Implications of 1 Corinthians 5:5

Implications of 1 Corinthians 5:5 for church discipline

First Corinthians 5:5 is a difficult passage to understand. What lessons about church discipline, taught by Paul to first century Christians, can be applied to the church today?

First Corinthians 5:5 is fraught with both exegetical and theological difficulties.1 How is the church to "deliver" the incestuous man to Satan? What does "destruction of the flesh" mean? What about the salvation of the "spirit" in the day of the Lord? What implications does this text have regarding church discipline? Our discussion will focus on three areas.

Daniel Bediako is a PhD candidate in Old Testament studies, Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies Silang, Cavite, Philippines.

"Deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor. 5:5).

First Corinthians 5:5 is fraught with both exegetical and theological difficulties.1 How is the church to "deliver" the incestuous man to Satan? What does "destruction of the flesh" mean? What about the salvation of the "spirit" in the day of the Lord? What implications does this text have regarding church discipline? Our discussion will focus on three areas. The first briefly surveys various scholarly views on the passage; the second establishes its historical and literary contexts; and the third will provide a lexical analysis of the relevant phrases of the text, indicating how they fit into the context of 1 Corinthians 5 and the Pauline writings in general. The conclusion will briefly note the implications of this text to church discipline.

Views on 1 Corinthians 5:5

Much of the debate on the passage centers on the meaning of flesh and spirit.2 The discussion also deals with the nature of Pauål's verdict. Does it point merely to temporary discipline3 or to something more (that is, permanent expulsion and subsequent death)?4 Some scholars understand "deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh" in a physical sense: the expelled, incestuous man will suffer physical illness,5 or even physical suffering leading to death at the hands of Satan.6 Accordingly, some scholars have posited a "curse/death" interpretation of 1 Corinthians 5:5 based on analogies from Greek "magical" papyri and/or Jewish writings.7 Several variations of these views are promulgated: Paul may have meant a delivery of the man to Roman magistrates,8 a secret execution,9 a self-atoning physical death,10 or a delivery to purgatory.11 In any case, these interpretations take flesh in a physical sense, namely, the body. However, some understand flesh and spirit metaphorically, each denoting the whole person rather than a dichotomy of the person.12 Some scholars believe that Paul refers to the expulsion of the incestuous man, and that this would lead to the "destruction" of his sinful nature,13 not his physical body. Some seek to identify the incestuous man in 1 Corinthians 5:5 with the offender in 2 Corinthians 2:6-11 whom Paul says the church should accept back.14 Others see in this expulsion both the mortification of the flesh (fleshly lust) and physical suffering (destruction of the flesh or body).15 While there is no concensus regarding the details of the text, many scholars agree that the purpose of Paul's verdict is the salvation of the man's "spirit."

Nonetheless, some scholars have questioned whether in 1 Corinthians 5:5 "flesh" and "spirit" could not refer to some other person(s) rather than the incestuous man.16 Tertullian17 and H. von Campenhausen18 agree that here flesh refers to the incestuous man; yet, while the former understands spirit as the spirit of the church, the latter links it with the Spirit of God. K. P. Donfried connects flesh with the church and spirit with God.19 Barth Campbell follows Tertullian, Donfried, and Campenhausen, but he argues that both flesh and spirit refer to the church.20 According to these views, Paul's focus is on the spiritual life of the church,21 not the incestuous man. Finally, V. G. Shillington understands 1 Corinthians 5:5 in the context of the atonement in Leviticus 16.22 Thus, the incestuous man, like the scapegoat, bears the sins of the community in his flesh so that the "spirit-in-community" will be preserved on the day of the Lord.23 Such diverse interpretations of 1 Corinthians 5:5 necessitate a full-fledged analysis of the text.

