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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 9

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

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Verse 1


St. Paul vindicates his apostleship, and shows that he has

equal rights and privileges with Peter and the brethren of our

Lord; and that he is not bound, while doing the work of an

apostle, to labour with his hands for his own support, 1-6.

He who labours should live by the fruit of his own industry, 7.

For the law will not allow even the ox to be muzzled which

treads out the corn, 8-10.

Those who minister in spiritual things have a right to a

secular support for their work, 11-14.

He shows the disinterested manner in which he has preached the

Gospel, 15-18.

Now he accommodated himself to the prejudices of men, in order

to bring about their salvation, 19-23.

The way to heaven compared to a race, 24.

The qualifications of those who may expect success in the games

celebrated at Corinth, and what that success implies, 25.

The apostle applies these things spiritually to himself; and

states the necessity of keeping his body in subjection, lest,

after having proclaimed salvation to others, he should become a

castaway, 26, 27.


Verse 1 Corinthians 9:1. Am I not an apostle? — It is sufficiently evident that there were persons at Corinth who questioned the apostleship of St. Paul; and he was obliged to walk very circumspectly that they might not find any occasion against him. It appears also that he had given them all his apostolical labours gratis; and even this, which was the highest proof of his disinterested benevolence, was produced by his opposers as an argument against him. "Prophets, and all divinely commissioned men, have a right to their secular support; you take nothing: - is not this from a conviction that you have no apostolical right?" On this point the apostle immediately enters on his own defence.

Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? — These questions are all designed as assertions of the affirmative: I am an apostle; and I am free - possessed of all the rights and privileges of an apostle.

Have I not seen Jesus Christ — From whom in his personal appearance to me, I have received my apostolic commission. This was judged essentially necessary to constitute an apostle. See Acts 22:14, Acts 22:15; Acts 26:16.

Are not ye my work — Your conversion from heathenism is the proof that I have preached with the Divine unction and authority.

Several good MSS. and versions transpose the two first questions in this verse, thus: Am I not free? am I not an apostle? But I cannot see that either perspicuity or sense gains any thing by this arrangement. On the contrary, it appears to me that his being an apostle gave him the freedom or rights to which he refers, and therefore the common arrangement I judge to be the best.

Verse 2

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:2. If I be not an apostle unto others — If there be other Churches which have been founded by other apostles; yet it is not so with you.

The seal of mine apostleship are ye — Your conversion to Christianity is God's seal to my apostleship. Had not God sent me, I could not have profited your souls.

The σφραγις or seal, was a figure cut in a stone, and that set in a ring, by which letters of credence and authority were stamped. The ancients, particularly the Greeks, excelled in this kind of engraving. The cabinets of the curious give ample proof of this; and the moderns contend in vain to rival the perfection of those ancient masters.

In the Lord. — The apostle shows that it was by the grace and influence of God alone that he was an apostle, and that they were converted to Christianity.

Verse 3

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:3. Mine answer to them — Ἡ εμη απολογια τοις εμε ανακρινουσιν· This is my defence against those who examine me. The words are forensic; and the apostle considers himself as brought before a legal tribunal, and questioned so as to be obliged to answer as upon oath. His defence therefore was this, that they were converted to God by his means. This verse belongs to the two preceding verses.

Verse 4

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:4. Have we not power to eat and to drink? — Have we not authority, or right, εξουσιαν, to expect sustenance, while we are labouring for your salvation? Meat and drink, the necessaries, not the superfluities, of life, were what those primitive messengers of Christ required; it was just that they who laboured in the Gospel should live by the Gospel; they did not wish to make a fortune, or accumulate wealth; a living was all they desired. It was probably in reference to the same moderate and reasonable desire that the provision made for the clergy in this country was called a living; and their work for which they got this living was called the cure of souls. Whether we derive the word cure from cura, care, as signifying that the care of all the souls in a particular parish or place devolves on the minister, who is to instruct them in the things of salvation, and lead them to heaven; or whether we consider the term as implying that the souls in that district are in a state of spiritual disease, and the minister is a spiritual physician, to whom the cure of these souls is intrusted; still we must consider that such a labourer is worthy of his hire; and he that preaches the Gospel should live by the Gospel.

Verse 5

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:5. Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife — The word εξουσιαν is to be understood here, as above in 1 Corinthians 9:4, as implying authority or right; and authority, not merely derived from their office, but from Him who gave them that office; from the constitution of nature; and from universal propriety or the fitness of things.

