I'm really struggling with this chapter in Corinthians. Chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5 impart how God is the one who judges. But then Paul adds at the end of chapter 5:

(5:11) I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or with the covetous or idolaters or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.

(5:13) Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person."

This seems to be against two core messages of Christianity. Namely, mutual helpfulness in encouraging the sinner towards repentance, as opposed to avoidance and ostracism; and the avenue of redemption is open to all (the righteous). Nobody is without hope for recovery of one's soul if they are able to come into communion with Jesus Christ.

It's true we can pick our friends as well as part paths with a friend even if we forgive. However, Paul's stance appears to be remarkably closed-minded.

Am I missing Paul's point? Am I misinterpreting the passage, or is Paul being judgmental?

Imigine a situation such as "Hi I'm Stu, and I'm an alcoholic."

"OK, Stu, thanks for telling us, but now get lost."

"Really? I've been sober a week, and I've used the power of prayer and my faith in the Lord to overcome my struggles" [in the days before the act of Reconciliation].

"Yeah? What about all the people you hurt?"

"Well, okay, but it's only been a week. I'm doing my best here."

"Be that as it may, get lost. Your sins are far worse than mine."

I am speaking both to the veracity of the message and it's intent.

I am requesting answers from the Catholic perspective.

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    You skipped over an important part of the passage, verse 10: "not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world." Christians are encouraged to associate with sinners outside the church to persuade them to change, but to expel those claiming to be Christians whose conduct shows they have not changed. The expulsion is supposed to encourage repentance and eventual restoration. The church is commanded to judge its own members. Feb 7, 2017 at 19:17
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    No it isn't. It's about church members only.
    – James Bush
    Feb 8, 2017 at 1:52
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    it's not man's task to judge others this is a (very common) misunderstanding of Christian teaching. The verse usually quoted says (KJV) "Judge not lest ye be judged." In other words: "Don't judge self-righteously." We are called to judge others in the church, by the standards of the church.
    – Flimzy
    Feb 8, 2017 at 9:33
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    @Flimzy Yeah, it is at times trying to have to explain that (again) to people, particularly the "who are you to judge me" crowd that confuse liberty with license. ... Feb 8, 2017 at 21:25
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    @StuW: The verse you quote seems to directly contradict your assertion. I'm not sure what the actual question is.
    – Flimzy
    Feb 9, 2017 at 8:49

1 Answer 1


Well, the question went a week. I did some additional research and I'm offering a plausible response, maybe.

From the Catholic Study Bible, 1 Corinthians was written by Paul in 55 or 56 A.D. Early Christian practices, particularly Communion, weren't codified until the early second century [Wikipedia]. Paul speaks of "the breaking of the bread" as the main part of the Eucharist. It seemed like this caused a point of contention among the early Jewish converts. Afterwards, Paul converted mostly Gentiles [Wikipedia].

However, there was a phase where most catecheses were within synagogues. Peter called the Jersulam Jews of Jesus's time a "crooked generation" [Acts] but the Apostles didn't seem to be ashamed of their Jewish-ness, and their early actions could be seen as reform movements with the Jewish religion--the coming of the Messiah or Massiach--where man and God would once again walk together [Psalm 91].

The Pharisees knew the Mosaic Law, to be sure, but in order to really impress catechesis, they had to use the existing Pentateuch (Torah). In order to do this, they had to find deeper, metaphorical meaning within the Law. Much of this work would have been completed with the Babylonian Talmud (sort of the equivalent of the Catechism) [Wikipedia]. The Pharisees became quite proficient and comfortable with the use of metaphor, especially in spiritual matters.

Perhaps Paul was communicating in such a way. Perhaps he was speaking of the "breaking of the bread" ceremony in which early Christians communed with Christ. I suppose he wished forthe equivalent of taking a blessing or staying in one's seat during modern Communion for those with mortal sin on their soul.

Thus, Paul wasn't literally meaning to avoid one's neighbor, but he was speaking metaphorically to disallow a Eucharistic ceremony for the sinners until ... when, we're not really told when.

Granted, this is an opinion-based answer, but I learned a lot of neat stuff in the process!

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