Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

1 Corinthians 2

Verse 1

1. ὑπεροχήν. Excellence in the strict sense of the word—that which one man has above another. Here, however, it is applied to the high-flown style of eloquence admired at Corinth—Corinthia verba, as such language was proverbially called.

τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ θεοῦ. St Paul’s testimony concerning God; the witness he gave to His combined love and justice, manifested to the world in the Life and Death of Jesus Christ. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 1:6.

Verses 1-16


The Apostle now begins to justify his preaching. It was not that of one skilled in the fashionable argumentation of the day, and that for the reasons already set forth in the last chapter. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 1:27-28, and ch. 1 Corinthians 2:2.

Verse 2

2. ἔκρινα. The word signifies the decision of the mind after due deliberation. See Acts 20:16; Acts 27:1; Titus 3:12. The οὐ belongs rather (as A.V.) to εἰδέναι than to ἔκρινα. Internal evidence suggests that τοῦ has been omitted here from the comparative strangeness of the construction. It is similarly omitted by some copyists in Luke 17:1; Revelation 12:7; Revelation 14:15, and in ch. 1 Corinthians 9:6. Yet it is found with the idea of purpose in Matthew 24:45; Philippians 3:10; and esp. Acts 15:20. And this construction is very frequent in LXX. See Winer, Gr. Gram. Pt III. § 44.

εἰ μὴ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν καὶ τοῦτον ἐσταυρωμένον. He had come to deliver a testimony concerning God, and as we have seen, that testimony must needs result in the humiliation of man. Accordingly, its matter is very simple. All he knows is Jesus Christ, and even Him as having been reduced, in His humanity, to a condition which to the purely human apprehension appears one of the deepest disgrace. The words and Him crucified may be rendered thus, and even Him as having been crucified. See ch. 1 Corinthians 1:23.

Verse 3

3. πρὸς ὑμᾶς has been taken by some commentators as equivalent to arrived among you. But as De Wette points out, 1 Corinthians 16:10 decides the point in favour of the rendering in A.V. There is in each case a kind of double construction involved, that of coming to and staying with the persons mentioned.

ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ. No personal advantages assisted his preaching; no eloquence, save that of deep conviction; no self-confidence; nothing but self-mistrust, anxiety, the deepest sense of unworthiness, combined with an infirmity of body, which was a great trial to the Apostle, and of which he makes frequent mention. See 2 Corinthians 10:10; 2 Corinthians 11:30; 2 Corinthians 12:5; 2 Corinthians 12:7; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Galatians 4:13-14.

Verse 4

4. πειθοῖς σοφίας λόγοις. Not enticing, as A.V., but with R.V., persuasive. The marginal gloss ἀνθρωπίνης (see Critical Note) is not wanted to make the meaning clear. See 1 Corinthians 1:17. πειθοῖς, for the more usual classical πιθανοῖς, must share the responsibility with ἀνθρωπίνης for the confusion of the text here.

ἐν ἀποδείξει πνεύματος καὶ δυνάμεως. The precise meaning of these words is either [1] in proof that I possessed both the Spirit and power, or [2] in the proof given by the Spirit and power I possessed that I was preaching the truth. The ‘Spirit’ which St Paul ministered to others was capable of stirring up their spirits. The ‘power’ of which he speaks was not so much that of working miracles in the ordinary sense of the word, as of touching the heart. He is referring to that conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8), which the Spirit of God produces in the spirit of man, and of the power to produce a change of heart and life which is the leading characteristic of the Gospel. This view seems confirmed by the next verse, in which St Paul says that the ground of our faith is not the wisdom of men, but the power of God.

Verse 6

6. σοφίαν δὲ λαλοῦμεν. Is there, then, no wisdom possible for a Christian? no sphere for the exercise of those faculties of the intellect which we received from God? the hearer may say. Certainly, says the Apostle (for to say otherwise would be to contradict the Jewish Scriptures, especially Proverbs 1-9), but such wisdom must take as its starting-point the truths revealed by Christ, and it will be proportionate, not to the secular knowledge or intellectual power of the inquirer, but to his moral and spiritual attainments, that is, to his proficiency in the doctrine of Christ. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 12:8. δέ here must be rendered yet.

ἐν τοῖς τελείοις. Perfect, i.e. full-grown, that which has reached its end. The great majority of the Corinthians were at present babes in Christ (ch. 1 Corinthians 3:1). Their notion of wisdom was earthly—argument, disputation, ‘free inquiry.’

σοφίαν δέ, but it is a wisdom.

αἰῶνος. See note on 1 Corinthians 1:20. So also in 1 Corinthians 2:7-8.

