Lectionary Year A
March 17, 2002
Step IV: Context
A. Primitive Christianity
(JFC) Early Christians were concerned with living with the Risen Christ. They
certainly wanted to live in God's Spirit. Galatians 6:8 states, right figuratively, that sowing to the flesh brings adverse consequences and sowing to the Spirit brings favorable ones. Galatians 5:24 asserts that "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and its desires." Also, I Corinthians 3:16 indicates that "God's Spirit dwells in" the believers there. And I Peter 4:5 notes that God judges both the living and the dead. II Timothy 1:14 says that "with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us" we are to guard the good treasure entrusted to us. These passages enforce the stipulations similarly expressed in Romans 8:6-11.
B. Old Testament and Judaism
(JFC) Leviticus 17:11 says that "the life of the flesh is in the blood" which is to be
sacrificed on the altar to make atonement. Job (19:26) hoped to see God from his flesh, meaning, of course, from his physical abilities he might get a glimpse of the Deity. Isaiah (40:6f) believed that "All flesh is grass", or, of less esteem than God's Word which is to "stand forever". Then, Ezekiel (11:19 and 36:26f) refers to a "new spirit" God will give representing the New Covenant God calls the faithful to live. Furthermore, Ezekiel (20:48) prophesied that "All flesh shall see that God will kindle fires within." Shades of the "Fire Within" of the XIX Winter Olympics. The Old Testament faith evidently also believed the life of the flesh was less desirable than a (new) life in the spirit/Spirit.
C. Hellenistic World
(JFC) These thinking and dialoging and Greek-educated philosophers would resonate
with the dichotomy of the differences between intellectually orientation to the flesh and death and the orientation to Spirit and life in this passage. Wonder if they could mull over focusing their lives' models on Christ rather than on themselves? The image of giving life to mortal bodies would also attract their attention. Then, too, they could engage in opportunities to discuss the metaphorical meanings of the flesh's differing from that of the Spirit's. Also, they might enjoy pondering the flesh's not submitting to the law and/or the flesh's inability to please God. Also, Bornkamm notes in his Paul, that Romans 8 contains the author's ethics yet without any imperatives; as such, these lines might well get the Hellenists' notice.
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