Is Paul a Liar? The Pauline Corinthian Conflict and the Need for Reform in the American Church

By Jonathan D. Brackens
2011, Vol. 3 No. 05 | pg. 1/1


The corpus of literature regarding Pauline Criticism is largely qualitative and polarized. Close examination of the Pauline-Corinthian conflict holds that in order to maintain legitimacy in the Corinthian Church, Paul miscontextualized Septuagintal scriptures. This research (a) details the dichotomous arguments, (b) highlights First Century Church limitations, and (c) presents quantitative research to support the assertion that Paul miscontextualized. Miscontextualization is measured by how accurately Paul quotes the Septuagint in his letters (i.e., (a) the number of words quoted from the referenced scripture, and (b) Paul’s intent versus the scripture’s context). Lastly, we explore the implications of Paul’s miscontextualization on the American Church.

The ability to change a listener/reader’s belief is largely based upon the speaker/writers ability to effectively persuade (Rybacki & Rybacki 2008:4). Christian doctrinal conversion is not exempt from the art of persuasion; rather, it directly depends on how compelling the speaker/writer is (Matt. 28:19, Luke 14:23, 2 Cor. 5:11, Rom. 12:1, Acts 26:28). Aristotle gave three proofs to aid in one’s ability to persuade (a) ethos, (b) pathos, and (c) logos. The Apostle Paul was successful in persuading many to believe in Christ, and as one reads the New Testament Canon the reader can identify when Paul employs all three proofs: ethos (ethical-creditability appeal), pathos (emotional appeal), and logos (logical appeal). As it pertains to dataset for this research (i.e., 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians), Paul mainly employs the ethos appeal especially to the Corinthian Church since the Corinthians’ logos appeal to understanding God conflicted with Paul’s intent to gain credibility among them (1 Cor. 1:19; Welborn 2010: 212-13, 15, 20).

Recent scholarship posits that Paul struggled with gaining legitimacy in and control over the Corinthian Church (e.g., Welborn 2010: 220, Brakke 1994: 398). In 1 Corinthians, Paul struggled with the doctrinal issues initiated by Apollos and the Greek’s logical approach to understanding scripture and Christ Jesus; while in 2 Corinthians Paul struggled with the accusation of embezzlement (Welborn 2010: 212). Paul was human and like any human, he made mistakes; however, the ramification of Paul’s mistakes is that American Christian doctrine is based upon both his valid and invalid conclusions as it is viewed as inspired by God, infallible, and or trustworthy1. What invalidates some of his conclusions is a faulty premise, which in most cases is a miscontextualized Septuagintal reference (his ethos appeal).

Paul’s ethos appeal suggested that the Corinthians remove their emphasis on logic (1 Cor. 1:19, 22). It appears that when logic is valued among believers (i.e., Humanistic/Academic Christianity), church leaders begin to emphasize obedience to and the infallibility of Church authority, even to the extent of miscontextualization of the scripture in hopes to avert behavioral and theological insurgency (Brakke 1994: 405, MacCulloch 2010: 609). The assumption of this behavior is that true belief in Christ cannot coexist with a logical mind (1 Cor. 1:19). The goal of this study is to determine if a 21st Century reformation is in order to correct the miscontextualization not only in the scriptures, but also in doctrinal teachings based upon Paul’s conclusions. In other words, if Paul’s premises are incorrect, thereby invalidating his conclusions, then the American 21st Century Church must reform by (a) accepting that logic must play a key role in discipleship and (b) identifying the error(s) in and correct its doctrine.

The history of Christianity outlines precedent which supports the assertion that once the church becomes more concerned with (a) laity understanding and (b) more accuracy in interpretations of the scripture, reformation should of necessity follow. This study will look at key cases in the Christian Reformation to support the above. These key cases are the Protestant Rebellion, England’s tyrannical monarchs, the English push for religious freedom which resulted in the colonization of America, the Pauline-Corinthian Conflict, and the Athanasius-Egyptian Conflict. In short, this study hopes to outline (a) that the Pauline Corinthian Conflict was similar to Pre-reformation conflict and (b) based upon Christian precedent, the American church must pursue another reformation.

Presently, there are no studies which suggest that Paul miscontextualized scriptures and used empirical methods to support the claim. Because of the aforesaid, it is imperative that we define miscontextualization and how the study determines it. Miscontextualization is defined as the misquoting, adding or subtracting of words, and or taking Septuagintal scriptures out of context to help prove one’s point. Miscontextualization is measured by how accurately Paul quotes the scriptures in which he references in his letters. It is also imperative that the reader understands the historical context of the Pauline writings. The majority of New Testament contributions are from the Apostle Paul. Paul writes letters to various churches in order to “strengthen” them; these letters were later canonized to form the New Testament. Paul uses quotes from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, to help solidify his commands to those to whom he is addressing.

