Volume 46 - Issue 2

Exclusion from the People of God: An Examination of Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in 1 Corinthians 5

By Jeremy Kimble


1 Corinthians 5:1–13 serves as a key text when speaking about the topic of church discipline. Verse 13 provides a crucial example of how the NT uses the OT. However, to understand its full significance for one’s reading of 1 Corinthians 5, one must see how the quoted text is utilized within the book of Deuteronomy on numerous occasions. The aim of this article is to demonstrate that Paul’s exhortation to the church in Corinth is intensified in a distinctive manner when one understands how Paul is seeking to use the OT in his argument. Namely, this rebuke from the apostle reveals an eschatological trajectory for excommunication, which, as a present judgment by the church, serves as a declarative sign toward the future judgment of God.

The practice of church discipline, though not exercised by many modern-day churches, has deep biblical moorings that must be clearly seen and properly adhered to in order for a local church to function properly.1 One biblical text that speaks unequivocally regarding discipline in the church is 1 Corinthians 5:1–13, addressing specifically the topic of exclusion or excommunication. Here the apostle Paul is dealing with a particular issue in the church at Corinth and speaks to the need for that body of believers to exclude a certain individual from their midst because of his unrepentant sin. At the end of this discourse Paul tells the church to “Purge the evil person from among you,” which is a powerful use of the OT, specifically from the book of Deuteronomy.

One crucial aspect of the subject of biblical theology is the study of the use of the OT in the NT.2 Rosner asserts this regarding Paul’s pronouncement to the church in 1 Corinthians 5:13 and its use of Scripture:

The use of Deut. 17:7, etc. in 1 Cor. 5:13 is one of the most impressive examples of the crucial nature of Old Testament context in the study of the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament. There is good evidence that the contexts of all six appearances of the Deuteronomic expulsion formula in their original contexts have exerted an influence on Paul’s instructions across the chapter.3

The aim of this article is to demonstrate that Paul’s exhortation to the church in Corinth is intensified in a distinctive manner when one understands how Paul is seeking to use the OT in his argument. Namely, this rebuke from the apostle reveals an eschatological trajectory for excommunication, which, as a present judgment by the church, points as a declarative sign toward the future judgment of God.

This chapter from 1 Corinthians appears to contain various echoes from the OT, an allusion to the Passover celebration (5:6–8), and a quotation regarding expulsion from the people of God (5:13; Deut 13:5; 17:7; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21, 22, 24; 24:7; cf. Judges 20:13). Most of the attention in this article will be given to the quotation in verse 13. After analyzing the surrounding context of the passage being investigated in 1 Corinthians, a fourfold methodology will be employed to best understand the significance of Paul’s use of the OT. First, the citation will be established by examining textual affinities with the OT passage. Second, the OT passage will be examined in a contextual and exegetical manner. Third, the citation will be viewed in light of Second Temple Jewish literature to see whether the saying has affinities with the writings of that time period. Finally, the OT citation will be examined in the context of 1 Corinthians, highlighting its exegetical, hermeneutical, and theological significance.

1. 1 Corinthians 5:13 in its Broader Context

As 1 Corinthians 5 is considered in detail, it will be helpful to briefly look at the context of the book as a whole to see the specific issues Paul is addressing. Paul begins his letter with a salutation (1:1–3) and a prayer of thanksgiving for the Corinthians (1:4–9). He then immediately delves into the issues facing the church that have come to his attention, starting with the problem of disunity (1:10–17). The apostle seeks to point out the folly of the wisdom of the world (1:18–25) and boasting in personal ability (1:26–31), pointing them instead to the power of God (2:1–5). He further contrasts spiritual and worldly wisdom (2:6–16), and then more specifically addresses the divisions that exist between them (3:1–9). All of the ministers in whom the Corinthians had been boasting were subject to evaluation by God (3:10–22), and thus there was no reason to boast in them. Paul then identifies himself as a model apostle (4:1–20) and as such the Corinthians should respect him as they would other leaders. The remainder of the letter is spent addressing specific moral issues, such as a disciplinary issue with an immoral church member (5:1–13), lawsuits amongst church members (6:1–11), sexual ethics (6:12–20), marriage and divorce (7:1–40), food offered to idols (8:1–11:1), matters related to Christian worship (11:2–34), spiritual gifts (12:1–14:40), and the resurrection (15:1–58).4

Thus, as noted above, 1 Corinthians 5 is a rebuke of the church for not properly dealing with a specific issue of sexual immorality in the proper way. In summary, in 4:18–21 Paul threatens the Corinthians with stern discipline if they do not acknowledge his authority. In 5:1–2 he rebukes the Corinthians for their inaction in not removing a sinner from their midst. The apostle gives reasons for such an action in 5:3–5. He then offers further motivation, appealing to the spiritual self-interest of the Corinthian church (5:6–8). He clarifies in 5:9–11 that it is such offenders within, not outside, the household of faith whom they must expel. Finally, in 5:12–13 he asserts the Corinthians’ responsibility to act and closes with a weighty command from Scripture.5

With the overall context and summary of the chapter in mind, the chapter will now be analyzed in greater detail to show the cohesion of Paul’s argument for the exclusion of this individual in leading up to his OT citation in 5:13.

1.1. An Exegetical Analysis of 1 Corinthians 5:1–2

Paul begins his confrontation by addressing the nature of the sinful deed itself, as well as the church’s response. There is a kind of sexual immorality occurring within the church that is not even acceptable among the pagans,6 namely that a man “has his father’s wife” (5:1). The issue of sexual sin was a cultural issue Paul addressed often in his letter,7 but Paul seems to be more forceful in his tone with this issue, and clearly states in this context that this should be a clear-cut conviction for the church. Naselli succinctly describes the issue:

The specific kind of sexual immorality is incest—a man is pursuing sexual relations with his father’s wife. In the phrase “has his father’s wife,” has indicates ongoing sexual relations but does not specify if the two people have married or are cohabiting. Because Paul writes “his father’s wife” (rather than “his mother”), he probably refers to this man’s stepmother.8

This was egregious sin. What had been forbidden historically by both Jewish and pagans, namely, the cohabiting of father and son with the same woman, was happening in the church.9 Thus, this man was involved in a knowingly sinful relationship and committing an offense that should certainly be recognized by a Christian church.10

This, however, is not the case, as Paul indicts the Corinthians for being arrogant rather than mourning over this serious issue (5:2). “Given their theological stance articulated in 6:12–13 and their sense of superiority to Paul, and therefore to Paul’s ethical instructions given in his previous letter, it is just possible, nay probable it would seem, that this sin in their midst is something over which they have taken a certain amount of pride.”11 When Paul tells the Corinthians that they ought to mourn rather than be arrogant, some take that to mean a mourning over the impending loss of the sinning brother.12 However, the word is only used elsewhere in the NT in 2 Corinthians 12:21 where its sense closely parallels the concept of godly sorrow or repentance (cf. 2 Cor 7:8–11).13 Paul, therefore, appears to be imploring this church to mourn over this man’s sin, as well as their own sin of arrogance, for the majority of the chapter,14 because they are culpable and corporately responsible for the actions of individuals within their covenant community.15 The Corinthian church must take action and exclude this person from the community of believers.

