Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, June 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians

Godet's Commentary on Selected BooksGodet on Selected Books

- 1 Corinthians

by Frédéric Louis Godet



Frederick Louis Godet

Translated from the French


Rev. A. Cusin, M. A.


THE reader will take note that the contractions used for Uncial and Cursive manuscripts respectively are Mjj. and Mnn.

It has been thought better to retain these contractions, as in the French, for Majusculi and Minusculi, than to express the distinction merely to the eye by the usual MSS. and mss.

A. Cusin.


IN PUBLISHING this new Commentary, I do not feel altogether free from anxiety. The welcome given to its elder brothers encourages me, it is true; but the apostolic book explained in these pages is so practical in its nature, and consequently touches on so many existing religious phenomena, that it is difficult to avoid drawing certain parallels which may injure the objectivity of the work. Then the commentator's responsibility increases the more the results which he obtains are fitted to exercise a direct influence on the solution of questions which are now occupying the Church. And so I am specially constrained to ask God to avert every hurtful consequence that might flow from errors I may have committed in interpreting this important book, and to say to my readers, like the apostle himself, but in a sense slightly different from his: “Judge yourselves what I say.”

I shall only add a word of explanation in regard to the fixing of the text. I have been charged more than once in England with my defective criticism on this point, which, if I am not mistaken, means at bottom that I am wrong in not fully adhering to the critical theory and practice of Westcott and Hort. I respect and admire as much as any one the immense labour of these two critics; but it is impossible for me to accept without reserve the result at which they have arrived. Exegesis has too often convinced me of the mistakes of the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, taken separately or even together, to allow me to give myself up with eyes bandaged to these manuscripts, as the esteemed authors whom I have just named think themselves bound to do. I shall call the attention of my readers to three passages only in our Epistle, where the faultiness of the text of the documents, which are called neuter or Alexandrine or both, seems to me manifest; they are: 1Co 4:1 , 1 Corinthians 9:10, 1 Corinthians 13:3. In these cases, as in many others, it seems to me that healthy criticism dares not sacrifice exegetical sound sense to the transcription of two copyists of the fourth century, who are so often found in the wrong. Besides, I cannot possibly believe that a man like Chrysostom could, by adopting in full and without scruple the Syrian or Byzantine text, blindly give the preference to a work of quite recent compilation, and the authority of which found no support in earlier documents.




A QUITE peculiar interest attaches to the correspondence of St. Paul with the Church of Corinth. Having founded the Church himself and lived in the heart of it for nearly two years, he had not to expound his gospel to it in writing, as to the Church of Rome. But he was called by particular circumstances to complete his teaching on various points, and especially to combat certain corruptions which had arisen or which threatened to force their way into the life of the Church. Our two Epistles to the Corinthians were thus the product of special circumstances, local and temporary. This is the reason why an eminent critic, Weizsäcker, has called them: “A fragment of ecclesiastical history like no other.”

It might be concluded from the purely occasional character of these two Epistles that they belong to a past which no more concerns us, and consequently have no longer for us a present religious value. Even if it were so, would it not be something to be transported by them into the full ecclesiastical life of the earliest times, and to stand by, as it were, and witness the crises through which the new converts of eighteen centuries ago had to pass? But the interest excited by these Epistles goes much further and deeper. The heart of man remains the same throughout all ages. The experiences of the apostolic Christians do not differ essentially from those through which we pass ourselves. This observation is especially true in regard to the Church of Corinth. For it is not here, as in Galatia, against Jewish prejudices that the apostle has mainly to contend, at least in the First Epistle. In Achaia we witness the first contact of the gospel with Hellenic life, so richly endowed and brilliant, but, on the other hand, so frivolous and fickle, and in so many respects resembling our modern life. In particular, the tendency to make religious truths the subjects of intellectual study rather than a work of conscience and of heart-acceptance, the disposition resulting therefrom, not always to place the moral conduct under the influence of religious conviction, and to give scope to the latter rather in oratorical discourse than in vigour of holiness, these are defects which more than one modern nation shares in common with the Greek people. And the question is whether the apostle, after having drawn from the gospel, as the Lord had revealed it to him ( Gal 1:11-12 ), the word of emancipation fitted to free the conscience from the Mosaic yoke, will find in it also the power necessary to check Gentile licence and lead the will captive to the law of holiness, without relapsing into the use of legal forms.

But what gives the liveliest interest to the questions raised by the state of the Church of Corinth, is the manner in which the apostle discusses and resolves them. In treating each particular matter submitted to his judgment, the apostle does not stop at the surface; he endeavours to penetrate to the very root of those various manifestations. Instead of summarily settling the questions as by the article of a code, he searches the depths of the gospel for the permanent principle which applies to the passing phenomenon, so that to judge of the analogous manifestations and tendencies of our day, we have only ourselves to fall back from the practical rule with which he closes each of those discussions on the evangelical principle from which he drew it, that in our turn we may apply this principle to the contemporary phenomenon with which we have to do. There is no exercise at once more stimulating to the understanding and more fitted to form the Christian conscience than this. By the Epistle to the Romans, we know St. Paul as a teacher; in that to the Galatians he appears as the consummate polemic and dialectician; we learn to know him in the First Epistle to the Corinthians in his character of apostolical pastor and casuist, taking the latter word in its best sense.

Finally, another kind of interest is awakened in us by the study of this letter. M. Renan says of St. Paul: “He had not the patience needed for writing; he was incapable of method.” These summary judgments are law with many, and are eagerly repeated by superficial writers. We shall have occasion very particularly, in the study of this Epistle, to put this judgment to the proof. The question of method presented itself in this case in a more difficult way than in any other. When the apostle had to develop a side of Christian truth, his course was marked out for him by the subject itself and by the logical form of his thought. Here there is nothing of the kind. St. Paul finds himself face to face with a certain number of particular practical questions, without any direct relation to one another. The matters in question include divisions, scandals, trials at law, marriage and celibacy, meats offered in sacrifice, the behaviour of women in public worship, love feasts, the resurrection, and we ask, not without curiosity, whether his mind will succeed in commanding this multiplicity of subjects and arranging them rationally, so that here, as well as elsewhere, he will leave the impression of order and unity.

In the introduction to the Epistle to the Romans, I have treated of the life of St. Paul in general; I shall not return to it here. Four subjects will occupy us:

1. The founding of the Church of Corinth.

2. The external circumstances in which our first canonical Epistle was addressed to it.

3. The events which had supervened since the founding of the Church and which gave occasion to this letter.

4. The arrangement adopted by the apostle in the order and grouping of the subjects to be treated.


Chapter I. The Founding of the Church.

IT was, if we are not mistaken, about the autumn of the year 52, shortly after the assembly called the Council of Jerusalem, that Paul set out from Antioch with Silas to make a second missionary journey. They first visited the Churches of Lycaonia and Pisidia, founded by Paul and Barnabas, in the course of their first journey. Then, according to all probability, they proclaimed the gospel in the province of Galatia, situated more to the north, and, crossing Asia Minor from east to west without being permitted by the Spirit to preach in it, they reached the shore of the Egean Sea, at Troas, and there, with the young Timothy, whom they had associated with them in Lycaonia, and the physician Luke, already no doubt a Christian, whom they met in this city, they embarked for Macedonia. After founding the Church in the two principal cities of that province, Philippi and Thessalonica, Paul set out alone for southern Greece, and repaired first to Athens, then to Corinth, the capital of the province of Achaia. He was soon afterwards rejoined in the latter city by his two fellow-labourers, Silas and Timothy, and he remained there with them for about two years.

Destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.C., it was nearly a century since Corinth had risen from its ruins. In the year 44 Julius Caesar had rebuilt it and peopled it with numerous colonists, mostly Roman freedmen; these had been joined by a certain population of Greeks, and shortly afterwards by a Jewish colony. At the time when the apostle arrived in it, the city counted from six to seven hundred thousand inhabitants, of whom two hundred thousand were freemen and four hundred thousand slaves. It had a circuit of a league and a half. This immense and rapid growth, which compares with that of certain cities in the United States of America, was due above all to its situation on the isthmus which bears its name, and which, connecting the Peloponnesus with the continent, separated the Egean and Ionian seas. Corinth possessed two principal ports, that of Cenchrea, opening to the east, and that of Lechaeum, to the west. It had quickly become the great emporium of commerce between Asia and the west. So speedily had this city, which was formerly called “the light and ornament of Greece,” recovered its ancient splendour. On the summit of its Acropolis shone the temple of Venus, of incomparable magnificence. Corinth possessed all the means of culture then enjoyed by the capitals of the civilized world, workshops and studios, halls of rhetoric and schools of philosophy. An ancient historian says that one could not take a step in the streets of Corinth without meeting a sage.

