1. οὐχὶ Ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν ἑώρακα; One distinction drawn by St Paul’s opponents between him and the other Apostles was that they had seen and associated with Christ, while he had not. He rebuts this in the form of a question. He had seen the Lord  in the way to Damascus (Acts 9:3; Acts 9:17);  after his return to Jerusalem (Acts 22:17, cf. 1 Corinthians 9:14 of the same chapter, and Acts 9:26; Galatians 1:18);  at Corinth itself (Acts 18:9, where observe that the Greek word does not signify dream, since it is used of the burning bush in Acts 7:31 as well as of the transfiguration in Matthew 17:9);  on some occasion not specified (2 Corinthians 12:1), but probably during the Apostle’s sojourn in Arabia (Galatians 1:17), unless indeed it be the vision above-mentioned in Acts 22.
1 Corinthians 9:1-14. ST PAUL’S DEFENCE OF HIS APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY
This chapter is devoted to a defence of the Apostolic authority of St Paul, but there is an under-current of thought connecting it with the last which may easily be missed. In ch. 8 St Paul has been exhorting the Corinthians to sacrifice their own personal predilections for the benefit of others. In 1 Corinthians 9:13 he declares himself to be ready to act upon this principle to the uttermost. But some may say, ‘Fine doctrine this, but does the Apostle practise what he preaches?’ (Robertson). He is about to give a proof of his sincerity by referring to his sacrifice of self for the good of others, when he anticipates in his mind the reply, You have no power to do otherwise: you are not an Apostle at all; and he replies to each of these statements in his usual fervid way, by asking in regard to each of them, Is it really then true? This connection of ideas is strengthened by the reading in the text. See Critical Notes. The argument is admirably summarized by Bp Wordsworth thus: ‘Am I not free? Am I not an Apostle? Am I not your Apostle?’
2. ἀλλά γε. In the classics these two particles are separated by another word.
σφραγίς μου τῆς ἀποστολῆς. If any Church had less right than another to question his Apostolic authority, it was the Church of Corinth, which he had founded (ch. 1 Corinthians 4:15), and on which so many spiritual gifts had been poured forth (ch. 1 Corinthians 1:5; 1 Corinthians 1:7, ch. 14). The Corinthians at least needed no other proof of the genuineness of his mission. ‘If anyone wishes to know whether I am an Apostle, I will shew him yourselves; among whom are manifest and indubitable signs and proofs of my Apostolate; first the faith of Christ, which you have received at my preaching; then many and various gifts of the Holy Ghost.’ Estius. For σφραγίς see John 3:33; John 6:27; Romans 4:11. A seal is used as the attestation of the genuineness of any document. Thus the existence of the Corinthian Church was the attestation of the genuineness of St Paul’s Apostolic authority.
3. ἡ ἐμὴ ἀπολογία τοῖς ἐμὲ ἀνακρίνουσιν. My defence to those who are putting me on my trial. See ch. 1 Corinthians 2:15. The Judaizers of whom we hear in the Epistle to the Galatians and in Acts 15 are now heard of here also, and this Epistle seems to have stirred them up to a still stronger antagonism, for St Paul is obliged to travel over the same ground in his second Epistle, and with much greater fulness. St Paul, therefore, though he ‘transferred in a figure to himself and Apollos’ what he had said with reference to the Corinthian teachers, had nevertheless in view also some who disparaged his authority. It is worthy of note that the words ἀπολογία and ἀνακρίνουσιν are the usual legal expressions (Olshausen), as though the Apostle conceived himself to be on his trial. See ch. 1 Corinthians 2:14, note.
4. μὴ οὐκ. ‘Is it really true that we have not’? μή containing the question, οὐκ the denial of the right.
ἐξουσίαν φαγεῖν καὶ πιεῖν. The right to eat and to drink, i. e. at the expense of the Church, cf. Luke 10:7. This privilege, said St Paul’s opponents, was confined to the original twelve Apostles of the Lord.
5. ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα περιάγειν. The ordinary interpretation of this passage is  that St Paul here asserts his right, if he pleased, to take with him a wife who was a member of the Christian body, and to have her maintained at the expense of the community. The word sister, like the words brother, brethren, is equivalent to ‘member of the Christian Church’ in Romans 16:1; James 2:15; 2 John 1:13 (perhaps) and ch. 1 Corinthians 7:15 of this Epistle. This privilege was claimed by the other Apostles with a view, as Stanley suggests, of obtaining access to the women, who in the East usually dwelt apart. But there is  another interpretation which would translate the word here rendered wife by woman (as in the margin of our version), and suppose that the tie which connected St Paul with the Christian woman he claimed to ‘lead about’ with him was nothing but that of their common Christianity. In support of this view Luke 8:2-3, is quoted. This opinion can be traced back as far as Tertullian in the second century. But it is most improbable that in a society so corrupt as the heathen society of that age everywhere was, the Apostles of Christ would have run so serious a risk of misconstruction as would have been involved in such a practice. The conduct of Simon Magus, who led about with him a woman of scandalous character, the misinterpretations so common in the Apostolic age of the innocent affection of the Christians for each other, and of their nightly meetings, shew how necessary prudence was in those times. Besides, this interpretation misses the point of the argument, which was, that the original twelve Apostles claimed the right to throw not only their own maintenance, but that of their wives, upon the Church. The various readings found in this passage would seem to have been introduced to support the view that a wife could not here be intended.
οἱ ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ κυρίου. These have been regarded  as the children of Joseph and Mary,  the children of Joseph by a former wife,  as the kinsmen of our Lord, the word brother having been used in Hebrew to denote any near relation. See Genesis 13:8; Genesis 29:12; Leviticus 10:4. The question has been hotly debated.  or  seem of course to suit the more obvious meaning of the word ἀδελφοί; but in support of  we find from Scripture and ecclesiastical history that the names of our Lord’s brethren James and Joses and Simon and Judas were also the names of the sons of Alphaeus, who were our Lord’s cousins. See Matthew 13:55; Matthew 27:56; Luke 24:10; John 19:25. Also Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:16; and Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. III. 11, 32. See Bp Lightfoot on the Epistle to the Galatians, Dissertation II. Also Dean Plumptre on St James, in the present series, Introduction pp. 12–18.
6. ἢ μόνος ἐγὼ καὶ Βαρνάβας. St Paul and St Barnabas  resigned their claim to support on the part of the Church,  were not of the number of the Twelve,  were left by the Apostles to undertake the sole charge of the missions to the heathen (Galatians 2:9). On these grounds a charge was brought against them that they were no true Apostles of Christ. For Barnabas, see Acts 4:36; Acts 11:22-25; Acts 11:30; Acts 12:25; Acts 13:1-2; Acts 13:50; Acts 14:12; Acts 15:2; Acts 15:12; Acts 15:37; Galatians 2:1; Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:13. The reason why Paul and Barnabas refused to accept payment for their services is not hard to discover. They went on a mission to the Gentiles, the other Apostles to the Jews. The latter fully understood that the ministers of religion should be maintained by the offerings of the worshippers. The Gentiles, on the contrary, had so long known what it was to be plundered by greedy sophists who lived by their wits, that it was above all things necessary for the Apostles of Christ to avoid being confounded with such persons. Justin Martyr tells us, in his Dialogue with Trypho (ch. 2), how a certain Peripatetic philosopher demanded his fee at a very early period of their intercourse, and how the demand shook his confidence in his teacher.
7. τίς στρατεύεται. The charge is now refuted on five different grounds. The first argument is derived from the analogy of human conduct. Three instances are given,  the soldier,  the vine-dresser,  the shepherd, who all derive their subsistence from their labours.
ὀψωνίοις. Literally, money given to buy ὄψα, pieces of cooked meat. Hence it became the recognized word in later Greek for military pay.
