Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Missions and Ministry Look like Movements

This post might seem like a complete non-sequitur, but I just came back from seeing the opening debut of the Cesar Chavez movie with my Ethnic American Biblical Interpretation class. Wow! What a powerful movie! In my EABI class, we just finished reading through Gonzalez's Mexicanos: A History of Mexicans in the United States (2009) which has a short chapter on the Cesar Chavez and the Mexican American struggle to unionize for fair wages in California's grape industry. And while I understand that Hollywood probably exercised some artistic license, nevertheless this film powerfully dramaticizes the kind of perseverance and sacrifice that is required for social change. I want to bring my sons to see this film. 
Image Credit: Lionsgate Films
If I might offer a few brief reflections about the movie, I would highlight 3 comparisons one can make between the farmer workers labor movement lead by Chavez and the call to Christian missions/ministry. 
   First, compassion. The film starts by Chavez quitting his previous position with the CSO (Community Service Organization) to live among Latino/a American farm workers, work with them in their back-breaking conditions, and encourage them to seek more for their families than the camp-like conditions in which they lived.  We can't share the gospel unless we walk with people in their sufferings.
   Second, sacrifice, fasting, proclamation, unity, courage, and creative wisdom are stronger weapons in the war against evil than violence. Here I would say: watch the film! See the kind of sacrifices that Chavez made, even straining his relationships with his wife and children (especially with his eldest son), his 25-day fast (and as a Christian, it's not enough to starve but I would add that prayer must accompany fasting), and his perseverance through some major disappointments over a long, painful 5-year strike. When you do, it is quite a challenge to the church to exercise the same moral courage and even go beyond this. Fear paralyzes, but faith can overcome fear.
   Third, humility. Every leader needs to be able to take corporate responsibility for what his group or church does. There is a climatic moment in the film when Chavez addresses his closest followers and makes this confession: "I failed you as a leader." On the heels when some of his closest followers let the rage get the best of them and they resorted to violence, Chavez felt responsibility for what they did. Pastors need to be able to say: "I failed you" when our congregation sins, but also encourage them: "But let's repent together." 
    Cesar Chavez was not a perfect person in any sense of the word, nor does the film try to portray him as one. His very real broken relationship with his eldest son makes it all so clear how fragile human beings can be. But I don't think any missionary or pastor can ignore the moment (and the knife in one's heart) when Chavez's son shows how angry he is over his father's unavailability and absence. Chavez was just so busy with the mission at hand, he could not help his son when Fernando was viciously bullied at school for his father's work. Ministry, like movements, involves putting our families through tough situations. We see them suffer at times because of our callings. This film brings out vividly some of those moments. It made me theologically reflect on my call to ministry and ask what sacrifices I and my family have had to go through so we can all be faithful to the Lord and his people. 
    Hope you have a chance to see the film! It's well worth the effort to catch it in its limited engagement at the theaters.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Idol Food Is No Idle Business at Corinth

Whew! Just turned in the proof's for the Seyoon Kim Festschrift yesterday. That was brutal. I went through several pots of coffee and about a half-bottle of Advil to get this done... and all this with the help of a TA (Thanks Kerry!) who did fantastic work. But back to where I left off.
   Pardon the pun, but idol food was no idle business in the Roman Corinth of Paul's day. To the contrary, it was a thriving enterprise that produced a high-quality item in mass quantities with amazing efficiency at an affordable price. While we are not sure of the exact location of the butcher shop which took left-over food sacrificed to idols and prepared it to be sold in the marketplace before it could spoil, historically we have three competing locations based on the recovery of inscription fragments found around the area of the Corinthian agora. These have been mapped out below (in burgandy, green and blue): 
Map of Ancient Corinth (credit:
(1) The least likely location was once argued by Broneer who later retracted his initial assertion that based on the discovery of an inscription at the crypto-porticus near the South Basilica (dotted burgandy rectangle on the map), the shops of the south forum was where the macellum was situated. But this location was based on an earlier (mis)conjecture that the fragment read: ΛΟΥKIOC  ΛAN[IO]C ("Loukios the but[che]r"). But it was later determined that the better reconstruction was ΛΟΥKIOC  ΚAN[IO]C ("Loukios Kan[io]s") where the second word is not "butcher" but the nomen "Kanios" [See the discussion by David Gill in his "The Meat Market at Corinth (1 Cor 10:25)," Tyndale Bulletin 43.2 (1992) 391-92; cf. O. Broneer, "Studies in the topography of Corinth at the time of St. Paul," Archaiologike Ephemeris (1937) 125-133].