Understanding the context

Historically, Corinth is known, among other things, for its sexual corruption.24 Thus sexual immorality was part of the Corinthians' pre-Christian lifestyle (1 Cor. 6:9, 10), and this lifestyle seems to have found its way into the church (5:9; 6:12-20; 7:2; 10:8; cf. 2 Cor. 12:21). The problem with which Paul deals in chapter 5 is not just sexual immorality, but an extraordinary case of immorality,25 one not common even among the Gentiles.26 Paul is straight to the point: "a man has his father's wife" (v. 1, NKJV).

In 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17, Paul says that the church at Corinth is the temple of God and that those who destroy it will be destroyed by God. This serves as a basis for understanding 5:1-13.27 Having been informed of the incestuous relationship (v. 1), Paul directs the church to put the man out of their fellowship (v. 2). This directive is repeated several other times in the passage (vv. 4, 5, 7, 13), indicating the gravity of the matter. Verses 3-5 state how and why the church should carry out the judgment, and verses 6-8 give the theological basis for the intended action. In verses 9-13 Paul excoriates the church's relaxed attitude and seems to suggest that the church should have taken the appropriate action based on his former letter.28 This context provides the parameters for understanding the verdict in verse 5. By keeping close to this context, most of the scholarly opinions given above will be discarded.

Analysis of 1 Corinthians 5:5

This section offers lexical-semantic analysis of the following words and/or phrases within the general context of the Pauline corpus: paradounai, "to hand over" or deliver; eis olethron tēs sarkos, "destruction of the flesh"; and hina to pneuma sōthē, "that the spirit may be saved."

Hand over. The apostle says that when the church assembles in the name of the Lord, they should paradounai (aorist infinitive of paradidōmi) "hand over" the incestuous man to Satan. In the Septuagint (LXX), the root paradidōmi (translating the Hebrew beyādekā "in your hand") is used to refer to God handing over Job to Satan (Job 2:6; cf. 1:12) for physical affliction. The word is also used in the sense of God's rejection or abandonment of His people as a form of judgment (Jer. 33:24, 25). In the Gospels, paradidōmi is used in reference to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas (Mark 14:10) and the handing over of Jesus to Pilate (Mark 15:1), who in turn hands Jesus back over to the people (Luke 23:18-25; cf. Rom. 4:25). The word also denotes God's judgment on sinners (Acts 7:42; Rom. 1:24-28). It is clear from this that paradidōmi may either be literal, physically handing someone over for punishment, or figurative, judgmentally rejecting or abandoning someone.

In the context of 1 Corinthians 5:5, a figurative understanding of paradidōmi seems to be a better option. Paul uses several metaphors in this chapter. Examples include the references to the "old yeast," "Christ, our Passover lamb," and "the feast" (vv. 7, 8, NIV, KJV). Verse 5 may thus be understood.29 Moreover, in several contexts paradidōmi simply implies rejection and abandonment (Rom. 1:24; Eph. 4:19) or surrender (John 19:30; 1 Cor. 13:3; 2 Cor. 4:11; Eph. 5:25). In 1 Timothy 1:20, the word implies abandonment.30 Here, Paul says that some believers, Hymenaeus and Alexander, have shipwrecked their faith and that he has handed them over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

Thus understood, paradounai in 1 Corinthians 5:5 does not refer to a magical spell or curse, nor does it refer to a court summons, a secret execution, or a self-atoning death. We may take verse 2 as the basic verdict of Paul, and that the rest of the chapter (including the figurative sayings in v. 5 and v. 7) serves to reinforce this verdict. Note also that verse 13 forms an inclusio with verse 2. This is to say, that what verses 2 and 13 state literally, verses 5 and 7 state figuratively.31 In any case, the incestuous man must be expelled from fellowship. Christ rules within the church, and Satan rules outside the church. If the sinner is expelled from church fellowship, he automatically finds himself in the sphere of Satan's operation.32