8. μὴ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον. See note on 1 Corinthians 3:3. Cf. Romans 3:5 and Galatians 3:15. This second argument is drawn from the law of Moses, and its force would be admitted by the Judaizing section of St Paul’s opponents.
9. γάρ. ‘The law does say so, for it is written,’ &c.
κημώσεις. The word is derived from κημός, a muzzle. It is somewhat rarer than the rec. φιμώσεις, but is found in Classical Greek.
μὴ τῶν βοῶν μελεῖ τῷ θεῷ; Luther and Estius are here fully of one mind against those who suppose the Apostle to mean that God does not care for oxen. ‘God cares for all,’ says the former, and the latter gives proofs of this care from Holy Writ, for example, Psalms 36:6; Psalms 147:9. But the precepts of the Law were illustrations of general principles which extended far beyond the special precepts contained in it. Such a precept was that in Exodus 23:19, ‘Thou shalt not see the a kid in his mother’s milk,’ cf. Exodus 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21, which had in view the general principle of the cultivation of a spirit of humanity. As an instance of the superior humanity of the Jewish law, Dean Stanley mentions the fact that ‘the Egyptians had an inscription, still extant, to this effect,’ and that in Greece there was a proverb, ‘the ox on the heap of corn,’ to describe a man in the midst of plenty which he could not enjoy. In this and many other instances we have to bear in mind that ‘the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.’ St Paul applies this passage from the Old Testament in an exactly similar manner in 1 Timothy 5:18. It occurs in Deuteronomy 25:4. Perhaps the true rendering of the words may be ‘Is God (here) concerning Himself about oxen?’ i. e. has He not higher principles in view? Cf. Philo, De Sacrificantibus [ed. Mangey 251], οὐ γὰρ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀλόγων ὁ νόμος ἀλλ' ὑπὲρ τῶν νοῦν καὶ λόγον ἐχόντων.
10. δι' ἡμᾶς. ‘On account of us preachers of the Gospel.’
γάρ. ‘Yes, for on our account was written what follows, that he who plougheth,’ &c.
ὁ ἀλοῶν ἐπ' ἐλπίδι τοῦ μετέχειν. He who thresheth in hope of partaking. In this verse we may observe that the word here translated threshing in A.V. is rendered treadeth out in 1 Corinthians 9:9, because the usual Eastern mode of threshing corn was by means of oxen. See Art. ‘Agriculture’ in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, and Kitto’s Biblical Cyclopaedia. The flail appears to have been occasionally used for the lighter kinds of grain (Ruth 2:17), and threshing instruments are occasionally mentioned in the later books of the Old Testament, e.g. 2 Samuel 24:22; 1 Chronicles 21:23; Isaiah 41:15.
11. εἰ ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν. St Paul’s third argument is drawn from the principles of natural gratitude. If we have conferred on you such inestimable benefits, it is surely no very burdensome return to give us our maintenance. Not, says Estius, that the one is in any sense the price paid for the other, for the two are too unequal: but that he who receives gifts so invaluable certainly lies under an obligation to him who imparts them—an obligation which he may well requite by ministering to his benefactor in such trifles (see Acts 6:2-4) as food and drink. Cf. Romans 15:27; Galatians 6:6.
τὰ πνευματικά. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 2:10-15, 1 Corinthians 3:1. The revelation of God through the Spirit, conveyed to the Corinthians by the agency of St Paul.
ἐσπείραμεν. Sowed, i.e. when we were with you.
τὰ σαρκικά. The things that serve to the nourishment of the flesh.
θερίσομεν. If this be the correct reading, it implies that the Apostle will actually partake of these things. But many important MSS. read θερίσωμεν. See Critical Note.
12. εἰ ἄλλοι … μετέχουσιν. Fourth argument. You have admitted the cogency of these arguments in the case of those who have less claim upon you than we have, to whom (ch. 1 Corinthians 4:15) you owe your Christian life itself.
τῆς ὑμῶν ἐξουσίας. Genitive of relation; this right in regard to (or power over) you. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 7:4.