But here, as elsewhere and still more, corruption of morals had proceeded step by step with the development of culture and riches. The mixture of heterogeneous elements composing the population of new Corinth had no doubt contributed to produce this state of things. One word tells all. By the term κορινθιάζειν , to live as a Corinthian, men designated a kind of life which was absolutely dissolute. The phrases Corinthian banquet, Corinthian drinker, were proverbial.

It was in the midst of this society, in a state of full outward prosperity, but also of complete moral dissolution, that the quickening salt of the gospel was now to fall with the arrival of St. Paul, twenty-four years after the Ascension of the Lord Jesus.

If Paul, at the time of his conversion, about the year 37, was thirty years old at least, he must have been approaching the fifties on the day when he entered Corinth. Let us imagine the apostle, making his solitary entry as a simple workman, into the great city. His profession was that either of a tent-weaver or tent-carpenter; the term tent-maker ( Act 18:3 ) admits of both significations. The second, however, seems the more probable. The apostle was not long in discovering a Jewish family who followed the same trade as himself; they had just arrived from Rome, in consequence of an edict of the Emperor Claudius banishing the Jews from the capital. He joined them, and while sharing their work, gained them for his faith. Some have held that Aquila and Priscilla were already believers on their arrival. This supposition is contrary to the terms of the narrative (“a certain Jew named Aquila”); it has no other object than to furnish support to the idea of the existence of a Judeo-Christian Church at that period among the Jews of Rome.

The narrative of the Acts shows us the apostle beginning his work at Corinth in the midst of the Jewish colony. This narrative has been recently relegated to the domain of fable. For what reasons? Paul, says Heinrici, would never have been so imprudent, as by his preaching of the gospel, needlessly to brave the anger of the synagogue, whose insurmountable prejudices he knew. But, though Paul certainly did not flatter himself that he would convert all the members of the synagogue, he could hope to gain at least some of the better disposed, and to find in them the solid nucleus of the society of believers which he desired to form at Corinth. He knew well it was not in vain that God had paved the way for the preaching of the gospel in the Gentile world by the dispersion of the people of Israel, and that this was the door providentially opened for the proclamation of the good news in the midst of heathendom. The manner in which the foundation of the Church in general had taken place by the preaching of the apostles among the Jewish people, prior to any mission to the Gentiles, was a guide to him as to the method to be followed in founding the Church in every heathen city in particular. It was on this principle that Paul had proceeded with Barnabas on his first mission in Asia Minor ( Act 13:14 seq., Act 14:1 seq.); it was thus he had continued with Silas in his second, at Philippi ( Act 16:13 seq.), at Thessalonica ( Act 17:1 seq.), at Berea ( Act 17:10 seq.). He himself positively declares (Romans 1:16: “to the Jews first, then to the Greeks”) that this procedure was not accidental, but rested on a deliberate conviction. Why should he not have remained faithful to it at Corinth? The narrative of the Acts is therefore not in the least open to suspicion on this point, and if this initial preaching in the synagogue were not expressly recorded, we should have to suppose it. Holsten raises another objection. If Paul had begun among the Jews of the synagogue, why should he have been intimidated even to trembling, according to his own description, Act 2:1-5 ? Was he not accustomed to this kind of hearers? But when the apostle arrived at Corinth, he knew well that if he came there with the intention of addressing the Jews first, he did not come solely or even mainly for them. He had before him the spectacle of that great Greek capital, and felt himself charged alone, at least in those first days, with the responsibility of the Divine message which he carried. He was not unaware that even in the synagogue he would meet a select body of proselytes belonging to every class of Corinthian society, and that the time was not far off when it would be among these latter especially, and the entire Greek population, that he would have to deliver his message. It was the first time he found himself in such a situation, if we except the case of his preaching at Athens, the result of which was not fitted to encourage him. Face to face with such audiences, he had no longer the support which was afforded him before Jews by the law and the prophets; and, on the other hand, he was resolved not to have recourse to the modes of action generally used in public conferences, brilliance of oratorical art, dialectic skill, profound speculation. There remained to him only one force and his grandest act of faith was to wish no other the simple testimony rendered to Christ and His Cross; the Divine fact itself expounded without art, and, if one may so speak, in its nakedness. If we put ourselves in the apostle's place at this point of his career, we can understand the feeling of powerlessness and anxiety which overwhelmed him at the outset of his ministry in this city. Far from our finding therein anything fitted to raise a doubt of the circumspection with which he proceeded in addressing himself first to the Jews, it may be said that this prudent step was imposed on him by the very anxiety which he felt.

Paul then preached for some weeks in the synagogue. But soon, seeing the exasperation of his Jewish adversaries increase to such a degree that it was no longer possible to labour usefully in this sphere, he established himself with the believers, Jews and proselytes, in a neighbouring house belonging to one of his Jewish converts, and from that time he preached especially to Gentiles, not clothing the salvation of Christ either with the charms of eloquence, or with the attraction of human wisdom, so that if his preaching exercised a powerful influence, it was solely through the Divine working which accompanied it, and, as the apostle says, by the demonstration of Spirit and of power. Hearts seriously disposed were laid hold of in their depths, really gained. A church formed of a certain number of Jews, and “of a great multitude of Gentiles,” rose in the midst of this city of business and debauchery. The majority of its members did not belong to the upper, rich, cultivated classes ( 1Co 1:26-28 ); they were for the most part poor, slaves, people despised for their ignorance and their low social condition. But the work was only the more solid; it was not mingled with human alloy. There were only so many wounded consciences which the power of God had healed and restored.

For nearly two years (Acts 18:11; Act 18:18 ), Paul continued to sow this fruitful soil, living by the labour of his hands, sometimes also on the help which was sent him by the churches recently founded in Macedonia (2 Corinthians 11:7-9; 2Co 12:13-15 ). The proconsul of Achaia resided at Corinth; at that time Gallio, the brother of the philosopher Seneca. He is known by his correspondence with his brother; he was an equitable man, and full of urbanity. He showed himself such toward St. Paul, when the latter was dragged by the Jews before his tribunal. Thus this first sojourn of Paul at Corinth closed in peace. Paul left this city about Pentecost of the year 54 to go to Jerusalem, and thence to Antioch, where he thought of making only a short stay. His plans for the future were formed. Between the two domains where he had broken ground in his two first journeys lay the western portion of Asia Minor, the rich and interesting country of ancient Ionia, then called the province of Asia, with Ephesus for its capital; there it was that he now felt himself called to labour. On his departure from Corinth, he was accompanied by Aquila and Priscilla, who were to await him at Ephesus, and to prepare the way for him in this new field of labour.

Chapter II. The External Circumstances in Which The Epistle was Composed.

WE have not to discuss at length the authenticity of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, against which no serious objection has ever been raised. Its composition by St. Paul appears with great evidence from the letter itself; and first from the testimony of its author ( 1Co 1:1 ), as well as from the manner in which he speaks of himself as founder of the Church ( 1Co 4:15 et al.). In confirmation of this testimony, Schleiermacher has brought out the relation between the historical details of our Epistle and those contained in the book of Acts. “When we compare,” says this theologian, “many passages of the Acts (chaps. 18-20) with the personal details which begin and close the two Epistles to the Corinthians, everything fits in, all is perfectly complete, and that nevertheless in such a way that each of the documents follows its own course, and the facts contained in the one cannot be borrowed from those of the other.” But these coincidences of detail are a still less striking proof than is the picture, so living and real, which the letters give us of the state of a primitive Christian Church. The following is Baur's impression on this point: Our First Epistle carries the seal of its authenticity in itself; for, “more than any other writing of the New Testament, it transports us into the living centre of a Christian Church in formation, and procures for us a view of the circumstances through which the development of the new life evoked by Christianity had to pass.” Beet ( Commentary) also brings out forcibly the proof of authenticity contained in the very severe and humiliating rebukes addressed to the Church of Corinth in these two letters. No Church would so easily and without a rigorous investigation have accepted and preserved “the monument of its degradation.”

