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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 2

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Verses 1-2

Vv. 1, 2. “And I also, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God; 2. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

In the first word, κἀγώ , and I also, there is contained the connection between this conclusion and the passage as a whole. It does not signify, as de Wette thought: “I, as well as the other apostles,” but: “I also, like the gospel itself.” Paul has abstained, in harmony with the nature of the gospel, from seeking his strength in the help of human eloquence or wisdom: like Evangel, like evangelist.

The form ἔλθων ἦλθον is a frequent expression in Greek (see examples in Edwards), the object of which is to emphasize the verbal notion. The idea the apostle would bring out is that it was with this full-drawn plan that he arrived among them. This method was not the result of a passing state of mind, or of painful experiences he might have made at Corinth in a different way; from his first step in their city, his resolution was taken.

The adjunct καθ᾿ ὑπεροχήν does not bear on the verb ἦλθον , I came; it rather explains the mode of preaching than that of arriving (Meyer). It therefore qualifies the complex phrase ἦλθον καταγγέλλων , I came declaring. The word ὑπεροχή denotes strictly the act of overhanging, or the thing which overhangs; hence superiority, preeminence. By Byzantine writers it is used in the sense, “Your Excellency.” There is a slight touch of irony in the use of this sonorous and emphatic word.

This exhibition of superiority which he disdained might have been that of philosophic depth ( σοφίας ), or that of dialectic and oratorical form ( λόγου ). He would no more have the one than the other.

The term καταγγέλλειν is here chosen deliberately to denote preaching. He came as a man who simply announces ( καταγγέλλων ) a fact. And this is what is expressed by the use of the word τὸ μαρτύριον , the testimony, to designate the gospel. The matter in question is not a system of ideas to be exhibited, but merely a testimony rendered to a fact. The genitive θεοῦ is that of the author and not of the object. The idea: the testimony which has God for its subject, would be much too general and would have little ground in the passage. Paul means that he has simply reproduced the testimony which goes forth from God, inasmuch as it is God who, after having effected salvation, has charged him to proclaim it. The reading of the Sinaït., μυστήριον , followed by Westcott and Hort, Edwards, etc., is absolutely misplaced in this context, though Edwards tries to account for it by reference to σοφία . This word μυστήριον has been imported here from 1 Corinthians 2:7.

We must note well the two adjuncts, πρὸς ὑμᾶς , among you, and ὑμῖν , to you; the more that we shall again meet in 1Co 2:2 with the same idea in the ἐν ὑμῖν , among you. On another theatre the apostle would not perhaps have guarded himself with so much care against the danger of lending to the gospel another force than that which properly belongs to it. But arriving at a city like Corinth, where he knew that philosophical and literary curiosity reigned, the apostle had said to himself that, to prevent the Divine work from being corrupted in its essence, preaching must from the first have the simplest character and address itself solely to the conscience. Origen, and in our day Neander, have thought that this resolution was the consequence of the failure which Paul had experienced at Athens when using a more philosophical procedure in his preaching. But the apostle here represents this method as connected with the very essence of the gospel; and it must be remembered that his discourse at Athens was not preaching strictly so called. He had first of all to explain himself in reference to the accusation raised against him, and only after that could he come to the proclamation of salvation; this is what he was about to do at the moment when he was interrupted.

Verses 1-5

The gospel is not a Wisdom 1:18-2:5.

Such, strictly speaking, is the truth which Paul is called to expound to the Corinthians. He demonstrates it to them:

1. By the irrational character of the central fact of the gospel, the cross: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.

2. By the mode of gaining members to, and the composition of their Church: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.

3. By the attitude taken in the midst of them by the preacher of the gospel: 1 Corinthians 2:1-15.

Verses 1-16

2. The nature of the gospel. 1:18-3:4.

The gospel in its essence is not a wisdom, a philosophical system; it is a salvation. It is this thesis, summarily formulated in the second part of 1 Corinthians 1:17, which the apostle proceeds to develop in the following passage. We have already pointed out, p. 86, the close relation in which it stands to the question that is the subject of this part of the Epistle, that of the parties formed in the Church.

The thesis itself is treated from two points of view which complete one another: in a first passage, 1Co 1:18 to 1 Corinthians 2:5, the apostle demonstrates it directly; in the second, 1Co 2:6 to 1 Corinthians 3:4, he prudently limits its application. Undoubtedly the gospel is not essentially wisdom; but it nevertheless contains a wisdom which is unveiled to the believer in proportion as the new life is developed in him, and which is really the only true wisdom.

Verse 2

Vv. 2. This verse confirms the preceding ( γάρ ), supporting it by the idea that this mode of acting was the result of a plan fixed beforehand. The term ἔκρινα , I judged good, is well explained by Heinrici by means of Cicero's phrase: Mihi judicatum est. Comp. 1Co 7:37 ; 2 Corinthians 2:1. The apostle does not say, “ I determined (judged good) not to know...” but, “ I did not judge good to know...” He intentionally set aside the different elements of human knowledge by which he might have been tempted to prop up the preaching of salvation. He deemed that he ought not to go in quest of such means. The word τοῦ , for or to the end of, which the received text reads before the infinitive εἴδεναι , to know, emphasizes, a little too much perhaps, the idea of a resolution taken after reflection.

Paul might have used the word say instead of know. But the latter implies a renunciation, not only outward but inward, of the use of those foreign elements.

By Jesus Christ, the apostle understands His manifestation in general, His life, death, and Messianic dignity. Yet, while confining himself to this elementary theme of preaching, he might still have found means to recommend Jesus to the attention and admiration of the wise; in Jesus Himself he believed that he should exhibit only the side that was least attractive to human wisdom, but alone able to save,

Jesus Christ crucified, so much did he dread giving rise to cases of adherence which would have rested only on an intellectual or aesthetical, and consequently superficial, attraction. The ἐν ὑμῖν , among you, however, leaves room for the idea that, where he has not to reckon with this danger, he will allow himself to go beyond this limit; comp. 1 Corinthians 2:6. But the true servant of Christ thinks of converting before giving himself up to the pleasure of instructing.

In 1 Corinthians 2:3, before finishing the development of this idea, the apostle reminds the Corinthians how his personal attitude at Corinth corresponded to this humble form which he determined to give to His teaching.

Verse 3

Vv. 3. “And I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.”

The words καὶ ἐγώ , and I, are not the repetition of the κἀγώ of 1 Corinthians 2:1; they announce a new feature subordinate to the preceding and in agreement with it. As he did not seek to render his preaching brilliant in matter or form, so in his personal demeanour he did not affect the airs of one assured of success. He felt and showed only one feeling, that of his own weakness. Addressing himself to this Gentile community, he had not, as among Jews, the point of support supplied by the prophecies. On the other hand, he surrendered what might have been his help in his new surroundings depth of thought and charm of language. What remained to him? Humanly speaking, he felt like one disarmed; hence the ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ , in weakness. And this feeling of weakness went the length of fear, when he weighed the gravity of a work like his, and the responsibility it laid on him. By repeating the prep. ἐν before τρόμῳ , “and in trembling,” which Paul does not do in the other instances when he joins these two substantives (2 Corinthians 7:15; Ephesians 6:5; Php 2:12 ), he distinguishes the second from the first more precisely; fear even produced in him a sort of physical tremor. Perhaps he also felt himself humbled by the weakness of his outward appearance ( 2Co 10:10 ). All this sufficiently explains the terms of this verse, without the necessity of having recourse to fear of persecutions, of which Chrysostom thinks, or even to the supposition of ill-health, according to Rückert. It is interesting to compare the picture which Paul here traces of his inward frames with the narrative of the external facts of his ministry in Acts 18:0. The first of these pictures remarkably completes the second, and explains why the Lord found it necessary to grant to His servant the vision, related Acts 18:9, and to say to him, like a friend encouraging his friend: “Fear not; speak and be not silent.”

