Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, July 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

- 1 Corinthians

by William Robertson Nicoll







THE establishment of the Church of Corinth was the crowning work of Paul’s second missionary journey, and one of the greatest achievements of his life. By repeated interventions crossing his plans of travel, the hand of God had compelled him to enter Europe, through the gate of Macedonia; thence Jewish persecution drove him onwards to Achaia, and prevented his returning to the work left unfinished in the northern province (1 Thessalonians 2:14 ff., cf. Acts 17:5-15 ). At Athens, where he first touched Greek soil, the Apostle met with scant success; he arrived at Corinth dispirited and out of health (1 Corinthians 2:3 , cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:7 ), with little expectation of the harvest awaiting him. Loneliness aggravated the other causes of the “weakness and fear and trembling” that shook Christ’s bold ambassador. His appearance and bearing conveyed an impression of feebleness which acted long afterwards to his prejudice (1 Corinthians 4:10 , 2 Corinthians 10:1-11 ; 2 Corinthians 12:5 , etc.). The new friendship of Aquila and Priscilla proved, however, a cordial to him (Acts 18:2 f., cf. Romans 16:3 f.); and the return of Silas and Timothy with good news from Macedonia revived the confidence and vigour of their leader (Acts 18:5 , cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:6-9 ). Free from the anxiety which had distracted him, and rising above his late defeat, “Paul was constrained by the word [ cf. for this verb 2 Corinthians 5:14 , and see Blass’ Acta Apostol., ad loc. [1] ], testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ”. The decision with which he now spoke brought about a speedy rupture. The Jews were affronted by the doctrine of a crucified Messiah, which Paul pressed with unsparing rigour ( Act 18:5 f., 1 Corinthians 1:17 ; 1 Corinthians 1:23 ; 1 Corinthians 2:2 ). In this crisis the Apostle showed neither weakness nor fear; shaking off the dust of the synagogue, he established a rival ecclesia hard by at the house of the proselyte Titius Justus, marked by his name as a Roman citizen of the colonia , who could offer a secure and honourable refuge. The seceders included the Synagogue-chief Crispus and his family, with some other persons of importance. A vision in the following night assured Paul of success and personal safety at Corinth; accordingly “he sat down,” [2] resolved to make full proof of his ministry (Acts 18:9-11 , cf. 2 Corinthians 1:18 f.) and staying at least eighteen months in the city a period much longer than he had spent in any place since first setting out from Antioch. The assault of the Jews miscarried through the firmness and impartiality of the proconsul Gallio. The Apostle found in the Roman Government “the restrainer” of the lawless violence which would have crushed his infant Churches (2 Thessalonians 2:6 f.). At Corinth popular feeling ran against the Jews, and their futile attack favourably advertised Paul’s work. The murderous plot formed against him some years later (Acts 20:3 ) shows how fiercely he was hated by his compatriots in Corinth. He tells us that his success in Macedonia had excited public attention in many quarters, and prepared for his message an interested hearing (1 Thessalonians 1:8 f.). Outside of Corinth the Gospel was preached with effect throughout Achaia (2 Corinthians 1:1 ); in Cenchreæ, e.g. , a regularly constituted Church was formed (Romans 16:1 ). At his departure (Acts 18:18 ) the Apostle left behind him in this province a Christian community comparatively strong in numbers and conspicuous in the talent and activity of its members (1 Corinthians 1:4-8 ; 1 Corinthians 14:26 ff.), consisting mainly of Gentiles, but with a considerable Jewish infusion (1 Corinthians 1:12 , 1 Corinthians 7:18 , 1 Corinthians 12:13 ).

[1] ad loc. ad locum , on this passage.

[2] ἐκάθισεν (Acts 18:11 ): the expression indicates that Paul had been up to this point unsettled, and made up his mind to remain; cf. Luke 24:49 .

This city, the capital of Roman Greece and the fourth perhaps in size in the empire, was a focus of pagan civilisation, a mirror of the life and society of the age. The centre of a vast commerce, Corinth attracted a crowd of foreigners from East and West, who mingled with the native Greeks and adopted their language and manners. Though not a University town like Athens, Corinth nevertheless prided herself on her culture, and offered a mart to the vendors of all kinds of wisdom. “Not many wise, not many mighty, not many high-born” joined the disciples of the Crucified; but some of Paul’s converts came under this description. There were marked social differences and contrasts of wealth and poverty in the Church (1 Corinthians 7:20-24 ; 1Co 11:21 f., 2 Corinthians 8:12 ff; 2 Corinthians 9:6 ff.). Along with slaves, a crowd of artisans and nondescript people, engaged in the petty handicrafts of a great emporium, entered the new society; “the foolish things of the world,” its “weak” and “baseborn,” formed the majority of its constituency (1 Corinthians 1:27 ff.) amongst them many who had been steeped in pagan vice (1 Corinthians 6:9 ff.).

The moral transformation effected in this corrupt material was accompanied by a notable mental quickening. The Hellenic intellect awoke at the touch of spiritual faith. This first Christian society planted upon Greek soil exhibited the characteristic qualities of the race qualities however of Greece in her decadence rather than her prime. Amongst so many freshly awakened and eager but undisciplined minds, the Greek intellectualism took on a crude and shallow form; it betrayed a childish conceit and fondness for rhetoric and philosophical jargon ( 1Co 1:17 , 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 , etc.), and allied itself with the factiousness that was the inveterate curse of Greece. The Corinthian talent in matters of “word and knowledge” ran into emulation and frivolous disputes. “The habit of seeming to know all about most things, and of being able to talk glibly about most things, would naturally tend to an excess of individuality, and a diminished sense of corporate responsibilities. This fact supplies, under many different forms, the main drift of 1 Corinthians” (Hort, Ecclesia , p. 129). Even the gifts of the Holy Spirit were abused for purposes of display, edification being often the last thing thought of in their exercise (Ver. 12, 14). The excesses which profaned the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 11:20 ff.), and the unseemly conduct of women in the Church meetings (1 Corinthians 11:3 ff., 1 Corinthians 14:34 ff.), were symptoms of the lawless self-assertion that marred the excellencies of this Church, and turned the abilities of many of its members into an injury rather than a furtherance to its welfare.

Still graver mischief arose from the influence of heathen society. For men breathing the moral atmosphere of Corinth, and whose earlier habits and notions had been formed in this environment, to conceive and maintain a Christian moral ideal was difficult in the extreme. Deplorable relapses occurred when the fervour of conversion had abated, and the Church proved shamefully tolerant towards sins of impurity (1 Corinthians 5:0 , 2 Corinthians 12:20 f.). The acuteness of the Greek mind showed itself in antinomian sophistry; the “liberty” from Jewish ceremonial restrictions claimed by Paul for Gentile Christians was by some construed into a general licence, and carried to a length which shocked not merely the scruples of fellow-believers but the common moral instincts (1 Corinthians 6:12 ff., 1Co 8:9-13 , 1 Corinthians 10:23 ff., 1 Corinthians 11:13 b ). The social festivities of Corinth, bound up as they were with idolatry and its impurities, exposed the Church to severe temptation. To draw a hard and fast line in such questions and to forbid all participation in idolothyta , after the precedent of Acts 15:0 , would have been the simplest course to take; but Paul feels it necessary to ground the matter on fundamental principles. He will not acknowledge any dominion of the idol over “the earth and its fulness” (1 Corinthians 10:26 ); nor, on the other hand, is it right to prevent neighbourly intercourse between Christians and unbelievers (1 Corinthians 10:27 ff.). But where the feast is held under the auspices of a heathen god and as the sequel to his sacrifice the case is altered; participation under these circumstances becomes an act of apostasy, and the feaster identifies himself with the idol as distinctly as in the Lord’s Supper he identifies himself with Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16 ff.).

The working of the old leaven is patent in the denial of the resurrection of the dead made by some Corinthian Christians (1 Corinthians 10:15 ). Here the radical scepticism of the age opposed itself to the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, upon which the whole weight of Christian faith and hope, and the entire Christian conception of the world and of destiny, rest as upon their fulcrum and rock of certainty. The disbelief in bodily resurrection and the indifference to bodily sin manifested at Corinth had a common root. They may be traced to the false spiritualism, the contempt for physical nature, characteristic of the theosophy of the times, which gave rise a few years later to the Colossian heresy and was a chief factor in the development of Gnosticism. The teaching of chap. 6, that “your bodies are limbs of Christ,” and the command to “glorify God in your bodies,” are aimed against the same philosophical assumptions that are combated in chap. 15; the demand for bodily purity finds in the doctrine of the resurrection its indispensable support and counterpart.

