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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
1 Corinthians 1



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Verse 1

Called to be an apostle

See on Romans 1:1. Compare 1 Timothy 1:1. Not distinguishing him from other apostles. Compare Matthew 4:21; John 6:70; but Paul was called no less directly than these by Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:12-16. John does not use the word apostle, but gives the idea, John 13:18.

Verse 2


The Corinth of this period owed the beginning of its prosperity to Julius Caesar, who, a hundred years after its destruction by Mummius (b.c. 146), rebuilt and peopled it with a colony of veterans and freedmen. It was situated on the isthmus which divided Northern Greece from the Peloponnesus. It had three harbors, Cenchreae and Schoenus on the east, and Lechaeumn on the west. The isthmus, forming the only line of march for an invading or retreating army, was of the greatest military importance. It was known as “the eye of Greece.” By Pindar it was called “the bridge of the sea;” by Xenophon, “the gate of the Peloponnesus;” and by Strabo, “the acropolis of Greece.” In more modern times it was known as “the Gibraltar of Greece.” Hence, at least as early as the march of Xerxes into Greece, it was crossed by a wall, which, in later times, became a massive and important fortification, especially in the decline of the Roman Empire. Justinian fortified it with an hundred and fifty towers. The citadel rose two thousand feet above the sea-level, on a rock with precipitous sides. In the days of the Achaean league it was called one of the “fetters” of Greece. “It runs out boldly from the surging mountain chains of the Peninsula, like an outpost or sentry, guarding the approach from the North. In days when news was transmitted by fire-signals, we can imagine how all the southern country must have depended on the watch upon the rock of Corinth” (Mahaffy, “Rambles and Studies in Greece”).

At its narrowest part the isthmus was crossed by a level track called the diolcus over which vessels were dragged on rollers from one port to the other. This was in constant use, because seamen were thus enabled to avoid sailing round the dangerous promontory of Malea, the southern extremity of the Peloponnesus. A canal was projected and by Nero, but was abandoned. The common title of the city in the poets was bimaris, “the city of the two seas.”

The commercial position of Corinth was, therefore, most important, communicating with the eastern and the western world, with the north and the south. The isthmus was one of the four principal points for the celebration of the Grecian games; and in Paul's day great numbers flocked to these contests from all parts of the Mediterranean.

On the restoration of the city by Julius Caesar, both Greek and Jewish merchants settled in Corinth in such numbers as probably to outnumber the Romans. In Paul's time it was distinctively a commercial center, marked by wealth and luxury. “It was the 'Vanity Fair' of the Roman Empire, at once the London and the Paris of the first century after Christ” (Farrar). It was conspicuous for its immorality. To “corinthianize” was the term for reckless debauchery. Juvenal sarcastically alludes to it as “perfumed Corinth;” and Martial pictures an effeminate fellow boasting of being a Corinthian citizen. The temple of Aphrodite (Venus) employed a thousand ministers. Drunkenness rivaled licentiousness, and Corinthians, when introduced on the stage, were commonly represented as drunk. Paul's impression of its profligacy may be seen in his description of heathenism in the first of Romans, and in his stern words concerning sensual sin in the two Corinthian Epistles. “Politically Roman, socially Greek, religiously it was Roman, Greek, Oriental, all in one. When, therefore, the apostle preached to the Corinthians, the Gospel spoke to the whole world and to the living present” (Edwards).

Called to be saints

See on Romans 1:7.

Call upon the name ( ἐπικαλουμένοις τὸ ὄνομα )

Compare Romans 10:12; Acts 2:21. The formula is from the Septuagint. See Zechariah 13:9; Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:4; Psalm 115:17. It is used of worship, and here implies prayer to Christ. The first christian prayer recorded as heard by Saul of Tarsus, was Stephen's prayer to Christ, Acts 7:59. The name of Christ occurs nine times in the first nine verses of this epistle.