This study briefly reviews doctrinal beliefs of the American Church to detail the extent to which its doctrines heavily depend on the Pauline writings. The term “American Church” is used to describe mainline Protestant denominations (e.g., Southern Baptist, United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Assemblies of God, etc.) found in America as defined by McKinney in his articles American Mainline Religion (1987) and Mainline Protestantism 2000 (1998) 2. Again, the research holds that due to Paul’s miscontextualization, following Christian precedent the 21st Century American Church must reform.

Before we proceed further we should acknowledge the limitations that Paul and all other ministers experienced prior to the Gutenberg Press: the scarce availability of a written copy of the Septuagint and or the Hebrew Bible. McLuhan’s theory of media ecology suggests that humanity experienced four historical eras: (a) Tribal Age (before 2000 B.C.E.), (b) Literate Age (2000 B.C.E. to 1449 A.C.E.), (c) Print Age (1450 to 1850 A.C.E.) and (d) Electronic Age (1851 to present). McLuhan argues that what are now considered sacred texts all started out as oral traditions passed down to each generation (2009: 314-25). These oral traditions were transcribed when the phonetic alphabet was established and literacy increased (316); what this means for Paul is that he lived in a time where the Septuagint was reproduced by scribes but not mass produced, therefore, he and other ministers depended on their memorization of the scriptures (oral tradition) as their reference to it (Hirshman 2009: 30, 81).

However, as the research supports, Paul’s Septuagintal references to Galatia were 100 percent accurate, and all of Peter’s Septuagintal references were 100 percent accurate. Lastly, as Welborn (2010) points out, Paul knew the Septuagint well (214-15). The reader must judge whether or not there is sufficient enough evidence to prove intent to miscontextualize to the Corinthian Church. As we proceed, we will first familiarize ourselves with the pre-reformation schools of thought so that we may better understand the conflict which started the reformation.

Pre-Reformation Schools of Thought Regarding Christian Interpretation

The Protestant Reformation ushered a movement of critical analysis that challenged the Church-State government’s legitimacy. There is much to be said regarding how the reformation started, yet, for the sake of this study we will focus on a key reformer: Martin Luther. Luther was trained after the monastic order of Augustinian Eremites. This under emphasized fact in Christian literature is very important to the call of action that this paper purports; the monastic order of Augustinian Eremites emulated humanistic thought and so also did Martin Luther (MacCulloch 2010: 606).


There were two outgrowths of religious schools of thoughts during medieval times – Humanism and Scholasticism. These two schools of thought are important to this study as both are academic in nature and precipitated reformation. First, scholasticism is the eldest of the two schools of thought. Scholasticism was pioneered by St. Thomas who “perfected the doctrines of Aristotle” (Hope 1936: 445), thereby marrying both religion and philosophy (445-46). As Felix Hope writes in his article “Scholasticism,” “Scholastic Philosophy is the philosophy which teaches the certitude and objective validity of human knowledge acquired by means of sense-experience, testimony, reflection, and reasoning, and distinguishes an objective and a subjective element in universal ideas” (452). Although this definition holds that human knowledge is important, one of the things scholasticism teaches against is “demanding an explanation of [what is deemed] the obvious” (447). Additionally, scholasticism discouraged the question “why” if one has not tried to first justify “why not.” In other words, if one doesn’t fully understand why something should exist, he should never ask why it exists. This type of reasoning, although philosophical, kept those in the Catholic Church from questioning its formal structure and doctrines. Remember the premise of this study’s argument: the history of Christianity outlines precedent which support the assertion that once the church becomes more concerned with (a) laity understanding and (b) more accuracy in interpretations of the scripture, reformation should of necessity follow. The medieval response to scholasticism was humanism.


There are several branches of humanism; however, for the sake of this study we narrow our review to the branch which came as a response to scholasticism. Characteristics of humanist thought are “suspicion of any objective hierarchy of values,” the need to be self-conscious of all relationships, and great regard for the power of the spoken word to influence people (Hoenigswald 1948: 43). Placing this in context, scholasticism discouraged questioning “why” if full understanding of the object of inquiry wasn’t present. During the pre-reformation, the structure of the church did not support the understanding of it. For example, most priests read with soft or “inaudible voices with their back to the congregation” (Hamilton 2008: 55; Bruce 1997: 674). Additionally, the priests spoke in Latin, of which most parishioners did not speak nor understand (Bruce 1997: 674). The average parishioner was ill equipped to ask “why not,” as the structure of the church did not foster laity understanding. Therefore, the “obvious truths” of the scriptures were deemed “obvious” by priests not laity. Luther, a humanist, despised scholasticism for the expressed reason above (MacCulloch 2010: 606); he was “suspici[ous] of any objective hierarchy of values” (Hoenigswald 1948: 43).

