1 Corinthians Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. For, brothers, I don’t want you to miss the significance of what happened to our fathers. All of them were guided by the pillar of cloud, and they all passed through the sea,
I don't want you to miss the significance of what happened to our fathers as they left Egypt on their way to the Land of Israel. This introduces an illustration showing that the risk of rejection by God (9:27) is real; compare Psalms 78 and 106. For even though all of them had extraordinary advantages that might have led them to suppose their status with God was secure (vv. 1-4, compare Ro 9:4—5, Mt 3:9). "the majority of them" met with God's disapproval and died as a result (v. 5); let this be a warning to you (vv. 6-14). Compare MJ 2:3, 6:4-6. They were guided by the pillar of cloud (Exodus 13:21-22) and they passed through the sea (Exodus 14:19-31; Psalms 105:39, 136:13-15).
2. and in connection with the cloud and with the sea they all immersed themselves into Moshe,
They... immersed themselves. Some manuscripts read, "they were immersed"; but this is less likely, since the Jewish practice was self-immersion. Either translates a form of the Greek word "haptizo," usually rendered "baptized," but whose root meaning is "dip, soak, immerse" into a liquid, so that what is dipped takes on qualities of what it has been dipped in — for example, cloth in dye or leather in tanning solution (Mt 3:1N). Thus immersion into Moshe means being united with him, accepting his vision, goals and leadership. The Israelites did (his by trusting him in connection with the cloud and in connection with the sea. Translations which have the Israelites being baptized in ihe cloud and in the sea are misleading — according to the Tanakh they were next to or under the cloud, and they passed on dry ground between walls of sea water on either side of them. Rather, as an anonymous critic has pointed out, it was the Egyptians who were "baptized in the sea, well and truly!"
Nevertheless, there is an analogy here between immersion into Moses and immersion "into the Messiah" (Ro 6:3, Ga 3:27; in this letter compare 1:13-15.12:13) —just as in the following verses the "food" and "drink" are in some measure analogous with the bread and wine of Communion (Eucharist, Mass, the Lord's Supper). Whether the concept of "immersion into Moses" is original with Sha'ul or borrowed from an existing midrash is debated; no such midrash has come to my attention, although other parts of Sha'ul's illustration are found in midrashim (see vv. 3-4N).
3. also they all ate the same food from the Spirit,
4. and they all drank the same drink from the Spirit — for they drank from a Spirit-sent Rock which followed them, and that Rock was the Messiah.
The food (manna. Exodus 16:4—36), the drink (water) and the rock (Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:7-13; Psalms 105:41,114:8) were all from the Spirit,... Spirit-sent. Both phrases translate the Greek word "pneumatikos," used only by Sha'ul in the New Testament; he uses it 15 times in this letter, more than in all his other letters put together. I believe its meaning here is "pertaining to the Holy Spirit" (Hebrew Ruach HaKodesh), but in this context it could also mean "spiritual" in the sense of either "supernatural" or "conveying spiritual sustenance." The former (as in Psalm 78:24—25) makes these verses mean that even with supernatural advantages, Israel failed the test. The latter idea, that the manna and the water somehow gave spiritual nourishment, sounds strange to modern ears, but it may have roots in the Judaism of Philo, who allegorized the miraculous food and drink (or its source, the rock) into the word and wisdom of God (Legum Allef>oriae 2:86; Quod Detenus Potion, p. 176). If this is the correct interpretation, then, in context, it may bear on how the bread and wine of Communion "are" the body and blood of the Messiah (Mt 26:26&N). The rock followed them.
"According to the Aggadah [the legendary and midrashic material woven about the Tanukh], the Children of Israel were accompanied in the desert by a rolling stone that poured forth water." (Avraham Chill, The Minhagim, New York: Sepher-Hermon Press, Inc., 1979, p. 322)
This statement draws on such sources as Rashi, who comments that the Well of Miriam, mentioned in the Talmud at Ta'anit 9a, was "a rock, and... it rolled and went along with Israel, and it was the rock Moses struck"; at Shabbat 35a it is spoken of as "a moveable well." Thus it is likely that the notion of the rock's following the Israelites was already established in Judaism.