Destruction of the flesh. The phrase eis olethron tÄ“s sarkos literally means "destruction of the flesh." The word olethros (olethron is masculine singular accusative of olethros) generally denotes physical destruction. The noun olethros or the verb olethreuō in the LXX may denote destruction (Exod. 12:23) or judgment (Jer. 5:6; 48:3; Ezek. 6:14). In the New Testament (NT), olethros has the more general sense of eschatological or spiritual destruction (1 Thess. 5:3; 2 Thess. 1:9; 1 Tim. 6:9). While olethros may have physical meaning,33 the figurative tenor of 1 Corinthians 5:5, 7 (cf. vv. 2, 13) seems to suggest that, like paradounai, olethron should be taken figuratively. This should also advise against interpreting the text in a strict, literal sense. A careful look at the Greek sentence in verse 5b seems to indicate that eis olethron tÄ“s sarkos stands in apposition to paradounai tō satana. Both paradounai tō satana and eis olethron tÄ“s sarkos have judgmental connotations and their juxtaposition here suggests that both phrases have the same reference. If so, this means that "deliver such an one unto Satan" equates or, at least, is explained by "for the destruction of the flesh." Since the hina clause ("that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus") has the incestuous man in view and syntactically relates to the main clause ("deliver such an one unto Satan"), hina expresses the intended result of the action in the main clause. In other words, the intended result of paradounai here is the salvation of the incestuous man's spirit.34

Having taken olethros in a metaphorical sense, the meaning of sarx (sarkos is the genitive of sarx) needs to be determined. In the first place, it should be noted that Paul, as well as the NT, has no dichotomous or dualistic view of the human being.35 This means that we should not divide the human being into "flesh" and "spirit." Rather, either of these elements refers to the person as a whole.36 Thus, when in 1 Corinthians 5:3, 4 Paul says that his own spirit will be present when the congregation meets to execute the verdict, he merely means that he fully undersigns the action.

According to A. Sand, sarx is used in three ways: (1) the bodily substance (1 Cor. 6:16; 15:39); (2) earthly and natural, merely worldly, existence (1 Cor. 1:26; 9:11; 2 Cor. 1:17); and (3) human beings subject to the power of sin (Rom. 7:5-8:10; Gal. 5:13-6:8).37 The context of 1 Corinthians 5 seems to suggest that sarx be understood to mean sinful human nature.38 Sarx refers to the incestuous man, not the worldly inclination of the church. That this is what Paul means becomes clear even from a cursory reading of verses 3-5: "Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord" (NIV).

This understanding of sarx complies with the figurative sense of olethros. The incestuous man must be expelled from the church (1 Cor. 5:2, 7, 13), an action which may possibly lead to the destruction of his sinful nature. Accordingly, rather than physical destruction or death,39 olethros implies the renouncement of the incestuous man's sinful nature, namely, turning away from his present fleshly way of life marked by this gross immorality. While olethros is, admittedly, a strong word for destruction, Pauline references to the subjugation of the flesh elsewhere indicate that its use with reference to flesh in 1 Corinthians 5:5 should not be a surprise or demand literal interpretation. For example, Paul says that those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh (Gal. 5:24). He also says that believers must put to death whatever belongs to the earthly nature (Col. 3:5). If in such instances Paul does not mean literal crucifixion or death of the flesh, we should not understand olethron sarkos in 1 Corinthians 5:5 otherwise. The same is true of 1 Timothy 1:19, 20, the only NT parallel to 1 Corinthians 5:5. Paul does not consider death as a means of church discipline, since discipline is clearly redemptive (cf. 2 Cor. 2:5-11).

