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[JSNTIX (1998) 29-50]


V. George Shillington

Concord College/University of Winnipeg 169 Riverton Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R2L 2E5, Canada

The abundance of studies on 1 Cor. 5.5 bears ample testimony to the vexing problems associated with this Pauline text. 1 Not least among the problems is the severity of the language of ritual sentence meted out to the immoral member at Corinth. Is there a plausible horizon implied in the text that helps us read Paul's stern language of exclusion sympathet- ically? This article will attempt to answer that question by positing a textual context for 1 Cor. 5.5 in the biblical-Jewish tradition of atone- ment, in which a sin-bearing sacrifice is 'handed over' to a desert- dwelling figure, Azazel, to cleanse Israel of its sin. It will be argued (1) that this textual context is indeed implied, and (2) that this setting best explains the 'dynamistic ceremony' 2 represented in the texture of

1. The following sampling illustrates: J. Cambier, 'La chair et l'esprit en I Cor

221-32; A.Y. Collins, Th e Function of Excom- (1980), pp. 251-63; Anthony C. Thiselton, Th e

Meaning of sarx in 1 Corinthians 5.5: A Fresh Approach in the Light of Logical and Semantic Function', SJT26 (1973), pp. 204-28; Brian S. Rosner, Temple and Holiness in 1 Cor 5', TynBul 42 (1991), pp. 137-45; James T. South, A Critique of the "Curse/Death" Interpretation of 1 Cor 5.1-8', NTS 39 (1993), pp. 539-61; Colin G. Kruse, Th e Offender and the Offence in 2 Cor 2.5 and 7.12', EvQ 88 (1988), pp. 129-39 (identifies the incestuous man of 1 Cor. 5.5 with the wrongdoer of 2 Cor. 2.5); J.D.M. Derrett, ' "Handing Over to Satan": An Explanation of 1 Cor 5.1- 7', Revue internationale des droits de Vantiquité 26 (1979), pp. 20-25; Bruce A. McDonald, 'Spirit, Penance and Perfection: The Exegesis of 1 Cor 5.3-5 from A.D. 200-451' (PhD dissertation, University of Edinburgh, 1993).

2. H. Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians: A Commentary on the First Epistle to the

V.5 \ NTS 15 (1968-69), pp. munication in Paul', HTR 73

Corinthians (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), p. 97.

30 Journal for the Study of the New Testament71


1 Cor. 5.5: παραδούναι τον τοιούτον τω Σατανά εις ολεθρον της σαρκός, ίνα το πνεύμα σωθή έν τη ήμερα τού κυρίου (literally trans­ lated: 'to hand over such a [person] to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, in order that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord'). Origen's interpretation^ of 1 Cor. 5.5 focused on the exclusion of the immoral man from the church to facilitate his penitential preparation for re-entry to good standing, and thus also to lead to his redemption in the end. 4 Most interpreters since Origen have more or less adopted this reading of Paul's text. s Paul intended the man to be reinstated in the community in order for his own individual spirit to be 'saved in the day of the Lord'. Moreover, churches intent on applying Paul's sentence of exclusion in this text to cases of transgression among their members have practised 'excommunication' as a form of church discipline. The expelled member is supposed to feel the sting of expulsion, heed the gospel, repent of the sin, and return to the fold of the church to be saved in the day of the Lord. 6 But this appropriation scarcely takes into account the generative matrix 7 within which Paul's dynamistic sentence of 1 Cor. 5.5 was uttered. An excommunicated member of a modern (or postmodern) church, less dependent on community status for living in an industrial society than a member in a Pauline community would be

3 I am indebted to Bruce McDonald lor his exhaustive treatment of Origen's

interpretation of 1 Cor 5 5, in 'Spirit, Penance', pp 36-72

4 Th e punishment, although it may seem punitive, is basically remedial and

has as its aim the full restoration of the offender to the congregation', McDonald, 'Spirit, Penance', pp 72-73

5 Representative of this reading of the text in modern times are F F Bruce,

1 and 2 Corinthians (London Oliphants, 1971), ρ 55, A Robertson and A Plum­ mer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians (Edinburgh Τ & Τ Clark, 1911), ρ 100, James Moffatt, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (London Hodder & Stoughton, 1938), ρ 57, William F Orr and James A Walther, / Corinthians (AB, 32, New York Double- day, 1976), ρ 189, Jean Héring, The First Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (London Epworth Press, 1962), ρ 36

6 Eg , Marlin Jeschke employs the phrase 'redemptive excommunication' to


explain Paul's judgement on the sinner in 1 Cor

gregational Discipline According to the Gospel [Scottdale Herald Press, 19721,

pp 102-23)

5 (Discipling

the Brother

7 Ben F Meyer, The Earl\ Christians Their World Mission and Self-

definition (Wilmington, DE Michael Glazier, 1986), ρ 166, used 'generative matrix' to describe the factors of Paul's sotenology, an aspect of which is operative in 1 Cor 5 5

SHILLINGTON Atonement Texture in 1 Corinthians 5.5


for an agrarian society, 8 might not be so inclined to consider the institutional church of Euro-America a way to be saved at the end-time. Origen's interpretation, on which the above practice of excommuni- cation is based, succeeded in demolishing Tertulliano view, 9 which sensed Paul's overriding concern for the spiritual well-being of the community of faith in Christ. The individual, according to Tertullian, was not the burden of Paul's sacral sentence. The spiritual life of the community was. 'The destruction of the flesh referred to the expulsion of the offender from Christian fellowship, with the possibility of death ensuing.' 10 The 'spirit' to be saved in the day of the Lord, according to Tertullian, was the Holy Spirit of Christ and God indwelling the com- munity. 11 Moreover, the reason for excluding the man from the Spirit- empowered group was to save, or preserve, the eschatological commu- nity for presentation in the day of the Lord. But this view of Tertullian fell by the wayside in the course of church history, thus allowing Origen's interpretation to hold sway. Recently, however, some scholars, sensitive to the group conscious- ness of first-century Mediterranean society, rather than the individual- ism of twentieth-century industrial society, have turned attention once again to Paul's concern for the body politic of the Christ-community in this injunction of 1 Cor. 5.5. 12 The discussion that follows does like- wise, and seeks to demonstrate that Paul re-enacts the atonement text of Leviticus 16, in conjunction with the prohibition texts (Lev. 18.8; 20.11; Deut. 23.1; 27.20), in the texture of 1 Corinthians 5, and that at 5.5 in particular he transforms the biblical/Jewish tradition of 'handing over' the scapegoat in keeping with his vision of the new community of

8. Bruce J. Malina and Jerome H. Neyrey, Portraits of Paul: An Archaeology

of Ancient Personality (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1996), pp. 183-84

9. For a clear and comprehensive accounting of all references to 1 Cor. 5.5 in

Tertullian, see McDonald's chapter on Tertullian in 'Spirit, Penance', pp. 6-24.