These internal evidences are confirmed by the testimony of tradition. So early as about the end of the first century, Clement of Rome, in his letter to the Corinthians, quotes our Epistle several times. The passage of chap. 47 is particularly remarkable: “Take up again the Epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul: what did he write to you in the outset, at the beginning of the preaching of the gospel? Verily, he gave you spiritual directions as well about himself as about Cephas and Apollos, because even then ye were giving yourselves up to preferences.” It does not seem to us to admit of question that when Ignatius, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, chap. 18, calls the cross “a stumbling-block to unbelievers,” and exclaims, “Where is the wise, where is the disputer?” he is reproducing the terms of our Epistle. The same is the case with Polycarp, in his Epistle to the Philippians, chap. 5, the enumeration which he makes of the vicious is exactly parallel to that of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and he closes it also by declaring that such believers “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” In the homily commonly called the Second Epistle of Clement, and which must have been written in Greece between 120 and 140, we find these words taken from the first chapter of our Epistle: “It pleased Him to make us to be of that which is not.” It would be useless to pursue this list of testimonies in detail. We should have to mention, probably, Justin Martyr, Dialogue, chap. xiv. (“the old leaven” and “the unleavened bread”; comp. 1Co 5:8 ) and chap. 3 (“Christ our Passover”); more certainly the Epistle to Diognetus, filled with thoughts drawn from our Epistle; probably also the Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles (between 120 and 160), where there are thought to be some allusions to 1 Cor. (Gebhardt, Edwards); very certainly the Fragment of Muratori; Athenagoras, Theophilus; finally, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian. I refer readers who desire to be more exactly informed on this point to Charteris, Canonicity, 222-229.

What really concerns us is to fix the time and place in the apostle's life at which he composed this letter; and the task is not difficult.

The place of composition can be no other than Ephesus. “I will tarry,” says the apostle, “at Ephesus till Pentecost; for a great door is opened unto me” ( 1Co 16:8-9 ). It is not clear at the first glance how, in view of so positive a text, the subscription of the Epistle in a certain number of manuscripts, as well as in many of our translations, can be thus stated: “The First Epistle to the Corinthians was written from Philippi.” It is probable that this account arises from the ignorant or superficial reading of 1 Corinthians 16:5: “For I do pass through Macedonia.” It was not understood that the present I do pass referred, not to a present fact, but to the journey as planned by the apostle. It was obvious, however, that if Paul was already in Macedonia, he must have sent salutations from the Churches of this province, and not from those of Asia, as he does in ver. 19. In this same verse there is likewise found the salutation of Aquila and Priscilla, who, as we have seen, had gone with Paul to settle at Ephesus. The subscription in the Vaticanus is accurate: “ was written from Ephesus.

The entire stay of Paul at Ephesus lasted about three years ( Act 20:31 ). Our concern is to know at what time of this sojourn we must place the composition of our letter. On this point we have several clear enough indications:

1st. The words we have just quoted prove that Paul's stay in Asia was drawing to a close.

2nd. At the time when Paul was composing this letter, he had Apollos beside him, who had returned from Corinth. ( 1Co 16:12 ). Now, this Alexandrine teacher, converted at Ephesus by Aquila and Priscilla shortly after their arrival in that city, and before that of Paul (Acts 18:24; Act 18:26 ), had gone thence to Achaia with a recommendation from Aquila to continue the work of Paul there, and had exercised a very influential ministry, after which he had returned to Ephesus. This all supposes a considerable time to have elapsed since Paul's arrival at Ephesus, and so brings us to an advanced period of his sojourn in that city.

3rd. We read Acts 19:21, that after labouring two years and three months at Ephesus (vers. 8, 10), Paul formed in his mind vast designs. He meditated bidding a final adieu to the East and consecrating the remainder of his life to the West. But before proceeding to Rome he felt bound to visit Jerusalem once more, and to offer the Church of that city a solemn testimony of love and spiritual fellowship from all the Churches founded by him among the Gentiles. He therefore determined, according to Acts 19:22, to send Timothy and Erastus from Ephesus to make preparation in Macedonia and Achaia for the execution of his project. Now this sending of Timothy to Corinth coincides perfectly with that which is twice mentioned in our First Epistle (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1Co 16:10 ). It took place at the time when the apostle was composing it, and shortly before his setting out, for in it Paul announces the sending of his young fellow-labourer as an already accomplished fact.

4th. This great collection for which Timothy was to prepare, and which is expressly mentioned, 1 Corinthians 16:1, and 2 Corinthians 8:9, can only be that with which the apostle closed his ministry in the East, and of which he speaks in the two passages, Romans 15:24; Romans 15:33, and Acts 24:17. Here is a new indication which again brings us to the same date.

As it is impossible for all these reasons to suppose a date previous to the circumstances mentioned, it is no less so to suppose a later one. In fact, at the time when the apostle writes, he is yet freely disposing of his person. But it is well known that shortly after, when he had delivered the sum collected into the hands of the leaders of the flock at Jerusalem, he was thrown into prison, and from that time remained a prisoner for a long course of years.

If the sojourn of Paul in Asia, by the time when our letter was written, had lasted about two years and three months (Acts 19:8; Act 19:10 ), dating from the end of the year 54 when Paul arrived at Ephesus, it was composed in the spring of the year 57, before the Pentecost of that year, probably at the time of the feast of Passover to which there seems to be an allusion in the passage 1 Corinthians 5:7-8. We shall afterwards see how the indication of Act 20:31 is to be explained, according to which the stay at Ephesus lasted three entire years.

Chapter III. The Events Which Took Place at Corinth in the interval Between the Founding of the Church and the Composition of the Epistle.

WE have here to enumerate a series of facts which it is indispensable to know if we are to understand our Epistle, but in regard to which we have almost no information except from the Epistle itself. It is one of the most striking examples of the legitimate influence which exegesis and criticism have to exercise on one another.

1. The first fact known to us which modified the state of the Church of Corinth after the departure of its founder, was the ministry of the Alexandrine teacher Apollos. We possess two testimonies of the influence exercised at Corinth by this eloquent preacher, the one, the first four chapters of our Epistle, the other, the end of Acts 18:0. “He helped much through grace,” it is said in the latter passage, “them which had believed: for he disputed powerfully with the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.” From this passage it follows that the ministry of Apollos must have brought about a double change in the state of the Church. Powerful in the interpretation of the Scriptures, Apollos gained to the gospel a very large number of Jews, evidently of those who had withstood the ministry of St. Paul. The proportion between the two elements of which the young Church was composed was thus modified to the advantage of the Jewish element. It is probable, moreover, that while the Jewish minority was increased through the labours of Apollos, a certain number of Gentiles belonging to the lettered class were attracted by the oratorical talent and brilliant gifts of the young teacher. Only it is natural to suppose that the conversion of these newcomers did not proceed from such profound conscience-work as that which had led the most of the former converts to baptism. The wants of the understanding and imagination had, in many cases, more to do with their adherence than those of the heart and conscience.

2. Besides the visit of Apollos, must we hold the arrival at Corinth of a still more important personage, the Apostle Peter? In the passage chap. 1Co 1:12 mention is made of a party of Cephas, which is placed after that of Apollos. Are we to regard this as an indication of a stay made by this apostle in Achaia at this period? Such a fact seems far from probable. In the year 54 we find Peter at Antioch (Galatians 2:0). No doubt, in the course of the three years which followed down to the spring of the year 57, he might have gone from Syria to Achaia. But there is no reason to suppose that Peter turned so early toward the west; and it would be difficult to understand how our Epistle, which bears such evident traces of Apollos' sojourn at Corinth, did not present some still more marked traces of Peter's visit. Still, while abstracting wholly from a personal visit of Peter to Corinth, we cannot mistake in the phrase to which we have just pointed, the evidence of a serious fact in the development of the young Church, a sensible influence from Palestinian Christianity must certainly have been exercised at that period in the Church of Corinth. In what direction? This is a point we shall consider afterwards.

3. We are forced to hold at the same time a vexatious recrudescence of the old pagan habits, with which the new converts had at first completely broken. The powerful earnestness of St. Paul's preaching had at first ruled the Church and repressed the vicious tendencies under the dominion of which the most of the new Christians had formerly lived ( 1Co 6:11 ). But in proportion as the first impressions grew weak, and the community received new members less profoundly stirred and transformed, Greek lightness revived again and threatened the Divine work. We have proofs even of the abuse made by many of the principle of spiritual liberty which St. Paul proclaimed (1 Corinthians 6:12, 1Co 10:23 ). The truly sanctified members of the Church were obliged then to ask what they had to do respecting those who thus fell back into their old way of living. The question was put to the apostle. He replied in a letter anterior to our two canonical Epistles (comp. 1Co 5:9 ). He asked “that they should not mingle with such men,” that is to say, that by breaking off every private relation with the vicious members, the Church should protest against that false profession of the Christian faith, and should show conspicuously that they did not recognise it as earnest.

4. This letter from Paul was followed by a reply from the Corinthians to the apostle. They objected that if they were to break thus with all the vicious, there was nothing left them but to go out of the world (v. 10). They questioned him also on some new subjects, such as the preference to be given to celibacy over marriage, and the free use of meats which had figured on the altars of idols. As to the former of those subjects, Paul introduces it expressly with the words: “Concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me ” ( 1Co 7:1 ). And it is probable that when he introduces the latter by saying ( 1Co 8:1 ): “Concerning meats offered to idols,” he passes to another point also treated in their letter. As we again find the same form ( 1Co 12:1 ) when the apostle comes to deal with the questions relating to the use of spiritual gifts, it is equally probable that here again he takes up a subject about which they had consulted him. There had therefore been since the founding of the Church a somewhat active correspondence between it and the apostle.