Martin Luther

Again, Luther was a humanist who desired (a) people to understand the scriptures and (b) despised the corruption within the Catholic Church. In response to the effects of scholastic interpretations, Luther protested the church. Luther is well known for nailing the Ninety-Five Theses on the Wittenberg church’s door. As MacCulloch writes, “In the end, for Luther and all who came to accept his new message, the problem was that it was not divine mercy upholding this system [Catholic Church doctrines], but a lie told by clergymen” (2010: 608). Please understand this point; some of the church’s doctrines were based on lies. Once humanists discovered this, they (a) created a more accurate interpretation, (b) advised laity of the same, and (c) called for reformation. Again, this study suggests that this same scenario is found in the Pauline-Corinthian Conflict. Furthermore, the study will detail that this conflict has gone unresolved and affects American Christian doctrine today. First, we will review the effects of the protestant reformation on England so as to better understand the impacts of the aforesaid on American Christianity today.

England’s Reformation

The success of Luther’s reformation in Germany was after the Farmer’s War and Zwingli; it was then that he discovered that he needed to “woo…magistrates” to help establish the reformation’s legitimacy (MacCulloch 2010: 615). MacCulloch’s book Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years details magistrates’ motivation to support the new reformation: “…magistrates might well be interested in a reformation which stressed theologies of obedience and good order, and also offered the chance to put the Church’s wealth to new purposes” (2010: 615). This was no different for the Church in England (MacCulloch 2005: 77).

King Henry VIII did not seek to take control of the Church in England; rather, he sought a divorce from his wife Catherine of Aragon (MacCulloch 2005: 78). In 1532, King Henry VIII under the advice of Cromwell sought his independence from Rome as the Pope would not grant his divorce3. As a result, the Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy in 1534 which declared Henry the sole potentate over the Church of England. Because Henry VIII was a king not a priest, he turned the operations of the church to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1536. The Church of England was Protestant in nature, yet Catholic in practice (Ryrie 2002: 64-92; MacCulloch 2005: 78).

King Edward succeeded King Henry VIII; being raised Protestant, King Edward politicized the reformation by deferring all religious disputes to Parliament. As MacCulloch writes, “Edward was the figure-head for the evangelical-minded clique of politicians both lay and clerical, including the now veteran evangelical Archbishop Cranmer as a prominent member” (2005: 83). With King Henry’s and Parliament’s blessing, Cranmer issued the 1549 and 1552 Prayer Book, and The Forty-Two Articles of 1553. Cranmer’s contributions under Edward’s reformation created great unrest in the kingdom as “not just Catholics objected to the book[s]: no one liked it” (2005:85). Although MacCulloch’s statement “no one” is too inclusive, the point made is that the majority of those affected by Cranmer’s contributions thought its Protestant ideology went too far. The reformation would take a horrible turn after King Edward died and Queen Mary acquired power.

Queen Mary, or Bloody Mary, was raised Catholic and used the force of the crown to restore England’s loyalty to the Papacy. Queen Mary removed Protestant ministers and replaced them with Catholic priests. Additionally, the queen was responsible for the execution of many Protestant leaders. One of the most notable executions was the “burning [of] Cranmer and his various colleagues” (MacCulloch 2005: 86). After this dark period in English history, Queen Elizabeth assumed the throne.

Queen Elizabeth was protestant and, thankfully, did not revert to enacting “justice” in the manner of her predecessor. The queen diplomatically forged a settlement through parliament in 1559 which “formed the basis of the Church of England,” all the while not upsetting the Catholic balance of power in Europe (MacCulloch 2005: 87). MacCulloch befittingly summarizes Elizabeth’s reign, “the new queen proved expert at making soothing noises to ambassadors from dangerous Catholic foreign powers” (2005:87). The queen returned England to a similitude of King Edward VI’s reign.

After Queen Elizabeth, King James of Scotland assumed the throne. Also a Protestant, King James furthered the protestant reformation by translating the Bible into an English version (i.e. King James Version (KJV)) that could be read and understood by literate Englishmen – truly a Lutheran humanistic act. Additionally, under King James the pilgrims of the Mayflower came to America seeking to convert the lost and exercise religious freedom. Reviewing the English Reformation, one can appreciate the pilgrims’ desire for freedom of religion.

