Thursday, January 19, 2017

A new translation of 1 Cor 12:27

I am excited about this new translation of 1 Cor 12:27, which I made long ago, and I still believe that this makes a great sense to me: "You are a Christic body and you have to embody Christ individually and communally."

For more about this idea of the body, see my book, "Christ's Body in Corinth: The Politics of a Metaphor" (Fortress, 2008) and other works I did. For more info, visit my site:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Unreading examples in the New Testament

Un-reading means resistance to a dominant traditional reading that subjugates the voices of the marginalized.

Jesus un-reads familiar texts during his time. His parables are good examples of unreading: For example, Leaven, Mustard Seed, Vineyard Workers, and “Father and Two Sons.” Society reads the text in a certain way, but Jesus unreads (reverses) it, forging a new meaning. I have one article about the Father and Two Sons (Lk 15:11-32), available here:

By definition, “a parable is a story cast alongside of life for the sake of leading the audience to see something differently.” [Marcus Borg, Jesus: The Life, Teaching, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (New York: HaperCollins, 2008), 259]. C.H. Dodd also defines it similarly: “At its simplest the parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.” [C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom (New York: Scribner, 1961), 5]

We, modern readers, also must unread certain texts in the New Testament. Among others, some of the post-Pauline texts may be good cases that involve repressive social relations, which are expressed with the so-called household codes: regulating various household relationships between master and slave, between husband and wife, and between parents and children. Women’s subordinate position in 1 Tim 2:11-15 is also a good case. In all of these household codes or in women degradation texts, one has to read, reread, and unread the texts because the ultimate meaning is not controlled by the past or by any authorities today. Meaning or interpretation is a politically self-conscious business in that one has to take a stance. Namely, abusive or sexist texts should be named and rejected. In the stages of reading and rereading, one has to ask why these seemingly unnecessary texts for today’s readers are there in the early church. This process will help readers to see what happened in the past and to engage us in critical contexts then and today.  

Another text is 1 Cor 14:33b-36, which is considered “interpolation” (meaning an inserted text by the later editor of the church, possibly much time after Paul’s death, as we see similar kind of texts in 1 Tim 2:11-15. Except for this particular passage, Paul’s overall letters (I mean his undisputed letters, total 7 of them) do not have women degradation passages. Rather, the opposite is the case that Paul calls woman apostle (Rom 16:7); also Gal 3:28 is radical in terms of gender relation. So readers have to unread 1 Cor 14:33b-36 because it is not Paul’s voice or theology.

When it comes to the Gospels, I may think of one particular place; Mark 9:1 will be a different case that readers have to read, reread, unread, and tell their positions. While some consider it as Jesus’s own saying, others render it Markan addition or creation. In either case, readers have to struggle to understand what it means to hear this apocalyptic saying in the first century CE and now.  Eventually, one must decide about this text and interpret it for today’s world by unreading all previous interpretations. I think this text is more of technical in nature so it may not be easy to come to a conclusion.

In Resurrecting Jesus: The Renewal of New Testament Theology, I attempted to show how to read the New Testament and what it means to read them for today. I focused on the historical Jesus on one hand and the New Testament as a literary product on the other.

Regarding a critical understanding of biblical interpretation, my book Biblical Interpretation: Theory, Process, and Criteria will be helpful. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

One-minute lights-off to protest

 I am amazed by the peaceful yet powerful protests going on in Korea now, against President Park. Yesterday more than 2 million people gathered and marched to demand her immediate resignation.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

1.5 million people's shouts and lights

The most powerful video I have ever seen in my life. Watch this. You will see more than a million people's shouts and lights at the most crowded plazas in Seoul, Korea, to send a massive protest to president Park that she resign immediately. The gathered people performed a dramatic show by turning off their candles or lights for a minute at 8 pm last night. Then they turned on the lights a minute later. They say that the darkness won't overcome the light (like John 1:5). Then a song is sung with all in unison, "the truth cannot collapse ..." In fact, many homes and shops in the nation participated in this symbolic protest against president Park. Almost 2 million people protested peacefully. I see a new kind of democracy there because of effective social media and their voluntary participation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Bible translation matters

There are many problems in the translation of the NIV. Especially, a lot of translation issues are found in Paul's letters. But today I discovered another problem in Luke 15:4 where the translation is really bad in my view. Eremos is a desert or wilderness in the plain sense, but the NIV translates it as "open country." I kind of know why it did so: to protect the shepherd's decision and action that leaves the ninety-nine.

In my recent book RESURRECTING JESUS, I deal with some translation issues in Paul's Letters.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"The body of Christ" being quoted

As a biblical scholar serious about our life, individually and communally, whenever I hit my works quoted in others' work, I am very much alert. At times my work is used negatively. But most of the times it is appreciated. Here is one that I spotted today through the Google Alert system (I receive automatic alerts whenever there is a use of my work).
I received a Google Scholars alert message and found I was quoted: “Yung Suk Kim, in a number of publications, seeks to re-orient the notion of the body of Christ away from the organism metaphor to a description of a way of living that emphasizes ‘Christ’s embodiment of God’s gospel.’ According to Kim, Paul used the body language to stress the exemplary life of Christ that his followers are meant to emulate through embodied practices of service and hospitality. To be Christ’s body, therefore, is primarily ‘an ethic of Christian life,’ and secondarily, a description of the community that practices this ethic. See Kim, ‘Reclaiming Christ’s Body (soma Christou)'; Kim, Christ’s Body in Corinth.” –From book Being the Body of Christ in the Age of Management (Cascade, 2016) by Lyndon Shakespeare.

Friday, September 23, 2016

an interesting conversatioin with a colleague

One of my colleagues asked me in the middle of a meeting: "What is the Greek word for the  pastor in the New Testament?"

I said: Well, I don't think there is a Greek word for the pastor in the NT.
Taking a few minutes, I wrote the following on a sheet of paper.

"The typical titles for the leaders of the early church":
1. doulos, slave (esp. for Paul): "I, a slave of Jesus" (Rom 1:1)
2. diakonos, Phoebe: minister (Rom 16:1)
3. presbyteros: elder, bishop (later epistles)
4. apostolos: apostle (Gospels and Paul's letters)
5. leitourgos: servant (later epistles) ... This was added later by me.

Then he said: "No slaves! We've been slaves too long!"

I said: "Tears!"

He said: "No doulos! Terrible Bible! Oppressive!"

I said: "I agree! We need a new word!"

He said: "You need to un-read that text!"

I said: "Amen! No longer bound!"

Then, our exchange ended.

It was my intention to reveal the historical titles for the leaders of the church in the New Testament, one of which is doulos used for Paul. Often people translate doulos as a servant, which does not seem to reveal what Paul tries to say in his cultural setting. Whether Paul is good or bad in his view of slavery, he uses the word doulos (slave) for himself. Why did he so? That must be explained. That is part of what we have to do. Otherwise, we cannot hide the fact that he used that word for him.