No reference is made in the Epistle to Church officers of any kind. Submission to “the house of Stephanas,” and to others rendering like service, is enjoined in 1 Corinthians 16:15 f., but by way of voluntary deference. So early as the first missionary journey in South Galatia Paul had assisted in the “appointing of elders in every Church” (Acts 14:23 ; cf. Acts 20:17 , 1 Thessalonians 5:12 , Romans 12:8 , Philippians 1:1 ). He had refrained from this step at Corinth for some specific reason a reason lying, it may be supposed, in the democratic spirit of the Church, which might have ill brooked official control. In 1 Corinthians 12:28 the Apostle alludes, however, to “governments” as amongst the things which “God set [ as part of a plan , Hort] in the Church”; and his promise to “set in order other things” (beside the Lord’s Supper) when he comes (1 Corinthians 11:34 ) may cover the intention to remedy this defect, the consequences of which are painfully apparent (1 Corinthians 14:26-33 , etc.).

This Epistle discloses the interior life of an apostolic Church; hence its surpassing historical interest. We must not, indeed, apply its data without qualification to contemporary Christian societies, even those of Gentile origin. The Corinthian Church presented material of uncommon richness, but intractable to the founder’s hand. Its turbulence and party heat are unparalleled in the N.T. records. But while the Church life here portrayed was exceptional in some features, and Paul’s Church policy at Corinth may have differed from that pursued elsewhere, this Epistle is peculiarly full in its teaching on the nature and rights of the Church, and in the light it throws upon the conditions under which the first Gentile-Christian communities were moulded. Chaps. 12 and 13 are the true centre of the Epistle. The very formlessness of this Church, its rudimentary and protoplasmic state, reveals the essence of the Christian society, its substratum and vital tissue, as these can hardly be seen in a more developed and furnished condition. The Apostle Paul is contending for the bare life of the Church of God in Corinth.

Corinth now became the advanced post and gateway for Christianity in its westward march. The new Corinth, in which Paul laboured, dates from the year 46 B.C., when the city was refounded by Julius Cæsar under the name Colonia Julia Corinthus (or Laus Julii Corinthus ). Just a century earlier the old Corinth had been razed to the ground by Lucius Mummius, upon the defeat of the Achæan league which, with Corinth for its fortress, made a last despairing effort to retrieve the liberties of Greece. Corinth and Carthage fell and rose again simultaneously, marking the epochs at which republican Rome completed the destruction of the old world and imperial Rome began the construction of the new. The fame of ancient Corinth, reaching back to heroic times (see the Iliad , ii., 570; Pindar, Olymp. , 13) where “the sweetly breathing Muse” and “death-dealing Ares” flourished side by side and her later prowess as the bulwark of the Peloponnese and the maritime rival of Athens, were traditions with little interest or meaning for Paul and his disciples. The geographical position of Corinth gave to it enduring importance, and explains the fact that on its restoration the city sprang at once into the foremost rank. Corinth occupies one of the finest sites in Europe. With the Acrocorinthus (nearly 2,000 feet high) and the Oneion range shielding it on the south, it commands the narrow plain of the isthmus, and looks down, eastwards and westwards, upon the Saronic and Corinthian gulfs, which furnished the main artery of commerce between the Ægean and the Euxine seas on the one hand, and the Western Mediterranean upon the other. (See the descriptions in Stanley’s Epp. to the Cor. , p. 4, also article “Corinth” in Hastings’ Bib. Dict. ; and more at large, Leake’s Morea , iii., 229 304, Curtius’ Peloponnesus , ii., 514 f.; and for the antiquities, Pausanias, II., i., 2; Strabo, VIII., vi., 20 24; Dio Chrys., Orat. , 37; Ælius Arist., Ad Poseid .) The western port, Lechæum, 11/2 mile distant, was linked by double walls to the city; Cenchreæ lay 81/2 miles eastwards; and a shipway, running north of Corinth, connected the two harbours.

The presiding deities of this maritime city were the sea-god Poseidon, under whose patronage the famous Isthmian games were held (see 1 Corinthians 9:24 ff. and notes), and Aphrodité, whose temple crowned the Acrocorinthus. The cultus of Aphrodité (worshipped in her debasing form as Aphr. Pandemos ) dates back, it is supposed, to prehistoric Phœnician times; its features were more Oriental than Greek especially the institution of the ἱερόδουλοι , or priestess-courtesans, of whom more than a thousand were attached to the shrine of the goddess. Temples of Serapis and Isis were also conspicuous at Corinth, representing the powerful leaven of Egyptian superstition that helped to demoralise the empire. The luxury and refinement of the elder Corinth were associated with its vice; so notorious was its debauchery that κορινθιάζεσθαι was a euphemism for whoredom; in our own literature “a Corinthian” still means a polished rake. By all accounts, the new Corinth more than rivalled the old in wickedness. Here the Apostle drew, from life, the lurid portraiture of Gentile sin that darkens the first page of his Epistle to the Romans. Within this stronghold of paganism and focus of Greek corruption Paul planted the cross of his Redeemer, rising out of his weakness and fear to a boundless courage. He confronted the world’s glory and infamy with the sight of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” confident that in the word of the cross which he preached there lay a spell to subdue the pride and cleanse the foulness of Corinthian life, a force which would prove to Gentile society in this place of its utter corruption the wisdom and power of God unto salvation. In “the Church of God in Corinth,” with all its defects and follies, this redeeming power was lodged.



ASSUMING 49 A.D. as the date of the conference in Jerusalem (Acts 15:0 ), 57 as that of Paul’s last voyage to the Holy City, [3] we calculate that he arrived at Corinth first in the latter part of the year 50, closing his mission in 52. He was engaged in the interval, until the spring of 56, mainly in the evangelisation of the province of Asia (Acts 19:10 ; Acts 19:22 ; Acts 20:1 ff.). When he writes this letter the Apostle is still at Ephesus, intending to remain until Pentecost, and with Passover approaching (1 Corinthians 16:8 f., 1 Corinthians 5:7 f.: see notes). Paul’s departure from Ephesus was hastened by the riot (Acts 19:23 to Acts 20:1 ); and we may take it that this Epistle was despatched in the early spring of 56, very shortly before Paul left Ephesus for Troas in the course of his third missionary journey.

[3] See article “Chronology of the N.T.” in Hastings’ Bib. Dict. ; and for the latter date, article “Paul,” i., 5. It is now generally recognised that the dates assigned to Pauline events by Wieseler and Lightfoot are, from 49 onwards, at least a couple of years too late.

The Apostle had previously sent Timothy and Erastus forward to Corinth, by way of Macedonia, to prepare for his arrival, in pursuance of the plan now sketched in his mind for completing his work in these regions with a view to advancing upon Rome and the further west (Acts 19:21 f., cf. Romans 15:16-25 ). Timothy is likely to arrive soon after this letter, and will be able to enforce its prescriptions (1 Corinthians 4:17 ; see also 1 Corinthians 16:10 f., and notes). Apollos, who had migrated to Corinth fresh from the instructions of Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus and had “watered” there what Paul had “planted” (1 Corinthians 3:6 , Acts 18:27 f.), is back again at Ephesus in the Apostle’s company (1 Corinthians 16:12 ); he is clear of complicity in the party quarrels with which his name was associated in Corinth ( 1Co 1:12 , 1 Corinthians 3:4-8 , 1 Corinthians 4:6 ). Quite recently “the people of Chloë” have brought an alarming report of these “strifes” (1 Corinthians 1:11 ); and the Apostle learns from general rumour of the case of incest polluting the Church (1 Corinthians 5:1 ). More agreeable tidings have come with Stephanas and his companions (1 Corinthians 16:17 f.), who bear a dutiful letter of inquiry addressed to Paul, which he answers in chap. 7 ff. Through their lips, as well as from the Church letter, he receives the assurances of the general loyalty and goodwill of the Corinthian believers. From all these sources occasion is drawn and material furnished for the writing before us.

