1 Corinthians and the Decalogue
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On the centrality of the
Decalogue for the early Christians (as distinct from the rest of the Torah) see
R. M. Grant, "The Decalogue in Early Christianity," Harvard
Theological Revue XL (1947), pp. 1-17.
In the first century CE the Decalogue was part of the Sabbath liturgy in synagogue, but was dropped in the second century. This may well have been because of what the Christians made of it. It would appear that they used rabbinic-type logic to argue that it was the only part of the laws and statutes still binding on them, since it was the only part written by God himself ("tables ... written with the finger of God", Exod. 31.18; Deut. 9.10).
It is obvious that most of the ethical materials in the NT writings are based on the Decalogue, and Paul structures the centre of 1 Corinthians chiastically on the Ten Words as shown below.
Note especially how he verbally sidesteps the fourth commandment: (1) he ignores the word "Sabbath" (his single use of the word is as a time-designation in 16.2: κατὰ μίαν σαββάτου, "the first day of the week"), (2) he instead picks up the words "holy" and "work", and (3) each time he speaks of keeping the commandments of God as though he recognizes that he is on delicate ground here.
|10||Do not covet||6.1-6||Grievance against a brother|
|9||Do not bear false witness||6.8a||You wrong (your own brothers)|
|8||Do not steal||6.8b||You defraud your own brothers|
|8 & 7||Do not steal and
do not commit adultery
|6.9-11||Some of you formerly were immoral (sexually and otherwise) and thieves|
|7||Do not commit adultery||6.12-18||Do not join the Body to a harlot.|
|6||Do not murder.||6.19--20||Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit ... from God; you are not your own. [Cp. 3.16-17: If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him.]|
|5||Honour thy father and mother.||7.1-14||[Including wife, husband and children as clean/holy, and not to be separated from]|
|4||Keep Sabbath holy.||7.14-24||14: Now they are holy.
19: Circumcision, etc., do not count for anything; only keeping the commandments of God.
|3||Do not take the name of the Lord ... in vain||7.25-39||Κύριος ('Lord') seven times ['God' mentioned in 7.24, 40, but not in between]|
|2||Make no idols||8.1-5||Things offered to idols; many 'gods', many 'lords'|
|1||Thou shalt have no other gods before me||8.6a||For us; One God, the Father, from whom are all things and we for him,|
|1'||No other gods||8.6b||and One Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and we through him; but not in all is this knowledge.|
|2'||No idols||8.7-10||Idols and idol-meat|
|3'||The name of the Lord||8.11-13||Sin against 'Christ' (and brothers)|
|4'||Keep Sabbath holy;
do no work
[? Exod. 31.12 & Ezek. 20.12: Sabbath as 'a sign ... that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.']
|9.1-27||1: Am I not free?
You are my work in the Lord.
2: ... the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
6: ... no right to refrain from working ...?
13: those employed (ἐργαζόμενοι) re holy things
14: The Lord commanded
21: not lawless before God but enlawed of Christ (μὴ ὢν ἄνομος θεοῦ ἀλλ' ἐννομος Χριστοῦ)
|5'||Honour father and mother||10.1||Our fathers|
|6'||Do not murder||10.5||They were overthrown in the wilderness|
|8'||Do not steal||10.23-24||Let no man seek his own good, but the good of his brother|
|9'||Do not bear false witness||10.25-32||Witness to
neighbours re idol-meat.
30: Why am I evil spoken of?
|10'||Do not covet||10.31-33||33: I try to please all men in all things, not seeking my own advantage.|