Sunday, July 31, 2011

An Interview with Roy Ciampa: 1 Corinthians Pillar Commentary Part III

Here at long last is the final part of my interview with Roy Ciampa regarding his new co-authored (Brian Rosner) 1 Corinthians commentary. Enjoy!

1.     Much ink has been spilt on 1 Cor 11.2-16 and the gender distinctions discussed in the context of worship. What is the main message Paul is driving at here?

We argue that Paul is concerned with the communication of glory/honor and shame through behavior in worship, wanting to make sure nothing is done that would bring shame on God’s people or on God himself through their behavior.  Headcoverings on women had had a particular social significance in the Roman world but that was being challenged by some less traditional folks. To oversimplify (which is why this is only a paragraph long and the commentary takes much more space!) Paul is concerned to make sure the public meetings of the church did not become contexts where husbands and wives would bring shame on each other (and God) by dressing in immodest or culturally inappropriate ways.  Paul draws on Genesis 1-2 both to defend and (then) to relativize the distinctions between men and women found there.

2.      Another issue that has engendered much discussion is the issue of women’s ‘silence’ in 14.34-35. First, in your estimation, is this an interpolation as Fee, Hays, and others hold, and second, what is the nature of silence that Paul is prohibiting here?

We think it is unlikely to be in interpolation, since the text is found in every ancient witness we have (one might expect some MS[S] to survive without it if it were not original). The silence is not a general silence (since Paul has already indicated women may pray and prophesy) but as indicated in the verses themselves, probably relates to asking inappropriate questions during the worship time, perhaps especially less-informed married women (Paul indicates their husbands could answer their questions) asking questions of other women’s husbands (a social offense that is mentioned in ancient texts we cite in the commentary). In the commentary we weigh other alternatives as well, of course (including the view that women are prohibited from evaluating prophecies).

3.      What are the interpretive keys to understanding Paul’s phrase ‘baptized for the dead” (βαπτιζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν) in 15.29?

Perhaps the most important key is to recognize that the reference to “the dead” in Paul’s discussion of the resurrection of the dead is not to the dead in general, but to the believing dead (who will be raised in incorruptible glory, etc.) and thus the guaranteed future of glory and blessing that “the dead” Paul is referring to will enjoy. People concerned about what might happen to them after death would want to do what they could to be sure they would also enjoy the blessings that the Christian dead would look forward to. When he says that people are “baptized on account of the dead,” we may assume that he means that they are baptized on account of the righteous dead, those who will be raised in power and glory. This, then, is more specific than dead people in general, but it does not suggest something as specific as living or deceased apostles or specific loved ones who have recently passed away. So we would paraphrase the verse in this way: “Now, if there is no resurrection, what will be accomplished by those who get baptized because of what they have heard about how our dead will be raised? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people undergoing baptism on account of them?” Our interpretation comes close to the suggestion that some others have made that Paul’s text entails an ellipsis and that “baptism on account of the dead” means “baptism on account of the resurrection of the dead,” but it is not quite the same thing.

4.     This commentary is a fine contribution to the Pillar series and ranks in my estimation at the very top of 1 Corinthian commentaries along with Garland, Thiselton, and Fee. Moreover, you are both to be commended for not writing another commentary on commentaries, but advancing our understanding of this wonderful epistle.

What are your hopes for this particular work and could you both comment on future research/ writing projects?

Our hope is that this commentary will enrich the life and faith of those who read it (and those who are ministered to by those who read it) by giving them a clearer understanding of God’s redemptive plan and how it relates to the Corinthians’ issues and to our own). Writing the commentary has greatly enriched our own lives and faith and we can only hope it will do the same for others.   In addition, we hope that some of the commentary's distinctive interpretations might be taken seriously by scholars, such as our understanding of the argument and structure of the letter and the new approach to chapter seven and the euphemism, not to touch a woman.

As for book projects, Roy is working on a commentary on Galatians and Ephesians for Baker’s new Teach the Text Commentary series and another commentary on Ephesians for a new series to be published by Kregel, called Kerux. Brian is working on the Crossway Preaching the Word volume on 1 Corinthians and an NSBT monograph on Paul and the Law.

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