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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 5

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-13

V 1-VII 40 Christian Chastity —The three chapters on the relations of the sexes. form the second big division of the letter. The arrangement of parts is rather complicated (see Outline § 868f) and there are some short digressions. The subject is abruptly introduced, as if Paul were afraid of saying more about the last one, but for a chapter and a half his tone is still sharp. This is far the fullest treatment of the subject in all St Paul’s letters and indeed in all the NT. The heart of the matter is in 6:12-20, where the basis of Christian chastity is profoundly and magnificently stated. Pagans and Jews alike would think St Paul’s standard fantastically high, cf. §§ 601, 596a f Briefly stated, the Christian revolution consisted in this, that the highest standard of chastity ever demanded from women was now made obligatory on men also: the sexes were placed on a moral equality.

1-8 Laxity In handling a Case of Incest —Very likely Paul had just heard of this from the three visitors. The weight of his censure falls not on the sinner but on the church authorities, i.e. the priests or some of them. The position of this section, and the continuance of a stern tone, points to some connexion of thought with ch 4. It is possible that the slackness of the priests was due to the influence of the False Apostles.

1. As regards the incest, we cannot tell whether the woman’s husband was alive or dead, nor whether the stepson and stepmother were legally married or not, nor whether, if married, they had been married before his conversion. Such a marriage was prohibited by Roman law (which was the law of Corinth) and by the law of most Greek cities, but might well be permitted in some communities in Asia or Egypt, from which these two may have come. There had been such marriages in Greek royal families, e.g. Antiochus I and Stratonice. 2. ’that he’: i.e. till he should be removed. A question-mark should probably be placed at the end.

4-5. This is the sentence mentioned in v 3—excommunication. We may be sure that Paul knew that gentler methods were useless.

4. This v should end with a comma, and ’in the name’, etc., should be taken closely with ’to deliver’. ’My spirit’: he joins his authority to their act. ’With the power’, etc.: the Church has power to act in His name. Excommunication was well known among the Jews, John 9:22. Its purpose always is to bring the sinner to penitence.

5. ’To Satan’: the man’s soul, deprived of grace by his sin, was already to that extent in Satan’s power. He was now visibly expelled from God’s kingdom. But Satan is probably here referred to as the author (by God’s permission) of bodily ailments (as in Luke 13:16) which the apostles had power to inflict as punishment, Acts 13:11. ’Flesh’ seems to partake of both the first and fourth meaning noted under 1:26, and ’destruction’ will mean something short of death.

6. ’Leaven’ (yeast) stands for sin spreading from this sinner through the community, like yeast in dough.

7. Just before the Pasch every good Jew carefully removed all leaven from his house and for eight days only unleavened bread was eaten. For the Christian the Crucifixion is a Pasch which has inaugurated a period of unleavened bread (i.e. sinless life) which must continue for ever. ’Christ’, etc.: ’our pasch has been sacrificed—it is Christ’.

9-13 No Association with notoriously Sinful Christians of any Sort —Some Corinthians had misunderstood a recent letter of Paul’s. The three visitors had probably asked for further explanation.

9. ’the epistle’ (not ’an’): no doubt many letters, now lost, had been written by him to Corinth during his three years at Ephesus, § 866h.10. ’Of this world’:i.e. pagan fornicators, or ’fornicators in general’. ’Covetous’: unscrupulous money-makers who stop short of crime. ’Extortioners’: thieves and swindlers. ’Otherwise’, etc.: therefore in a country nominally Christian one must sometimes associate with scandalous Christians.

11. ’But now I write’, i.e. in this present passage. ’Brother’: i.e. Christian. ’Idols’: this implies that some Corinthians did still take part in pagan worship. See 8:1. ’Railer’: one who reviles a man to his face; occurs again in 6:10. Both are lists of mortal sins. Perhaps some of the hostile party had been outrageous in their abuse of those faithful to Paul.

12. ’Without’: outside the Church. 13. ’Put away’, etc. Here the emphasis lies on the last words.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/1-corinthians-5.html. 1951.
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