1.2. An Exegetical Analysis of 1 Corinthians 5:3–5

Paul then exhorts the Corinthians to take care of this issue in a corporate fashion.16 Though he is not physically present, Paul states that he has already passed judgment on this individual (5:3), but this would not be sufficient. “For the discipline to be enacted properly and fully in accordance with Jesus’ teaching, the formal assembly of the church, along with its communal power and authority to bind and loose, must be formally instigated.”17 Thus, when they assemble in the name of the Lord Jesus, and the power of the Lord Jesus is with them (5:4), they are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, in order that he might ultimately be saved in the day of the Lord (5:5).

The content of 1 Corinthians 5:5 has been the subject of much debate as to its proper interpretation. While some commentators believe the “destruction of the flesh” (ὄλεθρον τῆς σαρκός) refers to a curse that leads to physical death,18 it seems more persuasive to read this text as referring to the man’s sinful nature being destroyed as he is excluded from the community of faith, an edifying and caring environment, and put back out into Satan’s domain.19 South contends for the latter interpretation, explaining that 1 Timothy 1:20 “is the only true verbal parallel to 1 Cor. 5.5 in the NT and it clearly excludes the ideas of the offenders’ deaths, since both Hymenaeus and Alexander are not expected to die but to learn something and correct their behavior.”20 Another reason for espousing this interpretation is the fact that Paul is speaking of eschatological salvation. Thiselton rightly notes that if 1 Corinthians 5:5 is referring to an eschatological salvation, then the curse/death interpretation would seem to understand Paul as speaking of a post-mortem opportunity for salvation. This cannot be the case, and so it seems more likely that the verse is referring the man’s sinful nature that must be destroyed. Thus, “What Paul hopes will be destroyed is his attitude of self-congratulation, which deprivation from the respect and support of the church is likely to bring about.”21 The discipline enacted upon this man is, therefore, restorative and eschatological in nature.

1.3 An Exegetical Analysis of 1 Corinthians 5:6–8

Thus far we have seen Paul’s denouncement of the unrepentant sinner, as well as the church, and his calling for the expulsion of the sexually immoral man by the gathered assembly. In the final two sections of this chapter we begin to see Paul’s rationale for such a seemingly harsh call to discipline. The apostle begins by reiterating that their boasting is not good, and asks rhetorically whether or not they know that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (5:6).22 Paul then commands the Corinthians to cleanse out the old leaven, and he grounds this command in the fact that Christ, our Passover lamb, has already been sacrificed (5:7), and thus they should “celebrate the festival” in the appropriate way (5:8).

First, as it relates to rightly interpreting this passage, one must take into account Paul’s saying regarding leaven. “Leaven is a little portion of a previous week’s batch of dough that had been allowed to ferment. When added to the next batch, the leaven made the bread rise. It carried with it the slight risk of infection, especially if the process was left to go on indefinitely without starting afresh with a completely new batch.”23 Each year the Israelites, in part perhaps as a health provision, had to cleanse their homes and the temple from all leaven (Exod 12:14–20; Deut 16:3–8). The unleavened bread from the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread would supply some “fresh” leaven and start the process anew for the next twelve months of baking bread. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, a seven-day festival, including Passover, in which the Jews were forbidden to eat anything leavened, commemorates this event. Paul emphasizes (by emphatic word order in Greek) that although in only a “little” part of the church—one person in fact—the evil would inevitably, slowly but surely, spread through the whole community if left unchecked.24 Thus, Paul is pointing to a pattern of cleansing, which in this case, connotes cleansing the church of sin.

Paul does not stop at highlighting OT festivals and unleavened bread; rather he calls the people of God a “new lump” of dough and points to Christ as the true Passover lamb (5:7). Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper during a Passover meal with his disciples,25 and pointed to the elements of the bread and wine as signifying his broken body and shed blood as a propitiation for sin (Luke 22:14–23).26 This symbolic language is drawn from the heart of Israel’s story, the celebration of the Passover commemorating Israel’s liberation from bondage in the land of Egypt. Paul assumes not only that his Corinthian readers will understand this symbolism but also that they will identify metaphorically with Israel. “Christ, as the Passover Lamb, has already been sacrificed (cf. Exod 12:3–7), so the time is at hand for the Corinthians to carry out the major part of the festival, searching out and removing all ‘leaven’ (symbolizing the wrongdoer) from their household (Exod. 12:15).”27 The Corinthians, in view of Christ’s sacrifice, must repent of their sin and celebrate the festival with sincerity and truth by removing this sinful individual, who is considered “the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil” (5:8).28

1.4. An Exegetical Analysis of Corinthians 5:9–13

Paul now comes to the final section of his exhortation to the Corinthians regarding this matter of unrepentant sin in the church, and it is the most pertinent section for our purposes. It appears that Paul had already written them a previous letter, telling the Corinthians not to associate with sexually immoral people (5:9), but “their nonchalance about the man who entered into an incestuous relationship with his father’s wife reveals that this warning was not taken seriously.”29 In addition to this, it appears that the Corinthians misunderstood Paul’s admonition. While the Corinthian church thought Paul was referring to the sinful people of the world (5:10), Paul was in fact telling them to not associate, or even eat,30 with unrepentant sinners who are within the church (5:11). Paul’s demand did not refer to outward dealings with non-Christians, but to the question of order in the community: its intention is not to shut Christians off from the world, but to clarify their standing in the world.31

Regarding the list of sins Paul provides in this particular context,32 Rosner asserts that a distinct connection can be made between the sins recorded in 5:11 and the OT quotation given in 5:13.

The representative list of sinners that the church is to judge (5:12b) is in one sense a list of covenantal norms that, when broken, automatically exclude the offender. Paul lists “sexual immorality” first, since that is the issue at hand. But what governs his choice of the next five vices in the catalog? Paul gives a clue in 5:13b: the sins to which the Deuteronomic formula “Expel the wicked person from among you,” which Paul quotes, is connected in Deuteronomy form a remarkable parallel to the particular sins mentioned in 5:11.33

This claim will be teased out in greater detail when the OT context of Deuteronomy is in view, but it appears that Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to deal with the sin in their midst—while allowing God to judge those who are outside the church (5:11–12)—by expelling the unrepentant sinner from their midst, and this is in keeping with an OT pattern of exclusion.

2. Specific Textual Details of 5:13

Thus, after making his argument, Paul concludes that he does not judge outsiders, since that is God’s concern; rather he, and the church with him, are to judge those in the church (1 Cor 5:12). He then substantiates his case by quoting the saying from Deuteronomy: “Purge the evil person from among you” (v. 13). This phrase can be found in Deuteronomy 13:5; 17:7; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21, 22, 24; 24:7 (cf. Judg 20:13), and it should be noted that the verb “expel” (ἐξαίρω) used in the LXX of these passages from Deuteronomy occurs only here in the NT.34

In regards to the actual citation itself, “The texts in LXX Deuteronomy and 1 Corinthians are identical, apart from changes that suit Paul’s epistolary context: the verb changes from a singular future indicative to a plural aorist imperative.”35 This particular quote is used a number of times in Deuteronomy, and thus it seems to form a particular pattern for the way in which Israel dealt with sinful members of the community. In order to ascertain the significance of this quote and its impact on how one conceives of the disciplinary situation in Corinth, the OT context must be considered at greater length.