ἀλλ' οὐκ ἐχρησάμεθα τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ ταύτῃ. But we did not use this right. See note on ἐσπείραμεν. St Paul is now about to enter upon the argument from which he was diverted by the thought which flashed across his mind in 1 Corinthians 9:1. But another argument occurs to him, which he states in the next verse.
στέγομεν. This word is connected with the Latin tego, and signifies to keep in or out by means of a covering. Cf. νῆες οὐδὲν στέγουσαι Thuc. II. 94, of leaky ships. Hence it comes to signify to endure. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 13:7; 1 Thessalonians 3:5.
ἐγκοπὴν δῶμεν. The expression ‘give a hindrance’ is peculiar. It is probably a Hebraism, the Hebrew use of the word signifying to give being wider than that of the equivalent word in Greek.
13. οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ τὰ ἱερα ἐργαζόμενοι. Fifth argument. The Jewish priests are maintained by the sacrifices of the worshippers. See Leviticus 6:17; Numbers 5:8-10, and especially Numbers 18:8-20. So also Deuteronomy 10:9; Deuteronomy 18:1. This was an argument of which in dealing with Jews it would not have been well to lose sight. Whether an Apostle or not St Paul was at least occupied with sacred things, and so had a claim to live, or rather eat (the literal translation), by means of the work he was doing.
παρεδρεύοντες. Literally sit beside, i.e. are continually engaged in attending to the altar. Compare our word assiduous.
συμμερίζονται. The sacrifices, the burnt offering excepted, were portioned out according to rule. Part was consumed on the altar; part was given to the priest; part, in some cases, was eaten by the worshipper. See passages cited in the last note but one.
14. ὁ κύριος διέταξεν. In Matthew 10:10, and Luke 10:7. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 7:10; 1 Corinthians 7:12; 1 Corinthians 7:25. The R.V. ‘ordained’, with the more definite meaning attached to the aorist, gives the best sense here.
15. κέχρημαι. This is stronger than the ἐχρησάμεθα of 1 Corinthians 9:12, and implies more of a settled habit or purpose. The rec. ἐχρησάμην is no doubt introduced from 1 Corinthians 9:12. The first person here introduces St Paul’s own personal practice, as distinct from that of Barnabas and other missionaries to the Gentiles.
οὐδενὶ τούτων. Having disposed of the objections against his claims to Apostleship, he proceeds to the instance he had been intending to give of his voluntary abandonment of his rights as a Christian for the sake of others. Thus he vindicates his own consistency, shewing that the doctrine he laid down in ch. 1 Corinthians 6:12, and which he again asserts in 1 Corinthians 9:19 of this chapter, is a yoke which he not only imposes upon others, but willingly bears himself.
οὐδεὶς κενώσει. The only possible interpretation of these words is that St Paul eagerly breaks off in the midst of a sentence to express himself as forcibly as possible ‘It were well for me to die than that my boast—no man shall make (that) void,’ or ‘It were well for me to die than—no one shall make my boast void.’ But there seems good ground for supposing (see Critical Note) that οὐδείς has crept very early into the text from some paraphrase. For καύχημα see ch. 1 Corinthians 5:6.
15–23. ST PAUL’S USE OF HIS CHRISTIAN LIBERTY IS RESTRAINED BY THE THOUGHT OF THE NEEDS OF OTHERS
16. ἀνάγκη γάρ μοι ἐπίκειται. See Acts 9:6; Acts 22:21.
οὐαί. The Alexandrian form of the classical ὀά. See note on Matthew 18:7, in this series.
17. εἰ γὰρ ἑκών. Whether St Paul did his work willingly or unwillingly, he could not escape his responsibility. He had been chosen (Acts 9:15; Acts 13:2; Romans 1:5; Romans 15:16; Galatians 1:15-16; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11, also ch. 1 Corinthians 1:1) to bear the good tidings to the Gentiles, and no man can disobey God and be guiltless. If he willingly obeyed God, he had a reward in the consciousness of having done his duty (1 Corinthians 9:18); if not, he still had been entrusted with the task. Cf. Luke 17:10.
