Formations 08.10.2014: Scientists Discover Dogs Get Jealous

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

af23_3_081014_aScientists from the University of California recently concluded that dogs get jealous of other dogs.

The team built a stuffed toy dog that could bark, wag its tail, and even whine. When real dogs observed their owners making a fuss over the toy, they became angry.

These findings likely come as no surprise to dog owners, who have long understood that their pets can’t stand it when another dog gets more than its fair share of attention.

According to British animal psychologist Dr. Roger Mugford, this rivalry occurs because dogs are social animals with a social organization similar to that of humans. “If they feel they are not being treated fairly, their reactions and expressions will reflect dislike and unhappiness,” he says.

According to Paul, “jealousy and quarreling” (1 Cor 3:3) kept the Corinthian church from truly thriving. The Apostle condemned the Corinthians’ fixation on personalities and factions as a symptom of spiritual immaturity. It doesn’t take a university study to make us realize that this sort of behavior aligns us more closely with the animals than with the angels.

There is no point in arguing that their favorite preacher is most important, Paul says, because all of us are merely servants assigned to our task by God. Each of us has a job to do in the kingdom of God. When we work together for Christ’s sake rather than jockeying for position, we are living as God intended.

John Ingham, “Green-eyed Furry: US Scientists Find Dogs Get Jealous,” Express, 25 July 2014


• When have you observed animals acting out supposedly “human” failings? How did that help you see these vices in a new light?
• How often do you struggle with feelings of jealousy? Toward whom? Why?
• What can happen when leaders are jealous of each other or protective of their “turf”?
• What should be our attitude toward our leaders?
• What should be our attitude toward our own contribution to the success of our community?

Reference Shelf

The Corinthian Community

Divisions within the Corinthian church cannot be disputed for the apostle himself spells out at least three, and possibly four, distinct groups vying for prominence (1 Cor 1:10ff.). Given the nature of the city of Corinth, and the unsettled nature of Paul’s tenure during the initial visit, one should scarcely be surprised by the emergence of factions after Paul’s departure. Paul identifies the factions according to each group’s stated allegiances: some of the Corinthians claim Paul as founder; others Apollos; and others, Cephas. There is also the last named group who claim Christ.

Taking clues from Gal 2, some readers have associated the Cephas party with the Judaizers who wanted gentile converts to the gospel to adhere to strict Jewish customs, rituals, and laws. While the possibility of a Judaizing faction may be the underlying reason for Paul’s treatment of the issue of food offered to idols (1 Cor 8 and 10), it is unlikely fudaizers represented a full-blown sect within the Corinthian community.

The Paul and Apollos parties among the Connthians may well have resulted from minor differences within broad agreement. Both Paul and Apollos had conducted missionary activity in Corinth (cf. Acts 18:24-28 for mention of the work of Apollos). Paul refers to Apollos as “our brother” in closing exhortations found at the end of 1 Corinthians. Throughout much of the section of 1 Corinthians addressing the factions issue, Paul consciously compares himself to Apollos in complementary fashion, encouraging the Corinthians to cooperate with one another even as he and Apollos had cooperated in the ministry of the gospel.

At least two opinions about the “Christ” party may be offered. One suggestion is that Paul names this fourth group in order to demonstrate the unity of Christ (1 Cor 1:13) and, thereby, encourage unity in the body of Christ, the church (cf. 1 Cor 12). Another suggestion takes the Christ party at face value, as a group which rather arrogantly lays claim to Christ, and links it with the “spiritual” members referred to in 1 Cor 12 and 14. If the Christ party is associated with the “spirituals” of 1 Corinthians, it may also be tied to the detractors of Paul’s apostolic status—who apparently saw themselves as super-apostles (cf. 2 Cor 11:5 and 12:11) which prompt the writing of the harsh words in 2 Cor 10–13.

Many readers of 1 and 2 Corinthians find evidence of nascent Gnosticism. that permutation of faith which blossomed late in the first century A.D. and became a formidable foe of orthodoxy in the second. Paul’s major opponents, as reflected in the Corinthian Letters, may have been proponents of pre-Gnostic ideas.

A distinct picture of the Corinthian community is no more possible than is one of contemporary communities. The Corinthian church appears to have consisted of a broad middle eagerly seeking to discover mature faith, fringed with some who sought comfort in rigorous ritual and others who prided themselves on their own flamboyance and sophistication of thought.

Richard F. Wilson, “Corinthian Correspondence,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 172.

The Role and Function of Leaders

Paul’s argument takes a different turn at 3:5. He begins to focus more directly on the problem first identified in 1:10-12. His response to the problem of divisions has followed a threefold, inverted response to the rhetorical questions with which he began his argument in 1:13. “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” Finally, after having addressed the third question in 1:14-17 and the second in 1:18–2:5, he takes up his first question.

As pointed out previously, however,
he does not directly speak to the issue 
of Christ’s being divided…. Instead, he focuses on the question of identity. Since the problem of divisions has manifested itself in terms of loyalty to leaders, Paul presents an understanding of leadership that is very different from the one that has created the problem in Corinth. Clarifying the role and function of leaders leads to his defining the identity of the Corinthians themselves, again over against the one that seemed to prevail among them. Thus, his argument contains a series of statements cast in the first person (“We are…”) or second person (You are…”). His exhortations or admonishments typically appear in the third person throughout the section until near the end when he states, “Therefore, do not judge anything before the time, until the Lord comes” (4:5). This eschatologically grounded exhortation leads into the concluding section of his argument regarding divisions (4:6-21).

Robert Scott Nash, 1 Corinthians, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2009), 109.

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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