1 Corinthians Chapter 2:9-16

Chapter 2 continues and concludes.

9 ἀλλὰ καθὼς γέγραπται, Ἃ ὀφθαλμὸς οὐκ εἶδεν καὶ οὖς οὐκ ἤκουσεν καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίαν ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἀνέβη, ἃ ἡτοίμασεν ὁ θεὸς τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν.

But it is written thus, “That which the eye did not see and the ear did not hear, and what did not rise up in the hearts of men, that is what God has prepared for the ones loving him.”

The quote is from (Deutero-)Isaiah. Now, my hard-copy Revised English Bible translates this bit of Isaiah a bit differently. Or doesn’t quite include what is here. This brings to mind something that I came across (I’ve forgotten the source) suggesting that Paul was not averse to, um, shall we say, being rather liberal in the cites he used? As in, maybe didn’t get them quite right? Like maybe he sort of, well, manipulated them to fit his needs at the time? I did not note the source because I didn’t take it terribly seriously at the time, either the source or the implication, or both. 

Now, for the most part, I have not actually gone back to the OT on all the cites. Maybe I need to start doing that. Here is what I have for Is 64:4:

…Never has the ear heard, or eye seen any other god who acts for those who wait for him…

Now, the beginning works, the part about eyes and ears, but the rest of it…perhaps not so much. Now, maybe this still constitutes a legitimate cite of Scripture in Paul’s book, or in the attitude of the times. They were a lot less fussy about copyrights, and attribution, and authorship, and exact quotes. So maybe.

But that’s a bit of a sideshow. Here is where breaking up the text arbitrarily to maintain a certain length of my posts is a big problem. Perhaps you will recall that the discussion of V-7 & 8 we were discussing mysteries, and things hidden. Luckily, I didn’t come down on the side of Gnostic-type secret knowledge, because we have here what I think is the answer to the ‘mysteries’. “What the eyes and ears have not perceived…” To me, what this seems to be describing is a sort of an inward spiritual state, in which we experience…things…that we cannot see or hear. At least, that’s how it seems to me at the moment; and it was a moment of inspiration (something breathed into me) that made me consider it thus. It’s what will eventually be called the ‘ineffable’. It hints at a level of mysticism.

It’s something that was wholly and utterly lacking in Mark.

9 Sed sicut scriptum est: “ Quod oculus non vidit, nec auris audivit, nec in cor hominis ascendit, quae praeparavit Deus his, qui diligunt illum”.

10 ἡμῖν δὲ ἀπεκάλυψεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος: τὸ γὰρ πνεῦμα πάντα ἐραυνᾷ, καὶ τὰ βάθη τοῦ θεοῦ.

For to us is God is revealed through the spirit; for the spirit searches all, even (=καὶ ) the depths of God.

What was I saying about being ‘breathed in’ (= in-spiro in Latin) to me? Sort of by definition, that is the spirit, or the Spirit, and that is how God is revealed (Greek = apo-calypse-en) to us. The idea of having some thought breathed into you was not a new idea. This is, after all, the concept behind the Muse; as in, “Sing, O Muse (thea) the wrath of Achilles…” However, I do not know to what degree this was a common idea in the Judaic world. A lot of revelation to Hebrew prophets and visionaries came from a divine source, but it was more the showing, rather than the indwelling. At least, that’s my not-very-well-informed idea of how visions of the things-to-come took place in Jewish literature. I apologize if that notion is not correct. But this could be the origin of the idea of the Holy Spirit inspiring humans.

But perhaps most interesting idea here is the ‘depths of God’. This usage in this manner is unique in the NT. Its the word Luke uses when he tells the disciples to cast their nets into the deep water. More akin to the thought here, Plato used it in the sense of ‘depth of mind’. So, this is certainly the first such usage in prot0-Christian writing. It may represent a step of progression of religious/spiritual thought in the Western heritage.  Whatever else Paul is, he’s something of an original thinker. He brought some new insights into the way we all think of these topics, and how we talk about God and religion.

 10 Nobis autem revelavit Deus per Spiritum; Spiritus enim omnia scrutatur, etiam profunda Dei.

11 τίς γὰρ οἶδεν ἀνθρώπων τὰ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου εἰ μὴ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τὸ ἐν αὐτῷ; οὕτως καὶ τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐδεὶς ἔγνωκεν εἰ μὴ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ.

