The Epistles of Paul - 1 Corinthians Part 19: Anathema Maranatha! If They Only Knew...

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The Epistles of Paul - 1 Corinthians Part 19: Anathema Maranatha! If They Only Knew...

There are some fatalistic passages in the Old Testament which may lead men to believe that their spirits are dead after their fleshly bodies die, or some are persuaded that perhaps these spirits are merely asleep until the restoration (or resurrection). Yet there is a larger picture presented by Scripture which stands in contrast to the fatalistic passages. Perhaps men today are misinterpreting those fatalistic passages, because they are not what they seem to be on the surface.

For instance, in the Book of Job, in chapter 10, we see these words spoken by Job himself (we must be careful not to quote the words of Job's contentious friends as if they were Scripture): “20 Are not my days few? cease then, and let me alone, that I may take comfort a little, 21 Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death; 22 A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.” Thusly did Job perceive death, but the same Job said later, as it is in chapter 19 of his book: “25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”

So where Job speaks of the “land of darkness” from which he “shall not return”, was he speaking of the flesh only, or was he speaking of the spirit also? In the Gospel of John, in chapter 6, Yahshua Christ says that “63 It is the Spirit which produces life, the flesh does not benefit anything. The words which I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life.”

The prophet Samuel was beckoned out of that “land of darkness” of which Job had spoken, and Samuel is portrayed as having said to Saul “Why hast thou troubled me, that I should come up?” Many dispute that this was really Samuel, however the Scripture plainly states that it was Samuel, and the spirit of Samuel gave a prophecy to Saul that his Kingdom would be given to David, that Saul and his sons would be slain, in 1 Samuel chapter 28 where it then says “20 And Saul instantly fell at his full length upon the earth, and was greatly afraid because of the words of Samuel; and there was no longer any strength in him, for he had eaten no bread all that day, and all that night.” Much later in the history of Israel, the First Book of Chronicles in chapter 10 says of this very episode “13 So Saul died for his transgressions, wherein he transgressed against God, against the word of the Lord, forasmuch as he kept it not, because Saul enquired of a wizard to seek counsel, and Samuel the prophet answered him: 14 and he sought not the Lord: so he slew him, and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse.”

So the writer of 1 Chronicles believed that Samuel the prophet did indeed prophesy after his death, as 1 Samuel chapter 28 portrays, and so does the writer of the Wisdom of Sirach, who wrote a few hundred years after 1 Chronicles was compiled, and says in chapter 46 that “13 Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, beloved of his Lord, established a kingdom, and anointed princes over his people.... 20 And after his death he prophesied, and shewed the king his end, and lifted up his voice from the earth in prophecy, to blot out the wickedness of the people.” While he was dead in the flesh, Samuel evidently continued to have life in the Spirit. Now outside of this episode concerning Samuel, there is the famous event known as the Transfiguration on the Mount, where in three of the four Gospel accounts the apostles testify to the brief appearance of both Moses and Elijah with Christ, and how Christ was seen speaking to them.

In addition to this, the apostle Peter says in chapter 3 of his first epistle: “18 Because Christ also suffered once for all errors, the just on behalf of the unjust, in order that He may lead you to Yahweh, indeed dying in the flesh but being made to live by the Spirit. 19 At which also going He proclaimed to those spirits in prison, 20 who at one time had been disobedient - when the forbearance of Yahweh awaited in the days of Noah's preparing the vessel in which a few, that is eight souls, had been preserved through the water.” With this we see that Christ Himself is portrayed preaching the Gospel to the spirits of those men who died before the flood of Noah, and whom the departed Samuel and all others must have also been among.

Before Peter's statements concerning Christ preaching to the souls in prison are interpreted by us, we must first realize that Peter himself explained them for us in 1 Peter chapter 4 where he said “5 They [ostensibly referring to those nations in apostasy] shall give an account to Him who holds ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 Indeed for this also to the dead the good message has been announced, that they may indeed be judged like men in the flesh, but live like Yahweh in the Spirit.” God is a spirit, as is each and every Adamic man which He created.

This may raise the question of what is referred to as “soul sleep”, the idea that the spirit goes into a state of prolonged sleep after the death of the body, to be awakened at some point in the future. This, I believe, comes from a misunderstanding of the word for sleep as a euphemism for the death of the fleshly body. Insisting upon “soul sleep” as a doctrine, one must also imagine that the world of God in the Spirit is bound to the construct of time as it is known in the world of the fleshly creation. We would insist that the world of the spirit exists outside of time, and is not at all bound by the limitations of the physical realm.

