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1 Corinthians 1

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Verse 1

1 .] It is doubtful whether κλητός is not spurious: see var. readd.

The words διὰ θελ . θεοῦ point probably to the depreciation of Paul’s apostolic authority at Corinth. In Gal 1:1 we have this much more strongly asserted. But they have a reference to Paul himself also: “ratio auctoritatis ad ecclesias: humilis et prompti animi, penes ipsum Paulum.” Bengel. Chrys., referring it to κλητός , says, ἐπειδὴ αὐτῷ ἔδοξεν , ἐκλήθημεν , οὐκ ἐπειδὴ ἄξιοι ἦμεν . Hom. i. p. 4.

Σωσθένης can hardly be assumed to be identical with the ruler of the synagogue in Acts 18:17 ; see note there. He must have been some Christian well known to the church at Corinth. Thus Paul associates with himself Silvanus and Timotheus in the Epistles to the Thessalonians; and Timotheus in 2 Cor. Chrysostom attributes it to modesty: μετριάζει , συντάττων ἑαυτῷ τὸν ἐλάττονα πολλῷ . Some have supposed Sosthenes to be the writer of the Epistle, see Romans 16:22 . Possibly he may have been one τῶν Χλόης ( 1Co 1:11 ) by whom the intelligence had been received, and the Apostle may have associated him with himself as approving the appeal to apostolic authority. Perhaps some slight may have been put upon him by the parties at Corinth, and for that reason Paul puts him forward.

ὁ ἀδελφός , as 2 Corinthians 1:1 , of Timothy, our brother , one of οἱ ἀδελφοί .

Verses 1-3



Verse 2

2 .] The remarks of Calvin on τῇ ἐκκλ . τ . θεοῦ , κ . τ . λ . are admirable: “Mirum forsan videri queat, cur eam hominum multitudinem vocet Ecclesiam Dei, in qua tot morbi invaluerant, ut Satan illic potius regnum occuparet quam Deus. Certum est autem, eum noluisse blandiri Corinthiis: loquitur enim ex Dei Spiritu, qui adulari non solet. Atqui inter tot inquinamenta qualis amplius eminet Ecclesiæ facies? Respondeo, … utcunque multa vitia obrepissent, et variæ corruptelæ tam doctrinæ quam morum, extitisse tamen adhuc quædam veræ Ecclesiæ signa. Locus diligenter observandus, ne requiramus in hoc mundo Ecclesiam omni ruga et macula carentem: aut protinus abdicemus hoc titulo quemvis cœtum in quo non omnia votis nostris respondeant. Est enim hæc periculosa tentatio, nullam Ecclesiam putare ubi non appareat perfecta puritas. Nam quicunque hac occupatus fuerit, necesse tandem erit, ut discessione ab omnibus aliis facta, solus sibi sanctus videatur in mundo, aut peculiarem sectam cum paucis hypocritis instituat. Quid ergo causæ habuit Paulus, cur Ecclesiam Corinthi agnosceret? nempe quia Evangelii doctrinam, Baptismum, Cœnam Domini, quibus symbolis censeri debet Ecclesia, apud eos cernebat.” On τοῦ θεοῦ , Chrys. remarks, οὐ τοῦδε καὶ τοῦδε , ἀλλὰ τοῦ θεοῦ , and similarly Theophyl., taking the expression as addressed to the Corinthians to remind them of their position as a congregation belonging to GOD, and not to any head of a party . Perhaps this is too refined, the words ἡ ἐκκλ . τ . θεοῦ being so usual with St. Paul, see reff.

The harshness of the position of ἡγιασμένοις ἐν χρ . Ἰης . is in favour of its being the original one: hallowed (i.e. dedicated) to God in (in union with and by means of) Jesus Christ .

τῇ οὔσῃ ‘which exists,’ ‘is found, at Corinth.’ So ἐν Ἀντιοχ . κατὰ τὴν οὖσαν ἐκκλησίαν , Acts 13:1 .

κλητοῖς ἁγίοις ] See Romans 1:7 , note.

σὺν πᾶσιν κ . τ . λ .] These words do not belong to the designations just preceding, = ‘as are all,’ &c., but form part of the address of the Epistle, so that these πάντες οἱ ἐπικαλ . are partakers with the Corinthians in it. They form a weighty and precious addition, made here doubtless to shew the Corinthians, that membership of God’s Holy Catholic Church consisted not in being planted, or presided over by Paul, Apollos, or Cephas (or their successors), but in calling on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ . The Church of England has adopted from this verse her solemn explanation of the term, in the ‘prayer for all sorts and conditions of men:’ “More especially, we pray for the good estate of the Catholic Church ; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life.”

