Interpretation Assignment Question

Chapter 8 Question

 

Instructions: In this assignment, you will be going back to your work in Chapter 6 to apply the principles of interpretation to some of the observations and questions you had about 1 Corinthians 15:1–11. Your assignment is to think of 1 or more questions for each category: who, what, when, where. Next, study through the steps of content, context, comparison, and consultation to come to conclusions regarding 1 Corinthians 15:1–11. Lastly, you will seek to answer the final question: why? You must approach the question of “why” somewhat differently than the questions of “who,” “what,” “when,” and “where.” When you ask “why,” you must make conclusions about the meaning of the passage based on your study up to that point. Answer the following questions about 1 Corinthians 15:1–11 based on your findings and additional research.

 

  1. Who? (The Characters)

 

Description: Find out all you can about the author and the recipients, including their identities and situations. If specific people or groups are mentioned, now is the time to learn more about them. There are 3 main characters in this passage that you will need to identify. You are not composing a detailed biography of their lives. You simply want to note what 1 Corinthians 15:1–11 says about each of them and how that aligns with other Scripture passages.

 

Question 1: Who is speaking?

 

Initial proposal based on content: Paul is speaking to factions within the Corinthian church concerning the resurrection of Jesus.

 

Context: In 1 Cor 1:1 the author identifies himself as Paul.”Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus”.In 2:2 Paul mentions that he started the Corinthian church.

 

Comparison: 2 Corinthians speaks of previous letters Paul wrote to the churches. Paul defends his apostleship in this passage as he was a “late” to the work of Christ. Paul was converted on the road to Damascas as recorded in Acts 9. Paul took three missionary journeys as recorded in Acts, and helped start many churches, which he later wrote to. In each of his letters, he identifies himself. Paul’s introduction in I Corinthians 1:1 is very similar to his introduction in his other letters. For comparison: Romans 1:1 : “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle”. Paul’s defense of his apostleship found in verses 15:9-11 is similar to defenses he made of his calling in other letters (2 Corinthians 11).

 

Consultation: Thirteen letters in the New Testament have Paul’s name on them, and this is one of them [1] Church tradition testifies that Paul is the author of this letter. His letter is attributed to Paul and was written during his third missionary hourney, in response to questions from the Corinthian church[2]Paul calls himself an apostle I this passage. This has a connotation that he is an eyewitness to Christ. The word apostlolos means “sent one”. In the New Testament, it had three different uses 1) the original 12 who Jesus chose, trained and tasked with carrying his message 2) a person authorized by a particular congregation to carry something to another congregation 3) those whom Jesus Christ has sent.[3] Paul uses the word apostle 10 times in this letter, more than in any other of his letters[4]. This makes sene as much of the text of 1 Corinthians deals with the problems of factions and false teachers. Paul is delineating between those who were “sent” and idle talkers.

 

Conclusion: The apostle Paul wrote this letter. He was an apostle of Jesus Christ and an eyewitness to the resurrection.

 

Question 2: To whom is Paul speaking?

 

Initial proposal based on content: Paul is speaking to factions within the church at Corinth.

 

Context:1 Corinthian 2:2 adresses this letter to the church in Corinth. 1 Cor 1:10-17 makes it clear that there are factions within this church. It is even hinted at in 1:2, where Paul reminds them that they are “called to be saints together with those in every place who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus”. I Corinthians 1 goes one to proclaim Christ as the wisdom and power of God, in the face of worldy wisdom or supernatural signs

 

Comparison: In 1:10-17, Paul identifies the fact tht there are factions existing in the Corinthin church.1 Cor 15:12 indicates that there are some in the Corinthian church who maintain that there is no resurrection of the dead. Could these be converted Saducees from among the Jewish believers? Acts 18 outlines a more extensive ministry among the Jews than Paul seemed to have in other Gentile cities. He could have also been addressing Greek Gnostics. The mention of “the wisdom of the Greeks” in chapter one would lend itself to the idea that perhaps infamous Greek debate was also an issue in Corinth. Paul debated with Greeks regarding the Resurrection at the areopagus in Athens in Acts 17.

