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Did Paul view his suffering as an apostle as beneficial?1.Partial Precedents to Paul's Explanation of the Suffering of the Righteous as Pedagogical1.1.Psalms1.2.Thanksgiving Hymns (Hodayot)1.3.Psalms of Solomon2.The Explanation of the Suffering of the Righteous as Pedagogical in Paul's Writings2.1.The Pedagogical Explanation in the Context of Paul's Self-Defense in 2 Corinthians184.108.40.206 Cor 10-13A.Paul as "Weak"B.Paul's Self-Defense against the Charge of Being WeakC.Paul's "Thorn in the Flesh"220.127.116.11 Cor 4:7-122.2.The Pedagogical Explanation in 2 Cor 1:8-113.ConclusionNotes
Paul explains his suffering as having a pedagogical purpose, for suffering is the means by which it becomes and remains unambiguously clear that his success as an apostle is due exclusively to another power. Suffering is amanifestation of human frailty and limitation. So when a suffering apostle successfully evangelizes a city, performing signs and wonders as a confirmation of the message, it is palpable to allincluding the apostlethat it is "the power of Christ" (h dunamis tou Christou) (2 Cor 12:9) or "the all-surpassing power of God" (h huperbol ts dunamestou theou) (2 Cor 4:7) that works through him and, consequently, that his role in the whole endeavor is merely instrumental. This is the only conclusion that could be drawn, since all would accept the premise that suffering ensues from powerlessness, and such powerlessness is incommensurate with the results achieved by the apostle.In Paul's view, continued success in his apostolic work is conditional upon his continued realization that the apostolic ministry is not a cooperative venture, a human and divine synergism. When he understands that his contribution as an apostle is only that of a beggarly instrument, he is in a position to appropriate that other power. Suffering, therefore, serves the pedagogical role of inculcating this attitude of dependence on that other power, for, since suffering has powerlessness as its condition, in suffering a person is brought undeniably face to face with his need of another power.(1)
1. Partial Precedents to Paul's Explanation of the Suffering of the Righteous as PedagogicalThe explanation that the righteous suffer for pedagogical reasons is unique to Paul, having no clear precedents or parallels.(2)There is nonetheless material that at least anticipates Paul's pedagogical explanation of the suffering of the righteous, inchoately pointing in that direction. In Psalms,Psalms of SolomonandThanksgiving Hymns(Hodayot), texts in which personal reflections on the ways of God with the nation and with individuals abound, the righteous often cry out to God in a state of helplessness. Similarly, there are many expressions of gratitude for God's salvation; these past deliverances serve as a basis for the hope of future deliverance. There are also general confessions to the effect that God is the savior of those who take refuge in him. From these, the way leads naturally to Paul's fuller development of the idea that Godwillsthat an apostle experience enough powerlessness for the purpose of being convinced that the power for apostolic accomplishment comes from without and is not an inherent capacity. When the righteous find themselves in a position of helplessness, cry out to God and then experience God's deliverance, the pedagogical effect is that they come to know with experiential certainty that God alone has power enough to save and that human efforts are utterly ineffectual. It is a short step from here to Paul's conclusion that God actuallywillsthis pedagogical benefit for an apostle as the condition for the appropriating that other power.(3)
1.1. PsalmsMany of the canonical psalms are classified as psalms of lament. These are individual appeals to God for help given in the first person singular and sometimes ending in an explicit declaration that God will render aid as requested.(4)(Those that do not end with an explicit declaration can still be said to be expressions of implicit confidence, insofar as the author expects God to hear and respond; true despair is silent.) Ps 64, for instance, begins with a plea that God hear the supplicant and protect him from the enemy (64:1). The psalm ends with the confident expression that God will destroy the psalmist's enemies, thereby relieving him of his distress: "But God will shoot them with their own arrows; suddenly they will be struck down" (64:7) (see also Pss 4, 6, 10, 28, 54, 55, 57, 59, 64, 71, 109).(5)Other of the canonical psalms are individual thanksgivings to God for assistance already received.(6)In Psalm 18, for example, the psalmist describes how he cried out to Yahweh: "In my distress ICALLEDto Yahweh; I cried to my God for help" (18:6). In response to this appeal, Yahweh is described poetically as coming down from heaven accompanied by celestial and meteorological phenomena and rescuing the petitioner from his difficulty: "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes who were too strong for me" (18:17). The psalmist goes on to establish the principle that God deals with all the righteous who take refuge in him after this fashion (18:25-31). (Some psalms combine both lament and thanksgiving [Pss 9, 22, 31, 66]).(7)It is clear that the conception of God as responding to the cry of the helpless righteous is a leitmotiv in the canonical psalms, being found in about one third of them. Correlative to this rendering of God is the human being as powerless and totally dependent.