καταργουμένων. The Apostle seems here to believe that the Gospel he is preaching will be fatal to arbitrary power, such as existed in his day. Princes henceforth, instead of ruling, must be ruled by the principles of justice. Their ‘wisdom’ must not be self-interest, but equity. Slowly, yet surely, the state of things he contemplated has come to pass. The ancient statecraft is replaced by the desire for the welfare of all. For καταργέω see ch. 1 Corinthians 1:28.

Verse 7

7. ἐν μυστηρίῳ. See ch. 1 Corinthians 4:1.

τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην. Not only from men but also from angels and heavenly powers. See Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 3:9-10; 1 Peter 1:12.

πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων. Literally, before the ages. Cf. Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:26; Revelation 13:8. The whole scheme of man’s redemption was in the mind of God from all eternity. The fall of man and his restoration, the wondrous fact of salvation through Christ, were decreed in the counsels of the Most High before the world was. The ‘wisdom’ of which St Paul speaks is that which treats of these high and mysterious truths of revelation.

Verse 8

8. ἣν οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀρχόντων. These words seem to be written for the instruction of the class of persons who attach importance to the opinions of those high in position and influence—the princes, or rather rulers of this world, its statesmen. Such persons, the Apostle points out, are apt, in spite of, or rather in consequence of their worldly wisdom, to make strange mistakes. The crucifixion of Christ was a memorable instance of the shortsightedness of worldly policy. Not a single calculation of those who compassed the Saviour’s death was destined to be fulfilled. Pilate did not escape the emperor’s displeasure. Caiaphas (John 11:50) did not save Jerusalem. The Scribes and Pharisees did not put down the doctrine of Jesus.

ἔγνωκεν. Observe the difference between the general statement, expressed here by the perfect, and its specific instances, indicated by the aorists following.

οὐκ ἂν ἐσταύρωσαν. The aorist indic, with ἄν ordinarily signifies a condition not fulfilled. See Winer, Gr. Gram. Pt III. § 42, and Goodwin, Moods and Tenses, § 48. The unfulfilled condition here is the not crucifying Christ.

τὸν κύριον τῆς δόξης. The Lord of whom glory is an attribute. In other words, ‘the glorious Lord.’ The majesty of the Lord is designedly contrasted, says Chrysostom, with the ignominy of the Cross. Perhaps there is also an allusion to ‘our glory’ in the last verse, of which He is the source. Cf. James 2:1.

Verse 9

9. ἀλλὰ καθὼς γέγραπται. Translate as R.V. ‘Things which the eye saw not,’ &c. There has been much discussion whence these words are derived, but they are quite sufficiently near to the passage in Isaiah 64:4 to be regarded as a quotation from thence. It is unreasonable to require greater literal accuracy in the citation of words in the N. T. from the O. T. than is customary in a modern preacher, who is frequently content with giving the general drift of the passage he quotes. Such a practice was even more likely to exist in days when the cumbrous nature of books prevented them from being so readily at hand as at present. Dean Colet (Commentary on Romans, MS. in Corpus Christi Coll. Library, p. 26) speaks disparagingly of any other citations. ‘Annotandum est hoc loco quam simplex allegatio erat Apostolorum si quid ex veteri testamento commemoraverint. Haec nostra quae in modo in usu est, et apud recentiores theologos et leguleios tam capitulatim undecunque testimoniorum citatio, ex ignorantia orta est hominum, sibi suaeque doctrinae diffidentium, veriti alioquin ne eis credatur, et sua ipsorum conscientia cadentes nisi istius modi adminiculis sustineantur.’ We can hardly suppose, with some modern divines, that the passage is a quotation from the liturgy of the Apostolic Church, for Origen, Chrysostom, and Jerome, are alike ignorant of the fact. Origen says so expressly. See Tischendorf’s note.

ἡτοίμασεν. The A.V. ‘hath prepared’ gives a correct sense here. The time when it was preached is indefinite. See note on 1 Corinthians 2:12. There is an anacolouthon here, as in Romans 15:3.

Verse 10

10. διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος. Though the αὐτοῦ of the rec. text is rejected by recent editors, the context here shews that the Spirit of God, and not the spirit of man, is meant. See next verse.

τὸ γὰρ πνεῦμα πάντα ἐραυνᾷ. In this and the next verse we gather [1] the personality of the Holy Ghost, [2] His distinction from the Father. He not only searches the deep things of God, which He could not be described as doing were He identical with the Father, but though on account of His perfect knowledge of the Mind of God He is likened to the spirit of man which is one of the component elements of his being, the Apostle speaks of the one as the ‘spirit of a man which is in him,’ but of the other as the Spirit which is from (ἐκ, proceeding out of) God.