 

Consultation: John Calvin asserts that this is Paul and he is perhaps addressing a faction of Saducees withing the Corinthian church[5].  Both groups struggled with the idea that Jesus would have actually and physiacally raised from the dead. Both factions could have logically been present in the diverse church at Corinth. The Holman commentary makes it clear that this letter was addressed to the church in Corinth, and that it dealt with factions withing the church that taught against the resurrection.

 

Conclusion: Paul was speaking to the church at Corinth, and dealing with factions within the church

 

Question3: Who is Paul speaking about?

 

Initial proposal based on content: Paul is sharing his testimony regarding the historical person of Jesus and the historical fact of His resurrection.

 

Context: In chapter 15, Paul reminds the Corinthian church of the gospel he first preached to them, the message they first received. Critical to this gospel are the facts that 1) Christ died for our sins 2) he was buried 3) he was raised from the dead. This was done in accordance to scriptures and there were many eyewitnesses

 

Comparison: Jesus died in accordance with scripture (Psalm 22) He was raised in accordance with scripture (Jonah) Death would be swallowed up forever (Isaiah 25). There were witnesses to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew 27-28, Mark 15-16, Luke 23-24, John 19-21, Acts 9)

 

Consultation: The word for Christ used here is Christos, which means anointed one[6]. This is important, because it is this anointed one which the old testament testifies of, the One who would inherit the throne of David, his greater Son who would reign forever (Psalm 89:3-4, 29-36; Psalm 132:11-17, Matthew 1:1). The death, burial and Resurrection of David’s greater Son are prophesied in Psalm 22, Psalm 16, Psalm 31, Psalm 69, Psalm 40, Psalm 41, Psalm, 35, Psalm 68, Psalm 80, Zechariah 9:9-10, Zechariah 14:2-4. Isaiah 11 confirms the Messiah’s stutus a the anointed one of God.

 

Conclusion: Jesus is the anointed son of God was died for sins, was buried and rose again in accordance with scriptures and witnessed by many

 

  1. What? (The Key Truths or Events)

 

Description: This is the time to investigate important words and ideas in the passage. What is the tone of the passage—joy, sorrow, disappointment, delight? If it is an action passage, what do the main actions represent? What are the key truths, events, or relationships mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:1–11? Explore these first as they appear in this passage and then throughout Scripture. Identify at least 3 “what” questions.

 

 

 

 

Question 1: What is the key Truth Paul is presenting to the Corinthians?

 

Initial proposal based on content: The key Truth of this particular passage is the gospel of Jesus Christ; that He died and rose again, all as fulfillments of OT prophesies, the sins of mankind, and the glory of God.

 

Context: Paul mentions the word “gospel” only twice in this passage but tells in the very first verse that his intent is to remind the Corinthian church of what they already should know about it. Though Paul is always preaching the gospel, the preceding chapter focuses more on practice than theology, as well has the following chapter, 1 Corinthians 16. Based on this, it is clear that the gospel is the most important truth in this passage, as Paul felt it necessary to include in-between two discussions on practice.

 

Comparison: Paul referenced his letter to the Romans when he mentions “the gospel” in the first verse. In Romans 2:16, Paul outlines his message clearly, “and this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.” This gives a different perspective to the “message” than originally thought through the immediate context. Here, a layer of judgement is applied to the original “gospel” presented in 1 Corinthians 15. However, in Romans 1, Paul outlines further what this “Good News” really is by stating that “this Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith” (Rom. 1:17). Additionally, in Luke 24:27, Jesus Himself outlines to His followers exactly where in Scripture He is fulfilling prophesy after prophesy. This contributes to the idea that the gospel encompasses more than simply Jesus’ death and resurrection.

 

Consultation: The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary discusses two historical uses of the word euangelion. One is of pagan background and one is of Jewish background. The dictionary also notes that “The noun euangelion originally signified announcement of victory after battle and later the content of that message. The term also came to describe the birth or the rise to power of a new king.”[7] Additionally, in 1 Corinthians 15, “Paul defines the content of that gospel as the message he received from Jesus Christ. The two central features are that Jesus the Messiah died on the cross and rose from the dead according to the Scriptures.”[8] To Paul, the gospel is who Jesus is and what His actions meant for the entirety of time and humanity. Paul also places his understanding of the message “according to the Scriptures” that Jesus showed him from Luke’s account. Holman states, “Paul’s scriptural basis for his gospel comes from a few selected texts in the OT but also springs from his belief that the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah are that to which all Scripture points.”[9] Paul finds the gospel and all of Scripture to come to a culmination in Jesus Christ.

