Out Of Our Minds For God?- 2 Corinthians 5:13

As we begin a study of 2 Corinthians 5:13-21, we must first examine a verse which, upon first read, can be quite confusing. This verse is translated in NIV as follows: “If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God, if we are in our right mind, it is for you”. The confusion comes here through the assertion that we are out of our mind for the sake of God. Many would conclude that this is a direct confirmation of their assumption that religion requires one to “check your mind at the door”, that faith and reason are antithetical, that belief in God is in the realm of mythology while trust in reason is in the realm of fact. Is that, in fact, what Paul is saying here? An examination of the verse will quickly show that this is not the case, that faith in God is not irrational, that it does not require the abandonment of reason, but is in fact a very rational response to the condition of our world. The Greek word translated as “out of our mind” here is existemi, and a proper understanding of its usage here will require a rather thorough examination of its historical development and usage at the time of the writing of this letter. This Greek word can most literally be translated as “to be removed from one’s place”. It is derived from the Greek word ekstasis, from which comes the English word ecstasy. The Greek word ekstasis was originally used in Greek philosophy and the pagan mystery religions to describe a phenomenon in which the participant was transported by “god” to a place or state of convulsive, transitory excitement. What must first be noted here is that the “believer” is transported by another, that this experience originates outside the believer and is not generated by the believers themselves. This fact was very important to Paul in his treatment of tongues in 1 Corinthians, which is a phenomenon which is somewhat in his mind here in the use of existemi. Participation in this phenomenon showed who was truly full of, or inspired by, “god”. By the time Paul wrote this, this term was seen as a phenomenon in which the soul was transported outside of the body for a period of time, and its goal was prophecy. This was then seen as a type of out of body experience, a trance like state in which the believer received revelation from “god” which was to be shared with others. This state of ekstasis was one with which Paul was familiar, for he himself uses the word ekstasis in reference to himself in Acts 22:17, an incident in which Paul was praying in the temple and “fell into a trance” (ekstasis), and received a revelation from God. The same word is also used to refer to Peter in Acts 10:10 and 11:5, in which Peter, while praying, fell into a trance (ekstasis) and received the revelation from God to go to the house of Cornelius the Roman centurion. It must be noted here that in neither of these episodes are Paul or Peter “out of their minds”, but rather experience a state in which their minds are focused solely upon God, in which all distractions are eliminated so that their minds may receive revelation from God for their lives and the lives of others. So we find that ekstasis is not a state in which one is out of his mind, but in which the mind is intently focused upon God in order that it may receive, process, understand and apply information. We now turn to the Greek word existemi, which Paul uses here and is derived from ekstasis. It is here in which Paul’s history as a Jewish rabbi comes into the picture. The word existemi is used in the Greek Old Testament to translate the Hebrew word nabi. literally to “speak with in frenzy”, and which was used in the Old Testament to refer to the normal human reaction to God’s self-revelation. The Hebrew prophets were often referred to as nabi, and were said to be sent to Israel from God (Amos 2:11). The Hebrew prophet was placed in the state of ekstasis so that there would be singular focus upon God, so that they could function as nabi, as those who received revelation from God which they then passed on to others. We then see that the ekstasis of both Paul and Peter fit into this nabi pattern, and can also be seen as existemi. So what we ultimately find here is that Paul uses existemi here to refer to a form of ekstasis, as the “removal of the soul from one place to another”, as a sort of trance like experience in which the mind is not abandoned but focused singularly upon God in order to correctly and accurately receive, process, understand and apply information, information received from God and intended to be shared with others, as he is doing here. So for Paul, the use of existemi here does not mean that he was literally “out of his mind”, that belief somehow is irrational, that it requires the believer to “check his mind at the door” in order to commune with God. What it does mean is that all of the faculties of the human mind are required in order to ever understand what God has revealed to us about Himself, that being “out of our minds” does not mean abandoning the human capacity of reasoning, but refers to the use of human reasoning to its fullest capacity, for all of our mental faculties are required if we are even to understand a small fraction of who God is and what he has revealed of Himself to us.

No Comments Christian Philosophy  //  Epistles  //  Nature of Man

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