When the apostle speaks of leading about a sister, a wife, he means first, that he and all other apostles, and consequently all ministers of the Gospel, had a right to marry. For it appears that our Lord's brethren James and Jude were married; and we have infallible evidence that Peter was a married man, not only from this verse, but from Matthew 8:14, where his mother-in-law is mentioned as being cured by our Lord of a fever.

And secondly, we find that their wives were persons of the same faith; for less can never be implied in the word sister. This is a decisive proof against the papistical celibacy of the clergy: and as to their attempts to evade the force of this text by saying that the apostles had holy women who attended them, and ministered to them in their peregrinations, there is no proof of it; nor could they have suffered either young women or other men's wives to have accompanied them in this way without giving the most palpable occasion of scandal. And Clemens Alexandrinus has particularly remarked that the apostles carried their wives about with them, "not as wives, but as sisters, that they might minister to those who were mistresses of families; that so the doctrine of the Lord might without reprehension or evil suspicion enter into the apartments of the women." And in giving his finished picture of his Gnostic, or perfect Christian, he says: εσθιει, και πινει, και γαμει - εικονας εχει τους Αποστολους, He eats, and drinks, and marries - having the apostles for his example. Vid. Clem. Alex. Strom., lib. vii., c. 12.

On the propriety and excellence of marriage, and its superiority to celibacy, see the notes on chap. 1 Corinthians 7:0.

Verse 6

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:6. Or I only and Barnabas — Have we alone of all the apostles no right to be supported by our converts? It appears from this,

1. That the apostles did not generally support themselves by their own labour.

2. That Paul and Barnabas did thus support themselves.

Some of the others probably had not a business at which they could conveniently work; but Paul and Barnabas had a trade at which they could conveniently labour wherever they came.

Verse 7

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:7. Who goeth a warfare - at his own charges? — These questions, which are all supposed from the necessity and propriety of the cases to be answered in the affirmative, tend more forcibly to point out that the common sense of man joins with the providence of God in showing the propriety of every man living by the fruits of his labour. The first question applies particularly to the case of the apostle, τις στρατευεται ιδιοις οψωνιοις· Does a soldier provide his own victuals? οψωςιος is used to express the military pay or wages, by the Greek writers; for the Roman soldiers were paid not only in money but in victuals; and hence corn was usually distributed among them. Luke 3:14.

Verse 8

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:8. Say I these things as a man? — Is this only human reasoning? or does not God say in effect the same things? Romans 6:19; Romans 6:19.

Verse 9

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:9. Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox — See this largely explained in Clarke's note on "Deuteronomy 25:4".

Doth God take care for oxen? — This question is to be understood thus: Is it likely that God should be solicitous for the comfort of oxen, and be regardless of the welfare of man? In this Divine precept the kindness and providential care of God are very forcibly pointed out. He takes care of oxen; he wills them all that happiness of which their nature is susceptible; and can we suppose that he is unwilling that the human soul shall have that happiness which is suited to its spiritual and eternal nature? He could not reprobate an ox, because the Lord careth for oxen; and surely he cannot reprobate a man. It may be said the man has sinned but the ox cannot. I answer: The decree of reprobation is supposed to be from all eternity; and certainly a man can no more sin before he exists, than an ox can when he exists.

Verse 10

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:10. And he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. — Instead of ὁ αλοων της ελπιδος αυτου μετεχειν, επ' ελπιδι, many of the best MSS. and versions read the passage thus: ὁ αλοων επ' ελπιδι του μετεχειν· And he who thresheth in hope of partaking. "The words της ελπιδος, which are omitted by the above, are," says Bp. Pearce, "superfluous, if not wrong; for men do not live in hope to partake of their hope, but to partake of what was the object and end of their hope. When these words are left out, the former and latter sentence will be both of a piece, and more resembling each other: for μετεχειν may be understood after the first επ ελπιδι, as well as after the last." Griesbach has left the words in question out of the text.

Verse 11

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:11. If we have sown unto you spiritual things — If we have been the means of bringing you into a state of salvation by the Divine doctrines which we have preached unto you, is it too much for us to expect a temporal support then we give ourselves up entirely to this work? Every man who preaches the Gospel has a right to his own support and that of his family while thus employed.

Verse 12

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:12. If others be partakers of this power — If those who in any matter serve you have a right to a recompense for that service, surely we who have served you in the most essential matters have a right to our support while thus employed in your service.

