that have survived. Household would host club, become basis of cultic association. It is voluntary. It is a social organization. To outsiders, church must look like this. Celsus draws parallel: what is going on is secret, uncontrolled, and therefore, is a seed-bed of immorality and social unrest. Because clubs provided wining, dining, and sexualizing J Unlike household, free decision, not birth, determined membership. Relationships other than blood/kinship were important. Had a place for common meals and cultic rituals, like church. Depended to some extent on patronage of wealthy individuals.
Differences with church: Entry into church requires baptism/conversion. Difference in motivation or needs. Christian groups are for salvation and righteousness. Ecclesia is more socially inclusive than clubs and guilds. No clubs were cross-racial. More homogenous ethnically. Paul did not consciously model on clubs – no similar terminology.
3) Democratic Voting Assembly (ekklesia) - Closest parallel to Gal. 3:28 is pseudo-Aristotle tract “De Mundo.” Also 1 Cor. 12:13, which is not neither/nor but both/and. Decisions are made, debate occurs, and future is determined.
4) Not included is synagogue – ekklesia is group apart from synagogue. Different.