μισθόν. Wages. Cf. John 4:36; Matthew 20:8, and Luke 10:7, where the same word is used.
οἰκονομίαν πεπίστευμαι. I have been entrusted with a stewardship. See note on 1 Corinthians 4:1. οἰκονομία came to be used in the sense of any work of practical utility. See Marcus Aurelius, Meditations IV. 19 τί ὁ ἔπαινος πλὴν ἄρα δι' οἰκονομίαν τινά; and cf. our translation dispensation, which means a giving forth to others. For this use of the accusative, cf. Romans 3:2; Galatians 2:7; 1 Timothy 1:11. See Winer Gr. Gram. § 32.
18. τίς οὖν μού ἐστιν ὁ μισθός; For μισθός see last verse. Either  as in our version, the preaching the Gospel without charge, and the consciousness of having served God faithfully thus obtained; or  as some would interpret, suspending the construction until the end of 1 Corinthians 9:19, the satisfaction of having made more converts than any one else. But this involves  a harsh construction, and  a motive which appears foreign to the Christian character. For though St Paul in ch. 1 Corinthians 15:10 says, ‘I laboured more abundantly than they all,’ it is in no spirit of vain-glorious boasting. The translation ‘reward’ somewhat obscures the meaning. Christ had said, ‘The labourer is worthy of his hire,’ or wages. St Paul refers to this in 1 Corinthians 9:17. In this verse he asks what his wages are, and replies that they are the preaching the Gospel without charge.
ἵνα. There is good ground for regarding this as equivalent to the simple infinitive and translating to make the Gospel without charge. See Winer Gr. Gram. § 44 and note on ch. 1 Corinthians 4:1.
ἀδάπανον. This was St Paul’s usual ground of boasting. We find it in his earliest Epistle (1 Thessalonians 2:9; cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:8). It formed part of his appeal to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:33-34), and in the fervid defence of himself which we find in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians it occupies a prominent place. See 2 Corinthians 11:7-12.
καταχρήσασθαι. See 1 Corinthians 7:31, note. Here it must mean to use to the full. Cf. Plat. Phaed. 110 c οἷς δὴ οἱ γραφεῖς καταχρῶνται.
19. ἐμαυτὸν ἐδούλωσα. Literally, enslaved myself.
τοὺς πλείονας. Not more than other people, nor even as A.V. implies, more than he would otherwise have gained, but the majority of those to whom he preached. See 2 Corinthians 2:6; 2 Corinthians 4:15; 2 Corinthians 9:2.
20. τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὡς Ἰουδαῖος. As in Acts 16:3; Acts 18:18; Acts 21:26; Acts 23:6; Acts 26:4-6; Acts 26:22; Acts 26:27. Some of these passages, though they refer to events which occurred after these words were written, are none the less useful as illustrations of St Paul’s principle of action.
Ἰουδαίους. As R.V., Jews, not ‘the Jews,’ as A.V.
ὑπὸ νόμον. νόμος here, though without the article, must be interpreted of the law of Moses; the distinction between these and the Jews of which he has just spoken may be that he is here speaking of proselytes.
μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον. See Critical Note. The omission, if the words are genuine, may have been intentional or may have been due to the repetition of ὑπὸ νόμον. It is clear, however, that St Paul, though regarding himself as quite free to carry out the precepts of the Law when he pleased (see Acts 21:26) and believing that it was not necessary for the Jews to renounce their national customs, considered himself free from the obligation of the Jewish law by virtue of Christ’s death. See Romans 7:4; Galatians 2:19; Galatians 5:18; Ephesians 2:15, Colossians 2:14.
21. τοῖς ἀνόμοις ὡς ἄνομος. Literally, to the lawless, as a lawless man, i.e. to those who had received no external laws or statutes from God. St Paul’s accommodation to the prejudices of Gentiles may be seen in Galatians 2:3; Galatians 2:12; Galatians 2:14.
