Did Paul have a death wish?

Posted: May 1, 2012 by J in Bible, Theology

Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  2 Cor 5:8

Christopher Hitchens accused us Christians of having a death wish: ‘lurking under it at all times in all its forms isa desire for this life to come to an end.’ We’ve defended against that claim in the case of Jesus, but isn’t Paul expressing exactly that wish here in 2 Corinthians? And if the great apostle has that longing ‘let this be gone!’ of which Hitchens accuses us, then surely the wish for death is a mark of authentic Christianity after all?

Isn’t Paul saying here that bodily existence is a burden?

…in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling  5:2

Doesn’t bodily existence keep Paul from his goal: the immediate presence of God?

…we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord  5:6

And so then isn’t Paul’s ideal to leave and be elsewhere, in the heavenly realm?

we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  2 Cor 5:8

That’s how I’ve always heard it explained – when anyone took the trouble to explain it at all! Sounds convincing enough – unless you’ve been hanging with the apostle Paul for a while. That’s what I’ve been doing the past few years, and my problem with this passage is, it sounds so out of character. At least, the way I’ve interpreted it above, it does.

Tomorrow: we’ll suggest a different reading of Paul in this most important passage. Hope we can pull it off!


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