With all of this we perceive the revelation of a greater truth that is evident in many ways throughout Scripture, that the spirits of Adamic men are indeed immortal because, as the Wisdom of Solomon says at the end of its second chapter, God created the Adamic man to be immortal. The same Yahshua Christ who tells us that “It is the Spirit which produces life” in John chapter 6 is recorded as having said that “if one should not be born from water and Spirit, he is not able to enter into the Kingdom of Yahweh” in John chapter 3, where He also said “unless a man should be born from above, he is not able to see the Kingdom of Yahweh.”

Being born of the Spirit, the Adamic man is born in the kind-after-kind image and likeness of God “As Adam … begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth” (Genesis 5:3). Having this spirit as a gift from God, man has life and will have a part in the resurrection of Christ. However, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, not all flesh is the same flesh, and the other apostles also describe those men who do not have the spirit of Yahweh God. Jude professes this in verse 19 of his short epistle, and the apostle John warns in chapter 4 of his first epistle to “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” These we shall discuss further, and at the end of this presentation in connection with 1 Corinthians 16:22.

In Psalm 106 we see this statement spoken of the children of Israel: “28 They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead”, and from the text of the subsequent verses we know that the reference is to the account in Numbers chapter 25 where it says “1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. 2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.” Paul referred to this same event as fornication in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 and, ostensibly, the phrase “the dead” refers not to Baalpeor, but to the Moabites, who had mingled themselves with the Canaanite tribes and who did not have that same Spirit which Yahweh bestowed upon the children of Adam. There are the walking dead, which Jude calls “twice dead”, and then there are Adamic people who die, who are also called the “dead”, but they live in the spirit.

In the Psalm 115 we see the words “17 The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence. 18 But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD.” If all men die, how can anyone praise Yahweh forever? Sometimes these references to the living and the dead are actually contrasting those who have the Spirit of God and those who do not, but who are among the “twice dead” described by the apostle Jude. Therefore we see the words of Christ in three of the Gospel accounts, here from Mark chapter 12: “26 And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.” The point which Christ makes here is that if Abraham, or Isaac or Jacob were dead, then Yahweh is not their God. However if they live, then Yahweh is indeed their God because He is not the God of the dead. So Christ says in another place “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see My day, and he has seen and is delighted.”

Before proceeding we must ask this, if the spirit of a man is not conscious after his death, of what meaning is the judgment? Paul says in one place, in Hebrews chapter 9, that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”, and in another, in 1 Timothy chapter 5, “Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.” Now in that same epistle, in 1 Timothy chapter 6, Paul spoke of Yahshua Christ and said that He is “15 … the Blessed and Only Ruler, the King of Kings and Sovereign of Sovereigns, 16 He alone having immortality, a Light dwelling unapproachable”, and that is true. Only Yahweh God Himself truly has immortality. However the Adamic spirit is from that same God, and it is indeed immortal as a gift from God, as Paul explains at length in Romans chapter 5, and as he says briefly in Ephesians chapter 2 “8 For in favor you are being preserved through faith and this, Yahweh's gift, is not of yourselves, 9 not from works, lest anyone would boast”.

Therefore, in 1 Corinthians chapter 3, Paul said that “13 the work of each will become evident; indeed the day will disclose it, because in fire it is revealed; and of what quality the work of each is, the fire will scrutinize. 14 If the work of anyone who has built remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If the work of anyone burns completely, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be preserved, although consequently through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are a temple of Yahweh, and that the Spirit of Yahweh dwells in you? 17 If anyone should spoil the temple of Yahweh, Yahweh will spoil the same; indeed the temple of Yahweh is holy, such as which you are.” Then in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 he wrote “3 And if then our good message is covered, by those being destroyed it is covered; 4 by whom the 'god' of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, for not to shine the light of the good message of the honor of the Anointed, who are the image of Yahweh. 5 We do not proclaim ourselves, but Prince Yahshua Christ; and of ourselves, your bondmen for the sake of Yahshua. 6 Because Yahweh speaking out of darkness shines forth light, which has shone in our hearts, for illumination of the knowledge of the honor of Yahweh in the person of Yahshua Christ. 7 Now we have this treasure in earthen vessels, in order that the greatness of the power would be of Yahweh, and not from us.”

