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Act Like Men

A few days ago, Ed Stetzer wrote a piece on Paul's instruction in 1 Corinthians 16:13 to "act like men." It caused a bit of a reaction, unsurprisingly, with some responding that the Bible never tells us to act like men, and others responding that yes it does, and others responding that andrizomai doesn't really mean that, and so on. Lynn Cohick then responded on Scot McKnight's blog, with a very well-argued case, to which Stetzer responded graciously in the comments. And then this morning, I found a superb section on it in Anthony Thiselton's massive commentary on 1 Corinthians, which I think really helps.

Here’s an excerpt from Stetzer’s original post:

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:13 (HCSB), “Be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong. Your every action must be done with love.” The Greek word here is defined, “to make a man,” “to make brave,” or “to be brave.” Notice, as Paul shows, there is no dichotomy between being loving and being men. We are called to love through or who we are as men, not despite it. All the other actions described – be alert, stand firm in the faith, be strong – are summed up at the end, that every action is to be done with love. Our love is expressed through acting like men. That can be a freeing thought.

Lynn Cohick responded:

The irony is, I think, that in the ancient world, the radicalness of Paul’s statement would be that women could “act like a man.” Note first that in 1 Cor 16; Paul is writing to all the believers in Corinth. That is, he asks men and women to “act like a man.” This leads to my second point. The verb highlights the reality in Paul’s wider world that “acting like a man” was synonymous with the virtue of courage. In Paul’s day, courage was considered a male virtue, and the Greek language reflects that ... [T]his verse is not making a particular point about masculinity; rather, it reveals the limitations of the Greek language, and the reality that Paul’s culture assigned the virtue of courage to the realm of the man. The Gospel, however, promotes a different vision: it calls women and men to stand fast and be courageous.

None of which means that men cannot be called to act like men, of course - which was Stetzer’s original point - but it is a helpful corrective nonetheless. And now here’s Thiselton’s argument, which adds another, crucial element into the equation:

But here the gender issue threatens to obscure the force of be a man! Aner has two semantic oppositions, not one: it does not simply pose a contrast with supposedly “feminine” qualities; it also stands in contrast with childish ways, as strikingly in 1 Corinthians 13:11 ... Hence the Greek suggests both maturity and courage: show mature courage. This reflects, in the closure of the letter, Paul’s earlier rebuks that their notions of “the spiritual” were immature and childish.

Yes, he does use italics and bold type as much as a Patheos blogger. But he’s right, all the same.

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