The Church as a Garden-Temple, Field and Building

Commenting on 1 Cor. 3:9, Beale/Carson make the following observations (which unites the organic and building metaphors for the church/temple):

The comparisons of the church to “God’s field” and “God’s building” may in fact be related. Beale (2004: 245–52) lays out the evidence. The “building” in question turns out to be a temple in 3:16, for which the most obvious model is that of Solomon’s temple. As Beale states, “The only other place in Scripture where a ‘foundation’ of a building is laid and ‘gold,’ ‘silver,’ and ‘precious stones’ are ‘built’ upon the foundation is Solomon’s temple” (1 Kings 5:17; 6:20–21, 28, 30, 35; cf. 1 Chron. 29:1–7; 3–4). Indeed, “one hundred thousand talents of gold and a million talents of silver” were prepared for the construction of Solomon’s temple (1 Chron. 22:14). Furthermore, the description of Solomon’s temple combined precious metals with botanical features, such as wood-carved “gourds and open flowers” (1 Kings 6:18), “palm trees” (1 Kings 6:29, 32), “pomegranates” (1 Kings 7:18–20), “a lily design” (1 Kings 7:22), rows of “gourds” (1 Kings 7:24–26, 42), and lampstands resembling a grove of trees with blossoms (1 Kings 7:49–50). Significantly, later Judaism spoke of Solomon’s temple as a “field” (Tg. Ps.-J. 27:27; Pesiq. Rab. Piska 39). And in the early Christian Odes of Solomon, 38:17–21 describes a “saint” being “established” on “foundations [that] were laid” and also as a “cultivation” that was “watered” by God. These traditions build upon the fact that in the OT “the Garden of Eden, Israel’s garden-like promised land, and Israel’s future restoration in a garden-like land were either equated or associated with a temple” (Beale 2004: 246). All this suggests that in 3:5–18 Paul is comparing the Corinthians not just to any cultivated field and temple, but to nothing less than Solomon’s garden temple.

Beale, G. K., & Carson, D. A. (2007). Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament (703). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos.

© 2013, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.


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