I’m now blogging about chapter sixteen of my book. This is an interesting portion of Paul’s fiery letter to the Corinthians. The two most quoted verses are 1 Cor. 6.15 and 6.19.
When I was young, I frequently hear these verses being quoted to me by well-meaning preachers and counselors who were trying to keep kids off cigarettes, drinks and drugs, or worse yet, tattoos. The logic usually goes something like this. If you don’t respect your body by taking care of it, you’re really not honoring God. After all, the Spirit lives in that body of yours. It all sounds good until we examine the verses. As I grow older, I hear such verses to be quoted as evidence for the “indwelling of the Spirit” in a believer’s life. The way that doctrine is explained sounds superstitious and mythological. By then, these explanations no longer even sound good.
It is important to look at a larger context of Paul’s argument first. Paul was not talking about drinking and smoking. He was talking about people in the church going to prostitutes (or a singular prostitute). He was talking about a more serious moral issue than what we think.
The verses also have a translation problem we should pay attention to. This is where the limitation of English translation shows.
Paul curiously mixed his plurals and singulars in the two verses to form some unique concepts. Let me point your attention to Paul’s construct.
For 1 Cor. 6.15, the translation can look something like this.
“Do you know that your bodies (plural) IS members (plural) of Christ himself?”
For 1 Cor. 6.19, the translation looks something like this.
“Do you (plural) not know that your (plural) body (singular) is a temple (singular) of the Holy Spirit, who is in you (plural), whom you (plural) have received from God?”
What we can see is that the first instance is talking about the bodies of believers but in relation to the greater church itself. The second instance shows the singular Body of Christ and how each believer is related to it. The Spirit then dwells within the Body not bodies. Obviously, there are many more important concepts, applications and implications in these verses but you’ll have to read my book. The important thing to take away from this is not just the popular meaning is misleading but that the seminary Greek class your pastors (and if you’re a minister, you) have taken need to come into use when understanding the meaning of scriptural passages instead of settling for the popular meanings because the popular meanings are frequently wrong.
By applying these verses out of context and out of their construct, we actually trivialize the seriousness of Paul’s admonition. While I do not advocate drinking or smoking necessary, we should talk about some real sin that the Bible talks about rather than some imaginary hang-ups of modern fundamentalist Christians.
As I always say, the texts are not at fault