3. 1 Corinthians 5:13 in its Deuteronomic Context

Deuteronomy, the final book in the Pentateuch, is set directly prior to the people of Israel entering the land of Canaan. It is a crucial juncture in Israel’s history and appears to be significant theologically to NT authors, who cite the book numerous times.36 Following the exodus, after the first generation of Israelites has died off due to their sin and lack of faith in God, Moses issues a retelling of the law to the people. The book begins with a recounting of Israel’s history (1:1–3:29), followed by the stipulations of the law (4:1–26:19), the specific blessings and curses that will accompany obedience to this law or lack thereof (27:1–30:20), and the arrangement of succession in leadership from Moses to Joshua (31:1–34:12). These stipulations found in Deuteronomy appear to flow from the command to love the Lord with their entire being (6:1–9).37 In essence this is a book about a holy God who has elected a people for himself and made a covenant with them to bless and multiply them, if they put their faith in the Lord and obey his commands. The obedience of his people is a serious matter to the God of Israel.38

The concept of exclusion due to unrepentant sin is a resounding theme in the history of the nation of Israel. The phrase Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians 5:13 is used several times throughout the book of Deuteronomy to describe how the nation of Israel should deal with particular sin issues within the community.39 The first use of this phrase is found in Deuteronomy 13:1–5, which is contained in a passage that speaks of how Israel should respond to false prophets in their midst. Here, and in all other instances of this phrase in Deuteronomy, the people of God are told to put the sinner, in this case the false prophet, to death. “The threat of execution for such an offender was designed to prevent the spread of infection and purge out the evil from the midst of Israel (cf. 17:12; 19:11–13; 21:18–21; 22:21–24; 24:7). The question was: how could the corporate life of Israel be kept true to Yahweh?”40

A second use of this phrase is found in Deuteronomy 17:7 where the text speaks explicitly about the way in which Israel should deal with those who worship other gods (17:2). There had to be at least two valid witnesses against the accused person in order for a case to be established and the death penalty (17:5–7) to be put into effect.41 Having given true testimony, the witnesses cast the first stones, but shared the responsibility with the whole community. The capital punishment of the offender removed the evil, which had, by the nature of the crime, endangered the continuation of the covenant community of God (see especially 17:2 and the fact that this sin had violated the covenant of God).42

After saying that a person can undergo capital punishment at the testimony of two or three witnesses in Deuteronomy 17, the next use of this saying is found in 19:19 in connection with false witnesses (19:15–21). If a malicious witness rises up against another person, and he is found to be a speaking lies about the other person, then lex talionis is to be put into effect, which could certainly include death for that individual, depending on the specific crime (19:19–21; cf. Exod 21:23–25; Lev 24:17–20). In this way evil is removed from the community. This is done to deter a further breach of the covenant in the community, and instead encourage people to fear God and obey his commands (19:20).43

In Deuteronomy 21:21, this phrase is again used in reference to a rebellious son who refuses to submit to the authority of his mother and father (cf. Exod 21:15; Lev 20:9). The parents, after seeking to discipline the son themselves, but making no progress, are to bring him before the elders of the city (Deut 21:18–20). This is so the parents can make the situation known to the leadership of their community and make known their efforts to bring the son into submission. At this point the men of the city are to stone the son to death, and thus purge evil from the midst of Israel (v. 21). This is done so that others will hear of it, and turn from their sin.44

This particular expression is seen again in Deuteronomy 22 where it is cited for a number of offenses. All of these examples are seen in the context of the sin of sexual immorality (22:13–21). If a young woman is found to not be a virgin by a man who has taken her as his wife, she is to come to the door of her father’s house where the men of the city will stone her to death (22:21). A second instance pertains to a man and a woman who commit adultery (22:22). As in the previous example, both of these individuals are to be put to death by the community. A final case dealt with in this chapter is an instance where a man commits sexual sin with a “betrothed virgin”45 in the city (22:23–24). Both of these individuals are to be put to death, the woman because she did not cry out for help, and therefore it would appear to be a consensual act, the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. These commands in these three instances are to be followed so that the evil is purged from Israel.

Deuteronomy’s final use of this phrase occurs in 24:7, which deals with one who seeks to steal a fellow citizen for the purpose of selling him into slavery (cf. Exod 21:16).46 It appears that this offense may have been common in the ancient Near East, since other law codes legislate against such practices.47 This offender must also die, as did the other sinners previously noted in the Deuteronomic context, in order that the evil might be taken out of Israel.

While it is helpful exegetically to think through these texts individually, it is also important to see how they cohere and what significance they possess when viewed in a more holistic manner. Rosner conceives of these texts forming three distinct motifs that are noteworthy for rightly understanding the pattern set forth in Deuteronomy, and, consequently, Paul’s citation of these texts in 1 Corinthians 5:13.48 The first motif that is noted is the idea of corporate solidarity or responsibility.49 “Not unlike the pagan sailors who felt compelled to eject Jonah in order to restore a safe passage for their ship, the people of God removed certain offenders as an exercise in corporate responsibility, in order to avoid impending judgment and to protect the felicitous existence of the community before God.”50 Though not cited previously, there is a phrase in Deuteronomy that is similar to the one focused on here, which states, “You shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from your midst” (19:13; 21:9). In both cases this phrase expresses the penalty for the crime of murder. That “blood guilt” touches the whole community is made clear in Deuteronomy 19:13, where the motivation for the expulsion is so that it may go well with the nation (cf. 21:8). Thus, “The notion of ‘blood guilt’ introduces the motif of corporate responsibility, in which the community is held responsible for the sin of an individual.”51 This reality is evident in the case of a man like Achan, who sinned against God’s command by taking riches from Jericho. Not only did Achan suffer, he also brought trouble on the whole nation since there was a corporate solidarity in the sin committed (Josh 7:1–26).

A second motif that can be cited is that of maintaining the holiness of the nation.52 Holiness is an overarching theme that can be seen throughout the Pentateuch. Israel is the nation whom God has set apart for himself (Exod 19:5–6), and is called to be holy as God is holy (Lev 20:26). Therefore, when blatant, unrepentant sin comes into the community it must be removed, as these passages in Deuteronomy call for, in order that the nation might remain set apart to the Lord in accordance to His law. This motif can perhaps be seen most readily in Deuteronomy 13:5, where Israel is told to rid themselves of false prophets because they teach rebellion against the Lord who brought them out of Egypt and redeemed them from slavery. This verse closely parallels Exodus 20:2, where God reminds his people of their redemption and then proceeds to elucidate the law that is to be embraced. Thus, holiness is hinged upon God’s people keeping the law, and when someone breaches that law they are to be purged from the community that the nation may continue on as holy to the Lord.53

One final motif to be noted in this context is that of covenant-keeping.54 People are expelled by these formulas in Deuteronomy for having breached the covenant of God. Deuteronomy 17:2–7 makes this abundantly clear (cf. Josh 7:15; 23:16).55 The very reason for the execution of this individual is due to the fact that he is transgressing God’s covenantal dealings with his people, specifically in the Mosaic Law (17:2). Another reason for excluding the transgressor is to deter other Israelites from committing a further breach of covenant. “Deuteronomy 19:19b–20a states: ‘you must purge the evil from among you. The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid and never again will such an evil thing be done in Israel.’ The dissuasion to further sin is also a reason for expulsion in Deuteronomy 13:12–18; 17:2–7, 12–13; 21:18–21.”56 Thus, while the focus of these texts is certainly upon the personal responsibility of the offending sinner, their effect on the community as a whole is never far from view.

