corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.10.21
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
1 Corinthians 3

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAPTER 3

1 Corinthians 3:1. καὶ ἐγώ] A B C D E F G א, min(437) Clem. Or. Chrys. Damasc. read κἀγώ, which Griesb. Lachm. Scholz, Rückert, Tisch. have adopted, and justly, considering the decisive testimony in its favour.

σαρκικοῖς] Griesb. Lachm. Rückert, Tisch. read σαρκίνοις, with A B C* D* א, 67** 71, Clem. Or. Nyss. To be preferred on like grounds as in Romans 7:14. Here the interchange was especially aided by 1 Corinthians 3:3, where, according to the preponderance of evidence, σαρκικ. is the true reading; for the fact that D* F G, Or. Nyss. have σάρκιν. in 1 Corinthians 3:3 also, is simply to be set down as the result of mechanical repetition from 1 Corinthians 3:1, the difference in the sense not being recognised.(438)1 Corinthians 3:2. οὐδέ] Elz. has οὔτε, in opposition to all the uncials and most Fathers. The former is necessary here (Fritzsche, a(439) Marc. p. 157), but had οὔτε very often substituted for it by the transcribers.

ἔτι] is wanting in B bracketed by Lachm. But how easily it might fall aside after οὐδέ through similarity in sound, or on the ground that it might be dispensed with when νῦν followed!—1 Corinthians 3:3. καὶ διχοστασίαι] omitted in A B C א, some min(440) and several vss(441) and Fathers. Deleted by Lachm. Rückert, and Tisch. Were it genuine, why should it have been left out? An addition by way of gloss (even in texts used by Irenaeus and Cyprian) from Galatians 5:20.—1 Corinthians 3:4. ἄνθρωποι] adopted also by Lachm. Rückert, and Tisch., followed by Ewald, according to almost all the uncials and several vss(442) and Fathers. The Recept(443) σαρκικοί, although still defended by Fritzsche and Reiche, is so decidedly condemned by the critical evidence (among the uncials they have only L and א**), that it must be regarded as derived from 1 Corinthians 3:3. οὐχί, too, has flowed from the same source, instead of which, οὐκ is to be restored, with Lachm. Rückert, and Tisch., in accordance with A B C א*, 17, Dam.—1 Corinthians 3:5. τίς] Lachm. and Rückert read τί, with A B א, min(444) Vulg. It. Aeth. and Latin Fathers. The personal names very naturally suggested the masculine to transcribers.

The order παῦλοςἀπολλώς (in Elz. and Scholz) arose from 1 Corinthians 3:4; compare 1 Corinthians 1:12.

Before διάκονοι, Elz. and Tisch. have ἀλλʼ , which, however, from the decisive weight of testimony against it, must be regarded as an addition to denote the sense: nil nisi.—1 Corinthians 3:12. τοῦτον] is wanting in A B C* א*, Sahid. Ambr. Deleted by Lachm. and Rückert. The omission, however, was easily occasioned by Homoioteleuton, and was aided by the fact that the word could be dispensed with.—1 Corinthians 3:13. τὸ πῦρ] Lachm. Rückert, and Tisch. read τὸ πῦρ αὐτό, with A B C, min(445) Sahid. and several Fathers. Rightly; the αὐτό not being in any way essential was easily disregarded.—1 Corinthians 3:17. τοῦτον] Lachm. and Rückert have αὑτόν, which Griesb. too recommended, with A D E F G, min(446) Syr(447) Arr. Aeth. Arm. Syr. p(448) (on the margin) Vulg. and It. (illum), and Latin Fathers. But, after εἴ τις in the protasis, αὐτόν offered itself in the apodosis as the more common.—1 Corinthians 3:22. ἐστίν] has preponderant evidence against it. Suspected by Griesb., deleted by Lachm. Rückert, and Tisch. A repetition from 1 Corinthians 3:21.


Verse 1

1 Corinthians 3:1. κἀγώ] I also. This also of comparison has its inner ground in the reproach alluded to, that he ought to have taught in a higher strain, and so ought to have delivered to the Corinthians that θεοῦ σοφίαν spoken of in 1 Corinthians 3:6 f. Even as no other could have done this, so I also could not. There is no reason, therefore, for holding, with de Wette (comp Billroth), that καὶ ὑμῖν would have been a more stringent way of putting it.

ἀλλʼ ὡς σαρκίνοις] namely, had I to speak to you. See Kühner, II. p. 604. Krüger on Thuc. i. 142. 4, and on Xen. Anab. vii. 2. 28. This brevity of expression is zeugmatic. σάρκινος (see the critical remarks) is: fleshy (2 Corinthians 3:3), not equivalent to σαρκικός, fleshly. See on Romans 7:14. Winer, p. 93 [E. T. 122], and Fritzsche, a(450) Rom. II. p. 46. Here, as in Rom. l.c(451) and Hebrews 7:16 (see Delitzsch in loc(452)), the expression is specially chosen in order to denote more strongly the unspiritual nature: as to fleshy persons, as to those who have as yet experienced so little of the influence of the Holy Spirit, that the σάρξi.e. the nature of the natural man, which is opposed since the fall to the Spirit of God, and which, as the seat of the sin-principle and of lust, gives rise to the incapacity to recognise the sway of the Divine Spirit (comp 1 Corinthians 2:14), and to follow the drawing of the νοῦς towards the divine will (Romans 7:18; Romans 7:25), by virtue of the Divine Spirit (see on Romans 4:1; Romans 6:19; Romans 7:14; Romans 8:5 ff.)—seemed to make up their whole being. They were still in too great a measure only “flesh born of the flesh” (John 3:6), and still lay too much, especially in an intellectual relation, under the ἀσθενεία τῆς σαρκός (Romans 6:19), although they might also be in part φυσιούμενοι ὑπὸ τοῦ νοὸς τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτῶν (Colossians 2:18),—so that Paul, in order strongly to express their condition at that time, could call them fleshy. By σάρκινος, therefore, he indicates the unspiritual nature of the Corinthians,—i.e. a nature ruled by the limitations and impulses of the σάρξ, not yet changed by the Holy Spirit,—the nature which they still had when at the stage of their first noviciate in the Christian life. At a later date (see 1 Corinthians 3:3) they appear as still at least σαρκικοί (guiding themselves according to the σάρξ, and disobedient to the πνεῦμα); for although, in connection with continued Christian instruction, they had become more effectually partakers also of the influence of the Divine Spirit, nevertheless,—as their sectarian tendencies (see 1 Corinthians 3:3) gave proof,—they had not so followed this divine principle as to prevent the sensuous nature opposed to it (the σάρξ) from getting the upper hand with them in a moral and intellectual respect, so that they were consequently still κατὰ σάρκα and ἐν σαρκί (Romans 8:5; Romans 8:8), τὰ τῆς σαρκὸς φρονοῦντες (Romans 8:5), κατὰ σάρκα καυχώμενοι (2 Corinthians 11:18), ἐν σοφίᾳ σαρκικῇ (2 Corinthians 1:12), etc. It is therefore with true and delicate acumen that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 3:1 and 1 Corinthians 3:3 these two different expressions each in its proper place, upbraiding his readers, not indeed by the former, but certainly by the latter, with their unspiritual condition.(454) The ethical notions conveyed by the two terms are not the same, but of the same kind; hence ἔτι in 1 Corinthians 3:3 is logically correct (against the objection of de Wette and Reiche).

The difference between σαρκικός (also σάρκινος) and ψυχικός is simply this: ψυχικός is one who has not the Holy Spirit, and stands wholly outside of the sphere of His influence; whether it be that he has never yet received Him and is therefore still in the natural state without Christ (homo naturalis, as in 1 Corinthians 2:14), or that he has been forsaken again by the Spirit (as in Jude 1:19). σαρκικός, on the other hand, may not merely be predicated of the ψυχικός, who is indeed necessarily σαρκικός, but also (comp Hofmann) of one who has, it is true, received the Holy Spirit and experiences His influence, but is not led by His enlightening and sanctifying efficacy in such a measure as to have overcome the power of sin (Galatians 5:17) which dwells in the σάρξ and sets itself against the Spirit; but, on the contrary, instead of being πνευματικός and, in consequence, living ἐν πνεύματι and being disposed κατὰ πνεῦμα, he is still ἐν σαρκί, and still thinks, judges, is minded and acts κατὰ σάρκα.(456) The ψυχικός is accordingly as such also σαρκικός, but every σαρκικός is not as such still or once more a ψυχικός, not yet having the Spirit, or having lost Him again. The expositors commonly do not enter upon any distinction between σάρκινος and σαρκικός, either (so the majority) reading σαρκικοῖς in 1 Corinthians 3:1 also, or (Rückert, Pott) arbitrarily giving out that the two words are alike in meaning. The distinction between them and ψυχικός also is passed over in utter silence by many (such as Rosenmüller, Flatt, Billroth), while others, in an arbitrary way, make σάρκινος and σαρκικ. sometimes to be milder than ψυχικός (Bengel, Rückert, holding that in σαρκ. there is more of the weakness, in ψυχ. more of the opposition to what is higher), sometimes to be stronger (Osiander; while Theophylact holds the former to be παρὰ φύσιν, the latter κατὰ φύσιν, and the pneumatic ὑπὲρ φύσιν), or sometimes, lastly, refer the latter to the lower intelligence, and the former to the lower moral condition as given up to the desires (Locke, Wolf, and others).