This Epistle is not the first which Paul had addressed to Corinth. In chap. 1 Corinthians 5:9 the writer refers to an earlier letter forbidding intercourse with immoral persons. The terms of this admonition had raised debate. Some read it as though all dealings with vicious men were inhibited a restriction that was as good as to tell Corinthian Christians to “go out of the world”! They could not imagine Paul to mean this; but his words allowed of this construction, and thus opened the door for discussion and for temporising. The tenor of the lost Epistle probably resembled that of 2 Corinthians 6:14 to 2 Corinthians 7:1 (see this Comm [4] , ad loc [5] ). This letter had arrived some months previously to our Epistle; for the Church had had time to consider and reply to it, and the condition of things to which it relates has undergone some changes. It may be referred as far back as the previous autumn (55 A.D.). Inasmuch as the Church-letter touched on “the collection for the saints” (1 Corinthians 16:1 : see note), it seems likely that the Apostle had made some appeal in the lost Epistle on this subject, eliciting a favourable reply ( cf. 2 Corinthians 8:10 ; 2 Corinthians 9:2 ), but with a request for directions as to the mode of gathering the money.

[4] commentary, commentator.

[5] ad locum , on this passage.

There is reason to believe that Paul had himself visited Corinth not very long before writing the aforesaid letter. The allusions of 2 Corinthians 2:1 ; 2 Corinthians 12:14 ; 2Co 12:20 ; 2 Corinthians 13:2 (see notes), imply that he had been twice in Corinth before the Second Epistle. If with Clemen ( Chronol. d. Paulin. Briefe ), Schmiedel ( Handcomm. , 1 and 2 Kor., Einleitung ), and Krenkel ( Beiträge z. Aufhellung d. Paul. Briefe , vi.) we could spread the composition of 1 and 2 Cor. over two years, space would be found for interposing such a visit between them, but at the cost of creating fresh and insuperable chronological difficulties. In 2 Corinthians 1:15 ff. the Apostle defends himself for having failed to come recently to Corinth; he had sent Titus, and with him a letter (2 Corinthians 2:4 ; 2 Corinthians 7:8 ) distinct, as the present writer holds, from 1 Cor. (a second lost letter of Paul to Corinth: see Hastings’ Bib. Dict. , article “Paul,” i. d. ), and occasioned by an emergency that arose subsequently to its despatch which gave a new turn to the Apostle’s relations with the Church. Meanwhile he has himself left Ephesus (as contemplated in 1 Corinthians 16:0 ), has pushed forward to Macedonia (2 Corinthians 2:12 f.), where at last Titus meets him with the cheering news reflected in 2 Corinthians 1-7. As already shown, a space of but a few weeks elapsed between Paul’s writing 1 Cor. and leaving Ephesus for Troas.

We have traced Paul’s steps through the months separating the two Epistles, and neither time nor occasion is found for an interjected trip to Corinth. We are thrown back upon the period before the first Epistle. Yet 1 Cor. makes no express reference to any recent visit; and its silence, primâ facie , negatives the supposition of any such occurrence. There are circumstances however which relieve this adverse presumption. For one thing, the lost letter had intervened; this other Epistle, not our 1 Cor., was the sequel of the visit in question. The main thing that occupied Paul’s mind on that occasion, and which caused the “grief” referred to in 2 Corinthians 2:1 , had been the impurity of life manifest within the Church. Against this he had given solemn warning, while forbearing discipline (2 Corinthians 13:2 ). It was with a moral situation of this kind that the missing letter dealt (1 Corinthians 5:9-12 ); the alarm it expressed is still felt in 1 Corinthians 6:10 ; 1 Corinthians 15:33 f. Meantime, the horrible case of incest has eclipsed previous transgressions; and while Paul reaffirms the general directions already sent and prompted ( ex hypothesi ) by personal observation, he fastens his attention upon the new criminality just brought to his ears. That previous meeting had been so unhappy for both parties that Paul might well avoid allusion to it; it was an experience he was resolved never to repeat (2 Corinthians 2:1 ; 2 Corinthians 12:20 ). If he comes again under like conditions, it will be “rod” in hand (1 Corinthians 4:21 , 2 Corinthians 13:2 ). His forbearance had been misconstrued; some of the offenders were emboldened to defy him, and his Judaistic sup-planters subsequently contrasted the severity of his letters with his timidity in face of the mutineers (2 Corinthians 10:6 ; 2 Corinthians 13:1-7 ) a taunt which drags from him the allusions of the second Epistle. After all, 1 Cor. is not without traces of the second visit. Nothing so well accounts for the doubts of Paul’s disciplinary power hinted in 1 Corinthians 4:18-21 as the encounter supposed. When after his threat, and while the plague grows in virulence (1 Corinthians 5:0 ) and his opponents challenge him to come (1 Corinthians 4:18 ) still more, when he has announced, while fulminating anathemas on paper (1 Corinthians 5:4 f., 1 Corinthians 16:22 ), that his return is postponed, without any imperative reason given for delay (1 Corinthians 16:5 ff.) after all this, it is no wonder that even his friends felt themselves aggrieved, and that the most damaging constructions were put upon the Apostle’s changes of plan (2 Corinthians 1:15 ff; 2Co 10:9 ff; 2 Corinthians 13:3 ff.). At last he explains, in 2 Cor., that the postponement is due to his continued desire to “spare” instead of striking. If, notwithstanding these apprehensions, Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 1:15 of the double visit that had been for a while intended (a third and fourth from the beginning) as “a second joy” (or “grace”), he is probably quoting words of the Church letter. Further, one detects in 1 Corinthians 4:1-10 a sharp note of personal feeling that indicates some recent contact between writer and readers, and ocular observation on the Apostle’s part of the altered bearing of his spoilt children at Corinth. This Epistle manifests a mastery of the situation and a vivid realisation of its detailed circumstances such as we can best account for on the supposition that Paul had taken a personal survey of the development of the Church since his first departure, and that behind all he has heard latterly from others and seen through their eyes, he is also judging upon the strength of what he has himself witnessed and knows at first hand.



WHILE the doctrine of the companion Epistles to the Galatians and Romans lies upon the surface, the theology of this Epistle has to be disentangled from a coil of knotty practical questions. The Apostle writes under constraint, unable to count on the full sympathy of his readers or to say all that is in his mind (1 Corinthians 2:6 , 1 Corinthians 3:1 ). Instead of giving free play to his own reflexions, he is compelled through the greater part of the letter to wait upon the caprices of this flighty young Greek Church. At first sight one fails to observe any continuous teaching in the Epistle; a doctrinal analysis of its contents seems out of place. But closer attention discovers a real coherence behind this disconnectedness of form. While Paul comments on the sad news from Corinth and answers seriatim the questions addressed to him, his genius grasps the situation, and the leaven of the Gospel all the while assimilates the discordant mass. The Pauline standpoint is firmly maintained. The Christian principle shows itself master of the Gentile no less than the Jewish field, and gives earnest of its power to meet the changeful and multiplying demands that will be created by its expansion through the world. There is a unity of thought in this letter as real as that stamped upon the Epistle to the Romans, a unity the more impressive because of the baffling conditions under which it is realised.

Paul’s Gospel stands here on its defence against the pretensions of worldly wisdom and the corruptions of the fleshly mind; from the height of the Cross it sends its piercing rays into the abyss of pagan sin disclosed at Corinth in its turpitude and demonic force. Amongst the four Evangelical Epistles, this is the epistle of the cross in its social application . It bears throughout a realistic stamp. “The Church of God that exists in Corinth,” the men and women that compose it, are constantly present to the writer’s mind their diverse states and relationships, their debasing antecedents and surroundings, their crude ideas and conflicting tempers and keen ambitions, their high religious enthusiasm and their low moral sensibilities, their demonstrative but fickle affections and unsteady resolutions. Two things he strives to bring into full contact Christ crucified and these half-Christianised Corinthian natures. What Romans does for the Gospel in the field of theological exposition, and Galatians in that of doctrinal polemic, and 2 Corinthians in that of personal experience and ministerial vocation, this 1 Corinthians has done in respect of its bearing upon human intercourse and the life of the community.