Therefore, when viewing 1 Corinthians 5 and the quotation of this particular formula from Deuteronomy, the context of each of these passages must be considered and allowed to speak into the meaning found in Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians. One can see an ample amount of significance in considering these Deuteronomic texts for the proper interpretation of 1 Corinthians 5, particularly regarding the three motifs cited and how this formula shifted from a call for execution to excommunication. Before considering this in greater detail, it is advantageous to view Jewish literature from the Second Temple period to see if and how this particular phrase was used.

4. An Analysis of Relevant Second Temple Literature

One can observe from the previous section that the primary way in which certain unrepentant sins were dealt with in the nation of Israel was by capital punishment. Thus, the phrase, “Purge the evil person from among you,” used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:13, is cited in reference to death as it pertains to its OT context. Evidence of a literal understanding of Deuteronomy’s exclusion texts can be found in several early Jewish writings. For example, Sanhedrin 7:1–11:6 in the Mishnah references five capital offenses similar to Deuteronomy’s exclusion pronouncements as crimes worthy of the penalty of death: idolatry (7:6); sexual relations with a betrothed girl (7:9); leading others to idolatry (7:10); rebellion against one’s parents (8:1–5); and adultery (11:1). In the Temple Scroll, four violations are declared liable to capital punishment in ways corresponding to exclusion texts from Deuteronomy: leading others to idolatry (11Q19 54:19–55:1; cf. Deut 13:6–11); defying judge or priest in legal decisions (11Q19 56:8–11; cf. Deut 17:12–13); bearing false testimony (11Q19 61:7–12; cf. Deut 19:16–21); and having sexual relations with a betrothed girl (11Q19 66:1–4; cf. Deut 22:23–24).57 Thus, there are certainly texts from this era that can be cited to show that the Deuteronomic formula was carried on in a literal fashion. However, it is also evident from other examples of Second Temple literature that capital punishment transitioned into excommunication as a way of dealing with certain sins in the community.

In citing this shift in understanding Rosner notes, “In the history of its transmission and interpretation, regularly in Targum Onkelos, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan and Sifre and usually in the LXX, a curse of exclusion is substituted for the death penalty in these formulae. Similarly in 1 Corinthians 5:13b we find ‘the evil man’ instead of the ‘the evil’ is to be ‘put away.’”58 The literature from Qumran is another source from this time period that cites exclusion from the community as the disciplinary measure used for unrepentant sin.59 Horbury, who works through the details of these documents and others (e.g., Josephus, 3 Maccabees), demonstrates that Paul’s understanding of excommunication in 1 Corinthians corresponds with the practice of Second Temple Judaism, which regularly understood exclusion as a surrogate or preparation for execution.60 As has already been noted, Paul cites from the LXX rendering of the Deuteronomic formula in 1 Corinthians 5:13. “Paul does not quote the MT, which unambiguously signals execution. Paul’s understanding of excommunication in terms of exclusion is thus traditional, reflecting established rather than new procedure.”61 Why this transition from execution to exclusion took place remains to be seen, but for the present it is important for our purposes that several examples be cited from the literature listed above to give a sampling of how communities in the Second Temple era dealt with sinners in their midst.

One such document that gives an example of replacing execution with excommunication is the Damascus Document. Commenting on Numbers 15:32–36 where the man breaking the Sabbath by gathering sticks is put in custody and eventually put to death (15:34),62 this particular document does not call for the execution of the one who profanes the Sabbath. Rather it states, “But each man who errs and profanes the Sabbath or the holy days shall not be put to death, for he is to be guarded by the sons of man, and if he is healed of it, he shall be guarded for seven years; then he may enter the assembly.”63 This text gives other examples of this practice, separating people who trespass against the Torah,64 and calling for the “cleansing” of a person who has deliberately transgressed an ordinance.65 Though there may not be immense amounts of data to draw from on this topic from the Damascus Document, the practice of exclusion is present nonetheless, and must be regarded as significant enough to receive commentary.

Further precedent for this practice of excommunication can be found in the Qumran community, most notably in the Rule of the Community (1QS). First, in regards to an individual who walks “in the way of wickedness,” this document tells the community that, “he shall keep far away from him in everything.”66 It is also asserted by this community that those who lie about their property or income, has a stubborn spirit, or addresses his associate impatiently or with disregard are subject to a year of exclusion from the community.67 Finally, those who transgress the Torah of Moses inadvertently will be separated from the pure food and not asked for judgment or counsel for two years, but if he transgressed the Torah deliberately or through negligence, he will be banished from the “Council of the Community,” and never come back again.68 Again, one can see the emphasis on purity in the Qumran community, and this value appears to lead to the attentive practice of excommunication.69

In addition to these sources, some of the targumic and early rabbinic literature attest to the exclusion of apostates, who by the nature of their offense should receive the death penalty under Mosaic Law (cf. Deut 17:2–7). “For example, those who commit this sin [of apostasy] are not allowed to eat the Passover (Ex 12:43 in Targum Onkelos and Pseudo-Jonathan), or receive the help due to an enemy, according to Exodus 23:5 (Tos. B.M. 2.33), or offer a sacrifice with the children of Israel (Lev 1:2 in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan and Sifra).”70 One other rabbinic source that appears to parallel Paul’s use of the OT in 1 Corinthians 5:13 deals with banning heretics from the synagogue (m. Sanh. 11.2).71

More examples could be cited from the literature of this time period, but the instances noted above indicate that expulsion from the community was a common practice, and seems in many cases to have replaced execution. The question must be asked as to why this shift took place from capital punishment to excommunication, and what significance this has for Paul’s use of the Deuteronomic formula in 1 Corinthians 5:13. Roetzel, showing connections between the NT and literature from the Second Temple period, provides what may prove to be significant assistance in answering that question.

Given the tendency in Jewish apocalyptic to shift judgment more and more into a realm beyond history, shifting the administration of the death penalty to God might be expected…. The new element in Paul, however, is his belief that the final vindication has already begun. Paul’s concern for the purity of the church resembles not only the emphasis of the priestly writers, but also the preoccupation of the Qumran community with purging the community of unclean members. Since membership in the Qumran sect was considered proleptic membership in the new covenant community of the future, strict discipline was imposed to keep life in the present congregation consistent with membership in the future family.72

Therefore, it seems that a trajectory can be noted in the literature from this time period, and even in the OT (cf. Ezra 10:6–8),73 placing emphasis less on execution and more on exclusion from the community of faith as the primary practice, and this trajectory can be seen at in varying instances as eschatological in nature. For our purposes, it appears that in the NT this trajectory is rooted in the work accomplished by Christ, which produced a paradigm shift in salvation history.