1.2.Thanksgiving Hymns (Hodayot)The same conceptions of God and the human being in the Psalms find expression in theThanksgiving Hymns (Hodayot). In many of these compositions, the authors declare their absolute dependence on God's mercy for protection from all peril, including persecution by enemies. In 1QH 10.31-38, for example, the founder recounts how he was rescued by God from the evil designs of his enemies,"the seekers of smooth things" (10.32): "But you, my God, helped the soul of the poor and needy against the hand of the one who is stronger than he is; you have redeemed my soul from the hand of the mighty" (1QH 10.34b-35a; see 14.19-29). The experience of salvation in the past provides warrant for confidence of continued protection for the founder and the community under his leadership (1QH-a 12.22-27; see 14.17b-18, 29-32). Not surprisingly, the self-designation of"a creature of clay,"occurs with some frequency in the Hodayot.(8)Such a term signifies the sinfulness and weakness of all human beings in contrast to God (1QH 9.21; 11.23-24; 12.29; 19.3; 20.26, 32; 21.10-12; see also 18.5 and 5.21).(9)
1.3.Psalms of SolomonReferences to God's granting mercy and protection to the righteous whoCALLout to him in times of trouble occur inPsalms of Solomon.(10)The author ofPs. Sol. 5:11, for example, asks: "Who is the hope of the poor and needy but you, Lord? And you will listen. For who is good and kind but you, making the soul of the humble person happy by the opening of your hand in mercy?" Similarly, in 15:1a the author recalls, "When I was afflicted, ICALLEDon the Lord's name; I expected the help of the God of Jacob and I was saved." He then declares, "For you, O God, are the hope and refuge of the poor" (15:1b). (See also 1:1-3; 2:35; 4:23-25; 12; 13:1-6.)
2. The Explanation of the Suffering of the Righteous as Pedagogical in Paul's WritingsIn 2 Cor 1:8-11 Paul writes of having been rescued by God from a situation of extremity, when he was at the point of total despair. In these circumstances Paul was conscious of being the object of God's providential care. He says, "We do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, about the afflictions that we suffered in Asia, that we were burdened far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life....but...he [God] has delivered us from such deadly peril and will continue to deliver us." The exact nature of Paul's affliction is not disclosed in the letter, but, whatever it was, it drove him to complete despondency. But from this humanly hopeless situation God delivered Paul, and he is certain that God will also deliver him from similar situations that arise in the future.In his view of God as the deliverer of the helpless righteous, Paul resembles those authors of the Psalms, theThanksgiving HymnsandPsalms of Solomon. This rendering of God agrees with his own experience. Yet it is arguable that to be delivered from undeserved suffering is second best to never being allowed to enter such a situation in the first place. In fact, it would seem that it would be a greater manifestation of God's mercy if he prevented the righteous from ever entering into circumstances in which they must cry out to him for deliverance. The suffering righteous may even have grounds for accusing God of negligence. Perhaps, reflecting upon this apparent incongruity in God's dealings with the righteous, Paul uncovers a reason for which God allows the righteous to suffer: suffering is the most effective means by which the attitude of dependence is inculcated, without which there is no access to another power. The pedagogical explanation for the suffering of the righteous comes to expression most prominently in Paul's Corinthian correspondence.
2.1. The Pedagogical Explanation in the Context of Paul's Self-Defense in 2 CorinthiansPaul argued in 1 Corinthians that the Corinthians' view of themselves as "already full, rich and reigning" (4:8), in contradistinction to the apostles who, unlike them, were fools, weak and dishonored (4:10), foundered on the fact that full eschatological reversal still lay in the future. But Paul's comments in 1 Corinthians did not ease the tension between him and the Corinthians over the issue of what constituted an apostle. In fact, the seed of the Corinthians' misgivings about Paul came to full