 

Conclusion: The key Truth of this passage, and all Biblical passages (according to Paul) is the gospel which is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This was all done by fulfillment of prophecy and many believe it as true. There is also a divine judgement within this idea of “gospel” that Paul believes is coming soon for mankind.

 

Question 2: What is Paul’s tone as he conveys his message?

 

Initial proposal based on content: Paul reflects an informative tone in this passage.

 

Context: From the immediate context, Paul does not appear to be upset, sad, or even joyful. Instead, it can be read that he is simply reminding and informing the Corinthians of the original Good News that made them believe in the first place. However, in both of the former and latter passages, Paul’s tone seems to be one of instruction, outlining for the church goers what is expected of their corporate time together.

 

Comparison: When comparing the tone of this passage to other Pauline writings, it is clear that Paul is significantly less exuberant here than in the Book of Romans, for example. Here, likely because the Corinthians already know the gospel, Paul appears less eager and excited, though it is clearly noticeable that the gospel is of utmost importance to him.

 

Consultation: The Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary claims that Paul’s tone in 1 Corinthians 15 is one of truth-telling and humility, pointing out the low view that Paul had towards himself in light of Jesus’ grace.[10] Meanwhile, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary does more to point out his declarative assertions about the gospel and the evidences and continuity of it.[11] Both understandings of tone are acceptable and visible within the passage.

 

Conclusion: Paul’s tone in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 is one of humble, unembellished, straightforwardness in order to clearly remind the Corinthians of the Good News.

 

Question 3: What relationship did Jesus posses with those He appeared to?

 

Initial proposal based on content: Jesus’ relationships in appearing seem to be first to his closest followers, then to those who believed, but did not walk closely with Him, and lastly to those who had not yet believed.

 

Context: From the immediate context, one gathers that Jesus appeared first to those he knew intimately, namely, Peter and the disciples. After that, He appears to a group of 500 other “brothers and sisters” claiming that they had either seen Him during His ministry or had heard about Him and believed. Lastly, He seems to appear to a few others who may or may not have believed in him, James (depending on the James, may or may not have believed) and the remainder of the apostles (definitely believers). And finally, Jesus appeared to Paul himself on the Damascus Road. Paul, at this time Saul, was not anywhere close to being a believer.

 

Comparison: Luke 24:34 accounts for when Jesus appeared to Cleopas and another follower, who then came and told the disciples that Jesus had appeared first to Peter and was coming to them. Furthermore, Mark’s account in Mark 16:14 tells that when Jesus appeared to the disciples, He rebuked them for not believing Cleopas and the other followers who had already seen Him. Luke 24:36-37 tells of the moment Jesus appeared in the room with the disciples, and Acts 1:3-4 tells that He periodically did that until His ascension. Lastly, Acts 9 tells of Jesus’ appearance to Saul and consequently, his conversion.

 

Consultation: Henry states, “Jesus appeared in a miraculous manner, assuring the disciples of his peace, though they had so lately forsaken him, and promising spiritual peace with every blessing.”[12] This tells of the deep compassion that Jesus had for the disciples, who had known Him and walked with Him. Additionally, when Jesus appeared to Paul, though Paul had persecuted Him, Jesus has immense compassion upon him. Henry claims, “Saul submitted without reserve, desirous to know what the Lord Jesus would have him to do. Christ’s discoveries of himself to poor souls are humbling; they lay them very low, in mean thoughts of themselves.”[13] Clearly, Jesus had compassion, no matter the earthly relationship He shared with those He appeared to. However, it is clear through Saul’s submission that the Holy Spirit must’ve been working in his heart prior to this instance.

 

Conclusion: Jesus appeared to people sequentially based on the earthly relationship He shared with them, but also appeared to those who He knew would receive Him through His appearing.

 

  1. Where? (The Geography and Location)

 

Description: Where are the author and readers at the time of the writing? Are there places in the passage that need to be identified in geographic placement? Can anything be learned from the location of the events? Explore these places as they appear in this passage before considering their significance outside of 1 Corinthians 15:1–11. Identify at least 1 “where” question.