5. Besides this reply of the Corinthians to Paul, three delegates from the Church had reached the apostle. They are designated by their names and characterized in the most honourable way ( 1Co 16:15-18 ). Were they the bearers of the Church's letter? or did they arrive later under the stress of new and more delicate circumstances? We cannot tell. But such a step proves in any case the gravity of the situation, even then. We do not think that, as the subscription of our Epistle has it, and as is frequently repeated, it was those deputies who, on their return, were the bearers of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. The passage 1 Corinthians 16:11: “I expect him (Timothy) with the brethren,” seems to me to prove that they were yet at Ephesus with the apostle, when this letter, which was to arrive in time to recommend Timothy to a cordial welcome from the Corinthians, was sent off.

6. In fact Timothy was then on his way first to Macedonia, then to Corinth, charged with an important mission from Paul. He was to support by his personal influence the effect which Paul desired to produce by our First Epistle ( 1Co 4:17 ), and then no doubt to prepare for the carrying out of the projected collection in favour of the Church of Jerusalem ( 1Co 16:1 ). Though Timothy had set out before the letter, it was to arrive before him, because it was sent directly by sea, while Timothy made the tour through Macedonia.

7. To these various circumstances there must be added another, purely accidental, but which had perhaps the most considerable influence on the letter we are to study. A lady, named Chloe, arrived at Ephesus from Corinth, where she had lived ( 1Co 1:12 ). We do not know whether, being herself of Corinth, she had made a journey to Ephesus, or whether, being an Ephesian by birth, she was returning from a visit to Corinth. Those of her household, either her children or slaves, informed Paul of a circumstance which must have touched him deeply. The Church was divided into parties which came into conflict in the general gatherings. Cries such as these were raised: “ As for me, I am of Paul; ” thus no doubt spake the oldest converts, those who had felt most deeply the holy efficacy of the gospel; or, “ But as for me, I am of Apollos; ” this was the watchword of those who had been gained by the eloquent and able demonstrations of this teacher; then again, “ But as for me, I am of Cephas; ” these were no doubt chiefly Christians of Jewish origin who had heard tell of Peter, or who had met him in their journeys to Jerusalem at the feasts. They naturally enough concluded that the first place in the Church belonged to the head of the apostolic college chosen by Jesus, and that if there was any difference between Paul and him, it was the latter who should be followed. Lastly, others, daringly casting off all apostolic authority,

Peter's, as it seems, no less than Paul's, replied to all the others: “ But as for me, I am of Christ,” as if to say: “I recognise no one intermediate between the Lord and me; I claim to depend directly on Him and on Him alone.”

It is asked, Who could these last be, and how could such a party have arisen at Corinth? Were they Christians of Gentile origin, who, admiring Christ's teachings, thought that these should be disentangled from the Jewish forms in which the apostles, and even to a certain extent Paul himself, clothed them? Or were they Christians of Jewish origin and tendency, who, rejecting Paul's gospel, condemned the concessions which the Twelve thought it right to make to this apostle, and that by alleging against them the example and sayings of Christ? This is a question which we cannot examine here, and which we shall treat in the commentary in connection with 1 Corinthians 1:12. St. Paul has said somewhere, “Is any offended, and I burn not?” If it was so when the offence of a simple believer was in question, what must he have felt on learning that one of the most flourishing Churches which it had been given him to found, was almost threatened with dissolution?

We have now before us the whole of the circumstances which had filled the time since St. Paul had left Corinth, and we can form an idea of the manifold concerns which filled his heart as he set himself to dictate our First, or strictly speaking, his Second Epistle to this Church.

It remains to examine here in few words a question much discussed of late, and on which the most recent investigations are not at one. From several passages of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, it seems to follow that the apostle had been twice at Corinth before the time when he wrote this letter. These passages are mainly the four following: 1 Corinthians 2:1, 1 Corinthians 12:14, 1Co 12:21 , 1 Corinthians 13:1-2. Indeed, in the last three Paul seems to say that his next visit to Corinth will be the third, and from the first it seems to follow that the second had been so painful to him that he had shrunk from exposing himself till now from visiting them anew in similar circumstances. Now, nothing in all we have seen can lead us to suppose that Paul had returned to Corinth after his first sojourn, during which he had founded the Church.

There are three ways of treating these passages. Either they may be regarded, as is done by Baur, Hilgenfeld, Renan, and others, not as indicating real visits so much as projects which the apostle had formed, but had not been able to execute. But it is impossible on this view to account for the two passages 1Co 12:14 and 1 Corinthians 2:1. The former is thus translated: “Lo, this is the third time I am ready to come to you,” instead of: “Lo, I am ready to come to you for the third time.” But it is forgotten that the apostle is here declaring his firm resolution not to allow himself to be supported by the Church during his next sojourn, for he adds: “and I shall not be chargeable to you.” Now it follows that the “ for the third time ” implies two previous sojourns, not only announced, but real. For a projected sojourn costs nothing. The passage 1Co 2:1 confirms this conclusion. The words: “I determined that I would not come again to you with sorrow,” are explained in this sense: “I have determined that my second sojourn, which I am about to make among you, shall not be a painful and sorrowful one.” This meaning is compatible with the form of the received text; but the latter has against it the authority of all the Majuscules. According to the true position of the words “ with sorrow,” this regimen refers not only to the idea of coming, but to the whole phrase, “ coming again to you. ” It follows, therefore, from these words, that Paul had already made a sorrowful sojourn among them, which cannot refer to the sojourn during which he had founded the Church, and consequently implies a second visit which had taken place since then.

If, then, the apostle had certainly stayed twice at Corinth before writing our Second Epistle to this Church, the question is, Whether this stay ought to be placed before or after our First Epistle to the Corinthians? Following Bleek, who first treated this question thoroughly, a large number of writers have placed the second journey before our First Epistle. Some, like Anger, have taken it to be simply the second part of the sojourn occupied in founding the Church, which was divided into two by an excursion to the north of Greece. Others, like Reuss, suppose that during his long stay at Ephesus, Paul made a rapid visit to Greece, and specially to Corinth. But the former of these explanations does not correspond with the expression come, which indicates an arrival strictly so called, and not a return after a simple excursion. As to the latter, Hilgenfeld rightly asks, How could Paul's adversaries at Corinth have said that he was always putting off his arrival because he dared not return to this Church ( 1Co 4:18 ), if he had visited it quite recently? Reuss rests on 1 Corinthians 16:7: “I will not see you now by the way;” words which, according to him, imply that he had recently made a short stay with them. But this conclusion, drawn from the word now, is unfounded. Paul simply means: “The circumstances are such at this moment that I do not wish to see you simply by the way,” which does not at all suppose that a short visit had preceded. By this observation Paul would explain a change in the plan of his journey which he had previously announced, according to which he had proposed to make a rapid visit to Corinth, on his way to Macedonia, and then to return for a longer time from Macedonia to Corinth. He now gives up the thought of doing so; he first visits Macedonia, and thence he will proceed to them to stay. There is one fact above all which prevents our placing Paul's second visit to Corinth before the First Epistle to the Corinthians. In this letter Paul does not make a single allusion to a second stay in the midst of this Church, while he frequently refers to the circumstances of his stay at its founding (1 Corinthians 1:14-17; 1Co 1:26 seq., 1Co 2:1 seq., 1Co 3:1 seq., 10, 11, 1 Corinthians 4:15, 1Co 15:1-2 ). That would be impossible, if he had visited the Corinthians again in the time which preceded this Epistle. On the other hand, it is in the Second Epistle that all the allusions occur to the stay of which we are speaking. It must therefore be placed, as has been thought by Ewald and Eylau, in a remarkable programme, between the composition of our two canonical Epistles. In general, I think with the latter, that the interval between the First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians must have been much more considerable and more full of incidents than is generally held. Bleek has proved, in the article quoted above, that many passages of the Second Epistle suppose not only a second stay of Paul at Corinth, but even an Epistle now lost which should be placed between our First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians. If this second fact is admitted, as I think it ought to be, the history of the relations between Paul and the Church at this period necessarily becomes complicated, and must have been completed by important and numerous facts, into the exposition of which we cannot enter here, and which explain the strange expression three years, which the apostle uses ( Act 20:31 ) to denote the duration of his stay at Ephesus.

We hold, then, a second visit of Paul to Corinth, before the stay which he made in this city during the three months of winter, in the years 58-59. But we must not rank this stay among the factors which told on the composition of the First Epistle, because in our view it is posterior to this letter, and should be placed between our two Epistles.