The words I was with you embrace not only his public teachings, but his private conversations and all his personal relations.

What a contrast between this humble, even timid, attitude of the apostle, and the bold confidence of the Greek rhetorician stepping before his auditory as a man sure of the success of his person and piece!

Verses 4-5

Vv. 4, 5. “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; 5. that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

The apostle returns from his person to his preaching. Λόγος , speech, and κήρυγμα , preaching, have been distinguished in many ways: “My discourses in general, and especially my preaching” (Meyer); or, “My private conversations and my public discourses” (Neander, Rückert, etc.). I rather think that λόγος applies to the matter, and κήρυγμα to the form; the λόγος is the gospel itself; the κήρυγμα is the testimony the apostle renders to it. Neither the one nor the other has been corrupted in his work by the infiltration of human elements or by self - seeking. The adj. πειθός is not known in classic Greek, in which the word πιθανός is used for persuasive. But it is nevertheless regularly formed from the verb πείθω ; comp. φειδός , from φείδομαι ; and it is possible that in the apostle's day πειθός belonged only to the spoken language. Some documents have substituted for this adjective the dative πειθοῖ of the substantive πειθώ , persuasion ( Itala: “in persuasione sapientiae verbi”). Heinrici adopts this reading, though it is almost entirely destitute of authorities, because of the fine contrast between this word πειθώ and the following term, ἀπόδειξις . But in that case we should have to read λόγου or λόγων , which are only found in very few authorities, and which are evidently corrections. The adj. ἀνθρωπίνης , human, found in the received text, is insufficiently supported.

Instead of endeavouring to satisfy the understanding by means of a system ( wisdom) ably presented ( persuasive discourses), the apostle has sought his strength in action of a wholly different nature, in what he calls “the demonstration of Spirit and of power. ” The word ἀπόδειξις indicates a clearness which is produced in the hearer's mind, as by the sudden lifting of a veil; a conviction mastering him with the sovereign force of moral evidence; comp. 1 Corinthians 14:24-25.

The gen. πνεύματος , of Spirit, is the complement of cause; it is the Divine Spirit alone who thus reveals the truth of salvation; comp. Ephesians 1:17-18. We have to represent this Spirit to ourselves acting at once in him who speaks and in him who hears, in such a way as to make the light pass, through the intervention of the spoken word, from the mind of the one into the mind of the other. The second gen. δυνάμεως , of power, is the complement of quality: it denotes the mode of the Spirit's action; it is, so to speak, a taking possession of the human soul, of its understanding and will, by the inward ascendency of the truth. Chrysostom, and in our day, Beet, apply these expressions to the outward miracles which St. Paul sometimes wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 11:12; Rom 15:19 ). Such an interpretation, allowable in the infancy of exegesis, should now be no longer possible. The apostle has just been stigmatizing the going after miracles on the part of the Jews, and we are to suppose him saying here that he sought to render the faith of the Corinthians immovable by the evidence of miracles!

Verse 5

Vv. 5. ῞Ινα , in order that, indicates the apostle's object in the course he has followed. He was not ignorant that a faith, founded on logical arguments, could be shaken by other arguments of the same nature. To be solid, it must be the work of the power of God, and in order to be that, proceed from a conviction of sin and a personal appropriation of salvation, which the Spirit of God alone can produce in the human soul. The preacher's task in this work lies, not in wishing to act in the place and stead of the Spirit with the resources of his own eloquence and genius, but in opening up the way for Him by simple testimony rendered to Christ.

By these last words, we are brought back to the point of departure of the whole passage, 1 Corinthians 1:18: the gospel is not a wisdom, but a power; not a philosophy, but a salvation. If the Corinthians were divided into parties, it was because they had failed to know this truth. By making the gospel a system, they had changed the Church into a school, and its ministers into teachers and rhetoricians. Hence it is that St. Paul begins by re-establishing in the mind of the Corinthians the true notion of the gospel. But some of his expressions might lead us to suppose that wisdom was banished from the domain of the gospel. Now this was not what the apostle had meant; and it is this possible misunderstanding which he sets aside in the following passage, where he shows that if the gospel is not essentially wisdom, it nevertheless contains a wisdom, and that the true wisdom, superior to all that the human understanding could have discovered.

Verse 6

Vv. 6. “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect, yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought.”

The δέ is rather restrictive than adversative. It is intended to limit the idea previously developed, that the cross is not a wisdom. In the case of him who has once experienced the salvation it brings to man, it does not fail to become a light which illumines his understanding and directs his whole life. It is obvious in this sense why the term σοφία , wisdom, heads the sentence in the original: it is the essential word, and in a manner the summary, of the passage.

This first proposition has been understood in two very different ways. Some (Chrysostom, Luther, Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Olshausen, Heinrici, etc.) think that Paul, when speaking of οἱ τέλειοι , the perfect, means all believers, and that σοφία , wisdom, denotes the gospel in the ordinary sense of the word. “But,” the apostle says, it is held, “this preaching of the cross, which seems folly to unbelievers, is wisdom in the eyes of believers.” This meaning seems to us inadmissible. The term οἱ τέλειοι , the perfect, is too special to be taken as the simple equivalent of οἱ πιστοί , believers. In chap. 1Co 3:1 the word τέλειος is replaced by πνευματικός , spiritual, and the latter is opposed to νήπιος , the infant, which cannot speak yet. The same contrast reappears in τέλειος γίνεσθαι and νηπίαζειν , 1 Corinthians 14:20; comp. also Ephesians 4:13-14; Hebrews 5:13-14. Now in all these passages νήπιος denotes, not the unconverted, but believers, believers, however, who are only at the first steps of the new life, and whose conversion needs yet to be confirmed. “Ye are yet carnal,” says the apostle to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 3:3, to explain this state of infancy. The word perfect has therefore a meaning much narrower than believer. It denotes the state of the mature man, in opposition to that of the infant. Paul thereby denotes believers who have reached, not absolute perfection (comp. Php 3:12-17 ), but the full maturity of Christian faith and life. Heinrici objects that in Christianity there is no aristocracy, and Holsten that according to Paul every believer has received the Spirit, and that the Spirit cannot make progress. To the first objection Rückert has already made answer, that every believer being called to that state of maturity, all aristocratic distinctions are ipso facto banished. And as to the second, if the Spirit is not open to progress, the believer's life may be gradually penetrated by this perfect principle. Does not the apostle say to the Galatians ( 1Co 4:19 ): “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.” The perfect are therefore in his eyes the most confirmed Christians in whom the new life has attained the normal stature of Christ ( Eph 4:13-14 ).