5. The Theological Significance of the Exegetical Data

Rosner and Ciampa assert that Paul employs these texts from Deuteronomy to point out the threads of covenantal and corporate responsibility that run through the passage and complement his purposes for the church in Corinth. “Once again we see Paul using Israel as an analogy for the church. If God’s people in Israel expelled certain sinners, then God’s people in Christ should do no less.”74 Certainly one must affirm that Paul is using this text in an analogous manner, and the themes of covenant and corporate responsibility are crucial to Paul’s argument. However, his purpose seems to extend beyond mere analogy. While God commanded Israel to rid themselves of unrepentant sinners through capital punishment in the OT, he now calls the church to remove the wicked person from the community of faith. What was once dealt with through physical death is now a declaration of eschatological judgment, if the individual under discipline does not repent.

Horton helpfully explains this reality regarding excommunication in a more comprehensive fashion: “Just as God’s future ‘intrudes’ on the present through Word and sacrament (the inauguration, sign, and seal of the new creation and the wedding feast), excommunication is an eschatological sign of the last judgment in the present. As a sign, however, it is declarative and not definitive: absolution is always held out as the end goal.”75 Elsewhere, Horton makes this statement even more definitive.

Through preaching, baptism, and admission (or refusal of admission) to the Communion, the keys of the kingdom are exercised…. The “binding and loosing” involved in church discipline is at issue in every liturgical absolution, sermon, baptism, and Communion. On all of these occasions, the age to come is breaking into this present age: both the last judgment and the final vindication of God’s elect occur in a semirealized manner, ministerially rather than magisterially. The church’s acts are not final—they do not coincide univocally with the eschatological realities, but they are signs and seals. Christ’s performative speech is mediated through appointed officers.76

In other words, exclusion in the NT as a present judgment by the church is also a declaration that the unrepentant individual is not demonstrating the lifestyle of a Christian in their actions, and as such if they do not repent they may likely find themselves under the final judgment of God (cf. Matt 7:21–23).77 This may be one reason why Paul chose to cite this particular Deuteronomic formula, to remind the Corinthians that sinful individuals were executed in the nation of Israel for unrepentant sin, and now exclusion from the church signifies the reality of death, but it refers more poignantly to God’s final judgment and spiritual death.

Textually, one can see the significance of Paul’s call for excommunication in exactly these terms, particularly in 5:9–13. Paul had written to them previously not to associate with sexually immoral people (v. 9), which the Corinthians took as referring to those outside the church (v. 10). Paul, however, is referring to those inside the church who claim to be a “brother,” but are guilty of sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, reviling, drunkenness, or falsehood (v. 11). The church is not called to judge people outside the church, but inside the church (v. 12). They are to purge the evil person from among them, and let God judge those who are outsiders (i.e., unbelievers, v. 13). When the Corinthians follow through with Paul’s call for action the sinning individual in effect becomes an outsider due to their habitual transgressions and lack of repentance. A few verses later Paul uses a similar list of vices, though somewhat expanded, and tells the Corinthians, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (6:9). Thus, it appears that through the proleptic act of excluding a member from the congregation, a church is declaring the one who was inside is now outside, and this is due to their sin and lack of repentance, which demonstrate their lack of true faith in Jesus (cf. 5:5; 6:9–11).

One should note the reality of this judgment within the trajectory of salvation history. The Corinthian church is living in the era of the new covenant. As such the sinning individual is being confronted after the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ has taken place. In the OT those who committed certain blatant sins were put to death, as is evidenced by the Deuteronomic formula to put the evil one out of your midst. Schreiner states, “Paul does not require, however, that the man committing incest be put to death (1 Cor. 5:13). Still, the OT requirement finds a new fulfillment in Christ. The unrepentant member of the church is to be excommunicated for his sin and failure to repent.”78 Therefore, since the law has reached its end and goal in Christ (cf. Rom 10:4), a law like this takes on a new and heightened reality.

One can actually see that Paul has already shown this type of pattern of OT reality and NT fulfillment in 1 Corinthians 5. Observing Passover is no longer binding for Christians, but that does not cancel out the significance of Passover. Christ fulfills the Passover sacrifice in his death on the cross (v. 7). Similarly, the command to remove leaven from houses is not mandatory for NT Christians (vv. 6–8). However, the command is relevant in that it symbolizes the need to remove evil from their midst and to live with sincerity and truth.79

Because the law is fulfilled in Christ, there is a heightened relevance for the follower of Jesus in understanding how these commands apply to them. Thus, one must look at 1 Corinthians 5:13 not as a contradiction to the Mosaic law, but as the fulfillment of that law as it has come to us through the work of Christ.

Another helpful way to see 1 Corinthians 5:13 as being eschatological in nature is to think of exclusion in relation to the practice of church membership.80 Jesus calls for his people to gather corporately (notice, for example, that most of the NT Epistles are addressed to specific churches), to submit to qualified leaders (1 Tim 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9), to come under the teaching of the Scriptures and faithfully administer the ordinances (Acts 2:37–47; 1 Cor 11:23–26; 2 Tim 4:1–2), and to exercise the authority Christ has given to them (Matt 16:19; 18:17). Thus, a local church gathers for a specific purpose, and they do so as the people of God who have been redeemed through faith in Christ (Col 1:13–14). Excommunication, therefore, reveals the false nature of an individual member’s profession of faith due to their continual sin and lack of repentance. This present declaration by the congregation is a sign of God’s final judgment to come.

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul calls on the Corinthian church members to protect the gospel by no longer identifying themselves with the man committing a sin that even non-Christians would question. They are the people in the city of Corinth who publicly assemble in the name of the Lord Jesus, and exercise the authority given to them by Christ (cf. Matt 16:19; 18:18; 28:18–20). Therefore, they are responsible on Jesus’s behalf to ensure that this man is not allowed to publicly identify himself with Christ. They should break his association to their corporate name, and, by implication, the name of Jesus. They should withdraw their affirmation and oversight. They should remove him from membership and exclude him. His profession of faith no longer appears credible because his life decisions have the appearance of someone on the path to damnation.

Paul cannot know for certain that this man is not a Christian, but the church still needs to speak on behalf of Jesus. Since this man is unrepentantly acting like a non-Christian, Paul, in love, exhorts them to treat him like one by removing him. Paul’s goal, clearly, goes beyond holding God’s people together. He is interested in marking off God’s people for the sake of Christians in the church, the Corinthian public at large, the name of Christ, and this man—for the sake of preserving and protecting the gospel.81 Again, while this highlights a potential eschatological reality of judgment for this person, the hope is that the person will see the error of their ways and repent of their sins, so the church can ultimately receive them back (cf. 2 Cor 2:5–11).

6. Conclusion

The use of the Deuteronomic formula, “Purge the evil person from among you,” in 1 Corinthians 5:13, while simply used by Paul as a text to reiterate his call for the excommunication of the sinning individual in the church, also has important theological ramifications for the interpreter of Scripture. While the removal from the corporate life of the church is certainly in view, this action also has eschatological implications that point toward a person’s standing in the final judgment. Roetzel helpfully comments, “It hardly needs saying that Paul is calling for these rigorous measures [in 1 Corinthians 5] to equip the church to stand in the final Day. The first fruits of the Kingdom are tasted in the present, but these preliminary signs summon the church to special watchfulness.”82 This is so because excommunication serves as a declarative sign in the present of God’s final judgment to come.

