Kenneth Bailey is gifted New Testament scholar, one whose experience living in the Middle East provides him a unique perspective on Jesus parables and other New Testament issues. In preparation for Sunday’s message on 1 Corinthians 13, I picked up his work, Paul Through Middle Eastern Eyes. In it he suggests that 1 Corinthians 11-14 is a series of six homilies, organized by a series of chiasmuses.
His outline gives a fresh way of approaching this often-confused section of Scripture. It doesn’t answer all of the questions, but it does give a pathway to understanding Paul’s argument.
I have reproduced his chiasmuses below, emending one of them and adding another. By looking at these chiasmuses, it lets us understand the central point Paul is trying to make:
Love is the essence of the Christian life. It must be pursued first. Spiritual gifts are instrumental means by which we love others. The central aspect of love is putting others ahead of ourselves, just the way Christ did (Phil 2:1-11).
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