Posts Tagged ‘Paul’

Belly and Body, pt. 4

February 20th, 2010 No comments

We’re looking at the work of Karl Sandnes in Belly and Body in the Pauline Epistles.

6 – 8. After looking at the belly theme in Graeco-Roman conceptual field, Sandnes turns our attention to the analogous material in the OT and other Jewish sources.  The linguistic field of the belly and mastery of the passions remains in view as he begins to map the Pauline material.

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Belly and Body, pt. 3

February 7th, 2010 No comments

We’re looking at the work of Karl Sandnes in Belly and Body in the Pauline Epistles.

4-5 Epicureanism, Banquets, and their Ancient Critique

Epicureanism was a major school of ancient moral philosophy.  As with many things, the actual teaching of the school could be seen to differ from what the masses had in their heads about it.  So too can the actual teaching differ from the ways in which its opponents tend to characterize it.  Understanding the arguments around Epicureanism as ancient moral philosophy is made more complicated by the way the word Epicurean is used today as is highlighted here:

In modern popular usage, an epicure is a connoisseur of the arts of life and the refinements of sensual pleasures; epicureanism implies a love or knowledgeable enjoyment especially of good food and drink—see the definition of gourmet at Wiktionary.

This can be attributed to a misunderstanding of the Epicurean doctrine, as promulgated by Christian polemicists. Because Epicureanism posits that pleasure is the ultimate good (telos), it is commonly misunderstood as a doctrine that advocates the partaking in fleeting pleasures such as constant partying, sexual excess and decadent food. This is not the case. Epicurus regarded ataraxia (tranquility, freedom from fear) and aponia (absence of pain) as the height of happiness. He also considered prudence an important virtue and perceived excess and overindulgence to be contrary to the attainment of ataraxia and aponia.

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Belly and Body, pt. 2

February 5th, 2010 No comments

We’re looking at the work of Karl Sandnes in Belly and Body in the Pauline Epistles.  Let’s remember the language of Paul’s that we’re looking at.

  • Primarily:
    • Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. (Phil 3:19 NRSV)
    • For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded.(Rom 16:18 NRSV)
    • “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. (1 Cor 6:13 NRSV)  where the quote is a Corinthian slogan that Paul is responding to
    • Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” (1 Cor 10:7 NRSV) Paul’s borrowing this quote from Exodus 32:6


    • It was one of them, their very own prophet, who said, “Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.” (Titus 1:12 NRSV) where the quote serves as reference to the larger available stereotypes in Greece at the time
    • If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Cor 15:32 NRSV) where the quote is a Corinthian slogan that Paul is responding to

So what exactly was the Graeco-Roman body/belly background into which Paul was speaking?

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Belly and Body in the Pauline Epistles, pt.1

February 3rd, 2010 No comments

So before I get into this let me make one thing clear.  None of the particular discussion that follows is directly about the moral status of animals.  It’s about one aspect of the concept of food in antiquity generally and early Christianity particularly and most specifically in Paul’s letters.   You could get from here to current moral debates about animals a few different ways but that’s absolutely not what the context of this is.   That said.  Let’s take a look at something you probably don’t hear much about on Sunday.

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DaVinci, Damascus, and Moral Rights

October 23rd, 2009 No comments

Just came across this lecture by Tom Regan, “Animal Rights: An Introduction” at the Interdisciplinary Lectures on Animal Rights at Heidelberg in 2006. Tom Regan taught philosophy at NC State until 2001.    A timely find after the last post on the issue of dog meat.   He opens with a similar story from the prologue of one of his recent books, Empty Cages.  He goes on to talk broadly about what animal rights are, about different types of animal rights advocates – or how people come to be animal rights advocates, and about the terminology of moral rights in general. Here’s part one of five, click through to youtube to watch the rest.

The only thing that needs updating is the percent of the population in the US that’s vegetarian … currently it’s more like 3% (of adults).   If that’s accurate then there are nearly twice as many vegetarian adults in the US (@ 7 million) as there are members of the NRA (@ 4 million).  Interesting. Read more…

Food Laws

October 28th, 2008 No comments

So, the concept of clean vs. unclean in terms of the temple (ritual purity) was one thing but the food laws have to be examined on their own.  Ritual purity was about what is acceptable to come into contact with the temple apparatus (the structure, the priests, etc.) It was literally about the ideas that there are some kinds of physical contagion by which the temple could be sullied and about the cleansing, washing, disinfecting procedures thought to remedy it.  It’s not the same as “sin”.   The food laws don’t exactly follow because the reasoning for the various distinctions are not apparent nor were they ever explained, their meaning is assumed to be understood.  Here’s an excerpt from the “New Bible Dictionary” under the topic of Clean and Unclean as it relates to the food laws in the OT and how it changed in the NT.