This understanding of discipline has serious ramifications for the life and wellbeing of the church. Rightly understanding the use of the OT in the NT is a crucial discipline in grasping the trajectory of a particular doctrine and its implications for the present-day disciple of Jesus. In this particular instance, an accurate comprehension of Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 5:13 dictates that we take seriously the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Nothing can be crueler than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin.”83 Thus, the call to discipline, and, if necessary, to exclude from the church is necessary for the health and vitality of the church.

[1] The following would be a starting point for those desiring to delve into this biblical doctrine in greater detail: Jay E. Adams, Handbook of Church Discipline: A Right and Privilege of Every Church Member (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974); Eric J. Bargerhuff, Love That Rescues: God’s Fatherly Love in the Practice of Church Discipline (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2010); Mark E. Dever, ed., Polity: Biblical Arguments on How to Conduct Church Life (Washington, DC: Nine Marks Ministries, 2001); Marlin Jeschke, Discipling the Brother (Scottsdale, PA: Herald, 1979); Jeremy M. Kimble, That His Spirit May Be Saved: Church Discipline as a Means to Repentance and Perseverance (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2014); Jeremy M. Kimble, 40 Questions about Church Membership and Discipline (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2017); J. Carl Laney, A Guide to Church Discipline (Minneapolis: Bethany, 1985); Mark Lauterbach, The Transforming Community: The Practice of the Gospel in Church Discipline (Carol Stream, IL: Christian Focus, 2003); Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010); Thomas C. Oden, Corrective Love: The Power of Communion Discipline (Saint Louis: Concordia, 1995); James T. South, Disciplinary Practices in Pauline Texts (Lewistown, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1992); Gregory A. Wills, Democratic Religion: Freedom, Authority, and Church Discipline in the Baptist South, 1785–1900 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Daniel E. Wray, Biblical Church Discipline (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1978).

[2] For further discussion of the varied ways in which the NT authors cited OT writings see, for example, G. K. Beale, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012).

[3] Brian S. Rosner, “Deuteronomy in 1 and 2 Corinthians,” in Deuteronomy in the New Testament, ed. Maarten J. Menken and Steve Moyise, LNTS 358 (London: T&T Clark, 2007), 122.

[4] This summary of the 1 Corinthians derives in large measure from Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2009), 482–92.

[5] See Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, “1 Corinthians,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 705.

[6] Hays notes, “The word ethnē, translated by NRSV and most English translations as ‘pagans,’ is Paul’s normal word for ‘Gentiles’ (i.e., non-Jews). His use of this term here offers a fascinating hint that he thinks of the Gentile converts at Corinth as Gentiles no longer (cf. 12:2, 13; Gal. 3:28). Now that they are in Christ, they belong to the covenant people of God, and their behavior should reflect that new status.” See Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians, Interpretation (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1997), 81.

[7] Fee asserts, “That is why porneia appears so often as the first item in the NT vice lists, not because Christians were sexually ‘hung up,’ nor because they considered this the primary sin, the ‘scarlet letter’ as it were. It is the result of the prevalence in the culture, and the difficulty the early church had experienced with its Gentile converts breaking with their former ways, which they did not consider immoral.” Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, rev. ed., NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014), 219.

[8] Andrew David Naselli, “1 Corinthians,” in Romans–Galatians, ed. Iain M. Duguid, James M. Hamilton Jr., and Jay Sklar, ESV Expository Commentary 10 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 253.

[9] Naselli, “1 Corinthians,” 220. Fee warrants this claim by citing both Jewish and Greco-Roman law regarding this type of sexual immorality, in The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 200–1 n. 24. See also Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians: A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, trans. James W. Leitch, Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975), 96; Hays, First Corinthians, 80–81.

[10] Interestingly, while the man is singled out in this instance there is no mention of the woman involved in this sinful relationship. This, by implication, must point the reader to the fact that the woman surely was not a member of the community of believers. So Hays, First Corinthians, 81.

[11] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 221.

[12] So G. G. Findlay, St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, EGT (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1910), 808.

[13] Ciampa and Rosner offer helpful commentary on the use of this word in the OT: “The use of ‘mourn’ in the LXX suggests that in 5:2a Paul thought that the Corinthians ought to mourn in the sense of confessing the sin of the erring brother as if it were their own (Ezra 10:6; Neh 1:4; 8:9; Dan 10:2)…. Ezra 10 in particular is a distinct parallel to 1 Cor. 5. It is an Ezra-like-Paul who deals with the expulsion of the sinner. Just as Ezra mourned over the sins of the community, so also Paul enjoined the Corinthians to mourn over the sin of the incestuous man. Just as Ezra demanded that the sinners separate from their foreign partners or else suffer expulsion (10:8), so also Paul demanded the expulsion of the sinner unless he separate from his illicit partner.” Ciampa and Rosner, “1 Corinthians,” 706. So also Hays, 1 Corinthians, 82; Brian S. Rosner, “‘Ouchi mallon epenthēsate’: Corporate Responsibility in 1 Corinthians 5,” NTS 38 (1992): 472.

[14] Minear helpfully points out that, “in chapter 5 one verse deals with the incestuous person and twelve verses deal with the culpability of the congregation.” Paul S. Minear, “Christ and the Congregation: 1 Corinthians 5–6,” RevExp 80 (1983): 343.

[15] The OT is replete with examples of this. In Exodus 16:27–28 after some of the people had broken the Sabbath, God addresses the nation and asks how long they will refuse to keep his commandments and instructions. In Numbers 16:20–27 the people are warned to keep their distance from Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, lest they also be swept away because of all their sins (note especially Moses’s prayer in 16:22). In Deuteronomy 19:13—a passage that will be considered in greater detail—the nation of Israel is instructed to purge a sinning individual from their midst so that it may go well with them in the land. Other such examples can be found in Deuteronomy 29:19–21; Joshua 7:1–26; Joshua 22:16–18; 1 Samuel 14:37–38; and Nehemiah 13:18. See Ciampa and Rosner, “1 Corinthians,” 706; Rosner, “Ouchi mallon epenthēsate,” 470–71.

[16] The fact that the “assembly” deals with the sin issue in a corporate manner is comparable to the judgment scene found in Deuteronomy 19:16–20 (note also this text in Deuteronomy includes the command given in 1 Cor 5:13), where punishment takes place before the congregation (v. 20) and God v. 17; cf. Lev 24:14, 16; Num 15:35; 35:24). So Ciampa and Rosner, “1 Corinthians,” 707.

[17] Bargerhuff, Love that Rescues, 161–62. This is in keeping with Matthew 18:15–20, where heaven’s sanction reinforces the assembled, gathered church who excommunicates the unrepentant sinner, pronouncing divine discipline and judgment on sin. See also Hays, First Corinthians, 84.

[18] See, for example, Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, 97–98; David Raymond Smith, Hand This Man Over to Satan: Curse, Exclusion, and Salvation in 1 Corinthians 5, LNTS 386 (London: T&T Clark, 2008), 57–182.

[19] See David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 169–77. For a comprehensive understanding of this interpretation see South, Disciplinary Practices in Pauline Texts, 38–68; South, “A Critique of the ‘Curse/Death’ Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 5.1–8,” NTS 39 (1993): 539–61.