The form λαλεῖν ἐν is equally incompatible with the interpretation before us. The ἐν , in, would in that case mean: in the eyes of, in the judgment of. This preposition may sometimes have this meaning with verbs containing the idea of being or appearing; comp. 1 Corinthians 14:11. But with the verb λαλεῖν this sense is inadmissible. The in cannot be taken otherwise than in the local sense: among, in the midst of. Paul means that when he is in the midst of confirmed believers, mature Christians, he feels himself free to set forth the treasures of wisdom contained in the gospel; comp. Colossians 2:3: “Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” For then the question is no longer one of conversion to be wrought or confirmed. He can therefore, as he says, 1 Corinthians 3:1, present the gospel, not as the milk of babes, but as the meat of the strong. This is the meaning which has been recognised by Erasmus, Bengel, de Wette, Rückert, Reuss (“as to philosophy, I preach it to mature men”), Osiander, Neander, Hofmann, Edwards, etc. It is mistaken or obscured in Oltramare's version: “Nevertheless it is wisdom which we teach among the perfect.”

To the wisdom which Paul reserved for exposition to full-grown men in Christ there doubtless belonged what he expounds in passages such as Romans 9-11 (God's plan in regard to the salvation of Jews and Gentiles), in the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians (the cross as the centre of the history of the universe, as the bond of union between the first and the second creation, as the means of first uniting Jews and Gentiles, and then men and angels, under the sovereignty of Christ, their common head); finally, also in chap. 15 of our Epistle (the Christian eschatology). These admirable designs of God, which have guided and still guide all His dispensations toward men, and whose gradual realization is being effected by the Christian economy, were things which Paul expounded as a teacher, not as a missionary. For they can indeed promote the growth of believers in knowledge and love; but they are not what is needed to convert sinners. It is not the light which rays from the cross which changes the heart, it is the cross itself.

The subject of the verb λαλοῦμεν might be: “I and the other apostles;” but the first verses of chap. 3 show that it is of himself including, perhaps, his fellow-labourers that Paul is thinking. His object, indeed, is not to set forth a theory regarding the preaching of the gospel in general, but to justify the manner in which he himself exercised this ministry at Corinth.

The term λαλεῖν is purposely chosen; it denotes communications which are not, like the καταγγέλλειν or the κηρύσσειν , preachings properly so called.

It has been asked whether the apostle meant by the term τέλειος to allude to the position of those initiated into the Greek mysteries ( τελεταί ), and there has been alleged in favour of this supposition the word μυστήριον , mystery, which he uses in 1 Corinthians 2:7. But in the Epistle to the Hebrews the term τέλειος is used in the same sense as here, and yet nothing is less probable than an allusion to the Greek mysteries in that letter. And as to the word μυστήριον , it refers, in the language of St. Paul, not to a fact into which one man initiates another, but to a plan hidden in God, and which He alone unveils. The word, besides, frequently drops from the pen of the apostle, and that where all allusion to the mysteries would be out of place (Romans 11:25; Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:4; Colossians 1:27, etc.).

In the following passage the apostle successively develops the three terms embraced in the theme which is stated, 1 Corinthians 2:6 a:

Σοφίαν , wisdom, 1 Corinthians 2:6-9.

Λαλοῦμεν , we speak, 1 Corinthians 2:10-13.

᾿Εν τοῖς τελείοις , among the perfect, 1 Corinthians 2:14-16.

Thereafter he concludes by applying all he has just said to his own teaching, 1 Corinthians 3:1-4.

Verses 6-9

Vers. 6b-9.

The apostle describes wisdom, of which he speaks from the viewpoint of its superhuman origin ( 1Co 2:6-7 ), then from that of its impenetrable obscurity to the natural understanding ( 1Co 2:8-9 ).

And first, its origin, what it is not (1 Corinthians 2:6 b), and what it is ( 1Co 2:7 ).

This wisdom is not a conception due to the mind of the world, nor even to the genius of its most illustrious representatives. The δέ indicates the resumption of the idea of σοφία , which is about to be developed; comp. the δικαιοσύνη δέ , Romans 6:22.

On αἰών , see on 1 Corinthians 1:20.

The ἄρχοντες , princes of this world, are not, as has been thought by Origen, Ambrosiaster, Bertholdt, the demons. Some have alleged the Johannine expression ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου and Ephesians 6:12. But how could Paul say of the demons, in 1 Corinthians 2:8, that if they had known Jesus Christ, they would not have crucified Him? Precisely the opposite would be the case. It is equally mistaken to think with others, of the Greek philosophers, who could not be accused of having crucified the Lord ( 1Co 2:8 ). Paul rather means those who in his time directed the national mind of Israel, those who were the authorities in the Sanhedrim, and perhaps, also, of the Jewish and Gentile representatives of political power in Israel, such as Herod and Pilate. These representatives of human intelligence and politics took part directly or remotely in the execution of the Divine plan, without even suspecting it. And so its growing accomplishment goes to make them disappear. The present participle τῶν καταργουμένων , who are abolished, is connected by Meyer with the near date of the Parousia, and by Rückert with God's unchangeable decree. It seems to me that it is simpler to regard it as indicating the actual fact: in proportion as the power of the gospel increases on the earth, the representatives of human wisdom lose their dominion, which will end by escaping from their hands altogether.

In the following verse the apostle indicates the true origin of evangelical wisdom.

Verses 6-16

The gospel contains a Wisdom 2:6-3:4.

The apostle had already declared in passing, 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, that for Jews and Gentiles Christ crucified, received by faith, becomes not only the power of God, but also the wisdom of God. This is the thought which he develops in the passage, which forms in a sense the antithesis, and thereby the complement of the preceding. The first proposition of 1Co 2:6 states its theme, just as the second part of 1Co 1:17 contained the summary of the passage 1Co 1:18 to 1 Corinthians 2:5.

Verse 7

Vv. 7. “But we speak the wisdom of God, which is a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God preordained before the ages, unto our glory;”

This verse is the antithesis of the foregoing one ( ἀλλά , but). The term λαλοῦμεν , we speak, is repeated because of the remoteness of this verb in 1 Corinthians 2:6.

