1.2.3 The ‘holy People’ theme in the paraklêsis of 1 Corinthians
This theme pervades the epistle. “The first fourteen chapters are, in fact, an urgent and sustained appeal for unity and purity…”p.28 When dealing with the problem of incest, “Paul is saying in effect: ‘we expect πορνεία [immorality] of the ἔθνε [Gentiles], but not even they would practise (tolerate) this sort of πορνεία!’”p.28 This argument assumes that the recipients identify themselves as God’s holy People who are separate from the ‘Gentiles’.
On the basis of this identification, Paul can frame 1 Cor 5:1-13 using Mosaic imagery, specifically that of the Passover feast of Unleavened Bread.
Unleavened bread is symbolic of a pure life; leaven is a source of corruption. The Corinthians are to clear out the παλαιὰ ζύμη [old leaven], for their Pasch is already sacrificed, and their life, as members of God’s holy People, must be a continuous Passover feast. A more powerful expression of the Church as ‘true Israel’ would be difficult to find, for her very existence is here defined in terms of the most exclusive (cf. Ex. 12:45,47,48) and distinctive moment of Israel’s life as God’s People.p.29-30
In the O.T. there is a very close association between idolaty and immorality. With this in mind, the close connection with Israel can ben seen, since internal disharmony and sexual immorality are identified as the two enemies of the holiness of God’s People.
This part is not yet completed
Our examination of several representative passages has shown that the theological context of Paul’s paraklêsis is the self-understanding of the christian communities precisely as God’s holy People, true Israel. We must now proceed further in our enquiry into the context of the christian imperative, for so far we have indicated only those Old Testament motifs in the light of which Paul could see the Church’s continuity with Israel. Hence one might reasonably ask whether the Church’s relationship to Israel is simply one of continuity, and, if so, how this relationship is supposed to differ from that which, say, the Qumran community understood to exist between itself and Israel. In other words, is the Covenant by which Christians have become God’s People no more than a ‘réédition’ (Boismard) of the Sinai Covenant, and does the Church, like the Qumran community, regard itself as the true Israel in the sense that it constitutes the group within Israel in which the Sinai Covenant is to find, at last, its perfect realisation? This question is of capital importance for our subject, since it concerns not only the context, but the very nature and content, of the christian imperative.p.32
Updated 2009-09-27 (build:50) by Andrew Fountain