But where does Sha'ul get the idea thai that rock was the Messiah? Suggestive but not decisive are Ro 9:33-10:11, where Yeshua is identified with the "stone that causes people to stumble" of Isaiah 28:16; and Lk 20:17-18, where he is the "stone which the builders rejected," now "the cornerstone" (Psalm 118:22) that breaks believers when they fall on it but grinds unbelievers to powder when it falls on them; see also Mt 16:18&N. In the same category are the many references to God as a Rock in the Tanakh (Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31; 2 Samuel 22:47; Isaiah 26:4; Psalms 18:32(31); 19:15(14); 28:1; 31:3-4(2-3); 42:10(9); 62:3(2), 7-8(6-7); 78:35; 89:27(26); 92:16(15); 94:22; 95:1; 144:1) and in Jewish prayers and songs. One of the best known z 'mirot (songs) sung in Jewish homes on Shabbat is "Tzur Mishelo Acluilnu" ("The Rock From Which We Have Eaten"). Since it may date back to as early as the second century, and because so many of its ideas parallel those of these verses, I quote two stanzas:
The Rock, from whom we have eaten —
Bless him, my faithful friends!
We have eaten our fill without exhausting the supply,
Which accords with the Word of Adonai.
He nourishes his world, our Shepherd, our Father;
We have eaten his bread and drunk his wine...
With nourishment and sustenance he has sated our souls...
May the Merciful One be blessed and exalted!
Of seventeen traditional tunes for this г'm/'ra/j listed in Neil Levin's Z'mirot Anthology (Cedarhurst, New York: Тага Publications, 1981), my favorite is #3, a Sephardic melody popular in Israel. Some Messianic Jews in Israel sing this z'mirah to this melody when celebrating the Lord's Supper.
Nevertheless, none of the above fully explains why Sha'ul identified the rock following the Israelites in the wilderness with the Messiah; possibly there is a Jewish source for this, but if so, it is unknown to me. However, the idea of the pre-existence of the Messiah is found in numerous Jewish writings (see Yn 1:1N).
5. Yet with the majority of them God was not pleased, so their bodies were strewn across the desert.
The majority. An understatement; of all the Israelites over 20 years old, only Joshua and Caleb were permitted to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:27-38, 26:63-65).
6. Now these things took place as prefigurative historical events, warning us not to set our hearts on evil things as they did.
Prefigurative historical events or object lessons (Greek tupoi, "types"). Like us, the Israelites had numerous advantages; let us not set our hearts on evil things as they did, so that we may prevent the negative aspects (vv. 5, 7-10) from prefiguring our destinies too.
7. Don’t be idolaters, as some of them were — as the Tanakh puts it, "The people sat down to eat and drink, then got up to indulge in revelry" (Exodus 32:6).
8. And let us not engage in sexual immorality, as some of them did, with the consequence that 23,000 died in a single day.
This refers to the making of the golden calf. "Indulge in revelry" means sexual play or idolatry or — as in v. 8, alluding to Numbers 25:1-9 — the former in the service of the latter.
Twenty-three thousand died in a single day. Numbers 25:9 says 24,000 died in the plague. Harmonizers suggest that both numbers are approximations to an exact figure between the two; or, alternatively, that of the 24,000 who died of the plague, 23,000 died on the same day. Some think that Sha'ul forgot the correct figure and gave an approximation from memory (and not a bad one at that); the acceptability of this explanation depends on one's theory of inspiration: could God, inspiring the Bible through fallible human beings, have permitted even a relatively small factual error to be included in the text?
9. And let us not put the Messiah to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by snakes.
See Numbers 21:4-6; compare Yn 3:14, which refers to the same event.