The foundation upon which Paul had built at Corinth is “Jesus Christ” i.e. , “Jesus Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 3:11 , 1Co 1:17 f., 1 Corinthians 2:2 , 1 Corinthians 15:1-3 ). He does not, any more than in 1 Thessalonians, enter into an exposition of his λόγος τοῦ σταύρου . Not yet, in Corinth at least, had the legalists openly contested Paul’s doctrine of salvation through the death of Christ; the first sketch of its argumentative defence appears in 2 Corinthians 5:14 ff. The chief peril comes from the opposite quarter, from the dissolving influences of Hellenic scepticism and demoralisation. The form, rather than the contents, of Paul’s message is just now in question; he is reproached with the μωρία τοῦ κηρύγματος (1 Corinthians 1:18-25 ). But the form of presentation is determined by the substance of the truth presented; the cross of Christ cannot appear draped in the robes of Greek philosophy. The mere fact that it is “the word of the cross ” convicts the Gospel of folly in the eyes of the Greek lover of wisdom, as of weakness before the Jewish believer in “signs”. A “wise” world that knows not God ( 1Co 1:21 , 1 Corinthians 2:6 ; 1 Corinthians 2:14 , cf. Romans 1:19-23 ) will not understand His message, until it learns its ignorance.

1. To the source of the Gospel must therefore be traced that scorn of the Corinthian world which so much troubles the Church. It was “the testimony of God” that Paul had first announced (1 Corinthians 2:1 ); the Corinthian believers are “ of Him in Christ Jesus,” and have learnt to worship God as “Father of us and of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:3 ; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 : observe the emphasis thrown in vv. 18 31 upon ὁ Θεὸς in contrast with ὁ κόσμος ). Impotent and even absurd “the preaching of the cross” may appear to the Corinthian public; “to the saved” it is “the wisdom” and “the power of God”.

(1) The λόγος τοῦ σταύρου is God’s power at work in its most characteristic and sovereign energy, destined to shatter all adverse potencies (1 Corinthians 1:27 ff., 1 Corinthians 15:24 ff.). Veiled under a guise of weakness, it thus ensnares the world and exposes its folly (1 Corinthians 1:19-21 , 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 , 1 Corinthians 3:19 ); it chooses for its instruments feeble and ignoble things to overthrow the mightiest. The power of God acting in this λόγος is administered by “our Lord Jesus Christ” His mediator in the universe, and specifically in the Church (1 Corinthians 8:6 ) whom the world crucified (1 Corinthians 2:8 ); so that it is in effect the power of Christ , and “in Christ Jesus” men “come to be of God”. God has made Him unto us “righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30 , cf. 1 Corinthians 6:11 ); with the “price” of His blood He “bought” us, the body not excepted, for God’s property ( 1Co 1:2 , 1 Corinthians 3:16 , 1 Corinthians 6:19 f.); from “the strength of sin” and the reign of death Christians are consciously delivered through the death, crowned by the resurrection, of the Lord Jesus and through faith in His name (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ; 1 Corinthians 15:11 ; 1 Corinthians 15:17 f., 1 Corinthians 15:56 f.).

The Holy Spirit constitutes this mysterious power of God in operation. His “demonstration and power” attended Paul’s mission to Corinth, giving it an efficacy otherwise unaccountable (1 Corinthians 2:1-6 ); all Christian revelations come by this channel (1 Corinthians 2:11-16 ). Only “in the Holy Spirit” does any man truly say, “Jesus is Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:3 ); “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God,” the foulest sinners of Corinth had been “washed” and “sanctified” (1 Corinthians 6:11 ). The gifts possessed by this favoured Church are of the Spirit’s “distribution,” while of God’s omnipresent “working” and held under Christ’s dominion (1 Corinthians 12:4-11 ). The manifestations of the Spirit in the Gospel and in the Church differ from all forms of power the world has known; they reveal a kingdom rich in blessings such as “eye hath not seen nor ear heard, nor man’s heart conceived” (1 Corinthians 2:9 f.).

(2) The word of the cross discloses, to those who can understand, God’s wisdom hitherto shrouded “in mystery,” whose manifestation was determined for this epoch from the world’s beginning (1 Corinthians 2:6-9 ). By it the pretentious “wisdom of the age” will be overthrown. The world scorns to be saved by a crucified Messiah, and “the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God”; but wisdom is justified of her children. Bringing such a message, the Apostle discards adornments and plausibilities of speech; his word must speak by its inherent truth and force (1 Corinthians 2:1 ff.). As Christian men advance, the revelation of God increasingly approves itself to them; it discloses its σοφία τοῖς τελείοις . No longer does the opinion of the world sway them nor its temper cleave to them, they become “men of the Spirit,” who “judge all things” and are “judged of none” (1 Corinthians 2:6 to 1 Corinthians 3:3 ). One day they shall “judge the world” (1 Corinthians 6:2 ).

From the standpoint thus gained, in view of the operation of God in whatever belongs to the Gospel, the Apostle defines in chaps. 3 and 4 the position of Christ’s ministers: “We are God’s fellow-workers”; Paul the planter, Apollos the waterer they are nothing; God “gives the increase”. “Assistants of Christ, stewards of God’s mysteries,” their qualifications are fidelity and the possession of the Master’s mind (1 Corinthians 2:10 ; 1Co 2:16 , 1 Corinthians 7:25 ; 1 Corinthians 7:40 ). To their Lord, not to their fellow-servants, they are answerable. By His “call” and “compulsion” they serve the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1:1 , 1 Corinthians 9:16 f., 1 Corinthians 12:28 ). How presumptuous for the Corinthians to be “puffed up for one against the other” of God’s servants! All alike are theirs, while they are Christ’s and Christ is God’s (1 Corinthians 3:4 f., 21 4:6). Let men look above the stewards to the Master, above the instruments to God who “worketh all things in all” (1 Corinthians 12:4 ff.). The Christian teachers are God’s temple-builders; heavy their loss, if they build amiss; terrible their ruin, if instead of strengthening they destroy the fabric (1 Corinthians 3:10-17 ). Their maintenance is not bestowed by the Church as wages by an employer, but enjoined on the Church by the Lord’s ordinance, upon the same principle of justice which allows the threshing ox to feed from the corn (1 Corinthians 9:7-12 ).

The readers must learn what it means to belong to “the Church of God ”. Despite their presumed knowledge (1 Corinthians 9:8 ), “ignorance of God” is at the root of their errors (1 Corinthians 15:34 ). Newly emancipated from heathenism, they are slow to realise the character and claims of the God revealed to them in Christ. The first four chapters seek at every point to correct this ignorance; indeed, this underlying vein runs through the Epistle ( cf. in this respect 1 Thess. passim ). Πάντα εἰς δόξαν Θεοῦ is the maxim that Paul dictates to his readers (1 Corinthians 10:31 ), and that governs his mind throughout the letter.

2. The nature of the Christian community is the subject of chaps. 12 and 14, but it pervades the Epistle no less than that of the sovereign claims of God: “to the Church of God in Corinth” the Apostle writes.

The Græco-Roman cities at this time were honey-combed, in all grades of life, with private associations trade-guilds, burial clubs and friendly societies, religious confraternities; their existence supplied a great social need, and formed a partial substitute for the political activity suppressed by the levelling Roman empire. These organisations prepared heathen society for Church life; and Christianity upon Gentile soil largely adopted the forms of combination in popular use, borrowing from the Greek club almost as much as from the Jewish synagogue. But it transformed what it borrowed. In the Churches of God established in Thessalonica and Corinth the first stones were laid of the Christian structure of society. New conceptions of duty and kinship are unfolded in this Epistle, which have yet to receive full development. Paul’s sociology naturally met with resistance from men reared in Paganism; human nature is still against it. The Corinthians brought into the Church their Greek contentiousness, their lack of loyalty and public spirit. The mental stimulus and large freedom of the new faith, where reverence and self-control were wanting, resulted for the time in greater turbulence rather than in a nobler and happier order.

(1) As we have seen, the Apostle insists above all that the Christian community is the building of God . Injury to this “temple of God” is the worst sacrilege (1 Corinthians 3:16 f.). The Church consists of those whom God has “called into the communion of His Son Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:9 ); who “were, in one Spirit, all baptised into one body … and all were made to drink of one Spirit” “the Spirit that is from God” (1 Corinthians 2:12 , 1 Corinthians 12:13 ). This creative, informing Presence determines the nature, constitution and destiny of the Church.