We have not used this power — Though we had this right, we have not availed ourselves of it, but have worked with our hands to bear our own charges, lest any of you should think that we preached the Gospel merely to procure a temporal support, and so be prejudiced against us, and thus prevent our success in the salvation of your souls.

Verse 13

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:13. They which minister about holy things — All the officers about the temple, whether priests, Levites, Nethinim, c., had a right to their support while employed in its service. The priests partook of the sacrifices the others had their maintenance from tithes, first fruits, and offerings made to the temple; for it was not lawful for them to live on the sacrifices. Hence the apostle makes the distinction between those who minister about holy things and those who wait at the altar.

Verse 14

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:14. Even so hath the Lord ordained — This is evidently a reference to our Lord's ordination, Matthew 10:10: The workman is worthy of his meat. And Luke 10:7: For the labourer is worthy of his hire. And in both places it is the preacher of the Gospel of whom he is speaking. It was a maxim among the Jews, "that the inhabitants of a town where a wise man had made his abode should support him, because he had forsaken the world and its pleasures to study those things by which he might please God and be useful to men." See an ordinance to this effect in the tract Shabbath, fol. 114.

Verse 15

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:15. Neither have I written, c.] Though I might plead the authority of God in the law, of Christ in the Gospel, the common consent of our own doctors, and the usages of civil society, yet I have not availed myself of my privileges nor do I now write with the intention to lay in my claims.

Verse 16

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:16. For though I preach the Gospel — I have cause of glorying that I preach the Gospel free of all charges to you; but I cannot glory in being a preacher of the Gospel, because I am not such either by my own skill or power. I have received both the office, and the grace by which I execute the office, from God. I have not only his authority to preach, but that authority obliges me to preach; and if I did not, I should endanger my salvation: yea, wo is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel. As every genuine preacher receives his commission from God alone, it is God alone who can take it away. Wo to that man who runs when God has not sent him; and wo to him who refuses to run, or who ceases to run, when God has sent him.

Verse 17

Verse 17. For if I do this thing willingly — If I be a cordial co-operator with God, I have a reward, an incorruptible crown, 1 Corinthians 9:25. Or, if I freely preach this Gospel without being burthensome to any, I have a special reward; but if I do not, I have simply an office to fulfil, into which God has put me, and may fulfil it conscientiously, and claim my privileges at the same time; but then I lose that special reward which I have in view by preaching the Gospel without charge to any.

This and the 18th verse have been variously translated: Sir Norton Knatchhull and, after him, Mr. Wakefield translate the two passages thus: For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if I am intrusted with an office without my consent? what is my reward then? to make the Gospel of Christ, whilst I preach it, without charge, in not using to the utmost my privileges in the Gospel.

Others render the passage thus: But if I do it merely because I am obliged to it, I only discharge an office that is committed to me, 1 Corinthians 9:18. For what then shall I be rewarded? It is for this, that, preaching the Gospel of Christ, I preach it freely, and do not insist on a claim which the Gospel itself gives me.

Verse 18

Verse 18. That I abuse not my power — I am inclined to think that καταχρησασθαι is to be understood here, not in the sense of abusing, but of using to the uttermost - exacting every thing that a man can claim by law. How many proofs have we of this in preachers of different denominations, who insist so strongly and so frequently on their privileges, as they term them, that the people are tempted to believe they seek not their souls' interests, but their secular goods. Such preachers can do the people no good. But the people who are most liable to think thus of their ministers, are those who are unwilling to grant the common necessaries of life to those who watch over them in the Lord. For there are such people even in the Christian Church! If the preachers of the Gospel were as parsimonious of the bread of life as some congregations and Christian societies are of the bread that perisheth, and if the preacher gave them a spiritual nourishment as base, as mean, and as scanty as the temporal support which they afford him, their souls must without doubt have nearly a famine of the bread of life.

Verse 19

Verse 19. For though I be free — Although I am under no obligation to any man, yet I act as if every individual had a particular property in me, and as if I were the slave of the public.

Verse 20

Verse 20. Unto the Jews I became as a Jew — In Acts 16:3, we find that for the sake of the unconverted Jews he circumcised Timothy. See the note there.

To them that are under the law — To those who considered themselves still under obligation to observe its rites and ceremonies, though they had in the main embraced the Gospel, he became as if under the same obligations; and therefore purified himself in the temple, as we find related, Acts 21:26, where also see the notes.

After the first clause, to them that are under the law as under the law, the following words, μη ων αυτος ὑπο νομον, not being myself under the law, are added by ABCDEFG, several others; the later Syriac, Sahidic, Armenian, Vulgate, and all the Itala; Cyril, Chrysostom, Damascenus, and others; and on this evidence Griesbach has received them into the text.