Salvation of the spirit. Finally, how are we to understand Paul's phrase, hina to pneuma sōthÄ“, "that the spirit may be saved." As argued above, sarx refers to the whole person, namely, the sinful nature or present way of life of the incestuous man. Since in the context of 1 Corinthians 5 pneuma ("spirit") is the antonym of sarx, it follows that pneuma should be understood as the man's new nature in Christ, resulting from the destruction of his sarx. Both terms are figurative, each referring to the whole, undivided being. They also correspond to Paul's old nature/new nature antithesis (2 Cor. 5:17; cf. Eph. 4:22). Note Rosner's statement: "When Paul contrasts flesh and spirit, as here in verse 5, flesh refers almost without exception to the contrast of evil and good tendencies, as in Romans 8:5-17 and Galatians 5:16-24." "Flesh" refers to the person oriented away from God and "spirit" to the person oriented towards God.40

In Pauline writings salvation may be present (Rom. 11:14; 1 Cor. 9:22) or eschatological (1 Cor. 1:18, 21; 3:15; 2 Cor. 2:15). The significance of sōthÄ“ "may be saved" (aorist subjunctive passive of sōzō) in 1 Corinthians 5:5 is seldom debated. Nonetheless, the reference to the salvation of the spirit "in the day of the Lord Jesus" presents some difficulty. Do we have to construe salvation here in an eschatological sense because sōthÄ“ is qualified by "the day of the Lord Jesus"? On the other hand, if Paul envisioned the return of the incestuous man after the destruction of the "flesh," would he situate the salvation of the man's "spirit" only at the eschaton? Gordon Fee makes the point that "the day of the Lord Jesus" is one of Paul's "ordinary ways of expressing salvation" (cf. 1 Cor. 3:15; 4:5).41 Thus understood, Paul may not necessarily have attached temporal significance to the phrase. Paul elsewhere envisions the day of the Lord with considerable immediacy (1 Cor. 1:7, 8; 7:26, 27; 15:51, 52; Phil. 1:6, 10; 1 Thess. 4:17; 5:4). However, nothing in the context of 1 Corinthians 5 argues against understanding the day of the Lord in an eschatological sense. In the parallel text of 1 Timothy 1:19, 20, Paul seems to expect the repentance of Hymenaeus and Alexander when he says that he has given them over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 5:5 Paul seems to assume the repentance of the man. On this basis, he proleptically-bypassing the intermediate-announces the eschatological salvation of the incestuous man once he repents. In any case, Paul's verdict seems redemptive.

While the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 5:5 presented here is not entirely new, it has given a solid basis for the "expulsion view." Some scholars advocate this interpretation, yet, based on analogy with Job's suffering (Job 1:12; 2:6) and Paul's thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7),42 they seem to (or at least doubt whether such interpretation does not) envision the physical involvement of Satan in destroying the "flesh" of the incestuous man.43 This brief study has argued a figurative understanding of Paul's injunction in 1 Corinthians 5:5. Accordingly, Satan plays no role in this nonliteral destruction of the flesh. If, as stated above, "for the destruction of the flesh" stands in apposition to "deliver such an one unto Satan," then the difficulty disappears. By figuratively handing over the incestuous man to Satan i.e., expelling him from the church, it is hoped, in view of the accompanying disgrace and grief, that the man would come back to his senses, repent of his sin, turn away from it, and be accepted back into fellowship.

Implications for church discipline

First Corinthians 5 has enormous implications for church discipline. Among other things, the text teaches the following about discipline:

  1. Among other sins, the sexual immorality of a believer contaminates not only the person, but also the church, the temple of God (vv. 6-8). Therefore, the church must not entertain such people (vv. 9-11).
  2. When such a grave sin comes to the notice of the church, the appropriate action must be taken immediately. This may include expulsion from fellowship (vv. 2, 5, 13).
  3. Church discipline is primarily remedial. The idea is not to send away an erring believer from the church. Rather, by expelling such a person from fellowship, the person may realize the gravity of sin and repent from it.
  4. Church discipline also purifies the church as the temple of God and protects it against contamination (vv. 6-8).
  5. The church must responsibly discipline an erring believer (vv. 2-5, 13).
  6. Church discipline is to be carried out by the whole congregation under the leading of the Holy Spirit (vv. 4, 5). In this way, personal sentiments are guarded.