(2) In relation to each other, Christian men form a brotherhood . Paul addresses his readers as “brethren” not by way of courtesy or personal friendliness, but to enforce upon them mutual devotion. Each Christian looks upon his fellow as “the brother for whom Christ died”; to “sin against the brethren” is “to sin against Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:11 ff.). By communion of faith and worship in Christ a union of hearts is created more intimate and tender than the world had ever seen. Christians are to each other as eye to ear and hand to foot (1 Corinthians 12:14 ff.). Each has his honourable place in the body, fixed by God; each is necessary to all, all to each (1 Corinthians 12:21-31 ). The rapturous outburst of chap. 13 is a song to the praise of Love as the law of Christian brotherhood. Knowledge, faith, miracles are useless or unreal unless yoked to love, which points out the “way” to the right employment of every faculty (1 Corinthians 12:31 ). “The collection for the saints” of Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1 ) was dictated by the affection that binds the scattered parts of the Church of God.

(3) The relations of Christians to God the Father, and to their believing brethren, alike centre in their relationship to Christ: the Church is His body “a κοινωνία of the Son of God” (1 Corinthians 1:9 ). The whole consciousness of the new life personal or corporate is grounded there; ἐν Χριστῷ , ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ , ἐν Κυρίῳ , is the Apostle’s standing definition of Christian states and relations. To use Paul’s strong expression (1 Corinthians 6:17 ), “he who is cemented to the Lord , is one spirit”. By the fact that they severally inhere in Him, men are constituted “a body of Christ, and members individually ” (1 Corinthians 12:27 ). No man in Christ is self-complete; the eye finds its mate in the hand, the head in the foot. This reciprocal subordination dictates the law of the life in Christ Jesus and controls all its movements. The Apostle claims to be himself ἔννομος Χριστοῦ , because he “seeks not his own profit but that of the many” (1 Corinthians 10:21 ff.). The question of 1 Corinthians 1:13 , μεμέρισται ὁ Χριστός ; reveals the radical mischief at work in Corinth. The Church was in the eyes of some of its members a kind of debating club or philosophical school, in which αἱρέσεις and σχίσματα were matters of course; to others it was a benefit society, to be used so far as suited inclination and convenience. Against all such debased notions of social life, and selfish abuse of Church privilege, this Epistle is a sustained protest.

This fellowship of Christ is symbolised and sealed by the bread and cup of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16 ff.) the “one loaf” and “one cup” in which all participate, since it is a “ communion of the body of Christ” and “of the blood of Christ”. The “word of the cross” is made by this ordinance a binding “covenant in Christ’s blood”. The Christian Society is thus known as the fraternity of the Crucified; evermore it “proclaims the Lord’s death, till He come” (1 Corinthians 9:26 ). Such fellowship in Christ, appropriating the whole man, the body with the spirit (1 Corinthians 6:15 ; 1 Corinthians 6:19 ), excludes ipso facto all intercourse with “the demons” and feasting at their “table” (1 Corinthians 10:20 ff.); their communion is abhorrent and morally impossible to those who have truly partaken with Christ ( cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14 ff.).

The introductory thanksgiving signally connects the κοινωνία τοῦ Χριστοῦ with His παρουσία . Hope is a uniting principle, along with faith and love (1 Corinthians 13:13 , cf. Ephesians 4:4 ). The Church of God is no mere temporal fabric. The “gold, silver, precious stones” of its construction will brave the judgment fires (1 Corinthians 3:12-15 ). “Those who are Christ’s, at His coming,” form the nucleus of the eternal kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:23-28 ). “The day” which reveals the completed work of Christ “will declare every man’s work, of what sort it is”; each of Christ’s helpers will then receive his meed of “praise from God,” and the approved “saints,” as Christ’s assessors, will “judge the world” and “angels” (1 Corinthians 3:13 , 1 Corinthians 4:5 , 1 Corinthians 6:2 f.).

(4) The regulation of the charismata , the wealth and the embarrassment of this Church, is deduced from the above principles. These powers, however manifold, are manifestations of “the same Spirit,” who inhabits the entire body of Christ and whose “will” determines the various endowments of its several members (1 Corinthians 12:7-11 ). They are distributed, as the bodily functions are assigned to their proper organs, for the service of the whole frame. The possessor of one cannot dispense with, and must not despise, his differently gifted brother (1 Corinthians 12:14 ff.). Yet there is a gradation in the charisms; it is right to covet “the greater” among them. Love supplies the criterion; the most edifying gifts are the most desirable (1 Corinthians 12:31 to 1 Corinthians 14:19 ). Self-restraint must be exercised by gifted persons, and order enforced by the community, so that individual talents may be combined for the common good (1 Corinthians 14:26-33 ). To the direction of these matters a manly practical sense must be applied; “the understanding” aids the service of “the spirit” (1 Corinthians 14:14-20 ).

This charismatic ministry, diffused through the body of Christ, is the basis of all Christian agency. As yet there are only “functions, not formal offices” (Hort); the function is anterior to the office, and may exist without it. Each man in the Church of Corinth spontaneously speaks, sings, serves in whatever fashion (1 Corinthians 14:26 ), in virtue of his χάρισμα , the particular form which the common χάρις assumes in him for the benefit of others. The realisation of the life of Christ in the Christian Society is the aim imposed on each Christian by the Spirit whose indwelling makes him such.

3. The teaching of the Epistle takes a wide outlook in its consideration of the relations of the Christian to the world . This relationship is exhibited mainly on its negative side. The believer in Christ, “elect” and “sanctified” (1 Corinthians 1:2 ; 1 Corinthians 1:27 ), built on the foundation of Jesus Christ into God’s temple, is separated from the world. The Spirit he has from God makes him a πνευματικός ; he has new faculties, and lives in a changed order of things. There are two worlds a new world of the Spirit formed within the old κόσμος but utterly distinct from it, unintelligible to it, and destined soon to overthrow and displace it (1 Corinthians 1:25-29 , 1 Corinthians 2:6-14 , 1 Corinthians 3:18 f., 1 Corinthians 7:31 ).

(1) With the world’s sin the Church of God holds truceless war. Living in the world, Christians cannot avoid contact with its “fornicators, extortioners,” and the rest; but it can and must keep them out of its ranks (1 Corinthians 5:9-13 ); the old leaven is to be “cleansed out” of the “new kneading,” since Christ is our paschal lamb (1 Corinthians 5:6-8 ). The sin of the world culminates in its idolatry; from this the Corinthians, unconditionally, must “flee” (1 Corinthians 10:1-14 ).

(2) The Apostle recognises the natural order of life as one who sees through and beyond it. He cherishes, up to this date, the hope of his Lord’s speedy return (1 Corinthians 15:51 f.). Hence the provisional character of his advices respecting marriage in chap. 7. He writes at a juncture of suspense, when men should keep themselves free from needless ties. He admits the necessity of marriage in the case of many Corinthians, and applies the law of Christ carefully to the mixed unions so troublesome at Corinth. He fears for his disciples the burdens imposed by domestic cares in times so uncertain, and in a society at war with the world. Christians may not “go out of the world,” nor cease to “use” it; but they must hold it lightly and refrain from “using it to the full.”

In discussing the question of the idolothyta Paul gives a glance to the more positive side of the Christian’s relations with external nature. He recalls the attitude of the Old Testament towards earthly blessings by quoting, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof” (1 Corinthians 10:28 ). The idols have no power to usurp God’s creatures, nor to limit His children’s use of them. An enlightened conscience will not scruple at the enjoyment of food sacrificed to an idol, though circumstances will often make this inexpedient (Ver. 8, 1 Corinthians 10:23 ff.). The Jewish distinctions of meat are obsolete (1 Corinthians 6:12 f.); it was in this sense that Paul had enunciated the much-abused maxim, “All things are lawful to me”. The σαρκικὰ of life he enlists in the service of its πνευματικά ; they serve to multiply and strengthen the bonds of mutual necessity arising from our kinship in Christ (1 Corinthians 9:7-12 , cf. Romans 15:27 , Galatians 6:0 ).

