Aug 25, 2012

Paul of Tarsus on Childishness

ὅτε ἤμην νήπιος, ἐλάλουν ὡς νήπιος, ἐφρόνουν ὡς νήπιος, ἐλογιζόμην ὡς νήπιος: ὅτε γέγονα ἀνήρ, κατήργηκα τὰ τοῦ νηπίου.
When I was a child -- I spoke like a child, had feelings like a child, and I had a mind like a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away those childish things.
Paul of Tarsus, First century A.D.
First Letter to the Church in Corinth, Chapter Thirteen, verse Eleven.

Paul in this quote from a letter he wrote to the church at Corinth (circa 56 A.D.) assumes childish things are something to move away from, to discard -- and secondly he assumes he has become a man. All grown up. The Greek word for "man" is ἀνήρ which can also be translated as "gentleman". I can imagine Paul wants us to also shed this notion of Christianity as a baby's religion, as something infants do, crying like children to their grown up silent gods. Paul is a gentleman and assumes his God responds in kind. Paul loved writing letters -- and he loved to extoll his own weaknessess as strength. He was a child! He said childish things! Perhaps he pouted when his mother would not take him to bathe in the salt goodness of the sea -- or maybe he prattled on like a child in the way children do? But he is man, now! Paul surely sees children as mewling, puking, speaking nonsense, having nothing really important to say -- as if faith is something only grown ups do -- what children do is make-believe. To have a mind of a child is in Paul's mind to be imperfect -- what we mean when we say childish. But Paul informs us that he has become a man -- a full grown person who has evidently discarded such puerile traits such as insouciant idleness and unabashed temper tantrums. I must agree I prefer the mature man to the mewling babe -- but I am somewhat suspicious that in a strident act of becoming all childish things are banished.

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