The gen. θεοῦ , of God, is that of origin and possession. The workshop whence this plan has proceeded, where it remains shut up till its revelation, is the mind of God Himself. The ἐν μυστηρίῳ , in mystery, or in the form of mystery, is naturally joined with the principal term σοφία , wisdom, which the apostle aims to distinguish positively, in opposition to the negative definitions of the former verse. The word mystery has taken in theological language a meaning which it has not in the New Testament, to wit, a truth which human reason cannot fathom. In Paul's writings it simply signifies a truth or a fact which the human understanding cannot of itself discover, but which it apprehends as soon as God gives the revelation of it. Thus Jesus says, Luke 8:10: “It is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom,” and Paul applies the word mystery to things which we perfectly comprehend; for example, Romans 16:25, to the general plan of salvation; Ephesians 3:4, to the calling of the Gentiles; Romans 11:25, to the restoration of the Jews; in our Epistle, 1 Corinthians 15:51, to the transformation of the faithful at the moment of the Parousia. The term is here contrasted with a system having the spirit of man for its author ( 1Co 2:6 ), and which consequently does not need to be revealed. Many commentators, Erasmus, Rückert, de Wette, Osiander, Meyer, Hofmann, Edwards, Beet, make the adjunct ἐν μυστηρίῳ depend on the verb λαλοῦμεν : “We speak of this wisdom in the form of a mystery;” or, as Beet says, “in words containing a secret of infinite value, and which only they understand to whom God reveals it, the τέλειοι .” But this idea of a speaking on the part of the apostle taking place mysteriously, and, as it were, in secret, is foreign to all we know of his procedure. The sense equally contradicts the use of the term μυστήριον by Paul; for the word refers, not to the relation of one man to another, but to that of God to man. Meyer attempts to meet this last objection; he translates: “We speak this wisdom as being a Divine mystery;” but the phrase λαλεῖν ἐν cannot have this meaning. Other commentators, such as Theodoret and Thomas Aquinas, connect ἐν μυστηρίῳ with τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην : “the wisdom hidden in the form of a mystery.” But what would this adjunct add to the idea of the participle? And besides, the article τήν would have its natural place before the adjunct. The simplest connection is that which we have followed in beginning; it is that which the position of the words itself indicates. The absence of the article τήν before ἐν μυστηρίῳ has been objected; but when the adjunct is closely united in one and the same idea with the substantive on which it depends, the omission of the article is legitimate; comp. the phrase ἡ δωρεὰ ἐν χάριτι ( Rom 5:15 ).

The epithet τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην , the hidden, that is to say, which has remained hidden (perfect participle), is not a repetition. It adds to the idea of the mode, contained in ἐν μυστηρίῳ , the notion of time. This plan, while a secret conceived by God and known to Him alone, might have been revealed much earlier, from the beginning of the existence of humanity; but it pleased Him to keep silence about it for long ages ( μυστηρίου χρόνοις αἰωνίοις σεσιγημένου , Romans 16:25; “which was not revealed to other generations as it is now,” Eph 3:5 ). It might even be thought that by the article τήν , the, this long-concealed wisdom is contrasted with another which God had unveiled long before, that of which Paul has spoken, 1 Corinthians 1:21, which was displayed from the creation of the world in the works of nature ( Rom 1:20 ).

To these two features which distinguish the wisdom revealed in the gospel from all the products of the human understanding, its higher origin and its non-revelation up to that hour, the apostle adds a third: its saving end in behalf of man, the eternal object of Divine concern.

Some have thought that the term ὁρίζειν , to mark out by limit, to decree, did not suit the idea of wisdom, and have thought we should understand an infinitive like γνωρίζειν , to make known: “which God had determined...to make known.” If this wisdom were only a system or a theory, the verb ὁρίζειν might really be applied to it without difficulty. But it should be remembered that the subject in question is a plan to be realized in history, and to which consequently the term decree is perfectly suitable. The preposition πρό , added to the verb, is afterwards developed in the words, before the ages. It is therefore an eternal decree. No doubt eternity is not a prius in relation to time; to hold this would be to bring it into time. The πρό , before, therefore expresses in the inadequate form of temporal priority a superiority of dignity, in relation to the decree of creation. The universe exists with a view to man, and man exists with a view to glory. This object, δόξα , was the logical prius of all that is, of the existence of man himself. These words, for our glory, find their explanation in other sayings of the apostle, particularly Romans 8:29: “He hath predestinated us to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren;” Romans 8:17: “Heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ;” 1 Corinthians 15:28: “That God may be all in all.” A society of intelligent and free beings, of men perfectly holy, made capable of reflecting God's glory, and of serving as instruments for His holy action, in filial communion with the Father and in fraternal union with the Son: such was the end which God set before Him in creating the human race. All His particular plans are subordinate to this end. To understand all things from this viewpoint, is the wisdom of which Paul speaks; it is this Divine wisdom which, long kept hidden, is at length unveiled to mankind by the gospel of the cross.

In the two following verses St. Paul demonstrates the superhuman and consequently mysterious nature of this wisdom, such as he has just described it negatively and positively in 1 Corinthians 2:6-7. He gives two proofs of it: first, a known fact, 1 Corinthians 2:8; next, a prophetic saying, 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Verse 8

Vv. 8: “which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;”

The idea of wisdom being that which dominates the entire passage, the pronoun ἥν , which, should not be made relative to the word δόξαν , glory, which expresses only a secondary idea, but to the phrase σοφίαν θεοῦ , wisdom of God. What proves this wisdom to be a conception superior to all human thought, is the fact that when it was realized in an individual person, the princes of human thought did not discern it; these princes are those spoken of in 1 Corinthians 2:6. They had no perception of the glorious destination which God has assigned to humanity, and hence they rejected and crucified Him, who first realized it in His person. The apostle characterizes Jesus Christ as the Lord of glory. This title is in keeping with the term δόξα , glory, by which he has defined the end of the Divine decree. Glory is the lustre shed by the Divine perfections. This lustre is one day to shine in man, and Jesus Christ, as the first, has realized in Himself that splendour which He is to communicate to all believers. If the representatives of Jewish wisdom and Roman power had understood the higher glory which Jesus was bringing to them, they would undoubtedly have sacrificed that which they possessed. But as they did not discern the former, they chose at any price to maintain their earthly power, and they sought to destroy Him at whose feet they should have abdicated; comp. the parable of the husbandman and the deliberation of the Sanhedrim, John 11:47. There is an intentional antithesis between the term crucified, which indicates the lowest degree of humiliation and suffering, and the title Lord of glory. To this proof from fact, the apostle adds the Scriptural demonstration, 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Verse 9

Vv. 9: “but as it is written: things which the eye hath not seen, and which the ear hath not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”

The grammatical connection of this verse has been variously understood. Erasmus, Estius, Meyer (last ed.), Heinrici, Edwards make ἅ , things which, the object of λαλοῦμεν , we speak, 1 Corinthians 2:7, and consequently in apposition to the wisdom of God. But this relation is grammatically forced and logically inadmissible: the apostle does not mean to point out what he speaks among the perfect, but to prove the nature of that wisdom to be sublime and inaccessible to man. Hofmann thinks we should begin a new sentence with 1 Corinthians 2:9; the verb on which the ἅ depends would then be ἀπεκάλυψεν , He revealed, 1 Corinthians 2:10: “What eye hath not seen...God hath revealed to us...” The δέ of 1Co 2:10 would not be absolutely opposed to this explanation (see on 1Co 1:23 ). But the καθὼς γέγραπται , as it is written, would be strangely placed at the beginning of this subordinate sentence. And then, instead of beginning 1Co 2:10 with ἡμῖν δέ , but unto us, the apostle ought rather to have written ἀπεκάλυψεν δὲ ἡμῖν ὁ θεός ; for the antithesis between the idea of keeping concealed and that of revealing would alone account for the δέ placed at the beginning of the principal sentence. De Wette and Osiander prefer to hold an anacolouthon; the phrase, “things which no eye hath seen,” is thrown in, they say, as a description which remains grammatically suspended, “being lost,” as de Wette says, “in a mysterious remoteness.” It seems to us more natural simply to understand the notion of the verb to be in this sense: “It is indeed this very wisdom which is described in the words: Things which the eye hath not seen, etc.”

