I CORINTHIANS 2-9: As Paul responds to questions and controversies among the Corinthian Christians, consider how the cross applies as a symbol of God’s alternative, foolish-seeming wisdom to the matter, in contrast to the conventional wisdom of the world, that is all about rights, status and power. All of his answers are cruciform, or cross-shaped. But sometimes its hard to know what is a question and what is an answer. Its most likely that Paul is repeating the Corinthians’ own questions and statements, e.g., I Cor. 6: 12, “Everything is permitted to me.” That is most likely what the libertines in Corinth were saying, to which Paul replies, “But not everything is to my benefit.” Likewise with v. 13, “The stomach for food and food for the stomach,” would have been a typically Corinthian way of thinking about the use of the body. Ancient Corinth had a party-hardy reputation to maintain.
But the same is true with verse 1 of chapter 7. Paul is most likely quoting the Corinthians who said, “It is good for a man to not have sexual relations with a woman,” to which Paul also takes exception, with certain exceptions. If it seems strange that Paul would have to counter both prudes and the promiscuous, ironically, both errors come from the same source: Classical Greek dualism, the idea that the spiritual is separate from and at odds with the material, and that what is spiritual is good, while what is material is bad, or at least negligible. Nothing could be further from the Biblical, Hebraic world view out of which Paul, the gospel and the New Testament come. From Genesis 1 on we read that the created world is good, and that the spiritual life is lived materially, physically. But if you accept the classic Greek dualism that separates matter from spirit, you will either stray into a rigid, puritanical asceticism that disparages the material world (like the ancient saints who sat for years atop pillars), or you will plunge into the depths of a depraved sensuality, on the notion that nothing done in the body matters spiritually nor eternally. Oddly enough, the Corinthian church was being torn in both directions, perhaps with one extreme faction reacting to and feeding off the other.
PSALM 119: 1-96 is the first half of a long acrostic wisdom psalm, (the longest Psalm and chapter in the Bible) the Word celebrating the Word. Each of the 22 strophes contain eight verses, each one beginning with the same letter of the alphabet, a different letter for each strophe, in the order of the Hebrew alphabet. That sounds very dry and intellectual, but each strophe and verse expresses something also about the disciple’s relationship not only with the Word, but with the world, which is often portrayed as being at odds with the seeker of divine wisdom in the Word. These themes or emotions include longing, trust, joy, suffering, sorrow and shame. A psalm about seeking God wholeheartedly, it also guides the reader in seeking God wholeheartedly.