10. And don’t grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the Destroying Angel.
Numbers 17:6-15 (16:41-50) and possibly other incidents. Destroying angel. Exodus 12:23,2 Samuel 24:16, 1 Chronicles 21:15, 2 Chronicles 32:21; compare also Ac 12:23. The Midrash Rabbah to Ecclesiastes 4:3 speaks of "five destroying angels," each with its own name.
11. These things happened to them as prefigurative historical events, and they were written down as a warning to us who are living in the acharit-hayamim.
To us who are living in the acharit-hayumim, the Tanakh's "latter days" (Numbers 24:14; Deuteronomy 4:30, 31:29; Jeremiah 23:20, 30:24, 48:47, 49:39; Ezekiel 38:16; Daniel 2:28, 10:14; Hosea 3:5) and "end of days" (Daniel 12:13). Since the Messiah has already come once, we are at least living in the beginning of the End Times, awaiting his return at the end of the End Times. This translation accords also with rabbinic usage, for they used Hebrew ketz ("end") to mean the end of this age and the beginning of the Messianic Age. A more literal rendering is: "upon whom the goals and fulfillments of the ages has come," and this is not inconsistent with what has been said here.
12. Therefore, let anyone who thinks he is standing up be careful not to fall!
13. No temptation has seized you beyond what people normally experience, and God can be trusted not to allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. On the contrary, along with the temptation he will also provide the way out, so that you will be able to endure.
Temptation, or "testing." If the latter, then the question arises whether God ever puts people to the test (see Ya 1:13&N), and the answer is that he does. The most famous testings were of Avraham (Genesis 22), Job (the whole book) and Yeshua (in the desert, Mattityahu 4). In Revelation 2-3 those who overcome, who pass the test, will receive rewards.
14. Therefore, my dear friends, run from idolatry!
15. I speak to you as sensible people; judge for yourselves what I am saying.
16. The “cup of blessing” over which we make the b’rakhah — isn’t it a sharing in the bloody sacrificial death of the Messiah? The bread we break, isn’t it a sharing in the body of the Messiah?
The "cup of blessing." The third cup of the Passover Seder is called the "cup of blessing"; and since vv. 16-21 are about the Lord's Supper, which is based on the Last Supper that Yeshua ale, which was a Passover meal, this may be the meaning. Or, because of the following phrase, "over which we make a b'rakhah" (Hebrew for "blessing"; see Mt 9:8N), it may refer to a special blessing beyond the normal blessing over wine (see Mt 26:27N), said in order to consecrate the wine and make it "be," for our sharing (or: "communion"), the Messiah's bloody sacrificial death (literally, "blood"; see Ro 3:25N; compare Ro 6:3-5). The Lord's Supper is the subject of 11:23-34 below.
17. Because there is one loaf of bread, we who are many constitute one body, since we all partake of the one loaf of bread.
Since we all partake of the one loaf of bread, Yeshua, who said, "I am the bread of life" (Yn 6:35), we who are many constitute one body. This becomes the seed-idea of Chapter 12.
18. Look at physical Isra’el: don’t those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?
Physical Israel, literally, "the Israel according to flesh." This is a key verse for evaluating the traditional Christian claim, formalized as Replacement theology, that the Church has supplanted the Jews as "the true Israel" or "the new Israel." In the present verse the issue takes this form: does Sha'ul's use of the phrase, "according to flesh," imply the existence of a different Israel "according to Spirit"? Sha'ul contrasts these two modifiers a( Ro 1:3-4, 8:4-5. and Ga 4:29; and these are the only places where the phrase, "according to Spirit," appears at all in the New Testament; although in 19 other places where the phrase "according to flesh" is found, one can usually imagine an alternative "according to Spirit."
But it is at Ro 11:17-24, in his analogy with cultivated and wild olive trees, that Sha'ul expresses most clearly his understanding of Israel in the present era as consisting of three groups — branches of the cultivated tree which have been cut off and remain cut off (non-Messianic Jews), branches of the cultivated tree which have been cut off and grafted back into their own tree (Messianic Jews), and wild olive branches that have been grafted into the cultivated tree (Gentile Christians); see Ro 11:23—24N. Thus physical Israel is a subset of Israel consisting of the first two of these three groups: non-Messianic Jews plus Messianic Jews. At no place in the New Testament is the Church called the new Israel or the true Israel. More on this at Ro 11:26aN and Ga 6:16N.