The ἀλλά , but, signifies, “But it could not be otherwise, for Scripture had spoken in these terms.” It is difficult to know to what passage of our holy books this quotation refers. Nowhere in the Old Testament are these words literally found. Chrysostom and Theophylact did not know whether they belonged to a prophecy now lost, or if they were taken from Isaiah 52:15: “They to whom it had not been told shall see, and they who had not heard it shall understand.” Origen thought they were taken from an apocryphal writing entitled the Apocalypse of Elias. But nowhere do we find the apostle making similar quotations from uncanonical books, and it cannot be supposed that he would have applied to such books the formula as it is written, which would evidently imply the idea of Divine authority. Meyer acknowledges this; only he holds that, by a slip of memory, the apostle, while quoting this apocryphal book, thought he was quoting Isaiah; so also Weiss ( Bibl. Theol., p. 274). I cannot see the necessity of so strange a supposition. Jerome already pointed out the true source of this quotation: it is the passage Isa 64:4 combined with Isaiah 65:17: “Men have not heard nor perceived, neither hath the eye seen a God beside Thee which worketh for him that waiteth for Him...”; and, “The former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” Clement of Rome, who, in chap. xxxiv. of his Epistle to the Corinthians, quotes this passage from Paul (with the combination of the two sayings of Isaiah), so well understands it is from the book of this prophet that Paul draws, that he substitutes for the last words of our verse: τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν , for them that love Him, the exact expression of Isaiah (in the LXX.: τοῖς ὑπομενοῦσιν αὐτόν , for them that wait for Him. Similar combinations of several prophetic quotations are not rare in Paul's writings; comp. Romans 9:33, where are united Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 8:14; and Romans 11:26-27, where Isaiah 59:20; Isa 27:9 are blended in one). In the first passage, the prophet, speaking of the work which God will accomplish in favour of His exiled people when He will restore them, says to God: “We can wait until such a God as Thou, like whom is no other, do for us things which surpass all that has been seen and told until now, and all that can be imagined.” Or indeed we may suppose that Isaiah transfers himself to the time when all will be accomplished, and that he means: “Never will there have been seen or heard or imagined such things as those which Thou shalt have done for us.” No doubt the expression, come into the mind of man, taken from Isaiah 65:17, refers in the context to the memory of things already accomplished, but accomplished merely in prophetic intuition. By combining the three terms seeing, hearing, and entering into the heart, the apostle wishes to designate the three means of natural knowledge: sight, or immediate experience; hearing, or knowledge by way of tradition; finally, the inspirations of the heart, the discoveries of the understanding proper. By none of these means can man reach the conception of the blessings which God has destined for him. From Irenaeus to Meyer, a host of commentators have applied the ἅ , things which, in Paul's sense, to the felicities and glories of heaven. But we have seen, 1 Corinthians 2:6 a, that the Divine wisdom of which Paul speaks embraces the kingdom of God in its present form; and the words of 1 Corinthians 2:12: “That we might know the things that are freely given to us of God,” clearly show that Paul is thinking of the knowledge the believer receives of all the riches of the Divine plans toward him and toward the Church, of what he himself calls, Ephesians 3:18, “their breadth and length, and depth and height.” The blessings to come are of course comprehended in such phrases.

The reading ὅσα of A B C has been admitted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, and rightly, as it seems to me, for there is somewhat of enthusiasm in the saying: “those great things which God has prepared.” For the will do, ποιήσει (LXX.), Paul substitutes the word ἡτοίμασεν , has prepared, used also by Clement. The idea is the same, for what God will do in the future is precisely what He has prepared in the past. The term ἑτοιμάζειν , to prepare, recalls the words of Jesus: “the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” ( Mat 25:34 ), Instead of τοῖς ὑπομενοῦσιν αὐτόν , “for them that wait for Him with perseverance,” the apostle substitutes τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν , for them that love Him. This change arises from the fact that the Christian now enjoys the salvation which the Israelite was still waiting for, and is grateful for it to its Author. Thus is exhausted the development of the idea of wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:6 a).

Verse 10

Vv. 10. “But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”

The δέ is strongly adversative: “This wisdom was hidden, but it has been revealed to us.” The for, which the Vatic. reads here, could only refer to the, we speak, of 1 Corinthians 2:7; but the distance between these two words is too great for this connection to be natural.

The dat. to us heads the proposition, to contrast strongly those denoted by this pronoun with the world and its princes to whom the Divine wisdom is veiled. This pronoun neither refers to Christians in general, nor, as Edwards thinks, to the perfect in particular; for the ἡμεῖς , we, to whom the revelation is granted, are evidently identical with the we, the subject of λαλοῦμεν , we speak, in 1Co 2:6 ; 1 Corinthians 2:13. For it is that they may be able to speak that they receive the revelation. Now, in 1 Corinthians 2:16, they are expressly contrasted with the τέλειοι , the perfect, and à fortiori with the members of the Church in general. The we can therefore only designate the apostles collectively, or Paul himself, with his fellow - labourers. But Paul has no reason to speak here of the other apostles; it is his teaching at Corinth which he wishes to justify ( 1Co 3:1-4 ). It is therefore of himself, and no doubt also of Silas and Timothy (comp. 2Co 1:19 ), that he is here speaking.

It is natural to place the verb ἀπεκάλυψε , has revealed, immediately after ἡμῖν , as is done by almost all the Mjj., and not after the subject ὁ θεός , God (T. R.); this is the decisive act from which follows that of the λαλεῖν , to speak, 1 Corinthians 2:13. ᾿Αποκαλύπτειν , to remove the veil. The text runs, has revealed to us, without an object; it is not the thing revealed, it is the act of revelation which Paul would emphasize. By the aorist, he goes back to a determinate point of time, which for him can only be that which he describes, Galatians 1:12; Galatians 1:16. There is undoubtedly a revelation also for the simple believer; comp. Ephesians 1:17: “That God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” But this revelation is only secondary. It is solely the reproduction of the primordial revelation granted to the first interpreters of the Divine thought, and it takes place only through the intervention of the latter. Between the two there is therefore a difference, not only of degree, but of nature and quality. The former, contained originally in the apostolic declaration, is now found in the writings wherein that declaration is deposited, which are thus the permanent means of which God makes use to effect the latter ( Joh 17:20 ).

The agent by whom God wrought this unveiling in the mind of the apostle is the Spirit. The pronoun αὐτοῦ , of Him, is probably a gloss. The following proposition serves to explain how the Spirit can fill this revealing function: He searcheth all things. Instead of ἐρευνᾷ , א A B C read ἐραυνᾷ ; an Alexandrine form. Was it the apostle who used it, or the Alexandrine copyists who introduced it? We read ραυ Joh 5:39 in א B; Joh 7:52 in א B T; Rom 8:27 in א ; 1Co 11:33 in א A B; 1Pe 1:11 in א B, and Rev 2:23 in A C.

