While reading a chapter in one of my favorite books on the church, I was inspired to study the “body” metaphor in Scripture. (See my post “The Body Metaphor in Paul: Familiar and yet unique.”) While reading that chapter, I realize that I had never looked into that metaphor for myself. I don’t really expect to find anything different or unusual. But, since I want to study it more, I thought I would share what I found on my blog.
Metaphors are interesting… and dangerous. As a figure of speech, a metaphor is a great way to explain one thing by comparing it to something else, usually something more familiar. Of course, the danger is that it’s easy to press a metaphor too far or to assume that people using a similar metaphor making the same kind of comparison.
For example, Jesus uses leaven as a metaphor, but he uses it different ways. (Consider Matthew 13:33 and Matthew 16:6.) Also, it’s easy to take a comparison too far, assuming too many points of comparison between original point and the metaphor.
I wonder if Paul always uses the “body” metaphor in the say way, or if he uses it in different ways at different times, depending on the point he is communicating or explaining to his readers. So, as I read through these passages, I’m going to be asking these kinds of questions: What Paul comparing to a “body”? What comparison is he making? At what point does it seem the comparison ends? How is this usage similar to or different from other usages?
(By the way, I mention Paul above because he is the only New Testament writer who uses the “body” metaphor. Well, there is one usage in the Book of Hebrews. Perhaps Paul wrote that, and perhaps he didn’t. I think he did, but it doesn’t really matter in this discussion.)
The word “body” is used many times in Scripture, often referring to a physical body. In this study, I’m particularly interested in those metaphorical usages of the term “body”… those times when we usually refer to it as “the body of Christ” even if the “of Christ” is not actually part of the passage.
As far as I can tell, these are the verses or passages in which the term “body” is used in that metaphorical sense.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
1 Corinthians 11:27-29
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
So, over the next few days, I’m going to step through those passages. I’ll probably combine some of the passages into single quotes. But, the longer passages will each require their own post.
I look forward to your input as I work through the “body” metaphor in Scripture.
To kick this off, I thought I’d ask you a question: What is the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase “body of Christ”? (And, if possible, I’d prefer to just a short answer… as short as possible. I’m not asking for a complete description… just the first thing you think about.)
“Body of Christ” Metaphor Series
- Romans 12:4-5
- 1 Corinthians 10-11
- 1 Corinthians 12
- Hebrews 13:3