In the relationship of man and woman the Apostle sees the natural and spiritual order blended; he passes from the one to the other with perfect congruity, and appeals to the teaching of “nature,” expressed in secular customs of dress, as an exponent of the Divine will (1 Corinthians 11:1-15 ). While censuring the greed and arrogance displayed by the rich (1 Corinthians 11:17 ff.), he leaves distinctions of wealth and rank uncondemned; from the analogy applied in chap. 1 Corinthians 12:13 ff. we infer that he viewed these as a part of “the fashion of this world,” necessary but transient.

(3) Death , like sin which gives to it its “sting,” belongs to the system of the present evil world. Since the resurrection of Christ, death is in principle “abolished” for those who are His (1 Corinthians 15:26 ; 1 Corinthians 15:55 ff.). The resurrection is no mere immortality of the spirit, such as philosophers conceived; it is the reversal of death, the recovery of the entire man from its power. Christ’s people, to be sure, will not be reclad in mortal habiliments, nor resume the corpse that was laid in the grave. The new frame will differ from the old as the plant from its perished seed. Heavenly bodies must surpass earthly in unimaginable ways. Adam and Christ are types of two modes of being: in our present “natural body” we “wear the image” of the former; our future body will be “spiritual” after the image of God’s Son (1 Corinthians 15:35-57 ).

This glorious and inconceivable change will supervene for Christians living or departed alike (1 Corinthians 15:51 f.) at “the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,” which the Corinthian Christians are awaiting (1 Corinthians 1:7 ). This is “the end” of the course of revelation and of God’s dealings with mankind when Christ’s redemption is complete, when His enemies throughout creation are overcome, and He is able to lay at the Father’s feet an empire wholly subdued and everywhere accordant with the Creator’s will. Then “the Son Himself” will give the crowning example of submission, “that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28 ). In this sublime issue the teaching of the Epistle culminates. The relation of the Church of Corinth to God, though marred upon its part yet real and sanctifying, which gave the Apostle his starting-point, has been unfolded in ever-widening circles, until it is seen to embrace the universe; there is formed within it the beginning of a Divine realm that stretches on into unknown worlds, and will bring all finite powers and beings under its sway.

Through this entire development of thought and life Christ is all things. His presence and lordship, the redeeming power of His cross, extend over every field within our view. They cover alike the relations of the individual man to God, of man to man within society, and of man, individually and collectively, to the world around him in the present and before him in the future. Christ is all in all, that through Him finally God may be all in all.



1. LANGUAGE. “The dialect of these Epistles (1 and 2 Cor.) is not Hebraistic, but moves upon the lines of Hellenistic Greek. It finds its analogue, in a multitude of characteristics, in the language of Polybius, the classic of Hellenism, in Epictetus, in Plutarch, in Dionysius of Halicarnassus and others, in such a way as to imply for it and them a common life-sphere ” (Heinrici). Paul has become in this Epistle, more than elsewhere, τοῖς Ἕλλησιν ὡς Ἕλλην . Its atmosphere and colouring and movement are distinctively Greek of the period , when compared, e.g ., with the style of Romans or 2 Thessalonians. While Old Testament references are numerous in 1 Cor., they are employed by way of illustration rather than of proof, and in a Hellenistic not a Rabbinical manner.

The Epistle has a rich vocabulary. Out of the 5, 594 Greek words of the New Testament it employs 963 103 peculiar to itself. In the hapax legomena one expects the idiosyncrasy of the Epistle to manifest itself. Sixty-eight of these about two-thirds are classical, occurring in Attic writers earlier than Aristotle; twenty-two belong to post-classical authors of the κοινή , or to the Greek of the contemporary inscriptions and papyri. In the residue there is one specifically Septuagint term, εἰδωλεῖον (1 Corinthians 8:10 , see note); and the Aramæan sentence, μαρὰν ἀθά . Eleven words are left, so far unknown from other documents, or used only by Christian writers after Paul διερμηνεία , - ευτής , εὐπάρεδρος , ὀλοθρευτής , πιθός (1 Corinthians 2:4 ), περίψημα , συνζητητής , τυπικῶς , ὑπέρακμος , χοϊκός , f1χρηστεύομαι ; but every one of these has close kindred or analogues in common Greek; it is likely enough that all were current in the speech of Corinth: εὐπάρεδρος however, with its transparent sense, has the look of a Pauline coinage. The forty-two additional words of 1 Corinthians (24 if the Pastorals be excluded) limited in their N.T. range to the Pauline Epistles Pauline , but not First-Corinthian, h. lgg . yield a similar analysis.

Out of the 150 words enumerated by Kennedy in his useful Sources of N.T. Greek (pp. 88 91) as “strictly peculiar to the LXX or N.T.,” with the forty or fifty added to this list by including Philo Judæus, twenty-five occur in this Epistle; but apart from Hebrew loan-words (such as πάσχα ), and excluding near relations and correlates of recognised classical or post-classical words, there remains, after the researches of Deissmann (in his Bibelstudien and Neue Bibelstudien ) and other students of the Greek inscriptions and papyri, only a handful, perhaps half a dozen of the twenty-five, that can be called properly and exclusively “Biblical” a scanty residue which further discovery may diminish. So far as 1 Corinthians is concerned, we may dismiss, with Deissmann, “the legend of a Biblical Greek”. What is said of the Greek character of the vocabulary holds good in general of the grammar of this Epistle. The idioms of Paul’s epistolary style form a distinct subject, on which it is not necessary to enter here.

2. TEXT. The Greek Text of this Epistle stands on the same footing as that of the rest all usually contained in the collected volume entitled Ο ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΟΣ . Eighteen of the twenty-three known Pauline uncial Codices belong to 1 Cor.: [6] [7] 1 [8] [9] 232 are complete; [10] [11] 2322 , approximately complete; 2 contains half, and ב H3I222 a fragments of the Epistle. [12] [13] [14] [15] were Codices of the whole New Testament; ב [16] [17] [18] S included the Acts and Catholic Epp., [19] the Apocalypse also. In point of date, [20] belong to the fourth century; ב [21] [22] IQ to the fifth century; [23] [24] to the sixth century; a to the seventh century; the rest to the ninth century. Amongst the numerous correctors of [25] , [26] [27] , of the seventh century, is important here as elsewhere. ב (a palimpsest in the Vatican Library) and 2 (Athous Lauræ) are not yet critically edited or collated: see on these MSS., and for full details respecting the textual material, C. R. Gregory’s Prolegomena to Tischendorf’s N.T. Græce, ed. major . Out of the 480 catalogued minuscule (or cursive) MSS. of Paul few deserve attention. “The ancient elements” found in them “appear with extreme irregularity in different places of the Epistles,” and Western readings in a remarkably small proportion (Westcott and Hort, Introd. to the N.T. in Greek , § 212). The most notable, and those oftenest cited below, are 17 (same as 33 of Gospels and 18 of Acts), 37 (Gospels 69, Acts 31, Revelation 14:0 ), 47 (Gospels 49) all extending to 1 Corinthians 8:10 ; and 67 (Acts 66, Rev. 34) the marginal corrections of an ordinary cursive, which “include a relatively large number of very ancient readings,” akin to those of 2(W.H [28] ); 71; 109 (Acts 96). The 265 numbered Lectionaries containing Acts and Epistles are but partially explored; none as yet appear of sufficient value to be regularly cited.

[6] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[7] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[8] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[9] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[10] Codex Ephraemi (sæc. v.), the Paris palimpsest, edited by Tischendorf in 1843.

[11] Codex Augiensis (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Trinity College, Cambridge, edited by Scrivener in 1859. Its Greek text is almost identical with that of , and it is therefore not cited save where it differs from that MS. Its Latin version, f, presents the Vulgate text with some modifications.

[12] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[13] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[14] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[15] Codex Ephraemi (sæc. v.), the Paris palimpsest, edited by Tischendorf in 1843.

[16] Codex Mosquensis (sæc. ix.), edited by Matthæi in 1782.

[17] Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.

[18] Codex Porphyrianus (sæc. ix.), at St. Petersburg, collated by Tischendorf. Its text is deficient for chap. 1 Corinthians 2:13-16 .

[19] Codex Porphyrianus (sæc. ix.), at St. Petersburg, collated by Tischendorf. Its text is deficient for chap. 1 Corinthians 2:13-16 .