ἐπικαλ . ] not ‘ calling themselves by ’ (though in sense equivalent to this, for they who call upon Christ, call themselves by His Name): the phrase ἐπικαλεῖσθαι τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου was one adopted from the LXX, as in reff.; the adjunct ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ χρ . defines that Lord (Jehovah) on whom the Christians called, to be Jesus Christ, and is a direct testimony to the divine worship of Jesus Christ, as universal in the church. The ὄνομα ἐπικληθὲν ἐφ ʼ ὑμᾶς ( Jam 2:7 ) is not to the point, the construction being different.

ἐν παντὶ τόπ . αὐτ . [ τε ] κ . ἡμ .] In every place, both theirs (in their country, wherever that may be) and ours . This connexion is far better than to join αὐτ . [ τε ] κ . ἡμ . with κυρίῳ , thereby making the first ἡμῶν superfluous.

αὐτῶν refers to the πάντες οἱ ἐπικαλ ., ἡμῶν to Paul, and Sosthenes, and those whom he is addressing. Eichhorn fancied τόπος to mean ‘ a place of assembly: ’ Hug, ‘ a party ’ or ‘ division: ’ Beza, al., would limit the persons spoken of to Achaia: others, to Corinth and Ephesus: but the simple meaning and universal reference are far more agreeable to the spirit of the passage. I may as well once for all premise, that many of the German expositors have been constantly misled in their interpretations by what I believe to be a mistaken view of 1 Corinthians 1:12 , and the supposed Corinthian parties. See note there.

Verse 3

3. ] See introductory note to the Epistle to the Romans. Olsh. remarks, that εἰρήνη has peculiar weight here on account of the dissensions in the Corinthian Church.

Verse 4

4. τ . θεῷ μου ] so in reff. Rom. Phil.

πάντοτε ] expanded in Php 1:4 into πάντοτε ἐν πάσῃ δεήσει μου .

The ἡ χάρις ἡ δοθεῖσα = τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ δοθέντα (see below on 1Co 1:7 ) a metonymy which has passed so completely into our common parlance, as to be almost lost sight of as such. ‘ Grace ’ is properly in God : the gifts of grace in us, given by that grace.

ἐν ] not, as Chrys., Theophyl., Œcum., for διὰ , [nor = by as E. V.,] but as usually in this connexion, in Christ , i.e. to you as members of Christ . So also below.

Verses 4-9

4 9. ] THANKSGIVING, AND EXPRESSION OF HOPE, ON ACCOUNT OF THE SPIRITUAL STATE OF THE CORINTHIAN CHURCH. There was much in the Corinthian believers for which to be thankful, and on account of which to hope. These things he puts in the foreground, not only to encourage them, but (as Olsh.) to appeal to their better selves, and to bring out the following contrast more plainly.

Verse 5

5. ἐν παντί ] general: particularized by ἐν παντὶ λόγῳ κ . πάσῃ γνώσει , in all teaching and all knowledge . λόγος (obj.), the truth preached . γνῶσις (subj.), the truth apprehended . They were rich in the preaching of the word, had among them able preachers, and rich in the apprehension of the word, were themselves intelligent hearers. See 2 Corinthians 8:7 , where to these are added πίστις , σπουδή , and ἀγάπη .

Verse 6

6. τὸ μαρτ . τ . χριστοῦ ] the witness concerning Christ delivered by me.

καθώς , as indeed , ‘siquidem.’

ἐβεβ ., was confirmed , took deep root , among you; i.e. ‘as was to have been expected, from the impression made among you by my preaching of Christ.’ This confirmation was internal , by faith and permanence in the truth, not external, by miracles.

Verse 7

7. ] So that ye are behind (others) in no gift of grace ; not, lack no gift of grace , which would be genitive. χάρισμα here has its widest sense, of that which is the effect of χάρις , not meaning ‘spiritual gifts’ in the narrower sense, as in ch. 1 Corinthians 12:4 . This is plain from the whole strain of the passage, which dwells not on outward gifts, but on the inward graces of the Christian life.

ἀπεκδεχ .] which is the greatest proof of maturity and richness of the spiritual life; implying the coexistence and co-operation of faith , whereby they believed the promise of Christ, hope , whereby they looked on to its fulfilment, and love , whereby that anticipation was lit up with earnest desire; compare πᾶσιν τοῖς ἠγαπηκόσιν τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν αὐτοῦ , 2 Timothy 4:8 .

ἀπεκδ . κ . τ . λ ., is taken by Chrys., who understands χαρίσματα of miraculous powers, as implying that besides them they needed patience to wait till the coming of Christ; and by Calv., “ideo addit expectantes revelationem , quo significat, non talem se affluentiam illis affingere in qua nihil desideretur; sed tantum quæ sufficiet usquedum ad perfectionem perventum fuerit.” But I much prefer taking ἀπεκδεχομένους as parallel with and giving the result of μὴ ὑστ . κ . τ . λ .

