Because I tend to read so much before writing anything (which might not be a good thing), I often find myself swirling with arguments and hypotheses of other scholars (QED). It is in such times that I often to take a breather from what I’m reading so that I can process what has been said, which will (hopefully) inform what I write.
However, there are also times when I need to take a breather because something I’ve read frustrates me to no end. Usually, I’ll leave the office and take a quick lap around campus (which doesn’t take very long). This time, I’ve decided to vent my frustrations here before resuming my writing. Lucky you.
I am currently wrapping up my latest essay for my present research, and in this essay I’m dealing with the ever-so-fun portion of 1 Corinthians: 2.6-16. There are three distinct positions for how this portion of 1 Corinthians is dealt with: 1) it’s not original to the text–it is a later addition (i.e. an ‘interpolation’)–or it is merely a digression in Paul’s thought; 2) it’s influenced by Mormon Gnostic theology because of its emphasis on ‘secret wisdom’ and only the ‘perfect’ having access to God’s mind; or 3) it’s a foundational text for the doctrine of inspiration.
Surprisingly, I’m not too bothered by the first option simply because the arguments in favour of such an idea are not that convincing. More surprisingly, I’m not at all worried about the second option simply because the arguments in favour of that idea are utlimately anachronistic. Moreover, to say that Paul is influenced by such a theology would wind up creating a contradiction within the larger argument of 1 Cor 1–4. But don’t worry, there’s an escape hatch for those confronted by this problem: 2.6-16 is an interpolation.
Where my frustration lies, and shame on you if couldn’t figure this out, is with the final option. To some, this might be the biggest surprise of all–i.e. I’m bothered by someone making a case for the doctrine of inspiration. Well, be surprised; but hold off for a second on calling me a heretic.
The primary reason for my frustration is this: the text of 1 Cor 2.6-16 says nothing about the inspiration of Scripture. In fact, 1 Cor 2.6-16 says very little about Scripture, period. True, Paul quotes two passages of Scripture in the course of his argument (2.9, 16); but he is hardly quoting them for the sake of saying something about Scripture as a text–let alone an inspired text. Moreover, it’s not even clear if the text he quotes in 2.9 is faithful to the OT–let alone in the OT. (I’ll leave that hanging in the air for now).
The cause of my frustration is an article by a scholar who will remain unnamed–out of respect. This scholar argued the exact opposite of what I’ve just mentioned. His entire case is predicated on the assumption that 1 Cor 2.6-16 is a long overlooked passage for establishing a sound doctrine of Scriptural inspiration. What frustrated me even more was, because that is his controlling assumption, he winds up making all sorts of exegetical claims about the text that simply do not hold water. His claims make sense if he’s trying to prove the doctrine of inspiration from that text. However, his claims make very little sense if the text is examined for what it says.
What Paul is saying in this passage is so incredibly rich and wonderfully illuminating (yeah, that one might get me in some trouble), both of which are lost if we read his argument as nothing but a promotion for Scriptural inspiration. The only Pauline text clearly says something about Scriptural inspiration is 2 Timothy 3.16, but that’s an entirely different discussion. If you want to know what is so incredibly rich and wonderfully illuminating about 1 Cor 2.6-16, I’ll try to have something out for you in about 2 years.*
*I allow myself one comment of academic smuggery a month, and that was it.