The above points suggest that church discipline was not meant just for first century Christians, but for Christians of all times. Today, it appears that some congregations have forgotten that church discipline exists. On the other extreme, some are so obsessed with church discipline that the discipline loses its significance. Whatever the reasons for such a bifurcation of attitude towards church discipline, Paul's message in 1 Corinthians 5 and elsewhere must be heeded.


  1. See Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 209.
  2. See Barth Campbell, "Flesh and Spirit in 1 Cor 5:5: An Exercise in Rhetorical Criticism of the NT," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 36 (1993): 331.
  3. For example, F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians (London: Oliphants, 1971), 55; John Ruef, Paul's First Letter to Corinth (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1977), 40; James T. South, "A Critique of the ‘Curse/Death' Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 5:1-8," New Testament Studies 39 (1993): 539-561; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1961), 216, 217; Brian S. Rosner, " ‘Drive Out the Wicked Person': A Biblical Theology of Exclusion," Evangelical Quarterly 71 (1999): 31-34; Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, "The First Letter to the Corinthians," in New Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed. Raymond E. Brown (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990), 803; Leon Morris, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958), 88; Eugen Walter, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (New York: Crossroad, 1981), 54.
  4. Tertullian, De Pudicitia 13 (Ante-Nicene Fathers 4.87, 88). See also R. Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament (New York: Scribner's, 1951-1955), 1:233; W. F. Orr and J. A. Walther, 1 Corinthians, Anchor Bible Series (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976), 188, 189; S. M. Gilmour, "Pastoral Care in the New Testament Church," New Testament Studies 10 (1964): 395; J. C. Hurd, Jr., The Origin of 1 Corinthians (New York: Seabury, 1965), 137, 286; E. Schweizer, "Sarx, Sarkikos, Sarkinos," Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT), ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 7:98-151; Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians: A Commentary on the First Epistle to Corinthians, Hermeneia, trans. James W. Leitch (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975), 97.
  5. See for example, H. Olshausen, A Commentary on Paul's First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians (Minneapolis, MN: Klock and Klock, 1984), 90; H. Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 471; Margaret E. Thrall, The First and Second Letters of Paul to the Corinthians (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965), 40; Morris, First Epistle, 88, 89; Thomas Charles Edwards, 1 A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Minneapolis, MN: Klock and Klock, 1979), 126, 127; W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians, The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 10:217; G. B. Caird, New Testament Theology, ed. L. D. Hurst (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994), 109; Paul W. Marsh, 1 Corinthians, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969), 384.
  6. Bultmann, Theology, 1:233; Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians: A Commentary, 97; Orr and Walther, 1 Corinthians, 188, 189; Gilmour, "Pastoral Care," 395; Hurd, Origin, 137, 286; Schweizer, "Sarx, Sarkikos, Sarkinos," 98-151; Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, The Epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 2d ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Klock and Klock, 1981), 84, 85; C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1968), 126, 127.
  7. A. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, trans. Lionel R. M. Strachan (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1911), 302, 303; J. Schneider, "Olethros," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 5:168; Adela Yarbro Collins, "The Function of ‘Excommunication' in Paul," Harvard Theological Review 73 (1980): 254-263; Orr and Walther, 1 Corinthians,186; Barrett, A Commentary, 126; Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians: A Commentary, 97 n. 37; Clarence T. Craig and John Short, "The First Epistle to the Corinthians," in The Interpreter's Bible (New York: Abingdon, 1953), 10:62; Gerald Harris, "The Beginnings of Church Discipline: 1 Corinthians 5," New Testament Studies 37 (1991): 1-21.
