What happens to the unbaptized gentiles in Paul?

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Ken Olson
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What happens to the unbaptized gentiles in Paul?

Post by Ken Olson » Tue Apr 07, 2020 4:16 am

Paul's mission to the nations (gentiles, tribes, heathens) is concerned with bringing them into the assembles (churches) of God through baptism. He is concerned to save at least some of them. It seems to me he has very little to say about what he, in his office as the agent of God and Christ, is saving them from. What does he think happens to non-Jews and non Christians (i.e. unbaptized Gentiles) after death or after the arrival of the eschaton? What passages from the Pauline corpus (not presuming the rest of the NT, and especially not Acts) bear on the issue?

Best,

Ken

robert j
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Re: What happens to the unbaptized gentiles in Paul?

Post by robert j » Tue Apr 07, 2020 6:23 am

"Paul --- The Wrath to Come" ---

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3042

Ken Olson
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Re: What happens to the unbaptized gentiles in Paul?

Post by Ken Olson » Tue Apr 07, 2020 11:10 am

Thanks! The OP is very useful. As Paul says very little about the nature of the coming wrath, I do think we have to look at possible OT intertexts, and the references you give to Joel suggest that is a good place to start. I think 1 Cor. 5.3-5 may be useful as well, but since that involves a man who was expelled from the church of God in Corinth rather than an unbaptized gentile, I have to make a series of contestable deductions to get there.

Best,

Ken

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arnoldo
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Re: What happens to the unbaptized gentiles in Paul?

Post by arnoldo » Tue Apr 07, 2020 10:15 pm


robert j
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Re: What happens to the unbaptized gentiles in Paul?

Post by robert j » Wed Apr 08, 2020 8:29 am

Ken Olson wrote:
Tue Apr 07, 2020 11:10 am

... I think 1 Cor. 5.3-5 may be useful as well, but since that involves a man who was expelled from the church of God in Corinth rather than an unbaptized gentile, I have to make a series of contestable deductions to get there.
I think Deissmann nailed the cultural context of Paul's response to the situation where the man was invloved with his father's woman. In the following OP, I also elaborated a bit on the wider context and the follow-up on the issue in Paul's letters ---

"Boink the Step-Mother? – Look Out Below (1 Cor 5:5)"
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3253

Here's a cut-and-paste from a portion of that OP focusing on Deissmann's interpretation ---

Were the Corinthians grieved just because Paul demanded that they expel the man, or might they have perceived Paul’s demand as something much more severe? I think the cultural background can shed some light. In his 1927 work, Light From the Ancient East --- The New Testament Illustrated by Recently Discovered Texts of the Gaeco-Roman World, Deissmann places Paul’s demand in the context of an execration. The technical language associated with these execrations --- common in antiquity --- were used to “injure an enemy or punish an evil-doer consecrating him by incantation and tablet to the powers of darkness below” (p. 302 --- page numbers from 2004 edition).

Paul ---
… in the name of our Lord Jesus, of you having been gathered together and of me in spirit, with the power of the Lord Jesus, to deliver such a one to Satan for destruction of the flesh … (1 Cor 5:4-5)

A 4th C. CE London Magical Papyrus, of which Deissmann says, “its formulae are ancient” ---
“Daemon of the dead … I deliver unto thee (such a man) in order that …” (Deissmann p. 302)

And a much older 3rd C. BCE lead curse tablet ---
“I will bind her … in fellowship with Hecate, who is below the earth, and the Erinyes.” (Deissmann p. 303) ***

In the eyes of the Corinthians, Paul demanded a very serious and potentially powerful curse --- a gathering together to call on the power of the Lord Jesus to deliver the man to Satan for destruction of his flesh. Such things were likely taken very seriously.

A roguish rascal or not, apparently the Corinthinas were not prepared to go that far with their friend.

robert j

And here's a follow-up post from the same thread ---
robert j wrote:
Tue Nov 13, 2018 11:46 am

... Paul and the Corinthians may very well have associated Satan with the underworld in Paul’s incantation in 1 Corinthians 5:4-5.

Paul claimed that Satan disguises himself as an “angel of light” (ἄγγελον φωτός) in 2 Corinthians 11:14. And it doesn’t take much creative reading in one of Paul’s favorite books of the prophets to associate a fallen angel of light with the underworld ---

O how fell from out of the heaven the morning star (εωσφόρος) -- the one by morning rising --- the one sending to all the nations was broken unto the earth. But you said in your heart, ‘Unto the heaven I shall ascend; upon the stars of the heaven I will put my throne; I shall sit on a high mountain, upon the high mountains towards the north; I will ascend upon the clouds; I will be likened to the highest’. But now into Hades (άδην) you shall go down, and into the foundations of the earth. The ones beholding you shall wonder over you, and shall say, ‘This is the man provoking the earth, the one shaking kings; the one making the inhabitable world desolate, and its cities demolished; he did not set loose the ones in enslavement’. (Isaiah 14:12-17, LXX)


Ken Olson
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Re: What happens to the unbaptized gentiles in Paul?