American Religious Culture

It is common knowledge that religious freedom was important to the pilgrims, Puritans, and our founding fathers. In America, the Protestant church was responsible for ensuring the morality of the saints, the conversion of the heathen, and the education of their community. The Christian socialization (i.e., evangelism) of American communities from Puritanical times to present has increased the number of converts; however, their message doesn’t emphasize the limitations of the Old and New Testaments or the importance of critical thinking. The form of Christianity that emphasizes the aforesaid is called Academic Christianity (Brakke 1994:398). As the early church developed, there were two forms of Christianity: academic and episcopal Christianity. Academic Christianity focused on an open cannon, textual criticism, and authorial intent; while episcopal Christianity focused on a closed canon, the order and authority of Bishops, and fix biblical interpretations (398-401). As Brakke points out, “before Constantine began to patronize episcopal Christianity, these two forms of church life could coexist; albeit not always peacefully” (399). During the Fourth Century Athanasius’ episcopal form of Christianity took precedent as his fixed canon was accepted, and church and state merged into one (the Holy Roman Catholic Church). The episcopal form of Christianity dominated academic Christianity; its dominance reached the shores of America and has resulted in the paralysis of many of today’s clergy and laity – robbing them of the mental dexterity to logically wrap their arms around the basis of their own doctrinal beliefs.

Some American Christian doctrine is based upon Pauline writings. Some of Apostle Paul’s conclusions are drawn reasonably, and the reader can logically follow how he came to his conclusions. In those events, substantiation of the doctrine, its conclusion, and premises are clear. This study doesn’t focus on the above; rather it focuses on those American Christian doctrines which depend on the Pauline conclusions whose premises are based upon his miscontextualization of Septuagintal scriptures – a lie. Please be reminded that the Protestant Reformation was started because “…Luther [discovered]… the problem was that it was not divine mercy upholding this system [Catholic Church doctrines], but a lie told by clergymen” (MacCulloch 2010: 608). Please note if the perpetuation of a lie by clergy was grounds for a reformation, following precedent, if Paul did miscontextualize and our doctrines are based upon Paul’s writings, then the American church is due for a reformation.

Case Study A: 1 Corinthians 1:19

The letter to the Corinthian Church indicates Paul’s struggle to maintain control over it. Additionally, Paul’s continued reference to the Apostle Apollos indicates that their doctrine conflicted. The saints in Corinth were Greek; the Greeks stressed philosophy and thinking for one’s self – sounds familiar. As stated previously, the Corinthian/Grecian church valued philosophy and wanted a greater understanding of God’s behavior. They were not satisfied with vague mystical explanations of God’s intent and involvement with mankind; this led to Paul’s ethos appeal to the Corinthians to remove their emphasis on logos appeals. Although successful to some degree, the premises of many of Paul’s conclusions are based upon his miscontextualization of Septuagintal scriptures. Again, it appears that when logic is valued among believers (i.e., Humanistic/Academic Christianity), in hopes to avert theological insurgency, church leaders begin to emphasize obedience to and the infallibility of Church authority, even to the extent of miscontextualization of the scripture.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:19, “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (KJV). Paul indicates that he is referencing the scriptures by his introductory phrase “it is written.” The scripture that Paul attempts to quote is Isaiah 29:14 which states, “Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” Notice that Paul adds “I will destroy” and “bring to nothing.”Also, notice that Paul omits the entire preceding sentence, and the two instances of the word “men” and “their.” These words are important to the context of the scripture. The Prophet Isaiah was referring to a specific group of people, while Paul tried to extend Isaiah’s words to the Greeks who pursued a philosophical understanding of Christ Jesus.

One may not believe that the omission of the first half of the scripture and the two instances of the words “men” and “their” are sufficient to prove miscontextualization. If the reader is inclined to believe the above, then consider reading the entire 29th Chapter of Isaiah. However, for a better understanding one should read chapters 1 through 39, formally known as First Isaiah (Cheyne 1892: 562; Blenkisopp 1996: 186). The prophecies in First Isaiah center on how Israel’s irreverent behavior would result in an Assyrian siege (Isaiah 1:8). During this time, King Ahaz failed to heed Isaiah’s prophetic advice to return and seek God’s counsel. He forged a treaty with the Assyrians – again, against the Isaiah’s counsel – which resulted in the Assyrian invasion of Judah and the destruction of Israel. Hezekiah, Ahaz’s son and successor, also ignored Isaiah’s advice and revolted against Assyria (Cheyne 1892: 569); yet, later he repented and sought God’s counsel (Blenkisopp 1996: 100 -107). In Isaiah 29, the Prophet is prophesying to and about the Jews in the northern and southern kingdoms (i.e., Israel and Judah) – not Gentiles in Corinth; Isaiah speaks directly about their pending judgment enacted by God via a siege that will occur on the West Bank (Ariel). Yet, God promises to restore them and the process of restoration will be a mystery (i.e., a marvel). Lastly, Isaiah asserts that no amount of wisdom or intelligence will be able to explain why God has chosen to expose, judge, and exalt selected people (Ball 2007: 17).

