The Unveiling

“Grace and peace,” Paul begins his letter.  These two words represent the two worlds from which he comes: the Greek world and the Jewish world.  Grace (xaris) was a standard greeting in ancient Greek letters.  The Hebrew shalom, or peace – translated here as the Greek eirene – was the standard greeting in Hebrew.  In bringing the two salutations together, Paul is alluding both to his own dual background, and to the competing Greek and Jewish factions within the Corinthian church.  More important, he sounds these themes just before launching into some intensely disturbing subject-matter: the end of the world.  The grace and peace Paul wishes for the Corinthians flow from his supreme confidence in Christ: that, at his coming, “you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The word for “revealing,” here, is apokalupsis.  We know it from the English words, “apocalypse” and “apocalyptic,” which have taken on rather sinister meanings in our day.  Apocalyptic, to the popular imagination, is wreathed in shadows and seasoned with doom.  For Paul, however, it simply means “revealing” or “unveiling.”  That which is unveiled – while it may be a threat to evildoers – is ultimately good and life-giving.  “Faith is not knowing what the future holds,” a wise and anonymous writer reassures us, “but knowing who holds the future.”