ὡς νηπίοις ἐν χριστῷ] statement justifying the foregoing ὡς σαρκ. by setting forth the character of their Christian condition as it had been at that time to which οὐκ ἠδυνήθην κ. τ. λ(457) looks back. The phrase denotes those who, in their relation to Christ (in Christianity), are still children under age, i.e. mere beginners. The opposite is τέλειοι ἐν χ., Colossians 1:28. See, regarding the analogous use in Rabbinical writers of תינוקות (sugentes), Schoettgen in loc(458); Wetstein on 1 Peter 2:2; Lightfoot, Hor. p. 162; and for that of קטנים, Wetstein on Matthew 10:42. Before baptism a man is yet without connection with Christ, but through baptism he enters into this fellowship, and is now, in the first instance, a νήπιος ἐν χριστῷ, i.e. an infans as yet in relation to Christianity, who as such receives the elementary instruction suitable for him (the γάλα of 1 Corinthians 3:2). The εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, on the other hand, which leads on to baptism, is preparatory, giving rise to faith, and forming the medium through which their calling takes place; and accordingly it has not yet to do with νήπιοι ἐν χριστῷ. The inference is a mistaken one, therefore (on the part of Rückert), that Paul has in mind here a second residence in Corinth not recorded in the Acts. His readers could not understand this passage, any more than 1 Corinthians 2:1, otherwise than of the apostle’s first arrival, of the time, consequently, in which he founded the Corinthian church, when he instructed those who gave ear to his εὐαγγελίζεσθαι in the elements of Christianity.

By ἐν χριστῷ is expressed the specific field to which the notion of νηπιότης is confined; viewed apart from Christ, he, who as a new convert is yet a νήπιος, may be an adult, or an old man, Comp on Colossians 1:28.


Verses 1-4

1 Corinthians 3:1-4. Application of the foregoing section (1 Corinthians 2:6-16) to the Apostle’s relation to the Corinthians.


Verse 2

1 Corinthians 3:2. Keeping to the same figure (comp Hebrews 5:12; Philo, de agric. p. 301), he designates as γάλα: τὴν εἰσαγωγικὴν καὶ ἁπλουστέραν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου διδασκαλίαν (Basil. Hom. I. p. 403, ed. Paris. 1638), see Hebrews 5:12; Hebrews 6:1 f., and as βρῶμα: the further and higher instruction, the σοφία, which, as distinguished from the γνῶσιν τὴν ἐκ κατηχήσεως (Clemens Alexandrinus), is taught among the τέλειοι (1 Corinthians 6:6 ff.). Comp Suicer, Thes. I. p. 721, 717. Wetstein in loc(462)

As regards the zeugma (comp Homer, Il. viii. 546; Odyssey, xx. 312; Hesiod. Theog. 640), see Bremi, a(464) Lys. Exc. III. p. 437 f.; Winer, p. 578 [E. T. 777]; Kühner, a(465) Xen. Anab. iv. 5. 8; also Nägelsbach on the Iliad, p. 179, ed. 3.

ἐδύνασθε] Ye were not yet strong and vigorous. What weakness is meant, the context shows: in the figure, that of the body; in its application, that of the mind and spirit. Comp regarding this absolute use of δύναμαι, δυνατός κ. τ. λ(467) (which makes any supplementing of it by ἐσθίειν βρῶ΄α and the like quite superfluous), Dem. 484, 25, 1187, 8; Aesch. p. 40. 39; Plato, Men. p. 77 B, Prot. p. 326 C Xen. Anab. iv. 5. 11, vii. 6. 37; 1 Maccabees 5:41; Schaefer, a(468) Bos. Ell. p. 267 ff.

ἀλλʼ οὐδὲ ἔτι νῦν δύν.] ἀλλʼ οὐδέ, yea, not even. See Fritzsche, a(469) Marc. p. 157. Herm. a(470) Eurip. Suppl. 121, Add. 975. That Paul, notwithstanding of this remark, does give a section of the higher wisdom in chap. 15, is to be explained from the apologetic destination of that chapter (1 Corinthians 15:12), which did not allow him to treat the subject in an elementary style. There is no self-contradiction here, but an exception demanded by the circumstances. For the profound development of the doctrine of the resurrection in chap. 15 belonged really to the βρῶμα (comp 1 Corinthians 2:9), and rises high above that elementary teaching concerning the resurrection, with which every Jew was acquainted, and which Paul himself so often gave without thereby speaking ἐν τελείοις, whence also it is rightly placed in Hebrews 6:1 among the first rudiments of Christian doctrine.


Verse 3

1 Corinthians 3:3. σαρκικοί] see on 1 Corinthians 3:1.

ὅπου] equivalent seemingly to quandoquidem (see Vigerus, ed. Herm. 431); but the conditioning state of things is locally conceived. Comp Hebrews 9:16; Hebrews 10:18; 4 Maccabees 2:14; 4 Maccabees 6:34; 4 Maccabees 14:11; Plato, Tim. p. 86 E the passages from Xenophon cited by Sturz. III. p. 307; Herod. i. 68; Thuc. viii. 27. 2, viii. 96. 1; Isocrates, Paneg. 186.

ζῆλος] Jealousy.

κατὰ ἄνθρ.] after the fashion of men. Comp on Romans 3:5; often, too, in classical writers, e.g. κατʼ ἄνθρ. φρονεῖν (Soph. Aj. 747, 764). The contrast here is to the mode of life conformed to the Divine Spirit; hence not different from κατὰ σάρκα in Romans 8:4.

Respecting the relation to each other of the three words ζῆλ., ἔρ., διχοστ., see Theophylact: πατὴρ γὰρ ζῆλος τῆς ἔριδος, αὓτη δὲ τὰς διχοστασίας γεννᾷ.

On αὐχί comp Bengel: “nam Spiritus non fert studium partium human-arum.” On the contrary, ζῆλος κ. τ. λ(475) are ranked expressly among the ἔργα τῆς σαρκός, Galatians 5:20.


Verse 4

1 Corinthians 3:4. γάρ] explanatory by exhibiting the state of contention in concreto.

ἄνθρ.] with a pregnant emphasis: are ye not men? i.e. according to the context: are ye not persons, who are absorbed in the unspiritual natural ways of men—in whose thoughts and strivings the divine element of life is awanting? Comp Xen. Anab. vi. 1, 26: ἄνθρωπός εἰμι (I am a weak, fallible man). What determines the shade of meaning in such cases is lot anything in the word itself, but the connection. Comp 1 Peter 4:2. The specific reference here has its basis in the preceding κατὰ ἄνθρωπον περιπατεῖτε, hence there is no ground for rejecting the reading ἄνθρωποι, with Fritzsche (de conform. N. T. Lachm. p. 48), as a lectio insulsa (comp also Reiche), or for misinterpreting it, with Hofmann, into “that they are surely men at all events and nothing less.” This latter rendering brings in the idea, quite foreign to this passage, of the dignity of man, and that in such a way as if the interrogative apodosis were adversative ( ἀλλʼ οὐκ or οὐ μέντοι).

It may be added that Paul names only the two parties: ἐγὼπαύλου and ἐγὼ ἀπολλώ, not giving an imperfect enumeration for the sake of the μετασχηματισμός which follows (1 Corinthians 4:6—so, arbitrarily, de Wette and others), but because in this section of the Epistle he has to do just with the antagonism of the Apollos-party to himself and to those who, against his will, called themselves after him; hence also he makes the μετασχηματισμός, in 1 Corinthians 4:6, with reference to himself and Apollos alone.

ἐγὼ μέν] This μέν does not stand in a logical relation to the following δέ. An inexactitude arising from the lively way in which thought follows thought, just as in classical writers too, from a like reason, there is often a want of exactly adjusted correspondence between μέν and δέ (Breitenbach, a(479) Xen. Hier. i. 9; Baeumlein, Partik. p. 168 f.).


Verse 5

1 Corinthians 3:5. οὖν] Now, igitur, introduces the question as an inference from the state of party-division just referred to, so that the latter is seen to be the presupposition on which the question proceeds. See Klotz, a(480) Devar. p. 719: “Such being the state of things, I am forced to propound the question,” etc. Rückert thinks that Paul makes his readers ask: But now, if Paul and Apollos are not our heads, what are they then? Paul, however, is in the habit of indicating counter-questions expressly as such (1 Corinthians 15:35; Romans 9:19, al(481)).