The scholarly postulation coupled with a close reading of the text holds that Isaiah’s prophecy in Chapter 29 verse 14 was narrowly tailored to address the siege at Ariel and its effects during the reign of King Ahaz and Hezekiah (Cheyne 1892: 569; Blenkisopp 1996: 100 -107; Ball 2007: 17). Paul, however, omits both occurrences of the words "men" and "their" to alter the subject of the prophecy in order to "apply" it to the crisis in Corinth. Granted, the general theme of First Isaiah (i.e., obey God’s instruction or suffer the consequences) can be applied to everyday life including to the Corinthian Church; however, miscontextualization is clearly seen as Paul equivocates philosophical approaches to understand God with a prophecy centered on the siege of Ariel. Paul misrepresented Isaiah’s prophecy by omitting and adding key words to provide evidence to support his conclusion: seeking wisdom and philosophy is vain. Criticism of Paul’s citations of Septuagintal scriptures is not new to Christian scholarship, this issue surfaced during the Fourth Century.

Case Study B: Fourth Century Inquisition of 1 Corinthians 2:9

Prior to the canonization of Paul’s letters, church leaders, more specifically Athanasius of Alexandria, were questioned regarding the validity of Paul’s works. Athanasius of Alexandria was the Bishop over the Egyptian Church; he also presented the biblical canon via his Festal Letter which was accepted by Constantine at the Council at Nicea4 (Brakke 1994: 395). Athanasius struggled to gain control over the Egyptian church as Brakke points out, “Athanasius’ …Easter letters…reveal that, even in his declining years, Athanasius still had to work at establishing an Egyptian church with the unity and uniformity that he desired” (1994: 398).

Again, in the Fourth Century, there were two schools of thought for interpreting the scriptures: (a) academic and (b) episcopal. Brakke writes that Academic Christianity drew upon “the Middle Platonic doctrine of the seminal Logos,” and it “sought to discover Christian truth wherever it might manifest itself” in which everyone was called to participate in (1994: 401). In short “the Christian’s goal is to approach God spiritually and intellectually” (1994: 404). Episcopal Christianity followed the beliefs and doctrines passed down by the bishops; these teachings were to be followed and not questioned. Additionally, truth was to be found in a fixed collection of books – Athanasius’ selection of biblical literature (405); he favored this school of thought.

Although Athanasius’ canonical list was accepted, he did not escape the scrutiny of his peers calling Paul’s citation of Isaiah 64:4 in 1 Corinthians 2:9 into question (Brakke 1994: 413). Brakke writes that “Athanasius admitted that Paul’s citation in 1 Cor. 2:9 (‘what no eye has seen’) cannot be found in this exact formulation in Athanasius’ Old Testament” (1994: 413). In reply, Athanasius stated that it is “sometimes difficult to determine which passage from the Septuagint is quoted by a New Testament writer when it is introduced only with ‘it is written’” (413). The issue of miscontextualization was abated and Athanasius’ selection of books was canonized and is present in both Catholic and Protestant Bibles.

It is, however, curious that the first five canons (i.e., Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, Cyril of Jerusalem) did not include Paul’s Corinthian letters (McDonald 2007: 445-46). To add to the curiosity, the issues that faced Athanasius and his desire to maintain control of his church are similar to those expressed by Paul in his letters to the Corinthian Church. Brakke was correct in studying the “social and political implications of the rise and restriction of Christian scriptures in particular ancient contexts” (396). The aforementioned is critical when discerning why the Bishop of the Egyptian Church would select the Pauline letters that his predecessors didn’t deem worthy to canonize. This further suggests that there is something invalid about Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth. Let’s proceed to another case study which affects American Christian doctrine.

Case Study C: Pre-marital Sex

In American Christian doctrine there is an emphasis on abstinence: a charge to unwed peoples to reframe from pre-marital sex. I surveyed the doctrine of a prominent Protestant denomination, the Assemblies of God (AG), to view their stance on the issue. The AG website provided the organization’s stance on pre-marital sex in a document entitled “Appropriate Intimacy in Dating.” The document states, “our beliefs concerning sexual intimacies are based mainly on (1) the Apostle Paul's interpretation of God's purpose in creating male and female…” Furthermore AG states, “The Apostle Paul teaches that regulation of sexual behavior is necessary to preserve the sacred meaning of intercourse, wherein two partners become ‘one flesh’ (1 Corinthians 6:15-20).” However, Paul’s assertion that the two become “one flesh” is miscontextualized. 1 Corinthians 6:15-18 states,