There is no reason for restricting the πάντα , all things, to Divine things; on the contrary, the following proposition would in that case be a mere tautology. The Divine Spirit is the luminous principle which possesses and from which proceeds all knowledge; it is in His light alone that everything comes to the light where there are consciousness and intelligence.

The deep things of God designate God's essence, then His attributes, volitions, and plans. The operation of searching, here ascribed to the Spirit, has been applied by De Wette to the believer who has received the Spirit, or, what comes to the same thing, to the Spirit as dwelling in the Church and acting through believers. The sense would thus be, that through possession of the Spirit, man can penetrate all things, even the deepest purposes of God; comp. 1 Corinthians 2:16. But (1) this sense does not accord with the contrast between the verbs reveal and search; the first is in the past and aorist, and consequently indicates a determinate Divine act, wrought once for all; the second, which is in the present, denotes, on the contrary, a permanent act, which, once the act of revelation is effected, would no longer have any reason for its existence if it was really man's. On the contrary, it is clear that this permanent act of searching, applied to the unceasing activity of the Spirit in God, serves to explain ( γάρ , for) the revealing function of that Spirit. (2) If Paul meant to speak in 1Co 2:10 of the working of the Divine Spirit dwelling in man to penetrate the Divine decrees, how would he compare this working in 1Co 2:11 with that of man's spirit searching what passes within himself? The two compared relations would be incommensurate. Finally (3), in the passage, 1 Corinthians 13:10-12, Paul declares that here below we know only fragmentarily and as in a dim mirror; how could he say here that the Christian's knowledge extends to all things and penetrates even what is deepest in God? Our passage, therefore, certainly relates to the intra-Divine activity of the Holy Spirit.

Verses 10-13

Vers. 10-13.

With 1Co 2:10 the apostle passes to the development of the second term of his theme: λαλοῦμεν , we speak. This wisdom, being God's conception, and inaccessible to the mind of man, how can Paul expound it to his brethren? 1Co 2:10-12 indicate the means by which he received the knowledge of it; and 1Co 2:13 describes the manner, in keeping with those means, in which he declares it.

Verse 11

Vv. 11. “For what man knoweth the things of man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God hath no man known, but the Spirit of God.”

To make intelligible to his readers this inward activity of the Divine Spirit, the apostle invites them to contemplate the working of man's spirit in man himself. For man is made in the image of God, and that precisely in virtue of his spiritual nature. There is in every man a life hidden from all eyes, a world of impressions, anxieties, aspirations, and struggles, of which he alone, in so far as he is a spirit, that is to say, a conscious and personal being, gives account to himself. This inner world is unknown to others, except in so far as he reveals it to them by speech. Such is the likeness of what passes in the phenomenon of revelation between God and man.

In thus appealing to what we call in philosophical language the fact of consciousness, Paul knows well that he is teaching nothing new. Hence the interrogative form: “What man knoweth...?” He adds, when speaking of the spirit of man, τὸ ἐν αὐτῷ , which is in him. He did not express himself so when speaking of the Spirit of God. No doubt because he would not have it supposed that in his eyes the analogy was complete. The Spirit is not in God, as if God were for him a place.

In the second proposition we must read, with almost all the Mjj., ἔγνωκεν , not οἶδεν , which has undoubtedly been imported from the first sentence. The difference is, as Edwards well puts it, that the latter denotes the knowledge of a fact, the former the knowledge of the inner nature of the thing. The latter is well rendered in Latin by cognitum habet. After this short explanation ( 1Co 2:11 ), the apostle, in 1 Corinthians 2:12, connects with the principal idea that of the ἀπεκάλυψε , 1 Corinthians 2:10: “There was in our favour an act of revelation.” And as, in 1 Corinthians 2:6-7, he had contrasted worldly wisdom with Divine wisdom, he contrasts, in 1 Corinthians 2:13, the revelation of the Spirit from above with all earthly knowledge.

Verse 12

Vv. 12. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God:”

This verse is the development of the word by the Spirit ( 1Co 2:10 ).

The Divine Spirit is contrasted with another, which also has the power of making revelations of another nature, that of the world. Beet understands thereby, “the spirit which worketh in the children of disobedience” ( Eph 2:2 ); Meyer: the spirit which animates unbelieving mankind, the diabolical spirit. Does the expression used authorize us to go so far? Man, at the time of his creation, received a πνεῦμα ; for he participates in the spiritual nature and power which are the essence of God (Genesis 2:7; Joh 4:24 ). With the Fall, this endowment was not withdrawn from humanity. By its separation from God, the spirit of man became profane, worldly; but it remained in man, as a collective being, as a principle of knowledge and invention, enthusiasm and exaltation. This it is which Pagans called the Muse, and which is concentrated in philosophical and artistic geniuses, communicating to them marvellous insight and words of wondrous power, by which they give tone to their age. And hence the apostle does not scruple himself to quote sayings of the Greek poets, and to designate one of them by the name of prophet (Acts 17:28; Tit 1:12 ). But to whatever degree of power this spirit of the world may rise, it cannot give man the knowledge of the Divine plans, nor make an apostle even of the greatest genius. The expression οὐκ ἐλάβομεν , we have not received, signifies, “The spiritual power which has made us what we are, is not that.” Comp. an analogous form, Romans 8:15.

With this spirit which rises, so to speak, from the heart of the κόσμος , the apostle contrasts the Divine Spirit, literally, the Spirit which proceeds ( ἐκ ) from God. This form emphasizes the transcendent character of His inspiring breath. He was in God, and He proceeds from Him to enter into man; comp. Romans 5:5. This is something different from human inspiration, even when raised to its highest power.

The art. τό , after πνεῦμα , was not strictly necessary (see on 1Co 2:7 ). But it is put here to remind us of the contrast to the other spirit, the cosmical spirit: “We are certainly neither Platos, nor Demostheneses, nor Homers; but if you would learn what are the thoughts of God toward you, listen to us! The Spirit proceeding from God Himself is He who has revealed them to us.”

There is a very marked contrast between the two terms, εἰδῶμεν , that we might know, and τὰ χαρισθέντα , the things which have been (freely) given to us. By this second term Paul understands the gracious blessings of salvation, the gift of the Son, the expiation accomplished by Him, and all the benefits flowing from them: justification, sanctification, final redemption ( 1Co 1:30 ). These blessings one may enjoy by simple faith, but without yet measuring all their greatness, because the εἰδέναι , knowing, is yet wanting in a certain degree. And hence the apostle asked for the Ephesians ( 1Co 3:18 ) that they might be able “to understand with all saints what is the breadth and length, the depth and height,” and for the Colossians ( 1Co 2:2-3 ), “that they might be brought unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Here, therefore, the εἰδέναι , knowing, denotes the account which the believer renders to himself of all that is contained in the τὰ χαρισθέντα , the facts of salvation wrought out for him. It is those higher lights the domain of which we have sought briefly to indicate (see on 1Co 2:6 ). Between faith in the simple facts of salvation and these more elevated views of the Divine work, there is all the distance which separates the preaching of the evangelist from the doctrine of the Christian teacher, or, if you will, all the difference which exists between the contents of the gospel history and the teaching of the Epistles.

To this teaching of Divine wisdom, the end of this whole deduction, Paul comes in 1 Corinthians 2:13.