The “treasure in earthen vessels” is a reference to the immortal spirit within the Adamic man, as the prophet Isaiah referred to the children of Israel as “ye who bear the vessels of the Lord”, a passage which Paul quotes later in chapter 6. First in relation to this “treasure in earthen vessels” Paul says further, in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, “1 Therefore we know that if perhaps our earthly house of the tabernacle would be destroyed, we have a building from Yahweh, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 And we bemoan in this, yearning to be clothed with our dwelling which is from of heaven. 3 If indeed even being stripped, we shall not be found naked. 4 And indeed we who are being burdened in the tabernacle bemoan, since we wish not to be stripped, but to be clothed in order that the mortal would be consumed by life.” This is that change which Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians chapter 15.

Paul had written 2 Corinthians in answer to a letter which he had received in response to this epistle which we know as 1 Corinthians. Ostensibly, he describes the change he speaks of in 1 Corinthians in a different manner in 2 Corinthians chapter 3 where he writes of Israel: “14 Yet their minds were hardened; even to this day today the same veil remains upon the reading of the old covenant, which not being uncovered is left unemployed in Christ. 15 Then until this day, whenever Moses is read a veil lies upon their hearts. 16 But when perhaps you should turn to the Prince, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Prince is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Prince is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with uncovered faces, are beholding as in a mirror the honor of the Prince. We are being transformed into that same image, from honor into honor, just as a Spirit from the Prince. ”

This revelation of the spirit and this change into the same image can only be possible as Paul explains it in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, that “19 If only in this life have we had hope in Christ, we are the most pitiable of all mankind”, so we know that our Christian hope survives in death as well, and that “22 Just as in Adam all die, then in that manner in Christ all shall be produced alive”, because the Adamic man being in the image of God was made to be immortal, and finally that “44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body; if there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual” where we must know that if we are indeed Adamic men, if indeed that seed is in us, then we have that spiritual body gifted to us from Yahweh our God, “49 And just as we have borne the likeness of that of soil, we shall also bear the likeness of that of heaven.”

Each and every Adamic man has the Spirit of Yahweh within him that Yahweh has gifted to the Adamic race as a part of His Creation. Through that immortal Spirit is the gift of life and the promise of resurrection to life in the renewal of the flesh. Until that ultimate resurrection, Paul exhorts us in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 that “6 Therefore always having courage, and knowing that residing in the body, we sojourn away from the Prince; 7 indeed we walk by faith, not by that which is seen; 8 now we have courage, and we are still more pleased to travel out of the body and to reside with the Prince. 9 On which account we also strive eagerly, either residing at home or sojourning, to be pleasing to Him.”

Yahweh willing, soon we shall present Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians, and we shall examine in depth how Paul explains these many statemenst which he has made here in this epistle, especially those in chapter 15. Here in 1 Corinthians chapter 16 Paul finally departs from all of his didactic instructions and responses to things which the Corinthians had written to him, and addresses more practical matters of ecclesiastical administration.

1 Now concerning the collection that is for the saints, just as I had prescribed to the assemblies of Galatia, in that manner also you should do.

It is evident that we only have a portion of all of the epistles which were written by Paul of Tarsus. As we saw in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, there was at least one epistle to the Corinthians written by Paul before this one which we consider to be first. Therefore, this so-called first epistle is only the first of the two which have survived to us, and there very well may have been more than three. As we established while presenting the Book of Acts, both Paul's confrontation with Peter which is described in Galatians chapter 2, and then the writing of the epistle to the Galatians, must have happened when Paul had traveled to Syria as it is described in Acts chapter 18 in verses 22 and 23: “22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch. 23 And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.” Paul's visit to the Galatians was soon after he had written that epistle , and the epistle reflects Paul's anticipation to visit them in its fourth chapter (4:18, 20).

