1 Corinthians Chapter 9:1-14

So we being Chapter 9. We are now beginning the second half of the letter.

1 Οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐλεύθερος; οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος; οὐχὶ Ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν ἑόρακα; οὐτὸ ἔργον μου ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν κυρίῳ;

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our lord? Are you not my work in the lord?

How does he manage to pack so much into so few words? I mentioned Hemingway; he would have been impressed by Paul’s ability to compress a lot in a little. 

First, there is a very sharp transition from the end of Chapter 9. Not sure there’s any significance to this, but it shows how Paul’s mind jumps topics. This is a man with a restless mind.

Second, we’re going to skip over the part about being an apostle and get right to the part about having seen Jesus. This is really significant. He has not “seen Jesus in a vision”, or “as a revelation”, but he has just “seen Jesus”. This, I think, ties back to what he said back in Chapters 6 & 7, when he was talking about how he came to his own judgements based on what sounded a lot like divine inspiration, the inflowing of the sacred breath. Ultimately this takes us back to what he said in Galatians 1:12. There he told us how the gospel had not come to him through any human agent or teaching, but he had received it through a revelation (apocalypseos) directly from Jesus himself. 

All of this tells us that Paul takes his source of knowledge very seriously. But it also tells us that Paul is convinced of the authenticity of his insights, and it tells us that he was not afraid to follow these insights. Why would he be? This is the revealed Word of God, after all. While this may certainly be true, it does not help in the quest for the historical Jesus. Indeed, we have to ask how far Paul drifted from anything Jesus said. And, more importantly, we have to ask just how much influence Paul had on subsequent writers. If the Evangelists were aware of what Paul said, how much did they pass on that did not come from Jesus? A great example is the removal of Jewish dietary  restrictions: Paul held these to be inoperative for non-Jews;in Mark, Jesus says that there are no unclean animals; in Acts, Peter has a dream telling him the same thing. I have already argued that Jesus said no such thing; had he, there would have been no debate on the topic between Paul and James. We have seen that the celibacy issue–by Paul’s own admission–originated with Paul, and not with Jesus.

How much else originates with Paul?

Finally, we have to ask how much impact this statement had on Paul’s perceived standing in the Community. Remember, he was in a struggle with Apollos; does Paul state that he has seen Jesus specifically because it was known that Apollos had not? Of course, members of the Community must have known that Paul had never met Jesus, either, so one wonders how this claim was taken by them. Did they understand that Paul was, perhaps, speaking metaphorically here?

1 Non sum liber? Non sum apo stolus? Nonne Iesum Dominum nostrum vidi? Non opus meum vos estis in Domino?

2 εἰ ἄλλοις οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος, ἀλλά γε ὑμῖν εἰμι: ἡ γὰρ σφραγίς μου τῆς ἀποστολῆς ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν κυρίῳ.

If to others I am not an apostle, but, on the contrary, I am to you; for my sign of the apostles is you in the lord.


Perhaps I am not an apostle to others, but I certainly am to you. The mark of my apostleship (?) is you, as a community in the lord.

Or something like that. The chain of logic isn’t exactly ironclad here, but I think this sort of reinforces what I was saying about the last verse: Paul, it seems, is a very fervent believer in revelation as granted by, or through Jesus. This is the origin, it seems, of what became known as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Given this belief, it would be self-evident to Paul that a Community of Jesus could not exist if he was not filled by this sacred breath. Again, to stress: he believes this, with his whole being, body, mind, and soul.This certainly would give him power as a speaker; the power of sincerity. This, in turn, explains more thoroughly Paul’s argument earlier in disparaging the wisdom of the world–as propounded by Apollos.

2 Si aliis non sum apostolus, sed tamen vobis sum; nam signaculum apostolatus mei vos estis in Domino.

3 Ἡ ἐμὴ ἀπολογία τοῖς ἐμὲ ἀνακρίνουσίν ἐστιν αὕτη.

My defense (lit = ‘apologia’) to them judging me is this.  

or, modernised–

This is my defense against those judging me.

In a case language like Greek, where word order is not particularly important, the first word and the last words of a sentence receive particular emphasis. One of the annoying aspects of Roman oratory is that you often have to wait until the end of a very long sentence to find out what the verb is; that was deliberate. The idea was to keep the audience on tenterhooks, hanging on your every word until !POW!. You hit them with the payoff. Just so Paul held the ‘this’ until the last word; not for mystery, but for emphasis.  The English version would be …THIS is my defense….

 3 Mea defensio apud eos, qui me interrogant, haec est.

4 μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν φαγεῖν καὶ πεῖν;

Do we not have the worthiness to eat and drink?

<< ἐξουσίαν >> gets translated as ‘power’ in the KJV, and as ‘the right’ in more modern translations. It means all that, but the idea here, I think is, ‘are we not worthy?’

Comment deferred.

4 Numquid non habemus potestatem manducandi et bibendi?

5 μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα περιάγειν, ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱἀδελφοὶ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ Κηφᾶς;

Do we not have the power to lead around a sister as a wife,  just as both the rest of the apostles and brothers of the lord and Cephas?

Here is some interesting information. Contrary to what the Roman Church later held, the apostles, including Peter, were married. As were the brothers of the lord, presumably meaning James and others. So the apostles were not necessarily celibate. And recall, Mark mentioned that Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law; one obtains one of those by marrying. And this reflects back on Paul’s marital status. Was he unmarried? To repeat, this would have been very unusual for a man of his time of any substance–and Paul obviously came from a background that included some education, which implies, or required, that his family had some stature. Plus, as a Pharisee, it would have been expected that he marry; as indeed, as it was expected of pretty much any man, regardless of social stature.

AND–not only were the other apostles, and the brothers of the lord, and Cephas married, but they brought their wives along with them when preaching. Don’t know about the rest of you, but I was not at all aware of this. But then, there are large chunks of this epistle that I have never encountered in any church, of any stripe. And I do not recall hearing about this passage while reading about the debates that became the Reformation, and I mean from either side. I do not recall coming across this from the Protestant side. Now, that maybe only means that I need to get out more; I am hardly an expert on the Reformation (or pretty much anything else, come to think of it).

AND–is it just me, or does Paul seem a little miffed at this? That the others are bringing their wives with them? 

5 Numquid non habemus potestatem sororem mulierem circumducendi, sicut et ceteri apostoli et fratres Domini et Cephas?

6 ἢ μόνος ἐγὼ καὶ Βαρναβᾶς οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίανμὴ ἐργάζεσθαι;

Or do only I and Barnabas not have the power to not be employed?

I believe he is a bit miffed. 

6 Aut solus ego et Barnabas non habemus potestatem non operandi?

7 τίς στρατεύεται ἰδίοις ὀψωνίοις ποτέ; τίς φυτεύει ἀμπελῶνα καὶτὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἐσθίει; ἢ τίς ποιμαίνει ποίμνην καὶ ἐκ τοῦ γάλακτος τῆς ποίμνης οὐκ ἐσθίει;

For who is a soldier (lit = ‘soldiers’, as a verb) on his private means? Who plants a vineyard and the fruit of which does not eat? Or who feeds flocks and of the milk of the flocks does not eat?

Yes, definitely miffed. 

7 Quis militat suis stipendiis umquam? Quis plantat vineam et fructum eius non edit? Aut quis pascit gregem et de lacte gregis non manducat?

8 Μὴ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ταῦτα λαλῶ, ἢ καὶ ὁ νόμος ταῦτα οὐ λέγει;

And do I speak only as a man? Or does the law not also speak of this?

The syntax here is difficult to capture in English. The first question has a negative in it, but it’s pretty much impossible to get this negative into our English rendering. 

Here, Paul has worked himself up into something of a self-righteous snit. He’s right, he acts properly, but those others…well, maybe not so much.

8 Numquid secundum hominem haec dico? An et lex haec non dicit?

9 ἐν γὰρ τῷ Μωϋσέως νόμῳ γέγραπται, Οὐ κημώσεις βοῦν ἀλοῶντα. μὴ τῶνβοῶν μέλει τῷ θεῷ;

For in the law of Moses it is written, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading (threshing) grain.  Is not the care of oxen to God? (dative of possession…)

The idea here is threshing grain, separating the kernel from the chaff, here by having an ox tread on the ears to break them open and allow the wind to blow the chaff away. Muzzling the ox prevented the ox from eating any of the grain; Moses commands against this, probably because agricultural theory at the time considered it better, more effective, to let the ox eat while it was working. So the upshot of this is ‘labor is worthy of its hire’. That is, people should be paid for their efforts. 

9 Scriptum est enim in Lege Moysis: “ Non alligabis os bovi trituranti ”. Numquid de bobus cura est Deo?

10 ἢ δι’ ἡμᾶς πάντως λέγει; δι’ ἡμᾶς γὰρ ἐγράφη, ὅτι ὀφείλει ἐπ ‘ἐλπίδι ὁ ἀροτριῶν ἀροτριᾶν, καὶ ὁ ἀλοῶν ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι τοῦ μετέχειν.

Or does it (the law) say all this on account of us? For has it been written on account of us, that upon hope the one plowing ought to plow, and the one treading (the grain) upon hope of partaking in this (i.e., the grain being threshed).

Paul has been going on now for some time, caught up in what is very close to self-pity. This is one of the problems with Paul: the idea is to get a sense of what the Community believed, what it practised, but we end up spending a lot of time talking about all of Paul’s little personality quirks, like his sense of inferiority.

10 An propter nos utique dicit? Nam propter nos scripta sunt, quoniam debet in spe, qui arat, arare; et, qui triturat, in spe fructus percipiendi.

11 εἰ ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν τὰ πνευματικὰ ἐσπείραμεν, μέγα εἰ ἡμεῖς ὑμῶν τὰ σαρκικὰ θερίσομεν;

If we sowed the spiritual things in you, have we not more reaped the fleshly aspects of you?

Paul is in accusatory mode; he sowed the good spirit, but is getting the bad corporeal results. IOW, they are not treating him as he believes he should be treated.

The whole point here is that, apparently, the other apostles, traveling with a retinue that included their wives, took full advantage of their position in order to live like exalted personages. Apparently, Peter may have done the same. Paul, OTOH, feels like he was slighted; he worked for his keep, he didn’t want to be a burden, he made only modest demands, if he demanded anything. We got all of this in Galatians, too. Paul tries to be humble, unassuming, undemanding, and his ‘reward’ is to be treated like a lowly servant. (And I mean servant rather than slave, for often a slave was almost part of the family; one owned a slave, so the slave was a permanent fixture. A servant, OTOH, could be dismissed at a moment’s notice.)

If Paul was treated like this consistently, and by different Communities, what does this say about him? Thinking about this, I’m wondering if it may say more about the social context of the time. Humility of demeanour is a Christian invention; back then, exalted persons acted like exalted persons, and were treated like exalted persons. The one who was self-abasing, I suspect, ran the risk of being treated like a menial, because persons of merit were not self-abasing. They boasted. Achilles, for example, is to us pretty much insufferable because of that baneful wrath engendered by that overweening pride. So, really, we have to admire Paul; he is, almost single-handedly, created a new paradigm of behaviour. That is seriously impressive.

11 Si nos vobis spiritalia seminavimus, magnum est, si nos carnalia vestra metamus?

12 εἰ ἄλλοι τῆς ὑμῶν ἐξουσίας μετέχουσιν, οὐ μᾶλλον ἡμεῖς;  Ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐχρησάμεθα τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ ταύτῃ, ἀλλὰ πάντα στέγομεν ἵνα μή τινα ἐγκοπὴν δῶμεν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

If others of you share in the worthiness (power), can we not as well? But we have not used this power (for ourselves), but we bear all things so that we do not give some hindrance to the good new of the Christ.

Here I agree, or I follow the KJV. For the word that the KJV and I have translated as “power”, more modern translations render as “right”, or “rightful claim.” That’s not wrong, but it gives a very different implication to this passage. The Latin is “postestate”, which is also “power”. Now, one can argue, correctly, that to exercise a right over someone is to exercise power. But “right” is too bloodless. This is a power relationship, something that can be taken and not something that was granted. Or, at least, it was not granted by the Community to Paul, but by someone in a position of authority. Someone, that is, with power. 

So, the question becomes “who made this grant of power?” Did this come from Jesus? Somehow, I don’t think so. Do you? Really?

Of course, we all recall the part of Mark (6:7-13) when Jesus sent out the Twelve. He gave them (supposedly) instructions not to take any bread, or anything similar on their journey. The implication is that they were to be supported by the communities in which they preached. But he tells them to accept what is offered; he does not say that the Twelve have the right–no, the power–to demand that the communities support them. That is what Paul’s statement here says: that he has the power to make this demand, and the Community has the obligation to support Paul, or another preacher of the Good News.

So I don’t think we can derive this power from what Mark tells us. So, if not Jesus, then who? Well, some other apostle, of course. Someone of prestige, someone with authority. Someone, in other words, very like either Peter or James. Those two certainly would have had the stature; or their emissaries. Puts sort of a different spin on things, doesn’t it? What this implies, of course, is the imposition of a set of norms that were created sometime between the time of Jesus and the time Paul is writing. So again, another layer between us and Jesus.

12 Si alii potestatis vestrae participes sunt, non potius nos? Sed non usi sumus hac potestate, sed omnia sustinemus, ne quod offendiculum demus evangelio Christi.

13 οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ τὰ ἱερὰ ἐργαζόμενοι [τὰ] ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ ἐσθίουσιν, οἱ τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ παρεδρεύοντες τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ συμμερίζονται;

For do you not know that the temple workers, they eat out of the temple, those by the altar, (those) serving the altar, divide into portions together?

“Divide into portions” is very unfortunate, but it’s very accurate. The idea is that those working in the Temple, at the altar where animals are sacrificed, share–they get a portion–of the sacrifice. IOW, they work for food. Back in Chapter 8 when we were discussing the pagan practice of a communal meal at a sacrifice, I admitted my ignorance of Jewish practice on this. Here we are told that those assisting in the sacrifice get a share. Or, are we talking about Jewish practice, or still about pagans? It’s difficult, perhaps even impossible to tell. But, it doesn’t matter. The idea is that those helping in the sacrifice are entitled to eat from it. The implication, of course, is that Paul is entitled to the same consideration.   

13 Nescitis quoniam, qui sacra operantur, quae de sacrario sunt, edunt; qui altari deserviunt, cum altari participantur?

14 οὕτως καὶ ὁ κύριος διέταξεν τοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον καταγγέλλουσιν ἐκ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ζῆν.

In this way also the lord ordained to those preaching the good news should live from the good news.

14 Ita et Dominus ordinavit his, qui evangelium annuntiant, de evangelio vivere.

Well, prove me wrong! It was the lord (Jesus) after all! 

Well, supposedly. After all, on this, Paul would really only have the word of James or Peter. And either of them would have had a vested interest in telling the story that the lord did ordain this. Not that they were lying; here we are once again slipping into the mindset of 21st Century secular thinking. Maybe the Lord didn’t say this exactly, but this is what he meant. Surely. This goes back to the idea of writing something under the name of someone more famous. Like the gospels that were not written by Mark or Matthew. We keep confounding Truth with factual accuracy, and–as I hope I’ve made clear by this point–were not necessarily the same thing for someone living in the First Century of the Common Era. Certainly, the institution of this in Mark 6 is very, very weak if this was meant to be the institution of the way that preachers were to be supported. Could Jesus not have been more definitive about this?

This next thought, at this point, is a complete tangent, but here goes: Are we so sure that the writers of the gospels expected that someone hearing the miracle stories would necessarily expect that the miracle happened literally? At this point, I’m beginning to wonder.



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 March 15, 2014, in 1 Corinthians, epistles, Paul's Letters and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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