“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid. What? Know ye not that he which is joined to a harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.” (KJV)

First, Paul is referencing Genesis 2:24 which states: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (KJV). The above is Moses’ attestation of the intent of married couples. Second, Paul uses Genesis 2:24 to make the case that sex is the component which makes two into one. However, the fundamental problem with Paul’s use of the scripture is found in Genesis 4:1, “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD” (KJV). The word “knew” is used in the scriptures to express that a man copulated with a woman. Now, were Adam and Eve not “one flesh” when God presented her to him in Genesis 2:24 (i.e., before the fall)? If Paul is correct, Adam and Eve were not “one” until they copulated; according to Moses, unity occurred when the two לבקע -- followed close to each other, not when they had sex.

Furthermore, Genesis 2:24 promises that if the two לבקע (i.e., follow close to each other or be accordant) then “they shall be one flesh.” The English word “one” is a translation of the Hebrew word אֶחָֽד. This word is used to describe the Hebraic God Jehovah in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD” (KJV). The Hebrew word אֶחָֽד means a compound unity; in other words, Jehovah is not a singular entity, he is a plurality which acts accordant with his other counterparts (theologically referred to as the Trinity). If Moses was correct by stating that God made mankind in his likeness and image (Gen. 1:26), then part of God’s likeness is to act accordant or in unison with another party. Most will believe that God the Father does not have sex with God the Son and the Holy Spirit in order for them to achieve unity. Well, if the Trinity need not have sex to be אֶחָֽד (one) and we were made in God’s image giving us the ability to be אֶחָֽד (Gen. 1:26; 2:24), then sex is not the conduit by which unity occurs – Paul miscontextualized.

As one reads Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church, it is no secret that they struggled with “sexual sin;” therefore, Paul uses a Septuagintal scripture to reinforce his stance of sexual purity. Paul’s advocacy of sexual purity is good; yet, the premise on which his conclusion is built is inaccurate. This is one example of how American Christian doctrine is dependent upon Paul’s writings; yet, Paul fails the church by miscontextualizing scriptures to help support his conclusions. The American Church must realize that abstinence may be a “good” thing, but it is not a biblical thing as Paul miscontextualized the scripture; reformation is needed. However, before we drive the point home, we must look at the other side of the argument.

In Defense of Paul

There are several scholars who come to Paul’s defense when miscontextualization is discussed. One of the most discussed occurrences of miscontextualization is Paul’s use of Psalms 68:18 to justify the existence of apostolic ministerial order in Ephesians 4:8-11. The conflict is that Paul writes,

Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers. (KJV)

Verse 8 is Paul’s citation of Psalms 68:18 which states, “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them” (KJV). Notice the difference between Paul’s rendition and the psalmist’s – Paul’s “gave gifts” while the psalmist’s “received gifts.” Additionally, Paul alludes to Christ being the one who ascended, while scholars assert that the psalmist is referring to King David (Hamilton 2008: 23) or Moses (Barnes 1870: 202). In no case, however, is there a scholarly postulation that the psalmist was referring to Christ.

However, as stated before, Christian scholars come to Paul’s defense by stating that he obtained a faulty copy of or poorly recalled the Psalm (O’Brien 1999: 290). D.M. Lloyd-Jones writes in her book Christian Unity: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:1 to 16, that Paul is not purposefully misquoting nor is his source inaccurate, rather, he is “broadening the scope of what Psalms 68:18 speaks of” (1998:150). If O’Brien is correct, then Christian doctrine is in deep trouble as Paul’s conclusions are based upon faulty manuscripts or poor memory. If Lloyd-Jones is correct, one must ask to what extent does one “expand meaning” to prove one’s point. If one goes too far, the authority of the premise becomes invalid thereby invalidating the conclusion.

If the previous case studies didn’t satisfy the burden-of-proof, then consider the following empirical quantitative analysis of Paul’s accuracy. Until now, scholars looked at 1 Corinthians 2:9 or Ephesians 4:8 and justified or condemned Paul’s actions; however, this study reviews a larger set of Paul’s writings to determine a pattern of behavior. The dataset includes the following scriptures: 1 Cor. 1: 19,1 Cor. 1: 31,1 Cor. 2: 9,1 Cor. 2: 16,1 Cor. 3: 19,1 Cor. 3: 20,1 Cor. 6: 16,1 Cor. 9: 9,1 Cor. 10: 7,1 Cor. 10: 26,1 Cor. 14: 21,1 Cor. 14: 21,1 Cor. 15: 45,1 Cor. 15: 54,1 Cor. 15: 55,2 Cor. 4: 13,2 Cor. 6: 16,2 Cor. 8: 15,2 Cor. 9: 9,2 Cor. 10: 17,Gal. 3: 8,Gal. 3: 10,Gal. 3: 11,Gal. 3: 12,Gal. 3: 13,Gal. 4: 27,Gal. 4: 30,Gal. 5: 14,Eph. 4: 8,Eph. 5: 31,Eph. 6: 2 and Eph. 6: 3. Additionally, this study reviews the citation pattern of both Apostles Paul and Peter to provide comparison.