Post by Ken Olson » Wed Apr 08, 2020 11:59 am

arnoldo wrote:
Tue Apr 07, 2020 10:15 pm
https://biblehub.com/romans/2-14.htm
Romans 2:14 is a fascinating text as it suggests there is a category of righteous gentiles in Paul's thought, and they might well fair differently on the Day of the Lord than the other (non-righteous Gentiles) do. But it doesn't seem to address what that might be and leaves us asking in what sense Paul is using "the law" here. It's usually taken to mean the Mosaic law, but Paul also recognizes a law of Christ (Gal. 6.2, cf. 1 Cor. 9.21), and leaves us wondering who these Gentiles could be who do the law even though they do not have the law. A popular interpretation is that Paul meant to distinguish between a moral and spiritual law and the Mosaic law. I once facetiously suggested that those gentiles who do the law must be women, as they are the only people who could do the law without undergoing circumcision. It might also refer to righteous people who existed before the law of Moses (like Abraham in later Jewish tradition).

Best,

Ken

davidmartin
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Re: What happens to the unbaptized gentiles in Paul?

Post by davidmartin » Wed Apr 08, 2020 4:01 pm

Yes this question highlights the difference between Paul's theology and the gospels
Paul knows nothing of hell or eternal punishment, only a 'wrath' that could easily be seen as taking place in the normal continuum of events, just like a war may break out or a flood for that matter
While the 'Judaisers' were more the hellfire types which Paul actually wasn't himself it appears, rather his dispute with 'Judaisers' wasn't just over the law but eschatological issues as well
This explains the wide differences in the gospels over hell, from zero mentions in John, 1 in Mark (unlikely original), a handful in Luke and a ton in Matthew. Matthew was more from the 'Judaiser' wing, while Mark and John were not.. and Luke while Pauline was late enough at least in its final form to incorporate certain hell references

Ken Olson
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Re: What happens to the unbaptized gentiles in Paul?

Post by Ken Olson » Wed Apr 08, 2020 6:32 pm

Robert J wrote:
"Boink the Step-Mother? – Look Out Below (1 Cor 5:5)"
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3253
That's an interesting thread I hadn't looked at before. My position is somewhat similar to the one of Fitzmyer (and Tertullian) quoted by Ben Smith in the thread, though I developed it from Adela Yarbro Collins paper, "The Function of Excommunication in Paul," HTR 73 (1980) 251-263 (which Fitzmyer cites).

1 Cor. 15.3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgment 4 in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing.[a] When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

I agree with the interpretation that the spirit Paul is speaking of is the holy spirit/spirit of Christ/spirit of God of the church in Corinth. I would go beyond Collins in suggesting that the excommunication (leaving aside the question of whether it was actually carried out or not) is effectively a sort of reverse baptism. The man received the spirit in baptism and the excommunication takes it back. He no longer has the spirit of Christ, which has been reclaimed by the church, and faces the Day of the Lord as any other unbaptized gentile would. I think the destruction of the flesh may be what happens to all gentiles who do not participate in Christ through baptism. Baptized Christians will all be transformed in the Day of the Lord (1 Cor. 15.51-53) and receive new bodies. I suggest that unbaptized gentiles have their bodies of flesh destroyed on the Day of the Lord, and don't receive imperishable spiritual bodies, but that may be the extent of it. I can't think of anything in Paul to suggest they suffer eternal torment.

Best,

Ken

robert j
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Re: What happens to the unbaptized gentiles in Paul?

Post by robert j » Thu Apr 09, 2020 9:17 am

Ken Olson wrote:
Wed Apr 08, 2020 6:32 pm

... I think the destruction of the flesh may be what happens to all gentiles who do not participate in Christ through baptism. Baptized Christians will all be transformed in the Day of the Lord (1 Cor. 15.51-53) and receive new bodies. I suggest that unbaptized gentiles have their bodies of flesh destroyed on the Day of the Lord, and don't receive imperishable spiritual bodies ...
Why the emphasis on baptism as the deciding factor for the benefits that Paul promised his followers?

Sure, it seems clear that Paul established some sort of baptism for his congregations as an initiation ritual (1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27, and Romans 6:3-4). But it’s not entirely unlike a New Year’s resolution --- it’s the follow-thru, the implementation that’s the most important.

Paul even downplayed the importance of the baptism ritual as opposed to his more important proclamation of his gospel, his announcement of good news --

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel … (1 Corinthians 1:17)

The heart of Paul’s gospel was faith, believing in his story of his salvific anointed savior, his Jesus Christ. The clearly stated pathways and the defining factors in order to obtain justification, the promise of the spirit, and the righteousness of God were faith and believing (Galatians 3:14, Romans 3:22, Romans 5:1, and others).