Verse 13

Vv. 13. “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth, appropriating spiritual things to spiritual men.”

Here is the resuming of the λαλοῦμεν , we speak, of 1 Corinthians 2:6; it has been prepared for by 1 Corinthians 2:10-12: “This hidden wisdom God has revealed to us by His Spirit, and we speak it with words formed in us by this same Spirit. He gives us the form, after having given us the matter.” Καί , also, prominently brings out precisely this relation between the two operations of the Spirit, revelation and inspiration. As Paul has contrasted wisdom with wisdom ( 1Co 2:6-9 ), revelation with revelation ( 1Co 2:10-12 ), he now contrasts Divine inspiration with earthly inspiration. By revelation God communicates Himself to man; inspiration bears on the relation of man to man. The genitives, σοφίας and πνεύματος , wisdom and Spirit, may, according to Greek usage, depend, not on the subst. λόγοις , words, but on the verbal notion expressed by the adjective διδακτοῖς ( Joh 6:45 ): “Words taught, not by wisdom, but by the Spirit,” and this connection is also that which agrees best with the context. To teach things which the Spirit has revealed, terms are not made use of which man's own understanding and ability have discovered. The same Divine breath which lifted the veil to reveal, takes possession also of the mouth of its interpreter when it is to speak. Inspiration is, as it were, the language of revelation. Such is the secret of the peculiar and unique style of the Scriptures.

Meyer justly remarks that the term διδακτός , taught, while it positively includes the idea of inspiration, nevertheless excludes all mechanical representation of the fact, and implies in the person inspired a living assimilation of the truth expressed.

Very various meanings have been given to the last clause of this verse, according to the different senses in which the word συγκρίνειν may be taken, and according to the two genders, masculine or neuter, which may be ascribed to the adj. πνευματικοῖς , spiritual. The rarely used verb συγκρίνειν strictly denotes the act of bringing two things together to compare them and fix their relative value. This is certainly its meaning in the only other passage in the New Testament where it occurs, 2 Corinthians 10:12. But in the LXX. this verb frequently takes the meaning of interpreting, especially in speaking of dreams (Genesis 40:8; Genesis 40:16; Genesis 40:22; Dan 5:15-17 ), because the interpretation of a dream consists in comparing the image with the idea discovered in it. Several commentators have proceeded on this second meaning;

Chrysostom: explaining Christian doctrines by comparing them with the types of the Old Testament ( πνευματικοῖς , neuter); Grotius, on the contrary: explaining the prophecies of the Old Testament by comparing them with the doctrines of Christ; Bengel, Rückert, Hofmann: explaining the things of the Spirit to spiritual men ( πνευματικοῖς , masculine). This third explanation would in the context be the only admissible one. But this meaning of interpreting given to συγκρίνειν is at once foreign to the New Testament and to classical Greek.

Erasmus, Calvin, de Wette, Meyer, Osiander seek to come nearer to the real sense of the verb by explaining thus: joining, adapting spiritual words to spiritual things ( πνευματικοῖς , neuter). It is on this view the justification of the procedure which the apostle has just described in the first part of the verse. To a spiritual body (the wisdom revealed by the Spirit) no other is suitable than a spiritual dress (a language taught by the Spirit). The meaning is excellent; but the last clause would really add nothing to the contents of the previous proposition, and neither in this way is the meaning of the verb συγκρίνειν exactly reproduced. Should not these words form the transition to the development of the third word of the theme (6a), among the perfect, which will form the subject of the following verses? We must, if it is so, take πνενματικοῖς as a masculine and see in it the equivalent of τέλειοι , the perfect; comp. 1Co 2:15 and 1 Corinthians 3:1. The word συγκρίνειν has exactly in that case the meaning given it by Passow in his dictionary, a meaning which differs only by a slight shade from the first which we have indicated: mit Auswahl verbinden, to adapt two things to one another with discernment; which leads us to this explanation: “adapting, applying, appropriating with discernment spiritual teachings to spiritual men.” This is precisely the idea which is developed in 1 Corinthians 2:14-16, and which will be applied in the final passage 1 Corinthians 3:1-4.

This passage has a peculiar importance. It shows that what in Paul's view was the object of the revelation of which he speaks at this point, was not the historical facts from which salvation flows, nor the simple meaning in which they are presented by the preaching used in evangelization; but that it was the Divine plan which is realized through them, their relation to the history of humanity and of the universe, all that we find expounded in the passages quoted above (Eph. and Col., Romans 9-11, 1 Corinthians 15:0). There we find unveiled the plan of God in all its dimensions ( its length, breadth, depth, height); all that system of Divine thoughts eternally conceived with a view to our glory, of which 1Co 2:7 spoke; the cross, as the centre from which there rays forth in all the directions of time and space the splendour of Divine love. This Christian speculation we have not to make or to seek. It is given: God is its author; His Spirit, the revealer; St. Paul and each of the apostles, in his measure, the inspired interpreter. But this wisdom, revealed to those who are to be its organs, is to be spoken by them only to those who are fit to receive it ( 1Co 2:14-16 ).

Verse 14

Vv. 14. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” It seems at first sight that γάρ , for, would have been more suitable than δέ : “We appropriate spiritual things to spiritual men; for others would not understand them.” But the thought is different. The δέ signifies: “ But, as to the nonspiritual, we give them nothing of the kind, for we should thereby be doing them more ill than good.” Paul here designates the non - spiritual man by the term ψυχικός , psychical. This word denotes a being animated with that breath of natural or earthly life ( ψυχή ) which man possesses in common with all the living beings of creation. It implies here the absence of that breath of higher life which puts moral beings in communication with God, and which Scripture calls τὸ πνεῦμα , the spirit. Thus 1 Corinthians 15:44, the terrestrial body is called a psychical body, inasmuch as it is organized to serve as the dwelling-place and organ of a simple ψυχή , while the future body is called pneumatical, spiritual, inasmuch as it is destined to be the organ of a spirit. Holsten concludes from this expression of Paul that he denied all possession of the πνεῦμα , the spirit, to the natural man. It seems to me that 1Th 5:23 proves the contrary. By putting body, soul, and spirit, parallel to one another, as the three constant objects of Christian sanctification, he shows that in his view these are the three essential elements of the whole human person. Only, before the coming of the Divine Spirit, the spirit in man is rather an aspiration, or, as de Wette says, a receptivity, than a power and life. It is simply the organ with which the human soul is endowed for the Divine, the sense destined to perceive and receive it; it is a capacity which the Divine Spirit will change into a real power and a new principle of life when He comes to take possession of it. No doubt soul, which is the principle of life common to man and the animals, is in the former endowed with faculties superior to that of all other animated beings. But spirit alone puts man into relation with God, and thus forms his really distinctive character among all the animals. The term psychical man, which we render by natural man, does not therefore exclude the presence of spirit in such a man; it only implies the latent and inactive state of this element, so long as the Divine Spirit has not awakened it to enter into union with Himself and to become through it master of the soul and thereby of the body. In this state man possesses only the natural intelligence with which his soul is endowed, and by means of which he judges things of the present life and is guided in this sphere; it is in this sense that Paul calls him psychical. Meyer thinks that the epithet has not an essentially different sense from the word carnal, 1 Corinthians 3:1. But in this last passage it is Christians who are spoken of, though weak Christians, babes in Christ. Paul would not apply to true believers such strong expressions as those of our verse: “The things of the Spirit are foolishness unto them.” Meyer's mistake arises from his not understanding that between 1Co 2:14 and 1Co 3:1 there is by no means a relation of equality. “This wisdom cannot be explained to the psychical man, who has only his natural reason to apprehend it; and as for myself when I was with you, carnal as you still were, though believing, I could not enter on this domain.” See also on 1 Corinthians 3:16.