Methodology Employed to Determine Pauline Miscontextualization

In order to determine Paul’s accuracy in properly quoting and integrating the Septuagint, his letters (i.e., 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians) were reviewed. The majority of the scriptural cross-referencing was completed by Michael Marlowe5. The dataset was validated by verifying cross-referenced scriptures using The New Oxford Annotated Bible’s6 cross referencing. There were a total of eight-eight Septuagintal references; however, not all were direct quotes. To narrow the dataset, each reference was reviewed to determine if Paul attempted to directly quote or if he alluded to the scripture. Key phrases such as “it is written” or “it is said” were identified as evidence of a direct quote; while others were selected as Paul used a word series which read verbatim to the Septuagintal reference. Scriptural allusions were not included in the final dataset, as indication of motive (i.e., direct quoting) was not evident. The dataset consists of thirty-two Septuagintal references which are identified in Table A located in the Appendix.

The New Testament scriptures, Paul’s codified references to the Septuagint, were copied from its original Greek and matched with its Septuagintal reference, also in Greek text. A comparison was made to determine three different variables: (a) the number of words not quoted from the referenced scripture, (b) the number of words quoted from the referenced scripture, and (c) if the scripture was taken out of context. For the sake of data integrity, variables “a” and “b” were calculated using the following method. Each Greek word of the New Testament scripture was assigned a unique New Testament id (NTID); the same was done with its respective Septuagintal reference, giving it a unique Old Testament id (OTID). The variables were uploaded into a Microsoft Access database, and the respective ids were linked. Once the relationship was established, the database was programmed to count how many times the respective Septuagintal Greek word(s) were used verses the total occurrences of each Greek New Testament word. Table 1 details an example of how the database calculated variable “b” which provides variable “a” and gives a percentage7. The first New Testament reference is 1 Corinthians 1:19, while its Septuagintal reference is Isaiah 29:14.

Table 1: Percentage Quoted Methodology
αὐτοὺς 1 0
ἐγὼ 1 0
διὰ 1 0
ἰδοὺ 1 0
καὶ 3 1
κρύψω 1 0
λαὸν 1 0
μεταθεῖναι 1 0
μεταθήσω 1 0
ἀπολῶ 1 1
προσθήσω 1  
σύνεσιν 1 1
σοφίαν 1 1
σοφῶν 1 1
συνετῶν 1 1
τὴν_n 2 2
τὸν_o 1 0
τῶν_w 2 2
τοῦ 1 0
τοῦτο 1 0
τοῦτον 1 0
Totals 25 10
% Quoted 40%  
Notes: OT_WC: Septuagintal reference summation of total occurrences of each Greek word; NT_WC: New Testament reference summation of total occurrences of each Greek word.

As show in Table 1, the Septuagintal reference consists of 25 Greek words; Paul only quotes 10 of them, equaling 40 percent of the reference quoted.

Again, variable “c” determined if Paul miscontextualized (i.e., misquoted or takes out of context) the Septuagintal reference. How miscontextualization was determined is the proceeding and subsequent verse(s) relational to the quoted Septuagintal scripture were read, and its theme was compared to Paul’s contextual theme. If Paul’s context was not similar to the quoted scripture, it was coded a “1”; if it was similar, it was coded a “0”. Additionally, if Paul’s rendition of the scripture reflects changed (i.e., added or omitted) words, the variable was coded a “1.”8


Table 2: Paul's Misquotes and Contextual Errors
      1 Cor. 2 Cor. Gal. Eph. Total
Out of Context No Count 8 1 8 3 20
Percentage of Occurrences 53.3% 20.0% 100.0% 75.0% 62.5%
Yes Count 7 4   1 12
Percentage of Occurrences 46.7% 80.0% .0% 25.0% 37.5%
Total Count 15 5 8 4 32
Percentage of Occurrences 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Notes: = 9.45; df = 3; N=32

A test of statistical significance shows that Paul took more Septuagintal scriptures out of context for the church in Corinth than Ephesus, Galatia, or Colossus (= 9.45; df = 3). Chi- squared () is a statistical test of significance, which states that the observation –in this case its Paul's significant amounts of misquotes of Septuagintal scriptures to the Corinthian Church –doesn't happen by chance, rather it is purposeful. DF stands for degrees of freedom which determine what the value of has to be to reach statistically significance. In this case, df=3 which means to be statistically significant, the value of has to be at least 7.815. If is 7.815 or higher, one can say that 95 percent of the time when Paul misquotes or takes a scripture out of context, his is going to do so to the Corinthian Church. In this study is 9.45, meaning that one can be 98.75 percent confident that when Paul misquotes or takes a scripture out of context, his is going to do so to the Corinthian Church. To make this more compelling, the significance level is .024. This means that there is less than 24 thousandths of a percent that what has been observed (i.e., Paul's significant amounts of misquotes of the Septuagintal scriptures to the Corinthian Church) happened by chance.