Ken Olson
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Re: What happens to the unbaptized gentiles in Paul?

Post by Ken Olson » Fri Apr 10, 2020 5:55 pm

Robert J asked:
Why the emphasis on baptism as the deciding factor for the benefits that Paul promised his followers?
Because the reception of the Holy Spirit through baptism is what separates being in Christ from not being in Christ, and being in Christ is the necessary prerequisite for salvation (i.e., receiving an undying spiritual body at the eschaton).

I was presuming the work of E.P. Sanders on participation in Christ (beginning with Paul & Palestinian Judaism 1978), generally known as the New Perspective on Paul since James Dunn in 1983.
Sure, it seems clear that Paul established some sort of baptism for his congregations as an initiation ritual (1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27, and Romans 6:3-4). But it’s not entirely unlike a New Year’s resolution --- it’s the follow-thru, the implementation that’s the most important.
First, while I would agree that baptism is an initiation ritual, it is not a ritual in the sense of being a symbolic public acknowledgment of something that was actually accomplished elsewhere, like being handed a diploma at a graduation ceremony. In baptism, the initiate dies and is resurrected with Christ and becomes part of the body of Christ (i.e., they have the spirit of Christ dwelling in their bodies). I'll discuss the passages that establish this below.

Second, I think that classifying the follow thru as more important than the initiation neglects an important aspect of the distinction between “getting in and staying in” (to use Sanders' terms). One enters the body of Christ by receiving the spirit of Christ in baptism, but then one must maintain that status by acting appropriately. That is Paul's point in 1 Cor. 6.20, and arguably the central theme of the entire epistle. I would hesitate to say whether getting in or staying in is the more important because both are necessary, but getting in by dying and rising with Christ and receiving the spirt through baptism is logically prior. Also, one may slip up in his or her personal conduct occasionally and still be saved, but one cannot omit to receive the spirit through baptism .
Paul even downplayed the importance of the baptism ritual as opposed to his more important proclamation of his gospel, his announcement of good news –
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel … (1 Corinthians 1:17)
Paul minimized the number of baptisms he performed personally, as opposed to those performed by others, in backing up his claim that he had not baptized in his own name and in the larger context of his plea for the church of Corinth not to be divided into factions (1 Cor. 1.10-17). He did not downplay the importance of the reception of the spirit of Christ in baptism as the thing that separates being in Christ from not being in Christ nor did he deny that one needs to be in Christ to receive an undying body on the Day of the Lord (i.e., “be saved”).
The heart of Paul’s gospel was faith, believing in his story of his salvific anointed savior, his Jesus Christ. The clearly stated pathways and the defining factors in order to obtain justification, the promise of the spirit, and the righteousness of God were faith and believing (Galatians 3:14, Romans 3:22, Romans 5:1, and others).
Trying to identify one particular concept as opposed to another as the heart or center of Paul's gospel is generally fruitless because the various concepts present in the system cannot be disentangled clearly. You could say that it is faith, or grace, or eschatology, or salvation, or Christ, or just God. But all those concepts are defined in relation to each other.

Believing in the story of Jesus Christ is not sufficient to obtain salvation for Paul. Participating in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection through baptism is what is necessary, though I suppose participants also believe the story and that they get baptized because they believe the story. (Well, I suspect many of them got baptized because the head of their household believed the story and told them they had to be baptized. It was almost certainly not up to each individual).

My proof texts:

First, Christians (a non-Pauline term) have the spirit of Christ or Holy Spirit living in their bodies. Their members are members of Christ and they collectively comprise the body of Christ. Their bodies are temples because the Holy Spirit dwells within them just as the spirit of God dwells in the temple in Jerusalem. Also, you shouldn't fornicate with prostitutes because the member that gets inserted into the prostitute is part of the body of Christ. (I am assuming Paul is talking at least predominantly about men here).
1 Corinthians 6.15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” 17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
Second, this indwelling of the Holy Spirit came about through baptism.
1Cor. 12.12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit
Paul himself, though he currently has a living body of flesh, is a different person from the pre-Christian Paul, who died. That person was crucified with Christ, and now Christ lives in his body of flesh.
Gal 2.19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith [in/of] the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
When exactly was Paul crucified? Paul suffered crucifixion and died in the same way other Christians did, through baptism. (I suspect that first century Christians practiced total immersion baptism, and maybe even held the initiate under for a bit to capture that feeling of participation in Christ).
Romans 6.3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
In baptism, the old self dies with Christ. And it is the fact that the baptized person has died with Christ that permits the expectation that they will be also resurrected in the same manner he was, a concept so important that Pauls says it three times in the passage.

Best,

Ken

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