[20] South, “A Critique of the ‘Curse/Death’ Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 5.1–8,” 551. So also Fee, 1 Corinthians, 228–35; Rosner, “‘Drive Out the Wicked Person’: A Biblical Theology of Exclusion,” EvQ 71 (1999): 32–33.

[21] Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 399–400. So also Hays, 1 Corinthians, 86.

[22] “The phrase ‘do you not know’ occurs ten times in 1 Corinthians and only once elsewhere in Paul’s established letters (1 Cor 3:16; 5:6; 6:2, 3, 9, 15, 17; 9:13, 24; Rom 6:16).” Thiselton, 1 Corinthians, 400. This is ironic for a church who seemed to claim a great deal of wisdom and knowledge for themselves.

[23] Ciampa and Rosner, “1 Corinthians,” 708. See also John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, and Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 85.

[24] See Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 401; Garland, 1 Corinthians, 178–81.

[25] For a detailed discussion affirming the fact that the Last Supper was a Passover meal see Andreas J. Köstenberger, “Was the Last Supper a Passover Meal?,” in The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes, ed. Thomas R. Schreiner and Matthew R. Crawford (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 6–30.

[26] For a helpful summary of the typological movement of Passover and the exodus to the new exodus accomplished in Christ and signified in the Lord’s Supper, see James M. Hamilton, “The Lord’s Supper in Paul: An Identity-Forming Proclamation of the Gospel,” in The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes, ed. Thomas R. Schreiner and Matthew R. Crawford (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 86–88.

[27] Hays, 1 Corinthians, 83.

[28] Hamilton notes that this admonition from Paul has a connection to excluding unrepentant sinners from the Lord’s Supper. He refers to Christ, the Passover Lamb being sacrificed in 1 Corinthians 5:7, followed by the reference to celebrating the feast not with old leaven in 5:8. Since Jesus transformed the Passover into the Lord’s Supper on the night he was betrayed, the feast in view would seem to be the Lord’s Supper. All this is followed by the call in 5:11 not to eat with professing Christians who continue in unrepentant sin. These observations indicate that anyone who refuses to repent of the sins Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5 (sexual immorality, greed, swindling others, idolatry, reviling others, and drunkenness [vv. 1–2, 9–11]) partakes unworthily. Indeed, Paul calls the church to ‘purge the evil person from among you’ (v. 13, quoting Deut 17:7). This indicates that individual members of the church should not only be concerned to partake in a worthy manner themselves, but the church as a whole should seek to keep unrepentant individuals from partaking in an unworthy manner.” Hamilton, “The Lord’s Supper in Paul,” 95–96. See also Ray Van Neste, “The Lord’s Supper in the Context of the Local Church,” in The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes, ed. Thomas R. Schreiner and Matthew R. Crawford (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 378–79.

[29] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 184.

[30] In reference to the final prohibition in 5:11, Naselli argues, “At a minimum, this means the church should not let such a person celebrate the Lord’s Supper with them (cf. comments on 11:17–34). Further, what Paul prohibits applies to all meals in cultures in which sharing a private meal with such a person communicates to her or others that she is a genuine Christian (cf. Gal. 2:11–14). When a church member interacts with a former church member who has still not repented, the church member should not give the impression that all is well but should lovingly exhort the person to repent.” Naselli, “1 Corinthians,” 258. See also Fee, 1 Corinthians, 247.

[31] So Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, 100.

[32] Fee notes, “This is the first of the so-called vice lists in the Pauline letters. Such lists were a common feature of Hellenistic Judaism, and they regularly recur in Paul in a variety of contexts.” Fee, 1 Corinthians, 246. For other such lists see 1 Cor 6:10–11; 2 Cor 12:20–21; Gal 5:19–21; Rom 1:29–31; Col 3:5, 8; Eph 5:3–5; 1 Tim 1:9–11; 2 Tim 3:2–5; Titus 3:3; cf. Mark 7:21–22; 1 Pet 2:1; 4:3; Rev 21:8; 22:15.

[33] Ciampa and Rosner, “1 Corinthians,” 709. See also Hays, First Corinthians, 88; Michael Newton, The Concept of Purity at Qumran and in the Letters of Paul (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 95–96; Brian S. Rosner, Paul, Scripture and Ethics: A Study of 1 Corinthians 5–7, AGJU 22 (Leiden: Brill, 1994), 68–70; Rosner, “Drive out the Wicked Person,” 30; Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 417.

[34] Ciampa and Rosner, “1 Corinthians,” 709.

[35] Rosner, “Deuteronomy in 1 and 2 Corinthians,” 121.

[36] For a helpful monograph on this subject, see Maarten J. Menken and Steve Moyise, eds., Deuteronomy in the New Testament, LNTS 358 (London: T&T Clark, 2007).

[37] So Bruce K. Waltke with Charles Yu, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical and Thematic Approach (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 483–86.

[38] For further commentary on these points see William Sanford LaSor, David Allan Hubbard, and Frederic William Bush, Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 111–27; Tremper Longman and Raymond B Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 102–19; Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, 479–511.

[39] Rosner states, “The foundational texts for a biblical theology of exclusion are found in Deuteronomy. Those guilty of idol worship, contempt of the Lord, sexual offenses and a variety of other social crimes are condemned with the formula, ‘you must purge the evil from among you’ (cf. 13:5; 17:7; 19:19; 21:21; 24:7; cf. Judg. 20:13; 1 Cor. 5:13b), which signals the most extreme form of exclusion, namely execution.” See Rosner, “Drive Out the Wicked Person,” 27.

[40] J. A. Thompson, Deuteronomy: An Introduction and Commentary, TOTC 5 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1974), 174. See additionally Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 224; John Currid, A Study Commentary on Deuteronomy (Webster, NY: Evangelical, 2006), 261; S.amuel R. Driver, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Deuteronomy, 3rd ed., ICC (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1960), 152.

[41] One can see Matthew 18:16, 2 Corinthians 13:1, and 1 Timothy 5:19 for evidence of the principle of establishing a testimony on the basis of two or three witnesses carrying over into the NT.

[42] Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, 250–51.

[43] Ciampa and Rosner, “1 Corinthians,” 709.

[44] Sailhamer makes this assertion when saying, “The stated purpose of the law was to eliminate the evil influence of such a child from among the people (Dt 21:21). Moreover, it was also to provide a warning to parents and children alike of the consequences of disobedience and rebellion.” John Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 460. This is important to keep in mind as one of the primary motivations for Paul in addressing the Corinthian church and commanding them to expel the evildoer was to prevent the sin from spreading any further in the community.

[45] It would be helpful to consider what is meant in this particular text by the phrase “betrothed virgin.” “Betrothal status in Israel reflected a stronger tie and commitment than engagement in modern times. A contract has been made and a marriage price has been paid. The woman is still living in her father’s house, yet she is treated as if she were already married.” See Currid, Deuteronomy, 370. So also Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, 195, who state, “Once a [marriage] agreement is in place, it is expected that other persons will respect the betrothed status of the woman as technically already married (see Gen 20:3). Thus the laws of adultery are in full force even before the actual ceremony and consummation of the marriage.”