 

Question: Where was Paul when he wrote to the Corinthians?

 

Initial proposal based on content: Paul had left the Corinthians to minister to the church in Ephesus.

 

Context: It is clear that Paul is not with the Corinthians at the time that he is addressing them (1 Cor. 1:2). He is writing to them to strengthen their faith and turn from their fallen ways. He is ministering to another church at the time of this letter writing.

 

Comparison: In 1 Cor. 16:8 Paul reveals that he will be staying in Ephesus until Pentecost. Paul’s intention has been to visit the Corinthians, based on the news he has heard the church there is crumbling. However, he has been away ministering to Ephesus and is writing because he is unable to return immediately.

 

Consultation: Paul’s travel plans are detailed in 1 Cor. 16:5-9. This letter was written near the end of his three-year ministry to the church in Ephesus.[14]

 

Conclusion: Paul wrote to the Corinthians while doing ministry work in Ephesus.

 

 

When? (The Time Factors)

 

Description: Determine if there is anything critical related to the element of time in this passage. Does the message depend at all on certain aspects of the era in the church’s history in which it was written? Are there lesson to be learned based on the timing of the events? How is this presented first in 1 Corinthians 15:1–11 and then throughout Scripture? Identify at least 1 “when” question.

 

Question: How long after Christ’s resurrection was this passage of Scripture written?

 

Initial proposal based on content: Given that there were several witnesses that saw Christ after his resurrection this was written within several years of his death and resurrection.

 

Context:1 Cor. 15:6 refers to the 500 brothers that saw Jesus, most of them were still alive at the time of this letter. This is important and relevant because it provides eyewitness testimony to the doubting church. Christ’s resurrection is not something they must believe through heresay but are provided the evidence of firsthand testimony, as Paul himself gives them.

 

Comparison: Referring to the divisions in the church of Corinth Paul names several sides that the people are taking, including Cephas who is Simon Peter, a disciple of Christ. Assuming that these people have met Cephas, they are within a generation of Christ, not far off from the resurrection itself.

 

Consultation: Paul wrote this letter around 55 AD,[15] which is within a generation of when Christ was crucified. Christ’s crucifixion happened roughly at 33 AD, so around 20 years following that is when Paul was consulting the church in Corinth. These people may have encountered Christ themselves, but have lost faith in the resurrection, Paul tries to help solidify their faith with eyewitness accounts of Christ’s resurrection.

 

Conclusion: Given the historical information of when Christ was crucified, in his early thirties, possibly 33AD and that this letter was written around 55AD it can be concluded that Paul wrote to the Corinthians roughly 20 years post crucifixion and resurrection.

 

 

 

 

Why? (The Purpose of the Passage)

 

Description: The purpose question is two-sided—there is the need that caused the revelation to be given, and there is the author’s message that addressed that need. Here you are making conclusions based on all that you have studied. Examine your work in observation and this interpretation exercise; what do you believe is the need of the Corinthian believers and then what is Paul’s message and how does it address that need?

 

The Need: The Corinthian church needed clear understanding of the Gospel and what it meant to live as a Christ-follower.

 

The Message: Paul’s message is the death and resurrection of Christ that changes the way that people think and live life. His message directly addresses the Corinthian need in giving them evidence for the resurrection and Paul’s personal testimony to the way it changed his entire life.

[1] Holman Concise Commentary

[2] Holman CC

[3] Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, and Archie England, eds. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Pub., 2003.

[4] Word Study tool

[5] Calvin, John, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, vol 20 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker House, 1989).

[6] Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, and Archie England, eds. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Pub., 2003.

 

[7] Trent C. Butler. ed. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003).

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Matthew Henry. Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary. (WORDsearch Corp., 2011).

[11] Trent C. Butler. ed. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003).

[12] Matthew Henry. Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary. (WORDsearch Corp., 2011).

[13] Ibid.

[14] Dockery, David S. The Holman Concise Bible Commentary. (Broadman Bible Publishers, 1998.)

[15] Holman Illustrated Bible Handbook (Holman Bible Publishers, 2012.)

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