The standard Jewish explanation is that the classification is arbitrary: they test obedience. Will you obey God, even if you cannot understand his reasons? Or is the aim to promote health? Pork, shellfish, and so on, often carry disease. There is nothing in the laws to suggest it. Some items classified as unclean are healthy foods, and vice versa. Nor does this explanation warrant Jesus’ abolition of the food laws. Would he have wanted his disciples to eat unhealthy foods? Another scholarly explanation is that some of the unclean animals (e.g. pigs) were used in pagan worship. But the premier clean sacrificial beast in Israel, the bull, [211] was also highly valued in Egyptian and Canaanite religion, so reaction to foreign practice does not explain these rules.


Once again Mary Douglas has put forward the most plausible type of explanation. She noted that the cleanness rules structure the bird, animal and human realms in a similar way (see above).

The realms of birds and beasts both contain a mixture of clean and unclean species. The clean may be eaten, the unclean may not. Within the clean group there is a subgroup of animals or birds that may also be sacrified (e.g. sheep, pigeons). This threefold division of the bird and animal kingdoms corresponds to the divisions among human beings. Mankind falls into two main groups, Israel and the Gentiles. Within Israel only one group, the priests may approach the altar to offer sacrifice. This matches the law’s understanding of sacred space. Outside the camp is the abode of Gentiles and unclean Israelites. Ordinary Israelites dwell inside the camp, but only priests may approach the altar or enter the tabernacle tent.

These distinctions served to remind Israel of her special status as God’s chosen people. The food laws not only reminded Israel of her distinctive-ness, but they also served to enforce it. Jews faithful to these laws would tend to avoid Gentile company, in case they were offered unclean food to eat (cf. Dn. 1:8–16).

God is identified with life and holiness, and un-cleanness is associated with death and opposition to God. The food laws symbolize that Israel is God’s people, called to enjoy his life, while Gentile idolaters are by and large opposed to him and his people, and face death. The food laws also underline respect for life directly as well as symbolically. Eating meat is described as a concession in Gn. 9:1–4. And it may only be eaten if the blood is drained out first, ‘for the life is … the blood’ (Lv. 17:11). Therefore, consumption of the life liquid is banned. Wanton slaughter of living creatures is also discouraged by the limited number of animals classified as clean. In both ways, these food laws tended to promote respect for life.

The OT food laws reminded the Jews of their special status as the one people chosen by God. The clean (edible) creatures symbolized Israel, whereas the unclean (prohibited) foods symbolized the Gentile nations. But the church is open to people of all nations, not just Jews, so it is inappropriate for the food laws to be maintained. In Mt. 15:16–17 and Mk. 7:18–19, Jesus’ critique of the food laws is immediately followed by the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman (describing herself as a dog, i.e. unclean), whose daughter, possessed by an unclean spirit, was healed by Jesus (Mt. 15:21–28; Mk. 7:24–30).

Jesus’ ministry and teaching thus laid the foundation for outreach to the Gentiles and the abolition of the food laws, but in Acts 10 the decisive step is taken. Peter has a vision in which a heavenly voice commands him to kill and eat unclean [212] animals. He responds: ‘Surely not. Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’ Men sent by Cornelius, a Roman centurion, come asking for Peter to visit him. When he arrives at the house of Cornelius, Peter explains why he has come: ‘It is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean’ (Acts 10:14, 28). The significance of this Cornelius episode is underlined by Luke recounting it three times in Acts 10, 11 and 15. The Jerusalem council confirmed that it was right to include Gentiles within the church and simultaneously to abrogate the main food laws. The only uncleanness regulations they imposed concerned idolatry, sexual immorality and blood, which were the worst types of uncleanness in the OT (Acts 15:20). Paul takes it for granted that the other food laws no longer apply to Christians (e.g. 1 Cor. 8:8; 1 Tim. 4:3–5).

So again, it’s the conceptual framework, which is about access to God, that is being abolished.  The case for contemporary ethical vegetarianism simply isn’t an issue that’s addressed directly in the bible and therefore not something that contemporary Christianity can legitimately discount as if the matter has already been settled.  I’m not saying it’s requisite, just that it’s a topic worthy of honest and thoughtful discussion.