Chapter IV. Plan of the Epistle.

TEN subjects, more or less extended and very heterogeneous, were present to the apostle's mind, when he set himself to compose this letter; and the question which arises is this: Will he confine himself to passing from the one to the other by way of juxtaposition, or will he find the means of binding them to one another by a logical or moral gradation, so as to leave an impression of order and unity on the mind of the reader. In other words, will the First Epistle to the Corinthians be a heap or a building? In this very letter St. Paul compares himself to an architect who has wisely laid the foundation of the Church. We shall immediately see that, whatever Renan may think, he has shown himself such also in the composition of the letter which he has addressed to it.

What must have concerned him above all, was to put an end to the divisions which reigned in the Church. To be listened to by all on the different subjects which he had to treat, he must first have reconquered his position of authority with the entire congregation. Hence the subject to which he assigns the first place is that of the parties which have been formed at Corinth. He begins by examining the real nature of the gospel; then he expounds that of the ministry; finally, he states the true relation between the Church and its teachers, and thus saps the evil at the root.

This question belongs to the ecclesiastical domain; thence he passes to the subjects which enter into the moral domain, and that by beginning with a question which belongs still in a way to the organization of the Church, that of the action which the community should exercise on those of its members who, by scandalous conduct, dishonour the Christian profession. There follow four questions of a purely moral order: first, these two which are easily settled by the very spirit of the gospel, that of lawsuits between Christians, carried before heathen tribunals, and that of the vice of impurity; then two others, the treatment of which is more difficult, because it is complicated by the part which the fact of Christian liberty plays in such matters: they are that of the preference to be given to celibacy over marriage, and that of the use of meats which have been offered to idols. Accordingly the solution of these two last questions gives rise to long discussions and very delicate distinctions.

After these matters of a moral nature, the apostle places those which refer to the religious life and to the celebration of worship. Here he meets with three subjects, the first, in which the element of Christian liberty still plays a certain part, is the behaviour of women in the assemblies. The apostle afterwards deals with the way in which believers ought to conduct themselves at the love-feast preceding the observance of the Supper. Finally, he treats with particular care the most difficult and delicate of all the subjects: the best way of using spiritual gifts, gifts bestowed at Corinth with remarkable abundance, especially the gifts of tongues and of prophecy.

Thus far we observe in the course followed by the letter a tendency to go from the external to the internal: Paul in closing reaches what is most profound, most decisive, and most vital for the Church, the domain of doctrine. For, as the plant is only the embodied sap, the Church and the Christian are only evangelical doctrine realized. The apostle here treats of the resurrection of the body, which some at Corinth denied, and he shows the relation of this point of doctrine, apparently so secondary, to the Christian salvation viewed as a whole, and to the victory gained by Christ over evil in the midst of humanity.

The subjects treated are thus classified, notwithstanding their profound diversity, in four natural groups, and these groups show a rational gradation:

I. An ecclesiastical question: chaps. 1 Corinthians 1:10 -iv. end.

II. Five moral questions; foremost that of discipline, which still touches the ecclesiastical side: chaps. 5-10.

III. Three questions which are liturgical or relative to public worship: chaps. 11-14.

IV. A doctrinal question: chap. 15.

The passage 1Co 1:1-9 forms the preface; as usual it comprehends the address and a thanksgiving. Chap. 16 is a conclusion like that with which Paul closes each of his Epistles, containing commissions, news, and greetings.

Are we to think with Renan that St. Paul “was incapable of method,” and “that he did not possess the patience necessary to make a book”? Never, as it seems to us, was an intellectual edifice more admirably conceived and carried out than the First Epistle to the Corinthians, though with the most varied materials.

It has been asked whence the apostle drew the means of resolving all those doctrinal and practical problems which were put to him at that time by the state of the Church, and the answer has been given: “From the conception which forms the pivot of his whole theology, the mystical union between Christ and the believer” (Edwards, p. xxii.). We think this answer would rather satisfy certain of Paul's modern commentators than Paul himself. The apostle's clear and positive mind is averse to all that is vague and cloudy. As the basis of every judgment of his, there is always a precise idea, and this idea is always the inner representation of a positive fact. The Christ crucified, whom the apostle makes the foundation of our Epistle (chap. 1), and the risen Christ, whom he makes the consummation of his letter (chap. 15), these are the twofold treasure from which he draws the solutions he needs throughout the whole course of his work. It is by analyzing the historical Christ that he resolves the question of the ministry (1 Corinthians 1:13, 1Co 3:23 ); it is to the power of the glorified Christ that he appeals to resolve that of discipline (v. 4); and so successively on to that magnificent chapter in which the study of the risen Christ furnishes him with the solution of all eschatological problems.

It is therefore not the mystical union, that cloudland whence every one brings whatever pleases him, it is the historical, ever - living Christ, who is the foundation on which Paul rests the edifice raised in his letter.


IT remains to say a few words regarding the most important documents of the text, and also on the most recent works on our Epistle.

Of the nineteen manuscripts or fragments of manuscripts written in uncial letters, in which the Epistles of St. Paul have been preserved, there are fifteen which contain the First Epistle to the Corinthians in whole or in part.

These are,

א ( Sinaïticus) and B ( Vaticanus), of the 4th century.

A ( Alexandrinus) and C ( C. of Ephrem), of the 5th century.

D ( Claromontanus), H ( Coislinianus), I (fragment, at St. Petersburg), of the 6th century.

Fa (two verses quoted as marginal notes in H), of the 7th century.

E ( Sangermanensis), F ( Augiensis), G ( Börnerianus), K ( Mosquensis), L ( Angelicus), M (fragment, in London), P ( Porfirianus), of the 9th century.

We do not speak here either of minuscules, or versions, or quotations of the Fathers, referring for such apparatus of criticism to the works of general introduction to the New Testament.

As to commentaries, it is needless to speak of the most ancient and of those among the moderns which are universally known, the more so as we can refer on this head to the truly masterly exposition of the history of interpretation from its beginning to our day in Edwards' introduction to his commentary (pp. 25-35). Of the most recent works, we shall mention only the following as in our estimation the most important:

Hofmann (1874): sagacious, exact, profound, but often fanciful in the extreme.

Reuss ( Les épîtres pauliniennes, 1878): the spirit and manner of this author are well known.

Lang (in the 2nd vol. of the Protestanten-Bibel): short notes interpreting our Epistle according to the views of Baur's school.

Heinrici (1880). Two features distinguish this commentary: the great abundance of interesting parallels taken from classical writers, and the attempt to deduce the forms of Church organization, established in Greece by St. Paul, from the constitution of the religious associations which then flourished in the country with a view to protect the individual against the sufferings of isolation and indigence ( θίασοι , θιασῶται ); comp. in the commentary, pp. 20-29, and moreover the author's profound treatise: Die christliche Gemeinde und die religiösen Gemeinschaften der Griechen ( Zeitschr. für wissensch. Theol., 1876, iv.). Nevertheless this latter opinion has not hitherto found a very favourable reception among the critics who have discussed it (Weizsäcker, Hilgenfeld, Holsten, Schürer). The formation of the Christian ecclesiastical constitution might rather be explained by the importation of synagogal forms. But it is evidently the product of the Christian mind itself, and in its development it has followed its own course. In any case, as Holsten observes, the apostle would not have been the man to borrow the forms of the Church of God from religious brotherhoods celebrating a worship which he regarded as that of demons. It is at Jerusalem we see the first elements of organization appear: elders and deacons. It is in the Churches of Asia Minor, founded long before Paul's arrival in Greece, that we meet with the first election of elders under his direction ( Act 14:23 ). Baptism, the love feast, the Holy Supper go back much further than the first contact of the gospel with the Greek world, even to our Lord Himself. That the Greek consciousness made a close relationship between the Church and those Hellenic brotherhoods is possible, even probable; and this seems to follow from the term θιασῶται , which Celsus applies to Christ's disciples (Orig. Cont. Cels. 3.22), and from the title θιασάρχης (Christian), which Lucian gives to his Peregrinus. Comp. Neumann: θιασῶται ᾿Ιησοῦ , in Jahrbücher für protestantische Theologie, 1885, i. But this close relationship, which the Pagans naturally made, has nothing in common with the influence which Heinrici attributes to the forms of the Hellenic associations on the constitution of the Christian Church.

Holsten ( Das Evangelium des Paulus, Theil. i., 1880): penetrating, brief, original, bold, but swayed by the premisses of the Tübingen school. In imitation of the Dutch theologian Straatmann, who has recently discovered a whole series of interpolations, more or less grave, in chaps. 11-15 of our Epistle, but with more moderation and less fancifulness, Holsten thinks he can eliminate from the text a host of alleged glosses: as if the apostolic documents had not been preserved in the Churches with the greatest care, but had been abandoned to the mercy of the first comer!

