Let me interrupt this thought – 2 Corinthians 5:3

tentI am trying to make sense of this passage from 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 ESV

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

My syntactical analysis looks like this:

For we know that

if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed,

we have a building from God, 

a house

not made with hands,

eternal

in the heavens. 

For in this tent we groan,

longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 

if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 

For while we are still in this tent,

we groan,

being burdened—

not that we would be unclothed,

but that we would be further clothed,

so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 

He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, 

who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

 

Now this looks like a chiasm starting to form. That is where you have a structure like ABCDBCA.  the ABC is about a building that is eternal compared with a tent that is temporary.  but then v. 3, which has occupied scholars endlessly, is a kind of interruption. Perhaps Paul is interrupting himself, like a preacher might, and saying – “and by the way, proto-gnostics who are listening,  we will not be disembodied spirits but embodied ones”

This would not be good if we were talking about a neat and tidy essay, or an academic paper. But Paul is a preacher, talking to an audience, and so in the middle of a tidy structure, it makes perfect sense to interrupt himself.

I’m a preacher. I ought to know.  We do it all the time.

And why does the house/tent metaphor become one about clothing, and then one where life eats death.  English teachers hate this sort of thing, but there is a lot of it in the bible.  Preachers do that sort of thing also.

My sermon summary is this:

  1. Our future is more real than the present.
  2. We live in a tent but we own a home
  3. Life overcomes death, so live with confidence
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