Quit Despising Wood, Hay, and Stubble, They’re People Too! Reconsidering 1 Cor. 3:12

The purpose of this paper is to re-examine Paul’s list of building materials in 1 Corinthians 3:12 in order to propose that all of the materials should be understood as good and necessary for adequately building in Paul’s construction metaphor (1 Cor. 3:9-17). Contra the traditional interpretation, which argues that the materials should be broken into two groups of three, namely, three imperishable building materials (gold, silver, and precious stones) and three perishable building materials (wood, hay, and stubble), Paul’s argument concerning the building materials listed in 1 Corinthians 3:12 is not focused on which materials one uses to build (perishable or imperishable), but rather how one builds (i.e., quality construction with the materials/church members one has). This reading helps the church (and it’s leaders) understand that all the building materials (church members) are absolutely essential to building of the church. It also emphasizes that leaders of the church must seek to build well with the “folly” of the gospel and not build their ministries upon themselves.

This thesis will be argued by, first, giving a brief survey of current interpretations and their weaknesses. Second, by briefly examining Paul’s building materials in the context of his construction metaphor. Third, by examining primary sources where wood, hay, and stubble are used in ancient construction. And fourth, by responding to objections.

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