  8. Olshausen, First and Second Epistles, 90, mentions Gräfe as a proponent of this view. For modifications of this view, see Orr and Walther, 1 Corinthians, 186; A. C. Thiselton, "The Meaning of SARX in 1 Corinthians 5:5: A Fresh Approach in the Light of Logical and Semantic Factors," Scottish Journal of Theology 26 (1973): 218.
  9. J. Klausner, From Jesus to Paul, trans. W. F. Stinespring (London: Allen and Unwin, 1946), 553; J. D. M. Derrett, " ‘Handing Over to Satan': An Explanation of 1 Cor. 5:1-7," Revue Internationale des Droits de L'antiquité 26 (1979): 21.
  10. ee Campbell, "Flesh and Spirit," 332; cf. Mishnah Sanhedrin 6:2.
  11. E. Stauffer, New Testament Theology (New York: Macmillan, 1955), 212, 312, 313; S. D. MacArthur, " ‘Spirit' in Pauline Usage: 1 Corinthians 5:5," Studia Biblica (1978): 249-256.
  12. For example, W. Larry Richards, 1 Corinthians: The Essentials and Nonessentials of Christian Living, The Abundant Life Bible Amplifier, ed. George R. Knight (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 1997), 98; Craig L. Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 105; Thiselton, , "The Meaning of SARX ," 204; Ruef, Paul's First Letter, 40; Frederic Louis Godet, Commentary on First Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1977), 256; Murphy-O'Connor, "The First Letter," 42; South, "Critique of the ‘Curse/Death,' "552.
  13. F. W. Grosheide, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963), 123; Lenski, Interpretation of St. Paul's, 217; Bloomberg, 1 Corinthians, 105; Nigel Watson, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (London: Epworth, 1992), 49; Godet, Commentary on First Corinthians, 255, 256; Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1981), 207; Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 209.
  14. Colin G. Kruse, "The Offender and the Offence in 2 Corinthians 2:5 and 7:12," Evangelical Quarterly 60 (1988): 129-139; see also Bloomberg, 1 Corinthians, 106; Olshausen, First and Second Epistles, 90, 91; John MacArthur, 1 Corinthians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1984), 127; cf. Godet, Commentary on First Corinthians, 259.
  15. A. T. Robertson and A. Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 2d. ed., International Critical Commentary (New York: Scribner's, 1916), 99; MacArthur, 1 Corinthians, 126, 127; see also Richards, 1 Corinthians: The Essentials, 98; A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 4 (Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1931), 113.
  16. See Campbell, "Flesh and Spirit," 333.
  17. Tertullian, De Pudicitia 13 (Ante-Nicene Fathers 4:87, 88).
  18. H. von Campenhausen, Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power in the Church of the First Three Centuries (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1969), 134, 135.
  19. K. P. Donfried, "Justification and Last Judgment in Paul," Interpretation 30 (1976): 150, 151.
  20. Campbell, "Flesh and Spirit," 333-342.
  21. See also Schneider, 62; Collins, "The Function of ‘Excommunication,' "259, says that 1 Corinthians 5:5 is better interpreted "communally and eschatologically." For her, flesh refers to the elements and aspects of creation that are hostile to God and due for destruction during the eschatological crisis, while spirit refers to the Holy Spirit that dwells in the community.
  22. V. George Shillington, "Atonement Texture in 1 Corinthians 5:5," Journal for the Study of the New Testament 71 (1998): 29-50.
  23. While Shillington, "Atonement Texture," 29-50, takes spirit to refer to the church's orientation to God, he understands flesh in a physical sense, namely, the flesh of the offender, which is to be destroyed in what Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians: A Commentary, 97, terms as a "dynamistic ceremony."
  24. In view of its notoriety for sexual immorality, Aristophanes coined the term korinthiazo to designate fornication, and Plato used the term "Corinthian girl" as a euphemism for a prostitute. See Murphy-O'Connor, "The First Letter," 56; Mare, 1 Corinthians, 180, 216; and Scott J. Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 24.