ἐραυνᾷ. ‘The word to search is here indicative not of ignorance, but of accurate knowledge, at least if we may judge from the fact that this is the very phrase the Apostle has used even of God, saying, “He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.”’—Chrysostom. The knowledge, in fact, as 1 Corinthians 2:11 shews, is of the same kind as the knowledge of the spirit of man concerning what passes within his breast, though, of course, infinitely more complete.

Verse 11

11. τίς γὰρ ἀνθρώπων. R.V., for who among men?

τὰ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. R.V. the things of the man. So the spirit of the man, not as A.V. the spirit of man.

ἔγνωκεν. There can be no doubt that οἶδεν here is a copyist’s slip. There is a distinction in the Apostle’s mind between οἶδα of intuitive knowledge, and γινώσκω) of knowledge attained by effort, which escaped the copyist.

Verse 12

12. ἐλάβομεν. We cannot press the strict sense of the aorist here. See note on 1 Corinthians 2:16. The gift of the Spirit is not a single, but a continuous act. Yet it is not a completed act, which would be denoted by the perfect. See an article by the General Editor in the Expositor, 1st Series, Vol. vii. p. 258. ‘The aggressive tendency of the aorist appears in the fact that, at the present day, while the ancient perfect and pluperfect have no existence, the ancient aorist remains intact in the daily speech of the Greek race.’ Clyde, Synt. p. 70. This tendency was already in operation in St Paul’s day. Observe that ἐκ and ὑπό in this verse are both translated ‘of’ in the A.V.

εἰδῶμεν. This knowledge (see note on last verse) is the result rather of intuition than observation. The reason why the Spirit was given was that we might perceive the things outside the world of sense which God has freely given us (χαρισθέντα). See 1 Corinthians 2:9-10. We need not neglect the use of our reason, but we should not forget that in regard to the spiritual world we are endowed with a faculty whereby the conclusions of the reason may be tested and guided.

Verse 13

13. , i.e. the things freely given us by God, of which we speak as men taught by God, not as men trusting in the conclusions of unassisted reason. ὁρᾷς ποῦ ἡμᾶς ἀνήγαγεν ἀπὸ τῆς ἀξίας τοῦ διδασκάλου; τοσοῦτον γὰρ ἡμεῖς ἐκείνων σοφώτεροι ὅσον τὸ μέσον Πλάτωνός τε καὶ Πνεύματος ἁγίου. οἱ μὲν γὰρ τοὺς ἔξωθεν ῥήτορας ἔχουσι διδασκάλους, ἡμεῖς δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον. Chrysostom.

πνεύματος [ἁγίου]. The genitive of the instrument, as also ἀνθρωπίνης σοφίας above. Without the article πνεῦμα ἁγίον leads us to think of the essence of the Holy Ghost. With the article we are directed towards His agency or office. See John 14:26. So θεός refers to the Divine essence, ὁ θεός to His relations to man. See Professor Westcott’s note on 1 John 4:12.

πνευματικοῖς πνευματικὰ συνκρίνοντες. These words are capable of four interpretations: [1] explaining spiritual things to spiritual men (so Wiclif), [2] explaining spiritual things by spiritual, [3] explaining spiritual things in spiritual ways (so Luther), and [4] comparing spiritual things with spiritual (so Vulg. and A.V.). The verb συνκρίνω signifies [1] to combine, as in Arist. Metaph. I. 4, [2] to compare; so μηδενὸς τολμήσαντος αὐτῷ συγκριθῆναι διὰ τὴν ὑπερβολὴν τῆς ἀρετῆς Diod. Sic. IV. 14, [3] to interpret, as dreams; Genesis 40:8. (LXX.). Either of these will give a good sense, for the Apostle is speaking both of the reception (οὐ δέχεται, 1 Corinthians 2:14) and of the communication of spiritual truth (λαλοῦμεν). Origen (Hom. St Matthew 18) seems to favour interpretation [1] or [2]: ἡ γὰρ ἐπιμελὴς τήρησις μέγιστα ἂν ὑποβάλλοι νοήματα τοῖς ἐπισταμένοις πνευματικοῖς πνευματικὰ συγκρίνειν, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο λαλοῦσιν οὐκ ἐν διδακτοῖς ἀνθρωπίνης σοφίας λόγοις, ἀλλ' ἐν διδακτοῖς πνεύματος ἁγίου.

