24 Dec 2012 
#20 Were the earliest Christians of Corinth told about Jesus in a worldly manner?

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Let's work of the following half verse:
2 Cor 5:16b Darby "and even if *we* have known Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know [him thus] no longer."

Because "according to the flesh" (Greek: 'kata sarka') cannot mean here "in person" (neither Paul or his Corinthians met Jesus in the flesh), the sense in that context appears to be "according to worldly ways" (Collins' dictionary definition for "worldly": "not spiritual; mundane or temporal"). Please note the NIV Bible renders 'kata sarka' here as "from a worldly point of view"; the NRSV translates the same as "from a human point of view".

And Paul can be demonstrated to use this expression in the same epistle with that connotation:
2 Cor 1:17c "... Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh ..."
2 Cor 5:15a "... we regard no one according to the flesh"
2 Cor 10:2-3 "But I beg [you] that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh."
2 Cor 11:18 "Seeing that many boast according to the flesh, I also will boast."

And, sometimes, "according to the flesh" is presented as the opposite of "according to the Spirit" (which is Paul's preferred way, by far!):
Ro 8:4-5 "[There is] therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those [who live] according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit."
Ro 8:13 "For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

So now, let's look back at the half verse, with some comments inserted into it:
2 Cor 5:16b-17 Darby "and even if *we* have known
[Greek perfect indicative: at some time in the past]
Christ according to the flesh,
[reference to some worldly & unChristian knowledge/understanding about Jesus. Then next, Paul is asking his audience to forget this point of view about Jesus]
yet now we know [him thus] no longer."

Carrier has his own (wrong) explanation for this passage in his "Critical Review of Maurice Casey's Defense of the Historicity of Jesus", Section All Christians met Jesus in person:
"in 2 Corinthians 5:16, where Paul says we have known Christ according to the flesh, now we no longer know him that way,”
...
So when Paul says “we” knew Christ in the flesh ..., it is not Christ’s fleshly existence Paul is referring to, but our fleshly existence. ..."

[Note: wait a minute, Carrier: "according to the flesh" is not the same than "in the flesh"! And "our" is not in the Greek text. See later]

Now. let's look at what Carrier wrote in his "On The Historicity Of Jesus" (OHJ), page 571, with my inserted comments:
"In the same way, when Paul says, 'although we have known Christ according to the flesh, now we no longer know him that way' (2 Cor. 5.16), he is not excusing the fact that he did not know Jesus personally as the other apostles did, because he is referring not to himself but to all Christians,

[Note: Carrier must have had a historicist moment when he wrote that: apostles knew Jesus personally! Or is it just bad writing? And with "we", Paul is referring to himself and his audience, the Christians of Corinth, not necessarily all Christians]

Including the Corinthians he is writing to (as the context indicates: 2 Cor. 5.1-15). This is therefore a reference to our living no longer 'according to the flesh' but according to the spirit (Romans 8). So it is not Christ's fleshly existence Paul is referring to here (because even on historicity the Corinthians can't possibly have known Christ that way), but our fleshly existence, and our choice to live 'in' the flesh or out of it—and the fact that Christians begin in it, and ascend out of it. Thus, we all know Christ when we are in the flesh, but then we evolve beyond that.

[Note: the Corinthians could have known about Jesus' fleshy existence through the like of Peter/Cephas. No need for direct contact with earthly/human Jesus for that.
And I do not see why 'kata sarka' ("according to flesh") would mean "in our fleshly existence". That new elaborated meaning does not fit in 1 Corinthians 5:16 YLT:
"So that we henceforth have known no one according to the flesh ['kata sarka'. "in our fleshy existence" does not make any sense here], and even if we have known Christ according to the flesh ['kata sarka'], yet now we know him no more;"
The Christians to whom the letter was addressed were still in their fleshly existence after conversion. "In the flesh" was the present condition of Christians, even if they were not "according to the flesh" anymore. And, for evidence, in 2 Corinthians 10: 3, Paul made the distinction between "in the flesh" and "according to the flesh": "for walking in the flesh, not according to the flesh do we war,"
Also, having known Christ according to flesh is an action done & in the past.
Finally, Carrier's statement "we all know Christ when we are in the flesh, but then we evolve beyond that" is misleading for several reasons, including the present tense for "have known" (perfect Greek tense: done in the past)]

As Paul says in the very next line (2 Cor. 5.17).

[Note: the verse in question is: "so that if any one is in Christ -- he is a new creature; the old things did pass away, lo, become new have the all things."
But that may as well mean the old things which passed away included a knowledge of Jesus according to flesh, that is from a human point of view (which Paul wanted his Christians to forget about!)]

Cordially, Bernard

Tags: {2 Corinthians} {2 Corinthians 5:16} {Carrier} {Carrier's OHJ} {earthly & human Jesus} {historical Jesus} {mythicism} {Paul}
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