Conclusion & Implications

Furthermore, when one cross-references the Septuagintal scriptures quoted by Paul and Peter in their letters, Paul only quotes 41 percent of the total scripture he is using to support his conclusions. Peter, on the other hand, quotes 83 percent of the total scripture he is using to support his conclusions9. Which one would one think gives a fuller picture and understanding of his claims? This study’s analysis not only supports that Paul miscontextualized, but it also suggests that he had increased motive to do so to the Corinthian Church. To be more confident of Paul’s motive, further research should be completed to review all of Paul’s canonized writings to determine if there is a stronger correlation between the church and miscontextualization or topic (i.e. carnal wisdom, sexual immorality, etc.) and miscontextualization. This has been exhaustive, but I believe that this type of analysis is imperative as it will help Christians be more critical of church doctrines based upon miscontextualized scriptures.

The American Church shouldn’t be blind to the fact that Englishmen came to this country for the expressed desire to have to right to exercise their religious freedoms. More specifically, they desired to be free from the tyranny of the crown. Religious English tyranny did bring about a reformation – at the cost of many lives. The catalyst of the reformation was the dispute between the tenets of Protestantism and Catholicism. The denominational divisions centered on (1) how much or how little the church would allow understanding of the scriptures and (2) how honest the church was in preaching accurate interpretations of scripture. Because Protestants caught Catholic priests upholding lies, they revolted against the church and called for reformation. This time, we seek not to free ourselves from governmental oppression or papal dictates, rather to be freed by obtaining the truth of our American Christian doctrines.

Much like in King Edward’s time, segments of American Christianity condemning those who do not follow it have found its way into party politics. However, we must take Christ’s advice to remove the plank in our eye before trying to remove the cinder from our neighbor’s (Matt. 7: 3-5). Our “plank” is blindly following the apostle’s doctrine, the “cinder” is our neighbor’s incongruence to the plank by which we are blinded. We should remove the plank so that we can discern clearly between the American Christian beliefs that are biblical, verses those which are preferential.

We are at a crisis in the American Church; precedent holds that once a lie propagated by religious leaders is discovered, we call for reformation. The challenge is now how to initiate it. This study systematically supports that Paul, the Apostle of Christian doctrine, miscontextualized – lied about scripture. Again, precedent holds that reformation is in order; the question is who will support it?


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1.) See Table C in the Appendix to view the Statements of Faith for the respective denominations referred to as “American Church” in this research and named “Mainline Protestant Denominations” by McKinney (1998) and Roof & McKinney (1987).

2.) McKinney argues in his 1987 article how he determines the American mainline protestant denominations; his 1998 article builds upon his framework. Roof, Wade Clark and William McKinney. American Mainline Religion: Its Changing Shape and Future. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press (1987).

3.) Cromwell had a personal theological motivation to encourage King Henry VIII to separate from the Catholic Church. He and other similar thinking evangelicals (e.g., Boleyn and Cranmer) sought the opportunity to initiate their brand of reformation (MacCulloch 1999: 2, 4; 2005: 81); therefore, he used the king’s disgruntlement caused by the Pope’s refusal to grant divorce as the catalyst to promote his desired reformation.

4.) It was in Nicea where Constantine declared the entire Roman Empire Christian, which was the beginning of the Golden Age of Holy Roman Catholic Church.

5.) Marlowe holds a Masters in Theology; the complete list of Septuagintal scriptures referenced in the New Testament can be viewed on Marlowe’s website <>

6.) The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Augmented Third Edition, New Revised

Standard Version, Indexed. 3 Thumbed ed. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2007. Print.

7.) That database’s programming controlled for the possibility that the New Testament citation may over use the word (e.g., the Septuagintal scripture uses the word “holy” twice while the New Testament scriptures uses the word “holy” three times); the database will not count the extra use of the word toward the percentage quoted.

8.) A change to the verb tense is not considered miscontextualization as long as the modification did not significantly alter the context of the scripture.

9.) Peter’s Septuagintal citations are found in Table B located in the Appendix.


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