Verse 8

8. ὅς ] viz. θεός , 1 Corinthians 1:4 , not Ἰησοῦς χριστός , in which case we should have ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ αὐτοῦ . The καί besides shews this.

ἕως τέλ . ἀνεγκ . ] i.e. εἰς τὸ εἶναι ὑμᾶς ἀνεγκ .; so ἀπεκατεστάθη ὑγιής , Matthew 12:13 .

To the end , see reff. i.e. to the συντέλεια τ . αἰῶνος , not merely ‘to the end of your lives.’

Verse 9

9. ] See ref. 1 Thess.; also Philippians 1:6 . The κοιν . τοῦ υἱ . αὐτ ., as Meyer well remarks, is the δόξα τῶν τέκνων τοῦ θεοῦ , Romans 8:21 ; for they will be συγκληρονόμοι τοῦ χριστοῦ , and συνδοξασθέντες with Him, see Romans 8:17 ; Rom 8:23 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:14 . The mention of κοινωνία may perhaps have been intended to prepare the way, as was before done in 1 Corinthians 1:2 , for the reproof which is coming.

Chrys. remarks respecting 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 , σὺ δὲ σκόπει πῶς αὐτοὺς τῷ ὀνόματι ἀεὶ τοῦ χριστοῦ προσηλοῖ . καὶ ἀνθρώπου μὲν οὐδενός , οὔτε ἀποστόλου οὔτε διδασκάλου , συνεχῶς δὲ αὐτοῦ τοῦ ποθουμένου μέμνηται , καθάπερ ἀπὸ μέθης τινὸς τοὺς καρηβαροῦντας ἀπενεγκεῖν παρασκευάζων . οὐδαμοῦ γὰρ ἐν ἑτέρᾳ ἐπιστολῇ οὕτω συνεχῶς κεῖται τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ χριστοῦ · ἐνταῦθα μέντοι ἐν ὀλίγοις στίχοις πολλάκις , καὶ διὰ τούτου σχεδὸν τὸ πᾶν ὑφαίνει προοίμιον . Hom. ii. p. 10.

Verse 10

10. ] δέ introduces the contrast to the thankful assurance just expressed.

διὰ τ . ὀν . , as διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ , Romans 12:1 ; “as the bond of union, and as the most holy name by which they could be adjured.” Stanley.

ἵνα (reff.) not only introduces the result of the fulfilment of the exhortation, but includes its import.

τὸ αὐτὸ λέγητε contrast to λέγει ἐγὼ μὲν … ἐγὼ δὲ … ἐγὼ δὲ … ἐγὼ δέ of 1 Corinthians 1:12 , but further implying the having the same sentiments on the subjects which divided them: see Philippians 2:2 .

ἦτε δέ ] δέ here implies but rather , as in Thuc. ii. 98, ἀπεγίγνετο μὲν αὐτῷ οὐδὲν τοῦ στρατοῦ , … προσεγίγνετο δέ . Hartung Partikellehre, i. 171, gives many other examples. καταρτίζω is the exact word for the healing or repairing of the breaches made by the σχίσματα , perfectly united . So Herod. v. 28, ἡ Μίλητος … ἐπὶ δύο γενεὰς ἀνδρῶν νοσήσασα ἐς τὰ μάλιστα στάσει , μέχρι οὗ μιν Πάριοι κατήρτισαν .

νοΐ (reff.), disposition , γνώμη (do.), opinion .

Verses 10-31


Verse 11

11. ] We cannot fill up τῶν Χλόης , not knowing whether they were sons , or servants , or other members of her family. Nor can we say whether Chloe was (Theophyl., al.) an inhabitant of Corinth , or some Christian woman (Estius) known to the Corinthians elsewhere , or (Michaelis, Meyer) an Ephesian , having friends who had been in Corinth.

Verse 12

12. ] λέγω δὲ τοῦτο ὅτι , not, ‘ I say this because ,’ but (see reff.) I mean this, that …