Theirs and ours

A.V. and Rev. connect with Jesus Christ our Lord. Better with in every place. Every place in the province where Christians are is our place also. The expression emphasizes the position of Paul as the founder and apostolic head of Christianity in Corinth and in all Achaia.

Verse 3

Grace - peace

Grace is the Greek salutation, peace the Jewish. Both in the spiritual sense. Compare Numbers 6:25, Numbers 6:26. This form of salutation is common to all Paul's epistles to the churches. In Timothy and Titus, mercy is added. James alone has the ordinary conventional salutation, χαίρειν rejoicehail, greeting.

Verse 4

I thank ( εὐχαριστῶ )

Found in the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation, but most frequently in Paul.

My God

Some very high authorities omit. The pronoun implies close personal relationship. Compare Acts 27:23; Philemon 1:3; Philemon 3:8.

By Christ Jesus ( ἐν )

Better, as Rev., in; in fellowship with. The element or sphere in which the grace is manifested.

Verse 5

Ye are enriched ( ἐπλουτίσθητε )

Rev. more literally, “were enriched.” Compare Colossians 3:16; and see on Romans 2:4.

Utterance - knowledge ( λόγῳ - γνώσει )

The two words are found together, 1 Corinthians 12:8; 2 Corinthians 11:6; 2 Corinthians 8:7. For knowledge, see on Romans 11:33. Utterance, aptitude in speech. Paul gives thanks for speech as a means of testifying for Christ. “The saints have never been silent” (Pascal).

Verse 6

Witness of Christ ( μαρτύριον τοῦ Χριστοῦ )

Testimony concerning Christ. See on John 1:7. Compare Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:8.

Verse 7

Come behind ( ὑστερεῖσθαι )

See on Luke 15:14, and compare Romans 3:23. Contrast with were enriched.

Gift ( χαρίσματι )

See on Romans 1:11. Its prevailing sense in this epistle is that of special spiritual endowments, such as tongues, prophecy, etc. Here of spiritual blessings generally.

Waiting ( ἀπεκδεχομένους )

See on Romans 8:19. Denoting assiduous waiting. Dr. Thayer compares the phrase wait it out ( ἐκ ).

Revelation ( ἀποκάλυψιν )

See on Revelation 1:1.


Verse 8


Compare 1 Corinthians 1:6.

Unto the end

Of the present aeon or period. See on end of the world, Matthew 28:20.

Blameless ( ἀνεγκλήτους )

Used by Paul only. In apposition with you. Rev., unreprovable. The kindred verb ἐγκαλέω occurs only in Acts and Romans. See on Romans 8:33. It means to accuse publicly, but not necessarily before a tribunal. See Acts 23:28, Acts 23:29; Acts 26:2, Acts 26:7. Hence the word here points to appearance at God's bar.

Verse 9

Faithful ( πιστὸς )

Emphatic, and therefore first in the sentence. See on 1 John 1:9; see on Revelation 1:5; see on Revelation 3:14. Compare 2 Timothy 2:13.

Ye were called ( ἐκλήθητε )

See on Romans 4:17.

Fellowship ( κοινωνίαν )

See on 1 John 1:3; see on Acts 2:42; see on Luke 5:10.

Verse 10

I beseech ( παρακαλῶ )

See on consolation, Luke 6:24. The word occurs more than one hundred times in the New Testament.

Divisions ( σχίσματα )

See on John 10:19. In classical Greek used only of actual rents in material. So in Matthew 9:16; Mark 2:21. In the sense of discord, see John 7:43; John 9:16; John 10:19. Here, faction, for which the classical word is στάσις :division within the christian community. The divisions of the Corinthian church arose on questions of marriage and food (1 Corinthians 7:3, 1 Corinthians 7:5, 1 Corinthians 7:12); on eating, meat offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Corinthians 10:20); on the comparative value of spiritual endowments, such as speaking with “tongues” (14); on the privileges and demeanor of women in the assemblies for worship (1 Corinthians 11:5-15); on the relations of the rich and the poor in the agape or love-feasts (1 Corinthians 11:17-22); and on the prerogatives of the different christian teachers (1 Corinthians 1:12, 1 Corinthians 1:13; 3:3-22).

Perfectly joined together ( κατηρτισμένοι )

Rev., perfected together. See on Matthew 21:16; see on Luke 6:40; see on 1 Peter 5:10. Carrying on the metaphor in divisions. Not of individual and absolute perfection, but of perfection in the unity of the Church.

Mind ( νοΐ̀ )

See on Romans 7:23.

Judgment ( γνώμῃ )

See on Revelation 17:13. The distinction between mind and judgment is not between theoretical and practical, since νοῦς mindincludes the practical reason, while γνώμη judgmenthas a theoretical side. Rather between understanding and opinion; νοῦς regarding the thing from the side of the subject, γνώμη from the side of the object. Being in the same realm of thought, they would judge questions from the same christian stand-point, and formulate their judgment accordingly.

Verse 11

It hath been declared ( ἐδηλώθη )

Rev., signified, which is hardly strong enough. The word means to make clear, or manifest ( δῆλος ). Compare 1 Corinthians 3:13. It may imply that Paul was reluctant to believe the reports, but was convinced by unimpeachable testimony.

Of the household of Chloe ( τῶν Χλόης )

See on Romans 16:10for the form of expression. The persons may have been slaves who had come to Ephesus on business for their mistress, or members of her family. Chloe means tender verdure, and was an epithet of Demeter (Ceres), the goddess of agriculture and rural life. It is uncertain whether she belonged to the Corinthian or to the Ephesian church.

Contentions ( ἔριδες )

Socrates in Plato's “Republic” distinguishes between disputing ( ἐρίζειν ) and discussing ( διαλέγεσθαι ), and identifies contention ( ἔρις ) with gainsaying ( ἀντιλογία ), “Republic,” v., 454. Compare Titus 3:9.

Verse 12

Now this I say ( λέγω δὲ τοῦτο )

A familiar classical formula: What I mean is this. Rev., Now this I mean. This usually refers to what follows. Compare Galatians 3:17; Ephesians 4:17.

I am of Paul and I of Apollos

The repeated δὲ andexpresses the opposition between the respective parties. The followers of Apollos preferred his more philosophical and rhetorical preaching to the simpler and more direct utterances of Paul. Others ranged themselves under the name of Peter.


Aramaic for Πέτρος PeterSee on John 1:42. It is Paul's usual name for Peter, Πέτρος occurring only Galatians 2:7, Galatians 2:8. Peter would be the rallying-point for the Judaizing Christians, who claimed him as the apostle of the circumcision. The state of the Corinthian church offered the most favorable ground for Paul's Jewish-Christian adversaries, who took advantage of the reaction created by the looser views and practice of Gentile Christians, and by the differences of opinion on important questions, to press the necessity of legal regulation, and of ceremonial observances in non-essentials.

Of Christ

Many modern authorities hold that Paul thus designates a fourth and quite distinct party. This view rests mainly on the form of statement in this verse, and has no support in the epistle. The peculiar characteristics of this party, if it were such, can only be conjectured. It seems more probable that those who were “of Christ” belonged to the party of Peter: that they were native Jews, coming from abroad with letters of recommendation to Corinth, representing themselves as ministers and apostles of Christ, and using His name as the watchword under which they could most successfully prosecute their opposition to Paul and the gospel which he preached. The allusion in this verse would therefore link itself with those in the tenth and eleventh chapters of the second epistle.

Verse 13

Is Christ divided? ( μεμέρισται ὁ Χριστός )

Some of the best expositors render as an assertion. Christ has been divided by your controversies. He is broken up into different party Christs. This gives a perfectly good and forcible sense, and is favored by the absence of the interrogative particle μὴ , which introduces the next clause. Divided: so portioned up that one party may claim Him more than another. Christ has the article. See on Matthew 1:1.

Was Paul crucified for you? ( μὴ Παῦλος ἐσταυρώθη ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν )

A negative answer is implied. Paul surely was not, etc. For is ὑπέρ onbehalf of, not περί onaccount of, as some texts.

In the name ( εἰς τὸ ὄνομα )

Rev., correctly, Into the name. See on Matthew 28:19. Of Paul as the name of him whom you were to confess. The order of the original is: Was it into the name of Paul that ye were baptized?

Verse 15

I had baptized ( ἐβάπτισα )

The correct reading is ἐβαπτίσθητε yewere baptized. So Rev. Paul's commission contains no mention of baptism. Compare Acts 9:15, with Matthew 28:15. From his peculiar position as the inaugurator of a second epoch of Christianity, many would be tempted to regard him as the real founder of the Church, and to boast of having been baptized into his name. “No outward initiation of converts entered into his ministry” (Edwards).

Verse 16

And I baptized also

Another exceptional case occurs to him which he conscientiously adds. The δὲ andhas a slightly corrective force.

Verse 17

Should be made of none effect ( κενωθῇ )

Lit., emptied. Rev., made void. Compare is made void, Romans 4:14, and the kindred adjective κενὸν, κενὴ vain 1 Corinthians 15:14. The nucleus of the apostolic preaching was a fact - Christ crucified. To preach it as a philosophic system would be to empty it of its saving power, a truth which finds abundant and lamentable illustration in the history of the Church.

Verse 18

The word of the cross ( ὁ λόγος ὀ τοῦ σταυροῦ )

Lit., the word, that, namely, of the cross. The second article is definitive and emphatic. The word of which the substance and purport is the cross.

To them that perish ( τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις )

Lit., that are perishing. So Rev. The present participle denotes process: they who are on the way to destruction. Compare 2 Corinthians 2:15.

Foolishness ( μωρία )

Only in this epistle. See on have lost his savor, Matthew 5:13.

Which are saved ( τοῖς σωζομένοις )

Rev., being saved: in process of salvation.

Verse 19

I will destroy, etc.

Cited literally from the Septuagint, Isaiah 29:14, except that the Septuagint has κρύψω Iwill conceal, instead of I will reject. The Hebrew reads: “The wisdom of its (Judah's) wise men shall perish, and the sagacity of its sagacious men shall hide itself.”

Wisdom - prudence ( σοφίαν - σύνεσιν )

The two words are often found together, as Exodus 31:3; Deuteronomy 4:6; Colossians 1:9. Compare σοφοὶ καὶ συνετοί wiseand prudent, Matthew 11:25. For the distinction, see, as to σοφία wisdomon Romans 11:33; as to σύνεσις prudenceon Mark 12:33; Luke 2:47. Wisdom is the more general; mental excellence in its highest and fullest sense. Prudence is the special application of wisdom; its critical adjustment to particular cases.

Will bring to nothing ( ἀθετήσω )

See on Luke 7:30. Originally, to make disestablished ( ἄθετον ) something which is established or prescribed ( θετόν ) Hence to nullify, make void, frustrate, and, in a milder sense, to despise or reject, as Galatians 2:21. The stronger sense is better here, so that Rev., reject is not an improvement on the A.V. The American revisers render: And the discernment of the discerning will I bring to nought.

Verse 20

Scribe ( γραμματεύς )

Always in the New Testament in the Jewish sense, an interpreter of the law, except Acts 19:35, the town-clerk.

Disputer ( συζητητὴς )

Only here. Compare the kindred verb συζητέω toquestion with, Mark 1:27; Luke 22:23; Acts 6:9; and συζήτησις disputation Acts 15:2, Acts 15:7. Referring to Grecian sophistical reasoners, while scribe refers to rabbinical hair-splitters.

World ( αἰῶνος )

See on John 1:9. More correctly, age or period.

Made foolish ( ἐμώρανεν )

Proved it to be practical folly; stupefied it. Compare Romans 1:22. Possibly with a latent suggestion of the judicial power of God to make it foolish.

Verse 21

After that ( ἐπειδὴ )

Rev., correctly, seeing that.

By wisdom ( διὰ τῆς σοφίας )

Better, as Rev., giving the force of the article, “through its wisdom.”

Preaching ( κηρύγματος )

Not the act, but the substance of preaching. Compare 1 Corinthians 1:23.

To save ( σῶσαι )

The word was technically used in the Old Testament of deliverance at the Messiah's coming; of salvation from the penalties of the messianic judgment, or from the evils which obstruct the messianic deliverance. See Joel 2:32; Matthew 1:21; compare Acts 2:40. Paul uses it in the ethical sense, to make one a partaker of the salvation which is through Christ. Edwards calls attention to the foregleam of this christian conception of the word in the closing paragraph of Plato's “Republic:” “And thus, Glaucon, the tale has been saved, and has not perished, and will save ( σώσειεν ) us if we are obedient to the word spoken, and we shall pass safely over the river of forgetfulness and our soul will not be defiled.”

Verse 22

The Jews

Omit the article. Among the Jews many had become Christians.

Require ( αἰτοῦσιν )

Rev., ask. But it is questionable whether the A.V. is not preferable. The word sometimes takes the sense of demand, as Luke 12:48; 1 Peter 3:15; and this sense accords well with the haughty attitude of the Jews, demanding of all apostolic religions their proofs and credentials. See Matthew 12:38; Matthew 16:1; John 6:30.


See on Acts 6:1.

Seek after ( ζητοῦσιν )

Appropriate to the Greeks in contrast with the Jews. The Jews claimed to possess the truth: the Greeks were seekers, speculators (compare Acts 17:23) after what they called by the general name of wisdom.

Christ crucified ( Χριστὸν ἐσταυρωμένον )

Not the crucified Christ, but Christ as crucified, not a sign-shower nor a philosopher; and consequently a scandal to the Jew and folly to the Gentile.

Unto the Greeks ( Ἕλλησι )

The correct reading is ἔθνεσιν tothe Gentiles. So Rev. Though Ἕλληνες Greeksis equivalent to Gentiles in the New Testament when used in antithesis to Jews, yet in this passage Paul seems to have in mind the Greeks as representing gentile wisdom and culture.

Verse 25

The foolishness ( τὸ μωρὸν )

Lit., the foolish thing. More specific than the abstract μωρία foolishness(1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 1:21), and pointing to the fact of Christ crucified.

Verse 26

Calling ( κλῆσιν )

Not condition of life, but your calling by God; not depending on wisdom, power, or lineage.

Noble ( εὐγενεῖς )

Of high birth. So originally, though as Greece became democratic, it came to signify merely the better sort of freemen. Plato applies it to the children of native Athenians (“Menexenus,” 237). Aeschylus makes Clytaemnestra say to the captive Cassandra that if slavery must befall one there is an advantage in having masters of ancient family property instead of those who have become unexpectedly rich (“Agamemnon,” 1010).

Verse 27

Hath chosen

The threefold repetition of the word emphasizes the deliberate and free action of God's gracious will.

Verse 28

Base ( ὠγενῆ )

Of no family. The reverse of εὐγενεῖς nobleDespised ( ἐξουθενημένα )

Lit., set at nought. Not merely despised, but expressly branded with contempt. See Luke 23:11.

Verse 30

Wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

The last three terms illustrate and exemplify the first - wisdom. The wisdom impersonated in Christ manifests itself as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. For δικαιοσύνη righteousnesssee on Romans 1:17. For ἁγιασμός sanctificationsee on Romans 6:19. For ἀπολύτρωσις redemptionsee on Romans 3:24.

Verse 31

He that glorieth, etc.

From Jeremiah 9:23, Jeremiah 9:24, abridged after the Septuagint.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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