10. McDonald, 'Spirit, Penance', p. 24.

11. McDonald, 'Spirit, Penance', p. 12.

12. See, for example, Collins, 'Function', pp. 251-63; Malina and Neyrey, Por-

traits of Paul, pp. 183-84; Margaret M. Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Recon- ciliation: An Exegetical Investigation of the Language and Composition of 1 Corinthians (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992), pp. 111-16; Graydon F. Snyder, First Corinthians: A Faith Community Commentary (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1992), pp. 57-67.


Journal for the Study of the New Testament 1\


Christ as the holy shrine of God. n This proposed allusion to the atone- ment tradition illuminates the structure of Paul's sacral/legal sentence in v. 5, and opens up the referential world 14 that Paul created in the text of 1 Corinthians 5.

More than Parallel or Echo

An allusion in a text is not merely a perceived parallel between Paul's text and some other text of the time, which he may or may not have known. Several such parallels can be cited between Paul's severe injunction in 1 Cor. 5.5 and Greek magical texts; 15 similarly between Paul's text and the instruction in the Damascus Document^ and in the Community Rule ]1 about the expulsion of disobedient members from the Jewish covenant community at Qumran. Instructive as these paral- lels are for understanding the action Paul enjoins in 1 Cor. 5.5, they do not qualify as allusions within Paul's text. Evidence that Paul knew Greek magical texts or even Qumran literature first-hand is tentative. But he was profoundly aware of the Greek version of his Jewish Scriptures to which he alludes and from which he quotes frequently. ls

13 Brian Rosner in Temple and Holiness m 1 Cor 5 \ pp 137-45, adduces per-

suasively that 1 Cor 5 is an application of the metaphor of the temple in 3 16-17

The expulsion of the sinner is c to restore the holiness of God's temple, the church'

(p 137), see also Collins, 'Function', pp

14 A phrase stemming from Paul Ricoeur's theory of interpretation, e g ,

Toward a Hermeneutic of the Idea of Revelation', in Essays on Biblical interpre- tation (Philadelphia Fortress Press, 1980), pp 73-118 (100) The world of the text is the sort oí world intended beyond the text as its reference The world of the text designates the reference ot the work of discourse, not what is said, but about what is said The issue of the text is the world the text unfolds before itself '

15 Ό ghost [or demon] of a dead man (nek\daimôn), whoever you are, I hand

over (paradidomi) to you so-and-so, in order that he might not do such-and-such a deed', cited in Collins, 'Function', ρ 255

16 "All who backslid were handed over to the sword And such is the verdict

on all members of the covenant who do not hold firm to those laws they are con­ demned to destruction by Belial [= Satan] ' Col 7-8, translation by Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr and Edward Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls A New Translation

(San Francisco HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), pp 57-58

17 'May the God of terror give you over to implacable avengers, may He visit

your offspring with destruction at the hands of those who recompense evil with evil', col 2, translated by Wise, Abegg and Cook, Dead Sea Scrolls, ρ 128


SHILLINGTON Atonement Texture in 1 Corinthians 5.5


Paul's sacred Scripture texts were ready and waiting to be triggered by a situation that bears some semblance to the texture of the text at hand. 19 Some sense of the triggered text is then reconfigured into the texture of the new text being created for the moment. Although Richard B. Hays, in his Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, does not use 1 Cor. 5.5 to illustrate his theory of 'intertextual echoes', 20 in his recent commentary of 1997 he does reluctantly admit a 'faint echo' of Job 2.4-6, but then discounts it as less than adequate for understanding the passage. 21 Instead Hays suggests the Passover meta- phor (vv. 6-8) as 'the best explanation for "handing over to Satan'", 22 even though the removal of the leaven for Passover has little connec- tion with 'handing over' and just as little with 'Satan'. If an earlier text is 'echoed', to use Hays's favoured term, it is the atonement text of Leviticus 16. But the volume ofthat text in Paul's re-texturing in 1 Cor. 5.5 seems louder than 'echo', and more like allusion. Although scape- goat/atonement imagery is rare in Paul's letters (if it is present at all outside this one place), 23 its allusive presence in the texture of 1 Corinthians 5 should not be surprising, as the ensuing analysis will demonstrate.

19. For a helpful discussion of the 'texture' of texts referred to here, see 'Inner

Texture' and 'Intertexture' in Vernon K. Robbins, The Tapestry of Early Christian Discourse: Rhetoric, Society and Ideology (London: Routledge, 1996), pp. 44-143.

20. Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven:

Yale University Press, 1989), pp. 29-32.

21. Richard B. Hays, 1 Corinthians (Interpretation; Louisville: John Knox

Press, 1997), pp. 84-85. Other scholars (e.g., Orr and Walther, 1 Corinthians, p. 188) have invoked more favourably the story of Job's encounter with Satan in the Jewish Scriptures to resolve the problem of Satan's role in the man's salvation (taking the purpose clause in 5.5b to refer to the salvation of the immoral man). But Job's dramatic experience with Satan scarcely fits the situation at Corinth. Job was an upright man from the start, and remained so through the severe trials executed by his Accuser, Satan. True to character, Satan in the book of Job aimed at destroy- ing the upright Job. But Job was not an immoral man, nor was his flesh destroyed. By contrast, the ceremonial 'handing over' of the immoral Corinthian to Satan is intended precisely for 'the destruction of the flesh'.

22. Hays, / Corinthians, pp. 84-85.

23. Daniel R. Schwartz claims to have found two allusions to the scapegoat

imagery in Galatians ('Two Pauline Allusions to the Redemptive Mechanism of the Crucifixion', JBL 102 [1983], pp. 259-68).

34 Journal for the Study of the New Testament 71(1998)

Structure and Context of 1 Corinthians 5.5

Of primary importance in hearing the allusion in 1 Cor. 5.5 is to account adequately for the form of the text, and then to see this severe sentence within the context of ch. 5, and beyond that to consider ch. 5 in relation to the preceding and subsequent trains of thought in 1 Corinthians. The 1611 English version of the Bible (KJV) followed Paul's word

order in 1 Cor. 5.5 literally: 'to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the

Lord Jesus'. 24 However,

fixate on the immoral individual, his expulsion from the church and the eventual salvation of his spirit at the end-time (e.g. NEB, NIV, RSV, NRSV). These translations thus supply αυτού (his) with το πνεύμα (the spirit) to indicate that the immoral man's spirit will be saved in the day of the Lord by his expulsion into the domain of Satan. His expulsion thus is a kind of expiation for his sin. Two factors seem to drive the translators to supply αυτού to specify the identity of το πνεύμα. The first is a modern tendency to make the individual central to discussions of life and death issues of human existence. And the second is a dualistic understanding of human nature assumed to be part of Paul's Hellenistic thought. 2S The spirit part of the immoral man is slated for salvation in the day of the Lord by his expulsion from the church for the destruction of his flesh part at the hands of Satan. 26 It is highly doubtful, however, whether Paul's anthropology would entertain this stark dualistic notion (and even more doubtful that Paul would assign Satan a role in the man's eschatological salvation). In point of fact, Paul's Greek text does not have αυτού with το πνεύμα. Moreover, the form of Paul's purpose clause (ίνα το πνεύμα σωθή εν τη ήμερα τού

a number of modern translations of 1 Cor. 5.5

24 The translators relied on the textus receptus and thus translated κυρίου

Ιησού 'Lord Jesus'

25 On Hellenistic ideas of dualism, and Paul's possible acquaintance with

those views, see David E Aune, 'Human Nature and Ethics in Hellenistic Philosophical Traditions and Paul Some Issues and Problems', in Troels Engberg- Pedersen (ed ), Paul m his Hellenistic Context (Edinburgh Τ & Τ Clark, 1994), pp 292-305

26 Ct Snyder, First Corinthians, ρ 62, Collins, 'Function', pp 257-58, W D

Davies, 'Paul and the Dead Sea Scrolls Flesh and Spirit', in Christian Origins and

Judaism (London Darton, Longman & Todd, 1962), pp 145-77

SHILLINGTON Atonement Texture in 1 Corinthians 5.5


κυρίου) leaves open the live option that το πνεύμα refers to the Spirit of Christ resident in the new community of faith. W.G. Kümmel, in his expansion of Lietzmann's comment on 1 Cor. 5.5, countered Lietzmann's idea of the necessity of inserting αύτοΰ to make sense of the identity of το πνεύμα. Paul, says Kümmel, was not discussing the serious consequences of immorality (πορνεία) for the individual, but rather for the community constituted by the Spirit of Christ. 27 The community could forfeit that Spirit by permitting sexual immorality in its membership to persist unchecked. As Collins affirms:

If [the members] have lived in accordance with the Spirit, it will be pre­ served or kept safe for the community; that is, they will remain in union with it, God, and Christ. If they have defiled the Spirit by, for example, sexual sins, the Spirit will be lost to the community and they will be excluded from the kingdom of God (see 6.9-11). 28

By removing the one immoral member from the community the mem­ bership keeps the Spirit of Christ, while the Spirit is effectively taken from the immoral man. A number of scholars now hold this view as a correct reading of Paul's sentence of removal. 29 Two factors govern Paul's vision in 1 Cor. 5.5: the group politic (ecclesiology) and the final salvation of the Christ-community (escha- tology). 30 το πνεύμα is the guarantee that the community of Christ will participate in the final triumph of God over sin and death (2 Cor. 1.22; 5.5). The human spirit of an individual member offers no such guarantee of salvation in the day of the Lord. 31 Paul allows no place in

27. W.G. Kümmel in D. Hans Lietzmann, Handbuch zum Neuen Testament: An

die Korinther I, II (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1969), p. 174: Taulus sagt nichts

darüber, inwiefern der plötzliche Tod des dem Satan übergebenen Sünders die Rettung des πνεύμα bewirke. Dass der Sünder durch seinen raschen Tod seine

Ist keine wahrscheinliche Annahme, da

Paulus sonst von Gott als dem durch Christi Tod die Sünde sühnenden redet (Rra 3.24f). Erst recht ist aber nicht davon die Rede, dass das πνεύμα des so bestraften sich im Jenseits auf unbekannte Weise der Vollkommenheit nähert; an ein Jenseits denkt Paulus hier gar nicht.' Cf. Lietzmann', Handbuch, p. 23.

Sünden zu sühnen Gelegenheit erhält

28. Collins, 'Function', p. 260.

29. Hans von Campenhausen, Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power in

the Church of the First Three Centuries (trans. John A. Baker; London: A. & C. Black, 1969), pp. 134, 147; Collins, 'Function', p. 259; Snyder, First Corinthians,

p. 62; cf. Conzelmann, First Corinthians, p. 98; Mitchell, Rhetoric, p. 112.

30. See further Collins, 'Function', p. 259.

31. Conzelmann asks two questions about the man's loss of standing in the

36 Journal for the Study of the New Testament 1\ (1998)

the Spirit-filled community for the sort of immorality described in 1 Corinthians 5. Hence the summons from Paul to the congregation at

Corinth to rid itself of one whose immoral life contradicts the com­ munal life in the Spirit of Christ awaiting vindication/salvation in the day of the Lord. What about handing such a person over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (παραδούναι τον τοιούτον τω Σατανά εις ολεθρον της σαρκός)? It is now well recognized that παραδούναι, 'to hand over', became a technical term in Greek magical texts for casting a spell on a deviant member of the group. The conclusion that paradidomi is a technical term in Greek magic is supported by the fact that it occurs in

three charms intended to reveal

(parados) the thief who took such-and-such.'" 12 Moreover, the use of this word for the practice of expulsion of deviants from the group into the sphere of another power was present in the world of Paul's time. As a technical term, παραδούναι is associated with the ritual of cursing practiced in religious settings of Mediterranean society. In the judicial sense also in the same society a person is 'handed over' to the court to be judged, ^ a setting not unlike the one Paul sets up for the congrega­ tion in 1 Corinthians 5: Ί have already pronounced judgment when you are assembled and my spirit is present with the power of the Lord Jesus, you are to hand over this man'. In this particular case, however, the 'assembly' is more probably one of worship, as Hays suggests/ 4 rather than a tribunal of sorts. The power to which the assembled group is to hand over the individual is Satan (Σατανάς), a term of Aramaic origin designating the arch-opponent of God. 'Satan' conjures up the idea of powers of the underworld to which the individual is to be con­ signed.^ Paul, being Jewish, might be expected to use the well-known Hebraic name 'Satan' for the destructive power opposed to God. The extent to which Paul would have been familiar with execration/judicial

and punish a thief


"Hand over

community, and favours an affirmative answer to the second 'Does the baptised

man possess a character indelebilis^ Or is the intention precisely that the Spirit

should be taken from him 7 , (First Corinthians, ρ

32 Collins, 'Function', ρ 255 The citation of a Hebrew equivalent (msr) of

παραδούναι in Exodus Rabba in Strack and Billerbeck is dubious, in that it is late and cannot therefore be used for the time of Paul


33 F Buchsel, 'παραδιδωμι', TDNT, II (1964), ρ 169

34 Hays, I Corinthians, ρ 85

35 See further Conzelmann, / Corinthians, ρ 97 n 37

SHILLINGTON Atonement Texture in 1 Corinthians 5.5


texts and practices in his culture is hard to say with certainty. But at least he would have known the practice in his scriptural tradition and in Judaism of 'handing over' a devoted object/person in ritual ceremony. 36 Using models of comparison (or parallels) from either Hellenistic or Jewish society is somewhat dubious. 'Comparing the apostle with simi- lar figures' 37 from ancient society hardly guarantees an influence in one direction or the other, much less the transfer of ideas or rituals. Paul may have witnessed certain cultural-religious practices in his society, and may have read the texts associated with them, but such contextual comparison is less than proof, without sufficient evidence from Paul's own writings. As Loveday Alexander puts it, 'the use of sociological models carries with it the risk of anachronism. One may be tempted to force the ancient evidence into a mould into which it will not readily fit.' 38 Even citing an allusion to a text from Paul's own Scripture requires a degree of caution. An allusion is not the same as a direct citation. This disclaimer notwithstanding, two assumptions can be made with certainty: (1) that Paul knew the atonement text and tradi- tional practice to which his text (1 Cor. 5.5) is said to refer, and (2) that he respected the authoritative place of such texts in his Jewish tradition. It can also be stated unequivocally that Paul moved in a social reli- gious world in which altars played a vital role for the worshipping communities. Altars imply a 'handing over' ceremony. Yet however much he may have learned the significance of non-Jewish altars around him, he certainly knew the religious sense of the altar at Jerusalem (1 Cor. 9.13; 10.18; cf. Acts 20.16; 21.26; 22.17). The ancient altar formed the symbolic bridge between the worshipper and the deity on which the flesh of the sacrificial victim was 'handed over'. 39 The 'handing over' in 1 Cor. 5.5, however, is riot a 'handing over' to God but to Satan. The immoral man in this case signifies a form of sacrifice

36. E.g. Lev. 27.29: 'No human beings who have been devoted to destruction

can be ransomed; they shall be put to death'. See also Jer. 33.24 (LXX); 2 Kgs 2.23- 25; Josephus, Ant. 2.20; Sifre Deut. 320; cf. Acts 12.4; 21.11; 28.17

37. Hans Dieter Betz, Transferring a Ritual: Paul's Interpretation of Baptism in

Romans 6', in Engberg-Pederson (ed.), Paul in his Hellenistic Context, p. 85.

38. Loveday Alexander, 'Paul and the Hellenistic Schools: the Evidence of

Galen', in Engberg-Pederson (ed.), Paul in his Hellenistic Context, p. 76

39. See F. Büchsel, 'παραδίδωμι'. On the significance and history of the altar in

Israel, see George Buchanan Gray, Sacrifice in the Old Testament: Its Theory and

Practice (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925), pp. 96-147.

38 Journal for the Study of the New Testament 71 (1998)

handed over to Satan 'for the destruction of the flesh' so that the Spirit resident in the community might be saved in the day of the Lord. In this reading, Paul, present in spirit with the congregation, 40 acts as apostolic high priest for the worshipping community. The immoral man becomes the sacral victim. But what is meant by 'the flesh' that is handed over to Satan for destruction? And in what sense is 'the flesh' destroyed? These ques­ tions need to be cleared away before any headway can be made in resolving the puzzle in this severe injunction of Paul. The root meaning of the word σαρξ (flesh) refers to the muscular parts of animals and humans, and by extension the physical, sensing aspect of animate life. 41 Paul uses the word in that sense, 42 but uses it also in a metaphorical way to characterize human life apart from the saving action of the Spirit of God, as in Gal. 5.16-17:

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh (σαρξ) For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want

So it is possible that 'flesh' in 1 Cor. 5.5 carries a metaphorical nuance similar to that found in Galatians 5. The NIV translates it thus: 'Hand this man over to Satan so that the sinful nature [σαρξ] may be destroyed' (italics mine). The 'sinful nature' in view in this translation is that of the immoral man, since the purpose of the destruction in the NIV is to save 'his ' spirit in the day of the Lord. If Paul has the metaphorical meaning in view he may not be thinking solely of the immoral man's flesh, but of the fleshly attitude of the community 4 ^ that allowed such a man access to the communion of saints (1.2). The metaphorical flesh of the group may need to be destroyed by 'handing over' the one immoral individual.

40 On the 'apostolic presence' of Paul via the text of his letter, see G A Cole,

With my Spirit', ExpTim 98 (1986-87), ρ 205, and Robert Funk, Th e

Apostolic Parousia Form and Significance', in W R Farmer, C F D Moule and R R Niebuhr (eds ), Christian Histon and Interpretation Studies Presented to John Knox (Cambridge Cambridge University Press, 1967), pp 249-68

41 See Johannes Ρ Louw and Eugene A Nida (eds ), Greek-English Lexicon

of the New, Testament Based on Semantic Domains, I (New York United Bible Societies, 2nd edn, 1989), ρ 102 (§8 63)


Cor 5 4


Eg , 1 Cor 15 39, cf Rom 4 1

4 3



Co r



SHILLINGTON Atonement Texture in 1 Corinthians 5.5


Yet there is no apparent reason for taking the metaphorical meaning of σαρξ in isolation from the primary sense. The man's physical being,

associated as it is with immorality, is destroying the spiritual life of the community. His ritual removal from the community is not only metaphorical but also physical. His destruction at the hands of Satan is probably likewise not merely metaphorical but also physical. In Paul's view he will die physically, however abhorrent the idea may be to modern sensibilities. Ernst Käsemann avers this vision of Paul

unabashedly: 'delivery of the guilty over to Satan

the death of the guilty' , 44 And Käsemann is not alone in this judgement. Conzelmann says, 'the destruction of the flesh can hardly mean any-

thing else but death'. 45 J. Schneider states the case even more

dently: 'Paul obviously believes that the curse will be followed by the (sudden) death of the person thus condemned'. 46 In another way Collins affirms the same, except that the death of the man comes in the imma- nent eschatological crisis: Ί Cor. 5.5 seems to imply that the incestu­ ous man, under the power of Satan and living "according to the flesh," would be physically destroyed in that crisis and eternally damned'. 47 Exactly how the death would occur Paul does not state, except that the Destroyer, Satan, would execute it. Elsewhere, in 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul deals with abuses at the Lord's Supper, he reports the sick­ ness and death of some members who eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord 'in an unworthy manner' (1 Cor. 11.27-32). But the deaths reported in that text are not the same as the death by the Destroyer implied in 5.5. In ch. 11 neither Paul nor the church passes any death sentence, whereas in 5.5 Paul does. The people whom Paul censures in ch. 11 are instructed to change their ways. The immoral man in ch. 5, by contrast, is not so instructed. Rather, the congregation in ch. 5 is called upon to carry out a sacral act of 'handing over' the immoral man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. The act is deliberate and empowered by the Lord Jesus: 'When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh., .'(έν τω ονόματι του




44. Ernst Käsemann, 'Sentences of Holy Law in the New Testament', in New

Testament Questions of Today (London: SCM Press, 1969), p. 71.

45. Conzelmann, / Corinthians, p. 97

46. J. Schneider, 'όλεθρος', TDNT, V, pp. 168-69. So also Lietzmann, Hand­

buch zum Neuen Testament, p. 23.

47. Collins, 'Function', p. 259.

40 Journal for the Study of the New Testament71


κυρίου [ημών] Ιησού συναχθέντων υμών και του εμού πνεύματος συν τη δυνάμει τού κυρίου ημών Ιησού παραδούναι τον τοιούτον τω Σατανά εις ολεθρον της σαρκός) (5.4-5a). Taking this analysis of the texture of 1 Cor. 5.5 by itself (without a detailed discussion of its context at this point), its form carries the same sense as the ritual handing over of the scapegoat to Azazel (viz. Satan) for the destruction of its flesh on the Day of Atonement. The purpose of removing the sacrificial animal from the sacred precincts of the elect community was to rid Israel of its sins and make the people right with God. This atonement text from Leviticus 16, reconstituted in 1 Cor. 5.5 as a dynamistic ceremony 'in the power of the Lord Jesus' (5.4), has more to commend it than other proposals to date. While the proposed comparisons in Greek magical papyri shed light on the practice of casting a member from a group into an alien realm, 48 they do not at the same time speak directly to the background texts that informed Paul's statement about purging the community of its sin. Nor do the expulsion texts of Qumran qualify in the same way, 49 even though Paul may have been acquainted with the community from which those texts came. Paul's first-hand knowledge of his Scriptures (LXX), clearly evidenced throughout his letters, points to their primacy and authoritative status in his correction of communal faith and life. Texts from his Scriptures spring spontaneously to new expression in situations such as the one cited in 1 Corinthians 5. Moreover, the most likely texture to inform the dynamistic texture of 1 Cor. 5.5 is that of the atonement of Leviticus 16, where the scapegoat victim is handed over to Azazel for the destruction of its flesh so that the community of Israel would be cleansed of its sins and thus sanctified for the Lord.

However difficult it is to grasp the strands of tradition that shape Paul's writing of 1 Cor. 5.5, as Käsemann states, 'there exists for Paul in very real terms a law which has to be observed within the commu- nity, although it has almost nothing to do with the forms of law which we assume and administer'. 50 When the dynamistic 'sentence of holy law' 51 in 1 Cor. 5.5 is viewed in the context of Paul's supporting argument of ch. 5, the volume of the allusion to Leviticus 16 becomes even louder. At 5.1 Paul opens a new

48. See n. 15 above.

49. See nn. 16 and 17 above.

50. Käsemann, 'Sentences', p. 72.

51. Käsemann, 'Sentences', p. 72.

SHILLINGTON Atonement Texture in 1 Corinthians 5.5


unit with reference to an oral report (possibly from 'Chloe's people', 1.11) 52 that sexual immorality (πορνεία) has entered the community (5.1). The specific case, according to the holiness code of Lev. 18.8, is incest: Ά man is living with his father's wife', presumably the offender's stepmother (5.1). 53 The relationship appears to be at least ongoing, if not permanent as in marriage. And the community (at least some members) flaunts the case, as though sexual sin could not touch

their life in the Spirit of Christ. Paul's focus throughout is the corporate life of the community, as evidenced in the consistent use of the com­ munal plural, 'you' (ύμεΐς). 54 'You [pi.] are arrogant! Should you [pi.]

not rather have mourned [έπενθήσατε]

the people, in the form of humble self-denial, was binding for the atonement ritual in Israel: 'Anyone who does not practice self-denial during that entire day shall be cut off from the people' (Lev. 23.29). 55

Paul's word for the act of mourning (πενθείν) connotes a humble self- denial similar to that enjoined in Leviticus 23 for the Day of Atone­ ment. The problem at Corinth lies with the attitude of the community. They permit the sexual sin of incest in the fellowship of Christ, and are proud of their stand. As long as the sin remains unatoned in the com­ munity the people cannot celebrate their new life in the Spirit of Christ the paschal lamb (5.7). The sin of the one contaminates the many, in Paul's vision, just as one bit of leaven affects the whole lump of dough (5.6). 56 The sin is

?' (5.2). Mourning the sins of

52. The oral reporters may not have come from Corinthians but from outsiders

unfavourable towards them. The Corinthians would not have written Paul about the matter; so John Hurd, The Origin of I Corinthians (London: SPCK, 1965), pp. 77-78.

53. Roman law also ruled against a man marrying his father's widow or

divorced wife; see references in Charles H. Talbert, Reading Corinthians: A Liter­ ary and Theological Commentary on I and 2 Corinthians (New York: Crossroad, 1989), pp. 13-14.

54. Concerning the corporate focus in 1 Cor. 5, see Brian Rosner, 'ouchi mallon

epenthesate: Corporate Responsibility in 1 Cor 5', NTS 38 (1992), pp. 470-73.

55 . At Lev . 23.29 , th e KJV read s 'afflicted ' (ΠίΓΓΓΚ 1 ?; LXX ταπεινωθήσεται ) rather than 'self-denial' (NRSV). See further on the holy Sabbath of the Day of Atonement in Gray, Sacrifice, pp. 306-308.

56. According to Leslie Mitton, leaven refers to an infection-laden lump of

dough mixed with yeast, which was cleansed out of the house ritually once a year (the festival of Unleavened Bread, Exod. 12.15) before the joyous celebration of the Passover ('New Wine in Old Wineskins: IV, Leaven', ExpTim 84 [1972-73], pp. 339-43).

42 Journal for the Study of the New Testament 71 (1998)

such 'that is not found even among pagans' (5.1b). 57 Hence the note of alarm in the rhetoric at the opening of the appeal. If Paul has the prohi­ bitions of Leviticus 18-23 in mind in citing the incest at Corinth, as he almost certainly does, then it is equally plausible that he has the rid­ dance ritual of the Day of Atonement also in mind (Lev. 16.6-10, 20- 22; cf. 23.1-44; Num. 28-29). The 'handing over' of the one will save the many.^ 8 To be sure, the ceremony in the new setting at Corinth is different from the ceremony in Israel past. The earlier text that lingers in Paul's mind explodes within the new setting of the Christ-commu­ nity. S9 No longer does Paul have a sacred goat to bear away the sins of the elect community to the wilderness; there is no actual wilderness near Corinth, just as there is no tent of meeting, much less Jerusalem temple, from which to lead a physical goat. The new shrine of God is the living community of Christ at Corinth (3.16-17), and the sin-bear­ ing victim in this instance is the incestuous man. Conversely, the victim-lamb of redemption in Passover texts has become Christ: 'our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed' (5.7b). So it is that two allu­ sions converge from the texts of Torah to form a new texture in 1 Corinthians 5, one from the texts of Atonement for the sins of the community, and one from the texts about God's salvation of the people. In both cases Paul explodes (or exploits) the earlier texts to speak a word on target into the new situation at Corinth. The sacral language that immediately leads up to the dynamistic sentence of v. 5 is unmistakable. Paul brings his apostolic presence (viz. authority) to bear on the situation 'in the name of the Lord Jesus' and 'with the power of the Lord Jesus', even though Paul himself is elsewhere at the time (5.4). The letter (1 Corinthians) acts as his pres­ ence. 60 Then comes the 'handing over' text itself at v. 5, followed by the allusion to the Passover texts. The order of the two allusions in ch. 5 may carry some significance: first the allusion to the prohibition/ atonement texts of the holiness code and second the reference to the

57 Talbert, Reading, pp 13-14

58 The idea of the one for the many (cf Jn 11 50, Mk 10 45) involves more

than mere substitution in the case of 1 Cor 5 The ritual of 'handing over' the one immoral man transfers the contamination of the many to the one Cf S H Hooke,

'The Theory and Practice of Substitution', VT2 (1952), pp


59 Walter Breuggemann, 'Texts that Linger, Words that Explode', TTod 54, 2

(1997), ρ 180

60 See Funk, 'The Apostolic Parousm, pp 264-65, Cole, Ί Cor 5 4\ ρ 205

SHILLINGTON Atonement Texture in 1 Corinthians 5.5


festival of Passover. The purification rituals recorded in Leviticus 11- 19 precede the appointed festivals of Israel recorded in Leviticus 22- 25. That is, the removal of sin from the community is a precursor to the festal celebration of salvation. So here in 1 Corinthians 5: clean out the old immorality embodied in the incestuous man, then celebrate your new life in Christ, the sacrificial, paschal lamb (5.7-8). To return to the imagery of the holy shrine of God briefly, the proba­ bility of an allusion to the atonement text of Leviticus 16 in 1 Cor. 5.5 is further bolstered by the earlier reference to the Corinthian community as 'God's temple' at 3.16-17. In the biblical text/tradition the Day of Atonement was centred largely in the tent of meeting, and then later transferred into the Jerusalem temple. But at 1 Cor. 3.16-17 Paul trans­ fers the sacred precincts of the temple from its physical setting in Jerusalem to the metaphysical 'precincts' of the community at Corinth. The Spirit-endowed community of Christ takes upon itself the service that once was centred in the physical shrine. 'Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?' (3.16). In the same text Paul warns that no one will be permitted to destroy God's holy temple, the community of the Spirit of Christ. 'If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple' (3.17). The question is whether Paul is still thinking in 'temple' categories when he reaches ch. 5. If he is, then the case for a retextured presence of the atonement ritual of Leviticus 16 in 1 Cor. 5.5 becomes even more likely. 61 Brian Rosner has made a strong case for viewing Paul's ideology of the temple in 3.16-17 as the most likely background to inform his cen­

sure and directive in ch. 5. 62 Rosner points especially to the

traditionally associated with the temple precincts, which Paul then adapts to the new community of the Spirit of Christ at Corinth in 3.Ιο­ ί 7. At ch. 5 Paul identifies an unholy member present in the commu­ nity, God's holy temple, censures the community for admitting the immoral man to fellowship, and calls for the ceremonial removal of the


unholy member. Rosner, however, does not pick up the presence of the atonement texture of Leviticus 16 in 1 Corinthians 5, even though he

61. Ernst Käsemann classifies the language of 1 Cor. 3.17 and that of 5.5 both

as 'sentences of holy law'. The judgement and/or punishment is meted out in view of the impending judgement of God in the Day of the Lord ('Sentences of Holy Law in the New Testament', in New Testament Questions, pp. 66-81).

62. Rosner, 'Temple and Holiness', pp. 137-45.

44 Journal for the Study of the New Testament 1\ (1998)

recognizes an allusion to the prohibition text of Lev. 18.8. If Paul's censure and directive in ch. 5 really is informed by the temple ideology of ch. 3, as Rosner argues so well, then Paul almost certainly has in mind the means by which the temple service of atonement rids Israel of its sins. The same riddance ritual of the Day of Atonement, centred in the temple, Paul applies to the service of the new temple of God at Corinth. They are to remove the sin-bearing sacrifice from the temple (community) and hand it over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, just as the priest led the sin-bearing sacrifice from the tent of meeting (and later from the temple of Jerusalem) and handed it over to Azazel. The signal problem for Paul is that the incestuous man is a full partic­ ipant in the sacramental fellowship of Christ. The man probably entered the community by baptism, and doubtless sat at the Lord's table.^ From where the apostle Paul sits, the sacred service of the holy sanctu­ ary of God's people is no place for an incestuous man. His presence profanes the sanctuary. No such person 'will inherit the kingdom of God' (6.10), as Paul maintains in the context that follows in ch. 6. Those incorporated into the holy temple of God in the Spirit of Christ left behind immorality, such as is the case in ch. 5: 'And this is what

some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God' (6.11). Conversely, as Collins points out, 'if they have defiled the Spirit by, for example, sexual sins, the Spirit will be lost to the

community and they will be excluded from the kingdom

When the temple-community is profaned by accepting an immoral member, it jeopardizes its future salvation in the day of the Lord. But the Christ-community has recourse, even as the Israelite community had with their Day of Atonement: the new temple-community can con­ tain the sin in the one immoral man, remove him from their fellowship, and hand him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.

of God'. 64

63 On the sacramental significance of participation in the early Christian rituals

of baptism and the Lord's supper, see C F D Moule, Worship in the New Testa­

ment, (London Lutterworth Press, 1961), pp 18-60, also Ernst Kasemann, Th e Pauline Doctrine of the Lord's Supper', in Essays on New Testament Themes (London SCM Press, 1965), pp 108-35

64 Collins, 'Function', ρ 260

SHILLINGTON Atonement Texture in 1 Corinthians 5.5


The Texts and Texture in Tradition

The modern idea of 'scapegoat' should not drive the argument one way or another in reading Paul's text. Paul's allusion within his 'handing- over' text springs from his keen awareness of his Scripture. Moreover, 'the scapegoat ritual of Leviticus 16 should be our starting point in any discussion of the scapegoat phenomenon', as Baruch Levine pointed

out in his critique of René Girard's proposal of Job as scapegoat. 65 The community of Israel faced the problem of defilement in the land of promise, surrounded as it was by 'pagan' deities and practices. The defilement entered places, institutions, persons and articles. The story in Joshua 7 about Achan's withholding devoted objects from 'pagan' Jericho exemplifies the ancient belief about how a community becomes defiled. Once defiled by 'pagan' sins, the community has to find recourse to save itself and gain the Lord's favour. In the case of Achan, Joshua, with Israel, destroyed him to save the community (Josh. 7.25- 26). Recognizing the contagious character of sin 'the religious commu- nity acts to contain the impurity by extracting it from places, objects

and persons contaminated by it'. 66 The 'extracting' is done by


ceremony. Most prominent among the ceremonies in the priestly tradi- tion of the Jewish Scriptures for containing and removing sin from the community was the ritual of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement.

The ritual recorded in Leviticus 16, retained in two traditions, is quite straightforward. Two goats were brought into the sanctuary, one for the Lord and one for Azazel (Lev. 16.5-8). Goats were desert dwelling animals, already impure even before they entered the sacred precincts. Once inside the courts, the contamination of the community 'is trans-

who is promptly removed from the settlement, and

ferred to

whose return is prevented'. 67 One tradition at Lev. 16.10 reads, 'The goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel'. And the other tradition at vv. 21-22 reads,

Then Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and

. a goat

65. Baruch Levine, 'René Girard on Job: The Question of the Scapegoat',

Semeia 33 (1985), pp. 125-33 (127).

66. Levine, 'Scapegoat', p. 127.

67. Levine, 'Scapegoat', pp. 127-28.






of the New




sending it away into the wilderness by means of someone designated for the task The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region, and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness (16 21-22)

The removal of the goat to Azazel in the wilderness strongly suggests that its return is not expected. (Later traditions hold that the goat was destroyed in the desert.) How would this atonement text have informed Paul's injunction in 1 Cor. 5.5? Paul's concern, I have argued, was with saving the commu­ nity for the Lord. In the atonement text of Leviticus 16, the goat, laden with the iniquities of the community, 'spared the group'. 68 Granted, the new sacrificial victim of atonement at Corinth is no longer a goat. But then neither is the new sacrificial victim of Passover a lamb (1 Cor. 5.7). In the new community of Christ sacrificial animals no longer play a role in redemption. But sin is present in the new community none­ theless and must be removed, and that ceremonially by 'handing over' the sin-bearing man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Who or what is this Azazel in Leviticus 16? The identity of this wilderness figure, while somewhat elusive, is acutely pertinent for the proposed texture of 1 Cor. 5.5. Two points on Azazel emerge from Leviticus 16 with a degree of certainty. First, Azazel is unambiguously associated with the wilderness, and as such is at least a 'wild' and dan­ gerous character, unlike the Lord. 69 The ancients feared the wilderness, not only because of the wild beasts that lived there, but also because of the belief that the wilderness was the domain of demons of various sorts. Second, Azazel stands in some kind of opposition to 'the Lord'. The two goats are first presented to the Lord. One goat is then dedi­ cated to the Lord and killed in sacrifice within the sacred precincts. The second goat is led out of the sanctuary and delivered to Azazel in the wilderness. The figure of Azazel in Leviticus thus may be viewed as a mythical embodiment of contaminants, in opposition to the Lord and the elect community. In this respect the figure of Azazel is not unlike the figure called Satan in 1 Cor. 5.5, as elsewhere in the Bible. The Gospels, for example, depict the desert-dwelling Satan as the opponent of Jesus (Mt. 4.1-11 par.). Azazel crops up as well in various Jewish traditions down to Paul,

68 Levine,'Scapegoat', ρ 128

69 Gray attaches minimal significance to Azazel except that 'Azazel in no

sense in the law, still less in Yoma, stands on any equality with Yahweh' {Sacrifice, ρ 316)

SHILLINGTON Atonement Texture in 1 Corinthians 5.5


with each strand confirming further Azazel's character as the mythic embodiment of evil in opposition to God. Lester Grabbe's illuminating article on The Scapegoat Tradition' 70 has brought to light ways in which Azazel became configured in numerous texts of the Jewish tra- dition. Each community in its turn seemed to have 'reshaped and reused' 71 the Priestly tradition in Leviticus 16 in terms of their own sit- uation in life. In every text where this wilderness figure appears the image is antagonistic to God, in the same way that the name Satan is in other texts. Grabbe's investigation of the relevant literature in Judaism reveals a fusion of Azazel of the scapegoat tradition with the fallen angel who stands in opposition to God. The textual evidence down to and includ- ing the period of Paul makes one important point: that Paul would have been acquainted with scapegoat traditions in Judaism in which the figure of Azazel had become virtually synonymous with the name Satan. In 1 En. 6-11 the name Asael appears and, while the spelling is not exactly the same as Azazel, the image of the figure clearly resembles Azazel of the atonement ritual in Leviticus 16. Both are wilderness figures associated with sin and sin-bearing capacity. The final judge- ment of Asael of 1 Enoch will bring healing to the land. In the Qumran Book of Giants (4QEn Giants a ) the name Azazel, with the same spelling as that of Leviticus 16, is listed as head of the fallen angels. Other evidence from Cave 4 at Qumran confirms (1) that Azazel had become identified with the archenemy of God, and (2) that the writers had the wilderness figure of Leviticus 16 in mind. 72 In short, the description of

70. Lester Grabbe, The Scapegoat Tradition: A Study in Early Jewish Tradi-

tion: A Study in Early Jewish Interpretation', JSJ 18/2 (1987), pp. 152-67.

71. Grabbe, 'Scapegoat Tradition', p. 152.

72. Cf. the Apocalypse of Abraham, which probably post-dates Paul by a

number of years. Its tradition about Azazel, which may go back to the first half of the first century, confirms the notion in the earlier literature of Azazel as an evil, seducing, fallen angel. One passage reads, 'And it came to pass when I saw the bird speaking I said this to the angel: "What is this, my lord?" And he said, "This is dis- grace, this is Azazel!" And he said to him, "Shame on you, Azazel! For Abraham's portion is in heaven, and yours is on earth, for you have selected her, (and) become enamoured of the dwelling place of your blemish. Therefore the Eternal Ruler, the Mighty One, has given you a dwelling on earth. Through you the all-evil spirit (is) a liar, and through you (are) wrath and trials on the generations of men who live impiously. For the Eternal, Mighty One did not allow the bodies of therighteousto be in your hand, so through them the righteous life is affirmed and the destruction

48 Journal for the Study of the New Testament 1\ (1998)

Azazel is 'similar to that given to the demonic leader(s) under the names of Satan, Beliar, etc., in other texts'. 7 ^ Azazel is associated with earth rather than heaven, impiety rather than righteousness, destruction rather than life. In these respects, moreover, the figure and function of Azazel in the prevailing Jewish tradition down to Paul's time cor­ responds remarkably with the flesh (cf. earth), impiety and destruction associated with Satan in Paul's injunction in 1 Cor. 5.5. Uncritical use of the Mishnah to prove a point about Paul is suspect, since 'the Mishnah represents the thinking of Jewish sages who flourished in the middle of the second century'. 74 At the same time, the temple traditions recorded in the Mishnah came down to those sages from the previous century in which Paul lived, when the temple rituals were still functioning. 7S On this ground one may reasonably cite the central elements of the scapegoat ritual from the Mishnah to confirm the re-texturing of Leviticus 16 in 1 Cor. 5.5. The Mishnah tractate Yoma is devoted entirely to the annual ritual of atonement conducted in the Temple of Jerusalem prior its destruction in 70 CE. The part about the scapegoat is particularly relevant to the pre­ sent discussion. There were two goats (3.9); two lots were cast in a box marked Tor the Lord' and Tor Azazel' (4.1); the High Priest 'tied a crimson thread on the head of the goat which was to be sent forth' (4.2); he lays his two hands on the goat to be sent forth and makes confession of 'the iniquities, transgressions, and sins' of himself and the 'holy people' (4.2, 6.2); he handed over the scapegoat to the one who was to lead it out (6.3); the appointed person led the goat to a distant ravine (6.4); he divided the crimson thread, half tied to a rock

of ungodliness" '(136-11)

(translation from OTP, I)

73 Grabbe, 'Scapegoat Tradition', ρ 157 Beliar appears in the disputed

Pauline text of 2 Cor 6 14-7 1 in direct opposition to Christ The origin of this

fragment some scholars locate in Qumran, so Joseph A Fitzmyer, 'Qumran and the Interpolated Paragraph in 2 Cor 6 14-7 Γ, in Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament (London Geoffrey Chapman, 1971), pp 205-17 Cf G Β Caird, 'Satan', in L D Hurst (ed ), New Testament Theology (Oxford Clarendon Press, 1994), pp 107-11

74 Jacob Neusner, 'Introduction', in The Mishnah A New Translation (New

Haven Yale University Press, 1988), ρ xvi

75 Neusner does go on to say that the group of second-century sages would

have taken over 'whatever they had in hand from the preceding century—and from

a whole legacy of Israelite literature even before that time—and revised and reshaped the whole in the Mishnah' (Neusner 'Introduction', ρ xvi)

SHILLINGTON Atonement Texture in 1 Corinthians 5.5


and half to the horns of the goat, and pushed the goat over the ravine whence it 'broke into pieces' (6.6); the people reported to the high priest that the goat had reached the wilderness (6.8). At that point the sins of the people were successfully removed from the sanctified com­ munity. This text, whether from the second century or the first, carries forward the same purpose and the same basic ritual found in Leviticus 16. There can be little doubt that Paul was well acquainted with the essential purpose of the scapegoat ritual. Of course, that in itself does not establish the case for Paul's retexturing of Leviticus 16 in the text of 1 Cor. 5.5. But it does help confirm the strong likelihood of this ritual background to Paul's severe injunction over any other. 76 To summarize, Leviticus 16 is the primary text informing Paul's ritual text of 1 Cor. 5.5, as it was for the ritual instructions of the Jeru­ salem priests, reflected in the Mishnah. Paul's allusion in his sacral language would also carry overtones of the scapegoat tradition wide­ spread in Judaism of Paul's time, with which he would have been completely familiar. His use of Satan rather than Azazel is understand­ able. He has reconstituted the old tradition into the texture of his text, and thence into the new community at Corinth. And in any case the names Azazel and Satan (as also Beliar) as opponents of God appear to have been interchangeable at the time of Paul. Above all, though, the central purpose of the scapegoat ritual of Leviticus 16, to rid the com­ munity of its evil contamination, would come to expression sponta­ neously in Paul's retexturing, given the situation of communal sin described in 1 Corinthians 5. The textual 'tapestry' 77 that emerges is as follows. The particular case of immorality at Corinth, namely incest, triggers the prohibition text of Lev. 18.8 (cf. 20.11; Deut. 23.1; 27.20). On this point most scholars agree. 78 The phrase 'living with his father's wife' (γυναικά

76. A post-70 tradition of R. Ishmael confirms further that the scapegoat ritual

was singularly the one for the cleansing of the community: 'There was a crimson thread tied to the door of the sanctuary. When the goat had reached the wilderness, the thread would turn white, as it says, Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow' (Yom. 6.8). In other later rabbinic traditions the scapegoat is destroyed by a supernatural power, and in still others Azazel is again associated with the story of the fallen angels. For references, see Grabbe, 'Scapegoat Tradi­ tion', pp. 159-60.

77. From the title of Vernon K. Robbins's book, The Tapestry of Early

Christian Discourse (see n. 19 above).

78. So Conzelmann, I Corinthians, p. 96 n. 25; Talbert, Reading Corinthians,

50 Journal for the Study of the New Testament 71 (1998)

τίνα του πατρός εχειν) in 1 Cor. 5.1b has its dosest parallel in Lev. 18.8 (LXX) where the practice of co-habiting with a step mother is prohibited. 79 It should not be surprising, therefore, to find Paul in the same context thinking of the ritual means of ridding the community of the sin, and invoking allusively the appropriate text of Leviticus 16 at the injunction to remove the immoral man from the community, the holy temple of God. Lev. 18.8 which prohibits incest is textured in 1 Cor. 5.1 which identifies the sin of incest in the community; Lev. 16.6-10, 20-22 which provides the ceremonial means for removing the sin from the sanctuary of Israel is textured in 1 Cor. 5.5 which enjoins a 'handing over' cere­ mony for the cleansing of the new temple (community) of its sin (cf. 1 Cor. 3.16-17). These serve one important function for Paul: they ground his judgement about the eradication of sexual immorality from the new spiritual life of the community of Christ. At the same time the earlier texts are retextured; they are not slavishly enjoined in their earlier form. Instead, the earlier texts reverberate and resonate in and through Paul's text as a word on target for that time, that place and that situation. Present-day interpreters and religious instructors might do well to take their cue from Paul's retexturing mode, and do likewise with the new texture (now old) of his text.


The stern judgment language of 1 Cor 5 5 is fraught with problems How is one supposed to read Paul's dynamistic sentence of ultimate exclusion of the immoral individual from the community of faith 9 What factors in Paul's socio-rehgious make-up were likely to shape the texture of his injunction 7 Of all the proposals to date, none seems to fit the texture and context of 1 Corinthians 5 better than the atonement ritual text of Leviticus 16 The sense of this atonement text, triggered in Paul's mind by the immoral condition in the holy community, 4 the temple of God', becomes retextured in the compressed form of 1 Cor 5 5 In the new texture the one man bears away in his flesh the sin of the many in community, as the scapegoat did in Israel, so that the Spirit-in-community will be preserved/saved in the Day of the Lord

ρ 12, Héring, First Epistle, ρ 34, Orr and Walther, 1 Corinthians, ρ 185, Chow,

Power, ρ

79 Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, ρ 96, Robertson and Plummer, First Epistle,

ρ 96, Chow, Poner, ρ

130 η





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