corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
1 Corinthians 2



Other Authors
Verse 1

Not with excellency of speech or of wisdom (ου κατ υπεροχην λογου η σοπιαςou kath' huperochēn logou ē sophias). υπεροχηHuperochē is an old word from the verb υπερεχωhuperechō (Philemon 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 τεουto mustērion tou theou). So Aleph A C Copt. like 1 Corinthians 2:7, but B D L P read μαρτυριονmarturion 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 μυεωmueō to close, to shut, to initiate (Philemon 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 τι ειδεναι εν υμινou gar ekrina ti eidenai en humin). Literally, “For I did not decide to know anything among you.” The negative goes with εκριναekrina not with τιti 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 (ει μη Ιησουν Χριστονei mē Iēsoun Christon). Both the person and the office (Lightfoot). I had no intent to go beyond him and in particular, and him crucified (και τουτον εσταυρωμενονkai touton estaurōmenon). 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 σχανδαλονscandalon of the Incarnation, but Paul kept to the main track on coming to Corinth.

Verse 3

I was with you (εγενομην προς υμαςegenomēn pros humas). Rather, “I came to you” (not ηνēn 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 ποβοςphobos (fear) and τρομοςtromos (trembling) combined in 2 Corinthians 7:15; Philemon 2:12; Ephesians 6:5.

Verse 4

Not in persuasive words of wisdom (ουκ εν πιτοις σοπιας λογοιςouk en pithois sophias logois). This looks like a false disclaimer or mock modesty, for surely the preacher desires to be persuasive. This adjective πιτοςpithos (MSS. πειτοςpeithos) has not yet been found elsewhere. It seems to be formed directly from πειτωpeithō to persuade, as πειδοςpheidos (πιδοςphidos) is from πειδομαιpheidomai to spare. The old Greek form πιτανοςpithanos is common enough and is used by Josephus (Ant. VIII. 9. 1) of “the plausible words of the lying prophet” in 1 Kings 13. The kindred word πιτανολογιαpithanologia 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 αποδειχειall' en apodeixei). In contrast with the plausibility just mentioned. This word, though an old one from αποδεικνυμιapodeiknumi to show forth, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament.

Spirit (πνευμαpneuma) here can be the Holy Spirit or inward spirit as opposed to superficial expression and power (δυναμιςdunamis) 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 ηιhina hē pistis humōn mē ēi). Purpose of God, but μη ηιmē ēi 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 τελειοιςen tois teleiois). 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 τελειοςteleios for relative perfection, for adults, as is in 1 Corinthians 14:20; Philemon 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 τουτουtou aiōnos toutou). 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 καταργουμενωνtōn katargoumenōn). See 1 Corinthians 1:28. Present passive participle genitive plural of καταργεωkatargeō 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 (τεου σοπιαν εν μυστηριωιtheou sophian en mustēriōi). Two points are here sharply made. It is God‘s wisdom (note emphatic position of the genitive τεουtheou) 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 note 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 αποκεκρυμμενηνtēn apokekrummenēn). See note on Romans 16:25; note on Colossians 1:26; Ephesians 3:5. Articular perfect passive participle of αποκρυπτωapokruptō more precisely defining the indefinite σοπιανsophian (wisdom).

Foreordained before the worlds (προωρισεν προ των αιωνωνproōrisen pro tōn aiōnōn). This relative clause (ηνhēn) defines still more closely God‘s wisdom. Note προpro with both verb and substantive (αιωνωνaiōnōn). 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 δοχαν ημωνeis doxan hēmōn). “The glory of inward enlightenment as well as of outward exaltation” (Lightfoot).

Verse 8

Knoweth (εγνωκενegnōken). Has known, has discerned, perfect active indicative of γινωσκωginōskō They have shown amazing ignorance of God‘s wisdom.

For had they known it (ει γαρ εγνωσανei gar egnōsan). Condition of the second class, determined as unfulfilled, with aorist active indicative in both condition (εγνωσανegnōsan) and conclusion with ανan (ουκ αν εσταυρωσανouk an estaurōsan). Peter in the great sermon at Pentecost commented on the “ignorance” (κατα αγνοιανkata agnoian) 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 δοχηςton Kurion tēs doxēs). Genitive case δοχηςdoxēs 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; note on Ephesians 1:17; and Hebrews 9:5.

Verse 9

But as it is written (αλλα κατως γεγραπταιalla kathōs gegraptai). Elliptical sentence like Romans 15:3 where γεγονενgegonen (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 Isa 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 αha (which things) occurs as the direct object (accusative) with ειδενeiden (saw) and ηκουσανēkousan (heard), but as the subject (nominative) with ανεβηanebē (entered, second aorist active indicative of αναβαινωanabainō to go up).

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

Prepared (ητοιμασενhētoimasen). First aorist active indicative of ετοιμαζωhetoimazō 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 (καρδιανkardian) 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 απεκαλυπσεν ο τεοςhēmin gar apekalupsen ho theos). So with γαρgar B 37 Sah Cop read instead of δεde of Aleph A C D. “ΔεDe is superficially easier; γαρgar intrinsically better” (Findlay). Paul explains why this is no longer hidden, “for God revealed unto us” the wonders of grace pictured in 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 (απεκαλυπσενapekalupsen 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 πνευματοςdia tou pneumatos). 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 εραυναιpanta eraunāi). This is the usual form from a.d. 1 on rather than the old ερευναωereunaō The word occurs (Moulton and Milligan‘s Vocabulary) for a professional searcher‘s report and εραυνηταιeraunētai 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 εραυναωeraunaō again of God‘s searching our hearts. The Holy Spirit not merely investigates us, but he searches “even the deep things of God” (και τα βατη του τεουkai ta bathē tou theou). 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 εγνωκενoidenιδegnōken). Second perfect of root γινωσκωiḋ to see and so know, first perfect of οιδαginōskō to know by personal experience, has come to know and still knows. See First John for a clear distinction in the use of γινωσκωoida and το πνευμα του αντρωπου το εν αυτωιginōskō

The spirit of man that is in him (αντρωποςto pneuma tou anthrōpou to en autōi). The self-consciousness of man that resides in the man or woman (generic term for mankind, το πνευμα του τεουanthrōpos).