Verse 21

Verse 21. To them that are without law — The Gentiles, who had no written law, though they had the law written in their hearts; Romans 2:15; Romans 2:15.

Being not without law to God — Instead of θεω, TO God, and χριστω, TO Christ, the most important MSS. and versions have θεου, OF God, and χριστου, OF Christ; being not without the law of God, but under the law of Christ.

Them that are without law. — Dr. Lightfoot thinks the Sadducees may be meant, and that in certain cases, as far as the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion were concerned, he might conform himself to them, not observing such rites and ceremonies, as it is well known that they disregarded them; for the doctor cannot see how the apostle could conform himself in any thing to them that were without law, i.e. the heathen. But, 1. It is not likely that the apostle could conform himself to the Sadducees; for what success could he expect among a people who denied the resurrection, and consequently a future world, a day of judgment, and all rewards and punishments? 2. He might among the heathen appear as if he were not a Jew, and discourse with them on the great principles of that eternal law, the outlines of which had been written in their hearts, in order to show them the necessity of embracing that Gospel which was the power of God unto salvation to every one that believed.

Verse 22

Verse 22. To the weak became I as weak — Those who were conscientiously scrupulous, even in respect to lawful things.

I am made all things to all men — I assumed every shape and form consistent with innocency and perfect integrity; giving up my own will, my own way, my own ease, my own pleasure, and my own profit, that I might save the souls of all. Let those who plead for the system of accommodation on the example of St. Paul, attend to the end he had in view, and the manner in which he pursued that end. It was not to get money, influence, or honour, but to save SOULS! It was not to get ease but to increase his labours. It was not to save his life, but rather that it should be a sacrifice for the good of immortal souls!

A parallel saying to this of St. Paul has been quoted from Achilles Tatius, lib. v., cap. xix., where Clitophon says, on having received a letter from Leucippe: Τουτοις εντυχων παντα εγινομην ὁμου, ανεφλεγομην, ωχριων, εθαυμαζον, ηπιστουν, εχαιρον, ηχθομην· "When I read the contents, I became all things at once; I was inflamed, I grew pale, I was struck with wonder; I doubted, I rejoiced, became sad." The same form of speech is frequent among Greek writers. I think this casts some light on the apostle's meaning.

That I might by all means save some. — On this clause there are some very important readings found in the MSS. and versions. Instead of παντως τινας σωσω, that I might by all means save some; παντας σωσω, that I might save all, is the reading of DEFG, Syriac, Vulgate, AEthiopic, all the Itala, and several of the fathers. This reading Bishop Pearce prefers, because it is more agreeable to St. Paul's meaning here, and exactly agrees with what he says, 1 Corinthians 10:33, and makes his design more extensive and noble. Wakefield also prefers this reading.

Verse 23

Verse 23. And this I do for the Gospel's sake — Instead of τουτο, this, παντα, all things, (I do all things for the Gospel's sake,) is the reading of ABCDEFG, several others, the Coptic, AEthiopic, Vulgate, Itala, Armenian, and Sahidic; the two latter reading ταυτα παντα, all these things.

Several of the fathers have the same reading, and there is much reason to believe it to be genuine.

That I might be partaker thereof with you. — That I might attain to the reward of eternal life which it sets before me; and this is in all probability the meaning of το ευαγγελιον, which we translate the Gospel, and which should be rendered here prize or reward; this is a frequent meaning of the original word, as may be seen in my preface to St. Matthew: I do all this for the sake of the prize, that I may partake of it with you.

Verse 24

Verse 24. They which run in a race run all — It is sufficiently evident that the apostle alludes to the athletic exercises in the games which were celebrated every fifth year on the isthmus, or narrow neck of land, which joins the Peloponnesus, or Morea, to the main land; and were thence termed the Isthmian games. The exercises were running, wrestling, boxing, throwing the discus or quoit, c. to the three first of these the apostle especially alludes.

But one receiveth the prize? — The apostle places the Christian race in contrast to the Isthmian games; in them, only one received the prize, though all ran; in this, if all run, all will receive the prize; therefore he says, So run that ye may obtain. Be as much in earnest to get to heaven as others are to gain their prize; and, although only one of them can win, all of you may obtain.