μὴ ὢν ἄνομος θεοῦ. The gen. of relation. A kind of apology is here made for the use of the term lawless. It was only intended in the sense just explained. Even a Gentile was under some kind of law (Romans 2:14-15), and no Christian could rightly be called lawless, for he was subject to that inward law written in the heart, of which Jeremiah had prophesied (Jeremiah 31:33), even the law of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2), which, though it had set him free from a slavish bondage to ordinances (Colossians 2:20), had not set him free from the obligation to holiness, justice, and truth which is involved in the very idea of faith in Jesus Christ. Cf. Galatians 6:2. The μὴ indicates what the Apostle was in his own mind, ‘not considering myself as without law in relation to God.’
22. τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν, i.e. by an affectionate condescension to their prejudices (ch. 1 Corinthians 8:13). The omission of ὡς strengthens the Apostle’s identification with those to whom he preached; cf. Romans 15:1; 2 Corinthians 11:29. An interesting parallel is given in Origen’s Homilies on Matt. (Matthew 17:21). He quotes a saying of our Lord to the following effect: διὰ τοὺς ἀσθενοῦντας ἠσθένουν, καὶ διὰ τοὺς πεινῶντας ἐπείνων καὶ διὰ τοὺς διψῶντας ἐδίψων.
τοῖς πᾶσιν γέγονα πάντα. Not in the sense of sacrifice of principle, but by the operation of a wide-reaching sympathy, which enabled him, without compromising his own convictions, to approach all men from their most accessible side. See notes on 1 Corinthians 9:20-21, and ch. 1 Corinthians 10:32.
23. πάντα δὲ ποιῶ. This gives a better sense than the rec. τοῦτο. ‘And I do everything for the Gospel’s sake.’
24. οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι. The Apostle now introduces the figure of a race-course. He does not mean that in the Christian course only one receives the prize, but that each should manifest the same eagerness and sustained effort as if the prize could be given to one only. The Corinthians are now exhorted to follow the example of their teacher in all self-mistrust and self-restraint. There can be little doubt that there is an allusion here to the Isthmian games, which took place every three years at a spot on the sea-coast about nine miles from Corinth. This was one of those festivals ‘which exercised so great an influence over the Grecian mind, which were, in fact, to their imaginations what the Temple was to the Jews and the triumph to the Romans.’ Stanley. At this period, he remarks, the Olympic games, the chief national institution of the Greeks (see Art. ‘Olympia’ in Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities), had possibly lost some of their interest, while the Isthmus had been the centre of the last expiring struggle of Greek independence, and was destined to be the place where, a few years after the date of this Epistle, Nero stood to announce that the province of Achaia had received the honour of Roman citizenship.
ἐν σταδἰῳ. See Art. ‘Stadium’ in Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities. This was a fixed course, oblong in shape, with one end semicircular, fitted round with seats, that the spectators might see all that went on. It was ‘not a mere resort for public amusement, but an almost sacred edifice, under the tutelage of the patron deity of the Ionian tribes, and surrounded by the most solemn recollections of Greece; its white marble seats rising like a temple in the grassy slope, where its outlines may still be traced, under the shadow of the huge Corinthian citadel, which guards the entrance to the Peloponnesus, and overlooking the blue waters of the Saronic Gulf, with Athens glittering in the distance.’ Stanley.
βραβεῖον. So called because it was given by the βραβεύς or judge. It was a garland of ‘olive, parsley, bay, or pine.’ Stanley. From this word, through the late Latin word bravium, comes our brave.
καταλάβητε. Lit. take a firm grasp of.
