Christianity does not require us to be constantly changing, but it does require us to grow deeper in our relationship with God. The Old Covenant was satisfied with external practices that were necessary and part of belonging to the people of God. The New Covenant is a new way of belonging to God, it is not based on repeated performances. The New Covenant is a belonging that is rooted in love – not one based in having the same opinions or practices as other believers.
So even though Tradition and traditions are important to our identity (individually and collectively), the goodness that comes from their venerable age cannot substitute the active discernment Charity demands. We’ve said and done things certain ways for hundreds or thousands of years. The only reason to continue, however, is because those ways and those things conform to Charity and Truth. If we discern that the old garment is no longer Christ, we must first put on Christ – put on Charity – not simply patch up the old.
THEODORET OF CYR:
Paul accuses the Corinthians of two things. First, they exaggerate their praise, and second, they condemn others when they have no right to judge.1
Why does Paul mention only commendation from God and say nothing about condemnation? The reason seems to be that only that which is commendable will reach God’s ears; the rest will be passed over in silence. I would even go so far as to say that it is God who receives the commendable things we have done, whereas the rest goes straight to the devil.2
The controversy-story is intended to give a different perspective to the Jewish custom of fasting. Among Jews fasting was practiced for the expiation of sins (on the Day of Atonement, Lev 16:29–31), for penitence (1 Kgs 21:27; Joel 1:14; 2:15–27; Isa 58:1–9), and for mourning (Esth 4:3). Jesus’ reply, however, makes a distinction. He does not reject the practice of fasting, but reveals that it will have its time and place in the new economy of salvation being inaugurated. His disciples are not to fast now (v. 34), but they will have to in time (v. 35). Jesus’ reply also suggests the inconsequential aspect of fasting, when the economy that he is inaugurating is considered as a whole. His presence among his followers, as that inauguration takes place, has to be understood as a joyous occasion, like the time when a married couple are still considered bride and groom. That period is marked by celebration, not by the gloom associated with fasting (see Joel 1:13–16). His disciples are “the bridegroom’s attendants” and must share in the joy of the inauguration of this new period.3
To the controversy-story Luke, following Mark and even more deliberately than Mark, now joins two similitudes, which explain another aspect of fasting. Fasting was a practice well-rooted in Judaism; and even though there would come a time for it in Christian life, it has an aspect of the “old” that has to yield to a “new” understanding of God’s economy of salvation. The two similitudes make this point. In their Lucan forms they are distinctive. In the first similitude Jesus’ opponents are told that in their demand that Jesus’ disciples fast as do those of John and the Pharisees they are equivalently cutting up a new garment (and ruining it) to put a patch on an old garment which it does not match. The incompatibility of the old and the new is thus stressed. The new does not just repair the old; rather, the old must give way. What is interesting here is Luke’s emphasis on the difference between (Pharisaic) Judaism and Christianity—whereas he is otherwise at pains to stress the continuity between them.4
Finally, Luke makes Jesus add a comment on those who have become enamored of the old practices. Using a proverb (v. 39), Jesus wryly comments on the effect of such practices: they result in closing a person off from the new. Verse 39 does not contradict the sayings in vv. 37–38, but it points up the difficulty that those who cling to the old have in accepting the new—the “new wine” that Jesus offers. It is merely another way of commenting on the incompatibility of the “old” and the “new”; it explains the negative attitude of Jesus’ opponents. The proverb is also the evangelist’s way of explaining why Jesus’ claims were so unacceptable to many of his contemporaries: “No one who has sipped an old wine prefers a new wine; for he says, ‘The old is what is good.’ ”5
Luke has added the adverbial acc. (pykna). There is no way of telling how often or in what this temporary abstention from food for a religious purpose lasted for John’s disciples. Mark 1:6 tells of the Baptist’s ordinary ascetic diet (“locusts and wild honey”); spartan though it was, that is not what is usually meant by fasting. That he also fasted is suggested by 7:33. In the OT “fasting” meant abstention from eating bread (food) and drinking water (e.g. Exod 34:28; Deut 9:9); it is often listed along with the ascetic use of sackcloth and ashes (e.g. Dan 9:3). The renunciation of self implied in it apparently contributed to a notion of self-achieved holiness, against which the prophets inveighed at times (see Jer 14:12; Isa 58:3–9).6
- COMMENTARY ON THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS 186. Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (p. 38). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON 1 CORINTHIANS 2.18.106–12 Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (p. 39). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- Fitzmyer, J. A. (2008). The Gospel according to Luke I–IX: introduction, translation, and notes (Vol. 28, p. 596). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.
- Fitzmyer, J. A. (2008). The Gospel according to Luke I–IX: introduction, translation, and notes (Vol. 28, pp. 596–597). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.
- Fitzmyer, J. A. (2008). The Gospel according to Luke I–IX: introduction, translation, and notes (Vol. 28, p. 597). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.
- Fitzmyer, J. A. (2008). The Gospel according to Luke I–IX: introduction, translation, and notes (Vol. 28, p. 598). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.