In my previous post I started answering the question of why there may be contradictions/discrepancies/differences within the works of a single author. Weren’t they careful? Didn’t they see the problem? I mentioned that sometimes it may be that with someone like Paul, since his letters spanned over a decade, maybe he changed his mind about some things. I certainly don’t think all the same things I did ten years ago; and if you contrast what I thought when I was 19 and when I was 29, it was an *extreme* shift. The example I used was Paul’s sense in his early letters that he would be alive when Jesus returned; but in his later letters he seems to have thought that he might well die first.
In that context I mentioned the famous passage in Paul, a favorite in funeral and memorial services, 2 Cor. 5:1: “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” This is a beautiful thought, that when one abandons this body, another, better body will be provided in heaven. How that can be reconciled with Paul’s teaching that at the end of the age everybody would return to his/her body and be raised immortal (as in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15) is not at all clear to me. Maybe he changed his mind about that too?
In any event, I can’t pass this passage – 2 Cor. 5:1 — by without telling a funny anecdote about it.
When I was in seminary, I heard of a fellow student who was asked to participate in a funeral in the church he was working in, for an elderly person who had died. The pastor wanted this verse in particular to be read, and part of what this student was to do in the service was to read it to the congregation. But when he stood up to read, he made a mistake, and instead of opening his Bible to 2 Corinthians 5:1, he accidentally opened it to 1 Corinthians 5:1, and didn’t realize the mistake until he had started reading.
That verse says this: “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife.”
On the spot this student reflected that most people don’t pay much attention to such things anyway. So he finished reading solemnly, and sat down, pretending that nothing strange had just happened…..