Verse 25

Verse 25. Is temperate in all things — All those who contended in these exercises went through a long state and series of painful preparations. To this exact discipline Epictetus refers, cap. 35: Θελεις Ολυμπια νικησαι; Δει σ' ευτακτειν, αναγκοτροφειν, απεχεσθαι, πεμματων, γυμναζεσθαι προς αναγκην εν ὡρα τεταγμενη, εν καυματι, εν ψυχει, μη ψυχρον πινειν, μη οινον ὡς ετυχεν· ἁπλως, ὡς ιατρῳ, παραδεδωκεναι σεαυτον τῳ επιστατη· ειτα εις τον αγωνα παρερχεσθαι· κ. τ. λ. "Do you wish to gain the prize at the Olympic games?-Consider the requisite preparations and the consequences: you must observe a strict regimen; must live on food which you dislike; you must abstain from all delicacies; must exercise yourself at the necessary and prescribed times both in heat and in cold; you must drink nothing cooling; take no wine as formerly; in a word, you must put yourself under the directions of a pugilist, as you would under those of a physician, and afterwards enter the lists. Here you may get your arm broken, your foot put out of joint, be obliged to swallow mouthfuls of dust, to receive many stripes, and after all be conquered." Thus we find that these suffered much hardships in order to conquer, and yet were uncertain of the victory.

Horace speaks of it in nearly the same way:-

Qui studet optatam cursu contingere metam,

Multa tulit fecitque puer: sudavit et alsit:

Abstinuit Venere et Baccho.

De Arte Poet., ver. 412.

A youth who hopes the Olympic prize to gain,

All arts must try, and every toil sustain;

Th' extremes of heat and cold must often prove;

And shun the weakening joys of wine and love.


These quotations show the propriety of the apostle's words: Every man that striveth for the mastery, παςταεγκρατευεται, is temperate, or continent, in all things.

They do it to obtain a corruptible crown — The crown won by the victor in the Olympian games was made of the wild olive; in the Pythian games of laurel; in the Nemean games of parsley; and in the Isthmian games of the pine. These were all corruptible, for they began to wither as soon as they were separated from the trees, or plucked out of the earth. In opposition to these, the apostle says, he contended for an incorruptible crown, the heavenly inheritance. He sought not worldly honour; but that honour which comes from God.

Verse 26

Verse 26. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly — In the foot-course in those games, how many soever ran, only one could have the prize, however strenuously they might exert themselves; therefore, all ran uncertainly; but it was widely different in the Christian course, if every one ran as he ought, each would receive the prize.

The word αδηλως, which we translate uncertainly, has other meanings.

1. It signifies ignorantly; I do not run like one ignorant of what he is about, or of the laws of the course; I know that there is an eternal life; I know the way that leads to it; and I know and feel the power of it.

2. It signifies without observation; the eyes of all the spectators were fixed on those who ran in these races; and to gain the applause of the multitude, they stretched every nerve; the apostle knew that the eyes of all were fixed upon him.

1. His false brethren waited for his halting:

2. The persecuting Jews and Gentiles longed for his downfall:

3. The Church of Christ looked on him with anxiety:

4. And he acted in all things as under the immediate eye of God.

Not as one that beateth the air — Kypke observes, that there are three ways in which persons were said, αεραδερειν, to beat the air.

1. When in practising for the combat they threw their arms and legs about in different ways, thus practising the attitudes of offence and defence. This was termed σκιαμαχια, fighting with a shadow. To this Virgil alludes when representing Dares swinging his arms about, when he rose to challenge a competitor in the boxing match:-

Talis prima Dares caput altum in praelia tollit,

Ostenditque humeros latos, alternaque jactat

Brachia protendens, et verberat ictibus auras.

AEn. v., ver. 375.

Thus, glorying in his strength, in open view

His arms around the towering Dares threw;

Stalked high, and laid his brawny shoulders bare,

And dealt his whistling blows in empty air. Pitt.

2. Sometimes boxers were to aim blows at their adversaries which they did not intend to take place, and which the others were obliged to exert themselves to prevent as much as if they had been really intended, and by these means some dexterous pugilists vanquished their adversaries by mere fatigue, without giving them a single blow.

3. Pugilists were said to beat the air when they had to contend with a nimble adversary, who, by running from side to side, stooping, and various contortions of the body, eluded the blows of his antagonist; who spent his strength on the air, frequently missing his aim, and sometimes overturning himself in attempting to hit his adversary, when this, by his agility, had been able to elude the blow. We have an example of this in Virgil's account of the boxing match between Entellus and Dares, so well told AEneid. v., ver. 426, c., and which will give us a proper view of the subject to which the apostle alludes: viz. boxing at the Isthmian games.