In that single surviving epistle to the Galatians, there is no mention of any instruction for a collection to the saints in Jerusalem. There is only a brief mention of the division of the duties of the apostles in the first chapter, and then Paul says “only that we should remember the poor, the same thing which I had then been anxious to do”, however there are no instructions regarding a collection. Therefore here in these comments Paul seems to be alluding to another, later and now lost letter to the Galatians in which he had given such instructions. As Paul writes this epistle, it is now about three years since he had been to Galatia, since Paul is writing in Ephesus towards the end of the last year of his three-year sojourn in that city, which is evident later in this very chapter comparing Luke's account in Acts chapter 19. Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians is written, as we have also established in our Acts presentation, as Paul passes through Makedonia en route to Greece during the journey which is recorded in the opening verses of Acts chapter 20. In that second epistle Paul once again mentions the collection for the poor of Jerusalem in greater detail, in chapter 9 of the epistle.

2 On every first of the week each of you by himself must lay up, treasuring whatever he may grant for the journey, in order that when I should come there would not be collections then.

Paul hopes that the Corinthians have their gift for the disadvantaged apostles and faithful in Jerusalem prepared before he arrives in Corinth. He must have given similar instructions to the Galatians, however there is no clear record of how Paul obtained that gift to bring to Jerusalem. Considering what he says in verse 3 here, he may not have brought it at all, and the Galatians may have sent it themselves. Later, when Paul recounts his last visit to Jerusalem, after he was arrested he says in Acts chapter 24 “17 Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.” These alms and offerings are the collections for the poor in Jerusalem which Paul had brought with him.

Here in verse 2 and as most other versions have done, we have written the English word week where the Majority Text has the Genitive plural and all of the extant Great Uncial manuscripts have the singular form of the word σάββατον (Strong's # 4521), or Sabbath. In either event, σάββατον was used to refer to the seven-day Sabbath cycle as well as to the Sabbath day itself, evidently because the Greeks themselves had no word for week.

It is evident throughout Scripture that Christians considered the first day of each week to be the day following the Sabbath day and therefore it was called the “first of the Sabbath”. In the Gospels, in the opening verses of Matthew chapter 28, Mark chapter 16, Luke chapter 24 and John chapter 20, it is manifest that the day immediately after the Sabbath was indeed considered the first day of the week. Then we see in places such as at John chapter 20 at verse 19 and in Acts chapter 20 at verse 7 that Christians were gathered on this day, evidently for the purpose of breaking bread. But neither of these passages imply that the first day of the week was some new Christian Sabbath, and neither passage can be taken to mean that the apostles had somehow changed the Sabbath day for Christians, as even very early Christian writers seem to have interpreted these passages. Neither do they imply that Christians did not gather on other days, as these two passages do not indicate that these gatherings on the first day of the week were any different from any other day of the week when the apostles were also often found together.

If Christians changed the Sabbath day to follow the Sabbath of the Judaeans by one day, then they would have considered the new Sabbath day as the Sabbath, and their “first day” would be the second day of the week on the Judaean Sabbath calendar! There certainly was no Roman “Sabbath day”, and Christians certainly would not have been obliged to maintain the Judaean designation. This is an oversight which is made by all of those claiming that the apostles somehow changed the Sabbath day, which they did not change. If they had changed it, they would have called their own Sabbath day the Sabbath day, rather than continue to use that label to describe the Sabbath of the Judaeans that they were not compelled to observe.

Instead, here Paul means what he said, since all throughout Scripture his designation of the Sabbath is consistent with the Sabbath day that was celebrated by the Judaeans. The first day of the week would have been when Christians could have gone to the markets, bought and sold whatever they needed to, and assessed their budgets for what they could spare. It was that which Paul looked for them to store up in the contribution for the poor in Jerusalem which he was encouraging. The celebration of what we now call Sunday as the “Lord's Day”, or the Christian Sabbath, was not made a standard in Christian communities until the 4th century, in the time of Constantine the Great. While the Judaean calendar was certainly not the same as the ancient Hebrew calendar, neither did the apostles seek to change it.

3 And when I have arrived, whomever you may approve I will send them with instructions [literally “letters”, according to Liddell & Scott the word ἐπιστολή may be “a message, command, commission...2. a letter”], to have your kindness carried off to Jerusalem; 4 and if perhaps it would be sufficient for me also to make the conveyance, they shall go across along with me.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 8 it is clear that someone was chosen by the assemblies to deliver gifts to Jerusalem, where Paul wrote of Titus “18 And we have sent along with him that brother of whom there is approval in the good message throughout all of the assemblies; 19 and not only, but our fellow traveler has also been handpicked by the assemblies to be endued with this favor, in which he would serve under us to the honor of the Prince Himself; and our eagerness 20 is avoiding this: not a one would find fault with us in this strength which is serving under us.” Titus and this unnamed brother were sent ahead to Corinth by Paul with this letter now known as 2 Corinthians, from Nicopolis, and Paul followed some time later.