(2) Bruce Winter mentions the possibility of its location at the basilica near the Lechaion Road where the Roman market existed (green circle; see his After Paul Left Corinth, 294). 

(3) But the most likely location remains the Peribolos of Apollo where a series of shops built by the Romans are located, and these and the Peribolos are built on top of the former location of the old Greek meat market (mentioned by Pausanias in his Description of Greece 2.3.2-2.3.3; see blue circle on the map). Fotopoulos gives a detailed summary for why the Peribolos is the most likely location based on how other macella (e.g., the macellum at Pompeii) are similarly constructed near a water source so live fish can be kept and then butchered on order (see his Food Offered to Idols in Roman Corinth, 139-42).  

(4) Perhaps the safest estimation is by Gill who simply says that the location of the butcher shop, though unspecified, nevertheless was likely near the Lechaion Road. 

   The point, however, is that the butcher was close by the temples. From the Temple of Apollo, it was roughly 15-20 yards away from the Roman market place (green circle) and 25-30 yards away from the Peribolos (blue circle). Or, as I like to say, the butcher shop was just two "first down's" on the football field away from the temple. Not far at all. The food was quickly butchered and sold immediately before it spoiled. It met a real need after major festivals and religious holidays by providing high-quality food at an inexpensive price to the common person off the street. 

   And Paul, against his Jewish instincts, appears to have no qualms about eating idol food sold in the macellum (ἐν μακέλλῳ; 1 Cor 10:25). Much good discussion has already been made about a theology of creation (based on Paul's quotation of Psalm 24:1 LXX  [= 23:1 LXX] in 1 Cor 10:26) which informs Paul's permissibility. But what I find intriguing is the non-sacramental view Paul has towards idol food when it comes to the elements (or meat) themselves. What makes idol food idolatrous (and possibly sacramental) is not the elements or food, but the cultic setting in which pagan worship and fellowship took place. I believe this foil has enormous theological implications for the Lord's Supper in 1 Cor 10:12-24. But more on this next time.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Proof that the Life of a Scholar Is in the Mundane Details

Well, in case anyone is wondering why I have not posted a follow up yet on idol food at Corinth, here is the reason why: 
I just received the proof's for the Seyoon Kim Festschrift. All 312 pages (not including the front matter or indices). Wow! This is painstaking detailed work. Pardon the pun, but checking proof's is proof that the life of the scholar means doing the mundane well. I can't tell you how many odd breaks I'm finding between lines, sentences, paragraphs, and pages. Arghh! I have not focused this intensely on minutia since I spent a college summer working in an entomology lab counting spider mites on grape leaves for a U.C. Berkeley professor. 
    In any case, until the proof's are sent to Wipf and Stock, I won't be posting on idol food. But my TA and I are almost done. It's well worth the effort. Just need to dig deep for the final 100 yard dash!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Mystery of the Missing Fragment from the Butcher Shop Inscription at Corinth

[Warning: Going turbo nerd here!] Besides the Gallio inscription at Delphi and the Erastus inscription near the theater at Corinth, another inscription that drew my attention during the Greece trip was the dedication of the butcher shop by the family of Cornelii (Murphy-O'Connor, St. Paul's Corinth, p. 30). Paul, in his discussion of idol food (1 Cor 10:25) instructs that any idol meat sold ἐν μακέλλῳ ("in the market") is permissible to eat, although he was willing to relinquish this right for the sake of his brother and sister. 
    The Greek word μάκελλος is a Hellenized transliteration of the Latin macellum. The inscription dedicating the macellum (meat market) and macellum piscarum (fish market) is supposed to be on display at the Museum on site in ancient Corinth. When I went there, this is what I found (next 4 photos taken by Max Lee at the Corinth Museum © 2014)
Outdoor display at the Museum in Corinth

Close up (right-bottom of the display): description/date of the inscription

Close-up (left top of the display):

Close-up (right top of the display):
NDVS                         ET
SCARIO E...... 