[46] Sailhamer interestingly notes, “The specific wording of the law is reminiscent of the story of Joseph, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery by his brothers (Ge 37:26–27; 40:15).” See Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, 466.

[47] So Thompson, Deuteronomy, 246.

[48] See Rosner, Paul, Scripture, and Ethics, 61–93.

[49] See Rosner, “Drive Out the Wicked Person,” 27–28. So also Calvin J. Roetzel, Judgement in the Community: A Study of the Relationship Between Eschatology and Ecclesiology in Paul (Leiden: Brill, 1972), 116, who asserts, “The Old Testament often speaks of the judgment of an individual offender for the purpose of purifying the community, and how the entire community can be implicated by the sin of one of its own members.”

[50] Rosner, “Drive Out the Wicked Person,” 27.

[51] Ciampa and Rosner, “1 Corinthians” 709.

[52] Rosner, “Drive Out the Wicked Person,” 28–29.

[53] See Craigie, Deuteronomy, 223–24 for similar commentary on this section.

[54] See Rosner, “Drive Out the Wicked Person,” 29–30.

[55] Ciampa and Rosner, “1 Corinthians” 709. So also Rosner, “Drive Out the Wicked Person,” 30.

[56] Rosner, “Drive Out the Wicked Person,” 30. Cf. Acts 5:1–11; 1 Tim 5:20.

[57] See Edwin G. Perona, “The Presence and Function of Deuteronomy in the Paraenesis of Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:1–11:1” (PhD diss., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 2005), 67.

[58] Rosner, “Drive Out the Wicked Person,” 27.

[59] Ciampa and Rosner, “1 Corinthians” 709; Rosner, “Drive Out the Wicked Person,” 30.

[60] See William Horbury, “Extirpation and Excommunication,” VT 35 (1985): 27–30.

[61] Rosner, Paul, Scripture and Ethics, 82. See also Horbury, “Extirpation and Excommunication,” 28, for further details regarding Paul’s use of the LXX in quoting the saying from Deuteronomy. He states, “The view that this Septuagintal rendering is associated with the use of a curse of exclusion as well as, or instead of, the death penalty is strengthened by the Pauline use of another interpretive translation which is common to both LXX and Targum. ‘The evil,’ which ‘you shall put away,’ in the Deuteronomic formula which concludes the prescription of the death penalty at Deut. xiii 6 (5), xvii 7 and elsewhere, is interpreted as ‘the evil man’ sometimes in the LXX, and regularly in Targum Onkelos and Pseudo-Jonathan, and in Sifre. St. Paul does the same, but uses the quotation (1 Cor. v 13, probably from Deut. xvii 7) to support an admonition not to mix with sinners, immediately following a sentence of excommunication (1 Cor. v 5). This application of the words, in a passage which seems, as already noted, to reflect established rather than new procedure, is itself likely to be traditional. Thus far, then, one well-marked interpretative rendering in the LXX and Targum, and the Pauline use of another, viewed together with Josephus’ interpretation of Deut. xiii as requiring execution or a surrogate, can all be said to make sense if exclusion did sometimes replace, or prepare for, the covenantal death-penalty.”

[62] Horbury, “Extirpation and Excommunication, 28.

[63] CD 12.3–6, cited from James Charlesworth, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Texts with English Translations, Volume 2: Damascus Document, War Scroll, and Related Documents (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995).

[64] CD 9.16–22. Newton, commenting on this passage, notes that this action is not just about the offender in this case, but is also about the community as a whole. “The man is excluded from the ‘purity’ to prevent any chance of his polluting the community.” Thus, the action, like that Paul is admonishing the church in Corinth to take, is about dealing with individual sin and also maintaining the holiness of the community. See Newton, The Concept of Purity at Qumran and in the Letters of Paul, 41.

[65] CD 10.2–3.

[66] 1QS 5.10–18, cited from James Charlesworth, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Texts with English Translations, Volume 1: Rule of the Community and Related Documents (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994).

[67] 1QS 6.24–27. See also Roetzel, Judgement in the Community, 43–44.

[68] 1QS 8.20–27. For further explanation see Newton, The Concept of Purity at Qumran and in the Letters of Paul, 42–43; Roetzel, Judgement in the Community, 47.

[69] For a helpful comparative analysis of pertinent Qumran texts (some of which have already been mentioned) and 1 Corinthians 5, see Heinz-Wolfgang Kuhn, “A Legal Issue in 1 Corinthians 5 and in Qumran,” in Legal Texts and Legal Issues: Proceedings of the Second Meeting of the International Organization for Qumran Studies, Cambridge, 1995: Published in Honour of Joseph M. Baumgarten, ed. Moshe J. Bernstein, Florentino García Martínez, and John Kampen, STDJ 23 (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 489–98.

[70] Horbury, “Extirpation and Excommunication,” 35:29.

[71] See C. K. Barrett, ed., The New Testament Background: Writing from Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire that Illuminate Christian Origins, rev. ed. (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989), 210–11; Craig A. Evans, Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005), 384.

[72] Roetzel, Judgement in the Community, 117.

[73] For some detail on this transition in the OT see Richard Haslehurst, Some Account of the Penitential Discipline of the Early Church in the First Four Centuries (New York: Macmillan, 1921), 2–3.

[74] Ciampa and Rosner, “1 Corinthians,” 710.

[75] Michael S. Horton, Covenant and Eschatology: The Divine Drama (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 272. See also Kevin J. Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005), 425–26, who says, “Exercising discipline in the church has nothing to do, however, with a literal repetition of divine wrath…. Historically the church has responded to heresy not with literal ‘wrath and fury’ but with what is perhaps the theological and ecclesiological equivalent: anathema and excommunication…. To excommunicate, then, is formally to recognize that a person has taken himself or herself out of the play of the divine communicative action…. To repeat: those who perform ‘some other drama’ take themselves out of the redemptive action. Excommunication is thus an outward or formal recognition of an inward reality, namely, the fact that the heretic is no longer oriented to the way, the truth, and the life. Excommunication is a dramatic symbolic action that signifies a person’s lack of communion with God” (emphasis original).

[76] Michael S. Horton, People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008), 243.

[77] While exclusion or excommunication can and should be considered a declarative, eschatological sign of God’s future judgment in the present, South emphasizes, “The aim of such complete avoidance was to bring the offender to repentance and restoration to the body of the community. But Paul offers no guarantee that expulsion will have the desired effect. If it does not, the protection of the community from further moral and spiritual corruption becomes of primary importance.” South, “Critique of Curse/Death,” 559. See also Fee, 1 Corinthians, 234–35; Rosner, “Drive Out the Wicked Person,” 34.

[78] Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 654.

[79] Schreiner, New Testament Theology, 653. See also D. A. Carson, “Mystery and Fulfillment: Toward a More Comprehensive Paradigm of Paul’s Understanding of the Old and the New,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism, Volume 2: The Paradoxes of Paul, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid WUNT 181 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 408.

[80] For a helpful study of church membership and discipline and their relationship to one another, see Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love.

[81] Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, 225. See also Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, 567–68.

[82] Roetzel, Judgement in the Community, 119.

[83] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, trans. John W. Doberstein (New York: Harper and Row, 1954), 107.

Jeremy Kimble

Jeremy Kimble is associate professor of theology at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio.

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