5 Now I will come to you whenever I shall have passed through Makedonia; for I am passing through Makedonia.

This is the visit to Makedonia which is recorded in Acts chapter 20, as Paul departed from Ephesus because of the trouble caused by the silversmiths: “1 And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia.”

6 Then being engaged with you I will remain, or I will even winter, that you may escort me to wherever I may traverse.

Alternatively the last clause of this verse may be read “that you may send me on to wherever I may traverse.” The Greek word προπέμπω (Strong's # 4311) can be either “to send before, send on, or send forward”, or it can be “to escort” (Liddell & Scott).

We know from Acts 20:31, where Paul gives a final address to the elders of the assemblies of Ephesus before departing for Jerusalem, that he had formerly been in Ephesus for three years. His long sojourn there is described in part in Acts chapter 19. Much earlier, Paul had been in Corinth for a year and a half as it is described in Acts chapter 18. Then there was a trip to Syria with Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:18), a shorter initial stay in Ephesus (Acts 18:19-21), and another trip to Caesareia where he had visited Jerusalem and had gone to Antioch, returning through Galatia and Phrygia (Acts 18:21-23) before he arrived and remained in Ephesus at length (Acts 18:24).

The purpose of this explanation is to show that it is now at least 5 years since he had been in Corinth, and Paul arrives there the year after he departs from Ephesus after visiting Makedonia, as it is described in Acts 20 where we read: “2 And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece, 3 And there abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia.” Paul had problems with the Jews five years earlier, when they dragged him before the Roman proconsul Gallio but failed to prevail against him. Here we see that after waiting five years, the vindictive Jews are now lying in wait for him, evidently because they desire to kill him.

Ultimately Paul did not winter in Corinth, but leaving Makedonia he did spend three months in Greece as Luke says he did. This can be determined because after departing from Ephesus Paul had not found Titus in the Troad as he hoped to (2 Corinthians 2:12-13), but he was able to write him later and ask him to meet him where he did decide to winter, in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12-13) which was in the land of Epirus in the western part of mainland Greece, north of the isthmus and southwest of Makedonia. Titus must have been in, or had the opportunity to go by, Ephesus and bring Apollos with him to Nicopolis as Paul had also requested. Titus' coming to Nicopolis while Paul is there is described in 2 Corinthians chapter 7. Later, from Nicopolis, Titus had gone ahead of Paul to deliver the second epistle to the Corinthians which Paul wrote shortly before departing Nicopolis to go to Corinth.

Spending three months in Greece, two months (January and February) were during the winter in Nicopolis. This would have afforded Paul a month to visit Corinth, and then after March to again pass through Makedonia, spend a week in the Troad where the other apostles collected (Acts 20:4-6), see the elders of the assemblies of Asia at Miletus, and make it to Jerusalem by sea in time for the Pentecost. The Passover that year being in early April, Paul had from the end of March until nearly the end of May for this journey to Jerusalem from Corinth.

7 For I do not presently desire to see you in passing, since I expect to remain with you some time, if perhaps the Prince permits.

As we have just read, Acts chapter 20 informs us that Paul spent three months in Greece before returning to Asia through Makedonia. The Jews who wanted to kill him must have been camped out at the port in Kenchrea waiting for him to try boarding a ship. Returning to Asia through Makedonia afforded Paul the sojourn in the Troad, from where the epistle to the Romans was written, just before the final trip to Jerusalem where he became a prisoner.

8 Now I will remain in Ephesos until the Pentecost, 9 indeed a great and productive opportunity has been opened to me, and many are in opposition.

The Greek phrase ἕως τῆς πεντηκοστῆς is literally “until the fiftieth”. This term is used in the same manner to describe the feast of firstfruits in the LXX at Tobit 2:1 and 2 Maccabees 12:32. From Leviticus chapter 23: “15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. 17 Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD.”