Beet (1883). This English commentator is known by his work on the Epistle to the Romans. He seems to me to possess in a high degree the gift of expounding the course of the apostle's ideas in a simple, clear, and judicious way.

Edwards (1885). The author of this, the most recent commentary, is Principal of a University College in Wales; he possesses high philological culture. The spirit and value of his exegesis will appear from the quotations which we shall not fail to make from his important work.

The Title.

THE title comes to us in its simplest form in the documents dating from the 4th, 5th and 6th cents. ( א B A C D): πρὸς Κορινθίους ἡ πρώτη , the First to the Corinthians. Later it is gradually amplified till it takes the form found in L (9th cent.): the First Epistle to the Corinthians of the holy and illustrious Apostle Paul.

The original title must have been quite simply πρὸς Κορινθίους ; for this letter was not the first which the apostle addressed to this Church (Introduction, p. 26), and had it been, he could not have foreseen that he would afterwards write a second. The title, as we find it in the oldest MSS., has been edited by those who formed the collection of St. Paul's letters.

This letter presents the same general framework as all the others of the same apostle:

1. The preface, comprehending the address and a thanksgiving: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9.

2. The body of the letter, where the subjects are treated which gave rise to its composition: 1 Corinthians 1:10 -xv. end.

3. The conclusion, containing commissions, news, and greetings: chap. 16.


I. In Regard to the Historical Result.

HAVING closed the study of this writing, the question arises, What was the impression it produced in the Church assembled to hear the reading of it? Did it exercise a tranquillizing effect on those restless and insubordinate spirits, or was it the spark which kindled the revolt so long fomented, and the mutterings of which we have detected at every step in this letter? The Second Epistle, as well as the manifold circumstances which it assumes, answer the question only too clearly. Paul's adversaries took occasion from not a few declarations contained in our Epistle to excite the animosity of the Church. The news brought by Timothy were in the last degree distressing. Contrary to the plan indicated in chap. 16, Paul determined, to all appearance, to go back to his first purpose and to repair immediately to Corinth, perhaps in company with the three deputies. The times which followed must have been the most painful in the apostle's whole career. During this second stay which he made at Corinth, he was subjected to treatment so offensive, that he was obliged to leave the city and return to Macedonia, leaving the Church in a condition which filled his heart with grief and anguish. It was then he wrote the letter watered with his tears, which has not been preserved to us, but which he mentions twice in 2 Corinthians ( 1Co 2:3-4 and 1Co 7:8-10 ). Titus was the bearer of this letter, intermediate between our First and Second. He succeeded, with the help of this Epistle, in bringing back the Church to a better state, and in obtaining satisfaction for the apostle who had been so grievously offended. Paul, while awaiting the result of this negotiation, returned to Ephesus. It was not till then that the tumult of Demetrius took place, in consequence of which he finally left Asia Minor. He went to Macedonia under the burden of the painful impressions which he describes in the beginning of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:8-9, 1Co 2:12-13 ). There he found Titus, who brought him the good news of the return of the Church to its apostle. Then at last he was able to promise the Corinthians his long-announced sojourn, but not without directing one more last decisive attack against those of his adversaries who had not consented to lay down their arms or to quit the field. Such was the object of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, and the task of Titus, who was the bearer of it. But all this required much time and retarded the close of Paul's labours in the East, so that it was not till the winter of 58-59 that he could carry out his long-formed plan of staying some months at Corinth.

II. In Regard to Ecclesiastical Offices.

The idea has often been expressed that the First Epistle to the Corinthians does not assume the existence of any regular ecclesiastical office in this Church; and appearances are in favour of the opinion, but only appearances. It cannot possibly be supposed that the ministry of elders or presbyters, which we find existing in the Church of Jerusalem (Acts 11:38; Acts 15:22; Act 21:18 ), and which Paul and Barnabas had established at the date of their first mission in the Churches of Asia Minor ( Act 14:23 ), had not been likewise instituted by the apostle in the Churches of Greece which he found in the course of his second mission. If he had not kept up this ministry once established, how should we find it again at Ephesus ( Act 20:17 ) and even in Greece, at Philippi ( Php 1:1 )? We may therefore look upon it as certain, that when in the first of his letters to the Church of Thessalonica Paul speaks of: “Them that labour in the Church, who are over it in the Lord, and who admonish it” ( 1Th 5:12 ), he thus designates the elders set over it. How should the Church of Corinth, founded immediately after that of Thessalonica, not have possessed the same ministry? The appearance to the contrary arises solely from the fact that in chaps. 11-14, where Paul is labouring to regulate questions of worship, he deals only with the immediate manifestations of the Holy Spirit, in the forms of prophecy, speaking in tongues, and teaching. Now these gifts were not bound to an ecclesiastical office; and therefore, when settling the mode of their exercise, he does not speak of the regular ministries established at Corinth. But this does not imply that these offices did not exist. He alludes to them in some passages; thus in ver. 5 of chap. 12 ( 1Co 12:5 ): “There are diversities of ministrations and one Lord.” These words, contrasted as they are with the preceding: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit,” can apply only to regular offices. These offices we find indicated in ver. 28, in a list of the spiritual activities in which Paul combines both ministries (the apostles, for example) and gifts (the prophets, for example). These are the two ministries denoted by the terms helps and governments, that is to say, the diaconate and presbyterate. The existence of the diaconate, as an office, at this period, appears distinctly, notwithstanding all that Weizsäcker may say, from the title deaconess given to Phoebe, Romans 16:1. This ministry was the renewal, in a different form, of the office which had been established in special circumstances at Jerusalem, Acts 6:0. It is obvious from Philippians 1:1: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints which are in Christ Jesus at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons,” that these were in the apostle's eyes the two ministries which constituted a true Christian community. It is impossible to suppose that he did not establish them as soon as he found it possible in a Church like that of Corinth. It will be remembered that Cenchrea, to which Phoebe belonged ( Rom 16:1 ), was the port of Corinth.

This result comes out still more clearly from the pastoral Epistles written at a later period. In them the apostle gives positive directions to his two apostolical helpers with a view to the establishment and maintenance of the presbyterate; comp. 1Ti 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. As to the diaconate, about which he expresses himself at length 1 Timothy 3:8-13, he does not speak to Titus, probably because this ministry was not yet necessary in the recently founded Churches of Crete. So in chap. 14 of the Acts, where the installation of presbyters in the Churches of Lycaonia is related, there is not yet any mention of the office of deacons.

It should be remarked, however, that the office of presbyter, as it then existed, did not yet embrace the ministry of preaching. This task was left, as we see in the letters to the Thessalonians and the Corinthians, to the free action of the Spirit in the different forms in which it then appeared. It is not till later, till the date to which the pastoral Epistles bring us, that we decidedly find the tendency to combine the ministry of teaching with the presbyterate. “The bishop” (the presbyter, chap. 1Co 1:7-9 ), says Paul in his Epistle to Titus, “must be able to exhort the flock in the sound doctrine, and to convict gainsayers.” According to 1 Timothy 3:2, the bishop should be a man apt to teach ( διδακτικός ). It was this combination which, becoming more and more firmly established, gradually led to the monarchical episcopate which forms the salient feature of the ecclesiastical constitution of the second century. In proportion as the free gifts of the Spirit, which had provided for the edification of the Churches at the beginning, diminished, the regular ministry whose functions were at first chiefly administrative, felt obliged to devote itself more and more to teaching.

To sum up then: the following, if we are not mistaken, was the course of events. At the time when the Church was founded, by the great manifestation of Pentecost, the free outburst of the Spirit took effect in all believers; and the same fact was witnessed in the house of Cornelius ( Act 10:44-46 ), at Ephesus ( Act 19:6 ), and doubtless on many other occasions. Besides the inspired utterance due to this immediate operation of the Spirit, the apostolate alone represented at that first period the element of regular office. But soon the presbyterate, with its humble functions, essentially practical and foreign to worship properly so called, became necessary. We find it as well in the Jewish-Christian Church at Jerusalem and elsewhere ( Jam 5:14 ), as in the Churches of Gentile origin. Within the latter also free gifts were not slow in appearing; but to begin with, in Thessalonica, for example, in a less brilliant fashion, and one which seems rather to have excited a sort of distrust; for the apostle is obliged to take these extraordinary manifestations under his protection: “Quench not the Spirit; despise not prophesyings” ( 1Th 5:19-20 ).

In the following Epistle, that to the Galatians, we find a solitary, but still indistinct, trace of the influence exercised by the gifts of the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 3:5: “He that supplieth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you.” It is a little later at Corinth that we behold, as in a magnificent spring-time, the full efflorescence of spiritual gifts. Paul reckons them to the number of twelve. Most remarkable among them are the gifts of tongues and of prophecy. They are the two principal agents in the edification of the Church, in its assemblies for worship, to such an extent, that they threaten to take the place of the other gifts, such as teaching, and that the exercise of offices, though existing, seems totally annulled.