The term οὐ δέχεται , he does not receive, indicates that in his inner man there is nothing corresponding to this light; it does not penetrate into him. What ravishes advanced believers with joy and admiration leaves him cold, and even produces in him, with all his intelligence in other domains, the impression of something foolish. Why so? Are there two logics: one for the converted, the other for the unconverted? Certainly not. The laws of the syllogism are valid for every sane mind. The difference arises from the fact that the experience of salvation establishes in the believer new premisses, foreign to the natural man's experience. As the egoist cannot believe in the heroism of devotion, and treats it as an impossibility, not because he has another logic than the man of heart, but because a necessary moral premiss is wanting to him to appreciate the moral fact, so the purely psychical man, not having made experience of the Divine love, does not possess the premiss necessary for understanding the Divine plan, and with the same understanding as the believer, he calls that foolishness which is heaven to the latter.

The apostle adds, neither can he know them, as if to say: “If he does not understand them, it is not so much his fault as that of the ill-advised teacher who expounds a Christian philosophy to the man who needs first to have salvation declared to him; who expatiates in the high regions of knowledge, when he should have laboured at the renewing of the heart.” Here we see clearly how Paul distinguishes between the simple preaching of salvation and the wisdom of which he speaks throughout this whole passage. For certainly he never thought that to the unregenerate there is no need of preaching salvation by the cross, and that it is not their own fault if they do not understand, and so reject it. The use of the adverb πνευματικῶς , spiritually, has nothing in common with the Alexandrine system of interpretation, according to which those were called spiritual who could distinguish in Scripture the profound (allegorical) sense from the grammatical. The word simply means here, “in virtue of spiritual premisses.” And the verb ἀνακρίνειν , to make an examination, analyze, discern, denotes the analysis made by the νοῦς (the understanding) of things transmitted to it, and the judgment resulting from it.

From this Paul could pass directly to the application which he has in view ( 1Co 3:1-4 ). But, as Rückert has well observed, he here interposes a short episode, 1 Corinthians 2:15-16, fitted to pave the way for this application, and to give it its full gravity.

Verses 14-16

1 Corinthians 2:14-16 .

We come to the development of the third term: among the perfect.

Verses 15-16

Vv. 15, 16. “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man; 16. for who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of the Lord.”

1Co 2:6 supposed in a preacher the faculty of discerning in each case whether he had to do with a psychical or a spiritual man. This is the faculty which the apostle affirms, 1 Corinthians 2:15, and the possession and free exercise of which he claims for himself, 1 Corinthians 2:16. The link between 1 Corinthians 2:15; 1Co 2:14 is in the term and idea ἀνακρίνειν , to judge. In virtue of the sway exercised by the πνεῦμα , the Spirit, over the psychical faculties of the regenerated man, he is endowed with a superior tact which gives him the power of estimating men and things with certainty. As Edwards says, “If the profane man cannot understand holiness, the holy man can understand the depths of evil.” From the higher stage one can look into the lower, but not inversely.

The μέν , which T. R. reads with some Mjj., seems to me to throw rather too much emphasis on the antitheses of the two propositions. I am inclined to suppress it. Instead of πάντα , some Mjj. read τὰ πάντα , which would here designate the totality of things, absolutely speaking. It is more natural to read πάντα without the article: “All things, each as it presents itself.” Several commentators make this πάντα a masculine: each man. This sense would be perfectly justified, first by the context, according to which Paul claims for the spiritual man the faculty of discerning in each case with what kind of hearer he has to do, next by the οὐδενός , none, which follows, and which is evidently a masculine. But it is nevertheless true that the neuter sense is that which presents itself most naturally to the reader, and it is wide enough to include the other: all things, that is to say, every circumstance, every situation, and consequently, also, every person with whom one meets. St. Paul therefore had the right to estimate the spiritual state of the Corinthians, and to judge what suited or did not suit their state.

But, on the other hand, this spiritual man is subject to the scrutiny and sentences of none. The masculine sense of the pronoun οὐδενός is evident, since it is only intelligent beings who are capable of judging. From this principle flowed the application which Paul proposed to make to the Corinthians ( 1Co 3:1-4 ); he can judge them, but they are not in a position to judge him.

Verse 16

Vv. 16. “With the humble, more humble; with the proud, more proud,” says some one. Never did any one practise this maxim better than the Apostle Paul. Face to face with those who disparage him, he rises to an incomparable height. Jehovah, in Isaiah, addressing ignorant man, threw out this challenge: “Who hath measured the Spirit of the Lord? Who being His counsellor hath taught Him?” Such is the position which the apostle takes up as against his detractors. He quotes this saying after the LXX. (omitting the words of the middle clause, whereas he preserves them, Romans 11:34, while omitting the end), and says with them, who hath known? instead of, who hath measured? Just as the natural man is incapable of judging by his simple reason the ways of God in creation and the government of the world, so is he in no position to appreciate the procedure of the spiritual man. Why so? Because the latter, having the mind of the Lord, stands over against him in the same position as the Lord Himself.

The word συμβιβάζειν signifies strictly, to cause to walk together, and hence, to adjust, combine, conclude ( Act 16:10 ), to demonstrate ( Act 9:22 ); it is used in the classics only with the thing as object (to demonstrate a thing), while in the LXX. it is used with the person as object; and so in them it takes the sense of instructing, which it has here.

In the ἡμεῖς , we, there is a well-marked contrast to the ὑμεῖς , ye, of 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. It is obvious how profoundly, in virtue of the revelation he has received, the apostle distinguishes himself from the Church. The term νοῦς , properly, understanding, and hence mind, is not synonymous with Spirit. It denotes the mind of God as to the destination of humanity and the best means of realizing it. The Spirit is the agent by whom this mind of God is communicated to the spiritual man.

Of the two readings, of the Lord and of Christ, the second seems to us preferable; the copyists have been naturally led to substitute Κυρίου ( of the Lord) for Χρίστου ( of Christ), to give this passage the form of a regular syllogism: “Who hath known the mind of God? But we know it; therefore no one can judge our mode of acting.” But Paul has substituted for, the mind of the Lord (of God), the mind of Christ, which he tacitly identifies with that of God, because the former is only the reflection of the latter in a human intelligence. By the ἔχομεν , we hold, we possess, the mind of Christ is identified in its turn with that of Paul, who knows it by the revelation of the Spirit. Thus the minister of a sovereign could say, after an intimate conversation with his king, I am in full possession of my master's mind. From this moment, therefore, to criticize the servant is to criticize the master.

Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/1-corinthians-2.html.
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