Constitit in digitos extemplo arrectus uterque,

Brachiaque ad superas interritus extulit auras.

Abduxere retro longe capita ardua ab ictu

Immiscentque manus manibus, pugnamque lacessunt.

Ille [Dares] pedum melior motu, fretusque juventa;

Hic [Entellus] membris et mole valens; sed tarda trementi

Genua labant, vastos quatit aeger anhelitus artus.

Multa viri nequicquam inter se vulnera jactant,

Multa cavo lateri ingeminant, et pectore vasto

Dant sonitus; erratque aures et tempora circum

Crebra manus; duro crepitant sub vulnere malae,

Stat gravis Entellus, nisuque immotus eodem,

Corpore tela modo atque oculis vigilantibus exit.

Ille, velut celsam oppugnat qui molibus urbem,

Aut montana sedet circum castella sob armis;

Nunc hos, nunc illos aditus, omnemque pererrat

Arte locum, et variis assultibus irritus urget.

Ostendit dextram insurgens Entellus, et alte

Extulit: ille ictum venientem a vertice velox

Praevidit, celerique elapsus corpore cessit.

Entellus VIRES IN VENTUM EFFUDIT; et ultro

Ipse gravis, graviterque ad terram pontere vasto

Concidit: ut quondam cava concidit, aut Erymantho,

Aut Ida in magna, radicibus eruta pinus.--

Consurgunt studiis Teucri et Trinacria pubes;

It clamor coelo: primusque accurrit Acestes,

AEquaevumque ab humo miserans attollit amicum.

At non tardatus casu, neque territus heros,

Acrior ad pugnam redit, ac vim suscitat ira:

Tum pudor incendit vires, et conscia virtus;

Praecipitemque Daren ardens agit aequore toto;

Nunc dextra ingeminans ictus, nunc ille sinistra

Nec mora, nec requies: quam multa grandine nimbi

Culminibus crepitant; sic densis ictibus heros

Creber utraque manu pulsat versatque Dareta.

Both on the tiptoe stand, at full extent;

Their arms aloft, their bodies inly bent;

Their heads from aiming blows they bear afar,

With clashing gauntlets then provoke the war.

One [Dares] on his youth and pliant limbs relies;

One [Entellus] on his sinews, and his giant size.

The last is stiff with age, his motions slow;

He heaves for breath, he staggers to and fro.--

Yet equal in success, they ward, they strike;

Their ways are different, but their art alike.

Before, behind, the blows are dealt; around

Their hollow sides the rattling thumps resound;

A storm of strokes, well meant, with fury flies,

And errs about their temples, ears, and eyes:

Nor always errs; for oft the gauntlet draws

A sweeping stroke along the crackling jaws.

Hoary with age, Entellus stands his ground;

But with his warping body wards the wound;

His head and watchful eye keep even pace,

While Dares traverses and shifts his place;

And, like a captain who beleaguers round

Some strong-built castle, on a rising ground,

Views all the approaches with observing eyes; *

This, and that other part, in vain he tries, *

And more on industry than force relies. *

With hands on high, Entellus threats the foe; *

But Dares watched the motion from below, *

And slipped aside, and shunned the long descending blow. *

Entellus wastes his forces on the wind;

And thus deluded of the stroke designed,

Headlong and heavy fell: his ample breast,

And weighty limbs, his ancient mother pressed.

So falls a hollow pine, that long had stood

On Ida's height or Erymanthus' wood.--

Dauntless he rose, and to the fight returned;

With shame his cheeks, his eyes with fury burned:

Disdain and conscious virtue fired his breast,

And, with redoubled force, his foe he pressed;

He lays on loads with either hand amain,

And headlong drives the Trojan o'er the plain,

Nor stops, nor stays; nor rest, nor breath allows; *

But storms of strokes descend about his brows; *

A rattling tempest, and a hail of blows. *


To such a combat as this the apostle most manifestly alludes: and in the above description the reader will see the full force and meaning of the words, So fight I, not as one that beateth the air-I have a real and a deadly foe; and as I fight not only for my honour but for my life, I aim every blow well, and do execution with each.

No man, who had not seen such a fight, could have given such a description as that above; and we may fairly presume that when Virgil was in Greece he saw such a contest at the Isthmian games, and therefore was enabled to paint from nature.