[20] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[21] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[22] Codex Ephraemi (sæc. v.), the Paris palimpsest, edited by Tischendorf in 1843.

[23] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[24] Codex Coislinianus (sæc. vi.), fragments of which survive in several libraries.

[25] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[26] Corrections of א introduced by a scribe of the seventh century.

[27] Corrections of א introduced by a scribe of the seventh century.

[28] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.

The ancient Versions are of fairly uniform character through the N.T. The most valuable are all available here, except the Curetonian Syriac confined to the Gospels.

From the fourth century onwards Patristic references to 1 Corinthians become numerous and full, and afford the critic greater help than in some other Epistles. But the definite and certain aid forthcoming from this quarter is less than might have been expected.

Considering the length of the Epistle, it contains few conspicuous textual difficulties, none of grave exegetical importance. Its text has been from the first carefully preserved. In the following conspectus of various readings all Greek words are spaced in which the Textus Receptus is emended by the note. Where the reading is doubtful, a query follows the alternative reading supplied in the notes a query after the spacing indicating a reading more likely than not, a query without the spacing indicating a possible but less probable reading. Orthographical corrections occurring passim , which belong to the N.T. written dialect as this is represented by the five great uncials and exhibited in the standard N.T. Grammars, must be taken for granted throughout.

Excluding the numberless corrections of the kind just noticed and those concerning only points of grammar or the ordo verborum , there are more than 200 emendations which affect the sense of the Epistle. Chapters 1 Corinthians 7:29 ; 1 Corinthians 7:33 f., 1 Corinthians 15:51 are instances of special complication. The restoration of the true text in 1 Corinthians 3:1 ; 1 Corinthians 3:4 , 1 Corinthians 4:2 , 1 Corinthians 7:3 , 1 Corinthians 11:29 , 1 Corinthians 15:47 brings out the finer edge of Paul’s style. The Received Text of 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 1 Corinthians 7:5 contains ecclesiastical glosses; in 1 Corinthians 4:6 and 1 Corinthians 9:15 it has helped out Paul’s anacolutha; its habit of extending the shorter names of Christ blunts his meaning notably in 1 Corinthians 9:1 and 1 Corinthians 16:22 . The group of (liturgical?) additions to the genuine text in 1 Corinthians 11:24 ff. deserves particular attention. Συνηθεία (1 Corinthians 8:7 ) and ἱερόθυτον (1 Corinthians 10:28 ) are interesting words restored by criticism. A few readings are noted in the digest which have little or no intrinsic worth, but are of interest in their bearing on the history of the text, especially where they illustrate the peculiarities of the “Western” tradition. One conjectural emendation is adopted, viz. , that of Westcott and Hort in ch. 1 Corinthians 12:2 .

3. HISTORY OP THE EPISTLE. This is the first N.T. writing to be cited by name in Christian literature. “Take up,” says Clement of Rome to the Corinthians (1 Ep., xlvii), “the letter of the blessed Paul the Apostle. What was the first thing he wrote to you in the beginning of the Gospel? Of a truth he wrote to you in the Spirit touching himself and Cephas and Apollos, because even then you had formed factions.” Like other post-apostolic writers, Clement shows an imperfect grasp of Pauline teaching, but his Salutation, with §§ xxiv, xxxiv. 8, xxxvii, xlix, and lxv. 2, bears unmistakable impressions of this Epistle. The Epistle of Barnabas (iv. 9 11, v. 6, vi. 5, xvi. 7 10; Hermas, Mand. iv. 4 ( cf. 1 Corinthians 7:39 ); Ignatius, Ad Eph. , xvi, xviii, Ad Rom. , iv. 3, v. 1, ix. 2; Polycarp, Ad Phil. , x. 2, Ad Diognetum , xii. 5; the Didaché , i. 5, iii., 3, iv. 3, x. 6, etc., attest the use of this writing in primitive Christian times. From Irenæus onwards it is quoted as Holy Scripture. The Gnostics used it with predilection. The testimony of early Christianity to its Pauline authorship and Apostolic authority is unequivocal and full.

But our Epistle did not at first take a leading place among N.T. writings. Its influence has been “broken and fitful”. It had little to say directly upon the questions (except that of the Resurrection) which chiefly interested the ante-Nicene Church. Tertullian, however, expounded it in his Adv. Marcionem ; and Origen wrote annotations, partly preserved in Cramer’s Catena . In the fourth century, when “controversies on Church discipline and morals began to sway the minds of thoughtful men, this Epistle came to the front” (Edwards). Many of the Church leaders of that time wrote upon 1 Corinthians. Only fragments of the Greek commentators earlier than John Chrysostom († 407 A.D.) are extant; later expositors the most notable, Theodoret (420 A.D.), Oecumenius ( c. 950), Theophylact (1078) built upon him; his versatile powers shine in the exposition of this Epistle. The Latin commentaries of Pelagius (for long ascribed to Jerome) and of Ambrosiaster (Hilary of Rome?) testify to the wide use of this Scripture in the West in the fourth and fifth centuries. To Thomas Aquinas we owe the only interpretation of value bequeathed by the Middle Ages. Though subordinated, like all mediæval exegesis, to scholastic theology, his exposition contains fresh and vigorous thought.

Colet’s Oxford Lectures on this Epistle (A.D. 1496), and the N.T. Paraphrase of Erasmus (1519), breathe the new spirit of the Reformation, which brought 1 Corinthians to the front again, along with Romans and Galatians. The adjustment of liberty and order, the application of evangelical faith to secular life, the reconstitution of the Church with its sacraments and ministry started a multitude of problems calling for its aid. Calvin excelled himself in his interpretation of this Epistle, offending many of his followers by his breadth and candour. Estius, his Romanist contemporary, is no mean rival. Amongst the German Reformers, Melanchthon, W. Musculus, Builinger handled this Epistle with effect. Beza’s Annotationes , and especially his Latin translation, are always worth consulting. The illustrious Grotius Arminian, humanistic, practical found here a congenial subject. In the seventeenth century 1 Corinthians suffered another eclipse; no Commentary upon it of any mark appeared between the time of Grotius and Bengel. All later interpreters are Bengel’s disciples.

This Epistle at present suffers no lack of attention. Beside the larger critical N.T. Commentaries of Germany those of De Wette, Meyer (re-written, in 1 and 2 Cor., by Heinrici), v. Hofmann, the Handcommentar (Schmiedel), and the Kurtzgefasster (Schnedermann) and Alford’s great work in this country, the following are of special value: Billroth’s Vorlesungen z. d. Briefen an d. Kor . (1833), Rückert’s Deuteronomy 1:0 Br. Pauli an d. Kor . (1836), Neander’s Auslegung d. beiden Br. an d. Kor . (1859), above all, Heinrici’s Das erste Sendschreiben d. Ap. Paulus an d. Kor . (1880), a work rich in illustration of Greek thought and manners, and throwing new light on the social development of primitive Christianity. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. ép. aux Corinthiens (1887: transl. in Clarks’ F. T. Libr. ), though not his most successful exposition, is marked by his fine spiritual and literary qualities, and is full of instructive matter.

English scholars have addressed themselves zealously to 1 Corinthians, which interests them by its relations to the ethical and social questions of the time. A. P. Stanley ( The Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians , 1855) has illuminated the historical and picturesque aspects of the Epistle, C. Hodge (American, 1857) its theological side. Beet tracks the thought of the Apostle with exceeding closeness, and presents it with concise force ( Epistles to the Corinthians , 1882). Freshness and vivacity, with strokes of keen grammatical insight, distinguish the work of T. S. Evans in the Speaker’s Commentary . Ellicott’s interpretation (1887) is a model of exact and delicate verbal elucidation; no better book can be placed in the hands of a working Greek Testament student. The posthumous “Notes” of Lightfoot on chaps. i vii (1895) are written with his ripe knowledge, balanced judgment, and sure touch. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (1885) ranks with Heinrici’s and Ellicott’s as a classical piece of exegesis; it is strong both on the linguistic and philosophical side, and shows a rare power of luminous statement. M. Dods supplies, in The Expositor’s Bible , a genial and masterly homiletic application. Hort’s Christian Ecclesia and Knowling’s Witness of the Epistles to Christ exhibit, in the use they make of this document, its decisive bearing on questions of early Church History and Apologetics.

