As It Is Written
The Wretched Man
by Patrick Henry Reardon
It is not uncommon for the Apostle Paul to employ the first-person pronoun when he intends to designate either human beings in general or Christians in particular. We recognize this usage, for example, when he writes, "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have agape, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal." When Paul declares that, without agape, "I am nothing," we discern that he is speaking for all of us (1 Cor. 13:1–2).
It seems likely, too, that Paul is appealing to this rhetorical reference when he writes, "If a particular kind of food (broma) causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again" (8:13). In the exhortatory context of this assertion, it is clear that the apostle intends to establish a moral norm for all Christians, not just a personal preference. He uses the same idiomatic style repeatedly in his treatment of prophecy and glossolalia in 1 Corinthians 14:6–19.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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