Homer has the same image of missing the foe and beating the air, when describing Achilles attempting to kill Hector, who, by his agility and skill, (Poetice by Apollo,) eluded the blow:-

Τρις μεν επιτ' επορουσε ποδαρκης διος Αχιλλευς

Εγχεΐ χαλκειῳ, τρις δ' ηερα τυψε βαθειαν.

ILIAD, lib. xx., ver. 445

Thrice struck Pelides with indignant heart,

Thrice, in impressive air, he plunged the dart.-Pope.

Verse 27

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:27. But I keep under my body, c.] This is an allusion, not only to boxers, but also to wrestlers in the same games, as we learn from the word υπωπιαζω, which signifies to hit in the eyes and δουλαγωγω, which signifies to trip, and give the antagonist a fall, and then keep him down when he was down, and having obliged him to acknowledge himself conquered, make him a slave. The apostle considers his body as an enemy with which he must contend; he must mortify it by self-denial, abstinence, and severe labour; it must be the slave of his soul, and not the soul the slave of the body, which in all unregenerate men is the case.

Lest-having preached to others — The word κηρυξας, which we translate having preached, refers to the office of the κηρυξ, or herald, at these games, whose business it was to proclaim the conditions of the games, display the prizes, exhort the combatants, excite the emulation of those who were to contend, declare the terms of each contest, pronounce the name of the victors, and put the crown on their heads. See my observations on this office in Clarke's notes at "Matthew 3:17".

Should be a castaway. — The word αδοκιμος signifies such a person as the βραβευται, or judges of the games, reject as not having deserved the prize. So Paul himself might be rejected by the great Judge; and to prevent this, he ran, he contended, he denied himself, and brought his body into subjection to his spirit, and had his spirit governed by the Spirit of God. Had this heavenly man lived in our days, he would by a certain class of people have been deemed a legalist; a people who widely differ from the practice of the apostle, for they are conformed to the world, and they feed themselves without fear.

ON the various important subjects in this chapter I have already spoken in great detail; not, indeed, all that might be said, but as much as is necessary. A few general observations will serve to recapitulate and impress what has been already said.

1. St. Paul contends that a preacher of the Gospel has a right to his support; and he has proved this from the law, from the Gospel, and from the common sense and consent of men. If a man who does not labour takes his maintenance from the Church of God, it is not only a domestic theft but a sacrilege. He that gives up his time to this labour has a right to the support of himself and family: he who takes more than is sufficient for this purpose is a covetous hireling. He who does nothing for the cause of God and religion, and yet obliges the Church to support him, and minister to his idleness, irregularities, luxury, avarice, and ambition, is a monster for whom human language has not yet got a name.

2. Those who refuse the labourer his hire are condemned by God and by good men. How liberal are many to public places of amusement, or to some popular charity, where their names are sure to be published abroad; while the man who watches over their souls is fed with the most parsimonious hand! Will not God abate this pride and reprove this hard-heartedness?

3. As the husbandman plows and sows in hope, and the God of providence makes him a partaker of his hope, let the upright preachers of God's word take example and encouragement by him. Let them labour in hope; God will not permit them to spend their strength for nought. Though much of their seed, through the fault of the bad ground, may be unfruitful, yet some will spring up unto eternal life.

4. St. Paul became all things to all men, that he might gain all. This was not the effect of a fickle or man-pleasing disposition; no man was ever of a more firm or decided character than St. Paul; but whenever he could with a good conscience yield so as to please his neighbour for his good to edification, he did so; and his yielding disposition was a proof of the greatness of his soul. The unyielding and obstinate mind is always a little mind: a want of true greatness always produces obstinacy and peevishness. Such a person as St. Paul is a blessing wherever he goes: on the contrary, the obstinate, hoggish man, is either a general curse, or a general cross; and if a preacher of the Gospel, his is a burthensome ministry. Reader, let me ask thee a question: If there be no gentleness in thy manners, is there any in thy heart? If there be little of Christ without, can there be much of Christ within?

5. A few general observations on the Grecian games may serve to recapitulate the subject in the four last verses.

1. The Isthmian games were celebrated among the Corinthians; and therefore the apostle addresses them, 1 Corinthians 9:24: KNOW ye not, c.

2. Of the five games there used, the apostle speaks only of three. RUNNING 1 Corinthians 9:24: They which run in a race; and 1 Corinthians 9:26: I therefore so run, not as uncertainly. WRESTLING, 1 Corinthians 9:25: Every man that striveth; ο αγωνιζομενος, he who wrestleth. BOXING, 1 Corinthians 9:26; 1 Corinthians 9:27: So fight I, not as one that beateth the air; ουτω πυκτευω, so fist I, so I hit; but I keep my body under; υπωπιαζω, I hit in the eye, I make the face black and blue.