And that's it. Two fragments (one of which is a composite cemented back together) and the display description, and no other fragments. I looked. There was no sign saying that some of the fragments were going to be displayed later and are being prepared (which I hope is still the case because so much is missing!). So my question is: where's the rest?
   In David Gill's article "The Meat Market at Corinth (1 Cor 10:25)," Tyndale Bulletin 43.2 (1992) 391, he reports and transcribes the fragmentary marble inscription uncovered in 1898. What I have tried to do is take Gill's transcription and match, to the best of my ability, what I found on display at the Corinthian museum:
Q(uintus) Co[r]nelius [.] f(ilius) [A]em(ilia) Secundus [et]      
Maec[ia Q(uintus)] f(ilia) vxor [eius] [.] [Cornelius Secundus      
M]a[e]cianus f(ilius) Q(uintus) Corn[elius]                                  
Secu[nd]us f [Co]rn[elia Secunda f eius vxor Q(uintus) M]a[e]ci
Q(uintus) l(ibertus) Cleogen[is]                                                     
macellu[m--- cum----] et pi[scario ----]                                    

Key: [brackets] indicates missing letters conjectured to be there; (parentheses) indicated the spelled out word that the initial letter abbreviates; the red color font indicates what fragments of the inscription are on display at the Museum of Corinth at the time when I took these photos on 1/10/2014; the black color font indicates parts of the inscription that are missing from the display but have been published by Gill (see also Cadbury 1934), and especially missing is the crucial MACELLV (market) shown in bold.
    The English translation by Gill of the butcher shop inscription is as follows (again parts of the inscription on display in red, with the missing fragments not display in black):
Quintus Cornelius Secundus, son of [---], of the tribe Aemilia, and
his wife Maecianus, daughter of [Quintus], his son [--- Cornelius         
Secundus] Maecianus, his son Quintus Cornelius Secundus, his         
[daughter] Cornelia [Secunda, who is the wife of Quintus] Maecius        
Cleogenes the freedman of Quintus (Maecius) [built (?)] the                 
meatmarket [---] along with [---] and facilities for fish [-----]         

There are several odd things when you compare the museum display with Gill's transcription. 
   1) Some of the inscription that are conjectured by Gill [in brackets] actually appear quite clearly in the display fragments: notably, the family name Cornelius. Where Gill transcribes only CORN---, in both the fragments I saw at the museum, it clearly shows more letters: CORNELIV... Another example is the word for fish (piscarius). Gill transcribes only PI... and conjectures the rest PI[SCARIO]. My photos instead show the PI to be missing and shows alternatively [PI]SCARIO
   2) Secondly, everything in black and especially the crucial word for "meat market" (= the Latin MACELLV[M]) is missing from the museum display. By comparison, the parts of the inscription that are displayed at the museum are shown in red, and even here I'm just guessing. 
   3) Lastly, the last illegible line of the displayed fragment ..NIB(P?)V... is simply not mentioned at all by Gill and omitted from his transcription.

    Did someone make a mistake? Am I even looking at the same fragments that Gill writes about? Did the museum lose some of the fragments? Where is the rest of the inscription? Are the missing fragments stored somewhere? ... A million questions were darting through my mind since the one fragment with the word "meat market" was absent from the display. 

    For the record, the missing fragment with the word MACELLV[M] has been published and a black-white photo of it can be seen in Henry Cadbury's famous 1934 article "The Macellum of Corinth,"JBL 53/2 (1934), 134-41. If you search the web, in the public domain, this photo (credit: Ferrell Jenkins) can be found of the exact same fragment that Cadbury shows: 

To my disappointment, I did not see the above fragment anywhere in the museum display at Corinth. I hope they did not lose it, and it's in the museum basement somewhere, ready to be "rediscovered" and put back on display. At least, we know that the fragment exists and is not a hoax. 
   Well, if anyone who is reading this post happens to be visiting ancient Corinth any time soon, could you please visit the museum on site and see if you can find the above missing MACELLV fragment? Ask the procurator of the museum if they have this fragment on display anywhere or if it is possibly in storage. If you happen to find it, I would be in your debt if you could take a fresh digital photo of it (high res) and kindly send me a copy via email. Many thanks to anyone who can make this happen!
   That said, in my next post, I'm going to talk about the proximity of the butcher shop to the temple cult (of Apollo) at Corinth and its relevance for Paul's teaching on idol food. But it sure is a mystery as to what happened to the missing MACELLV fragment!