19. So, what am I saying? That food sacrificed to idols has any significance in itself? or that an idol has significance in itself?
20. No, what I am saying is that the things which pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice not to God but to demons; and I don’t want you to become sharers of the demons!
21. You can’t drink both a cup of the Lord and a cup of demons, you can’t partake in both a meal of the Lord and a meal of demons.
22. Or are we trying to make the Lord jealous? We aren’t stronger than he is, are we?
Building on the warnings of vv. 6-13, Sha'ul presents a new reason for not eating food sacrificed to idols (the issue raised at 8:1), that it just doesn't make sense for sensible people (v. hiio drink both a cup of the Lord and a cup of demons (v. 21). This is the capstone of the argument supporting and leading up to the conclusion at v. 23.
23. “Everything is permitted,” you say? Maybe, but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permitted?” Maybe, but not everything is edifying.
v. 10:23-11:1 The question of freedom, raised at 6:12 in the same words, is answered here in terms of the effect not on oneself but on one's fellow, and the criterion is: is it edifying? Verses 25 and 27-29a give three rather specific instructions relating to freedom, in answer to the question raised at 8:1 (see 8:1N, 8:13N); w. 26 and 29b-31 provide the underlying rationale; and vv. 32-33 and 11:1 sum up the applicable principles of Messianic living, key elements of the "Torah as upheld by the Messiah" (9:2 l&N).
24. No one should be looking out for his own interests, but for those of his fellow.
25. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience,
26. for the earth and everything in it belong to the Lord (Psalm 24:1, 50:12, 89:12(11)).
27. If some unbeliever invites you to a meal, and you want to go, eat whatever is put in front of you without raising questions of conscience.
28. But if someone says to you, “This meat was offered as a sacrifice,” then don’t eat it, out of consideration for the person who pointed it out and also for conscience’s sake —
29. however, I don’t mean your conscience but that of the other person. You say, “Why should my freedom be determined by someone else’s conscience?
30. If I participate with thankfulness, why am I criticized over something for which I myself bless God?”
31. Well, whatever you do, whether it’s eating or drinking or anything else, do it all so as to bring glory to God.
32. Do not be an obstacle to anyone — not to Jews, not to Gentiles, and not to God’s Messianic Community.
Is this a threefold division of humanity? Non-Messianic Jews are mentioned, pagan Gentiles (literally, "Greeks"), and God's Messianic Community, consisting of Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles. Some draw the inference from this verse that a Jew who gets saved is no longer a Jew. The reasoning is that just as when a Gentile comes to faith in the Messiah he leaves his paganism behind, so also when a Jew comes to such failh he leaves his "legalistic Judaism" behind; that in God's Messianic Community both lose their former identity — "there is neither Jew nor Gentile" (Ga 3:28), the Messiah "has made us both one and has broken down the m'chitzah which divided us" and created "from the two groups a single new humanity" (Ep 2:14-15) for whom "neither being circumcised nor being uncircumcised matters — what matters is being a new creation" (Ga6:15).
Though it is true that Jews and Gentiles are equally in need of salvation, and in this regard there is no difference between them, nevertheless salvation does not wipe out their identity as Jews and Gentiles. Besides what I have written on this at Ga 3:28N and Ep 2:11-22&NN, I should observe here that Sha'ul referred to saved Gentiles as "Gentiles" (Ro 11:13&N, Ep 2:11 &N) and to saved Jews as "Jews" (Ga 2:13&N); also he spoke of himself as still a Pharisee (Ac 23:6&N), which implies, of course, that as a believer he considered himself still Jewish. God's Messianic Community, his Church, consists of saved Jews who remain Jews and saved Gentiles who remain Gentiles.
33. Just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not looking out for my own interests but for those of the many, so that they may be saved;
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- chapter 16