Drive Out The Wicked One From Among

Following a pointed reminder that he was their "father" (1 Cor 4:14-21),113 Paul relayed his disgust for what he had heard about the lax morals of the Corinthian church: "It is actually reported to me that there is porneia among you, and of a kind that is not found even among gentiles; for a man is living with [lit. "has"] his father's woman" (1 Cor 5:1). Here Paul turns his anti-gentile invective against a specific man and against those who welcomed him. According to Paul, by accepting this man the Corinthians had dared to tolerate behavior that even their neighbors would condemn, thereby shaming them on the basis (presumably) of a shared disdain for gentile sexual morals. Yet Paul offered few specifics regarding the actual circumstances of this man's porneia. Was the man living with his father's current wife, his father's widow, a (current or former) concubine, a former wife, or a (current or former) slave? Paul did not say, and the Greek is entirely ambiguous.114 Marriage to one's stepmother was illegal from the perspective of both biblical and Roman law.115 Still, some in the church did not regard the man's actions as sinful, though they had embraced Paul's message about Christ. As we shall see, some of these same Corinthians had also adopted the saying "it is well for a man not to touch a woman" (1 Cor 7:1) as their own. It seems curious, therefore, that they would knowingly welcome a man living in some sort of incestuous relationship. Paul may be exaggerating for effect.

Earlier scholars sought to resolve this dilemma by positing that there were two (false) positions circulating in the Corinthian church, one suggesting that "freedom in Christ" implies freedom from moral constraints, another asserting that believers must avoid sex altogether.116 According to these readings, the man and his sympathizers belonged to a "freedom in Christ" party that had either rejected or misunderstood Paul's (and Christ's) teachings in favor of a theology that overturned common moral strictures. Yet these interpretations fail to take the polemical context of Paul's comments into account. Paul did not provide specific information about the man's circumstances because he was not interested in doing so; shaming the Corinthians was his primary goal. It is at least possible that a case for the legitimacy of the relationship between the man and his partner could be made, even among those who had embraced what they understood to be a strict moral code. After all, Paul could not hope to shame them for tolerating an action that "even" gentiles avoid if they had not already come to understand themselves as morally superior to their gentile neighbors. Perhaps the woman was quite young, a widow after a brief marriage, or a slave of the father whom the man had inherited at his father's death, and freed for the purposes of marriage.117 Since the focus of Paul's rebuke was the community in Corinth, not the man or, even less so, the woman (whom he scarcely mentions), we simply cannot determine the specifics of their behavior.118 Instead, Paul's comments were designed to reestablish his authority over his "children" (the Corinthians) in moral matters while enforcing his preferred definition of moral purity.

A few verses earlier, Paul accuses the Corinthians of being "arrogant," warning them that as their "father" he could legitimately "come with a stick" to discipline them (1 Cor 4:18, 21). What better way to admonish them, proving their need for his watchful guidance than to accuse them of (re)assimilating themselves to the category "gentile" by means of porneia? Chapter 1 observed that honorable men were expected to master both themselves and their subordinates. This theory was extended to include male rulers, who, ideally, promoted (and enforced) mastery among their subjects. Thus, the emperor (purportedly) preserved—and, in the case of Augustus, legislated—the sexual morality of the empire. Paul seems to be operating under a similar set of presuppositions. As the "father" of the Corinthian community, it was his responsibility to preserve and define the sexual purity expected of the church in Corinth. Calling the community to expel the man, Paul provided his own version of sex legislation:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with the pornoi [male prostitutes/sexually immoral persons]—not at all meaning the pornoi of this world, or the greedy and the robbers and the idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone of the name of brother who is a pornos [male pros-titute/fornicator], greedy, an idolater, reviler, drunkard or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside, "Drive out the wicked person from among you."

Thomas McGinn has observed that the Augustan marriage legislation was designed, in part, to preserve elite privilege, especially elite male privilege, and to validate Augustus' own status as the (appropriate) codifier of the regimen morum.119 Paul was obviously not a member of the Roman senatorial aristocracy; nevertheless, his "legislation" could be read in a similar way. He mentioned his previous instructions, sent in a letter (note that laws were often promulgated in letters),120 he provided clarification regarding the true intent of his instructions, and he drove his authority home by quoting existing law. "Drive out the wicked from among you" may well be a direct quotation of Deuteronomy 17:7 (LXX), a passage that recommends the death penalty for idolaters; it is certainly reminiscent of biblical prescriptions against sexual sinners.121 Whatever the behavior of the man in question, Paul's own message was clear: he was the moral arbi ter of the community, and the community must enforce Paul's (Christ's) moral dictates.

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