3. He who won the race by running was to observe the laws of racing-keeping within the white line which marked out the path or compass in which they ran; and he was also to outrun the rest, and to come first to the goal; otherwise he ran uncertainly, 1 Corinthians 9:24; 1 Corinthians 9:26, and was αδοκιμος, one to whom the prize could not be judged by the judges of the games.

4. The athletic combatants, or wrestlers, observed a set diet. See the quotation from Epictetus, under 1 Corinthians 9:25. And this was a regimen both for quantity and quality; and they carefully abstained from all things that might render them less able for the combat; whence the apostle says they were temperate in all things, 1 Corinthians 9:25.

5. No person who was not of respectable family and connections was permitted to be a competitor at the Olympic games. St. Chrysostom, in whose time these games were still celebrated, assures us that no man was suffered to enter the lists who was either a servant or a slave, ουδεις αγωνιζεται δουλος, ουδεις στρατευεται οικετης· and if any such was found who had got himself inserted on the military list, his name was erased, and he was expelled and punished. Αλλ' εαν ἁλῳ δουλος ων, μετα τιμωριας εκβαλλεται του των στρατιωτων καταολου. To prevent any person of bad character from entering the list at the Olympic games, the kerux, or herald, was accustomed to proclaim aloud in the theater when the combatant was brought forth: Μη τις τουτου κατηγορει; ὡστε αυτον αποσκευασαμενον της δουλειας την ὑποψιαν οὑτως εις τους αγωνας εμβηναι· Who can accuse this man? For which he gives this reason: "that being free from all suspicion of being in a state of slavery, (and elsewhere he says of being a thief, or of corrupt morals), he might enter the lists with credit." Chrysost. Homil. in Inscript. Altaris, etc., vol. iii. page 59, Edit. Benedict.

6. The boxers used to prepare themselves by a sort of σκιαμαχια, or going through all their postures of defence and attack when no adversary was before them. This was termed beating the air, 1 Corinthians 9:26 but when such came to the combat, they endeavoured to blind their adversaries by hitting them in the eye, which is the meaning of υπωπιαζειν, as we have seen under 1 Corinthians 9:27.

7. The rewards of all these exercises were only a crown made of the leaves of some plant, or the bough of some tree; the olive, bay, laurel, parsley, c., called here by the apostle φθαρτον στεφανον, a corruptible, withering, and fading crown while he and his fellow Christians expected a crown incorruptible and immortal, and that could not fade away.

8. On the subject of the possibility of St. Paul becoming a castaway, much has been said in contradiction to his own words. He most absolutely states the possibility of the case: and who has a right to call this in question? The ancient Greek commentators, as Whitby has remarked, have made a good use of the apostle's saying, Ει δε Παυλος τουτο δεδοικεν ὁ τοσουτους διδαξας, τι αν ειποιμεν ἡμεις; "If Paul, so great a man, one who had preached and labored so much, dreaded this, what cause have we to fear lest this should befall us?"

9. On the necessity of being workers together with God, in order to avoid apostasy, Clemens Alexandrinus has some useful observations in his Stromata, lib. vii., page 448, Edit. Oberthur: Ὡς δε, says he, ὁ ιατρος ὑγειαν παρεχεται τοις συνεργουσι προς ὑγειαν, οὑτως και ὁ Θεος την αΐδιον σωτηριαν τοις συνεργουσι προς γνωσιν τε και ευπραγιαν· "As a physician gives health to those who cooperate with him in their cure; so God also gives eternal salvation to them who are workers together with him in knowledge and a godly life." "Therefore," says he, "it is well said among the Greeks, that when a certain wrestler, who had long inured his body to manly exercises, was going to the Olympic games, as he was passing by the statue of Jupiter he offered up this prayer: Ει παντα, ω Ζευ, δεοντως μοι τα προς τον αγωνα ταρεσκευασται, αποδος φερων δικαιως την νικην εμοι· 'O Jupiter, if I have performed every thing as I ought in reference to this contest, grant me the victory!'" May we not feel something of this spirit in seeking the kingdom of God? And can any thing of this kind be supposed to derogate from the glory of Christ? St. Paul himself says, if a man contend for the mastery, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully. Shall we pretend to be wiser than the apostle; and say, that we may gain the crown, though we neither fight the good fight nor finish the course?

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/1-corinthians-9.html. 1832.
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