τί] more significant than τίς; comp 1 Corinthians 3:7. The question is, what, as respects their position, are they? Comp Plato, Rep. p. 332 E, 341 D.

διάκονοι] They are servants, and therefore not fitted and destined to be heads of parties; ἄλλος ἐστὶν δεσπότης, ἡμεῖς ἐκείνου δοῦλοι, Theodoret.

διʼ ὧν] “per quos, non in quos,” Bengel. Comp John 1:7. They are but causae ministeriales in the hand of God.

ἐπιστεύσ.] as in 1 Corinthians 15:2; 1 Corinthians 15:11; Romans 13:11.(485)

καί] and that. καὶἔδωκεν is not to be joined with 1 Corinthians 3:6 (Mosheim, Markland, a(486) Lys. XII. p. 560 f.), seeing that in 1 Corinthians 3:7 no regard is paid to this καὶἔδωκεν.

ἑκάστῳ ὡς] the emphasis is on ἑκάστ., as in 1 Corinthians 7:17 and Romans 12:3.

κύριος] correlative to the διάκονοι, is here God, not Christ (Theophylact; also Rückert, who appeals to Ephesians 4:7; Ephesians 4:11], as what follows—in particular 1 Corinthians 3:9-10—proves. Comp 2 Corinthians 6:4.

As respects the ἀλλʼ of the Textus receptus: nisi (which makes the question continue to the end of the verse; comp Sirach 22:12), see on Luke 12:51; 2 Corinthians 1:13.


Verses 5-15

1 Corinthians 3:5-15. Discussion of the position occupied by the two teachers: The two have no independent merit whatsoever (1 Corinthians 3:5-7); each will receive his reward according to his own work (1 Corinthians 3:8-9); and, more especially, a definitive recompense in the future, according to the quality of his work, awaits the teacher who carries on the building upon the foundation already laid (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). The aim this discussion is stated in 1 Corinthians 4:6.


Verse 6-7

1 Corinthians 3:6-7. Statement of the difference in the διακονία of the two, and of the success of the ministry of both as dependent upon God, so that no one at all had any independent standing, but only God. Therewith Paul proceeds to point out the impropriety of the party-relation which men had taken up towards the two teachers.

ἐφύτευσα κ. τ. λ(489)] We are not to suppose the object left indefinite (de Wette); on the contrary, it emerges out of διʼ ὧν ἐπιστεύσατε, 1 Corinthians 3:5, namely: the faith of the Corinthian community. This is conceived of as a tree (comp Plato, Phaedr. p. 276 E) which was planted by Paul, inasmuch as he first brought the Corinthians to believe and founded the church; but watered(491) by Apollos, inasmuch as he had subsequently exerted himself in the way of confirming and developing the faith of the church, and for the increase of its numbers; and lastly, blessed with growth by God, inasmuch as it was under His influence ( τῆς γὰρ αὐτοῦ χάριτος τὸ κατόρθωμα, Theodoret) that the work of both had success and prospered. This making it to grow is the effect of grace, without which the “granum a primo sationis momento esset instar lapilli,” Bengel. Comp Acts 16:14; Acts 14:27; 1 Corinthians 15:10.

ἐστί τι] may be taken to mean: is anything of importance, anything worth speaking of (Acts 5:36; Galatians 2:6; Galatians 6:3. Plato, Phaedr. p. 242 E, Gorg. p. 472 A, Symp. p. 173 B Xen. Mem. ii. 1. 12). It is more in accordance, however, with the decided tone of hostility to all human estimation which marks the whole context to take τι in quite a general sense (comp 1 Corinthians 10:19), so that of both in and by themselves (in comparison with God) it is said: they are nothing.

ἀλλʼ αὐξ. θεός] sc(494) τὰ πάντα ἐστι (1 Corinthians 15:28; Colossians 3:11), which, according to the apostle’s intention, is to be drawn from what has been already said. An abbreviated form of the contrast, with which comp 1 Corinthians 7:19, and see generally Kühner, II. p. 604; Stallbaum, a(496) Rep. p. 366 D, 561 B. Theophylact says well: διδάξας, ὅτι θεῷ δεῖ μόνῳ προσέχειν, καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν ἀνατιθέναι πάντα τὰ συμβαίνοντα ἀγαθά.


Verse 8-9

1 Corinthians 3:8-9. The planter, on the other hand, and the waterer are one: each of them, however (and here we pass on to the new point of the recompense of the teachers), will receive his own reward, etc.

ἕν εἰσιν] the one is not something other than the other, generically as respects a relation defined in the text (1 Corinthians 11:5; John 10:30; John 17:11; John 17:21), here: in so far as both are of one and the same official character, namely, as workers in the service of God. Theodoret: κατὰ τὴν ὑπουργίαν.

ἕκαστος δὲ κ. τ. λ(497)] πρὸς γὰρ τὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ἔργον παραβαλλό΄ενοι ἕν εἰσιν· ἐπεὶ πόνων ἕνεκεν (i.e. in respect of the pains and labour expended) οὐκ εἰσὶν, ἀλλὰ ἕκαστος κ. τ. λ(498), Chrysostom.

ἴδιον] both times with emphasis. Bengel puts it happily: “congruens iteratio; antitheton ad unum.” The λήψεται, however, refers to the recompense at the last judgment, 1 Corinthians 3:13 ff.—1 Corinthians 3:9 gives now the proof, not for both halves of 1 Corinthians 3:8, of which the first has been already disposed of in the preceding statement (in opposition to Hofmann), but for the new thought ἕκαστοςκόπον introduced by δέ. The emphasis of proof lies wholly on the word thrice put foremost, θεοῦ. For since it is God whose helpers we are (“eximium elogium ministerii,” Calvin), God whose tillage-field, God whose building ye are: therefore it cannot be otherwise than that that ἕκαστοςκόπον must hold good, and none lack his reward according to his labour (“secundum laborem, non propter laborem,” Calovius).

θεοῦ συνεργοί] for we, your teachers, labour with God, the supreme Lord and Fosterer of the church, at one work, which is simply the furtherance of the church. The explanation: workers who work with each other for God’s cause (Estius by way of suggestion, Bengel, Flatt, Heydenreich, Olshausen), is linguistically erroneous (see 1 Thessalonians 3:2; Romans 16:3; Romans 16:9; Romans 16:21; Philippians 2:25; Philippians 4:3; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Maccabees 14:5; Plato, Def. p. 414 A Dem. 68. 27, 884. 2; Plut. Per. 31; Bernhardy, p. 171; Kühner, II. p. 172), and fails to appreciate that lofty conception of a δοῦλος θεοῦ.

θεοῦ γεώργ. and θεοῦ οἰκ. set before us the Corinthian church, in so far as it is the object of the ministerial service of Christian teachers, under the twofold image of a field for tillage ( γεώργ., Strabo, xiv. p. 671; Theag. in Schol. on Pind. Nem. iii. 21; Proverbs 24:30; Proverbs 31:16), which belongs to God and is cultivated, and as a building belonging to God (Ephesians 2:21), which is being carried up to completion.


Verse 10

1 Corinthians 3:10. The former of these images ( γεώργ.) has been the underlying thought in what has hitherto been said (1 Corinthians 3:6-8); the second and new figure ( οἰκοδ.) is now retained in what follows up to 1 Corinthians 3:15, the course of thought being this, that Paul, first of all, states the difference between his own work and that of others at this building, and then passes on to the responsibility which he who would build after him takes upon himself.

The χάρις is not the apostolic office, with which Paul was graced (Romans 12:3; Romans 15:15; Galatians 1:15, al(499)), for it was not exclusively an apostle who was required for the founder of a church (Rome, Colossae), but the special endowment of grace, which he had received from God to fit him for his calling; and he was conscious in himself that he was qualified and destined just for the right laying of the foundation, Romans 15:20.

The significant weight of the words κατὰδοθ. μοι is to express humility in making the utterance which follows. Comp Chrysostom and Theophylact.

ὡς σοφὸς ἀρχιτ.] proceeding as such an one would, going to work in this capacity. To it belongs the right laying of the foundation in strict accordance with the design of the building, the reverse of which would be the part of an unskilful architect. Without a foundation no man builds; without a proper foundation no σοφός, i.e. no one who understands the art (Exodus 35:10). Comp Plato, Phil. p. 17 C, de virt. p. 376 A Pind. Pyth. iii. 115, v. 115; Soph. Ant. 362. But Paul by the grace of God was a σοφὸς ἀρχιτέκτων.

What he understands by such a foundation, he himself tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:11, namely, Jesus Christ, without whom (both in an objective sense: without whose appearing and work, and in a subjective: without appropriating whom in conscious faith; see 1 Corinthians 3:11) a Christian society could not come into existence at all. This foundation Paul had laid, inasmuch as he had made Christ to be possessed by the conscious faith of the Corinthian church. Comp on Ephesians 2:20.

θεμέλιον] The masculine θεμέλιος (see 1 Corinthians 3:11; hence wrongly held by Ewald to be neuter here), attributed by the old grammarians to the κοινή (see Wetstein on 1 Corinthians 3:11), is commonly found only in the plural, and that as early as Thuc. i. 93. 1. In the singular, 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 21:19; Machon in Athen. viii. p. 346 A 3 Esdr. 6:20.

ἄλλος δὲ ἐποικοδ.] By this is meant not merely Apollos, but any later teacher of the Corinthians whatever (comp ἕκαστος): “Not my task, however, but that of another, is the building up, the carrying on the building.”

πῶς] i.e. here: with what materials.(504) See 1 Corinthians 3:12-13. Without figurative language: “Let each take heed what sort of doctrine (as regards substance and form) he applies, in order to advance and develope more fully the church, founded upon Jesus Christ, in its saving knowledge and frame of life.” See on 1 Corinthians 3:12. The figure is not changed, as has been often thought (“Ante fideles dixerat aedificium Dei, nunc aedificium vocat ea, quae in ecclesia Christiana a doctoribus docentur,” Grotius; comp Rosenmüller); but the οἰκοδομή is, as before, the church, which, being founded upon Christ (see above), is further built up, i.e. developed in the Christian faith and life (which may take place in a right or a wrong way, see 1 Corinthians 3:12-13), by the teachings of the later teachers. In like manner is a house built up by the different building-materials upon the foundation laid for it.


Verse 11

1 Corinthians 3:11. γάρ] justifies the foregoing warning, in so far as it is given exclusively to the upbuilder: for with the layer of the foundation it is quite different, he cannot otherwise than, etc.; but as regards the upbuilder, the case is, as 1 Corinthians 3:12 ff. sets forth. We are not to bring in any intermediate thought to explain the γάρ, either with Billroth: “each, however, must bethink himself of carrying on the building;” or, with Hofmann, that in the case of all others the question simply concerns a right building up. Rather we are to note that 1 Corinthians 3:11 stands only in a preparatory relation to 1 Corinthians 3:12, in which the varying πῶς of the ἐποικοδομεῖν is exhibited.

δύναται] can, not may (Grotius, Glass, and others, including Storr, Rosenmüller, Pott, Billroth); for it is the Christian church that is spoken of, whose structure is incapable of having another foundation.

παρὰ τὸν κείμενον] i.e. different from that, which lies already there. Respecting παρά after ἄλλος in this sense, see Krüger, a(506) Dion. p. 9; Stallbaum, a(507) Phileb. p. 51; Ast, Lex. Plat. III. p. 28. The foundation already lying there, however, is not that which Paul had laid (so most interpreters, resting on 1 Corinthians 3:10; including de Wette, Neander, Maier, Hofmann); for his affirmation is universal, and if no one can lay another foundation than that which lies already there, Paul, of course, could not do so either, and therefore the κείμενος must have been in its place before the apostle himself laid his foundation. Hence the κείμενος θεμέλιος is that laid by God (so, rightly, Rückert and Olshausen), namely, Jesus Christ Himself, the fundamentum essentiale, He whom God sent, delivered up to death, raised again, and exalted, thereby making Him to be for us wisdom, righteousness, etc. (1 Corinthians 1:30), or, according to a kindred figure, the corner-stone (Ephesians 2:20; Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:10 f.; 1 Peter 2:6). Comp 1 Timothy 3:16. This is the objective foundation, which lies there for the whole of Christendom. But this foundation is laid (1 Corinthians 3:10) by the founder of a church, inasmuch as he makes Christ to be appropriated by believers, to be the contents of their conscious faith, and thereby establishes them in the character of a Christian church; that is the doctrinal laying of the foundation (fundamentum dogmaticum).

Observe further, that Paul says purposely ἰησοῦς χριστός, so as emphatically to designate the personal, historically manifested Christ. This ὅς ἐστιν ἰησοῦς χριστός is the sum of the fundamental Christian confession of faith, John 17:3; Philippians 2:11; Acts 4:10 ff.


Verse 12

1 Corinthians 3:12. δέ] continues the subject by contrasting the position of him who builds up with that of him who lays the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11). It is a mistake, therefore, to put 1 Corinthians 3:11 in parenthesis (Pott, Heydenreich, comp Billroth).

In connection with this carrying on of the figure, it is to be noted—(1) that Paul is not speaking of several buildings,(510) as though the θεμέλιος were that not of a house, but of a city (Billroth); against which 1 Corinthians 3:16 (see in loc(511)) is decisive, as is, further, the consideration that the idea of Christ’s being the foundation of a city of God is foreign to the N. T. (2) The figure must not be drawn out beyond what the words convey (as Grotius, e.g., does: “Proponit ergo nobis domum, cujus parietes sint ex marmore, columnae partim ex auro partim ex argento, trabes ex ligno, fastigium vero ex stramine et culmo”). It sets before us, on the contrary, a building rearing itself upon the foundation laid by the master-builder, for the erection of which the different workmen bring their several contributions of building materials, from the most precious and lasting down to the most mean and worthless. The various specimens of building materials, set side by side in vivid asyndeton (Krüger and Kühner, a(512) Xen. Anab. ii. 4. 28; Winer, p. 484 [E. T. 653]), denote the various matters of doctrine propounded by teachers and brought into connection with faith in Christ, in order to develope and complete the Christian training of the church.(513) These are either, like gold, silver, and costly stones (marble and the like), of high value and imperishable duration, or else, like timber, hay, stubble ( καλάμη, not equivalent to κάλαμος, a reed; see Wetstein and Schleusner, Thes.), of little worth and perishable,(514) so that they—instead of, like the former, abiding at the Parousia in their eternal truth—come to nought, i.e. are shown not to belong to the ever-enduring ἀλήθεια, and form no part of the perfect knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:12) which shall then emerge. So, in substance (explaining it of the different doctrines), Clemens Alexandrinus, Ambrosiaster, Sedulius, Lyra, Thomas, Cajetanus, Erasmus, Luther, Beza, Calvin, Piscator, Justiniani, Grotius, Estius, Calovius, Lightfoot, Stolz, Rosenmüller, Flatt, Heydenreich, Neander, de Wette, Osiander, Ewald, Maier. Comp Theodoret: τινὲς περὶ δογμάτων ταῦτα εἰρῆσθαι τῷ ἀποστόλῳ φασίν. Two things, however, are to be observed in connection with this interpretation—(1) that the several materials are not meant to point to specific dogmas that could be named, although we cannot fail to perceive, generally speaking, the graduated diversity of the constituent elements of the two classes; (2) that the second class embraces in it no absolutely anti-Christian doctrines.(516) To deny the first of these positions would but give rise to arbitrary definitions without warrant in the text; to deny the second would run counter to the fact that the building was upon the foundation, and to the apostle’s affirmation, αὐτὸς δὲ σωθήσεται, 1 Corinthians 3:15. Billroth makes the strange objection to this interpretation as a whole, that χρυσόν κ. τ. λ(517) cannot apply to the contents of the teaching, because Paul calls the latter the foundation. But that is in fact Christ, and not the further doctrinal teaching. In reply to the invalid objections urged by Hollmann (Animadverss. ad cap. iii. et xiii. Ep. Pauli prim. ad Cor., Lips. 1819) see Heydenreich and Rückert. Our exposition is, in fact, a necessity, because it alone keeps the whole figure in harmony with itself throughout. For if the foundation, which is laid, be the contents of the first preaching of the gospel, namely, Christ, then the material wherewith the building is carried on must be the contents of the further instruction given. It is out of keeping, therefore, to explain it, with Origen, Augustine, Jerome, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Photius, and more recently, Billroth, “of the fruits called forth in the church by the exercise among them of the office of teaching” (Billroth), of the morality or immorality of the hearers (Theodoret: gold, etc., denotes τὰ εἴδη τῆς ἀρετῆς; wood, etc., τὰ ἐναντία τῆς ἀρετῆς, οἷς ηὐτρέπισται τῆς γεέννης τὸ πῦρ); or, again, of the worthy or unworthy members of the church themselves, who would be moulded by the teachers (Schott in Röhr’s Magaz. für christl. Pred. VIII. 1, p. 8 f., with Pelagius, Bengel, Hollmann, Pott). So, too, Hofmann in loc(518), and previously in his Schriftbeweis, II. 2, p. 124. Both of these interpretations have, besides, this further consideration against them, that they do not harmonize in meaning with the figure of the watering formerly employed, whereas our exposition does. Moreover, if the ἔργον, which shall be burned up (1 Corinthians 3:15), be the relative portion of the church, it would not accord therewith that the teacher concerned, who has been the cause of this destruction, is, notwithstanding, to obtain salvation; this would be at variance with the N. T. severity against all causing of offence, and with the responsibility of the teachers. Rückert gives up the attempt at a definite interpretation, contenting himself with the general truth: Upon the manner and way, in which the office of teaching is discharged, does it depend whether the teacher shall have reward or loss; he who builds on in right fashion upon a good foundation (? rather: upon the foundation) has reward therefrom; he who would add what is unsuitable and unenduring, only harm and loss. But by this there is simply nothing explained; Paul assuredly did not mean anything so vague as this by his sharply outlined figure; he must have had before his mind, wherein consisted the right carrying on of the building, and what were additions unsuitable and doomed to perish. Olshausen (comp also Schrader) understands the passage not of the efficiency of the teachers, but of the (right or misdirected) individual activity of sanctification on the part of each believer in general. Wrongly so; because, just as in 1 Corinthians 3:6 ff. the planter and waterer, so here the founder and upbuilder must be teachers, and because the building is the church (1 Corinthians 3:9), which is being built (1 Corinthians 3:9-10). And this conception of the church as a building with a personal foundation (Christ), and consisting of persons (comp 2 Timothy 2:20; 1 Peter 2:4 f.), remains quite unimpaired with our exegesis also (against Hofmann’s objection). For the further building upon the personal foundation laid, partly with gold, etc., partly with wood, etc., is just the labour of teaching, through which the development and enlargement of the church, which is made up of persons, receive a character varying in value. The ἐποικοδο΄εῖν takes place on the persons through doctrines, which are the building materials.


Verse 13

1 Corinthians 3:13. Apodosis: So will what each has done on the building ( τὸ ἔργον) not remain hidden ( φανερὸν γενήσ.). Then the ground of this assurance is assigned: γὰρ ἡμέρα δηλώσει, sc(521) ἑκάστου τὸ ἔργον. The day is κατʼ ἐξοχήν, the day of the Parousia (comp Hebrews 10:24), which is obvious from what follows on to 1 Corinthians 3:15. So, rightly, Tertullian, contra Marc. iv. 2; Origen, Cyprian, Ep. iv. 2; Lactantius, Inst. vii. 21; Hilarius, Ambrosiaster, Sedulius, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, the Roman Catholics (some of whom, however, in the interests of purgatory, make it out to be the day of death), Bengel, and others, including Pott, Heydenreich, Billroth, Schott, Schrader, Rückert, Olshausen, de Wette, Osiander, Ewald, Hofmann. It is un-Pauline, and also against the context (for wood, etc., does not apply to the doctrines of the Judaizers alone), to interpret the phrase, with Hammond, Lightfoot, Gusset, Schoettgen, of the destruction of Jerusalem, which should reveal the nullity of the Jewish doctrines. The following expositions are alien to the succeeding context: of time in general (comp dies docebit: χρόνος δίκαιον ἄνδρα δείκνυσιν μόνος, Sophocles, Oed. Rex, 608; Stob. Ecl. I. p. 234,—so Grotius, Wolf, Wetstein, Stolz, Rosenmüller, Flatt, and others); or of the time of clear knowledge of the gospel (Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Vorstius(524)); or of the dies tribulationis (Augustine, Calovius, and others).

ὅτι ἐν πυρὶ ἀποκαλ.] We are neither to read here ὅτε(525) instead of ὅτι (Bos, Alberti), nor does the latter stand for the former (Pott), but it has a causative force: because it is revealed in fire,—the day, namely (Estius, Pott, Billroth, Rückert, Olshausen, de Wette, Ewald, Hofmann), not τὸ ἔργον, as Luther and the majority of interpreters (among them Heydenreich, Flatt, Schott, Neander) hold, following Ambrosiaster and Oecumenius; for this would yield a tautology with what comes next. Bengel, joined by Osiander, imagines as the subject of the verb κύριος, which can be evolved from ἡ΄έρα only by a very arbitrary process, since the whole context never speaks of Christ Himself.

ἐν πυρί] i.e. encompassed with fire (see Bernhardy, p. 209; Matthiae, p. 1340), so that fire is the element in which the revelation of that day takes place. For Christ, when His Parousia draws nigh, is to appear coming from heaven ἐν πυρὶ φλογός (2 Thessalonians 1:8; comp Daniel 7:9-10; Malachi 4:1), i.e. surrounded by flaming fire (which is not to be explained away, as is often done: amid lightnings; rather comp Exodus 3:2 ff; Exodus 19:18). This fire, however, is not, as Chrysostom would have it, that of Gehenna (Matthew 6:22; Matthew 6:29, al(528)); for it is in it that Christ appears, and it seizes upon every ἔργον, even the golden, etc., and proves each, leaving the one unharmed, but consuming the other. The correct supplying of ἡ΄έρα with ἀποκαλ. supersedes at once the older Roman Catholic interpretation about purgatory (against which see, besides, Scaliger and Calovius), as the correct view of ἡμέρα sets aside the explanations of the wrath of God against the Jews (Lightfoot), of the Holy Spirit, who tries “quae doctrina sit instar auri et quae instar stipulae” (Calvin), of the fire of trial and persecution (Rosenmüller, Flatt, following Augustine, de civ. Dei, xxi. 26, Erasmus, and many old commentators; comp Isaiah 48:10; 1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 4:12; Sirach 2:5), and of a progressive process of purifying the mind of the church (Neander). The idea rather is: “The decision on the day of the Parousia will show how each has worked as a teacher; if any one has taught what is excellent and imperishable, that, as belonging to the divine ἀλήθεια, will stand this decision and survive; if any one has taught what is worthless and perishable, that will by the decision of that day cease to have any standing, fall away, and come to nought” (comp on 1 Corinthians 3:12). This idea Paul, in accordance with his figure of a building, clothes in this form: “At the Parousia the fire, in which it reveals itself, will seize upon the building; and then through this fiery ordeal those parts of the fabric which are of gold, silver, and precious stones will pass unharmed; but those consisting of wood, hay, and stubble will be burnt up.”

ἀποκαλύπτεται] The result of this act of revelation is the δηλώσει already spoken of. The present marks the event as beyond doubt; the sentence is an axiom.

καὶ ἑκάστου κ. τ. λ(531)] not to be connected with ὅτι (Rückert), but with the clause in the future, γὰρ ἡμ. δγλώσει. Is ἔργον in the nominative (Theophylact, Oecumenius, and many others) or accusative (Billroth, Schott, de Wette, Osiander, Ewald)? The former is more in harmony with the sense of the passage, for so ὁπ. ἐστι is made to appear not as merely inserted, but in its befitting emphasis. For the form of the statement advances from the general to the particular: the day will show it, namely, what each has wrought; and (now follows the definite specification of the quality) what is the character of the work of each,—the fire itself will test.

τὸ πῦρ αὐτό] ignis ipse (see the critical remarks), i.e. the fire (in which the ἀποκάλυψις of the day takes place) by its own proper working, without intervention from any other quarter. Respecting the position of αὐτό after πῦρ, see Bornemann, a(532) Xen. Mem. ii. 5. 1. Were we to take it as the object of δοκιμάσει, pointing back to the preceding statement (Hofmann), it would be superfluous in itself, and less in keeping with the terse, succinct mode of expression of this whole passage.

δοκιμάσει] “probabit, non: purgabit. Hic locus ignem purgatorium non modo non fovet, sed plane extinguit,” Bengel.


Verse 14-15

1 Corinthians 3:14-15. Manner and result of this δοκιμάσει.

μενεῖ] will remain unharmed; not μένει (Text. recept.) for κατακαήσεται, in 1 Corinthians 3:15, corresponds to it.

μισθὸν λήψ.] namely, for his work at the building (without figure: teacher’s recompense), from God, at whose οἰκοδομή he has laboured. Rückert holds that Paul steps decidedly out of his figure here; for the builder is not paid only after his work has stood the test of fire uninjured. But the building is still being worked at until the Parousia, so that before that event no recompense can be given. The fire of the Parousia seizes upon the building still in process of being completed, and now he alone receives recompense whose work, which has been carried on hitherto, shows itself proof against the fire.

As regards the form κατακαήσεται, shall be burned down (comp 2 Peter 3:10), instead of the Attic κατακαυθήσεται, see Thom. M. p. 511.

ζημιωθήσεται] sc(534) τὸν μισθόν, i.e. frustrabitur praemio. Comp on ζημιοῦσθαί τι, to suffer loss of anything, Matthew 16:26; Luke 9:25; Philippians 3:8. See also Valckenaer, a(536) Herod. vii. 39. The thought is: He will, as a punishment, not receive the recompense which he would otherwise have received as a teacher. We are not to think of deposition from office (Grotius), seeing that it is the time of the Parousia that is spoken of. To take the ζημ., with the Vulgate, et al(537): without object, so that the sense would be: “he shall have loss from it” (Hofmann), gives too indefinite a conception, and one which would require first of all to have its meaning defined more precisely from the antithesis of μισθ. λήψεται.

αὐτὸς δὲ σωθήσεται, οὕτω δὲ ὡς διὰ πυρός] In order not to be misunderstood, as if by his ζημιωθήσεται he were denying to such teachers share in the future Messianic salvation at all, whereas he is only refusing to assign to them the higher rank of blessedness, blessedness as teachers, Paul adds: Yet he himself shall be saved, but so as through fire. αὐτός refers to the τὸν μισθόν, which is to be supplied as the object of ζημ.: although he will lose his recompense, yet he himself, etc. Rückert is wrong in thinking that the builder is now regarded as the inhabitant of the house. Paul does not handle his figure in this confused way, but has before his mind the builder as still busied in the house with the work which he has been carrying on: all at once the fire seizes the house; he flees and yet finds safety, but not otherwise than as a man is saved through and from the midst of fire. Such an escape is wont to be coupled with fear and painful injury; hence the idea of this figurative representation is: He himself, however, shall obtain the Messianic σωτηρία,(538) yet still only in such a way that the catastrophe of the Parousia will be fraught with the highest anxiety for him, and will not elapse without sensibly impairing his inheritance of blessing. He shall obtain the σωτηρία, but only a lower grade of it, so that he will belong to those whom Jesus calls “the last” (Matthew 20:16; Mark 10:31). The main point in this interpretation, namely, that σωθήσ. refers to the Messianic σωτηρία, is accepted by most expositors; but several, such as Rosenmüller and Flatt, take the future as indicating the possibility (a view which the very fact of the two preceding futures should have sufficed to preclude), and Grotius(539) has foisted in a problematical sense into the word (equally against the definitely assertive sense of those futures): “In summo erit salutis suae periculo. Etsi eam adipiscetur (quod boni ominis causa sperare mavult apostolus) non fiet id sine gravi moestitia ac dolore.” It is a common mistake to understand ὡς διὰ πυρός in the sense of a proverb (by a hair’s-breadth, see Grotius and Wetstein in loc(540); Valckenaer, p. 157; and comp Amos 4:11; Zechariah 3:2; Jude 1:23), because the passage, looking back to 1 Corinthians 3:13, really sets before us a conflagration ( ὡς, as in John 1:14). It may be added that there is no ground for bringing into the conception the fire of the wrath of God (Hofmann), since, according to the text, it is the selfsame fire which seizes upon the work of the one and of the other, in the one case, however, proving it to be abiding, and in the other consuming it. Bengel illustrates the matter well by the instance of a shipwrecked man: “ut mercator naufragus amissa merce et lucro servatur per undas.” Other commentators, again (Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact), understand it to mean: He shall be preserved, but so only as one is preserved through the fire of hell, that is to say, eternally tormented therein. So too of late, in substance, Maier. But the interpretation is decidedly erroneous; first, because, according to 1 Corinthians 3:13, πῦρ cannot be allowed to have any reference to the fire of hell; secondly, because σώζεσθαι, which is the standing expression for being saved with the salvation of the Messiah, can least of all be used to denote anything else in a picture representing the decision of the Parousia.(542) This last consideration tells also against Schott’s explanation (l.c(543) p. 17): “He himself shall indeed not be utterly destroyed on that account; he remains, but it is as one who has passed through flaming fire (seriously injured),” by which is denoted the divine award of punishment which awaits such a teacher at the day of judgment. It may also be urged against the view in question, that the sentence of punishment, since it dooms to the fire, cannot be depicted in the figure as a having passed through the fire.


Verse 16-17

1 Corinthians 3:16-17. οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι κ. τ. λ(544)] could be regarded as said in proof of 1 Corinthians 3:15 (Billroth), only if Chrysostom’s interpretation of σωθήσεται πυρός, or Schott’s modification of it (see on 1 Corinthians 3:15), were correct.(545) Since this, however, is not the case, and since the notion of σωθήσεται, although limited by οὓτω δὲ ὡς διὰ πυρός, cannot for a moment be even relatively included under the φθερεῖ τοῦτον θεός of 1 Corinthians 3:17, because the φθορά is the very opposite of the σωτηρία (Galatians 6:8), this mode of bringing out the connection must be given up. Were we to assume with other expositors that Paul passes on here from the teachers who build upon the foundation to such as are anti-Christian, “qui fundamentum evertunt et aedificium destruunt” (Estius and others, including Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Flatt, Pott, Hofmann), we should in that case feel the want at once of some express indication of the destroying of the foundation,—which, for that matter, did not take place in Corinth,—and also, and more especially, of some indication of the relation of antithesis subsisting between this passage and what has gone before. The apostle would have needed at least, in order to be understood, to have proceeded immediately after 1 Corinthians 3:15 somewhat in this way: εἰ δέ τις φθείρει κ. τ. λ(546) No; in 1 Corinthians 3:16 we have a new part of the argument begun; and it comes in all the more powerfully without link of connection with the foregoing. Hitherto, that is to say, Paul has been presenting to his readers—that he may make them see the wrong character of their proud partisan-conduct (1 Corinthians 4:6)—the relation of the teachers to the church as an οἰκοδομὴ θεοῦ. But he has not yet set before their minds what sort of an οἰκοδ. θεοῦ they are, namely, the temple of God (hence ναός is emphatic). This he does now, in order to make them feel yet more deeply the criminality of their sectarian arrogance, when, after ending the foregoing discussion about the teachers, he starts afresh: Is it unknown to you(547) what is the nature of this building of God, that ye are God’s temple? etc. The question is one of amazement (for the state of division among the Corinthians seemed to imply such ignorance, comp 1 Corinthians 5:6, 1 Corinthians 6:15 f., 1 Corinthians 9:13; 1 Corinthians 9:24); and it contains, along with the next closely connected verse, the sudden, startling preface—arresting the mind of the readers with its holy solemnity—to the exhortation which is to follow, 1 Corinthians 3:18 ff.

ναὸς θεοῦ] not: a temple of God, but the temple of God. For Paul’s thought is not (as Theodoret and others hold) that there are several temples of God (which would be quite alien to the time-hallowed idea of the one national temple, which the apostle must have had, see Philo, de monarch. 2, p. 634), but that each Christian community is in a spiritual way, sensu mystico, the temple of Jehovah, the realized idea of that temple, its ἀληθινόν. There are not, therefore, several temples, but several churches, each one of which is the same true spiritual temple of God. Comp Ephesians 2:21; Ignatius, ad Eph. 9; 1 Peter 2:5; Barnab. 4; also regarding Christian persons individually, as in 1 Corinthians 6:19, see Ignatius, ad Phil. 7. This accordingly is different from the heathen conception of pious men being temples (in the plural). Valer. Max. iv. 7. 1, al(550), in Elsner and Wetstein.

καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα] appends in how far ( καί being the explicative and) they are ναὸς θεοῦ. God, as He dwelt in the actual temple by the שכינה (Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 2394), dwells in the ideal temple of the Christian church by the gracious presence, working and ruling in it, of His Spirit, in whom God communicates Himself; for the Spirit dwells and rules in the hearts of believers (Romans 8:9; Romans 8:11; 2 Timothy 1:14). But we are not on this ground to make ἐν ὑμῖν refer to the individuals (Rückert and many others); for the community as such (1 Corinthians 3:17) is the temple (2 Corinthians 6:16 f.; Ephesians 2:21 f.; Ezekiel 37:27).

ναός did not need the article, which comes in only retrospectively in 1 Corinthians 3:17, just because there is but one ναὸς θεοῦ in existence. Comp 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21; Wisdom of Solomon 3:14; 2 Maccabees 14:35; Sirach 51:14.


Verses 16-23

1 Corinthians 3:16-23. Warning address to the readers, comprising—(1) preparatory statement reminding them of the guilt of sectarian conduct as a destroying of the temple of God, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17,—verses which Chrysostom, Theophylact, and others quite mistakenly refer to the incestuous person; then (2) exhortation to put a stop to this conduct at its source by renouncing their fancied wisdom, 1 Corinthians 3:18-23, and to give up what formed the most prominent feature of their sectarianism,—the parading of human authorities, which was, in truth, utterly opposed to the Christian standpoint.


Verse 17

1 Corinthians 3:17. εἴ τιςἅγιός ἐστιν] This is spoken of the real temple; the application to the church as the ideal one is not made until the οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς which follows. It is an anticipation of the course of the argument to understand, as here already meant, the latter New Testament place of the divine presence (Hofmann).

Every Levitical defilement was considered a destroying of the temple, as was every injury to the buildings, and even every act of carelessness in the watching and superintendence of it. See Maimonides, de domo electa, i. 10, vii. 7. Deyling, Obss. II. p. 505 ff.

φθερεῖ] placed immediately after φθείρει at the head of the apodosis, to express with emphasis the adequacy of the recompense. See Kühner, II. p. 626. What φθερεῖ denotes is the temporal destruction, the punishment of death which God will bring upon the destroyer of His temple, as in the LXX. φθείρω is often used of God as inflicting such destruction. Comp Genesis 6:13; Micah 2:10; 1 Kings 2:27, al(553)

ἅγιος] as the dwelling of God, sacred therefore from all injury, and not to be destroyed without incurring heavy divine penalty.

οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς] of which character (namely, ἅγιοι) are ye. In this we have the minor proposition of the syllogism contained in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 : Him who destroys God’s temple God will destroy, because the temple is holy; but ye also are holy, as being the spiritual temple; consequently, he who destroys you will be destroyed of God. Paul leaves it to his readers themselves to infer, for their own behoof, that in this reasoning of his he means by the destruction of the (ideal) temple the deterioration of the church on the part of the sectarians, and by the penal destruction which awaits them, their ἀπώλεια at the Messianic judgment (the φθορά of Galatians 6:8). It is a mistake (with most commentators, including Luther) to regard οἵτινες as put for οἵ (see the passages where this seems to be the case in Struve, Quaest. Herod. I. p. 2 ff.), and to make it refer to ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ: which temple ye are. That would rather yield the inappropriate (see on 1 Corinthians 3:16) plural sense: cujusmodi templa vos estis. See Porson and Schaefer, a(554) Eurip. Or. 908. Matthiae, p. 977.


Verse 18

1 Corinthians 3:18. ΄ηδεὶς ἑαυτ. ἐξαπ.] Emphatic warning, setting the following exhortation, as directed against an existing evil which arose out of self-deception, in that point of view; comp 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Corinthians 15:33; Galatians 6:7. Those who were proud of their wisdom did not discern that they were destroying the temple of God with their sectarian proceedings. Theophylact remarks well upon ἐξαπατ.: νομίζων, ὅτι ἄλλως ἔχει τὸ πρᾶγμα καὶ οὐχ ὡς εἶπον.

δοκεῖ] believes, is of opinion, not appears (Vulgate, Erasmus); for it was the former that was objectionable and dangerous. Comp 1 Corinthians 8:2, 1 Corinthians 14:37; Galatians 6:3.

σοφὸς εἶναιτούτῳ] ἐν ὑμῖν belongs to σόφος εἶναι, and ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ defines the σόφος εἶναι ἐν ὑμῖν more precisely, to wit, according to his non-Christian standing and condition (comp 1 Corinthians 3:19): If any one is persuaded that he is wise among you in this age, i.e. if one claims for himself a being wise in your community, which belongs to the sphere of this pre-Messianic period. To the αἰὼν οὗτος, despite of all its philosophy and other wisdom falsely so called (1 Corinthians 1:20, 1 Corinthians 2:6), the true wisdom, which is only in Christ (Colossians 2:3), is in fact a thing foreign and far off; this αἰών is a sphere essentially alien to the true state of being wise in the church; in it a man may have the λόγος σοφίας (Colossians 2:23), but not the reality. We must not therefore, in defiance of its place in the sentence, link ἐν τῷ αἰ. τ. merely to σόφος (Erasmus, Grotius, Rückert, and many others), in doing which ἐν is often taken as equivalent to κατά. Origen, Cyprian, Chrysostom, Luther, Castalio, Mosheim, Rosenmüller, and others, join it to what follows, rendering either generally to this effect: “is a vulgo hominum pro stulto haberi non recuset;” or with a more exact development of the meaning, as Hofmann: whoever thinks himself to be wise in the church, “he, just on that account, is not wise, but has yet to become so, and must to this end become a fool in this present age of the world, because his wisdom is a wisdom of this world, and as such is foolishness in the eyes of God.” But the emphasis does not lie upon the contrast between ἐν ὑμῖν and ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τ., but upon σόφος and μωρός, as is plain from the fact that in the clause expressive of the aim we have the simple σόφος alone without ἐν ὑμῖν. It may be seen, too, from 1 Corinthians 3:19 ( σοφ. τοῦ κόσμου) that Paul had included ἐν τ. αἰ. τ. in the protasis.

μωρὸς γενέσθω] i.e. let him rid himself of his fancied wisdom, and become (by returning to the pure and simple gospel unalloyed by any sort of philosophy or speculation) such a one as now in relation to that illusory wisdom is a fool.

σοφός] with emphasis: truly wise. See Colossians 2:2-3. The path of the Christian sapere aude proceeds from becoming a fool to wisdom, as from becoming blind to seeing (John 9:39).


Verse 19

1 Corinthians 3:19. Giving the ground of the μωρὸς γενέσθω demanded in order to the γίνεσθαι σόφον.

τοῦ κόσμου τούτου] i.e. such as is peculiar to the pre-Messianic world (humanity), like the Hellenic sophistry, rhetoric, etc.; comp 1 Corinthians 1:21, 1 Corinthians 2:6.

παρὰ τ. θεῷ] judice Deo; Romans 2:13; Winer, p. 369 [E. T. 493]. How truly that wisdom was its own very opposite, and how utterly to be given up!

γέγρ. γὰρ] Job 5:13, not according to the LXX., but expressing the sense of the Hebrew with quite as great fidelity. The passage, however, serves as proof, not for the warning and admonition in 1 Corinthians 3:18 (Hofmann),—to take it thus would be arbitrarily to reach back over what immediately precedes the γάρ,—but, as 1 Corinthians 3:20 also confirms, for the statement just made, γὰρ σοφία κ. τ. λ(559) If, namely, God did not count that wisdom to be folly, then He could not be spoken of as He who taketh the wise in their craftiness, i.e. who brings it to pass that the wise, while they cunningly pursue their designs, do not attain them, but rather their craftiness turns to their own destruction. Thus the hand of God comes in upon their doings and takes them in their craftiness, whereby He just practically proclaims His judgment regarding their wisdom, that it is foolishness. As respects πανουργία, comp the Hellenic distinction between it and the true wisdom in Plato, Menex. p. 247 A: πᾶσά τε ἐπιστήμη χωριζομένη δικαιοσύνης καὶ τῆς ἄλλης ἀρετῆς πανουργία, οὐ σοφία, φαίνεται.

δρασσόμ. is not “ex Hebr. pro finito δράσσεται” (Pott, following Beza), but the quotation, being taken out of its connection, does not form a complete sentence. Comp Hebrews 1:8; Winer, p. 330 [E. T. 443]; Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 250 [E. T. 291].

On δράσσεσθαι with the accusative (commonly with the genitive), comp Herod. iii. 13, LXX. Leviticus 5:12, Numbers 5:26.


Verse 20

1 Corinthians 3:20. πάλιν] as in Romans 15:10; Matthew 4:7. The passage quoted is Psalms 94:11, and the only variation from the Hebrew and the LXX. is in putting σοφῶν instead of ἀνθρώπων, and that purposely, but with no violence to the connection of the original (the reference being to men of pretended wisdom).

μάταιοι] empty, thoughts (for Paul, at all events, had διαλογ. not σοφ. in view) which are without true substance. Comp Plato, Soph. p. 231 B: περὶ τὴν μάταιον δοξοσοφίαν.


Verse 21

1 Corinthians 3:21. ὥστε] Hence, that is to say, because this world’s wisdom, this source of your καυχᾶσθαι ἐν ἀνθρώποις (see 1 Corinthians 3:18), is nothing but folly before God, 1 Corinthians 3:19-20. According to Hofmann, ὥστε draws its inference from the whole section, 1 Corinthians 3:10-20. But μηδεὶς καυχάσθω κ. τ. λ(564) manifestly corresponds to the warning μηδεὶς ἑαυτ. ἐξαπ. κ. τ. λ(565) in 1 Corinthians 3:18, from the discussion of which (1 Corinthians 3:19 f.) there is now deduced the parallel warning beginning with ὥστε (1 Corinthians 3:21); and this again is finally confirmed by a sublime representation of the position held by a Christian (1 Corinthians 3:22 f.).

ἐν ἀνθρώποις] “id pertinet ad extenuandum,” Bengel; the opposite of ἐν κυρίῳ, 1 Corinthians 1:31. Human teachers are meant, upon whom the different parties prided themselves against each other (1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 1:12). Comp 1 Corinthians 4:6. Billroth renders wrongly: on account of men, whom he has subjected to himself and formed into a sect. εἴτε παῦλοςκηφᾶς in 1 Corinthians 3:22 is decisive against this; for how strangely forced it is to make ΄ηδείς refer to the teachers, and ὑμῶν to the church!

The imperative after ὥστε (comp 1 Corinthians 4:5, 1 Corinthians 10:12; Philippians 2:12) is not governed by that word, but the dependent statement beginning with ὥστε changes to the direct. See Hermann, a(568) Viger. p. 852; Bremi, a(569) Dem. Phil. III. p. 276; Klotz, a(570) Devar. p. 776.