For who knows men, the things of men, if not the spirit of men, that which (is) in him (=them)? And thus the things of God, no one knows them if not the spirit of God?

 What I’m picking up here is the roots of the idea of the Holy Spirit. By discussing the spirit (breath) in this way, we get the sense that it is something separate from God. In the same way, we have the sense of the spirit of a human as somehow distinct as well. Josephus (Antiquities XVIII 1:3) tells us that the Pharisees believed in an immortal soul, using the term ‘psyche’. Paul tells us in Galatians that he was a Pharisee; perhaps some of this comes from Paul’s belief in an immortal aspect of humans.

The Greeks took ‘psyche’ as the animate breath. The actual spirit, in the sense of the identity of the individual that went down to Hades was the ‘spirit’, the ‘pneuma’ << πνεῦμα >>, which is what Paul uses here. Do these different words matter? I can’t quite tell, at least not yet. This may become more clear as we progress.

But what is clear is that Paul does not feel the need to explain his terms. He writes with the assumption that his audience will get it. Now, his audience in Corinth was, presumably, Greeks. At this point, I’m not sure if the assembly of Corinth was made up of former Jews, or former pagans. If the latter, they may have understood this passage differently than it would have been understood by former Jews, or by the Jerusalem assembly, or even by James, brother of Jesus and Peter/Cephas. In fact, I think part of the issue with the earliest proto-Christians was the difference in these backgrounds, which may possibly be represented by the differences between the Wonder-worker gospel and the Christ gospel. But now that I’ve found that hobbyhorse, I have to be careful about riding it at every turn of events.

11 Quis enim scit hominum, quae sint hominis, nisi spiritus hominis, qui in ipso est? Ita et, quae Dei sunt, nemo cognovit nisi Spiritus Dei.

12 ἡμεῖς δὲ οὐ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ κόσμου ἐλάβομεν ἀλλὰ τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ,  ἵνα εἰδῶμεν τὰ ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ χαρισθέντα ἡμῖν:

But we have not received the spirit of the world, but the spirit that is from God, so that we know the things that (are) from God are gifted (lit = begraced) to us.

The first thing is the sort of anti-Gnostic idea of the “spirit of the world”. For Gnostics (dualists), spirit is good. Did the material (=bad) world have a spirit?  But this is a great indication that our conception of ‘spirit’ may not be what Paul means here. Was the spirit of the world separate from the world? Sure seems like it. Or is it just impossible not to think of it in these terms because we’re so accustomed to thinking of a ‘spirit’ as something distinct from what it inhabits?

Second, we have << χαρισθέντα >> (charisthenta). Here the ‘natural’ meaning is simply ‘given’. But here we can see how translating this as ‘grace’ can leave out a lot of what the word can mean. The Latin uses just the base word for ‘to give’. I prefer ‘gifted’, which, again, became an integral part of what ‘grace’ is. You know, it’s never occurred to me to point out that << χαρις >> (= ‘charis’) is the root of ‘charity’, which is obviously tied up with the idea of giving, but giving freely, and perhaps to those who are in particular need.

Update: I was reviewing the chapter as a whole to prepare the summary when I thought of something that I missed the first time around. “Spirit of the World”. We all know what that is. The concept, the idea, the nuance is thoroughly familiar to us. We know what the “spirit of the law”, or the “spirit of fair play”, or even “school spirit” means. But let’s change this to “breath of the world”? I have said that this a legitimate translation of the term ‘pneuma‘. Latin does not really have the choice of words; both are rendered as ‘spiritus‘. But that doesn’t work in English. So do I have to concede that there are two different ways to understand this in Greek? I believe so, but is that only because of the way we distinguish breath/spirit in English? We can say, “while there’s breath left in my body”; or we can say “while there’s spirit left in my body”. Technically, these could mean the same thing, but we would not ordinarily use the second when we mean the first.

Such are the joys of translation. But this must also serve as yet another warning that we have to pay attention to what the words actually say. This is much more critical in Paul than it was in Mark. 

As a point of reference, see my discussion of first-glance readings in re: V-16.

12 Nos autem non spiritum mundi accepimus, sed Spiritum, qui ex Deo est, ut sciamus, quae a Deo donata sunt nobis;

13 ἃ καὶ λαλοῦμεν οὐκ ἐν διδακτοῖς ἀνθρωπίνης σοφίας λόγοις ἀλλ’ ἐν διδακτοῖς πνεύματος, πνευματικοῖς πνευματικὰ συγκρίνοντες.

And we speak not in the learned words of wise humans but in the teachings of the spirit, comparing spiritual (things) to spiritual (things).

This is again (still?) at least latently dualistic. Just to point out, there are precedents for this in Plato. For him, the acquisition of knowledge, real knowledge and not just an understanding of the world around us, required a venture into the spiritual realm. Matter had to be transcended, so that we entered, ultimately, into the realm of the Forms, and, eventually, the realm of The One. So there is a degree, at least, of Platonism in here.

A lot of what became Christian theology was a fitting of Christian concepts in terms that a Platonist could find amenable, or at least, not objectionable. In fact, Plato was the philosophical basis for Christianity in the West for about a thousand years. The re-introduction of the Aristotelean corpus in the 12th Century, and its incorporation by Thomas Aquinas provided something of a revolution in Christian thought. Aristotle-based Aquinean theology still forms the basis of Roman theology. Prior to that, Plato and his other-worldly emphasis reigned supreme in Western thought. In fact, a true understanding of the Middle Ages, IMO, requires grasping how unimportant the material world was for thinkers. This helps explain the ‘primitive’ nature of a lot of art; the idea of an accurate portrayal of what was, after all, an inexact copy of a spiritual paradigm just seemed pointless. This started to change after Aristotle, and his empirical outlook, became more fully embedded into Western thought, so that Platonism began to seem quaint, and the physical world took on more importance.

13 quae et loquimur non in doctis humanae sapientiae sed in doctis Spiritus verbis, spiritalibus spiritalia comparantes.

14 ψυχικὸς δὲ ἄνθρωπος οὐ δέχεται τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ θεοῦ, μωρία γὰρ αὐτῷ ἐστιν, καὶ οὐ δύναται γνῶναι, ὅτι πνευματικῶς ἀνακρίνεται:

But a natural man does not receive the spiritual things from God, for it is foolishness to him, and he is not able to understand to examine (things) spiritually. 

‘Natural’ is interesting. First, the root of the word is ‘psyche’, so there’s a bit of misdirection. The Latin is clearer: ‘animalis’. At least to English speakers. So the ‘natural’ state of humans does not include the spiritual element, or component. Then how is that obtained? Is the spiritual aspect somehow grafted on to our ‘natural’ state? Is there really an apparent problem with this? How can we accept spirituality, or become spiritual, if in our ‘natural’ state, we lack a spiritual capacity?

These were the sorts of questions that led to the idea of prevenient grace, whereby God, of his own goodness, bounty, and unlimited love for humanity. This idea came primarily from Augustine, who was very big on Paul, and Martin Luther was a devotee of both. The end result was predestination, which we will discuss more fully when we get to Romans (which may be a while), where the idea is most fully present in Paul. The problem is that Paul was not a systematic thinker. He was not an ivory-tower academic with the time and leisure to think through the implications of what he said the way that someone like Thomas Aquinas was. Even Augustine was something of a seat-of-the-pants sort of thinker, who responded to actual problems actually faced by the Church in his time, and he did not have the opportunity to consider his positions fully, or in depth. He needed to answer questions that were facing him NOW. The first was the Donatists, and the second, which led to predestination, was the Pelagians who claimed that humans could merit salvation by their own efforts.

Again, the basic problem is that the NT was not designed as a theological argument. The gospels were designed as the story of who Jesus and/or The Christ was; the epistles were advice on how to follow Jesus/the Christ. So things were said, like the passage here, that had implications that only became apparent after people had had a few centuries to read and digest the actual words of what had become Scripture. The Roman Rite recognized the problems of such ‘hanging implications’ from the outset, which is why Catholics are not as big on Scripture as most of their Protestant confreres. Indeed, from approximately the Fifth through the fifteenth century, reading Scripture by lay persons was discouraged. In this way, the clergy could provide what a friend described as “the Bartlett’s Quotations version” of the Bible, in which the appropriate quote was doled out to meet the needs of the moment. The solution of the humanists, and eventually Martin Luther, was to take Paul at his word, and say that one must simply believe. (This is a gross oversimplification, but it’s a deep and thorny topic, which is truly–if unfortunately–outside the scope of the present forum.)

14 Animalis autem homo non percipit, quae sunt Spiritus Dei, stultitia enim sunt illi, et non potest intellegere, quia spiritaliter examinantur;

15 ὁ δὲ πνευματικὸς ἀνακρίνει [τὰ] πάντα, αὐτὸς δὲὑπ’ οὐδενὸς ἀνακρίνεται.

The spiritual person, on the other hand (=  δὲ ) examines/judges all, while he himself is examined by no one.

The spiritual person examines all; contrast: the unexamined life is not worth living (Socrates, via Plato’s Apology). You tell me.

Really, though, the most interesting part of this passage is the second half: the spiritual person is examined by no one. Here’s another hanging implication. This implies, and pretty much entails, a personal relationship with God, that is not mediated through the agency of a professional priest-caste. By no one. It doesn’t say ‘by the elders of the community’, or ‘by someone more spiritually complete’. It says, by no one. Now, this will be more or less contradicted shortly, which is a really terrific indication that Paul was not concerned with the idea of taking things to their logical conclusion and then seeing if these extreme positions were compatible. That is what the Scholastics of the late Middle Ages did, which was what caused the humanists to become so disgusted with the hair-splitting arguments about angels dancing on pinheads (which was actually a discussion about infinity, and infinities). Perhaps Paul did not intend this to be unqualified, but that is what he wrote. Again, another example of why a lot of Christian theology did not fully develop for several centuries. In fact, some topics (predestination) have never been fully resolved on the whole. Calvin solved the problem by positing predestination to Hell, as well as to Heaven. Other groups have not been willing to take this position.

15 spiritalis autem iudicat omnia, et ipse a nemine iudicatur.

16 τίς γὰρ ἔγνω νοῦν κυρίου, ὃς συμβιβάσει αὐτόν; ἡμεῖς δὲ νοῦν Χριστοῦ ἔχομεν.

For who knows the mind of the lord, who instructs him?  But we have the mind of Christ.

Here we have another quasi-cite of Isaiah, the middle part about instructing God.

But second, what does this mean, having the mind of Christ? In particular, how does it follow from the sentence before? I guess it’s the contrast between not knowing the mind of God, but knowing the mind of Christ.

Now, this brings up another interesting theological question. We can’t know God’s mind, but we can know the mind of Christ. If we can know one, but not the other, does this not imply–or entail– that the two are not the same? That is, how does this fit with the idea of Two Persons in One God? I’m not sure it does. At least, it requires that we come up with a not-immediately-obvious explanation. I can come up with all sorts of metaphorical ways to interpret this, and some that even cleave tightly to the words as written. But that’s the point: I have to stop to think about it. The explanation needs to buck the immediate, first go-round meaning of the words in their most basic sense. So here we have another indication that Jesus as part of the Godhead did not exist in Paul’s time, just as it had not truly taken hold for Mark. It had to wait for Matthew.

Now, we can say that Paul did not consider Jesus to be divine, but that he had become divine at the Resurrection. Indeed, this is, from what I gather, the ‘standard’ interpretation of Paul’s Christology. But it’s still a long way from “In the beginning was the Word…”  This posits, mostly, the identity of Jesus with God the Father. Now, John also has the passage about not coming to the Father except through the Son, and that sort of Jesus-as-intermediary by virtue of his human nature can easily be applied to this passage. But again, the point is that we have to stop and apply the metaphor, or whatever you want to call it. That is not the natural, obvious, common-sense, first-glance meaning of the expression.

As a point of reference, see my discussion of breath/spirit in re: V-12. “Breath in my body” vs. “spirit in my body” can mean the same thing, but they really don’t.

16 Quis enim cognovit sensum Domini, / qui instruat eum? / Nos autem sensum Christi habemus.

Advertisements

About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on November 30, 2013, in 1 Corinthians, epistles, Paul's Letters and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: