Sunday, May 25, 2014

Fellowship Meals During Worship: The Early House Churches & Wives at the Lord's Table-Symposium

Robert Banks writes,

"At first sight, Paul’s endorsement of women praying and prophesying in church seems to conflict with his statement that “the women should keep silence” in the gatherings (1 Cor 14: 34). Attempts to overrule his earlier endorsement by this statement or to elide these later verses from the text should both be avoided. There is no justification for the former and scarcely any manuscript support for the latter, and an appreciation of the wider and immediate context of Paul’s advice renders such solutions unnecessary."

"The injunction is the third in a series (14: 20ff.), all of which are directed against the existence of chaos in church, first through all speaking in tongues at the same time and second through all jointly prophesying. The precise nature of the offense of the women (more strictly of the wives) becomes clear in the following verse: “If there is anything they desire to know,” he says, “let them ask their husbands at home (14: 35, RSV)."

"The wives have been interrupting the meeting with questions about things said within it. If more than that were involved, then Paul would not single out this one problem without any reference to others. The injunction to “keep silence” does not itself necessarily possess an absolute sense and must always be interpreted by the context in which it occurs. The situation presupposed by Paul’s remarks is perfectly understandable."

"Women for the most part did not receive any substantial education in religious matters, yet in Christian gatherings they could be present throughout the whole meeting and also contribute to it in a number of ways. Particularly in a church like that at Corinth, where Christian liberty was prized so highly, it comes as no surprise that wives felt free to query things they did not understand. In advising against this, Paul reminds them again of its contravention of prevailing custom (14:35)— in Greek cities it was only the hetairai, courtesans, who engaged in public discussions with men— and of the practice of other churches (14: 36) and even of the OT (14: 34)."


Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, writes:

"The Jewish people throughout the generations did not live in a vacuum; it absorbed much from its surroundings. But it did not absorb blindly. The Sages absorbed the form of the symposium from the Hellenistic world, but drastically changed its content. The Greeks and Romans discussed love, beauty, food and drink at the symposium, while the Sages at the Seder discussed the Exodus from Egypt, the miracles of God and the greatness of the Redemption. The symposium was meant for the elite, while the Sages turned the Seder into an educational experience for the entire Jewish people. Indeed, this pattern repeated itself throughout Jewish history."

"... the stunning similarity between the Greek banquet known as a symposium and the Passover Seder. Few Jews realize the Seder is a rabbinic invention. The rabbis instituted the seder to standardize practice after the destruction of the Temple. The Haggadah is an outgrowth of that standardization. And the Seder mirrors a Greek Symposium in many ways..."

"The Greek word epikomon means "after meal entertainment" and likely (again per Wikipedia) refers to the "games, songs, flute-girls, slaves performing various acts, and hired entertainments" that followed the discussion and the food. When the Sages said "one may not add an afikoman after the paschal lamb” they were referring to (and outlawing) this practice... We close each segment of the seder with a cup of wine. At the symposia the same custom was followed."

"... the rabbis took a common secular practice, widely popular in the Hellenized world, and cleaned it up a bit, removing the raunch and using the order to tell the story of Passover."

Luke 14:1-24 reveals the banquet setting among Jews in the first century:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Understanding The Bible & History For Yourself: The Lord's Supper and "Women" in the Greco-Roman World of the New Testament

Food Feasts in Ancient Rome
Dennis E. Smith, in his book, From Symposium to Eucharist: The Banquet in the Early Christian World, writes:
"Whenever they met as a church, early Christians regularly ate a meal together. In this they were no different from other religious people in their world: for when any group of people in the ancient Mediterranean world met for social or religious purposes, their gatherings tended to be centered on a common meal or banquet."

"It did not matter whether it was a social or religious occasion; nor what the ethnic group might be, whether Jewish or Greek or some other ethnic group; nor what the social class might be. If it were a special occasion, whether religious, social, or political, more often than not a formalized meal functioned as a centerpiece of the gathering." [see Jude 12; Luke 22:14-29; Acts 20:1-11; cf. 1 Cor. 11:17-34, sp]."

"A banquet was an occasion of 'good cheer' or 'pleasure,' viewed here as values that governed the proper meal. Another term for the good cheer of the banquet was festive joy (euphrosyn), which was seen as an essential component of the 'proper' banquet. As such, it was spoken of as the gift of the god(s), and often associated with the wine. Festive joy was viewed not as an individual experience but as a social experience inherent to the overall communal function of the banquet. Indeed, a proper banquet could be judged by how well it promoted festive joy. Consequently, festive joy could also function as a category governing social obligation at the banquet."

"The ancient banquet presupposed entertainment as part of the event. This could vary from party games to dramatic presentations to music to philosophical conversation [see Luke 22:14-29 and Matthew 26:30, sp]. It developed elaborate and specific variations according to the different settings and circumstances in which the banquet would be held. But no banquet would be complete as a social event without some form of entertainment."
Paul's concern in 1 Cor. 5:1-12 and later in 10:7-14:40 is for decency, encouragement, and unity at the Lord's Supper/Table/Assembly (see also 1 Cor. 11:17-34; cf. 10:21), especially since the word Paul uses in 1 Cor. 11:20, deipnon, refers to the evening meal. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Strategy and Tactics That Move Us Toward "One Body-One Spirit" Consensus in Churches of Christ

Illustration by Judith Clingan
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Eph. 4:2-6). 

According to the Website Diffen:

"A strategy is a larger, overall plan that can comprise several tactics, which are smaller, focused, less impactful plans that are part of the overall plan. While the original usage of the terms strategy and tactic was in a military context, they are now used in a wide variety of everyday settings, including business."

Let's see... military and business... This must be applicable to the American Church!

Seriously, however...

John Mark Hicks, An American Restoration Historian, writes:
"While doing some research in Nashville newspapers, I encountered this piece by David Lipscomb:  “South Nashville Church of Christ,” Daily American (January 17, 1906), p. 8. I thought it was interesting for several reasons:
1. It illustrates that Lipscomb thought church planting was the way to grow the kingdom.

2. It illustrates the use of tent meetings in the planting of churches, and how other churches supported the planting of those communities.

3. It illustrates the use of “lay” (my term) preachers, that is, bi-vocational ministers, in the growth and maturing of congregations.

4. It illustrates why Nashville has so many Churches of Christ. Lipscomb prompted the planting of many small congregations who managed their own affairs (did their own teaching, missions, evangelism, etc.) rather than consolidating into large congregations. Small but many was better than few but large, according to Lipscomb...."
David Lipscomb (from the piece that Hicks cites) speaking of the growth of churches of Christ in Nashville, says:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Imitating Jesus Christ is the "One Faith"

Jesus Praying in the Garden
Robert Louis Wilken writes:

"The apostolic age is a creation of the Christian imagination. There never was a Golden Age when the church was whole, perfect, pure-virginal. The faith was not purer, the Christians were not braver, the church was not one and undivided..."

I believe that the "one faith" Paul mentions in Ephesians 4:5 is described in Eph. 4:13-15 as "the knowledge of the Son of God and becoming mature."

Essentially, "the faith" is growing up into/imitating/conforming to the image of  Christ.

Paul writes,

"...unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ" (Eph. 4:13-15).

If there is "one faith" to keep, and there is, then I suggest that it is not any kind of "pattern worship at church," or any other mandatory form of orthodoxy to be enforced, but as Jesus said:

"I am the way, the truth, and the life..."

His life is "the faith."

As the song, "Where He Leads I'll Follow," says, "He the great example is and pattern for me...."