Monthly Archives: December 2013

Summary 1 Corinthians Chapter 4

To be quite honest, I am very unfamiliar with what we have read so far in this letter. 1 Corinthians and Romans are the two most-quoted of Paul’s letters, and yet I am not sure if I’ve ever heard anything that we’ve discussed either cited, or even read during church.  My assessment of Chapter 3 carries also for this: it is not terribly interesting from a thematic sense. Thus far, what we have gotten are largely pastoral, rather than theological, issues.

But whereas Chapter 3 was Paul more or less specifically chiding Apollos, Chapter 4 has directed the scolding to pretty much the assembly at large. They are prideful, but in the wrong things, and this grows from what was said about Apollos in the previous chapter. Their attention is turned to the wrong things; they are concerned with words, and not the power of the kingdom. He promises the return of the Lord, at which point all secrets will be revealed, which is a warning that they need to take heed.

This touches on the idea of the Parousia, but that’s about all it does. The interesting thing is, I suppose, that Paul doesn’t feel the need to go into this further. The interesting thing is what Paul has not said. This is the third or fourth time (at least) he’s referred to the coming of Jesus, but, aside from the bit about him coming down from heaven on clouds with the angels, he’s never really described it. And I don’t mean just the manner of the return; he has never really discussed what it means. Here, we are told that secrets will be revealed. Contrary to what we might expect, given our 21st Century perspective, is that the revealing of secrets is not said to be accompanied the meting out of deserts. Paul only mentions the praise, presumably for those with pure motives. He does not mention potential punishment. To the best of my knowledge, he has not brought that up in any of the text that we’ve read. So again, the interesting bit is what he hasn’t said. The other odd bit about this reference to the Parousia is that one does not get the sense that it will be the Romans who suffer God’s wrath. Rather, it seems like it will be false preachers like Apollos.

There was also another section in which Paul indulged in one of his bouts of self-pity. He described how he is buffeted by blows, reviled, cursed, and all the rest. But, once again, Paul is reticent at the wrong time. Who was doing this? Acts certainly discusses some of the problems Paul encountered. We haven’t discussed this, but it’s an issue lurking beneath the surface: how accurate is the story of Acts? Because, in contrast, we have James and the Jerusalem assembly seemingly operating more or less in the open at the same time that Paul was running into his difficulties. This has given me the wild idea that some of the problems Paul ran into were done by those loyal to James. However, this is wildly speculative. But we will discuss this further.

So the two interesting themes were the Parousia and the persecutions. Unfortunately, both of these were oblique references at best.


1 Corinthians 4:9-21

We continue with Paul addressing the Corinthians.

9 δοκῶ γάρ, ὁ θεὸς ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀποστόλους ἐσχάτους ἀπέδειξεν ὡς ἐπιθανατίους, ὅτι θέατρον ἐγενήθημεν τῷ κόσμῳ καὶ ἀγγέλοις καὶ ἀνθρώποις.

For I think, God displays us last apostles as sick unto death, that we have become a spectacle to the world and to the angels, and to men.


For I think, God displays those of us having been sent out last as sick unto death, that we have become a spectacle to the world and to the angels, and to men.

First, this word << ἀποστόλους >>. It transliterates as ‘apostolous’, which is clearly ‘apostles’. I touched on this word briefly in comment to 1:1, in which Paul described himself as one ‘called apostle’. I even capitalized the word ‘apostle’, which I regret, but not enough to go back and change it. The translation of this is a situation very similar to that of ‘sacred breath’ vs. ‘holy spirit’. Using ‘apostolous’ as a noun rather than as a participle changes the meaning. The shift is subtle, but it’s meaningful. As a noun, it designates something, or some thing. As participle–those having been sent out–the sense is more that of an adjective. As such, it doesn’t have the feel of a particular thing with an independent existence, or a title specific to a certain class of person. 

My first impulse were was to render this as a participle “those sent out”. However, I went and checked the usage of the word in other places in Paul and the NT. Paul uses the same formula of introduction in Romans: Paul, called apostle”. In this context, IMO, it is clearly used as a noun. Or, a better term is what the fuddy-duddy Greek grammars of the 19th century call ‘substantives’. Wonderful term. A bit broader than ‘noun’, and so it can be used to describe ‘one having been sent out’. 

Here, however, it’s much less clear. And note how the meaning changes in the two translations I have provided. Are we talking about “the last apostles”? That would be either the ones who were appointed last, or it could be that there will be no more. It’s ambiguous, I believe. OTOH, rendering this as ‘those sent out last’ is much more clearly the first sense: the latest–but not necessarily the final–to be sent out.

After a bit of waffling, I gave the translation as ‘last apostles’. Even the KJV already translates this as ‘apostles’, and all the other modern versions I generally use follow this usage. I think I (mostly) agree, if only because of the way Paul uses it elsewhere. And, incidentally, whether it’s intended as a substantive or a participle is much less clear in Mark. By Luke, it seems like the meaning has settled into that of a substantive, but the tradition is that Luke was a member of the Pauline (the Christ) tradition.

So that brings us to the next ambiguity: the last apostles (temporal reference), or final apostles (eschatological implications)? I strongly suspect that Paul means this in an eschatological sense. He is one of the final apostles, because Jesus is coming back soon.

9 Puto enim, Deus nos apostolos novissimos ostendit tamquam morti destinatos, quia spectaculum facti sumus mundo et angelis et hominibus.

10 ἡμεῖς μωροὶ διὰ Χριστόν, ὑμεῖς δὲ φρόνιμοι ἐν Χριστῷ: ἡμεῖς ἀσθενεῖς, ὑμεῖς δὲ ἰσχυροί:  ὑμεῖς ἔνδοξοι, ἡμεῖςδὲ ἄτιμοι.

For we are fools on account of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, you are strong. You are praised, we are not honored.

Presumably the ‘we’ are the apostles, and the ‘you’ is the assembly of Corinth. I’m thinking that the ‘we’ includes Apollos. In this way, Paul is doing what he did back in Chapter 2: he’s being humble in a very passive-aggressive manner. He can’t beat Apollos head-to-head, so he’s bringing them down so that they’re both on a similar level. In this way, Paul can stand on level ground with Apollos.

10 Nos stulti propter Christum, vos autem prudentes in Christo; nos infirmi, vos autem fortes; vos gloriosi, nos autem ignobiles.

11 ἄχρι τῆς ἄρτι ὥρας καὶ πεινῶμεν καὶ διψῶμεν καὶ γυμνιτεύομεν καὶ κολαφιζόμεθα καὶ ἀστατοῦμεν

Until this hour, we hungered, and we thirsted, and we were naked and we were beaten and we were homeless.

About the Greek: the verbs are actually present tense, but that is not how English works.  In Greek–and a lot of other languages, actually–the line between past and present is a bit less definite than in English. Or, at least, it’s drawn in a slightly different place.

This is sort of an extension on the ‘poor Paul’ theme. It refers back, to some extent, to the idea in Verse 8 of wishing the Corinthians were rulers, so Paul could share in the kingdom.

11 Usque in hanc horam et esurimus et sitimus et nudi sumus et colaphis caedimur et instabiles sumus

12 καὶ κοπιῶμεν ἐργαζόμενοι ταῖς ἰδίαις χερσίν: λοιδορούμενοι εὐλογοῦμεν, διωκόμενοι ἀνεχόμεθα,

And we toiled, working with our hands: being reviled, we were blessed, being persecuted we were held up (as in, sustained),

Comment deferred

12 et laboramus operantes manibus nostris; maledicti benedicimus, persecutionem passi sustinemus,

13 δυσφημούμενοι παρακαλοῦμεν: ὡς περικαθάρματα τοῦ κόσμου ἐγενήθημεν, πάντων περίψημα, ἕως ἄρτι.

being reviled we were exhorted, as we became the scum of the earth, the floor scrapings of all, until now.

Perhaps if I were to take a breath here, I would be able to see that Paul is possibly describing the status of the assemblies of Jesus. They were persecuted and hounded, and seen as the dregs of the earth.


What was it about the communities of Jesus that provoked such a strong negative reaction from others? That Jews were not fond of them makes some sense; after all, Paul was a Jew who was, or could be seen as, turning his back on other Jews, or on Jewish practice. But who else was doing the reviling?

Certainly Acts tells us that Paul was very unpopular in a lot of places, but he was most unpopular among Jews. He caused problems in Ephesus because he was disrupting the trade in tourist trinkets made by the craftsmen of that city. It suddenly strikes me as interesting that Paul does not name his persecutors. Why? There are at least two possible reasons. 1) He’s exaggerating for rhetorical purposes. This is all a ‘woe is me’ act designed to win the sympathy of his audience; or 2) the people hounding him were from the James Gang in Jerusalem. Both these ideas are probably far-fetched. He may simply not want to annoy the Romans. But why would the Romans have been persecuting the proto-Christians at this early date? The first recorded persecutions perhaps came from Nero; the problem with this is that ‘persecution’ is most likely too strong a word for what happened, and at this writing, Nero’s persecutions were limited in space and still several years in the future.

I’m not saying that he couldn’t be referring to the Romans; I’m saying that it’s not a slam-dunk case. We cannot just assume that they were the culprit. If not them, who?

As for rhetorical excess, perhaps there is a bit of that, but it’s likely exaggeration rather than stuff made up of whole cloth. So who?

Recall in Galatians that James had, at least once, sent his disciples to churches that Paul had established.  So James and Paul had, at best, a difficult relationship. I think the buffeting and blows would have been verbal rather than physical, but that fits with the whole ‘reviling’ motif. Here’s a thought: I’ve been assuming that Paul doesn’t like Apollos because the latter was formally educated. What if he was a disciple from James instead? Interesting thought, but I don’t take it too seriously given the time Paul has spent deriding worldly wisdom. In addition, Paul hasn’t gotten onto the whole issue of cutting (i.e., circumcision), nor dietary practice. So chances are Apollos was not part of the James Gang. But the James Gang could be part of the group that was bad-mouthing Paul. I have never heard that suggested, but Paul really puts out a high level of bitterness at times; perhaps this is because he felt betrayed by someone. 

13 blasphemati obsecramus; tamquam purgamenta mundi facti sumus, omnium peripsema, usque adhuc.

14 Οὐκ ἐντρέπων ὑμᾶς γράφω ταῦτα, ἀλλ’ ὡς τέκνα μου ἀγαπητὰ νουθετῶ[ν]:

I do not write these things shaming you, but as my beloved children I admonish (you):

Comment deferred

14 Non ut confundam vos, haec scribo, sed ut quasi filios meos carissimos moneam;

15 ἐὰν γὰρ μυρίους παιδαγωγοὺς ἔχητε ἐν Χριστῷ, ἀλλ’ οὐ πολλοὺς πατέρας,  ἐν γὰρ Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ἐγὼ ὑμᾶς ἐγέννησα.

For if you have a foolish pedagogue (i.e., tutor) in Christ but  not many fathers. for in Christ Jesus through his good news I have generated (as in ‘given birth’) to you.

Paul has used the metaphor of being the parent or nursemaid in previous letters. It would be very easy to be cynical about such a metaphor, but the thing is, I believe Paul means it. Whatever I think of Paul, I do believe that he was truly sincere in his paternal feelings towards the congregations he founded. I believe he was wholly sincere in his beliefs, and in his desire to impart his belief to others in order to help them attain salvation. 

 15 nam si decem milia paedagogorum habeatis in Christo, sed non multos patres, nam in Christo Iesu per evangelium ego vos genui.

16 παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε.

Thus I beseech you, be mimics of me.

This is what I mean: he believes he has found The Way, and he really and sincerely wants to help others. Now, that they should emulate him, rather than Apollos, well, that’s just what the doctor ordered. Being sincere doesn’t mean you don’t have to stand up to your rival.

16 Rogo ergo vos: imitatorcs mei estote!

17 διὰ τοῦτο ἔπεμψα ὑμῖν Τιμόθεον, ὅς ἐστίν μου τέκνον ἀγαπητὸν καὶ πιστὸν ἐν κυρίῳ, ὃς ὑμᾶς ἀναμνήσει τὰς ὁδούς μου τὰς ἐν Χριστῷ [Ἰησοῦ], καθὼς πανταχοῦ ἐν πάσῃ ἐκκλησίᾳ διδάσκω.

On account of this, I have sent you Timothy, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ (Jesus),  as I teach everywhere in all the assemblies.

Timothy, of course, is Paul’s assistant. He is the “Timothy” of the epistle of that name. 

17 Ideo misi ad vos Timotheum, qui est filius meus carissimus et fidelis in Domino, qui vos commonefaciat vias meas, quae sunt in Christo, sicut ubique in omni ecclesia doceo.

18 ὡς μὴ ἐρχομένου δέ μου πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐφυσιώθησάν τινες:

As if I were not coming to you, some of you have been puffed up.

Now he’s chastising them? Or accusing them of…vanity, I guess. Or pride. And he’s accusing them, essentially, of being naughty school children who don’t think the teacher will come back to catch them in their hi-jinks. And he’s implying that they need his guidance to maintain the proper path.

18 Tamquam non venturus sim ad vos, sic inflati sunt quidam;

19 ἐλεύσομαι δὲ ταχέως πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἐὰν ὁ κύριος θελήσῃ, καὶ γνώσομαι οὐ τὸν λόγον τῶν πεφυσιωμένων ἀλλὰ τὴν δύναμιν,

I will come quickly (soon) to you, if the Lord will wish it, and I will know not the speech of those having been puffed up, but (the speech) of power, 

Comment deferred

19 veniam autem cito ad vos, si Dominus voluerit, et cognoscam non sermonem eorum, qui inflati sunt, sed virtutem;

20 οὐ γὰρ ἐν λόγῳ ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἀλλ’ ἐν δυνάμει.

For not in speech is the kingdom of God, but in power.

So he will go to them; is this a promise? Or a threat? Something of the latter, I suspect, given the scolding in V-18, and the fact that he will not be speaking like a prideful person–presumably another shot at Apollos–but in power. For the Kingdom is in the Power. 

Here, I think, we have to think back to 1 Thessalonians, when Paul bragged how he did not preach in just words, but also in the power of the spirit. So Paul is contrasting the way he will speak to them in contrast to the way that they are being addressed in Paul’s absence: not in the words of men, but in the power of God.

20 non enim in sermone est regnum Dei sed in virtute.

21 τί θέλετε; ἐν ῥάβδῳ ἔλθω πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἢ ἐν ἀγάπῃ πνεύματί τε πραΰτητος;

21 Quid vultis? In virga veniam ad vos an in caritate et spiritu mansuetudinis?

What do you want? That I come in the stick to you, or in love and the spirit of meekness?

This goes back to the promise/threat. I believe this confirms that it was something of a threat, because now he’s threatening to come after them with a rod to give them what is so charmingly called ‘a good whupping’ in some parts of the US. 

1 Corinthians Chapter 4:1-8

1 Οὕτως ἡμᾶς λογιζέσθω ἄνθρωπος ὡς ὑπηρέτας Χριστοῦ καὶ οἰκονόμους μυστηρίων θεοῦ.

In this way let a man think us ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.

First, we came across the word <<  ὑπηρέτας >> in Mark. It was used when Peter was among the servants in the outer courtyard of the High Priest’s house. Here, we can see how the word can have slightly different connotations. After all, a servant takes care of, or ministers to, the needs/wants of the master. So, the important thing to remember is that ‘minister’ here has subservient connotations. We are used to thinking of a government minister as someone who has power, to whom we must kowtow, rather than someone who would perhaps be looking after us. However, the government minister was so termed because he (it was always a ‘he’) was taking care of things for the king. That is, he was acting as a servant, doing the king’s bidding.

Second, << οἰκονόμους >>, which transliterates as << oikonomous >> the root of ‘economy’. Which means something like ‘the law of the house(hold)’. So here the oikonomous would be sort of like the butler, or the major domo (which, in Latin, is the ‘first in the house’). So, ‘steward’ is appropriate.

Now for the actual meaning of this. Note the contrast between ‘minister/servant of Christ’ vs. ‘steward/keeper of the mysteries of God’. Those have very different meanings. Servants of Christ requires, I think, no explanation, because the words are obvious and the sense is familiar. But ‘steward of the mysteries’ is a bit different. This would be the person or persons who were responsible for the cultic ritual for the mystery religions. Their role would be more of, say, gatekeeper, or the person making the arrangements, or looking after the equipment, or even perhaps the one performing the ritual. But notice that the sense is that the steward is responsible to the mystery, the act of the mystery, whereas Paul is saying that we must also be responsible to the Christ as his ministers/servants. The point is that the ritual is not an end unto itself, as it may have been in some of the mystery religions. Or, at least, Paul may have felt or thought that this was true.

1 Sic nos existimet homo ut ministros Christi et dispensatores mysteriorum Dei.

2 ὧδε λοιπὸν ζητεῖται ἐν τοῖς οἰκονόμοις ἵνα πιστός τις εὑρεθῇ.

Here the rest may be sought among the stewards, so that some faith may be found.

This is interesting. My translation differs significantly from what others have: the consensus is “that someone faithful may be found“. The problem with this is that << πιστός >> is in the nominative case, which is used as the subject of the sentence. For the consensus translation to be accurate, I would say the genitive would be more appropriate: “so that someone of faith may be found“. Either that, or ‘faith’ should be in an adjective form, like ‘pistikos‘.

And, lo and behold, that is exactly what the Latin says: “someone of faith“, << quis fidelis >> may be found. So, once again, we have a consensus translation. It’s not a serious matter, it’s not a big deal, but this is another indication that this isn’t as settled, or as black-and-white as we may want to believe. Now, of course, there may be something about Greek that makes this a perfectly legitimate construction; if so, I would ask that someone point this out, and cite, if possible, another example. And just in case, I will apologize in advance for not knowing this.

2 Hic iam quaeritur inter dispensatores, ut fidelis quis inveniatur.

3 ἐμοὶ δὲ εἰς ἐλάχιστόν ἐστιν ἵνα ὑφ’ ὑμῶν ἀνακριθῶ ἢ ὑπὸ ἀνθρωπίνης ἡμέρας: ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἀνακρίνω:

But for me it is to the least in order that by you I am judged, or by a human court (lit = ‘day’, as in ‘day of court’). But neither do I  judge myself.

This is a peculiar use of << ἡμέρας >>, which means ‘day’. Per Liddell & Scott, this use of ‘day’ is peculiar to the NT. The idea behind it is that it’s the day appointed for a trial. What is even more interesting is that the idiom is carried into Latin as well.

Now, what is going on? Once again, how do we get from Verse 1 to this? What is the progression here? We should be ministers of Christ; we have to search the ministers for someone faithful, and Paul refuses to be judged by anyone. I suppose this is about Paul not being judged as to whether he’s faithful or not, but does this not seem to be a strange thing to say? Or, maybe here’s how to put it: is it not a strange thing to say unless the person saying it is being defensive? That the person saying it seems to be feeling a bit persecuted? Or inferior? Or inadequate? So once again, Paul feels like people are picking on him, or judging him to be less…well, just less than Apollos. 

3 Mihi autem pro minimo est, ut a vobis iudicer aut ab humano die. Sed neque meipsum iudico;

4 οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐμαυτῷ σύνοιδα, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν τούτῳ δεδικαίωμαι, ὁ δὲ ἀνακρίνων με κύριός ἐστιν.

For I know nothing in/by myself, but not in this am I justified, for the one judging me is the Lord. 

Getting the preposition correct in the first clause is difficult because no preposition is used explicitly.  I have given pretty much the same sense as the KJV, but more recent translations give this as ‘against’ myself, the idea being that Paul is not conscious of any guilt within him. The thing is, ‘myself’ is in the dative, and that’s the indirect object case: by, for, within; opposition is generally put into the accusative case, as the direct object. In this case the Latin isn’t a lot of help. The Latin follows the Greek almost word-for-word, omitting the preposition as well, and putting ‘myself’ into the dative, or possibly the ablative (the same form is used for both cases). In Latin, opposition is also rendered in the accusative. As such, I will stand by my translation, especially since the KJV agrees with me. 

[ As an aside, I’m truly coming to appreciate why the KJV is considered to be the inerrant translation. Personally, I find it somewhat annoying to read, except in small quantities. Like Luke 2:8-14. ]

Be all that as it may, it’s still defensive because Paul is so insistent that no human–meaning none of the Corinthians–shall judge him. Which means, no human will find him wanting. Only the Lord can do that. I can see him sticking out his tongue when he says this. Is it any wonder this part almost never gets read in church?

4 nihil enim mihi conscius sum, sed non in hoc iustificatus sum. Qui autem iudicat me, Dominus est!

5 ὥστε μὴ πρὸ καιροῦ τι κρίνετε, ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ ὁ κύριος, ὃς καὶ φωτίσει τὰ κρυπτὰ τοῦ σκότους καὶ φανερώσει τὰς βουλὰς τῶν καρδιῶν: καὶ τότε ὁ ἔπαινος γενήσεται ἑκάστῳ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ.

So that not before the (proper) season will someone judge (me–I assume?), until the one (i.e., the season) when the Lord may come, and which shall illumine those things having been hidden in the shadows, and will manifest the councils of the heart; and then the praise shall be to each from God.

That’s a bit rough, but I think it gets the point across. Here he tells us that the Lord will come–again. At that point, all secrets will be revealed; and the implication is that something is hidden because it does not reflect well on the one doing the hiding.

I’ve been reading  John Domenic Crossan’s book, The Historical Jesus: The Life Of A Mediterranean Peasant,  and he talks a lot about apocalyptic thinking. And we touched on this earlier as well. But still haven’t quite digested all of this talk about apocalypticism. I suspect I will do a post on that when I do. For the time being, suffice it to say that we have been conditioned to think that the Second Coming absolutely entails end-times, which I guess is apocalypticism. The return of the divine Christ at the right hand of God would certainly qualify as divine intervention in human affairs, and Paul’s promise that secrets will be revealed seems to threaten the secret-keepers. But how is this directed at the Romans? 

Answer, I don’t think it is, not in the least. And this is why I say I haven’t digested all of Crossan’s discussion–I don’t think he has put forth an argument yet–of what constitutes apocalyptic thinking. In his treatment, it seems to be the way a defeated people start to fantasize about sticking it to the imperial masters, turning the tables, and having God step in on your behalf. Sort of like bringing in your much bigger brother during a playground scuffle with a bully. If this is true, then where is the threat to the Romans here? I don’t see one, and this is confusing. Roman power was pretty darn overt; there was no secret to it. The counsels of the Romans, their plans, etc., were also pretty overt. What needs to be revealed? Pretty much nothing. So why does Paul mention this stuff about secrets and the counsels of the heart?

As I see it, this also seems directed more at Apollos than any external enemy. Apollos is the one who is apt to have secrets that he doesn’t want revealed. And Paul is apt to suspect him of ulterior–and nefarious–motives.

Now, I don’t have my position here fully developed, so I won’t elaborate on this yet. This sort of dire prediction that lacks any political overtones poses serious problems for Crossan and those who believe Jesus was first and foremost a preacher of an apocalypse that was politically inspired, a reaction to the Roman imperial occupation; Crossan does exactly this. Paul seems completely oblivious to any such political overtones. I will have more–probably much more–to say on this at some later point.

Perhaps the issue is that we need to define ‘apocalypse’ a bit more stringently. “Apocalypse” is often tied up with End-Times/Eschatology, largely, I think, because they are all based on divine intervention. We who have been influenced by the Apocalypse of John, the last book of the NT, see the apocalypse as being about the end times. I do not know if this was always a necessary part of the concept. There is no real reason why God could not intervene to establish his kingdom on earth. God could smite the enemy, set up his chosen people, and then maintain the idyllic situation. Although I suppose one could justifiably say that this does represent the end times/eschaton because this is the final goal of God’s creation. 

So for the moment let’s just leave it that Paul does expect his enemies to be struck down by their own evil intentions, that will be revealed. I think the thing to note is that he does not see the Romans as the primary enemy. That alone is a significant topic of discussion.

5 Itaque nolite ante tempus quidquam iudicare, quoadusque veniat Dominus, qui et illuminabit abscondita tenebrarum et manifestabit consilia cordium; et tunc laus erit unicuique a Deo.

6 Ταῦτα δέ, ἀδελφοί, μετεσχημάτισα εἰς ἐμαυτὸν καὶ Ἀπολλῶν δι’ ὑμᾶς, ἵνα ἐν ἡμῖν μάθητε τὸ Μὴ ὑπὲρ ἃ γέγραπται, ἵνα μὴ εἷς ὑπὲρ τοῦ ἑνὸς φυσιοῦσθε κατὰ τοῦ ἑτέρου.

But these things, brothers, I have transferred as in a figure within me and Apollos on account of you, so in us you may learn, “there is) nothing above (as in ‘extra’) what has been written,” so that not one over one will you be inflated above the rest.

About the Greek. First, if you look up << μετεσχημάτισα >> in the on-line Liddell and Scott, you will find this exact passage cited as an example of the usage of this word. And it will give you the definition “transfer as in a figure” that I dutifully used above, and that you will find in the KJV for this passage. More recent translations change ‘in a figure’ to ‘figuratively’, and that is probably justified. But the point is, this is, as far as I know, a unique usage of this word.  As such, it is by definition a consensus translation, since there are no other uses of this word in this sense. Now, the second classical meaning is ‘to disguise oneself’, so I can see how the word evolved from that into ‘changed figuratively’. But, once again, be aware that not everything in here is completely clear. And, btw, the Latin << transfiguravi >> does not give me the sense of ‘figuratively’, even though ‘figure’ is the root of the verb.

Both the Greek and Latin words, in their base sense, mean to ‘change shape’. That is how I took this initially, until I read what L&S had to say.

One of the big issues here is how sophisticated is this Greek? So far, this feels like it’s a notch above what we found in Galatians or 1 Thessalonians. When passages were difficult there, it seemed like they were just badly written. This passage was difficult, IMO, because it felt like better Greek. The funny thing about “better” Greek is that it can be less clear than “bad” Greek. The best example is Thucydides: a significant portion of the scholarly debate about his work consists of arguments about what he is saying, as opposed to what he means. Theoretically, the debates should be about implications, not basic meaning. 

As for meaning, what does this passage mean? We go from secrets will be revealed to Paul and Apollos being good examples so that the Corinthians are not inflated (literally, as in ‘filled with air’) and so become vain. Now, here’s a thought: perhaps Apollos–at least in Paul’s estimation–did act a bit ‘puffed up’, so Paul is attempting to bring attention to this, however indirectly. I’m not entirely sure what ‘there is nothing above or beyond scripture truly means; is it a way of saying that someone is trying to be more Catholic than the pope? I think it’s something like that.

6 Haec autem, fratres, transfiguravi in me et Apollo propter vos, ut in nobis discatis illud: “Ne supra quae scripta sunt”, ne unus pro alio inflemini adversus alterum.

7 τίς γάρ σε διακρίνει; τί δὲ ἔχεις ὃ οὐκ ἔλαβες; εἰ δὲ καὶ ἔλαβες, τί καυχᾶσαι ὡς μὴ λαβών;

For who distinguishes/separates you? What do you have which you did not accept? For if you did also accept it, why are you boasting as if you did not?

This, OTOH, is not good or bad Greek, but thinking that is not entirely clear. The first part is clear enough.It goes back to the “one over one and above the rest” in the last verse. Who will be the one deciding that one (e.g. Apollos) is better than another (like Paul)? He is not going to let this go. As for the rest of it, I don’t quite follow. What do you have that you didn’t accept? OK, guess that is more or less comprehensible. But, if you do have it, why do you boast like you didn’t? I guess this means that people (e.g. Apollos) are boasting as if they did not have a rhetorical education, when, in fact, he did.

If I’m being a dullard here and just missing the point, please let me know.

7 Quis enim te discernit? Quid autem habes, quod non accepisti? Si autem accepisti, quid gloriaris, quasi non acceperis?

8 ἤδη κεκορεσμένοι ἐστέ: ἤδη ἐπλουτήσατε: χωρὶς ἡμῶν ἐβασιλεύσατε: καὶ ὄφελόν γε ἐβασιλεύσατε, ἵνα καὶ ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν συμβασιλεύσωμεν.

Now you are satiated; now you are rich. Without us you ruled. And  would that you did reign, so that we also might reign with you.

I am honestly not sure that I follow the line of thought here. Paul is obviously indulging his other favorite pastime: flattering his audience. The part about reigning/ruling, then Paul wishing that they reigned seems almost contradictory. I’m not sure I know what else to say about this. My apologies!

8 Iam saturati estis, iam divites facti estis. Sine nobis regnastis; et utinam regnaretis, ut et nos vobiscum regnaremus.

Christmas 2013

I wish I’d thought of posting this last night.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them:and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

I suppose that, if I were truly a good blogger, I’d find the YouTube clip of Linus reciting those lines at the end of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, but this piece of poetry always moves me. I have always loved “sore afraid”.

Aside from that, though, it’s such a message of hope.

Merry Christmas.

Summary 1 Corinthians Chapter 3

Thematically, Chapter 3 was not the most interesting chapter we’ve read. Maybe it’s me, but it seems like Paul has a large capacity for something very much like self-pity, and this talent was on full display in this chapter.  We are again made aware of divisions within one of Paul’s assemblies; this was a large part of the story in Galatians. It’s the major theme of this chapter.

Paul discusses how members of the assembly of Corinth seem to consider themselves as members of one or another faction. Paul mentions himself, Peter/Cephas, and Apollos. Now, I have never heard of Peter having any real role in the assembly at Corinth; as such, I suspect that Paul mentions Peter as sort of a theoretical. The real problem is Apollos. Peter, I suspect, is brought in as a rhetorical device so that Paul doesn’t seem to be attacking, or at least singling out Apollos.

So we get a couple of metaphors. Paul planted the seed; Apollos watered it. Paul laid the foundation; Apollos built the structure. In both cases, Paul tries to diminish the contribution of Apollos by giving ultimate credit to God. In this way, he can divert the talk (that I’m inferring was occurring) about how it was really Apollos who built the community in Corinth. Perhaps he led the congregation; perhaps he was a benefactor, or was prominent in/for some other role. At this point, we don’t know. Perhaps we will be told. But it seems clear that members of the congregation–a sizable number of them, I should say–felt that Apollos’ contribution surpassed that of Paul. Paul was deeply hurt, and personally insulted by this. He tries to disguise it by being ‘reasonable’ and putting the credit to God. Of course. Who could disagree? But the elevation of God necessarily reduces the prominence of Apollos.

And Paul also again takes up a theme from Chapter 2. Assuming that Apollos was Greek (the name certainly is, but that does not mean he was Greek, or a pagan, rather than a Jew), I get the idea that he was an educated man. And by ‘educated’, I assume this means in the Greek sense, a man trained in rhetoric. As such, he would have been a fluent speaker, versed in the wisdom of this world. Paul, while not uneducated, nevertheless probably lacked the training in rhetoric. As such, as a speaker, he would have seemed far inferior to the slick Apollos. So we get a parallel line about the vanity and foolishness of worldly learning.  Both of these lines of “attack” are directed squarely at Apollos.

So, what we have is a bit of internecine squabbling. What we don’t have, however, is any indication of another gospel.  As such, this seems to be more a personal, rather than a doctrinal, dispute.

Really, that’s pretty much the whole of the chapter.

1 Corinthians 3:10-23

This picks up right where the last section (1-9) left off. Paul continues with the metaphor of how he and Apollos were both co-workers in the creation of the assembly of Corinth, but the glory rightly goes to God. In this way, Paul can lessen the advantage that Apollos apparently has over Paul by being present. Apparently, this has led to divisions, in which some members of the assembly think of themselves as followers of Apollos.

10 Κατὰ τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι ὡς σοφὸς ἀρχιτέκτων θεμέλιον ἔθηκα, ἄλλος δὲ ἐποικοδομεῖ. ἕκαστος δὲ βλεπέτω πῶς ἐποικοδομεῖ:

For according to the gift of God which was given to me, as a wise builder I put down the foundation, but another built upon it. Let each see how he builds it.

 I spent some time going back and forth on what to do with << χάριν >>. By now, I hope everyone recognizes this as what is often translated as ‘grace’, and that is how I first took it. But then I was thinking that ‘favor’ might capture it better here, but I ended up going with ‘gift’. In this instance, ‘grace’ is charged with too many implications. And, after all, Paul is claiming to be a wise architect/master builder, and he was put in this role as a gift from God. God’s ‘favor’ wouldn’t be a bad choice, either, but it would be my second choice. Of course, none of the other translations agree with me, but I think that may be due, partly, to the Latin which renders this as ‘gratiam‘, grace, instead of ‘donum‘, gift.  I reserve the right to disagree, and I do.

 Now, as if the horse weren’t dead enough, Paul continues to beat it. Except he changes the metaphor from farming to building. He is the wise architect who laid the foundation (= planting the seed), while some unnamed other (Apollos, of course, but why mention him?) has built upon the foundation. However, that unnamed person had best take care how and what he erects on the foundation. This is a clear indication, I think, that Paul is not only upset at the divisions, but feels that Apollos may be actively leading the assembly down the wrong path. Why else would he issue the warning about ‘watching what he builds’? So, yes, divisions are bad. But divisions, to a certain extent, necessarily led to schism, different beliefs. And this, I think, is what has Paul particularly alarmed. 

And note, once again, we get the notion of different beliefs. 

I came across a review of a book about the oral tradition behind the gospels. But they apply here as well. I recommend popping over to that site and reading about this. It talks about how the oral traditions changed and evolved of their own accord, whereas too many scholars are locked into a mindset of a unitary document that is edited and amended. I think the former notion more closely captures what has happened. And, if you think about it, this is, I think, what we find Paul running into, and is what Paul finds particularly horrifying. This also is, I think, the best way to explain the dichotomy between the Wonder-worker tradition and the Christ tradition. 

10 Secundum gratiam Dei, quae data est mihi, ut sapiens architectus fundamentum posui; alius autem superaedificat. Unusquisque autem videat quomodo superaedificet;

11 θεμέλιον γὰρ ἄλλον οὐδεὶς δύναται θεῖναι παρὰ τὸν κείμενον, ὅς ἐστιν Ἰησοῦς Χριστός.

For no one other is able to build (lit = ‘place’) upon the thing lying (= the foundation, which has been laid), the one is Jesus Christ. 

About the Greek: this doesn’t quite work in English, but I think you get the point that it’s no one other than Jesus Christ….

Paul continues to drive this home. The underlying message is “Don’t listen to Apollos! Listen to the Christ! And I’m the one who can explain the Christ!”

11 fundamentum enim aliud nemo potest ponere praeter id, quod positum est, qui est Iesus Christus.

12 εἰ δέ τις ἐποικοδομεῖ ἐπὶ τὸν θεμέλιον χρυσόν, ἄργυρον, λίθους τιμίους, ξύλα, χόρτον, καλάμην,

For if someone builds upon the foundation (using) gold, silver, precious stone, wood, hay or straw,

Comment after V-13.

12 Si quis autem superaedificat supra fundamentum aurum, argentum, lapides pretiosos, ligna, fenum, stipulam,

13 ἑκάστου τὸ ἔργον φανερὸν γενήσεται, ἡ γὰρ ἡμέρα δηλώσει: ὅτι ἐν πυρὶ ἀποκαλύπτεται, καὶ ἑκάστου τὸ ἔργον ὁποῖόν ἐστιν τὸ πῦρ [αὐτὸ] δοκιμάσει.

The work of each becomes apparent, for the day shows it: that in fire it will be revealed, and the work of each (is seen for) what (lit= ‘how’) it is, (as) the fire will prove.

You know, here we have sort of, or something of a microcosm of apocalyptic literature. Paul is “predicting” the day of trial that will come to demonstrate, by fire, whose work will truly stand the test. Of course, the idea is that his will stand, while the message of Apollos will not. 

And so we get a great example of the mindset that produces apocalyptic literature. Yes, things may be good (built of gold and silver and precious stones)–or they may be bad–but the test is coming! You just wait! I promise you! I mean it!

And this, I think, should really and truly make us wary about taking apocalyptic thinking too literally. So when we say that there was an epidemic of apocalyptic literature in First Century Judea, I think we should be careful about accepting–or assuming–that people really and truly and actually took this prediction seriously, as a true prediction about things to come.  I am not sure that they really meant this.

And perhaps this is the difference between prediction and prophecy? A distinction that Western “scientific” thinking has muddled, the way we have muddled the idea of what a myth is. Just as ‘myth’ does not mean ‘fairy tale’, nor an inaccurate description of what was, so ‘prophecy’ was not meant as a prediction of what is to come. At least, it’s not a prediction in the sense of a scientific experiment, in which we say that, when we combine elements x and y, we will get result z. And then we combine x and y, and result z either occurs or it doesn’t. But if we make a prophecy, and it doesn’t transpire, at least not in the allotted time, does that mean the prophecy failed? Or was wrong? I’m not so sure. At least, I’m not so sure given what I have just read here. 

But now I’m going to contradict myself, and say that I do believe Paul means this literally. I think Paul is the sort who fully expected the trial by fire to prove him right. But the point is that I think Paul was the exception, and not the rule. Later thinkers, who could perhaps be called “Christian”, may not have shared Paul’s literal-mindedness. They maybe understood the difference between prophecy and prediction, and were not embarrassed by the fact that Jesus hadn’t yet returned. Why not? Because they understood the difference between history (which the NT is most decidedly not) and myth. Or the difference between Truth (which the NT most decidedly was) and factual accuracy. If Jesus spoke in terms of end-times, he may not have meant it literally. And many of those hearing his words may not have taken it literally. But Paul, I think, truly did. He didn’t get the joke. 

OK, ‘joke’ is too facetious. He didn’t get the metaphor. He didn’t get that it was a metaphor.

Those who later expressed Christianity in terms of Platonic philosophy, I think, did understand the idea of the metaphor. This is the basis for syncretism, that two apparently different religions were actually saying the same thing. That Wotan/ Woden/Odin was the same guy as Hermes/Mercury, and that Thor was actually Zeus. Many Christians, however, were (and still are) horrified by this idea of Jesus as metaphor. They fought the influence of Classical thinking, they burned the Library of Alexandria, they shoved Classical authors onto the back shelves. In the case of Aristotle, the West forgot about him completely. Thomas Aquinas, however, understood the idea of metaphor.

All of this is very brash. At this point, let’s acknowledge this as interesting speculation, and see what the rest of the epistle brings.

13 uniuscuiusque opus manifestum erit; dies enim declarabit: quia in igne revelatur, et uniuscuiusque opus quale sit ignis probabit.

14 εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον μενεῖ ὃἐ ποικοδόμησεν, μισθὸν λήμψεται:

If the work of someone remains, which s/he built, s/he will receive a reward.

In Greek, the indeterminate third person would always have been ‘he’. 

The question here is, who will receive the reward? Paul? Or Apollos? My apologies, but I find this all very bitter. Paul feels personally slighted, or attacked; he’s defensive, which was something we noted about his tone in the other two letters we read. This is, I believe, consistent with a man who perhaps lacks a sense of humor, and who is apt to take things a bit too seriously. These would be traits consistent with someone who takes apocalyptic literature at face value.

14 Si cuius opus manserit, quod superaedificavit, mercedem accipiet;

15 εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον κατακαήσεται, ζημιωθήσεται, αὐτὸς δὲ σωθήσεται, οὕτως δὲ ὡς διὰ πυρός.

If the work of someone is burned, it will be lost, while the builder himself will be saved, in the manner as through fire.

The last bit about through the fire is a bit sketchy. I’ve given you what the Greek says; what the Greek means is a bit more open to interpretation. I took the builder’s escape to be largely metaphorical, a reference to the trial by fire back in V-13. The NIV apparently takes this a bit more literally, with the builder escaping through the flames. But then, that doesn’t necessarily have to be meant literally, either, I suppose.

15 si cuius opus arserit, detrimentum patietur, ipse autem salvus erit, sic tamen quasi per ignem.

 16 οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ναὸς θεοῦ ἐστε καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν;

For do you not know that you are the temple of God, and the spirit of God lives in you?

Is this is a bit of a non sequitur? Or is the metaphor just really strained? There is a transition between Verses 15 & 16 that loses me a bit.

Regarding the actual content of this. Here is another instance in which being an OT scholar, or at least reasonably versed in the Bible would have a better idea about this than I do. As far as I know, or can tell, this may be the first use of the ‘body is a temple’ metaphor. Of course, it reappears later in the NT, even if it’s not stated explicitly until John. Is this a case where the language of Jesus actually came from Paul? All the evangelists tell us about Jesus predicting that he would/could destroy the Temple and rebuild it within three days, the (not-so)veiled allusion being that he meant the temple of his body. Was the temple/body metaphor a common literary device? I don’t know. But if the answer is ‘no’, we have to ask if this is something that sprang here from Paul. Or am I missing something?

16 Nescitis quia templum Dei estis, et Spiritus Dei habitat in vobis?

17 εἴ τις τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ φθείρει, φθερεῖ τοῦτον ὁ θεός: ὁ γὰρ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἅγιός ἐστιν, οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς.

For if someone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the Temple of God is holy, which you are, too.

Now, this could easily just be a hypothetical, actually referring to the temple of the body, which is holy to God, and woe unto him who destroys that temple in the way Paul had before his conversion. It could be that, it probably is that. Here’s how difficult it is not to read back into this, to see this as Paul predicting the destruction of the actual Temple.

Second, is this a bit of apocalyptic thinking? Assuming that Paul means the temple of the body, which persecutors may seek to destroy, are we seeing some of that apocalyptic imagery in which evil–or Evil–is finally destroyed and the Good eventually triumph?

17 Si quis autem templum Dei everterit, evertet illum Deus; templum enim Dei sanctum est, quod estis vos.

18 Μηδεὶς ἑαυτὸν ἐξαπατάτω: εἴ τις δοκεῖ σοφὸς εἶναι ἐν ὑμῖν ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, μωρὸς γενέσθω, ἵνα γένηται σοφός.

No one deceives himself.  If someone appears to be wise among you in this age, let him become foolish, so that he may become wise.

We’ve circled back to the wisdom/foolishness dichotomy. However, having come after the diatribe of allusion against Apollos, is Paul taking another shot at Apollos? Who, presumably, was more versed in the wisdom of this age than was Paul?

18 Nemo se seducat; si quis videtur sapiens esse inter vos in hoc saeculo, stultus fiat, ut sit sapiens.

19 ἡ γὰρ σοφία τοῦ κόσμου τούτου μωρία παρὰ τῷ θεῷ ἐστιν: γέγραπται γάρ, Ὁ δρασσόμενος τοὺς σοφοὺς ἐν τῇ πανουργίᾳ αὐτῶν:

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness for God. For, it is written, “The one grasping the wise in their cunning.”

About the Greek: << πανουργίᾳ >> is not a simple word to translate here. The basic meaning in Greek is knavery (wonderfully archaic term), which carries decidedly negative connotations. The Latin is << astutia >>, which is obviously the root of our word ‘astute’; which word has much more positive connotations. In the NT, it gets translated as ‘cunning’ or ‘subtlety’; the latter has decided positive connotations, while ‘cunning’ tends to be a bit more negative. So, to retain the negative, I’ve chosen ‘cunning’.

All that having been said (ablative absolute!), the point here is that cunning, or shrewd people will be caught up in their own machinations; hoist on their own petard, as it were. (Is there any wonder why–or that–I studied Classics? The pomposity of those Victorian terms!) And, btw, the quote here is from Job. In this case, it’s in context.

19 Sapientia enim huius mundi stultitia est apud Deum. Scriptum est enim: “ Qui apprehendit sapientes in astutia eorum ”;

20 καὶ πάλιν, Κύριος γινώσκει τοὺς διαλογισμοὺς τῶν σοφῶν ὅτι εἰσὶν μάταιοι.

And again, “Lord, you know that the machinations of the wise are empty”.

This quote is from Psalms, 94:11. Now, I know from first-hand experience the great variety of translation that is possible with the Psalms, so I checked a few different translations. The Septuagint renders this “the schemes of men, where here Paul is quoting it as the schemes of the wise. Basically, I’m saying that, once again, Paul has his thumb on the scale to make sure he gets the reading he wants. Now, the question is, did he think his audience wouldn’t notice? Or that they wouldn’t know? 

OK, buckle up for another flight of fancy–or fantasy. If Paul feels that scriptures are this…plastic, that they can be formed to fit the needs, or the message of the moment, if Scripture, the words of God, could be seen as plastic, what about mere facts? Let me start by saying I have no clear notion of the extent to which Paul…massaged scripture to come up with the ‘proper’ reading, or wording. I have only begun to take note of this within the last little bit. I will try to keep a closer eye on this. But, at this juncture, I just want to point this out. Just remember: in the same way that the evangelists were not writing history, or even biography, so Paul was not conducting a graduate seminar in OT writings. Both he and the evangelists were concerned with disseminating Truth. 

You can unbuckle now. This flight has been postponed. But it has not been canceled.

20 et iterum:  “Dominus novit cogitationes sapientium, / quoniam vanae sunt”.

21 ὥστε μηδεὶς καυχάσθω ἐν ἀνθρώποις: πάντα γὰρ ὑμῶν ἐστιν,

In this way no one boasts about men. For all things are of you (yours)

comment deferred

21 Itaque nemo glorietur in hominibus. Omnia enim vestra sunt,

22 εἴτε Παῦλος εἴτε Ἀπολλῶς εἴτε Κηφᾶς εἴτε κόσμος εἴτε ζωὴ εἴτε θάνατος εἴτε ἐνεστῶτα εἴτε μέλλοντα, πάντα ὑμῶν,

whether (it is) Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things that are, or things to come (lit = ‘things wished for’, or something similar), all are yours,

comment deferred

22 sive Paulus sive Apollo sive Cephas sive mundus sive vita sive mors sive praesentia sive futura, omnia enim vestra sunt,

23 ὑμεῖς δὲ Χριστοῦ, Χριστὸς δὲ θεοῦ.

But you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

23 vos autem Christi, Christus autem Dei.

OK, what does this all mean? The part about wisdom and foolishness is obvious enough, a repetition of an earlier theme.This finishes with the line about not boasting about humans. This, I suspect, is another jab at Apollos. I get the sense that Apollos was bragging, or others were bragging about him, and Paul is trying to put a stop to this.

But what about the very last part? The idea that all things belong to the Corinthians? Since, eventually, it all rolls up to God, that is pretty clear, I suppose. But the connection between this and the wisdom/foolishness metaphor is a bit wanting as I see it. As far as literary construction, this seems to be the conclusion of the part before, but how one leads to the other, I cannot say.

Or maybe I’m just looking too…deep? Too far off to one side? The conclusion is that all things are God’s, and since we are God’s, then we share in this. Now, we have to ask. Is this participation the sharing in God’s Kingdom? That wouldn’t be an illogical jump to make, but is it warranted? Probably not. More likely, I’m seeing this for the same reason I saw the prediction of the Temple: because I know what comes later. OTOH, Paul did mention the kingdom of God in Gal 5:21, and he will talk about it more shortly. So that is probably a reasonable interpretation of this. However, let’s save a discussion of the kingdom, and what it meant for Paul, and how it related to Jesus’ talk of the kingdom, for our next encounter with the term.

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

Here we start Chapter 3.

1 Κἀγώ, ἀδελφοί, οὐκ ἠδυνήθην λαλῆσαι ὑμῖν ὡς πνευματικοῖς ἀλλ’ ὡς σαρκίνοις, ὡς νηπίοις ἐν Χριστῷ.

And I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as a spiritual (person), but as (one who is) fleshly, as a novice in Christ.

The spirit/flesh contrast again. This seems to run all through Paul. It is a very Greek idea, very prevalent in Plato. One ascends to the Pure and the True by becoming less ‘fleshly’, one more attuned to, or part of the spirit. Paul here is ‘dumbing down’ his message, speaking as a neophyte so that he can connect to the Corinthians. 

Which, of course, brings us back to prevenient grace. Recall that the idea of prevenient grace is that humans, on their own, are not capable even to begin to please God. For this to happen, God must, of his own free will and for no other reason than his infinite love for wretched humanity, bestow a free gift of grace so that humans can begin to love God and serve his will. Paul does not say this here. Back in Chapter 2, he said that humans in their natural state were not capable of being spiritual. This is close to the idea of prevenient grace. Here, however, Paul implies that he can reach the Corinthians in their natural state if he speaks as a neophyte in the spirit.  That is, he can provide the bridge that the Corinthians need. He does not state, nor even imply, that God has to act in this matter.  Here, Paul says–or at least implies–that he can do it on his own.  We shall keep an eye on this, but it is my impression that Paul will never actually say anything about God acting before humans can begin their spiritual journey.

1 Et ego, fratres, non potui vobis loqui quasi spiritalibus sed qua si carnalibus, tamquam parvulis in Christo.

2 γάλα ὑμᾶς ἐπότισα, οὐ βρῶμα, οὔπω γὰρ ἐδύνασθε. ἀλλ’οὐδὲ ἔτι νῦν δύνασθε,

I watered you with milk (fed you with milk), not meat, since you were not able (to eat it). But neither are you now able.

Paul is comparing his nurturing of the Corinthians, his initiating them into the spirit to nursing a child. A reasonable analogy, but it is still he–not God–who is the actor, the one nurturing.

2 Lac vobis potum dedi, non escam, nondum enim poteratis. Sed ne nunc quidem potestis,

3 ἔτι γὰρ σαρκικοί ἐστε. ὅπου γὰρ ἐν ὑμῖν ζῆλος καὶ ἔρις, οὐχὶ σαρκικοί ἐστε καὶ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον περιπατεῖτε;

For you are yet fleshly (of the flesh). For when jealousy and strife are among you, are you not fleshly and walking about in a human manner?

Not really much to say here. It’s pretty clear and straightforward: jealousy and strife are not spiritual states or conditions. Rather, they indicate too great an attachment to the material (fleshly) world.

BTW: I use ‘fleshly’ because that’s what the Greek actually says. ‘Sarx’ is flesh. Once again, I prefer to sacrifice good English for faithfulness to the Greek. Remember, this is partially designed to help neophytes understand the Greek. 

3 adhuc enim estis carnales. Cum enim sit inter vos zelus et contentio, nonne carnales estis et secundum hominem ambulatis?

4 ὅταν γὰρ λέγῃ τις, Ἐγὼ μέν εἰμι Παύλου, ἕτερος δέ, Ἐγὼ Ἀπολλῶ, οὐκ ἄνθρωποί ἐστε;

For when you say to someone, “I on the one hand, am of Paul (his group), while on the other one says, I am of Apollos, are you not being human (i.e., acting in a human manner)?

We’re back to the factions from Chapter 1:10-12. This was obviously a problem. He’s sort of gone off, but it’s come back to the front of his mind. Think about Paul’s thought process: he mentions the divisions, then goes off on a bit of a tangent, and then the divisions come back to him because this is a real problem. Or something. There is clearly a very human chain of thinking going on here.

4 Cum enim quis dicit: “ Ego quidem sum Pauli ”, alius autem: “ Ego Apollo ”, nonne homines estis?

5 τί οὖν ἐστιν Ἀπολλῶς; τί δέ ἐστιν Παῦλος; διάκονοι δι’ ὧν ἐπιστεύσατε, καὶ ἑκάστῳ ὡς ὁ κύριος ἔδωκεν.

For who is Apollos? Or even, who is Paul? They are ministers (deacons) through whom you came to believe, and to each thus the Lord gave.

About the Greek: “Came to believe” feels right to me in this instance. It’s a simple aorist active indicative, but the aorist is not always a simple past. It can often be used for present or even future events, in the sense of a process being involved. The KJV renders this as a standard ‘believed’, and I don’t object to this, but for once I’m opting with something a little less literal.

Here is another place where I need to ask how much I should read in to this particular passage. On first glance, Paul stating that he and Apollos are both ministers of the faith, given by God seems completely unobjectionable. But think about it. Would Paul be giving Apollos equal billing if Paul felt that he was in a position superior to Apollos? Somehow, given Paul’s apparent inferiority complex, I doubt it. I think that Paul is trying to level the ground between him and Apollos precisely because Apollos has more influence than Paul does. And this is easily understandable if Apollos is there in Corinth while Paul is off…wherever he is. In Athens, or elsewhere. Remember how close to vicious Paul was about the James Gang: those who appeared to be the pillars of the community. Paul felt he had the upper hand in that argument; I’m not sure he feels that way here, so he strengthens his position with something of a passive-aggressive stance: how could anyone deny that Paul and Apollos are ministers of the Lord? Who could object? This, I think, is a bit of a rhetorical trick to neutralize Apollos’ superior influence.

Maybe not, but I wouldn’t dismiss the idea out-of-hand.

5 Quid igitur est Apollo? Quid vero Paulus? Ministri, per quos credidistis, et unicuique sicut Dominus dedit.

6 ἐγὼ ἐφύτευσα, Ἀπολλῶς ἐπότισεν, ἀλλὰ ὁ θεὸς ηὔξανεν:

For I have planted, Apollos has watered, but God has augmented (made it grow).

So maybe I’m not far off: Paul started the community (he ‘planted’ it), but Apollos has been there to tend it. As such, Apollos has an inherent advantage by being there. So Paul emphasizes the equally important roles he and Apollos played, but then gives the final glory to God. Again, how could anyone object? How could Apollos be publicly offended by this without seeming to be petty?

6 Ego plantavi, Apollo rigavit, sed Deus incrementum dedit;

7 ὥστε οὔτε ὁ φυτεύων ἐστίν, τι οὔτε ὁ ποτίζων, ἀλλ’ ὁ αὐξάνων θεός.

Thus, it is not the one planting, nor the one watering, but God, the one who is making it grow (lit = ‘augmenting’, as in previous verse).

Paul is not letting up on the metaphor. I do think I’m on to something, even as I make no claim to being the first ever to see this. Here is where my lack of knowledge of the scholarly opinions on this really hurts. I may be repeating a commonplace interpretation, so treat this as such.

7 itaque neque qui plantat, est aliquid, neque qui rigat, sed qui incrementum dat, Deus.

8 ὁ φυτεύων δὲ καὶ ὁ ποτίζων ἕν εἰσιν, ἕκαστος δὲ τὸν ἴδιον μισθὸν λήμψεται κατὰ τὸν ἴδιον κόπον.

But the planter and the waterer are one, each receives his own reward according to his toil.

And it continues…Paul is nothing if not persistent.

8 Qui plantat autem et qui rigat unum sunt; unusquisque autem propriam mercedem accipiet secundum suum laborem.

9 θεοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν συνεργοί: θεοῦ γεώργιον, θεοῦ οἰκοδομή ἐστε.

For we are co-workers of God; you are the field of God, you are the building of God.

And this will be continued in the next section….

9 Dei enim sumus adiutores: Dei agri cultura estis, Dei aedificatio estis.

Summary 1 Corinthians Chapter 2

So what’s this one all about? As with most of the chapters of Paul, there is no single, unifying theme. This is a function, IMO, of the essentially ad hoc nature of all the epistles. We have to keep in mind, but it’s so easy to forget, that these are letters. They are not epistles, but standard-issue, garden-variety letters. They were written in the real world by a real person, sent, and meant to be read on the other end. This is not a doctoral thesis, or an essay for a class. Those of us old enough to remember writing real honest-to-goodness letters will remember how scattered a letter could be, a stream-of-conscious brain dump.

Now, Paul’s letters are not personal, sent to keep in touch with old friends, but purposeful. The idea was to address certain issues that had come to Paul’s attention. As such, he had specific topics to address, but these are not unitary documents, or monographs. As such, it would be surprising, I think, if the various chapters had unitary themes. But there are two main themes and a couple of what I’m calling ‘hanging implications’; these are statements that throw off a huge amount of theological significance that is simply left there without further comment. There is no attempt by Paul to work these out. In fact, they are off-hand comments, the implications of which Paul was perhaps not even aware. and that he’d almost certainly not thought-through in any meaningful way. In some ways, these sorts of statements are the most interesting, because they give away thoughts in an unfiltered, un-spun (to use the current political analogy) manner.

The first theme is Paul talking about his weakness, his fear and trembling, and the distinction between worldly and spiritual knowledge. The two are connected. Paul came to the Corinthians wary and nervous because he was versed in spiritual knowledge, but he fears the Corinthians would be expecting to hear worldly wisdom: fancy, polished rhetoric, big words, fluent delivery. IOW, an orator in the best Greek tradition. Paul had, and was, none of those things. Instead, Paul possessed spiritual knowledge. I mentioned this at the time, but what I suspect this meant was that he had the conviction of a true believer. He could persuade, but not through his oratory, but because people believed him because he was so obviously sincere in his beliefs, and so obvious in his faith. It’s hard to tell from this distance whether Paul was being honest, or somewhat disingenuous about his frailty and his lack of sophistication. This could well have been a bit of a shtick with, or for, him. One thing he doesn’t strike me as is shy. He was a true believer that had the conviction of his convictions, and he did not shrink from sharing them.

The other theme concerns the idea of the secrets or mysteries of God. This is a good test case for a Freudian-style analysis. Do we take Paul at face value? Or do we read more into this, possibly more than Paul intended? Sometimes words just mean what they mean. As I said, the idea of a ‘mystery’ (the term is simply transliterated from Greek) in a cult, or a religion was really very commonplace among pagans of the time. So-called ‘Mystery Religions’ were a dime a dozen in Greek cities of any size at all. Even the ‘established’ pagan beliefs included mystery cults, and then there were all the imported varieties, like the mysteries of Magna Mater and Isis. So when Paul talks about secrets and mysteries, this could easily be what he means.

This sort of goes with my idea of Jesus, and Christianity being the product of a cross-fertilization of Judaism with elements of Greek thought. For example, the ‘siblinghood’ (to coin a phrase?) of humanity was a tenet of the Stoics. This also become incorporated into what became Christianity; was this a direct borrow, or a situation where both schools of thought drinking from the same fountain? As far as I know, Judaism did not participate in mystery cult rites. The problem with this question about secrets and mysteries, of course, is that we know what came after Paul. We know about the development of Gnostic beliefs with Marcion; so how far back do we read this tendency? Did it start with Paul?

Actually, my sense is that Paul bumped up against the ideas of mysteries, and he included them in his preaching, but I don’t think he himself went beyond the common understanding of the term as it was used in his lifetime. This is subject to revision as we get deeper into the epistle; we may find more about secrets and such, but so far I don’t think we’ve seen enough to warrant us seeing Paul as a proto-Gnostic. The idea does not get sufficiently developed to read too much into the words at this point. More may be revealed.

Finally, we get the ‘hanging implications’. The first concerned an implied distinction between the Christ and God; the second implies the need for prevenient grace. As for the first, it should not be surprising that Paul did not see the Christ as the Second Person of the Trinity. Such a view of the Christ, at this point, is wholly anachronistic. We have said, and others before us have said, that Paul had almost no interest in Jesus. This is one big reason why the  QHJ people are compelled to look for Jesus in the gospels: there is not much to go on in Paul. Given this, it is impossible that Paul understood the human Jesus as in any way divine, and certainly not in any sense that we would agree with. Jesus became divine when he rose from the dead; at least, that’s one standard interpretation of Pauline doctrine. As a result, it’s easy to see how Mark maybe translated this into Jesus being ‘adopted’ by God when he was baptized. It’s not so different from what Paul (apparently) believed, or taught; Mark just moves the date of the adoption back a few years. So for Paul to toss off the distinction so casually, I think, should not surprise us. This is how he saw Jesus/the Christ and God.

The other such implication is perhaps the earliest basis for the idea of prevenient grace. Humans in their natural state are not spiritual. More, they have no element of spirituality in them. And yet, spirituality is necessary if one is going to live the life that the Christ intended us to live. In Galatians 6:8, Paul told us that it is by way of the spirit (not The Spirit) that we will attain eternal life. So how do we become spiritual, that we may attain this life? Paul does not say. Perhaps this explanation will come later. We shall see.,