From the events as they are recorded in Acts chapter 19, we cannot determine whether Paul was actually able to stay in Ephesus until the Pentecost. If he was not, then he must have spent that Pentecost either in or en route to Makedonia. This would most likely be the Pentecost of 56 AD. Paul seems to have left Ephesus rather abruptly, and therefore very likely before he had actually planned to leave, after the troubles with the silversmiths. At Acts 19:21, before Luke records the trouble with the silversmiths he does record for Paul the very same intentions which Paul expresses here: to depart from Ephesus and go through Makedonia and Achaia (where Corinth was located in Greece) before going on to Jerusalem, and where Paul also said “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” With stops at Miletus and the Troad along the way, this passage did indeed forebode Paul's future accurately.

There is another Pentecost mentioned in Acts 20:16, which is a year after this one (after Paul had already been in Greece 3 months and departed through Makedonia to end up in the Troad) by which Paul hoped to be in Jerusalem, which was most likely 57 AD. The dates can be determined from Luke's statements in Acts concerning Paul's arrest, how long he was imprisoned, and the dates of the terms of the Roman officials Felix and Festus who held him in custody.

The word for opportunity is the Greek word which literally means door, θύρα (Strong's # 2374), but here Paul certainly uses it metaphorically, in the same manner as our modern English idiom. Liddell & Scott mention no such usage among classical writers. Thayer in his Greek-English lexicon notes the metaphor but has no precedents for it. Paul uses the term in this manner again at Colossians 4:3. This may be the earliest extant literary example, at least in Greek, of the word for door as a metaphor for opportunity.

At this point in his ministry at Ephesus Paul was confident enough to send Timothy and Erastus off to Makedonia ahead of him, where we then read from Acts 19:22-23 “... but he himself stayed in Asia for a season. And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.” In the passages of Acts which follow, the silversmith Demetrius noted how many people were abandoning paganism for the Christian teachings of Paul, and felt that the economy and religion of Ephesus based around the pagan idol Artemis (or Diana in the King James Version) were threatened by this. This seems to be the fruit of Paul's “great and productive opportunity”, which caused Paul to depart from Ephesus. However Paul's speech to the elders of the assembly of Ephesus which he gave a year later, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 20, shows his ministry there to have indeed been successful, even if it ended abruptly.

10 Now if perhaps Timotheos should come, you see that he may be without fear before you, for he performs the work of the Prince, even as I. 11 Therefore not anyone should set him at naught, but send him forward in peace, in order that he would come to me, for I expect him along with the brethren.

Perhaps Paul expected Timothy and Erastus to precede him into Greece as well as Makedonia, where he had sent them as it is recorded in Acts 19:22. Timothy must not have gone ahead into Corinth, but rather must have stayed in Makedonia until he was reunited with Paul, because he is with Paul when he writes his second epistle to the Corinthians a few months after this one, as can be told from 2 Corinthians chapter 1. Titus, who is not mentioned in Acts 19, is later sent by Paul with that second letter to the Corinthians.

So Timothy is in Ephesus with Paul, is sent ahead into Makedonia where shortly afterwards he is reunited with Paul, and as the accounts in Acts relate, he remains with Paul in the Troad and on to Miletus. What Luke does not record, however, is that Timothy must have accompanied Paul to Jerusalem, and must have been arrested either along with Paul or around the time that Paul was arrested. This is evident because it may be established that Paul wrote the epistle to the Hebrews while he was a prisoner in Caesareia, although perusing only the English versions on the surface it seems to have been written from Rome, and in chapter 13 of that epistle Paul writes “23 Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.” Paul also hoped to be released, and ostensibly to return to Antioch – or maybe even to Jerusalem – with Timothy. That, however, did not happen because Paul was never released.

12 Now concerning the brother Apollos. I [א and D have “I declare to you that I] had much encouraged him, in order that he may come to you with the brethren, and not at all had he a desire that he would come now, but he will come whenever he has the opportunity.

As it is recorded in Acts chapter 18, Paul ended his travels with Priscilla and Aquila by leaving them in Ephesus and departing for Jerusalem, after which he traveled through Antioch and Galatia. Apollos then appeared in Ephesus, and was described as “knowing only the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25), whereby Priscilla and Aquila had brought him to Christ. When Paul returned to Ephesus some time later, Apollos was already in Corinth preaching the Gospel there. Paul spoke highly of Apollos as he mentioned him several times in the early chapters of this epistle. But only here do we learn that Apollos is most certainly in Ephesus with Paul as he writes this epistle. Writing the epistle to Titus from Makedonia some months after this, Paul asks Titus to bring Apollos with him to meet him in Nicopolis in Greece. This establishes that Paul had developed an ongoing relationship with Apollos while they were evidently both in Ephesus.

13 Be alert, be established in the faith, behave as men, be strong. 14 All things of yours must be done in love.

Here Paul reinforces the need for Christian love towards one another about which he lectured them at length in chapters 12 through 14 of this epistle.

15 Now I exhort you, brethren, (you know the house of Stephanas, that they are first fruits of Achaia, and they have appointed themselves for service to the saints,) 16 that you also should be subject to such as these, and to each who is cooperating and toiling.

After “Stephanas”, the Codex Claromontanus (D) inserts the words “and Fortounatos”, and the Codex Ephraemi Syri (C) inserts “and Fortounatos and Achaikos” (see 16:17); the text follows P46, א, A, B, and M. All of the names belong in verse 17. Paul took credit, or perhaps a better phrase would be accepted responsibility, for baptizing the household of Stephanas in 1 Corinthians chapter 1. In the salutation of Paul's epistle to the Romans, in chapter 16, Paul says “Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.” Seemingly Paul uses the term firstfruits to describe early converts to Christianity.

Where Paul says “you also should be subject to such as these, and to each who is cooperating and toiling”, Christians should recognize the gifts that God has granted to their fellow Christians, and defer to their fellow Christians in those areas. This is an unspoken element of what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, in his discourse on the functions of the various members of the body of Christ. Deference to fellow Christians is a sign of love for our brethren and humility before Yahweh God.

17 And I am delighted at the presence of Stephanas and Fortounatos and Achaikos, seeing that they have filled your deficiency. 18 Indeed they have relieved my Spirit and yours; therefore you should acknowledge such as these. 19 The assemblies of Asia greet you. Akulas and Priska greet you greatly in the Prince, with the assembly at their house. 20 All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

The Codex Alexandrinus is wanting all of verse 19. P46 wants the portion which reads “The assemblies of Asia greet you”. The manuscripts vary between Priskilla [C, D, and the MT] and Priska [P46, א, and B], a shortened, familiar form of the same name.

21 This salutation is of Paul with my own hand. 22 If anyone does not love the Prince, he must be accursed, a rebel to be destroyed.

As for the Greek word, or words, μαραναθά, or μαράνα θά or μαρὰν ἀθά; Liddell & Scott say that it is “a Syriac phrase” equivalent to the Greek ὁ κύριος ἥκει which is the exclamation “Lord, come!” and which is the popular interpretation. Joseph Thayer says they are “Chaldean words” meaning “our lord cometh” or “our lord will come”. George Ricker Berry says they are “two Aramaic words” meaning “our lord cometh”, for which he cites the margin of the Revised Standard Version. James Strong in the Greek-English lexicon section of his Concordance says that the words are “of Chaldean origin meaning ‘our lord has come’... [or] an exclamation of the approaching divine judgment.”

Of these four only Strong’s second definition is close, and we can only wonder why he did not explain it further. Some translations, and even some editions of the King James Version, leave both this phrase and the Greek word ἀνάθεμα (Strong's # 331) which precedes it untranslated. Others have changed this verse from the original King James Version to reflect agreement with one version or another of the aforementioned definitions. Thayer is the only lexicographer I have seen who writes the term as one word, and not two, and then his definition defies his grammar. None of the lexicographers offer meaningful support to substantiate their supposed definitions. Strong and Liddell & Scott each write μαρὰν ἀθά, surely after the many later manuscripts cited by the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece which have the word this way. The Majority Text and other late manuscripts have the word as one. The editors of both the 27th and 28th editions of the Novum Testamentum Graece have μαράνα θά. The original Great Uncials and papyri manuscripts do not parse words and have no punctuation, so the Nestle-Aland 27th edition marks the reading in all of them as uncertain, but the 28th admits the reading is a single word.

A good question is this: How can the lexicographers and Greek text editors define a word (or words) that they cannot even parse? And why offer a definition that cannot be substantiated? I cannot attempt to explain why none of these lexicographers endeavored, at least apparently, to define this term from Hebrew, rather than imagine it to be some Aramaic term that they cannot even properly define, except to say that they all seem to be following some tradition, or perhaps some Jew.