At the slightly later date of the Epistle to the Romans, this extraordinary phase seems already over and gone. Paul enumerates only seven gifts, 1 Corinthians 12:6-8; and speaking in tongues is not even mentioned. The gifts indicated have a calmer and more practical character; they are, after prophecy, which occupies the first rank (for the apostolate, see ver. 3), the functions of teaching, exhortation, helps; offices strictly so called are also spoken of ( διακονία , ver. 7).

In the Epistle which follows, that to the Ephesians, Paul mentions only four functions named to serve as a permanent basis for the development of the Church ( 1Co 4:11 ): apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Of these four forms of action, the second only, prophecy, belongs, strictly speaking, to the category of gifts. The evangelists or missionaries, such as Titus and Timothy, really hold an office to which they have been consecrated by the laying on of hands ( 2Ti 1:6 ; 1Ti 4:14 ). Pastors are the presbyters; this clearly appears from Acts 20:28, where Paul says to the presbyters of Ephesus: “Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops, to feed the Church of the Lord;” and from the First Epistle of Peter: “The presbyters among you I exhort, who am a fellow-presbyter: Feed the flock of God which is among you” (vers. 1, 2). We thus see that their functions were not purely administrative, but that they had also a spiritual side, the care of individual souls. As to the teachers, finally, they are, by the very form of expression (one article for the two substantives), more or less identified with the pastors. Teaching, no doubt, is a gift, but a gift which tends to pass over into an office by uniting with the presbyterate. The subsequent Epistle also, that to the Philippians, says not a single word either of the gift of tongues or of prophecy. Bishops and deacons alone are designated; they are named along with Paul, the apostle, and Timothy, the evangelist ( 1Co 1:1 ).

In the Pastorals, finally, we have pointed out the ever more and more distinct evidences of the fact, that teaching tended to become the regular function of the presbyters.

This succession of phases, established by the series of Paul's Epistles, is instructive. It shows us that there was not in the primitive Church any one mode of procedure, a permanent type of constitution, and that in particular the state of the Church of Corinth, at the time when Paul wrote the First Epistle, had an exceptional character, and should not be regarded as forming a law for all periods of the Church, as seems to be thought by certain Christians of our day, who reject the idea of office as applied to the Church. After that phase, in which immediate spiritual gifts seemed for a time to absorb all ecclesiastical activity, offices reappeared, and partially attracting the gifts to them, especially that of teaching, became, agreeably to the apostle's injunctions, the essential agencies in maintaining and developing the Church. The state of the Corinthian Church, as we find it in our First Epistle, was only a passing phase in the history of the primitive Church.

III. In Regard to Criticism of the Text.

It has been calculated that in the New Testament in general one word in ten is subject to variation. By counting the variants, which I have mentioned in the notes in our Epistle, we come to a smaller proportion. Out of the 6934 words which it contains, I have indicated 372 variants, which gives the proportion of 1 variant to about 18 words. It is true that I have only indicated those which were worth the trouble. The general meaning of the apostolic text is therefore as certain as the direction of a curve in which seventeen points are known in eighteen, or at least nine points in ten.

When we study these 372 variants more closely, we find three principal types in the transmission of the text:

1. The type followed by the text of the four oldest Uncials, א A B C. This text seems to have been the one which was copied in Egypt; it may be called Alexandrine. It is on it that the Egyptian translations and the quotations of the Fathers of the Egyptian Church are based.

2. The type which is traced in the four somewhat less ancient manuscripts, D E F G. It is the one which was copied in the Churches of the West; it is accompanied in the manuscripts by a Latin translation. It is called Greco-Latin or Western. It is likewise found in the ancient Latin translation, the Itala, and in the Fathers of the Western Church.

3. The type which appears in the latest Uncials, K L P. Their text seems to be the one which was transmitted in the Churches of Syria, and which passed thence to all the Churches of the Byzantine Empire. It is called Syriac or Byzantine. It is found pretty frequently in the Syriac translation, the Peschito, and in the Fathers of the Church of Syria, such as Chrysostom and Theodoret.

These three forms of the text are found distinctly separated only in three cases in our Epistle: 1Co 7:31 , 1 Corinthians 9:10 (excepting P), 1 Corinthians 14:37.

But two of them are frequently found united in opposition to the third, and that with the three possible combinations:

The Alexandrine and Greco-Latin texts opposed to the Byzantine: 89 times.

The Alexandrine and Byzantine texts opposed to the Greco-Latin: 44 times.

The Greco-Latin and Byzantine texts opposed to the Alexandrine: 48 times.

But these three groups only appear completely formed and marked off from one another in their mutual opposition in the following proportion:

Complete Alexandrine and Greco - Latin groups against the complete Byzantine: 16 times.

Complete Alexandrine and Byzantine groups against the complete Greco-Latin: 27 times.

Complete Greco-Latin and Byzantine groups against the complete Alexandrine: 13 times.

As to the two most ancient and important manuscripts, the following is the state of things:

א stands alone 3 times; besides, 4 times with A alone; 2 times with P alone; 2 times with L alone; 1 time with D alone.

The same text agrees 4 times with the Greco-Latins alone; with the Byzantines alone, 2 times.

B stands alone 10 times; besides, 2 times with D alone, with P alone, and with L alone; 1 time with A alone.

The same text agrees 13 times with the Greco-Latins alone (besides 3 times with F G alone), and 6 times with the Byzantines alone.

א and B agree 10 times; they are found opposed to one another 79 times.

The received text agrees almost always, in case of variation, with one or two Byzantines or with the three Byzantines united; very rarely with one or other of the two other texts, or with the two united; 5 times it is supported only by Cursives, 2 times it is even destitute of all support in the documents (1 Corinthians 6:14, 1Co 15:33 ).

To this statistical statement, which, in view of the very frequent variety of groupings, can only be approximately exact, we should add, as the result of our exegesis, an attempt to appreciate the relative value of the texts, remembering, however, that a large number of cases of variation remain undecided.

א seems to me mistaken in the 3 cases in which it stands alone.

In the 6 cases in which it agrees with Greco-Latins alone, it is mistaken 3 times; it has appeared to me exact in 1 case in which it agrees with the Greco-Latins and the Byzantines ( 1Co 11:17 ).

B, in the 10 cases in which it stands alone, has been found 1 time exact, 7 times mistaken.

In the 13 cases in which it agrees with Greco-Latins alone, it has the true text 3 times (1 Corinthians 1:1, 1Co 1:2 , 1Co 14:38 ); 3 times it is mistaken.

In the 6 cases in which it agrees with Byzantines only, they have the true text 3 times ( 1Co 1:28 , 1 Corinthians 15:49; 1Co 15:51 ); their text is 1 time mistaken ( 1Co 7:7 ).

In 1 case in which it agrees with the Greco-Latins and the Byzantines against the Alexandrines (v. 2), it has the true text.

Out of 6 cases in which א B stand alone, they have the true text 1 time, and are mistaken 2 times.

In 2 cases in which both alone agree with the Greco-Latins ( 1Co 15:10 ) or with the Byz. ( 1Co 14:15 ), they have the true text.

Of the 48 cases in which the Alexandrine text is wholly or in part opposed to the other two, there were 10 in which it had the true text, 7 in which it was mistaken.

Of the 44 cases in which the Greco-Latin text is wholly or in part opposed to the two others, it was found to have the true text once, but that is an extremely important case ( 1Co 9:10 ), and to be mistaken 32 times.

Of the 89 cases in which the Byzantine stands alone, it has appeared to me to give the true text 9 times.

The received text, either apart from the others, or in combination with them, seems to me to have in all 79 mistakes; its reading seems to be preferable to that of the Alexandrines 20 times; 7 times it agrees with B, and, with it, has the advantage over the reading of the other Alexandrines.

The best way of deriving instruction from the comparison of the texts in this Epistle will be to repeat the most important of the variants, and to state in each case what the authorities are which support the reading which seems to deserve the preference.

There are twenty-seven:

1Co 1:2 position of ηγιασμενοις ,. Right: B Greco-Lat. It.; Wrong: A Byz. Pesch.

1 Corinthians 1:22 σημειον ,... Right: All the Mjj. (excepting L); Wrong: T. R. with L and Mnn.

1Co 1:30 position of ημιν ,.. Right: All the Mjj. (excepting L); Wrong: T. R. with L Pesch. Mnn.