The Spirit of God (το εν αυτωιto pneuma tou theou). Note the absence of Πνευμαto en autōi 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. Pneuma 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 1 Corinthians 2:6-10.

Verse 12

But we (ημεις δεhēmeis de). We Christians like us (ημινhēmin) in 1 Corinthians 2:10 of the revelation, but particularly Paul and the other apostles.

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

Not the spirit of the world (ου το πνευμα του κοσμουou to pneuma tou kosmou). Probably a reference to the wisdom of this age in 1 Corinthians 2:6. See also Romans 8:4, Romans 8:6, Romans 8:7; 1 Corinthians 11:4 (τε πνευμα ετερονthe pneuma heteron).

But the spirit which is of God (αλλα το πνευμα το εκ τεουalla to pneuma to ek theou). Rather, “from God” (εκek), which proceeds from God.

That we might know (ινα ειδωμενhina eidōmen). Second perfect subjunctive with ιναhina 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 τεου χαριστεντα ημινta hupo tou theou charisthenta hēmin). First aorist passive neuter plural articular participle of χαριζομαιcharizomai 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 και λαλουμενha kai laloumen). This onomatopoetic verb λαλεωlaleō (from λαλαlȧla), to utter sounds. In the papyri the word calls more attention to the form of utterance while λεγωlegō refers more to the substance. But λαλεωlaleō 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 (1 Corinthians 2:10), illumination (1 Corinthians 2:12), and inspiration (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 αντρωπινης σοπιας λογοιςouk en didaktois anthrōpinēs sophias logois). Literally, “not in words taught by human wisdom.” The verbal adjective διδακτοιςdidaktois (from διδασκωdidaskō to teach) is here passive in idea and is followed by the ablative case of origin or source as in John 6:45, εσονται παντες διδακτοι τεουesontai pantes didaktoi theou (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 (λαλουμενlaloumen) of the words, “which the Spirit teacheth (εν διδακτοις πνευματοςen didaktois pneumatos), “in words taught by the Spirit” (ablative πνευματοςpneumatos 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 συνκρινοντεςpneumatikois pneumatika sunkrinontes). Each of these words is in dispute. The verb συνκρινωsunkrinō originally meant to combine, to join together fitly. In the lxx it means to interpret dreams (Genesis 40:8, 22; 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 πνευματικοιςpneumatikois Is it masculine or neuter like πνευματικαpneumatika 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 1 Corinthians 2:14. If πνευματικοιςpneumatikois be taken as neuter plural (associative instrumental case after συνsun in συνκρινοντεςsunkrinontes), the idea most naturally would be, “combining spiritual ideas (πνευματικαpneumatika) with spiritual words” (πνευματικοιςpneumatikois). This again makes good sense in harmony with the first part of 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 (πσυχικος δε αντρωποςpsuchikos de anthrōpos). 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 πνευμαpneuma and πνευματικοσ πσυχηpneumatikosπσυχικοσ σαρχpsuchē and σαρκινοςpsuchikosσαρκικοςsarx and σαρχ πνευμαsarkinos and πσυχηsarkikos 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 Πσυχικοςsarxπσυχηpneuma and ανιμαpsuchē 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. πσυχικοςPsuchikos is a qualitative adjective from πνευματικοςpsuchē (breath of life like πσυχικοςanima 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 πνευματικοςpsuchikos and ου δεχεταιpneumatikos as here. The ουδε γαρ δυναταιpsuchikos man is the unregenerate man while the μωριαpneumatikos man is the renewed man, born again of the Spirit of God.

Receiveth not (ου δυναται γνωναιou dechetai). Does not accept, rejects, refuses to accept. In Romans 8:7 Paul definitely states the inability (γινωσκωoude gar dunatai) 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” (πνευματικως ανακρινεταιmōria) 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 (πσυχικοιou dunatai gnōnai). He is not able to get a knowledge (ingressive second aorist active infinitive of πσυχηginōskō). 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 (πνευμαpneumatikōs anakrinetai). 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 psuchikoi men are incapable of rendering a decision for they are unable to recognize the facts. They judge by the psuchē (mere animal nature) rather than by the pneuma (the renewed spirit).

Verse 15

Judgeth all things (ανακρινει πανταanakrinei panta). The spiritual man (ο πνευματικοςho pneumatikos) 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 ανακρινεταιautos de hup' oudenos anakrinetai). 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 πνευματικοςpneumatikos man.

Verse 16

For who hath known the mind of the Lord (Τις γαρ εγνω νουν ΚυριουTis gar egnō noun Kuriou̱). Quotation from Isaiah 40:13.

That he should instruct him (ος συνβιβασει αυτονhos sunbibasei auton). This use of οςhos (relative who) is almost consecutive (result). The πνευματικοςpneumatikos man is superior to others who attempt even to instruct God himself. See note on Acts 9:22 and note on Acts 16:10 for συνβιβαζωsunbibazō to make go together.

But we have the mind of Christ (ημεις δε νουν Χριστου εχομενhēmeis de noun Christou echomen). As he has already shown (1 Corinthians 2:6-13). Thus with the mind (νουςnous Cf. Philemon 2:5; Romans 8:9, Romans 8:27). Hence Paul and all πνευματικοιpneumatikoi 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.”


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 21st, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
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