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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 2

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

Not with excellency of speech or of wisdom (ου καθ' υπεροχην λογου η σοφιας). Hυπεροχη is an old word from the verb υπερεχω (Philippians 4:7) and means preeminence, rising above. In N.T. only here and 1 Timothy 2:2 of magistrates. It occurs in inscriptions of Pergamum for persons of position (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 255). Here it means excess or superfluity, "not in excellence of rhetorical display or of philosophical subtlety" (Lightfoot).

The mystery of God (το μυστηριον του θεου). So Aleph A C Copt. like 1 Corinthians 2:7, but B D L P read μαρτυριον like 1 Corinthians 1:6. Probably

mystery is correct. Christ crucified is the mystery of God (Colossians 2:2). Paul did not hesitate to appropriate this word in common use among the mystery religions, but he puts into it his ideas, not those in current use. It is an old word from μυεω, to close, to shut, to initiate (Philippians 4:12). This mystery was once hidden from the ages (Colossians 1:26), but is now made plain in Christ (1 Corinthians 2:7; Romans 16:25). The papyri give many illustrations of the use of the word for secret doctrines known only to the initiated (Moulton and Milligan's Vocabulary).

Verse 2

For I determined not to know anything among you (ου γαρ εκρινα τ ειδενα εν υμιν). Literally, "For I did not decide to know anything among you." The negative goes with εκρινα, not with τ. Paul means that he did not think it fit or his business to know anything for his message beyond this "mystery of God."

Save Jesus Christ (ε μη Ιησουν Χριστον). Both the person and the office (Lightfoot). I had no intent to go beyond him and in particular,

and him crucified (κα τουτον εσταυρωμενον). Literally,

and this one as crucified (perfect passive participle). This phase in particular (1 Corinthians 1:18) was selected by Paul from the start as the centre of his gospel message. He decided to stick to it even after Athens where he was practically laughed out of court. The Cross added to the σχανδαλον of the Incarnation, but Paul kept to the main track on coming to Corinth.

Verse 3

I was with you (εγενομην προς υμας). Rather, "I came to you" (not ην, was). "I not only eschewed all affectation of cleverness or grandiloquence, but I went to the opposite extreme of diffidence and nervous self-effacement" (Robertson and Plummer). Paul had been in prison in Philippi, driven out of Thessalonica and Beroea, politely bowed out of Athens. It is a human touch to see this shrinking as he faced the hard conditions in Corinth. It is a common feeling of the most effective preachers. Cool complacency is not the mood of the finest preaching. See φοβος (fear) and τρομος (trembling) combined in 2 Corinthians 7:15; Philippians 2:12; Ephesians 6:5.

Verse 4

Not in persuasive words of wisdom (ουκ εν πιθοις σοφιας λογοις). This looks like a false disclaimer or mock modesty, for surely the preacher desires to be persuasive. This adjective πιθος (MSS. πειθος) has not yet been found elsewhere. It seems to be formed directly from πειθω, to persuade, as φειδος (φιδος) is from φειδομα, to spare. The old Greek form πιθανος is common enough and is used by Josephus (Ant. VIII. 9. 1) of "the plausible words of the lying prophet" in 1 Corinthians 2:1. The kindred word πιθανολογια occurs in Colossians 2:4 for the specious and plausible Gnostic philosophers. And gullible people are easy marks for these plausible pulpiteers. Corinth put a premium on the veneer of false rhetoric and thin thinking.

But in demonstration (αλλ' εν αποδειξε). In contrast with the

plausibility just mentioned. This word, though an old one from αποδεικνυμ, to show forth, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament.

Spirit (πνευμα) here can be the Holy Spirit or inward spirit as opposed to superficial expression and

power (δυναμις) is moral power rather than intellectual acuteness (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18).

Verse 5

That your faith should not stand (ινα η πιστις υμων μη η). Purpose of God, but μη η is "not be" merely. The only secure place for faith to find a rest is in God's power, not in the wisdom of men. One has only to instance the changing theories of men about science, philosophy, religion, politics to see this. A sure word from God can be depended on.

Verse 6

Among the perfect (εν τοις τελειοις). Paul is not here drawing a distinction between exoteric and esoteric wisdom as the Gnostics did for their initiates, but simply to the necessary difference in teaching for babes (1 Corinthians 3:1) and adults or grown men (common use of τελειος for relative perfection, for adults, as is in 1 Corinthians 14:20; Philippians 3:15; Ephesians 4:13; Hebrews 5:14). Some were simply old babes and unable in spite of their years to digest solid spiritual food, "the ample teaching as to the Person of Christ and the eternal purpose of God. Such 'wisdom' we have in the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians especially, and in a less degree in the Epistle to the Romans. This 'wisdom' is discerned in the Gospel of John, as compared with the other Evangelists" (Lightfoot). These imperfect disciples Paul wishes to develop into spiritual maturity.

Of this world (του αιωνος τουτου). This age, more exactly, as in 1 Corinthians 1:20. This wisdom does not belong to the passing age of fleeting things, but to the enduring and eternal (Ellicott).

Which are coming to naught (των καταργουμενων). See on 1 Corinthians 1:28. Present passive participle genitive plural of καταργεω. The gradual nullification of these "rulers" before the final and certain triumph of the power of Christ in his kingdom.

Verse 7

God's wisdom in a mystery (θεου σοφιαν εν μυστηριω). Two points are here sharply made. It is God's wisdom (note emphatic position of the genitive θεου) in contrast to the wisdom of this age. Every age of the world has a conceit of its own and it is particularly true of this twentieth century, but God's wisdom is eternal and superior to the wisdom of any age or time. God's wisdom is alone absolute. See on 1 Corinthians 2:1 for mystery. It is not certain whether

in a mystery is to be taken with

wisdom or

we speak . The result does not differ greatly, probably with

wisdom , so long a secret and now at last revealed (Colossians 1:26; 2 Thessalonians 2:7).

That hath been hidden (την αποκεκρυμμενην). See Romans 16:25; Colossians 1:26; Ephesians 3:5. Articular perfect passive participle of αποκρυπτω, more precisely defining the indefinite σοφιαν (wisdom).

Foreordained before the worlds (προωρισεν προ των αιωνων). This relative clause (ην) defines still more closely God's wisdom. Note προ with both verb and substantive (αιωνων). Constative aorist of God's elective purpose as shown in Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:18-24). "It was no afterthought or change of plan" (Robertson and Plummer).

Unto our glory (εις δοξαν ημων). "The glory of inward enlightenment as well as of outward exaltation" (Lightfoot).

Verse 8

Knoweth (εγνωκεν). Has known, has discerned, perfect active indicative of γινωσκω. They have shown amazing ignorance of God's wisdom.

For had they known it (ε γαρ εγνωσαν). Condition of the second class, determined as unfulfilled, with aorist active indicative in both condition (εγνωσαν) and conclusion with αν (ουκ αν εσταυρωσαν). Peter in the great sermon at Pentecost commented on the "ignorance" (κατα αγνοιαν) of the Jews in crucifying Christ (Acts 3:17) as the only hope for repentance on their part (Acts 3:19).

The Lord of glory (τον Κυριον της δοξης). Genitive case δοξης, means characterized by glory, "bringing out the contrast between the indignity of the Cross (Hebrews 12:2) and the majesty of the Victim (Luke 22:69; Luke 23:43)" (Robertson and Plummer). See James 2:1; Acts 7:2; Ephesians 1:17; Hebrews 9:5.

Verse 9

But as it is written (αλλα καθως γεγραπτα). Elliptical sentence like Romans 15:3 where γεγονεν (it has happened) can be supplied. It is not certain where Paul derives this quotation as Scripture. Origen thought it a quotation from the Apocalypse of Elias and Jerome finds it also in the Ascension of Isaiah. But these books appear to be post-Pauline, and Jerome denies that Paul obtained it from these late apocryphal books. Clement of Rome finds it in the LXX text of Isaiah 64:4 and cites it as a Christian saying. It is likely that Paul here combines freely Isaiah 64:4; Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 52:15 in a sort of catena or free chain of quotations as he does in Romans 3:10-18. There is also an anacoluthon for α (which things) occurs as the direct object (accusative) with ειδεν (saw) and ηκουσαν (heard), but as the subject (nominative) with ανεβη (entered, second aorist active indicative of αναβαινω, to go up).

Whatsoever (οσα). A climax to the preceding relative clause (Findlay).

Prepared (ητοιμασεν). First aorist active indicative of ετοιμαζω. The only instance where Paul uses this verb of God, though it occurs of final glory (Luke 2:31; Matthew 20:23; Matthew 25:34; Mark 10:40; Hebrews 11:16) and of final misery (Matthew 25:41). But here undoubtedly the dominant idea is the present blessing to these who love God (1 Corinthians 1:5-7).

Heart (καρδιαν) here as in Romans 1:21 is more than emotion. The Gnostics used this passage to support their teaching of esoteric doctrine as Hegesippus shows. Lightfoot thinks that probably the apocryphal Ascension of Isaiah and Apocalypse of Elias were Gnostic and so quoted this passage of Paul to support their position. But the next verse shows that Paul uses it of what is now

revealed and made plain, not of mysteries still unknown.

Verse 10

But unto us God revealed them (ημιν γαρ απεκαλυψεν ο θεος). So with γαρ B 37 Sah Cop read instead of δε of Aleph A C D. "Δε is superficially easier; γαρ intrinsically better" (Findlay). Paul explains why this is no longer hidden, "for God revealed unto us" the wonders of grace pictured in verse 1 Corinthians 2:9. We do not have to wait for heaven to see them. Hence we can utter those things hidden from the eye, the ear, the heart of man. This revelation (απεκαλυψεν, first aorist active indicative) took place, at "the entry of the Gospel into the world," not "when we were admitted into the Church, when we were baptized" as Lightfoot interprets it.

Through the Spirit (δια του πνευματος). The Holy Spirit is the agent of this definite revelation of grace, a revelation with a definite beginning or advent (constative aorist), an unveiling by the Spirit where "human ability and research would not have sufficed" (Robertson and Plummer), "according to the revelation of the mystery" (Romans 16:25), "the revelation given to Christians as an event that began a new epoch in the world's history" (Edwards).

Searcheth all things (παντα εραυνα). This is the usual form from A.D. 1 on rather than the old ερευναω. The word occurs (Moulton and Milligan's Vocabulary) for a professional searcher's report and εραυνητα, searchers for customs officials. "The Spirit is the organ of understanding between man and God" (Findlay). So in Romans 8:27 we have this very verb εραυναω again of God's searching our hearts. The Holy Spirit not merely investigates us, but he searches "even the deep things of God" (κα τα βαθη του θεου). Profunda Dei (Vulgate). Cf. "the deep things of Satan" (Revelation 2:24) and Paul's language in Romans 11:33 "Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God." Paul's point is simply that the Holy Spirit fully comprehends the depth of God's nature and his plans of grace and so is fully competent to make the revelation here claimed.

Verse 11

Knoweth (οιδεν, εγνωκεν). Second perfect of root ιδ-, to see and so know, first perfect of γινωσκω, to know by personal experience, has come to know and still knows. See First John for a clear distinction in the use of οιδα and γινωσκω.

The spirit of man that is in him (το πνευμα του ανθρωπου το εν αυτω). The self-consciousness of man that resides in the man or woman (generic term for mankind, ανθρωπος).

The Spirit of God (το πνευμα του θεου). Note the absence of το εν αυτω. It is not the mere self-consciousness of God, but the personal Holy Spirit in his relation to God the Father. Paul's analogy between the spirit of man and the Spirit of God does not hold clear through and he guards it at this vital point as he does elsewhere as in Romans 8:26 and in the full Trinitarian benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:13. Πνευμα in itself merely means breath or wind as in John 3:8. To know accurately Paul's use of the word in every instance calls for an adequate knowledge of his theology, and psychology. But the point here is plain. God's Holy Spirit is amply qualified to make the revelation claimed here in verses 1 Corinthians 2:6-10.

Verse 12

But we (ημεις δε). We Christians like

us (ημιν) in verse 1 Corinthians 2:10 of the revelation, but particularly Paul and the other apostles.

Received (ελαβομεν). Second aorist active indicative of λαμβανω and so a definite event, though the constative aorist may include various stages.

Not the spirit of the world (ου το πνευμα του κοσμου). Probably a reference to the wisdom of this age in verse 1 Corinthians 2:6. See also Romans 8:4; Romans 8:6; Romans 8:7; 1 Corinthians 11:4 (θε πνευμα ετερον).

But the spirit which is of God (αλλα το πνευμα το εκ θεου). Rather, "from God" (εκ), which proceeds from God.

That we might know (ινα ειδωμεν). Second perfect subjunctive with ινα to express purpose. Here is a distinct claim of the Holy Spirit for understanding (Illumination) the Revelation received. It is not a senseless rhapsody or secret mystery, but God expects us to understand "the things that are freely given us by God" (τα υπο του θεου χαρισθεντα ημιν). First aorist passive neuter plural articular participle of χαριζομα, to bestow. God gave the revelation through the Holy Spirit and he gives us the illumination of the Holy Spirit to understand the mind of the Spirit. The tragic failures of men to understand clearly God's revealed will is but a commentary on the weakness and limitation of the human intellect even when enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

Verse 13

Which things also we speak (α κα λαλουμεν). This onomatopoetic verb λαλεω (from λα-λα), to utter sounds. In the papyri the word calls more attention to the form of utterance while λεγω refers more to the substance. But λαλεω in the N.T. as here is used of the highest and holiest speech. Undoubtedly Paul employs the word purposely for the utterance of the revelation which he has understood. That is to say, there is revelation (verse 1 Corinthians 2:10), illumination (verse 1 Corinthians 2:12), and inspiration (verse 1 Corinthians 2:13). Paul claims therefore the help of the Holy Spirit for the reception of the revelation, for the understanding of it, for the expression of it. Paul claimed this authority for his preaching (1 Thessalonians 4:2) and for his epistles (2 Thessalonians 3:14).

Not in words which man's wisdom teacheth (ουκ εν διδακτοις ανθρωπινης σοφιας λογοις). Literally, "not in words taught by human wisdom." The verbal adjective διδακτοις (from διδασκω, to teach) is here passive in idea and is followed by the ablative case of origin or source as in John 6:45, εσοντα παντες διδακτο θεου (from Isaiah 54:13), "They shall all be taught by God." The ablative in Greek, as is well known, has the same form as the genitive, though quite different in idea (Robertson, Grammar, p. 516). So then Paul claims the help of the Holy Spirit in the utterance (λαλουμεν) of the words, "which the Spirit teacheth (εν διδακτοις πνευματος), "in words taught by the Spirit" (ablative πνευματος as above). Clearly Paul means that the help of the Holy Spirit in the utterance of the revelation extends to the words. No theory of inspiration is here stated, but it is not mere human wisdom. Paul's own Epistles bear eloquent witness to the lofty claim here made. They remain today after nearly nineteen centuries throbbing with the power of the Spirit of God, dynamic with life for the problems of today as when Paul wrote them for the needs of the believers in his time, the greatest epistles of all time, surcharged with the energy of God.

Comparing spiritual things with spiritual (πνευματικοις πνευματικα συνκρινοντες). Each of these words is in dispute. The verb συνκρινω, originally meant to combine, to join together fitly. In the LXX it means to interpret dreams (Genesis 40:8; Genesis 40:22; Genesis 41:12) possibly by comparison. In the later Greek it may mean to compare as in 2 Corinthians 10:12. In the papyri Moulton and Milligan (Vocabulary) give it only for "decide," probably after comparing. But "comparing," in spite of the translations, does not suit well here. So it is best to follow the original meaning to combine as do Lightfoot and Ellicott. But what gender is πνευματικοις? Is it masculine or neuter like πνευματικα? If masculine, the idea would be "interpreting (like LXX) spiritual truths to spiritual persons" or "matching spiritual truths with spiritual persons." This is a possible rendering and makes good sense in harmony with verse 1 Corinthians 2:14. If πνευματικοις be taken as neuter plural (associative instrumental case after συν in συνκρινοντες), the idea most naturally would be, "combining spiritual ideas (πνευματικα) with spiritual words" (πνευματικοις). This again makes good sense in harmony with the first part of verse 1 Corinthians 2:13. On the whole this is the most natural way to take it, though various other possibilities exist.

Verse 14

Now the natural man (ψυχικος δε ανθρωπος). Note absence of article here, "A natural man" (an unregenerate man). Paul does not employ modern psychological terms and he exercises variety in his use of all the terms here present as πνευμα and πνευματικοσ, ψυχη and ψυχικοσ, σαρξ and σαρκινος and σαρκικος. A helpful discussion of the various uses of these words in the New Testament is given by Burton in his New Testament Word Studies, pp. 62-68, and in his

Spirit, Soul, and Flesh . The papyri furnish so many examples of σαρξ, πνευμα, and ψυχη that Moulton and Milligan make no attempt at an exhaustive treatment, but give a few miscellaneous examples to illustrate the varied uses that parallel the New Testament. Ψυχικος is a qualitative adjective from ψυχη (breath of life like ανιμα, life, soul). Here the Vulgate renders it by animalis and the German by sinnlich, the original sense of animal life as in Judges 1:19; James 3:15. In 1 Corinthians 15:44; 1 Corinthians 15:46 there is the same contrast between ψυχικος and πνευματικος as here. The ψυχικος man is the unregenerate man while the πνευματικος man is the renewed man, born again of the Spirit of God.

Receiveth not (ου δεχετα). Does not accept, rejects, refuses to accept. In Romans 8:7 Paul definitely states the inability (ουδε γαρ δυνατα) of the mind of the flesh to receive the things of the Spirit untouched by the Holy Spirit. Certainly the initiative comes from God whose Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to accept the things of the Spirit of God. They are no longer "foolishness" (μωρια) to us as was once the case (1 Corinthians 1:23). Today one notes certain of the intelligentsia who sneer at Christ and Christianity in their own blinded ignorance.

He cannot know them (ου δυνατα γνωνα). He is not able to get a knowledge (ingressive second aorist active infinitive of γινωσκω). His helpless condition calls for pity in place of impatience on our part, though such an one usually poses as a paragon of wisdom and commiserates the deluded followers of Christ.

They are spiritually judged (πνευματικως ανακρινετα). Paul and Luke are fond of this verb, though nowhere else in the N.T. Paul uses it only in I Corinthians. The word means a sifting process to get at the truth by investigation as of a judge. In Acts 17:11 the Beroeans scrutinized the Scriptures. These ψυχικο men are incapable of rendering a decision for they are unable to recognize the facts. They judge by the ψυχη (mere animal nature) rather than by the πνευμα (the renewed spirit).

Verse 15

Judgeth all things (ανακρινε παντα). The spiritual man (ο πνευματικος) is qualified to sift, to examine, to decide rightly, because he has the eyes of his heart enlightened (Ephesians 1:18) and is no longer blinded by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). There is a great lesson for Christians who know by personal experience the things of the Spirit of God. Men of intellectual gifts who are ignorant of the things of Christ talk learnedly and patronizingly about things of which they are grossly ignorant. The spiritual man is superior to all this false knowledge.

He himself is judged of no man (αυτος δε υπ' ουδενος ανακρινετα). Men will pass judgment on him, but the spiritual man refuses to accept the decision of his ignorant judges. He stands superior to them all as Polycarp did when he preferred to be burnt to saying, "Lord Caesar" in place of "Lord Jesus." He was unwilling to save his earthly life by the worship of Caesar in place of the Lord Jesus. Polycarp was a πνευματικος man.

Verse 16

For who hath known the mind of the Lord (Τις γαρ εγνω νουν Κυριου;). Quotation from Isaiah 40:13.

That he should instruct him (ος συνβιβασε αυτον). This use of ος (relative

who ) is almost consecutive (result). The πνευματικος man is superior to others who attempt even to instruct God himself. See on Acts 9:22; Acts 16:10 for συνβιβαζω, to make go together.

But we have the mind of Christ (ημεις δε νουν Χριστου εχομεν). As he has already shown (verses 1 Corinthians 2:6-13). Thus with the mind (νους. Cf. Philippians 2:5; Romans 8:9; Romans 8:27). Hence Paul and all πνευματικο men are superior to those who try to shake their faith in Christ, the mystery of God. Paul can say, "I know him whom I have believed." "I believe; therefore I have spoken."

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/1-corinthians-2.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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