This seems to offer the best understanding of 1 Cor 8:6. Therefore, it appears that Paul is mocking the existence of "so-called gods" [Thiselton's translation]. These forces may be subjective or objective, but they do not assume Paul's definition of who God is or what God does. These are "so-called gods" which Paul then describes as demons later in 1 Cor 10. Thus, I'm not sure that we can confidently call Paul a polytheist. Besides, this issue surely has more to do with loyalty and devotion than it has to do with ontological issues. There has to be a stable definition of what constitutes GOD, for there to be discussion about how many or who this GOD supposedly is. Bauckham's categories of Creator and Sovereign appear to appropriate the evidence well. Surely Paul did not believe in other creators or other sovereigns? Surely only YHWH was the Creator and Sovereign, and in that identity they [the early Christians] included Jesus. For all other gods, they were atheists - denying them loyalty and ontological status.
Only God is God. Nevertheless, the fact that kyrios-cults do really exist means that habituated patterns of loyalty and devotion long practiced by new converts before their conversion cannot simply be brushed aside as no longer affecting their lives and attitudes in the present. At an existential and psychological level they still leave their mark. Indeed, this may mean even more. Not only do they return a subjective influence; they may also constitute objective forces of evil which bring destruction, disintergration, and pain. Unless we adopt a partition theory between 8:1-13 and 10:14-22, Paul appears to associate them with demonic forces.
[Thiselton, 1 Corinthians, pg. 633]
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The English translation of the three-volume Exegetisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament, this monumental work by an ecumenical group of scholars is first of all a complete English dictionary of New Testament Greek. Going beyond that, however EDNT also serves as a guide to the usage of every New Testament word in its various contexts, and it makes a significant contribution to New Testament exegesis and theology. EDNT's thorough, lengthy discussions of more significant words and its grouping of words related by root and meaning (with alphabetical cross-references) distinguish it from simpler Greek-English lexicons. Advancing the discussion of the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, EDNT summarizes more recent treatments of numerous questions in New Testament study and takes into consideration newer viewpoints of linguistics.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The world was filled with other gods, and ancient Jews knew this. Paul complains about their negative effect on his mission. Astral forces (stoicheia) previously enslaved his formerly pagan converts in Galatia (Galatians 4.8). "The god of this cosmos" blinded believers so that they cannot see "the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God" (2 Corinthians 4.4). Paul writes, "For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth -- as indeed there are many 'gods' and many 'lords' -- yet for us there is one God, the Father . . . and one Lord, Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 8.5-6). Paul and his Gentile readers do not doubt the existence of many gods. They just do not worship them.My own question in this discussion is a clarification of terms. Yes, monotheism designates the belief in one god. But surely within the Judeo-Christian worldview it designates loyalty or worship to one god, not just belief in one god. What made Paul a monotheist, was not just his belief but his adherence, allegiance and devotion. Every other god was a demon or demonic allusion [this appears to be what Paul is suggesting in 1 Cor 10:20: No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God.] Paul appears to be a monotheist because his loyalty and devotion was to the god of Israel revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, and not to others. There apparently were other gods, forces, demons, emperors who claimed the title of GOD within Paul's world[view], but none of them amounted to Paul's identification of GOD as Creator and Sovereign of the universe - revealed in and through the crucified and risen Messiah, Jesus our LORD. It will however, be fascinating to see if Fredrickson develop this thesis, and if so how... Stay tuned... For more on this topic, see Richard Bauckham's Paul's Christology of Divine Identity.