“Jesus be Cursed” or “Jesus Grants a Curse” – 1 Cor. 12:3 Reconsidered

I Corinthians 12:3 reads “Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

The difficult phrase in this verse is “Jesus be cursed.” Anthony Thiselten lists twelve different interpretations in his commentary on 1 Corinthians. In reading his new book The Holy Spirit in Biblical Teaching through the Centuries, and Today he says he has changed his mind about his understanding of this verse. He writes, “Shortly after this, [writing his Corinthians commentary] however, I became convinced by the proposal of Bruce Winter, who reads not the passive (‘Jesus be cursed’) but the active (‘Jesus grants a curse’). For the Greek text simply reads Anathema Iēsous, with no explicit verb. An active verb is supplied in the light of the discovery of some twenty-seven ancient ‘curse’ tablets made of lead and unearthed near Corinth, fourtheen of them on or near Acrocorinth in pagan temples. Some pagans prayed to their deities to ‘curse’ rivals in business, in love, in litigation, or in sport. Winter suggests Paul is most probably alluding to this: such a phenomenon as asking Jesus to curse a rival cannot be ‘of the Holy Spirit.’ This sounds entirely convincing. The Holy Spirit will inspire only Christ-like attributes and obedience to Christ as practical Lord and Master. Christians ‘belong to’ Christ, as slaves ‘belong to’ their Lord.” (80-81)

The book by David Winter that Thiselton refers to is After Paul Left Corinth (pp. 164-83)

David Garland disagrees. He says, “This explanation assumes that Christians persisted in this pagan practice and sought to use the power of Jesus through the formula to harm their enemies. This reconstruction is quite foreign to the context. Why Paul would contrast this hex with the confession ‘Jesus is Lord’ is difficult to explain. In none of the inscriptions cited does the word anathema occur.” (1 Corinthians, 569)

It’s something to think about.

Holy Spirit

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About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
This entry was posted in Biblical Studies. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “Jesus be Cursed” or “Jesus Grants a Curse” – 1 Cor. 12:3 Reconsidered

  1. Pingback: Baker Book House Church Connection | “I Partly Believe it” or “I Believe a Certain Report”? – 1 Cor. 11:18 Reconsidered

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