4. CRITICISM. Until quite recently the authenticity and integrity of 1 Corinthians were never doubted. The criticism of F. C. Baur and the Tübingen School left it standing as one of the “four undisputed Epistles”; Bruno Bauer’s attack ( Kritik d. Paul. Briefe , 1851) was quite isolated. In Holland, however, a more radical criticism has arisen whose exponents are Loman ( Theologisch Tijdschrift , 1882 86), Pierson and Naber ( Verisimilia , 1886), van Manen ( Paulus , i., ii., 1890 91; and Prot. Kirchenzeitung , 1882 86), Meyboom ( Theol. Tijdschr. , 1889 91); aided by Steck ( Gal.-Brief , 1888) in Germany, and “Edwin Johnson” ( Antiqua Mater , 1887) in England which sweeps away these four with the rest, leaving nothing but morsels surviving of the genuine Paul. These scholars premise a slow development, along a single line, in early Christian thought. They claim to be the uniformitarians, as against the catastrophists, of Biblical science. The universalism with which Paul is credited, they set down as the final issue, reached in the second century, of the continued interaction of Judaic and Hellenic thought. In support of this view they point out numerous alleged contradictions within the four Epistles and the traces of various tendencies and times affording evidence of compilation, so reducing them to a many-coloured patchwork, the product of a century of conflict and hardly won progress. They attempt to prove the literary dependence of the four on post-Pauline writings, both within and without the New Testament. This theory presents no consistent shape in the hands of its advocates, and has been subjected to a destructive examination by Holtzmann and Jülicher in their N.T. Einleitungen (recent editions), by Lipsius (Romans) and Schmiedel (1 and 2 Corinthians) in the Handcommentar ; also by Knowling in chap. 3 of his “Witness of the Epistles”. A sound exegesis is the best refutation of extravagances which are, in effect, the reductio ad absurdum of the Baurian method.

Another group of critics, maintaining the genuineness of the Corinthian Epistles in substance, desire to redistribute their contents . Hagge ( Jahrbuch für prot. Theologie , 1876) finds four older documents behind the two; Völter ( Theol. Tijdschrift , 1889) discovers three , making considerable excisions besides; Clemen, who discusses all the schemes of rearrangement in his Einheitlichkeit d. paul. Briefe (II., Die Corintherbr.: cf. Schmiedel in the Handcom., an d. Kor., Einleitung , ii.), dissects the canonical Epistles into five originals. These re-combinations are highly ingenious; Clemen’s scheme, which is really plausible, substitutes a carefully marshalled topical order for the spontaneity and discursiveness of the true epistle. The hypotheses of reconstruction have no historical basis, no external evidence in their favour; their sole appeal is to internal probability. The actual 1 Corinthians vindicates its unity to the sympathetic reader who transports himself into the situation.

Other critics, again, who regard the reconstruction of the Epistle as needless or impracticable, see reason to eliminate certain passages as interpolations . Holsten ( Das Evang. d. Paulus , I., i., 1880), Baljon ( De Tekst d. Brieven aan de Rom., Cor [29] , en Gal. , 1884), Bois ( Adversaria critica de I. ad Cor [30] : Toulouse, 1887), are fertile in suggestions of this kind. Heinrici will not exclude the supposition of “improvements in detail, attempts [made by the first editors] to smooth over or supplement rough or defective passages of the Apostle, which criticism may be able to detect”. Such insertions he finds in the Ἐγὼ δὲ Χριστοῦ of 1 Corinthians 1:12 , and in 1 Corinthians 15:56 : so Schmiedel and Clemen in the latter place. We do not deny the abstract possibility of the Epistle having been “touched up” in this way; glosses such as those the Codices reveal in 1 Corinthians 2:4 , 1Co 4:6 , 1 Corinthians 7:3 , etc., for aught we know may have crept in before , as well as after the divergence of our extant witnesses. None, however, of the alleged “primitive corruptions” are made out convincingly, except perhaps the transcriptional error which W.H [31] have detected in 1 Corinthians 12:2 . Some of these conjectures there will be occasion to notice in the course of the exposition.

[29] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[30] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[31] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.

ANALYSIS. After the Introduction (1 Corinthians 1:1-9 ), the body of the Epistle falls into six principal divisions, as follows: DIV. I., The Corinthian Parties and the Gospel Ministry , 1 Corinthians 1:10 to 1 Corinthians 4:21 ; DIV. II., Questions of Social Morals , 5 7.; DIV. III., Contact with Idolatry , 8 9:1; DIV. IV., Disorders in Worship and Church Life , 1 Corinthians 11:2-14 ; DIV. ., The Resurrection of the Body , 15.; DIV. VI., Business, News, and Greetings , 16. Within these main Divisions, the matter is broken up for clearer elucidation into sixty short Sections, each furnished with a heading and prefatory outline.


acc. = accusative case.

act. = active voice.

adj. = adjective.

ad loc. = ad locum , on this passage.

adv., advl. = adverb, adverbial.

Al. = Alford’s Greek Testament .

aor. = aorist tense.

art. = grammatical article.

Aug. = Augustine.

Bg. = Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

Bm. = A. Buttmann’s Grammar of the N.T. Greek (Eng. Trans., 1873).

Bn. = E. Burton’s Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in the N.T. (1894).

Bt. = J. A. Beet’s St. Paul’s Epp. to the Corinthians (1882).

Bz. = Beza’s Nov. Testamentum: Interpretatio et Annotationes (Cantab., 1642).

cl. = classical.

Cm. = John Chrysostom’s Homiliæ († 407).

comm. = commentary, commentator.

constr. = construction.

Cor. = Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

Cr. = Cremer’s Biblico-Theological Lexicon of N.T. Greek (Eng. Trans.).

Cv. = Calvin’s In Nov. Testamentum Commentarii .

dat. = dative case.

Did. = Διδαχὴ τῶν δωδέκα ἀποστόλων .

diff. = difference, different, differently.

D.W. = De Wette’s Handbuch z. N. T.

eccl. = ecclesiastical.

Ed. = T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians . 2

El. = C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians .

Er. = Erasmus’ In N.T. Annotationes .

E.V. = English Version.

Ev. = T. S. Evans in Speaker’s Commentary .

ex. = example.

exc. = except.

Ff. = Fathers.

fut. = future tense.

Gd. = F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

gen. = genitive case.

Gm. = Grimm-Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the N.T.

Gr. = Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

Heb. = Hebrew.

Hf. = J. C. K. von Hofmann’s Die heilige Schrift N.T. untersucht , ii. 2 (2te Auflage, 1874).

h.l. = hapax legomenon , a solitary expression.

Hn. = C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

impf. = imperfect tense.

impv. = imperative mood.

ind. = indicative mood.

indir. = indirect.

inf. = infinitive mood.

interr. = interrogative.

Jer. = Jerome, Hieronymus.

Lidd. = Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon.

lit. = literal, literally.

Lt. = J. B. Lightfoot’s (posthumous) Notes on Epp. of St. Paul (1895).

mid. = middle voice.

Mr. = Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

nom. = nominative case.

obj. = grammatical object.

Oec. = Oecumenius, the Greek Commentator.

opp. = opposite, opposition.

Or. = Origen.

P. = Paul.

parl. = parallel.

part. = grammatical particle.

pass. = passive voice.

pers. = grammatical person, or personal.

pl. = plural.

pr. = present tense.

pron. = pronoun.

prp., prpl. = preposition, prepositional.

ptp., ptpl. = participle, participial.

R.C. = Roman Catholic.

ref. = reference.

rel. = relative pronoun.

sbj. = subjunctive mood.

sing. = singular number.

Sm. = P. Schmiedel, in Handcommentar zum N.T. (1893).

s.v. = sub voce , under this word.

syn. = synonym, synonymous.

Tert. = Tertullian.

Thd. = Theodoret, Greek Commentator.

Thp. = Theophylact, Greek Commentator.

vb., vbl. = verb, verbal.

Vg. = Latin Vulgate Translation.

W.H. = Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.

Wr. = Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).

The ordinary contractions are employed in the textual notes. Other abbreviations will explain themselves. The references in the marginal parallels and textual notes are made to the Greek Text of the O.T.; in the Commentary, to the English text, unless otherwise stated.

Ads FreeProfile