ἕκαστ . ὑμ . λέγ .] The meaning is clear, but the form of expression not strictly accurate, the ἕκαστος being a different person in each case . Accurately expressed it would run thus, ὅτι πάντες τοιοῦτό τι λέγετε , ἐγώ εἰμι Π ., ἐγὼ Ἀπολ ., ἐγὼ Κηφ ., ἐγὼ χριστοῦ , or as De W., ὅτι πάντες λ ., ὁ μέν , ἐγώ εἰμι … ὁ δέ , ἐγὼ κ . τ . λ . Respecting the matter of fact to which the verse alludes, I have given references in the Prolegg. § ii. 10, to the principal theories of the German critics, and will only here restate the conclusions which I have there (ib. parr. 5 9) endeavoured to substantiate: (1) that these designations are not used as pointing to actual parties formed and subsisting among the Corinthians, but (2) as representing the SPIRIT WITH WHICH THEY CONTENDED against one another , being the sayings of individuals , and not of parties ( ἕκαστος ὑμῶν λέγει ): q. d. ‘You are all in the habit of alleging against one another, some your special attachment to Paul, some to Apollos, some to Cephas, others to no mere human teacher, but barely to Christ, to the exclusion of us his Apostles.’ (3) That these sayings, while they are not to be made the basis of any hypothesis respecting definite parties at Corinth, do nevertheless hint at matters of fact , and are not merely ‘exempli gratia:’ and (4) that this view of the verse, which was taken by Chrys., Theodoret, Theophylact, Calv., is borne out , and indeed necessitated , by ch. 1 Corinthians 4:6 (see there).

ἐγὼ Παύλου ] This profession, of being guided especially by the words and acts of Paul , would probably belong to those who were the first fruits of, or directly converted under, his ministry. Such persons would contend for his apostolic authority, and maintain doctrinally his teaching, so far being right ; but, as usual with partisans, would magnify into importance practices and sayings of his which were in themselves indifferent, and forget that theirs was a service of perfect freedom under one Master, even Christ. With these he does not deal doctrinally in the Epistle, as there was no need for it : but involves them in the same censure as the rest, and shews them in ch. 2, 3, 4 that he had no such purpose of gaining personal honour among them, but only of building them up in Christ.

ἐγὼ Απολλώ ] Apollos (Acts 18:24 ff.) had come to Corinth after the departure of Paul, and being eloquent, might attract some, to whom the bodily presence of Paul seemed weak and his speech contemptible. It would certainly appear that some occasion had been taken by this difference, to set too high a value on external and rhetorical form of putting forth the gospel of Christ. This the Apostle seems to be blaming (in part) in the conclusion of this, and the next chapter. And from ch. 1 Corinthians 16:12 , it would seem likely that Apollos himself had been aware of the abuse of his manner of teaching which had taken place, and was unwilling, by repeating his visit just then, to sanction or increase it.

ἐγὼ Κηφᾶ ] All we can say in possible explanation of this, is, that as Peter was the Apostle of the circumcision , as we know from Galatians 2:11 ff. that his course of action on one occasion was reprehended by Paul, and as that course of action no doubt had influence and found followers, it is very conceivable that some of those who in Corinth lightly esteemed Paul, might take advantage of this honoured name, and cite against the Christian liberty taught by their own spiritual founder, the stricter practice of Peter. If so, these persons would be mainly found among the Jewish converts or Judaizers; and the matters treated in ch. 7 11:1, may have been subjects of doubt mainly with these persons.

ἐγὼ δὲ χριστοῦ ] A rendering has been proposed (Estius, al.) which need only be mentioned to be rejected: viz. that Paul having mentioned the three parties, then breaks of, and adds, in his own person , ἐγὼ δὲ ( Παῦλος ), χριστοῦ ( εἰμι ) [not of any of these preceding]. Beza represents this as Chrysostom’s view, but it is not: οὐ τοῦτο ἐνεκάλει , ὅτι τὸν χριστὸν ἑαυτοῖς ἐπεφήμιζον , ἀλλ ʼ ὅτι μὴ πάντες μόνον . οἶμαι δὲ αὐτὸν καὶ οἴκοθεν αὐτὸ προστεθεικέναι βουλόμενον βαρύτερον τὸ ἔγκλημα ποιῆσαι , καὶ δεῖξαι οὕτω καὶ τὸν χριστὸν εἰς μέρος δοθέντα ἕν , εἰ καὶ μὴ οὕτως ἐποίουν τοῦτο ἐκεῖνοι : (Hom. iii. p. 16 f.): meaning by οἴκοθεν , not, as his own sentiment , but of his own invention , to shew them the inconsistency of their conduct. The words seem to apply to those who make a merit of not being attached to any human teacher , who therefore slighted the apostleship of Paul. To them frequent allusion seems to be made in this and in the second Epistle, and more especially in 2 Corinthians 10:7-11 .

For a more detailed discussion of the whole subject, see Prolegg. as above, and Dr. Davidson’s Introd. to the N. T. ii. 222 ff.

Verse 13

13. ] Some (Lachmann has so printed it) take μεμέρισται ὁ χρ . as an assertion, ‘ Christ has been divided (by you),’ or, as Chrys. mentions, διενείματο πρὸς ἀνθρώπους κ . ἐμερίσατο τὴν ἐκκλησίαν . But it is far better to take it, as commonly, interrogatively: Is Christ (the Person of Christ, as the centre and bond of Christian unity not, the Gospel of Christ (Grot., al.), nor the Church of Christ (Estius, Olsh.): nor the power of Christ (Theodoret), i.e. his right over all) divided (not in the primary sense (Meyer, Exodus 1:0 ), against Himself, as Mark 3:24-25 , where we have ἐφ ʼ ἑαυτήν , but ‘ into various parts , one under one leader, another under another, which in fact would amount, after all, to a division against Himself)? The question applies to all addressed , not to the ἐγὼ χριστοῦ only, as Meyer, Exodus 1:0 . In that case μεμέρισται ῥ χρ . would mean ‘Has Christ become the property of one part only?’ as indeed Dr. Burton renders it.

Meyer urges against the interrogative rendering, that the questions begin immediately after, with μή . But we may fairly set against this argument, that the μή introduces a new form of interrogation respecting a new individual, viz. Paul: and that it was natural, for solemnity’s sake, to express the other question differently. In μεμέρισται ὁ χριστός , the Majesty of Christ’s Person is set against the unworthy insinuation conveyed by μεμέρισται , in μὴ Παῦλος ἐσταυρώθη ὑπὲρ ὑμ ., the meanness of the individual, Paul, is set against the triumph of divine Love implied in ἐστ . ὑπ . ὑμῶν . Two such contrasts could hardly but be differently expressed.

μὴ Π . ἐστ . κ . τ . λ .] Surely Paul was not crucified for you? By repudiating all possibility of himself being the Head and ἐπώνυμος of their church, he does so à fortiori for Cephas and Apollos: for he founded the Church at Corinth. On εἰς τὸ ὄν . ἐβαπτ . see Matthew 28:19 .

Verse 14

14. ] Olsh. characterizes it as surprising that Paul should not have referred to the import of baptism itself as a reason to substantiate his argument. He does not this, but tacitly assumes, between 1 Corinthians 1:13-14 , the probability that his having baptized any considerable number among the Corinthians would naturally have led to the abuse against which he is arguing.

εὐχ . τ . θ . ] ‘ I am (now) thankful to God, who so ordered it that I did not,’ &c. Crispus, the former ruler of the synagogue, Acts 18:8 . Gaius, afterwards the host of the Apostle, and of the church, Romans 16:23 .

Verse 15

15. ] ἵνα represents the purpose, not of the Apostle’s conduct at the time, but of the divine ordering of things: ‘God so arranged it, that none might say,’ &c.

Verse 16

16. ] He subsequently recollects having baptized Stephanas and his family (see ch. 1 Corinthians 16:15 ; 1Co 16:17 ), perhaps from information derived from Stephanas himself , who was with him: and he leaves an opening for any others whom he may possibly have baptized and have forgotten it. The last clause is important as against those who maintain the absolute omniscience of the inspired writers on every topic which they handle .

Verse 17

17 .] This verse forms the transition to the description of his preaching among them. His mission was not to baptize : a trace already, of the separation of the offices of baptizing and preaching. ἄνθρωπον μὲν γὰρ κατηχούμενον λαβόντας καὶ πεπεισμένον βαπτίσαι , παντὸς οὑτινοσοῦν ἐστιν · ἡ γὰρ προαίρεσις τοῦ προσιόντος λοιπὸν ἐργάζεται τὸ πᾶν , καὶ ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ χάρις · ὅταν δὲ ἀπίστους δέῃ κατηχῆσαι , πολλοῦ δεῖ πόνου , πολλῆς τῆς σοφίας · τότε δὲ καὶ τὸ κινδυνεύειν προσῆν . Chrys. Hom. iii. p. 18. It is evident that this is said in no derogation of Baptism, for he did on occasion baptize, and it would be impossible that he should speak lightly of the ordinance to which he appeals ( Rom 6:3 ) as the seal of our union with Christ.

οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου ] It seems evident from this apology, and other hints in the two Epistles, e.g. 2 Corinthians 10:10 , that the plainness and simplicity of Paul’s speech had been one cause among the Corinthians of alienation from him. Perhaps, as hinted above, the eloquence of Apollos was extolled to Paul’s disadvantage.

ἐν σοφ .] in (as the element in which: better than ‘ with ’) wisdom of speech (i.e. the speculations of philosophy: that these are meant, and not mere eloquence or rhetorical form, appears by what follows, which treats of the subject , and not merely of the manner of the preaching) in order that the Cross of Christ (the great central point of his preaching; exhibiting man’s guilt and God’s love in their highest degrees and closest connexion) might not be deprived of its effect . This would come to pass rather by philosophical speculations than by eloquence .

Verse 18

18. ] For (explanation of the foregoing clause, and that, assuming the mutual exclusiveness of the preaching of the Cross and wisdom of speech , and the identity of οἱ ἀπολλύμενοι with the lovers of σοφία λόγου : q. d. ‘wisdom of speech would nullify the Cross of Christ: for the doctrine of the Cross is to the lovers of that wisdom, folly.’ The reasoning is elliptical and involved, and is further complicated by the emphatic position of τοῖς ἀπολλ . and τοῖς σωζ .) the [ preaching ( speech , or] doctrine “there is a word, an eloquence, which is most powerful, the eloquence of the Cross: referring to σοφία λόγου .” Stanley) of the Cross is to the perishing (those who are through unbelief on the way to everlasting perdition) folly: but to us who are being saved (Billroth (in Olsh.) remarks that τ . σωζ . ἡμ . is a gentler expression than ἡμῖν τ . σωζ . would be: the latter would put the ἡμ . into strong emphasis, and exclude the opponents in a more marked manner.

οἱ σωζόμενοι are those in the way of salvation : who by faith have laid hold on Christ and are by Him being saved , see reff.) it is the power (see ref. Rom. and note. Hardly, as Meyer, a medium of divine Power, etwas, wodurch Gott frastig wirft: rather, the perfection of God’s Power the Power itself, in its noblest manifestation) of God .

Verse 19

19. ] For (continuation of reason for οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου : because it was prophesied that such wisdom should be brought to nought by God) it is written, &c . The citation is after the LXX, with the exception of ἀθετήσω for κρύψω . The Heb. is ‘the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the prudence of the prudent shall disappear.’ (Lowth.) But Calv. says most truly, ‘Perit sapientia, sed Domino destruente: sapientia evanescit, sed inducta a Domino et deleta.’

Verse 20

20. ] See ref. The question implies disappearance and exclusion .

σοφός , the wise , generally : γραμμ ., the Jewish scribe [interpreter of the law], συνζητ ., the Greek disputer [arguer] (reff.).

τοῦ αἰῶν . τ . is best taken with the whole three, of this present (ungodly) world .

ἐμώρανεν ] μωρὰν ἔδειξεν οὖσαν πρὸς τὴν τῆς πίστεως κατάληψιν , Chrys.

Verse 21

21. ] For (explanation of ἐμώρανεν ) when (not temporal , but illative = ‘since,’ ‘seeing that,’ so Plato, Gorg. p. 454, ἐπειδὴ τοίνυν οὐ μόνη ἀπεργάζεται τοῦτο τὸ ἔργον , ἀλλὰ καὶ ἄλλαι …; see Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 259) in the wisdom of God ( as part of the wise arrangement of God . De W., Meyer, al., render it ‘ by the revelation of the wisdom of God ,’ which was made to the Gentiles, as Romans 1:0 , by creation, and to the Jews by the law, thus connecting ἐν with ἔγνω , and making τῇ σοφ . τ . θ . the medium of knowledge: Chrys. takes it for the wisdom manifest in His works only : τί ἐστιν , ἐν τ . σοφ . τ . θ .; τῇ διὰ τῶν ἔργων φαινομένῃ , δι ʼ ὧν ἠθέλησε γνωρισθῆναι . But I very much doubt the legitimacy of this absolute objective use of σοφία , as = those things by which the σοφία is manifested. I cannot see with Olsh. why the interpretation given above is ‘ ganz unpaulinisch :’ it is merely an expansion of ἐμώρανεν , and agrees much better with Paul’s use of the words ἡ σοφία τ . θεοῦ in reff. and in ch. 1Co 2:7 ) the world (Jew and Gentile, see next verse) by its wisdom (as a means of attaining knowledge: or, but I prefer the other, “through the wisdom (of God) which I have just mentioned:” so Stanley) knew not (could not find out) God, God saw fit by the foolishness of preaching (lit., ‘of the proclamation:’ gen. of apposition, by that preaching which is reputed folly by the world) to save believers . Rom 1:16 throws light on this last expression as connected with δύναμις θεοῦ in our 1 Corinthians 1:18 , and with what follows here. There the two are joined: δύναμις γὰρ θεοῦ ἐστιν ( τὸ εὐαγ . τ . χρ .) εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι , Ἰουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον κ . Ελληνι .

Verse 22

22. ] ἐπειδή , not as in 1 Corinthians 1:21 , but = ‘siquidem,’ and explains τ . μωρίας τ . κηρ .

καὶ καί ] see Mark 9:13 , unite (De W.) things resembling each other in this particular, but else unlike. Jews and Gentiles both made false requirements, but of different kinds.

σημεῖα αἰτ .] see Matthew 12:38 ; Matthew 16:1 ; Luke 11:16 ; John 2:18 ; John 6:30 . The correction σημεῖον has probably been made from remembering the σημεῖον of these passages. The sign required was not, as I have observed on Matthew 12:38 , a mere miracle, but some token from Heaven, substantiating the word preached.

Verse 23

23. ] Still the expansion of ἡ μωρ . τ . κηρύγ . Now, σκάνδ . as regards the Jews, and μωρία as regards the Gentiles, correspond to the general term μωρία before. The δέ after ἡμεῖς is that so often found in clauses following the temporal conjunctions ἐπεί , ἕως , ὄφρα , &c., in Homer, and ὅς , ὡς , ὥσπερ , εἰ , &c., in Attic writers: e.g. Od. ξ . 178, τὸν ἐπεὶ θρέψαν θεοί , ἔρνεϊ ἶσον …, τοῦ δέ τις ἀθανάτων βλάψε φρένας ἔνδον ἐΐσας , and Xen. Cyr. viii. 5. 12, ὥσπερ οἱ ὁπλῖται , οὕτω δὲ καὶ οἱ πελτασταὶ κ . οἱ τοξοταί . See many other examples in Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 184 f. It serves to give a slight prominence to the consequent clause, as compared with the antecedent one.

Verse 24

24. ] This verse plainly is a continuation of the opposition to 1Co 1:22 before begun, but itself springs by way of opposition out of Ἰουδ . μὲν σκάνδ ., ἔθν . δὲ μωρίαν , and carries the thought back to 1 Corinthians 1:18 ; 1 Corinthians 1:21 .

αὐτοῖς δὲ τ . κλητοῖς ] Not, ‘ but to the elect themselves ,’ which would be either αὐτοῖς δὲ κλητοῖς , or τοῖς δὲ κλητοῖς αὐτοῖς ; but to these, viz. the elect , the αὐτοῖς serving to identify them with the σωζόμενοι of 1 Corinthians 1:18 . There it was ἡμῖν , here αὐτοῖς , because by the mention of preaching joined with ἡμεῖς , he has now separated off the hearers .

δύναμιν , as fulfilling the requirement of the seekers after a sign : σοφίαν , of those who sought wisdom . The repetition of χριστόν gives solemnity, at the same time that it concentrates the δύναμις and σοφία in the Person of Christ; q. d. ‘ Christ even in His humiliation unto death, the power of God and wisdom of God .’

The use of δύναμις and σοφία here as applied to Him who was the greatest example of both, would not justify the absolute use of σοφία in this sense in 1 Corinthians 1:21 .

Verse 25

25. ] Because (reason why Christ (crucified) is the power and wisdom of God) the foolishness of God (that act of God which men think foolish) is wiser than men (surpasses in wisdom, not only all which they call by that name, but men , all possible wisdom of mankind); and the weakness of God (that act of God which men think weak) is stronger than men (not only surpasses in might all which they think powerful , but men themselves , all human might whatsoever. For the construction of the genitives, see reff.). The latter clause introduces a fresh thought, the way for which however has been prepared by δύναμις , 1Co 1:18 ; 1 Corinthians 1:24 . The Jews required a proof of divine Might : we give them Christ crucified , which is to them a thing ἀσθενές : but this ἀσθενὲς τοῦ θεοῦ is stronger than men .

Verse 26

26. ] βλέπετε , imperative, as in reff. If taken indicatively, it loses the emphasis which its place in the sentence requires. It would thus be τὴν γὰρ κλῆσιν ὑμῶν βλέπετε . See a similar reminder on the part of the Apostle, 1 Thessalonians 1:4 .

γάρ seems best to apply to what has immediately gone before. As a proof that the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God stronger than men, he calls attention to the fact that the Christian church, so full of divine wisdom and strength by the indwelling Spirit of God, consisted for the most part, not of the wise or mighty among men, but of those whom the world despised.

κλῆσιν , as in reff. the calling ἐν ᾗ ἐκληθημεν the vocation and standing of Christian men.

ὅτι οὐ πολλοὶ ] that not many of you are wise according to the flesh (‘significari vult sapientiam, quæ studio humano absque doctrina Spiritus Sancti potest acquiri,’ Estius), not many mighty (no need to supply κατὰ σάρκα , which is understood as a matter of course), not many noble . This is far better than to supply (as E. V., and most Commentators) ἐκλήθησαν after εὐγενεῖς ; and thus Vulg., Chrys., Beza, Meyer, De Wette, al. Olsh. observes: “The ancient Christians were for the most part slaves and men of low station; the whole history of the expansion of the church is in reality a progressive victory of the ignorant over the learned, the lowly over the lofty, until the emperor himself laid down his crown before the cross of Christ.”

Verses 27-28

27, 28 .] τὰ μωρά , neut. for more generalization, but = τοὺς μωρούς . This is shewn by τοὺς σοφούς following, in that case it being necessary to use the masculine.

τοῦ κόσμ ., of (belonging to) the world : not in the eyes of the world , as Theodoret, Luth., Grot., Est., al., which would not fit τὰ ἀγενῆ τ . κόσμ ., nor the sense : for they were not only seemingly but really foolish, when God chose them.

καταισχύνῃ , by shewing to the wise and the strong, the foolish and the weak entering the kingdom of heaven before them.

τὰ ἀγενῆ , matter of fact the low-born :

τὰ ἐξουθενημένα , matter of estimation , the despised .

Without the καί , which is certainly the true reading, τὰ μὴ ὄντα may belong to all four, the μωρά , ἀσθενῆ , ἀγενῆ , and ἐξουθεν ., but more probably it has reference only to the last two. Nothing (as e.g. μέγα τι ) must be supplied after μὴ ὄντα : it means as good as having no existence : μή being subjective, and implying that the non-existence is not absolute but estimative . Were it absolute matter of fact , it would be expressed by τὰ οὐκ ὄντα , as in 1 Peter 2:10 , οἱ οὐκ ἠλεημένοι , νῦν δὲ ἐλεηθέντες . See Hartung, Partikellehre, ii. p. 131; Winer, edn. 6, § 55. 5; and Philippians 3:3 ; Ephesians 5:4 . Olshausen refines on the expression too much, when he explains it of those who have lost their old carnal life and have not yet acquired their new spiritual one: it more probably means, things (persons) of absolutely no account in the world, unassignable among men, which the ἀγενῆ and ἐξουθενημένα are.

Meyer remarks that the threefold repetition of ἐξελ . ὁ θεός , with the three contrasts to σοφοί , δυνατοί , and εὐγενεῖς , announces the fact with a triumphant emphasis.

καταργ .] ‘reduce to the state of οὐκ ὄντα .’ All the ὄντα , the realities , of the world, are of absolutely no account , unassignable, in God’s spiritual kingdom.

Verse 29

29. ] That all flesh may have no ground of boasting before God . The negative in these clauses goes with the verb , not with the adjective; so that each word retains its proper meaning.

Verse 30

30. ] But (contrast to the boasting just spoken of) of Him are ye (from Him ye, who once were as οὐκ ὄντα , ἐστέ . He is the author of your spiritual life) in (in union with) Christ Jesus, Who was made (not ‘is made:’ see reff. On γενήθη see 1Th 1:5 note) to us from God wisdom (standing us in stead of all earthly wisdom and raising us above it by being ἀπὸ θεοῦ ; Wisdom in His incarnation, in His life of obedience, in His teaching, in His death of atonement, in His glorification and sending of the Spirit: and not only Wisdom, but all that we can want to purify us from guilt, to give us righteousness before God, to sanctify us after His likeness, ( and ) both righteousness (the source of our justification before God), and sanctification (by His Spirit; observe the τε καί , implying that in these two, δικαιος . and ἁγιασμ ., the Christian life is complete that they are so joined as to form one whole our righteousness as well as our sanctification . As Bisping well remarks, “ δικ . and ἁγ . are closely joined by the τε ( καί ) and form but one idea, that of Christian justification: δικαιοσύνη the negative side, in Christ’s justifying work ἁγιασμός the positive, sanctification, the imparting to us of sanctifying grace”), and redemption (by satisfaction made for our sin, reff.: or perhaps deliverance , from all evil, and especially from eternal death, as Romans 8:23 ; but I prefer the other). The foregoing construction of the sentence is justified, (1) as regards ἀπὸ θεοῦ belonging to ἐγενήθη , and not to σοφία , by the position of ἡμῖν , which has been altered in rec. to connect σοφία with ἀπὸ θ ., (2) as regards the whole four substantives being co-ordinate, and not the last three merely explicative of σοφία , by the usage of τε καί καί , e.g. Herod. i. 23, διθύραμβον πρῶτον ἀνθρώπων τῶν ἡμεῖς ἴδμεν ποιήσαντά τε καὶ ὀνομάσαντα καὶ διδάξαντα , and Hom. Od. ο . 78, ἀμφότερον , κῦδός τε καὶ ἀγλαΐη καὶ ὄνειαρ , so that (see Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 103; Donaldson, Gr. Gram. 551) the words coupled by τε καί (compare the exegesis above) rank as but one with regard to those coupled to them by καί , compare ἀμφότερον above. Hence these three cannot be under one category, as explicative of σοφία , but must be thus ranged: σοφία δικαιοσύνη τε καὶ ἁγιασμός , καὶ ἀπολύτρωσις .

Verse 31

31. ] The construction is an anacoluthon, the citation being retained in the original imperative, though the ἵνα required a subjunctive. It is freely made from the LXX. This verse declaring, in opposition to 1 Corinthians 1:29 , the only true ground of boasting, viz. in God and His mercies to us in Christ, closes the description of God’s dealing in this matter. He now reverts to the subject of his own preaching .

Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.