  25. Perhaps this incestuous man was a libertine, engaging in an extraordinarily hedonistic relationship as a manifestation of his freedom in Christ. Similarly, Manfred T. Brauch, Hard Sayings of Paul (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1989), 99, comments on the conceit of the church about the incest (1 Cor. 5:1) as follows: "Indeed, their arrogant pride regarding sexual immorality in their midst indicates that they may have seen this matter as the very proof of their spiritual perfection."
  26. Incest was banned in the Old Testament (Lev. 18:8; 20:11), Jewish writings (Mishnah Sanhedrin 7:4), and Greek writings (Caius, Inst. 1.63).
  27. Brian S. Rosner, "Temple and Holiness in 1 Cor 5," Tyndale Bulletin 42 (1991): 137-145, argues that 1 Corinthians 5 is the application of the metaphor of the temple in 3:16, 17; see also Collins, "The Function of ‘Excommunication,' "259, 260.
  28. Bloomberg, 1 Corinthians, 104, divides the chapter into three parts: (1) a judgment pronounced (vv. 1-5); (2) a rationale explained (vv. 6-8); and (3) a misunderstanding corrected (vv. 9-13).
  29. South, " Critique of the ‘Curse/Death,' " 553, correctly observes that vv. 2, 7, and 9-13 explain the intention of paradounai. Further, "we should understand v. 5 as simply an additional figure of speech to describe what is clearly stated in v. 2, i.e., that the man must be removed from their midst." See also Brauch, Hard Sayings of Paul, 99.
  30. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 208, says that the use of paredōka tō satana in "1 Tim 1:20 suggests that for Paul this was a quasitechnical language for some kind of expulsion from the Christian community." Fee, 208, and South, " Critique of the ‘Curse/Death,' " 550, suggest that in 1 Corinthians 5:5 Paul has Job 1:12 and 2:6 in mind.
  31. See also Rosner, " ‘Drive Out the Wicked Person,' " 32.
  32. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 209. See also Rosner, " ‘Drive Out the Wicked Person,' " 32, 33; South, " Critique of the ‘Curse/Death,' " 552.
  33. Some think that in 1 Corinthians 5:5 physical suffering from the hands of Satan, analogous to Job 2:4-10; Acts 5:1-10; 1 Corinthians 11:30-32; 2 Corinthians 12:7; is in view. However, a scrutiny of these passages suggests that they do not provide genuine parallels to 1 Corinthians. 5:5. See also South, " Critique of the ‘Curse/Death,' " 548.
  34. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 210, says that since the emphasis is on salvation, "destruction of the flesh" "must be seen as part of the remedial process." The phrase "destruction of the flesh" in Paul no where refers to death.
  35. Sand, 231.
  36. Ibid.; Guthrie, New Testament Theology, 172,207.
  37. Sand, 231.
  38. Thus, sarx is used in an ethical sense. See Edwards, A Commentary on the First Epistle, 127; Lenski, Interpretation of St. Paul's, 217, 18; Guthrie, New Testament Theology,172, 207.
  39. South, "Critique of the ‘Curse/Death,' " 554, notes that in verses 9-13 Paul says that pornoi (the same word used of the incestuous man, v. 5) should be avoided, not killed.
  40. Rosner, " ‘Drive Out the Wicked Person,' " 32, 33. See also Murphy-O'Connor, , "The First Letter," 42; Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 209; South, "Critique of the ‘Curse/Death,' " 552.
  41. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 213.
  42. Morris, First Epistle, 88. South even says that "it is not at all problematic for the expulsion view for Satan to be the unwitting agent, indirectly, of the incestuous man's salvation." , "Critique of the ‘Curse/Death,' " (560). See also Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 212, who sees the possibility of "remedial suffering."
  43. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 213; Morris, First Epistle, 88; South, , "Critique of the ‘Curse/Death,' "560. The texts used to support the possibility of physical suffering in Satan's hands (Job 1:12; 2:6; Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians. 11:30; 2 Corinthians 12:7) do not provide a genuine parallel to 1 Corinthians 5:5.


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Daniel Bediako is a PhD candidate in Old Testament studies, Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies Silang, Cavite, Philippines.

September 2008

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