Verse 14

14. ψυχικὸς δέ. Why, then, an objector may say, are these truths thus divinely given not universally accepted? Because, the Apostle explains, the natural man (animalis, Vulg.) is not in a position (this is the force of the present here) to receive them. The word ψυχικός only occurs in this Epistle, and in those of James and Jude. In the latter (Judges 1:19) it is opposed, as in this Epistle, to πνευματικός. In James 3:15, it is equivalent to ἐπίγειος. ψυχή denotes the animal life of man (animal being derived, let it not be forgotten, from anima). In man it includes higher qualities than in the rest of the animal creation, but it differs from πνεῦμα, a term which the Christian revelation was the first to bring into prominence, by being confined to the sphere of this present life, in which it is manifested, while πνεῦμα has reference to the relations of man to the invisible world. Thus ‘natural’ is a fairly satisfactory rendering—that which belongs to the realm of visible nature, and does not pass beyond it. But the term worldly, as used by divines, seems most nearly to approach to the precise meaning of the Apostle. See notes on ch. 1 Corinthians 15:44-46. πνευματικός relates to those parts of our nature which are connected with the unseen world, σαρκικός refers to a still lower condition than ψυχικός, that which is produced by a slavery to fleshly appetites.

ὅτι πνευματικῶς ἀνακρίνεται. There is but little analogy between mental and spiritual discernment, or rather processes (see next note), which the Apostle has been contrasting throughout the whole of this chapter. The one is the result of knowledge, investigation, argument: the faculties which produce the other are sharpened by self-discipline, humility, communion with God, love of Him and the brethren. To those who are thus exercised many things are clear which are mysteries to the most learned and the most acute.

Verse 15

15. ὁ δὲ πνευματικὸς ἀνακρίνει πάντα. ἀνακρίνω, which is translated in A.V. discerned in the last verse, in the text of this verse by judgeth, and in the margin by discerneth, signifies in every other passage in the N. T. to examine, and is so rendered by the Vulgate (see Acts 4:9 to Acts 12:19; Luke 23:14, and ch. 1 Corinthians 9:3). ‘The ἀνάκρισις was an Athenian law term for a preliminary investigation (distinct from the actual κρίσις or trial) in which evidence was collected and the prisoner committed for trial, if a true bill was found against him.’ Bp Lightfoot On a Fresh Revision of the N. T., p. 63. It must therefore be interpreted of the process rather than of the conclusion, of the exact scrutiny to which the spiritual man can subject all things, while he himself is beyond the scrutiny of others who do not possess the means of making it. ‘The Gospel in its essence is neither theoretic, abstract, nor reflective, nor even imaginative: it is historical, but this history is Divine. The preaching of the Gospel is a revelation of God’s doings. When belief is well established, then, and then alone, may God’s acts become subjects of theory or research among the members of the Church, and even then so far only as the whole investigation proceeds from faith. Of such an inquiry faith could never be the consequence. In God’s Spirit alone has faith its origin.’—Olshausen.

αὐτὸς δὲ ὑπ' οὐδενὸς ἀνακρίνεται. There exists, so to speak, no common measure of things human and Divine, visible and invisible.

Verse 16

16. τίς γὰρ ἔγνω νοῦν κυρίου. See note on 1 Corinthians 1:10. The Hebrew of Isaiah 40:13, here quoted (and also in Romans 11:34), has spirit, the Septuagint mind. St Paul here follows the Septuagint, which is nearer to the original than our version, ‘Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord?’ The literal translation is, ‘Who hath measured (or weighed) the Spirit of the Lord?’ As none but the believer possesses the mind of the Lord, and as none can venture to assume a position of intellectual superiority to Him, the assertion in the preceding verse is established. The possession of this mind of Christ renders him who has it a mystery to him who has it not. The workings of his soul, thus enlightened by a higher power, are inscrutable to those who are destitute of spiritual vision. We must not omit to notice that in the passage which the Apostle here quotes as referring to Christ the original has JEHOVAH. See also Jeremiah 23:18. The aorist here is the LXX. rendering of the Hebrew perfect, and indicates the process, as the Hebrew perfect indicates the result. Translate hath known.

ὃς συμβιβάσει αὐτόν. συμβιβάζω is originally to compact (cf. Ephesians 4:16, Colossians 2:2-19). Hence to prove (by arguments combined together) (Acts 9:22). Next to conclude, by such arguments (Acts 16:10). And here to instruct, by the careful arrangement of facts. The future, as in ch. 1 Corinthians 14:16, Romans 3:6, has the sense of possibility, ‘who is able to instruct Him.’ See Winer, Gr. Gram. Pt III., § 40.

ἡμεῖς δέ. If we attempt to speak with authority, it is on the ground of our spiritual enlightenment. We who instruct you in the mysteries of the Christian faith derive our inspiration from Christ.

νοῦν Χριστοῦ. This passage is decisive in favour of the fact that in N. T. Greek the article is often omitted where in English it must be inserted.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.