From Strong’s Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary we have the following:

  • Strong's # 4754 “ rebel...”

  • Strong's # 4784 “ be rebel...”

Furthermore, the entries at Strong's #'s 4751 and 4785 are both marah, used as nouns with the same root words and meanings as #'s 4754 and 4784 which are verbs. There are other words listed at Strong's #'s 4755 and 4785 which are nouns and proper names, mara and marah respectively, and both are said to be derived from 4751.

Now, from Strong’s Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary we also have the following:

  • Strong's # 5421 “ tear out:-break”

  • Strong's # 5422 “ tear down:-...destroy...”

Therefore, we shall parse and translate the Greek phrase ἤτω ἀνάθεμα μαρα ναθα in this manner:

  • ἤτω: is the Imperative 3rd person singular of εἰμί (Strong's # 1510) and means “he must be”

  • ἀνάθεμα: (331) is a Greek adjective which means accursed

  • μαρα: is read as a noun, a rebel

  • ναθα: is read as a Passive infinitive verb, “to be destroyed”; the Hebrew tense and number cannot be known precisely, but the infinitival form is apparent in the context

It may be asserted that this is a natural, literal translation which is entirely proper in context: “If anyone does not love the Prince, he must be accursed, a rebel to be destroyed.” This translation is also entirely agreeable to many other New Testament Scriptures.

First, there are the apostle John's comments concerning anti-Christs, of which we have an example in 2 John: “7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. 9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”

Then there are the words of the apostle Peter in chapter 2 of his second epistle where he talks of false teachers “denying the Lord that bought them, and [who] bring upon themselves swift destruction.” Peter then compares these to the “angels that sinned” and calls them “cursed children” and “natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed”. This is exactly what Paul is saying in summary here, that “If anyone does not love the Prince, he must be accursed, a rebel to be destroyed.”

Then there are the comments of the apostle Jude, who describes those same people which Peter had described, in much the same manner, and says in his one short epistle “4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” That these men crept in unawares means that they are not of the children of Israel. John said much this same thing in his first epistle, in chapter 2: “18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. 20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” Jude discusses how the interlopers came in amongst the Israelites, and John discusses how the interlopers came out from among the Israelites, because they are Anti-Christs and the true sheep hear the voice of their Master, and they had become Christians. This is the Gospel message separating the Wheat from the Tares, as it was designed to do.

Like Peter, Jude also relates the interlopers to the fallen angels of Genesis, and says “10 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.” He then says that “12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; 13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” Obviously they are not candidates for repentance or conversion to Christ, because Jude had already said that they were “before of old ordained to this condemnation”. Jude later said that these were “sensual, having not the Spirit”. Therefore they cannot be descendants of Adam, as Paul explained here in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 that if one has a natural Adamic body, then one has a spiritual Adamic body. Therefore they can only be “cursed children” and “natural brute beasts” because they are bastards, and they cannot truly love Yahweh God or His Christ. As Christ had said in the Gospel, “if you love Me, keep My commandments.” Once again, this is exactly what Paul is saying in summary here, that “If anyone does not love the Prince, he must be accursed, a rebel to be destroyed.”

Although other interpretations of the words ἤτω ἀνάθεμα μαρα ναθα may be possible, we must let this simple and natural interpretation speak for itself because not only does it fit perfectly into the context of Paul's overall statement, but it also agrees perfectly with all of these other statements from the other apostles.

23 The favor of the Prince, Yahshua Christ [א and B “Christ”; the text follows A, C, D, and the MT], is with you. 24 My love is with all of you in Christ Yahshua. [א, A, C, D, and the MT append “Amen” (or “Truly”) to the last verse. The text follows B.]

The year is most likely 56 AD. Paul of Tarsus would soon depart from Ephesus for the Troad, not find Titus as he had evidently expected, and move on to Makedonia. What he did there is not recorded, however he wintered for two months in Nicopolis in the district of Epirus, a part of the Roman province of Achaia in Greece. Being reunited with Titus and Timothy, he would write his second epistle to the Corinthians and send it ahead before he himself came to Corinth. In 57 AD Paul began his last and fateful journey to Jerusalem.

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