1 Corinthians 2:1 μαρτυριον ,... Right: B Greco-Lat. Byz. Itala; Wrong: A C Pesch. Cop.

1 Corinthians 3:1 σαρκινοις ,... Right: Alex. D; Wrong: Other Greco-Lat. Byz.

1 Corinthians 3:4 ανθρωποι ,... Right: All the Mjj. (excepting ; L P) Wrong: T. R. with L P.

1Co 4:2 ο δε ,... Right: T. R. with E L Mnn.; Wrong: Alex. Greco-Lat. other Byz.

1Co 4:2 ζητειται ,... Right: B L Pesch. It.; [Lat. Wrong: Other Alex. Byz. Greco-

1Co 5:13 και ,... Right: T. R. with E L Pesch.; Wrong: Alex. Greco-Lat. other Byz.

1 Corinthians 5:13 εξαρειτε ,... Right: T. R. with E L; Wrong: All the rest.

1Co 6:20 και εν ... θεου ,.. Right: Alex. Greco-Lat.; Wrong: T. R. with Byz.

1 Corinthians 7:29.. Right: T. R. with E K L; Wrong: Alex. Greco-Lat.

1 Corinthians 8:7 συνηθεια ,... Right: A B P Cop.; [It. Pesch. Wrong: T. R. with Greco-Lat. Byz.

1 Corinthians 9:10.. Right: D F G It.; Wrong: Alex. Byz.

1 Corinthians 11:17 παραγγελλων ... επαινω , Right: Greco-Lat. Byz.; Wrong: Other Alex. D Pesch.

1Co 12:3 Ιησους ,... Right: Alex. Pesch.; Wrong: Greco-Lat. Byz.

1Co 12:3 Κυριος Ιησους ,... Right: Alex. Pesch.; Wrong: Greco-Lat. Byz.

1 Corinthians 13:3 καυθησωμαι ( σομαι ), . Right: Greco-Lat. Byz.; Wrong: A B.

1 Corinthians 14:37 εντολαι ,... Doubtful.

1 Corinthians 14:38 αγνοειτω ,... Right: B Byz. Pesch.; Wrong: A Greco-Lat.

1 Corinthians 15:24 παραδιδω ,... Right: Alex. Greco-Lat.; Wrong: T. R. with K L It.

1Co 15:44 ει ,... Right: T. R. with E K L Pesch.; Wrong: Alex. Greco-Lat.

1Co 15:44 εστι ,... Right: T. R. with K L Pesch.; Wrong: Alex. Greco-Lat.

1Co 15:44 σωμα ,... Right: T. R. with K L Pesch.; Wrong: Alex. Greco-Lat. [Lat.; 1 Corinthians 15:47 κυριος ,... Right: Alex. (excepting A) Greco- Wrong: A Byz. [Fathers; 1 Corinthians 15:49 φορεσομεν ,... Right: T. R. with B some Mnn. Wrong: Other Alex. Greco-Lat. Byz. It. Cop. Or. [Mnn. Cop.; 1Co 15:51 ου κοιμηθησομεθα ... Right: T. R. with B Byz. Pesch. Wrong: Other Alex. Greco-Lat.

To what result does this table bring us? Unless the exegesis on which it rests is destitute of accuracy, we must conclude that the truth of a reading cannot be established from the external authorities which favour it. For we find each of these authorities supporting sometimes the true, sometimes the false reading. It may be said (approximately, considering the very frequent transposition of the elements which constitute the three principal groups), that the Alex. are right 6 times, wrong 11 times; the Greco-Latins are right 7 times, wrong 11 times; the Byzantines are right 10 times, wrong 10 times. A striking feature is, that in the 6 cases in which B diverges from the other Alex. to combine either with the Byzantines (1 Corinthians 4:1, 1Co 14:38 , 1 Corinthians 15:49, 1Co 15:51 ), or with the Greco-Latins ( 1Co 1:2 ), or with the Byzantines and Greco-Latins together ( 1Co 2:1 ), the true reading is in every instance on its side. א plays a much less important part; it diverges only 3 times from the other Alexandrines; 1 time ( 1Co 14:38 ) combining with A and with the Greco-Latins (wrong reading); 1 time ( 1Co 1:2 ) agreeing with A and the Byz. (wrong reading); 1 time ( 1Co 11:17 ) coinciding with the Byz. and Greco-Latin (true text).

No positive rule which we might be inclined to take from these 27 particular instances, certainly the most important in the Epistle, would be other than arbitrary. But the negative consequences are evident. The first is the absolute erroneousness of the method which claims to decide between variants by means of external authorities alone. The second, which completes the first, is the erroneousness of holding by any one of the three types of text, the Alexandrine, for example, to the extent of taking almost no account of the Greco-Latin text, and absolutely none of the Byzantine text, as is done by Hort and Westcott. It is, I think, very unfortunate that in the revision of the English translation of the New Testament this system has been usually followed by the Committee. It would be greatly to be regretted if in the new edition of Ostervald, which is preparing under the authority of the official Synod of the Reformed Church of France, the authority of this Alexandrine text were also accepted without sufficient check. How can a voice on the subject be reasonably refused to the two other texts, when their superiority is attested in so many particular instances by the evidence of exegesis?

As to the Byzantine text, in particular, it cannot reasonably be supposed that there was not a separate and independent transmission of the apostolic text in the countries of Syria and Cilicia, where the first Churches of Greek origin were founded, quite as much as in Egypt and in the Churches of the West. And how can it be held that men like Chrysostom and Theodoret would have blindly adopted a text arbitrarily constructed a few decades of years before the date when they composed their commentaries! I cannot therefore help giving my entire assent to the opinion of Principal Brown of Aberdeen, in the extremely accurate and learned criticism which he has given of the system followed by the two critics I have just named, in connection with the following passages in which the superiority systematically ascribed to the Alexandrines completely breaks down: 1 Corinthians 15:49; Mark 11:3; Matthew 27:49; Hebrews 4:2; Matthew 19:16-17; John 1:18; Ephesians 1:15; Luke 14:44; Acts 12:25; Revelation 15:6. In all these cases Dr. Brown justifies the old reading to a demonstration, and shows the impossibility, and, more than once, even the absurdity, of the Alexandrine text. When authorities are so often demonstrated to be fallible taken separately, it is impossible by adding them to one another to arrive at certainty. The means at the disposal of external criticism may lead to a greater or less degree of probability. But it is only by discovering the writer's thought, by means of the context, that we can put our finger with certainty on the terms by which he really expressed it. It will be said that this is a vicious circle, for it is only by means of the terms themselves that we penetrate to the thought. But this circle is far from being vicious; it meets us in every study; it is the condition of progress in all the branches of human knowledge. In every domain, scientific procedure consists in passing and repassing from the idea to the facts, and from the facts to the idea, until the real fact appears fully illumined by the true idea.

IV. In Regard to the Epistolary Work of the Apostle.

St. Paul's literary career, though purely epistolary, at least so far as we know, embraces many varieties. The manifold relations in which he lived, as an apostle and a man, have left their varied impress on his different writings. In the Epistles to the Romans and the Ephesians he discovers the gift of calm and consecutive teaching; as we read them we feel constrained at every line to claim for him the title of Doctor Seraphicus, invented to characterize one of the great divines of the Middle Ages. In the letters to the Galatians and the Colossians his ability as a polemic shines; and, if one dared invent an epithet, there might be given him, on the ground of these two writings, the title of Doctor Elenchicus, by way of eminence. In the Epistles to the Thessalonians what especially stands out is his gift of prophecy; the final future, in its two aspects, the dark and the luminous, lies open to the view of the apostle in the light of the Spirit. In the Pastoral Epistles we recognise the man endowed with the gift of ecclesiastical government, the “Kirchenfürst,” as Schleiermacher would say. When he addresses the Church of Philippi, we discover in him the loving and loved father who exhorts and thanks his fondly cherished family. In the lines written to Philemon we hear, so to speak, the affectionate voice of Paul the brother. Finally, in the Epistles to the Corinthians, it is his gift for the care of souls which strikes us, it is the ποιμήν , the pastor, whom we admire. The object is to bring back an erring flock, whom seducers have alienated from him; it concerns him to resolve a multitude of practical difficulties which have arisen in the life of the Church. In the former of these letters, the apostle is self-restrained; he calmly discusses the questions proposed; he gives solutions full of wisdom, and fitted to guide us even in our day in analogous cases. In the latter, his emotion breaks out; he labours, on the one hand, to draw the bond more closely which unites him to the faithful portion; on the other, to isolate and remove the rebellious spirits. He thus reconquers this important part of his domain, which for a brief period threatened to escape him.

These two Epistles are the monument of the hottest conflict, but also of the greatest victory, in the whole career of St. Paul.


The author of the brochure quoted vol. i. p. 357 is not M. Jean Monod, Professor at Montauban, but the Rev. Jean-Adolphe Monod.

Ads FreeProfile