24–27. EXHORTATION TO SELF-RESTRAINT
25. πᾶς δὲ ὁ ἀγωνιζόμενος. Every man that striveth in the games. R.V. The words might refer to the race. See Hebrews 12:1. So Plutarch has ἀγωνίζεσθαι στάδιον. But 1 Corinthians 9:26 decides in favour of the R.V. rendering. The temperance of which the Apostle speaks was no light matter. For ten months had the candidates for a prize at these games to abstain from every kind of sensual indulgence, and to undergo the most severe training of the body. See Horace, De Arte Poetica, 412, and the well-known passage in Epictetus Ench. 29 θέλεις Ὀλύμπια νικῆσαι; … δεῖ σ' εὐτακτεῖν, ἀναγκοφαγεῖν, ἀπέχεσθαι πεμμάτων, γυμνάζεσθαι πρὸς ἀνάγκην ἐν ὥρᾳ τεταγμένῃ, ἐν καύματι, ἐν ψύχει, μὴ ψυχρὸν πίνειν, μὴ οἶνον, ὡς ἔτυχεν· ἁπλῶς, ὡς ἰατρῷ παραδεδωκέναι τῷ ἐπιστάτῃ.
ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄφθαρτον. Cf. 2 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:11. There was no impropriety in this comparison. The Greek games were free from many of the degrading associations which gather round those athletic sports so popular among ourselves. They had the importance almost of a religious rite, certainly of a national institution, and they were dignified with recitations of their productions by orators and sophists. Herodotus is even said to have recited his history at the Olympic games.
26. τοίνυν. This particle does not occur elsewhere in St Paul’s writings.
ὡς οὐκ ἀδήλως. ‘As one who is not running uncertainly.’ So in the next member of the sentence, ‘so fight I, as one who is not beating the air.’ μή would have required us to render ‘As if I were not running uncertainly’; ‘as if I were not beating the air.’ The οὐκ stamps the unconditional character of the negation.
οὕτως πυκτεύω. The Christian career is not merely a race, but a conflict, and a conflict not only with others, but with oneself. St Paul had to contend with the fleshly lusts of the body, the love no doubt of ease, the indisposition to hardship and toil so natural to humanity. See Romans 7:23; and for the life of pain and endurance to which he had enslaved himself, ch. 4 of this Epistle, 1 Corinthians 9:9-13, and 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. πυκτεύω signifies to fight with the fists, to box.
ὡς οὐκ ἀέρα δέρων. That is, not as one who struck out at random, but as one who delivered his blows with sure aim and effect. Cf. Virg. Aen. 9:377 ‘Verberat ictibus auras’; 446 ‘Vires in ventum effudit,’ and the German ‘ins Blaue hinein.’
27. ὑπωπιάζω. Literally, I strike under the eye, or I beat black and blue. So the ancient Latin version of Irenaeus renders it Corpus meum lividum facio. The Vulgate, less forcibly, castigo. Tyndale, tame. R.V. buffet. The same word is used in Luke 18:5 of the effect of the repeated complaints of the poor widow. Cf. Shakespeare, King John, Acts 2. sc. 1, ‘Bethumped with words.’ The boxers were armed with the cestus.
δουλαγωγῶ. Literally, lead it into slavery. The body was to be the absolute property of the spirit, to obey its directions implicitly, as a slave those of its master. Romans 6:19. By a series of violent blows on the face, as it were, it was to be taught to submit itself to the dictates of its superior.
ἀδόκιμος. One rejected after trial. Except in Hebrews 6:8, this word is everywhere else translated reprobate in the A.V., and so here in the Vulgate reprobus. Wiclif, repreuable. No strength of religious conviction, we are here warned, can supply the place of that continuous effort necessary to ‘make our calling and election sure.’ Some have regarded the word κηρύξας here as having a reference to the herald who proclaimed the victor in the games, or announced the conditions of the contest. Dean Stanley reminds us that the victor sometimes announced his own success, and that Nero did so (cf. Suetonius, Nero, c. 24) a short time after this Epistle was written. But this somewhat misses the point of the Apostle’s meaning, which, if it is to be regarded as keeping up the metaphor derived from the games (though this is by no means certain), is, that after having, as herald, proclaimed the victory of others, he himself contends and is worsted, or after having announced the conditions to others, is convicted of having failed to observe them himself.
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the Third Week after Epiphany