πάντα γὰρ ὑ΄ῶν ἐστιν] with the emphasis on πάντα: nothing excepted, all belongs to you as your property; so that to boast yourselves of men, consequently, who as party leaders are to be your property to the exclusion of others, is something quite foreign to your high position as Christians. Observe that we are not to explain as if it ran: ὑμῶν γὰρ πάντα ἐστιν (“illa vestra sunt, non vos illorum,” Bengel); but that the apostle has in view some form of party-confession, as, for example, “Paul is mine,” or “Cephas is my man,” and the like. It was thus that some boasted themselves of individual personages as their property, in opposition to the πάντα ὑμ. . It may be added that what is conveyed in this πάντα ὑ΄ῶν ἐστιν is not “the miraculous nature of the love, which is shed abroad in the hearts of believers by the Spirit, in virtue of which the man embraces the whole world, and enjoys as his own possession whatever in it is beautiful and glorious” ( πάντα?), as is the view of Olshausen; but rather, in accordance with the diverse character of the objects thereafter enumerated, the twofold idea, that all things are destined in reality to serve the best interests of the Christians (comp Romans 8:28 ff.), and consequently to be in an ethical sense their possession,(572) and that the actual κληρονομία τοῦ κόσμου (Romans 4:13 f.) is allotted to them in the Messianic kingdom. Comp 4 Esdr 9:14. The saying of the philosophers: “Omnia sapientis esse” (see Wetstein), is a lower and imperfect analogue of this Christian idea.


Verse 22

1 Corinthians 3:22. Detailed explication of the πάντα; then an emphatic repetition of the great thought πάντα ὑμ., in order to link to it 1 Corinthians 3:23.

παῦλοςκηφ.] for they are designed to labour for the furtherance of the Christian weal. Paul does not write ἐγώ; as forming the subject-matter of a partisan confession, he appears to himself as a third person; comp 1 Corinthians 3:5.

κόσ΄ος] generally; for the world, although as yet only in an ideal sense, is by destination your possession, inasmuch as, in the coming αἰών, it is to be subjected to believers by virtue of the participation which they shall then obtain in the kingly office of Christ (Romans 4:13; Romans 8:17; 1 Corinthians 6:2. Comp 2 Timothy 2:12). More specific verbal explanations of κόσμος, as it occurs in this full triumphant outpouring—such as reliqui omnes homines (Rosenmüller and others), the unbelieving world (comp also Hofmann), and so forth—are totally unwarranted by the connection. Bengel says aptly: “Repentinus hic a Petro ad totum mundum saltus orationem facit amplam cum quadam quasi impatientia enumerandi cetera.” The eye of the apostle thus rises at once from the concrete and empirical to the most general whole, in point of matter ( κόσμος), condition ( ζωὴ, θάνατος), time ( ἐνεστῶτα, μέλλοντα).

ζωὴθάνατος] comp Romans 8:38. We are not to refer this, with Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Grotius, to the teachers: “si vitam doctoribus protrahit Deus,” and “si ob evangel. mortem obeunt” (Grotius, comp too, Michaelis), nor to transform it with Pott into: things living and lifeless; nor even is the limitation of it to the readers themselves (“live ye or die, it is to you for the best,” Flatt) in any way suggested by the text through the analogy of the other points. Both should rather be left without any special reference, life and death being viewed generally as relations occurring in the world. Both of them are, like all else, destined to serve for your good in respect of your attainment of salvation. Comp Philippians 1:21; Romans 14:7 ff.; 1 Corinthians 15:19 ff. Theodoret: καὶ αὐτὸς δὲ θάνατος τῆς ὑ΄ετέρας ἕνεκεν ὠφελείας ἐπηνέχθη τῇ φύσει.

εἴτε ἐνεστῶτα, εἴτε ΄έλλοντα] Similarly, we are not to restrict things existing (what we find to have already entered on a state of subsistence; see on Galatians 1:4) and things to come to the fortunes of the readers (Flatt and many others), but to leave them without more precise definition.


Verse 23

1 Corinthians 3:23. In 1 Corinthians 3:22 Paul had stated the active relation of the Christians as regards ownership, all being made to serve them—a relation which, by its universality, must preclude all boasting of human authorities. He now adds to this their passive relation as regards ownership also, which is equally adverse to the same hurtful tendency, namely: but ye belong to Christ,—so that in this respect, too, the καυχᾶσθαι ἐν ἀνθρώποις of 1 Corinthians 3:21 cannot but be unseemly. Rückert would make πάντα γὰρ ὑμῶν ἐστι κ. τ. λ(580) in 1 Corinthians 3:22 the protasis and said by way of concession, so that the leading thought would lie in 1 Corinthians 3:23 : “All indeed is yours; but ye belong to Christ.” We are, he holds, to supply μέν after πάντα. But, even apart from this erroneous addition, there may be urged against his view, partly the fact that an independent emphasis is laid upon the thought πάντα ὑμῶν, as is clear at a glance both from its explication in detail and from the repetition of the phrase; and partly the internal state of the case, that what Rückert takes as a concession really contains a very pertinent and solid argument against the καυχ. ἐν ἀνθρώποις.

χριστὸς δὲ θεοῦ] and Christ, again, belongs to God, is subordinated to God, stands in His service. For κεφαλὴ χριστοῦ θεός, 1 Corinthians 11:3. Comp Luke 9:20. The strict monotheism of the N. T. (see on Romans 9:5), and the relation of Christ as the Son to the Father, necessarily give the idea of the subordination of Christ under God.(582) As His equality with God and His divine glory before the incarnation (Philippians 2:6), although essential, were still derived ( εἰκὼν τ. θεοῦ, πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως, Colossians 1:15), so also the divine glory, which He has obtained by His exaltation after His obedience rendered to God even unto the death of the cross, is again a glory bestowed upon Him (Philippians 2:9), and His dominion is destined to be given back to God (1 Corinthians 15:28). Since, however, this relation of dependence, affirmed by χριστὸς δὲ θεοῦ (comp on Ephesians 1:17), by no means expresses the conception of Arianism, but leaves untouched the essential equality of Christ with God (Theodoret aptly remarks: χριστὸς γὰρ θεοῦ οὐχ ὡς κτίσμα θεοῦ, ἀλλʼ ὡς υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ), it was all the more a mistake to assume (so Calvin, Estius, Calovius, and many others, including Flatt and Olshausen) that the statement here refers only to the human nature. It is precisely on the divine side of His being that Christ is, according to Paul (Romans 1:4), the Son of God, and therefore as γέννημα γνήσιονὡς αὐτὸν αἴτιον ἔχων κατὰ τὸ πατέρα εἶναι (Chrysostom), not subordinate to Him simply in respect of His manhood. But for what reason does Paul add here at all this χριστὸς δὲ θεοῦ, seeing it was not needed for the establishment of the prohibition of the καυχᾶσθαι ἐν ἀνθρώποις? We answer: Had he ended with ὑμεῖς δὲ χριστοῦ, he would then, in appearance, have conceded the claim of the Christ-party, who did not boast themselves ἐν ἀνθρώποις (and hence were not touched by 1 Corinthians 3:22), but held to Christ; and this, in point of fact, is what Pott and Schott make out that the apostle here does. But this was not his intention; for the confession of the Christ-party was not, indeed, Ebionitic,—as if the χ. δὲ θεοῦ were aimed against this (Osiander),—but, although right enough in idea, yet practically objectionable on the ground of the schismatic misuse made of it. He rises, therefore, to the highest absolute jurisdiction, that to which even Christ is subject, in order in this passage, where he rejects the three parties who supported themselves on human authorities, to make the Christ-party, too, feel their error: Christ, again, is—not the head of a party, as many among you would make Him, but—belonging to God, and consequently exalted in the highest possible degree above all drawing in of His name into party-contentions. In this way, with no little delicacy, Paul sets the relation of the fourth Corinthian party also—of which 1 Corinthians 3:22 did not allow the mention—in the light of the true Christian perspective; to do which by no means lay too far from the path of his exhortation (Hofmann), but was very naturally suggested by the concrete circumstances which he could not but have in his eye.

REMARK.

The reference in 1 Corinthians 3:22 f. to the party of Peter and on Christ is to be regarded as simply by the way. The whole section from 1 Corinthians 1:13 to 1 Corinthians 4:21 is directed against the antagonism between the Pauline and the Apollonian parties (comp on 1 Corinthians 3:4); but the idea πάντα ὑμῶν ἐστιν, which Paul holds up to these two, very naturally leads him to make all the parties sensible of their fault as well, although to enter further upon the Petrine and the Christ-party did not lie in the line of his purpose. The theory, so much in favour of late, which refers the polemic, beginning with 1 Corinthians 1:17, to the Christ-party (Jaeger, Schenkel, Goldhorn, Kniewel, etc.), has led to acts of great arbitrariness, as is most conspicuous in the case of Kniewel, who divides chap. 3 among all the four parties, giving 1 Corinthians 3:3-10 to that of Paul and that of Apollos, 1 Corinthians 3:12-17 to that of Peter, and 1 Corinthians 3:18 f. to that of Christ; while in the contrasts of 1 Corinthians 3:22 ( εἴτε κόσμοςμέλλοντα) he finds the Christ-party’s doctrine of the harmony of all contrasts accomplished in Christ as the world-soul.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/1-corinthians-3.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology