Tag: 1 Corinthians

Christian Sexuality (1 Cor 6:12-7)

by on Jun.11, 2017, under Sermon

If you’ve missed the first 3 messages in this series on 1 Corinthians, let me catch you up. The Apostle Paul received some disturbing reports from Corinth about things going on there. The church was shattered into competing groups, claiming allegiance to different Christian leaders. Paul’s response was that such a situation ought not to occur, since the church is united as the body of Christ, and its leaders are servants in the name of Christ. The unity of the church is vital to its existence.

But it is not a unity at all costs. In chapter 5, Paul addressed a particularly heinous case of sexual sin within the congregation. The Corinthian church were not only failing to rebuke the transgressor, they were proud at such an exercise of ‘freedom’ (5:2). Paul instructed them to deal firmly with this man, and not to associate with sexually immoral people who claim to be followers of Christ. They must exercise discernment. All are welcome to join the body of Christ, to be united to him, but it must be a genuine unity based on repentance, faith, and obedience.

You see, who you are united to matters. That is a theme that will come up repeatedly in today’s passage as well, as the Apostle teases out how being united to Christ’s spiritual body, the church, impacts what believers do with their physical bodies. Let’s dive in.

“Everything is permissible for me” — but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me” — but I will not be mastered by anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food” — but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. (1 Cor 6:12-17)

It seems that there were two schools of thought concerning the physical body in Corinth. The first were arguing that the body is unimportant, that it is only the spiritual things that matter. These were probably the same people who were proud of the ‘freedom’ being exercised by the incestuous man of chapter 5. Their catch cry was, ‘Everything is permissible for me.’ They also argued, ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food,’ by which they meant that just as the body craves food, so it craves sex, and both appetites ought to be fed.

But in Paul’s eyes, your body is of eternal significance. God raised Jesus bodily from the grave, and he will do the same for you and me, for an eternal bodily existence. He will return to this topic in chapter 15, but for now he wants the Corinthians to know that their bodies are united to Christ, and so what they do with their bodies is important, because who you are united to matters.

He continues:

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Cor 6:18–20)

We often hear Paul misquoted at this point. Non-Christians will speak of their body as a ‘temple’, by which they mean they ought to live healthily, eat well, exercise and so on. All these things are good, but they miss the point Paul is driving at. He does not simply say the body is a temple, but that it is ‘a temple of the Holy Spirit’. The temple was famously the place where God dwelt with his people, Israel, and where they met with him. It was also erected to honour Yahweh, so that all the nations would know that he is LORD.

Friends, what we do with our bodies matters. If we are united to Christ, the Holy Spirit lives in us and our bodies ought to be places fit for us to meet with him there. This extends to our sexuality, both what we do with our bodies and the way we let our physical desires control our thought lives. It encompasses what we watch, how we interact with members of the opposite sex, whether we are married or not.

If you are not consciously comfortable with the Holy Spirit’s presence in the midst of what you are thinking, doing, or saying, particularly when it comes to your sexuality, then you are probably in a place of immorality. And the Apostle’s command is simple: Flee! Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what we do with our bodies matters. And it matters not just to us, but to the entire church.

There is an ancient Jewish story:

A group of people were travelling in a boat. One of them took a drill and began to drill a hole beneath himself. His companions said to him: “Why are you doing this?” Replied the man: “What concern is it of yours? Am I not drilling under my own place?” Said they to him: “But you will flood the boat for us all!” (Quoted in Midrash Rabbah, Vayikra 4:6).

It has become clear over the last decade and more that a festering mass of sexual immorality within the church has resulted in destroyed lives and destroyed Christian witness. Perhaps you are thinking that your particular sin – flirting with a coworker, sexual fantasies, cohabitation, pornography, or engaging a prostitute – perhaps you think those things are not really hurting anyone. They may be private. But the truth is that, if you are a Christian, you are united with Christ; and if that is the case you cannot also be united with these things without damaging the entire body of Christ. Your sin affects me and mine affects you.

Perhaps the best way we have to understand this is through the God-given analogy of marriage. In Ephesian 5, Paul says that the relationship between Christ and church is like that between husband and wife. The two are united as one. But what happens when either the husband or the wife unites with someone else? Relationships and trust are broken. Who you are united to matters.

So if sexuality can have such a huge impact on our relationship with Christ and his church, perhaps it is better to avoid sexual relationships altogether? Certainly some in Corinth seem to have thought so. Against those who were saying ‘everything is permissible,’ these people were claiming that it was good not to marry, and so to avoid even the chance of sexual immorality. So they wrote to Paul, asking him his opinion. Here is Paul’s response:

Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. (1 Cor 7:1-7)

Paul does not say that sex and sexuality is bad; rather he says that its proper place is in the context of marriage, where it is a God-given means of unity, rather than disunity. Being united in marriage Paul says that the husband and wife ‘belong’ to each other. What does this mean?
Husband and wife are not only permitted but encouraged to enjoy one another. There may be seasons within a marriage where husband and wife agree to abstain from sexual interaction, especially in order to devote themselves to prayer. In other words, they may choose to forgo the unity of the flesh granted to husband and wife in order to pursue the unity of the Spirit. But Paul is clear that this is only for a time, lest continued abstinence lead to temptation and, ultimately, the kind of sexual immorality that he has already warned them to flee from.

‘Belonging’ to one another also means that husbands and wives have a special responsibility to care for and protect each other. I listen to what my wife says about the things I say and do, the people I spend time with, and even the way I look, because I belong to her. And I know that if she does ask me to change something, it is because she is caring for me.

Earlier, Paul wrote, ‘You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body’ (6:19-20). In the same way, husband, wife, you are not your own, you belong to each other; therefore honour one another with your bodies.

Marriage is the one kind of sexual unity that can occur without destroying our union with Christ. Who you are united to matters, and in marriage we see illustrated the unity between Christ and his church.

Paul goes on:

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Cor 7:8–16)

Here Paul addresses the issues of marriage, remarriage, and divorce. To those who are not married, he says that remaining unmarried is the best option, for reasons that he will outline in the second half of this chapter. But getting married is far preferable to sexual immorality, which shatters union with Christ. And once united in marriage, this union is not lightly severed. Even for those who are married to non-Christians, the best course is to remain married; but Paul is clear that once again it is the union with Christ that must remain pre-eminent. Far better to endure separation and divorce from an unbelieving spouse than to follow them in their unbelief and so be separated from Christ.

It is clear that the Apostle’s primary concern is that the Corinthians remain united to Christ.

Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you — although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to. (1 Cor 7:17–24)

The New King James Version highlights the word repetition in verse 20: ‘Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.’ Brothers and sisters in Christ, your calling is to be united to Christ. As you face decisions about your circumstances, make sure that you are remaining in that calling. If you are considering marriage make sure your partner is not going to undermine your calling. Don’t buy a new house or take a new job if they are going to move you away from your calling. You are responsible to God to remain in the calling to which God has called you.

Why is Paul so cautious about marriage? Why does he speak of it as second-best? He outlines his reasons in the final part of this chapter:

Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs — how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world — how he can please his wife — and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world — how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin — this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better.

A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is — and I think that I too have the Spirit of God. (1 Cor 7:25–40)

Marriage is a tremendous, honourable, God-given blessing. But it is not without its costs. As a husband and father, I must love, lead, protect, provide and pray for my family. This is the most important ministry I exercise, and it is my joy and privilege to do so. But it also means that there are other ministry opportunities that are impossible, or a least significantly more difficult, for me. Would Paul have been able to engage in his missionary work if he had had to support a wife a family at the same time?

So, if you are considering marriage, make sure you count the cost before taking the plunge. And if you are single, whether it is by your own choice or not, take advantage of the freedom that you have to serve the Lord.

In summary, Paul wants us to know that Christian unity is essential, but who you are united to matters. And because you are united with Christ, what you do with your body is important, so honour God with your body and flee from sexual immorality. Marriage is the only context in which sexual union does not jeopardise union with Christ. It is a wonderful and honourable calling, but it is not the most important calling. So in whatever situation God has called you to, honour him there.

To close, then, I want to address two groups of people. The first group are those who have never united themselves to Christ. Jesus is like a suitor who has proposed, not down on one knee with a ring in his hand, but arms spread wide with nails through his hands. He died so that you might live. Who you are united to matters, and he invites you into eternal union with himself. You can accept him today by ‘forsaking all others’ and trusting him in repentance and faith. If you would like to know more, grab me, or an elder, or a Christian friend after the service – we would love to talk more with you about this.

The second group I want to talk to is those currently stuck in sexual sin. Whatever form this takes – whether it is sex outside of marriage, pornography, illicit sexual fantasies, or anything else – there are few things you need to know. Firstly, there is no sin so great it cannot be cleansed and forgiven by the blood of Jesus, if only you will confess your sins and repent. I know how daunting it can seem, how trapped you can feel, but Christ is more than able to rescue you. The Apostle John wrote, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9). Secondly, be warned that, ‘if you fail to [repent], you will be sinning against the LORD; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out’ (Num 32:23). You may feel that you have it ‘under control’, that it is not impacting anyone else, but like the man drilling the hole under his seat in the boat we are all affected, and Christ will not allow you to continue in your sin indefinitely. Finally, know that you are not alone. We are the body of Christ, and we are here to help each other, to bear each other’s burdens. And you will need help. Because, as Paul points out, ‘All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body’ (6:18). So if the Holy Spirit is convicting you of any of these things this morning, I urge you to act today, choose to glorify God with your body, and ask a Christian you trust to keep you accountable to that.

Let’s pray:

Father in heaven, we praise you for your tremendous grace in calling us to be united to your Son. We thank you for his sacrifice to make that possible, and for the work of your Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Give us the further grace to live in a manner consistent with that calling.

Lord, give us a right view of our bodies. Convict us of those areas of our lives where what we are doing with our bodies is not honouring to you, and so jeopardising our union with Christ. I particularly pray for those feeling trapped in habitual sexual sin. Please grant them deliverance so that they, too, can glorify you with their bodies.

For those currently wrestling with questions of marriage, remarriage, and divorce, I pray that you would grant wisdom and discernment. Help us all to remember the primacy of our calling as Christians, and to consider our marital status in that light. For those of us who are married, I pray that we would honour you in and through our marriages.

Father, we are the body of Christ; help us to uphold and not destroy the unity that this brings.


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Christian Unity (1 Cor 1-4)

by on Jun.11, 2017, under Sermon

The Apostle Paul spent 18 months in Corinth, before moving on to work in other places. While in Ephesus, however, troubling news started to reach him from Corinth. Though it was only two years since he had left, much had happened in the church he founded there. So he wrote his dear friends a letter, the letter we now call 1 Corinthians.

The first and most troubling issue, from Paul’s perspective, was an utter lack of unity within the church.

My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” (1 Cor 1:11-12)

Some high-profile Christian leaders had visited Corinth since Paul left. We know from Acts that Apollos, a ‘learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures’ who ‘spoke with great fervour’ (Acts 18:24, 25), visited Corinth not long after Paul departed. Luke records that, ‘On arriving [in Corinth], he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ’ (Acts 18:227b-28). Some of the Corinthians, evidently impressed by this articulate young man, started identifying themselves as followers of Apollos.

It is also possible that the Apostle Peter also visited Corinth, though this is less certain. Peter was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, and given the name Cephas (which means ‘rock’) by Christ himself (Jn. 1:42). Whether or not he did visit Corinth, a group of people arose within the church claiming allegiance to him.

Paul was not concerned about other Christian leaders visiting the church he planted; what did worry him was that the Corinthian church was now split into factions, with some following Apollos, some Peter, some loyal to Paul himself, and some opposing all of these groups and claiming allegiance only to Christ. Perhaps some were new converts who had never met Paul, and so preferred to identify with those who led them to Christ, rather than a man they didn’t know. Maybe the Pauline group were claiming they were the ‘original’ Corinthian Christians. Peter’s followers thought they had it direct from the horse’s mouth, from an original disciple. And so on.

Paul’s response is vivid:

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name… For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Cor 1:13–17)

Paul will use the image of baptism again several times throughout this letter (1 Cor. 10:2; 12:13; 15:29). Most significant is in chapter 12:

For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Cor 12:13)

Baptism is a symbol of unity: people from all walks of life become united in one body. If the Corinthians have all been united in one body, the body of Christ, how can there be such disunity among them? Is Christ divided? Surely not! Paul was not in Corinth to gather a following for himself. ‘Christ did not send me to baptize [people in my own name], but to preach the gospel’. It is not the messenger but the message that unites the church, not the evangelist but the evangel, the gospel itself.

This is good news because it means our hopes don’t hang on our leaders. The modern world is no stranger to personality cults such as found in Corinth. And the church is often no better, idolising her favourite preachers, teachers, writers and evangelists. Yet as we witness so many Christian leaders going astray we need not be dismayed for it is not the messenger but the message that unites us. And we need not despair when our favourite pastor, preacher, small group leader or worship leader moves on; rather we rejoice in the messenger’s faithfulness in proclaiming the message. A church centred on messengers will inevitably devolve into factionalism when the messenger fails or another comes along; a church anchored in the message of the gospel will not.

And what a message! It is certainly not a conventional message; nor is it presented in a conventional way.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (1 Cor 1:18–19)

Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. (1 Cor 1:22–25)

Reading between the lines, the reason many preferred Apollos to Paul was that Apollos spoke and taught in the Greek wisdom tradition. Certainly he was a well educated man, and persuasive in his speech – perhaps unlike Paul, of whom the Corinthians would later say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing” (2 Cor 10:10). But the Corinthians were so caught up looking for the wisdom of this age that they did not recognise the wisdom of God right in front of them.

Friends, the wisdom of God is not a matter of fancy words and flowery speech. It does not require you to conquer great intellectual mountains to understand it. The gospel message that brings unity is such that it can be grasped by a child. Yet at the same time, it is a message so rich that a lifetime of study is not enough to completely plumb its depths.

It is also a message of great power, but it is a power demonstrated in weakness and suffering rather strength and success. Many of the Jews in Jesus’ day believed that the Christ was to deliver them from Roman rule, and would be a conquering king. Instead, he was crucified on a Roman cross… and in that way delivered them from the much greater oppression of sin and death!

Woodcroft Christian Centre, what kind of church are we? What is the focus of our unity? Why do we meet together as we do? Perhaps we like the Sunday service: it’s at a good time, the format is familiar, they play the kind of music I like. Or is it the kids’ program? The facilities? The bread ministry? The people? What is it that brings you here week after week? What do you have in common with the person next to you? Or, more to the point, with the people who sit over the other side of the church?

What we have in common is this: we are all sinners by nature and by choice, and deserving of the righteous wrath of God. But God is not content that it remain so. Instead, he sent his beloved son, Jesus, to rescue us. Jesus left his place of power and was born to an unwed teenage mother in a backwater province of the Roman Empire. Before he was 2 years old, he and his family fled to Egypt as refugees. The Word of God became a child who had to learn to speak. Jesus, the Lord of all creation, had ‘no place to lay his head’ (Matt 8:20). He was mocked and ridiculed, falsely tried and condemned to death on a Roman cross. This is the opposite of what the world calls power or wisdom. Yet this is the wisdom and power of God, that the world should be saved through the weakness and suffering of the Saviour. Both the wisdom and the power of God find their fullest and final expression in Christ. He is the true and only source of our unity. We are united in Christ!

The world may call our gospel message foolishness, but ‘the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom'; the world may call us weak, but ‘the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength’ (1 Cor. 1:25). And it is offered as a free gift to all who will receive it.

I have spent considerable time this week investigating home loans. Each lender has their own requirements: you must have so much for a deposit, then so much for fees, insurance etc. And each one calculates it differently. It is so frustrating to answer 1001 questions only to be told, ‘You don’t qualify.’ But it is not like that with the gospel. You don’t have to be wealthy, educated, or successful in order to receive it. There are no entry criteria beyond repenting of your sins and trusting in Christ.

Just look at the Corinthians themselves:

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:26–31)

My non-Christian friend, if you are sitting here this morning thinking that there is some aspect of your life that disqualifies you from becoming a Christian, I want to tell you that you are wrong. You don’t need to be strong, rich, clever, moral, successful, well-liked, powerful, educated, influential or famous to come to Christ. The only requirement is that you humbly receive the gift God is offering you today in Christ. If this is something you would like to investigate further, please take action today – talk to a Christian friend, one of the elders, or me. We’d love to walk the next steps with you.

The free availability of the gospel also has implications for Christians. For a start, it shapes the way we share the gospel with others.

Immediately prior to coming to Corinth, Paul had preached in Athens, one of the most famous centres of worldly wisdom in the ancient world. When called to address the Areopagus, Paul gave a speech in the best traditions of Greek rhetoric, citing Greek poets and philosophers. Yet, we are told that only ‘a few men became followers of Paul and believed’ (Acts 17:34). Paul was obviously capable of the kind of ‘wisdom’ that the Corinthians so highly prized.1 Yet, whether because of his lack of success in Athens, or because of his reflection on the nature of the gospel itself, he decided on a different course in Corinth.

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Cor 2:1–5)

If the church is to be united it must be the message rather than the messenger that holds the power and the wisdom. It has been truly said that what you win people with is what you win them to. That is, if you try to build a church by clever speeches, funny anecdotes, slick presentations, charismatic leadership, exciting music, or whatever, you will have a church that depends for its existence on the speeches remaining clever and the music remaining exciting. It is those things that have the ‘power’. On the other hand, if a church is founded on the unchanging gospel of Jesus Christ, then it will be a boat anchored in the ocean floor, rather than tied to a piece of driftwood; a house built on rock rather than flood plain. The gospel can and should be creatively, winsomely, and thoughtfully presented in all kinds of ways; but those ways should be in service of the message and not the other way around.

Even the ability to understand and respond to this message is a gift of God – it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us:

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:10–16)

There may be some here not yet convinced that trusting in Christ is truly wise. After all, it may mean significant changes in your life: you may need to step off the ladder of success; or rethink some deeply held presuppositions; or hang out with a different crowd; or spend your money differently. All of this may be true. Yet I still want to say to you this morning that trusting in Christ is not only the best way, it is the only way that holds eternal hope. I could offer you evidence from my life, from history, from Scripture, from philosophy. Those things would all be good, but without the Spirit’s help they are insufficient. You see, sin makes us all predisposed to reject and dismiss such evidences because they challenge some of our most deeply held beliefs. See if any of these ring true for you:

  • I am free to do what I want; or
  • I’m basically a good person.

Sin makes us want to believe these things and many others like them, rather than trusting in what God says to us. So the first and most important thing I must do in telling you about Jesus is to pray that God will open your eyes by means of his Spirit. He may well use the things I say, the experiences I share, the arguments I use. But in the end, it is the work of the Spirit that is the only necessary and sufficient condition for you coming to Christ.

So my prayer for you this morning is that God will send his Spirit to help you see that the gospel, the good news, is indeed good news.

Let’s summarise chapters 1 and 2, then: The unity of the church flows from the message rather than the messenger; and the message is the wisdom and power of God rather than the wisdom and power of the world. In chapter 3, Paul circles back to the role of the messenger and, in particular, the roles he and Apollos had in the Corinthian church.

Paul and Apollos were both servants, with different tasks but the same master and the same goal. He uses two images to illustrate this. The first image, of farmers, reiterates his point about the work of the Spirit (1 Cor 3:6-9). Paul planted the seed of the gospel, Apollos watered it through his ministry, but it was God, through his Spirit, who brought the growth.

The second image is of Paul as a master builder who laid a foundation upon which other leaders and teachers would build. Here, Paul is warning those who would come after him:

[E]ach one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Cor 3:10–15)

This is critical because it is not just any building that they are constructing; it is the temple of God:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. (1 Cor 3:16–17)

The temple was the place where God dwelt with his people, Israel. This side of the cross, God’s Spirit lives in his people, both within individual believers and the church as a whole. Those building this temple need to be careful that they build right; those trying destroy it ought to repent for they are themselves on a path to destruction.

The Corinthian church was in division because of differing evaluations of their leaders. Does this mean that we are better off without leaders at all? No. Paul shows that they have an important role in the life and growth of the church. It is not a way of power. It is not a way of wisdom – at least, not wisdom as the world sees it. It is rather the way of the servant.

We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world. (1 Cor 4:9–13)

We can be grateful that we have such leaders, who are willing to sacrifice so much for the sake of those who will hear the gospel as a result. And we must be especially grateful for those who serve us in person. I love that we live in an age where so much good teaching and counsel is available via podcasts, books, conferences, DVDs and many others. Truly we have ‘ten thousand guardians in Christ’ (1 Cor 4:15). But those who we do life with, those who are willing to enter into the messiness and trials of life with us, these are our fathers and mothers, our brothers and sisters, and are deserving of special honour and respect. And so, it is fitting that we conclude by praying especially for them this morning.

Let’s pray.

Father, thank you for those whom you have appointed to lead us. In particular, we thank you for our elders: Harry, Steve, David, and James. You have given them many responsibilities: to lead; to teach; to encourage; to discipline; and to pray. Thank you for the many sacrifices that they make on our behalf, must unseen and unknown to any but you. May they build well on the foundation you have laid, and in the day of judgment let them be honoured when their work is proved genuine.

Please strengthen them in all of these tasks, giving them wisdom to make good and godly decisions. Guard them and their families from the attacks of the world and the devil, for the enemy likes nothing better than to see Christian leaders fall. Give them the grace to bless when they are cursed; to endure when they are persecuted; to answer kindly when they are slandered. Help them to be men worthy of imitation; and help us to imitate them as a child imitates their father.

Lord, we at Woodcroft Christian Centre want to be a church united by your message; we are so grateful for the messengers you have anointed to proclaim it.



  1. Indeed, his ode to love in chapter 13 of this epistle is a fine example.
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1 Corinthians 15: Translation and exegesis notes

by on Nov.19, 2009, under Exegesis notes, Translation



  • κατέχω – I hold fast
  • ἐκτος – outside
  • έκτος εἰ μή – except
  • εἰχῆ – in vain, to no purpose, without due consideration.
  • θάπτω – I bury
  • ὤφθη – aor. pass. of ὁράω to see; pass. appear.
  • ἐπάνω – more than, over, above
  • πεντακόσιοι – five hundred
  • ἐφάπαξ – at once; once for all
  • ὡστερεί – as, as it were
  • ἔκτρωμα, τό – untimely birth, miscarriage
  • κἀμοί – also to me
  • ἐλαχιστος – least
  • ἱκανός – qualified, fit; sufficient
  • κενός – vain, without result; without effect
  • περισσότερος – more, greater
  • κοπιάω – work hard, toil


1. Γνωρίζω δὲ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, ὃ καὶ παρελάβετε, ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἑστήκατε, Now I make known to you, brothers and sisters, the gospel which we gospelled to you, which you received and in which you stand,
2. δι᾿ οὗ καὶ σῴζεσθε, τίνι λόγῳ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν εἰ κατέχετε, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ εἰκῇ ἐπιστεύσατε. Through which you are being saved, with what word I gospelled you if you hold fast, outside except you believed in vain.
3. παρέδωκα γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν πρώτοις, ὃ καὶ παρέλαβον, ὅτι Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν κατὰ τὰς γραφὰς For I delivered to you in the first, that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4. καὶ ὅτι ἐτάφη καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ κατὰ τὰς γραφὰς That he was buried and that he was on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5. καὶ ὅτι ὤφθη Κηφᾷ εἶτα τοῖς δώδεκα· And that he was seen by [‘appeared to’? (NIV, ESV)] Cephas, then the Twelve;
6. ἔπειτα ὤφθη ἐπάνω πεντακοσίοις ἀδελφοῖς ἐφάπαξ, ἐξ ὧν οἱ πλείονες μένουσιν ἕως ἄρτι, τινὲς δὲ ἐκοιμήθησαν· Then he was seen by more than five hundred brothers [and sisters] at the same time, out of whom many remain until not, although some have fallen asleep;
7. ἔπειτα ὤφθη Ἰακώβῳ εἶτα τοῖς ἀποστόλοις πᾶσιν· Then he was seen by James then all the apostles;
8. ἔσχατον δὲ πάντων ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι ὤφθη κἀμοί. But last of all, as to one born suddenly [i.e. without adequate preparation], he was seen by me also.
9. Ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι ὁ ἐλάχιστος τῶν ἀποστόλων ὃς οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς καλεῖσθαι ἀπόστολος, διότι ἐδίωξα τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ· For I am the least of the apostles, who is not worthy to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God.
10. χάριτι δὲ θεοῦ εἰμι ὅ εἰμι, καὶ ἡ χάρις αὐτοῦ ἡ εἰς ἐμὲ οὐ κενὴ ἐγενήθη, ἀλλὰ περισσότερον αὐτῶν πάντων ἐκοπίασα, οὐκ ἐγὼ δὲ ἀλλὰ ἡ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ [ἡ] σὺν ἐμοί. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain, but I worked harder than all of them, though not I but the grace of God with me.
11. εἴτε οὖν ἐγὼ εἴτε ἐκεῖνοι, οὕτως κηρύσσομεν καὶ οὕτως ἐπιστεύσατε. Therefore whether I or they, in this way we preached and in this way you believed.


  • Begins with resurrection of Jesus to prove general resurrection
  • Not response to Corinthian letter (no περὶ δὲ), but to what some are saying (15:12), perhaps reported by Chloe’s people.
  • Deferred discussion until end
    • Climactic effect?
    • Bookends of Cross (1:18-2:5) and Resurrection (15)
  • Preaching of resurrection is at foundation of kerygma – Paul’s and everyone else’s!


  • γνορίζω reiterates earlier knowledge discussion – here is knowledge that matters.
  • τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ εὐανγγελισάμεν – deliberate, emphatic repetition of cognate words.
  • παρελάβετε – tradition language (cf. 15:3)
  • σῴζεσθε – present tense, indicates continuing faith
  • τίνι λόγῳ εὐηγγελισάμην – further repetition of εὐαγγελιζω verb
  • εἰ κατέχετε, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ εἰκῇ ἐπιστεύσατε – underlines urgency; not holding to this gospel = believing in vain.


  • Language of tradition (cf. 11:23)
  • ἐν πρώτοις – ‘first in importance’ or ‘first in time’ – meaning is unaffected either way.


  • Content of tradition, probably in credal form.
  • Combination of ‘buried’ and ‘raised’ points to bodily resurrection.
  • Repetition of κατὰ τὰς γραφὰς indicates both events and significance are rooted in Scripture.
  • ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν – cf. Is. 53:8-9


  • May be part of credal formulation, but may also be start of Paul’s list of witnesses. If the latter, he presumably gives prominence to the authoritative witness of Peter.


  • Unanimous witness
  • ‘All the apostles’? Group distinct from 12, commissioned to be missionary witnesses.
  • Personal testimony -> defence of apostleship
  • ἐκτρώμα – premature birth – without benefit of normal preparation, such as was given to other apostles.


  • Defence – why interrupt such an important argument? Because of strength of attack.
  • Balanced hyperbolic claims – unworthiness, great labours, retraction of boasting.
  • Repeated ‘ἠ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ’.
  • οὐ κενή will be connected to belief in resurrection:
    • If Christ is not raised, our hope is in vain (14)
    • But because Christ has not been raised, our labour is not in vain (58)


  • Returns focus from proclaimer to proclamation.



  • ψευδομάρτυς – false witness
  • εἴπερ – if indeed, if after all, since
  • ματαίος – fruitless, worthless, useless
  • ἐλεεινός – pitiable, miserable


12. Εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς κηρύσσεται ὅτι ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγήγερται, πῶς λέγουσιν ἐν ὑμῖν τινες ὅτι ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν; But if Christ is preached, that he was raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13. εἰ δὲ ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται· If there is not a resurrection of the dead, neither was Christ raised.
14. εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, κενὸν ἄρα [καὶ] τὸ κήρυγμα ἡμῶν, κενὴ καὶ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν· And if Christ was not raised, then our preaching is empty and your faith is empty.
15. εὑρισκόμεθα δὲ καὶ ψευδομάρτυρες τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅτι ἐμαρτυρήσαμεν κατὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ὅτι ἤγειρεν τὸν Χριστόν, ὃν οὐκ ἤγειρεν εἴπερ ἄρα νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται. We are even found false witnesses of God, since we witnessed against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if after all it is true that the dead are not raised.
16. εἰ γὰρ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται· For if the dead are not raised, neither was Christ raised;
17. εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, ματαία ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν, ἔτι ἐστὲ ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν, And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins,
18. ἄρα καὶ οἱ κοιμηθέντες ἐν Χριστῷ ἀπώλοντο. And therefore the ones asleep in Christ have been destroyed.
19. εἰ ἐν τῇ ζωῇ ταύτῃ ἐν Χριστῷ ἠλπικότες ἐσμὲν μόνον, ἐλεεινότεροι πάντων ἀνθρώπων ἐσμέν. If only in this life in Christ we have hoped, we are the most pitiable of all people.



  • Any rejection of general resurrection is rejection of specific resurrection.
  • Appeal to logic


  • Logical chain
  • References to proclamation and faith reinforce vv. 1-2.
  • Implications for proclamation and faith picked up in v. 15 & vv. 17-18 respectively.
  • t.v.
    • ὑμῶν – earliest, most important witnesses. Required by context – ‘your faith’ correlates to ‘our preaching’. cf. v17
    • ἡμῶν – either itasticism or mechanical assimilation to previous ἡμῶν.
    • ὑμῶν, ἔτι ἐστὲ ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαισ ὑμων – only late miniscule support, and is either accidental (homoioteleuton) or a deliberate conflation with v. 17.
    • Thus ὑμῶν best accounts for the others.


  • Implication -> those who proclaim Christ’s resurrection must be liars – Paul, Peter & Apollos alike.
  • ψευδομάρτυρες τοῦ θεοῦ – objective rather than subjective genitive, thus ‘concerning God’.


  • Reiteration of v. 13, new logical chain/set of implications.


  • Not only is faith empty, but victory over sin is in doubt, because Jesus’ vindication is in doubt.
  • ματαίος and κενός are very similar.
    • κενός (BDAG) – ‘pert. to being devoid of intellectual, moral, or spiritual value’
    • ματαίος (BDAG) – ‘pert. to being of no use, idle, empty, fruitless, useless, powerless, lacking truth’
  • In sins is both personal (individual sins), and cosmic (under power of sin). N. B. plural of sins


  • Hope is gone for those both dead and alive.
  • ‘Those who have fallen asleep’ is drained of its hope.
  • μόνον modifies ἐν τῇ ζωῇ ταύτῃ rather than ἠλπικόντες ἐσμὲν, since the latter relies on a weaker meaning of hope than Paul’s usual use of ἐλπίζω. It is push to the end for emphasis.
  • Hyperbole? Dismisses joys and rewards of serving Christ in this life? cf. sacrifices of comfort, status & safety in vv. 30-32.
  • Genitives of comparison



  • ἀπαρχή, ἡ – first-fruits
  • ἐπειδή – since, since then
  • ζωοποιέω – I make alive, quicken
  • παραδιδοῖ – pres. subj 3 s. of παραδίδωμι
  • ἐχθρός, ὁ – enemy; adj. hostile
  • δῆλος – clear, evident
  • ἐκτός – except, outside


20. Νυνὶ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀπαρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμημένων. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of the ones who have fallen asleep.
21. ἐπειδὴ γὰρ δι᾿ ἀνθρώπου θάνατος, καὶ δι᾿ ἀνθρώπου ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν. For because through a man [there was] death, also through a man [there is] resurrection of the dead.
22. ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ πάντες ἀποθνῄσκουσιν, οὕτως καὶ ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ πάντες ζῳοποιηθήσονται. For just as in Adam all die, in this way also in Christ all will be made alive.
23. Ἕκαστος δὲ ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ τάγματι· ἀπαρχὴ Χριστός, ἔπειτα οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ, But each in his/her own order; Christ the firstfruits, then those of Christ at his appearing,
24. εἶτα τὸ τέλος, ὅταν παραδιδῷ τὴν βασιλείαν τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί, ὅταν καταργήσῃ πᾶσαν ἀρχὴν καὶ πᾶσαν ἐξουσίαν καὶ δύναμιν. Then the end, when he delivers the Kingdom to the one who is God and Father, when he destroys every rule and every authority and every power.
25. δεῖ γὰρ αὐτὸν βασιλεύειν ἄχρι οὗ θῇ πάντας τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. For it is necessary for him to rule him until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
26. ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος· The last enemy being destroyed [is] death.
27. πάντα γὰρ ὑπέταξεν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. ὅταν δὲ εἴπῃ ὅτι πάντα ὑποτέτακται, δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάξαντος αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. For he [i.e. God?] has subjected all things under his [i.e. Christ’s] feet. But when it says that every thing has been subjected, it is clear that the one subjecting all things to him is excepted.
28. ὅταν δὲ ὑποταγῇ αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, τότε [καὶ] αὐτὸς ὁ υἱὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς [τὰ] πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. But when all things are subjected to him, then the son himself will be subjected to the one who subjected all things to him, in order that God be all in all.


  • Reaffirmation of central truth: Christ has been raised.
  • Movement from negative consequences of denial to positive consequences of affirmation.


  • Νυνὶ δὲ – logical transition rather than chronological ‘now’.
  • ἀπαρχὴ – is Paul’s interpretation, suggesting Christ’s resurrection is not alone. Thiselton:
    • First in time
    • Representative
    • Contains promise of more to come


  • ἀνθρώπου – ‘man’ rather than generic ‘human’ because of the Adam/Christ analogy that follows.
  • Corporate solidarity: being in Christ leads to resurrection as being in Adam leads to death.
  • Second-Adam Christology.
  • ζωοποιηθήσονται – suggestive of God’s creative power.
  • πάντες – those who have responded in faith to the proclamation of vv. 1-11.
  • Translation of ανθρωπου – generic ‘human’ or the ‘men’ of following discussion?


  • Return to language of firstfruits.
  • Guards against over-realised eschatology, by pointing out necessary sequence of events.
  • Reminder of promise of future resurrection.


  • Victory over death placed in context of larger triumph, now in process of being brought about.
  • Uses language from Ps 110:1 and Ps 8:6.
  • Reminder that since death is still present, final consummation has not yet occurred.


  • Christ, as representative firstfruits, acknowledges the kingship of God the Father so the eternal kingdom is undivided. This is the fulfilment of the Messiah’s work.
  • ὁ ὑιὸς / ὁ θεὸς – it is ‘the Son’ who subjects himself to the one who subjected all things to him.
    • Not only commenting on earthly, but heavenly relationship between them.
    • It is ὁ θεὸς who reigns, meaning perhaps that Christ’s reign is not swallowed up but perfected in universal rule of trinitarian God.



  • ὁλως – actually, w. neg. not at all
  • κινδθνεύω – be in danger, run a risk
  • καθ᾽ ἡμέραν – daily
  • νή – particle of affirmation, by my pride in you
  • ὑμέτερος – your
  • καύχησις, ἡ – boasting, pride
  • θηριομαχέω – I fight with wild beasts
  • ὀφελος, τό – benefit, profit
  • αὔριον – adv. tomorrow
  • πλανάω – Ι deceive, lead astray
  • φθείρω – I corrupt, destroy
  • ἦθος, τό – custom, manner, habit
  • χρηστός – good, pleasant, kind
  • ὁμιλία – company, association
  • ἐκνήφω – I become sober, come to my senses
  • ἀγνωσία, ἡ – ignorance
  • ἐντροπή – shame, humiliation


29. Ἐπεὶ τί ποιήσουσιν οἱ βαπτιζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν; εἰ ὅλως νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, τί καὶ βαπτίζονται ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν; Then what will the ones baptising on behalf of the dead do? If the dead are not raised at all, why are they being baptised on behalf of the dead?
30. Τί καὶ ἡμεῖς κινδυνεύομεν πᾶσαν ὥραν; And why do we endanger ourselves every hour?
31. καθ᾿ ἡμέραν ἀποθνῄσκω, νὴ τὴν ὑμετέραν καύχησιν, [ἀδελφοί], ἣν ἔχω ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν. I die every day, by my glorying in you [cf. Thiselton, 1250-1], brothers [and sisters], which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord.
32. εἰ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ἐθηριομάχησα ἐν Ἐφέσῳ, τί μοι τὸ ὄφελος; εἰ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, φάγωμεν καὶ πίωμεν, αὔριον γὰρ ἀποθνῄσκομεν. If I fought wild animals in Ephesus according to a human [standard? reason?], what gain to me? If the dead are not raised, we [should?] eat and we drink, for tomorrow we will die.
33. μὴ πλανᾶσθε·

φθείρουσιν ἤθη χρηστὰ ὁμιλίαι κακαί.

Do not be deceived; Evil company corrupts kind morals.
34. ἐκνήψατε δικαίως καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε, ἀγνωσίαν γὰρ θεοῦ τινες ἔχουσιν, πρὸς ἐντροπὴν ὑμῖν λαλῶ. Sober up properly and stop sinning. For some have ignorance of God. I speak to you for shame.


  • Return to consequences of not believing in resurrection (cf. 13-19).
  • Exposes two practices that don’t make sense unless there is a resurrection: baptism for the dead and suffering for the sake of the gospel. Finally, exhortation to sober up and stop sinning.


  • ad hominem argument
  • Options for the practice:
    • Vicarious baptism for unbelievers- Paul doesn’t challenge because of higher priorities.
    • Vicarious baptism for believers who had not been baptised.
    • One’s own baptism, motivated in part by desire to be reunited with beloved believers.
    • τῶν νεκρῶν is metaphorical, referring to oneself dead in sins.


  • Paul appeals to own example
  • κινδνεύω appears only here in Paul, but cognate noun occurs 8 times in 2 Cor 11:26, so that could be considered an amplification.
  • Shift from “we” to “I” and from literal danger language to hyperbole of daily death.
  • t.v. inclusion or omission of ἀδελφοί.
    • External support is fairly evenly divided, with
      • Some early Alexandrian sources (א A B…) favour inclusion
      • P46 and later western sources omit
    • Internal evidence is that inclusion would be consistent with Pauline usage, particularly in such a solemn asseveration. cf. similar assimilation in 11:2 (but only in NA27 + Metzger, Textual Commentary as UBS4 does not include this variant).
  • Possible reference to Acts 19:28-32. i.e. metaphorical usage of ἐθηριομάχησα.
  • cf. Isaiah 22:12-13


  • Moral exhortation – μὴ πλανᾶσθε often introduces these.
  • ὁμιλίαι can mean ‘conversation’. Misleading talk about no resurrection can lead to immoral behaviour.
  • cf. connection between Corinthians’ worldliness and lack of theological perspective in 4:8-13.
  • Quotation from Menander.
  • ἀγνωσίαν – dig at ‘knowledge’ party?



  • ἐρεῖ – fut. of λέγω
  • ποῖος – of what kind or sort
  • ἄφρων – without reason, senseless, foolish
  • ζωοποιέω – make alive, quicken
  • γυμνός – bare, naked
  • κόκκος, ὁ – grain
  • τυγχάνω – happen, chance, impers.
    • εἰ τύχοι – it may be, perhaps.
  • σῖτος, ὁ – wheat, grain
  • κτῆνος, τό – domesticated animal
  • πτηνός, τό – winged; subst. bird
  • ἐπουράνιος – heavenly
  • ἐπίγειος – earthly
  • ἥλιος – sun
  • σελήνη, ἡ – moon
  • διαφέρω – differ


35. Ἀλλὰ ἐρεῖ τις· πῶς ἐγείρονται οἱ νεκροί; ποίῳ δὲ σώματι ἔρχονται; But someone will say, “How are the dead raised?” or “With what body do they come?”
36. ἄφρων, σὺ ὃ σπείρεις, οὐ ζῳοποιεῖται ἐὰν μὴ ἀποθάνῃ· Foolishness! That which you sow is not made alive if it has not died.
37. καὶ ὃ σπείρεις, οὐ τὸ σῶμα τὸ γενησόμενον σπείρεις ἀλλὰ γυμνὸν κόκκον εἰ τύχοι σίτου ἤ τινος τῶν λοιπῶν· And the thing which is sown, it is not the body which will be that is sown but a naked seed, perhaps of grain or something else.
38. ὁ δὲ θεὸς δίδωσιν αὐτῷ σῶμα καθὼς ἠθέλησεν, καὶ ἑκάστῳ τῶν σπερμάτων ἴδιον σῶμα. But God gives it a body just as he has willed, and to each [kind] of seed[s] its own body.
39. Οὐ πᾶσα σὰρξ ἡ αὐτὴ σὰρξ ἀλλὰ ἄλλη μὲν ἀνθρώπων, ἄλλη δὲ σὰρξ κτηνῶν, ἄλλη δὲ σὰρξ πτηνῶν, ἄλλη δὲ ἰχθύων. Not all flesh is the same flesh but some of humans, another flesh of animals, another flesh of birds, another of fish.
40. καὶ σώματα ἐπουράνια, καὶ σώματα ἐπίγεια· ἀλλὰ ἑτέρα μὲν ἡ τῶν ἐπουρανίων δόξα, ἑτέρα δὲ ἡ τῶν ἐπιγείων. And [there is] a heavenly body, and an earthly body; but other [is] the glory of the heavenly, another [is] the [glory] of the earthly.
41. ἄλλη δόξα ἡλίου, καὶ ἄλλη δόξα σελήνης, καὶ ἄλλη δόξα ἀστέρων· ἀστὴρ γὰρ ἀστέρος διαφέρει ἐν δόξῃ. Other [is] the glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon and another glory of the stars; for a star differs from stars in glory.



  • Objections to resurrection, in form of questions. Evidence that the objections were to bodily resurrection.


  • Rebuke – σύ probably belongs with ἄφρων rather than ὃ σπείρεις, since the emphasis makes more sense this way.
  • ‘Fool’ in OT sense – one who ‘says in his/her heart: “There is no God”‘ (Ps. 14:1).
    • cf. Mk 12:24-27 – there it is ignorance of the Scriptures and the power of God that leads to error about the resurrection. Incidentally, Mark also uses the verb πλανᾶσθε found in v. 33 above.
  • εἰ τύχοι is aorist optative of τυγχάνω, literally ‘if it should so happen’, and introduces list of examples.


  • Both conclusion and bridge to following analogy.
  • Variation in tenses from δίδωσιν (‘God gives’) to ἠθέλησεν (‘he willed’) may suggest difference between providential activity and creation design.


  • Variety of bodies, each suited to its environment. Thus, if we expect the environment to be different at the resurrection, so too will the bodies provided be.
  • σώματα ἐπουράνια – sun, moon and stars or heavenly beings? Perhaps both, with transition from one to the other between 41 and 42.
  • Both present and future body have their own glory; neither should be despised.



  • φθορά, ἡ – corruption, dissolution
  • ἀφθαρσια, ἡ – incorruptibility, immortality
  • ἀτιμία, ἡ – dishonour
  • ζωοποιέω – make alive, quicken
  • χοïκός – earthly, made of dust
  • οἷος – of what sort, (such) as
  • φορέω – bear constantly, wear
  • κληρονομέω – I inherit


42. Οὕτως καὶ ἡ ἀνάστασις τῶν νεκρῶν. σπείρεται ἐν φθορᾷ, ἐγείρεται ἐν ἀφθαρσίᾳ· In this way also the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruptibility.
43. σπείρεται ἐν ἀτιμίᾳ, ἐγείρεται ἐν δόξῃ· σπείρεται ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ, ἐγείρεται ἐν δυνάμει· It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
44. σπείρεται σῶμα ψυχικόν, ἐγείρεται σῶμα πνευματικόν. Εἰ ἔστιν σῶμα ψυχικόν, ἔστιν καὶ πνευματικόν. It is sown an unspiritual body, it is raised a spiritual body. If it is an unspiritual body, it is also a spiritual.
45. οὕτως καὶ γέγραπται· ἐγένετο ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος Ἀδὰμ εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν, ὁ ἔσχατος Ἀδὰμ εἰς πνεῦμα ζῳοποιοῦν. And so it is written: The first man, Adam became an unspiritual living one, the last Adam a life-giving spirit.
46. ἀλλ᾿ οὐ πρῶτον τὸ πνευματικὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ ψυχικόν, ἔπειτα τὸ πνευματικόν. But not spiritual [was] not first but the unspiritual, then the spiritual.
47. ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος ἐκ γῆς χοϊκός, ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθρωπος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ. The first man [was] from the earth, made of earth; the second man from heaven.
48. οἷος ὁ χοϊκός, τοιοῦτοι καὶ οἱ χοϊκοί, καὶ οἷος ὁ ἐπουράνιος, τοιοῦτοι καὶ οἱ ἐπουράνιοι· As the one made of earth, so also the ones made of earth; and as the heavenly one, so also the heavenly ones.
49. καὶ καθὼς ἐφορέσαμεν τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ χοϊκοῦ, φορέσομεν καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ ἐπουρανίου. And just as we have borne the image of the one made of earth, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.
50. Τοῦτο δέ φημι, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα βασιλείαν θεοῦ κληρονομῆσαι οὐ δύναται οὐδὲ ἡ φθορὰ τὴν ἀφθαρσίαν κληρονομεῖ. I say this, brothers [and sisters]: flesh and blood are not able to inherit the kingdom of God, nor the perishable to inherit the imperishable.



  • Paul applies analogies of seed and different kinds of bodies.
  • Asserts existence of resurrection body, but it differs from present body:
    • imperishable
    • (more) glorious
    • powerful
    • spiritual – although not reflecting Greek dualism but biblical eschatology i.e. a body governed by the Spirit.
  • σῶμα indicates totality of integrated self


  • Basis for expectation is double solidarity with Adam (present, ψυχικός, life) and Christ (πνευματικὀς life).
  • Citation of Gen 2:7 likens resurrection of Christ to giving life to Adam.


  • Paul reasserts necessary ordering of events, perhaps over against ‘over-realised’ eschatology.


  • More likely refers to nature than origin.


  • Application: as we have shared in Adam’s earthly nature, so in Christ we shall share his heavenly nature.
  • t.v. φορέσομεν (‘we shall bear’) vs. φορέσωμεν (‘let us bear’).
    • External evidence favours the latter, harder reading of hortatory subjunctive. Thus, let destiny govern present life.
    • UBS4 editors preferred indicative because the context is not hortatory.
  • οἷος and τοιοῦτος work together as qualitative correlative adjectives – “as… so also”.


  • Conclusion: It is ridiculous to reject resurrection on false assumption of unchanged body; the kingdom requires transformation.



  • ἀλλάσσω – I transform, change
  • ἄτομος – subst. moment; indivisible
  • ῥιπή, ἡ – twinkling, rapid movement
  • σάλπιγξ, ἡ – trumpet
  • σαλπίζω – I sound a trumpet
  • θνητός – subject to death, mortal
  • ἀθανασία – immortality
  • καταπίνω – drink down, swallow
  • νῖκος, τό – victory
  • ἐδραῖος – steadfast, firm
  • ἀμετακίνητος – immovable, firm
  • περισσεύω – abound
  • κόπος, ὁ – toil, labour; trouble
  • κενός – vain, without result


51. ἰδοὺ μυστήριον ὑμῖν λέγω· πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα, πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησόμεθα, Behold I tell you a mystery: not all will sleep, but all will be changed.
52. ἐν ἀτόμῳ, ἐν ῥιπῇ ὀφθαλμοῦ, ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ σάλπιγγι· σαλπίσει γὰρ καὶ οἱ νεκροὶ ἐγερθήσονται ἄφθαρτοι καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀλλαγησόμεθα. In a moment, in the blink of an eye, in/at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed.
53. Δεῖ γὰρ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀθανασίαν. For it is necessary for this perishable [body] to put on imperishable and this mortal [body] to put on immortality.
54. ὅταν δὲ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀθανασίαν, τότε γενήσεται ὁ λόγος ὁ γεγραμμένος·

κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος.

When the this perishable [body] puts on imperishability and this mortal [body] puts on immortality, then will happen the word which is written:

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

55. ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ νῖκος;

ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ κέντρον;

O death, where [is] your victory?

O death, where [is] your sting?

56. τὸ δὲ κέντρον τοῦ θανάτου ἡ ἁμαρτία, ἡ δὲ δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ νόμος· The sting of death [is] sin, and the power of sin [is] the law.
57. τῷ δὲ θεῷ χάρις τῷ διδόντι ἡμῖν τὸ νῖκος διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. But thanks to God, the one giving to us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.
58. Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί, ἑδραῖοι γίνεσθε, ἀμετακίνητοι, περισσεύοντες ἐν τῷ ἔργῳ τοῦ κυρίου πάντοτε, εἰδότες ὅτι ὁ κόπος ὑμῶν οὐκ ἔστιν κενὸς ἐν κυρίῳ. Thus, my beloved brothers [and sisters], be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, having known that your work is not empty in the Lord.



  • From argument, Paul now turns to praise and encouragement.
  • Opening words draw attention to importance, but may also imply against human expectation.
    • God’s great creative act on the last day.
    • Some see this as a development in Paul’s theology, because of formula of proclamation of something new.
  • FIXME: t. v.?


  • Reiterates contrast between two kinds of body, two orders of existence, and thus need for great change.
  • Juxtaposition of Isaiah 25:6-10a & Hos 13:14
    • In both cases, νῖκος is substituted -> Song of triumph, celebrating Christ’s victory over death.
  • FIXME: t. v. ?


  • Explanation of 55.
  • First half extends triumphing in Christ’s victory over sin. Also a reminder that if Christ has not been raised, there is no victory and they are still in their sins (15:17).


  • Doxology – thanks is given for triumph, and declares, once again, agency of Christ in bringing that about.


  • From celebration to exhortation.
  • ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί – intensification of normal hortatory form of address.
  • ἐν τῷ ἔργῳ τοῦ κυρίου – work of building up people of God (cf. 3:10-15; 9:1).
  • Comparison to that which is ματαίος and κενός in 10, 14, 17. (cf. also Eccl, where everything is meaningless (LXX ματαιότης).

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1 Corinthians 14: Translation and exegesis notes

by on Nov.19, 2009, under Exegesis notes, Translation

1 Corinthians 14



  • παραμυθία, ἡ – comfort, consolation
  • διερμηνεύω – I interpret, translate


1. Διώκετε τὴν ἀγάπην, ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ πνευματικά, μᾶλλον δὲ ἵνα προφητεύητε.

Pursue love, and eagerly desire the spiritual [gifts], especially that you may prophesy.

2. ὁ γὰρ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ οὐκ ἀνθρώποις λαλεῖ ἀλλὰ θεῷ· οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἀκούει, πνεύματι δὲ λαλεῖ μυστήρια·

For the one speaking in a tongue speaks not to men and women but to God; for noone hears, but in the Spirit that one speaks mysteries.

3. ὁ δὲ προφητεύων ἀνθρώποις λαλεῖ οἰκοδομὴν καὶ παράκλησιν καὶ παραμυθίαν.

But the one prophesying to men and women speaks [words of] building up and encouragement and comfort.

4. ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ ἑαυτὸν οἰκοδομεῖ· ὁ δὲ προφητεύων ἐκκλησίαν οἰκοδομεῖ.

The one speaking in a tongue builds up himself; but the one prophesying builds up the church.

5. θέλω δὲ πάντας ὑμᾶς λαλεῖν γλώσσαις, μᾶλλον δὲ ἵνα προφητεύητε· μείζων δὲ ὁ προφητεύων ἢ ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσαις ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ διερμηνεύῃ, ἵνα ἡ ἐκκλησία οἰκοδομὴν λάβῃ.

I want all of you to speak in tongues, but especially that you prophesy; greater [is] the one prophesying than the one speaking in tongues, except if someone interprets, in order that the church receives edification.


  • Practical application.
  • Primacy of love, and right view of spiritual gifts as related to gatherings.
  • Priority of prophecy over tongues, based on guiding principle of building up (which shapes entire chapter).


  • Summary of 13 (pursue love) but combined with 12:31 (Inclusio)
  • Reiterates encouragement of 12:31.


  • Contrast two gifts.
  • Tongues are positive – offered to God – but prophecy is better in context of gathering.
  • Is self-edification positive or negative?
    • Thiselton (tentative) argues negative, i.e. building up status and ego. But this is only for untranslated tongues in assembly
  • 3 terms in v. 3 are cumulative, stressing beneficial character of prophecy.
  • Witherington, on implications of tongues being to God:
    • Not human, but special prayer language
    • Tongues + interpretation != prophecy (praise ->
      God not exhortation -> people)


  • Surprising, given Paul’s statements about diversity in ch. 12. Perhaps he desires that they all receive the benefit, although aware that God does not give gift to all.
  • Prophecy to be valued in the gathering, although interpreted tongues also to be valued.



  • ὠφελέω – I profit, help, benefit
  • ὅμως – likewise; nevertheless, yet
  • ἄψυχος – inanimate, lifeless
  • αὐλος, ὁ – flute
  • κιθάρα – harp
  • διαστολή, ἡ – distinction, difference
  • φθόγγος, ὁ – sound
  • αὐλεω – I play the flute
  • κιθαρίζω – I play the harp or lyre
  • ἄδηλος – uncertain, indistinct
  • σάλπιγξ, ἡ – trumpet
  • παρασκευάζω – I prepare
  • πόλεμος, ὁ – war
  • εὔσημος – clear, distinct
  • ἀήρ, ὁ – air
  • τοσοῦτος – so many, so great, so much
  • τύχοι – aor. opt. of τυγχάνω meet, happen
    • εἰ τύχοι – perhaps
  • ζηλωτής, ὁ – zealot, enthusiast
  • περισσεύω – I abound, overflow


6. Νῦν δέ, ἀδελφοί, ἐὰν ἔλθω πρὸς ὑμᾶς γλώσσαις λαλῶν, τί ὑμᾶς ὠφελήσω ἐὰν μὴ ὑμῖν λαλήσω ἢ ἐν ἀποκαλύψει ἢ ἐν γνώσει ἢ ἐν προφητείᾳ ἢ [ἐν] διδαχῇ;

But now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I benefit you if I do not speak to you either in revelation or en knowledge or in prophecy or [in] teaching?

7. ὅμως τὰ ἄψυχα φωνὴν διδόντα, εἴτε αὐλὸς εἴτε κιθάρα, ἐὰν διαστολὴν τοῖς φθόγγοις μὴ δῷ, πῶς γνωσθήσεται τὸ αὐλούμενον ἢ τὸ κιθαριζόμενον;

Likewise, the lifeless things giving a sound, either flute or harp, if it does not give distinct sound, how will what is played on the flute or played on the harp be made intelligible?

8. καὶ γὰρ ἐὰν ἄδηλον σάλπιγξ φωνὴν δῷ, τίς παρασκευάσεται εἰς πόλεμον;

Indeed, if a trumpet gives an indistinct sound, who will prepare themselves for war?

9. οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς διὰ τῆς γλώσσης ἐὰν μὴ εὔσημον λόγον δῶτε, πῶς γνωσθήσεται τὸ λαλούμενον; ἔσεσθε γὰρ εἰς ἀέρα λαλοῦντες.

Likewise with you, by means of the tongue, if you do not give an intelligible word, how will the one speaking be made intelligible? For you will be speaking into air.

10. τοσαῦτα εἰ τύχοι [2aor opt] γένη φωνῶν εἰσιν ἐν κόσμῳ καὶ οὐδὲν ἄφωνον·

If it may happen that there are many different sounds in the world and none are unsounded;

11. ἐὰν οὖν μὴ εἰδῶ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς φωνῆς, ἔσομαι τῷ λαλοῦντι βάρβαρος καὶ ὁ λαλῶν ἐν ἐμοὶ βάρβαρος.

Therefore if I do not know the power of the sound, I will be a foreigner/barbarian to the one speaking and the one speaking foreign to me.

12. οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς, ἐπεὶ ζηλωταί ἐστε πνευμάτων, πρὸς τὴν οἰκοδομὴν τῆς ἐκκλησίας ζητεῖτε ἵνα περισσεύητε.

So it is with you, since you are zealous of spirits, seek to abound towards the building up of the church.



  • Hypothetical question
  • First person
    • Rhetorical device, to invite participation?
    • Reference to his own practice?
    • Reference to his impending arrival?
  • List is intended to cover all understandable utterance, hence no point trying to divide between elements.


  • Analogy: flute, harp & trumpet
    • Intended to convey a message – sound is meaningful
    • Message requires distinction/clarity in order to be understood
    • Trumpet heightens the urgency


  • Analogy is applied
  • εὔσημον is parallel to ἄδηλον in v. 8 and γνωσθήσεται τὸ λαλούμενον is parallel to γνωσθήσεται το αὐλούμενον ἢ τὸ κιθαριζόμενον in v. 7.
  • ‘By means of a tongue’ rather than ‘in a tongue’.


  • Further analogy – compared with speaking in unknown language.
    • Is it an analogy? If Paul can use foreign language as analogy it reinforces argument that ‘tongues’ are not real human languages.
  • τοσαῦτα… γένη – ‘so many kinds of’
  • εἰ τύχοι – 2nd aor. opt. of τυγκάνω
    • ‘it may be that…’ or ‘if one were to count them’
    • Signals protasis to the apodosis of οὐδὲν ἄφωνον?
    • cf. Psalm 19:3, where there is a similar ambiguity.
  • v. 11 makes point clear: every language makes some sort of noise, but if it is not understood it is meaningless
  • Analogy effective in cosmopolitan Corinth


  • Conclusion: give priority to building up the church
  • πνεῦματα
    • ‘Spiritual things/gifts’?
    • Zeal to excel in their possession of ‘spirits’ that they can tap into in worship?



  • διερμηνεύω – I interpret,
  • ἄκαρπος – unfruitful
  • ψάλλω – I sing, sing praise
  • ἀναπληροω – I fill, fulfill
  • ἰδιώτης, ὁ – layman; ungifted person
  • σός – your
  • μύριοι – ten thousand
  • φρήν, ἡ – thinking, understanding
  • κακία, ἡ – evil, wickedness
  • νηπιάζω – I am a child
  • χεῖλος, τό – lip
  • εἰσακούω – I obey, hear
  • μαίνομαι – I am mad, out of my mind
  • ἐλέγχω – I reprove, convict
  • κρυπτός – hidden
  • ὀντως – truly, indeed, really


13. Διὸ ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ προσευχέσθω ἵνα διερμηνεύῃ.

Therefore, let the one speaking in a tongue  pray that he/she may interpret.

14. ἐὰν [γὰρ] προσεύχωμαι γλώσσῃ, τὸ πνεῦμά μου προσεύχεται, ὁ δὲ νοῦς μου ἄκαρπός ἐστιν.

[For] if praying in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.

15. τί οὖν ἐστιν; προσεύξομαι τῷ πνεύματι, προσεύξομαι δὲ καὶ τῷ νοΐ· ψαλῶ τῷ πνεύματι, ψαλῶ δὲ καὶ τῷ νοΐ.

Therefore what is it [that I shall do]? I will pray in the Spirit, but I will pray also in the mind; I will sing in the Spirit, but I will also sing in the mind.

16. ἐπεὶ ἐὰν εὐλογῇς [ἐν] πνεύματι, ὁ ἀναπληρῶν τὸν τόπον τοῦ ἰδιώτου πῶς ἐρεῖ τὸ ἀμὴν ἐπὶ τῇ σῇ εὐχαριστίᾳ; ἐπειδὴ τί λέγεις οὐκ οἶδεν·

Since if you praise in Spirit, how will the one filling the place of the uninitiated say, ‘Amen,’ concerning your prayer, since he does not know what you are saying?

17. σὺ μὲν γὰρ καλῶς εὐχαριστεῖς ἀλλ᾿ ὁ ἕτερος οὐκ οἰκοδομεῖται.

For you are giving thanks well, but the other one is not built up.

18. Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ, πάντων ὑμῶν μᾶλλον γλώσσαις λαλῶ·

I give thanks to God [that] I speak in tongues more than all of you;

19. ἀλλὰ ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ θέλω πέντε λόγους τῷ νοΐ μου λαλῆσαι, ἵνα καὶ ἄλλους κατηχήσω, ἢ μυρίους λόγους ἐν γλώσσῃ.

But in the church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order that I may instruct another, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

20. Ἀδελφοί, μὴ παιδία γίνεσθε ταῖς φρεσὶν ἀλλὰ τῇ κακίᾳ νηπιάζετε, ταῖς δὲ φρεσὶν τέλειοι γίνεσθε.

Brothers [and sisters], do not be children in thinking but be infants in evil, and in thinking be mature.

21. ἐν τῷ νόμῳ γέγραπται ὅτι

ἐν ἑτερογλώσσοις καὶ ἐν χείλεσιν ἑτέρων λαλήσω τῷ λαῷ τούτῳ

καὶ οὐδ᾿ οὕτως εἰσακούσονταί μου, λέγει κύριος.

In the Law it has been written, “In other tongues and in other lips I will speak to this people, and not even thus will they hear me,” says the Lord.

22. ὥστε αἱ γλῶσσαι εἰς σημεῖόν εἰσιν οὐ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἀπίστοις, ἡ δὲ προφητεία οὐ τοῖς ἀπίστοις ἀλλὰ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν.

Thus tongues are not a sign for believers but for unbelievers, and the prophecies not for unbelievers but for believers.

23. Ἐὰν οὖν συνέλθῃ ἡ ἐκκλησία ὅλη ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ καὶ πάντες λαλῶσιν γλώσσαις, εἰσέλθωσιν δὲ ἰδιῶται ἢ ἄπιστοι, οὐκ ἐροῦσιν ὅτι μαίνεσθε;

Therefore if the whole church gathers in the same [place] and all are speaking in tongues at the same time, and an uninitiate enters or an unbeliever, will they not say you are insane?

24. ἐὰν δὲ πάντες προφητεύωσιν, εἰσέλθῃ δέ τις ἄπιστος ἢ ἰδιώτης, ἐλέγχεται ὑπὸ πάντων, ἀνακρίνεται ὑπὸ πάντων,

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or uninitiate enters, he is convicted by all, judged by all,

25. τὰ κρυπτὰ τῆς καρδίας αὐτοῦ φανερὰ γίνεται, καὶ οὕτως πεσὼν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον προσκυνήσει τῷ θεῷ ἀπαγγέλλων ὅτι ὄντως ὁ θεὸς ἐν ὑμῖν ἐστιν.

The hidden things of his heart will become revealed, and in this way, falling upon the face he will pray to God, declaring that God is really among you.



  • διὸ indicates that 13 is application of 12
  • Don’t discard tongues, but desire edification of hearers.
  • προσευχέσθω – 3rd imperative
  • διερμηνεύω – more than translate, perhaps ‘put into words’


  • Tongues without interpretation of no benefit, because speaker doesn’t understand their own words – the ‘barren’ mind yields no fruit.
  • ‘My spirit’ need not be explicitly defined – the important thing is the contrast with ‘my mind/understanding’.


  • Sets scene for 16ff.
  • Public praying and singing.
  • Referring to himself hypothetically in place of tongues-speaker.
  • Parallel usage of pr
    aying/singing: singing in tongues?


  • Example: thanksgiving prayer calls for others to join in, but they can’t unless they understand.
  • ἐπει (‘since’) here seems to function with an implied ‘otherwise…’
  • ‘In the position of’
    • Literal?
    • Figurative?
  • ἰδιώτης? – ‘uninitiate’


  • Paul desires that all present should understand and thus have opportunity to be built up.
  • εὐχαριστεῖς – indicative, Paul not casting doubt on belief that one who speaks is genuinely giving thanks to God.


  • Priority of intelligibility in the assembly
  • Uses first person
    • State personal practice, calling on them to emulate
    • Confirms Paul’s own practice of often speaking in tongues, but in private. Possibly Paul was disrespected because of apparent lack of this gift.
  • ἢ in last clause implies a μᾶλλον in previous clause (‘[rather]… than’).


  • Fresh address (Ἀδελφοί) prepares way for what follows
  • Present tense prohibition (μὴ παιδία γίνεσθε) ‘stop being children’ rather than ‘stop becoming…’.


  • Selective quotation from Is 28:11f.
  • Sound of foreign language is work of God’s judgment on Israel for not listening to his voice.


  • Tongues a sign for unbelievers, prophecy a sign for believers
    • Tongues place believers/unbelievers alike in position of unbelievers, not understanding God, whereas prophecy brings grace -> Corinthians should seek way of grace.


  • Hyperbolic situation, with all in one place, all speaking in tongues
  • Outsiders/uninitiates (ἰδιῶται) and unbelievers (ἄπιστοι) enter.
    • Different/same? Perhaps unbaptised enquirers and total unbelievers respectively.
  • Perceived as ‘out of one’s mind’, thus left in judgement. cf. Acts 2, where tongues were human


  • On the other hand, hearing intelligible prophecy may lead to positive result.
  • If 2 categories in 23, Paul seems particularly concerned about unbelievers.



  • ψαλμός, ὁ – song of praise, psalm
  • πλεῖστος – superl. of πολύς most
  • ἀνα μέρος – in turn
  • διερμηνευτής, ὁ – interpreter
  • σιγκάω – I am silent
  • διακρίνω – I judge, pass judgement
  • καθ᾽ ἕνα – one by one
  • μανθάνω – I learn
  • ἀκαταστασία – disorder, confusion


26. Τί οὖν ἐστιν, ἀδελφοί; ὅταν συνέρχησθε, ἕκαστος ψαλμὸν ἔχει, διδαχὴν ἔχει, ἀποκάλυψιν ἔχει, γλῶσσαν ἔχει, ἑρμηνείαν ἔχει· πάντα πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν γινέσθω.

What then, brothers and sisters? Whenever you gather, each has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation; let them all happen for building up.

27. εἴτε γλώσσῃ τις λαλεῖ, κατὰ δύο ἢ τὸ πλεῖστον τρεῖς καὶ ἀνὰ μέρος, καὶ εἷς διερμηνευέτω·

If someone speaks in a tongue, according to two or at most three and upon part [turn?], and let someone interpret;

28. ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ᾖ διερμηνευτής, σιγάτω ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ, ἑαυτῷ δὲ λαλείτω καὶ τῷ θεῷ.

But if there is not an interpreter, let him be silent in church, or let him speak to himself and to God.

29. προφῆται δὲ δύο ἢ τρεῖς λαλείτωσαν καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι διακρινέτωσαν·

Let two or three prophets speak and let the others evaluate;

30. ἐὰν δὲ ἄλλῳ ἀποκαλυφθῇ καθημένῳ, ὁ πρῶτος σιγάτω.

But if it is revealed to another who is sitting, let the first be silent.

31. δύνασθε γὰρ καθ᾿ ἕνα πάντες προφητεύειν, ἵνα πάντες μανθάνωσιν καὶ πάντες παρακαλῶνται.

For you are all able according to one [singly?] to prophesy, in order that all may learn and all may be encouraged.

32. καὶ πνεύματα προφητῶν προφήταις ὑποτάσσεται,

And the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets,

33a. οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀκαταστασίας ὁ θεὸς ἀλλὰ εἰρήνης.

For God is not of confusion but of peace.


  • Call for orderly procedure in gatherings (theme for remainder of chapter)
    • ὑποτασσομαι (32, 34)
    • οὐκ… ἀκαταστασία… ἀλλὰ εἰρήνη (33)
    • εὐσχημόνως καὶ κατὰ τάξιν (40)
  • Order reflects character of God (33) and leads to edification (26, 31)
  • Garland’s breakdown:
    • General principle (26)
    • Applied to tongues (27-28)
    • Applied to prophecy (including weighing) (29-35)
      • Assumes 33b-36 not third sub-section relating to women speaking in assembly, but continuation of prophecy instructions.
    • Concluding injunction and restatement (36-40)


  • Rhetorical question introduces practical conclusions preceding arguments
  • Terms cannot be exactly defined, but seem to suggest contributions by members of assembly
  • Edification the key principle.


  • Three requirements for orderly exercise of tongues:
    • Limited number
    • One at a time
    • Interpretation
  • Does εἱς have numerical force (after δύο/τρεῖς)? i.e. single interpreter, separate from tongue-speaker
    • Not necessarily – may simply mean ‘a person’


  • Requirement for interpreter is emphasised as essential
  • No interpreter -> silence
    • At home?
    • ‘Under breath’?


  • Begins to regulate prophecy in similar fashion
  • Absence of conditional structure found in 27 and absence of ‘at most’ suggest Paul regards prophecy as essential element of gathering.
  • ‘Weighing’ is unclear, but at least indicates prophecy not unconditionally accepted.
  • ‘Others’ presumably whole congregation
    • Possibly ‘other prophets’, but this would negate responsibility Paul places on all to evaluate in 1 Thess 5:20-21. (cf. ‘discern all things’ 1 Cor 2:15).


  • There is a place for spontaneity
  • Repetition of ‘all’ serves to remind of Paul’s emphasis on community setting.
  • Desired effect is both instruction and encouragement.


  • Anticipated objection: Paul rejects idea that prophecy is involuntary (presumably also tongues, or else previous injunctions impractical).


  • Further reason for orderly gatherings: reflects nature of God.
  • ‘Peace’ is more than order – wholeness or well-being (shalom).



  • ἀκαταστασία, ἡ – disorder, confusion
  • σιγάω – be silent
  • ἐπιτρέπτω – I allow, permit
  • αἰσχρός – shameful, base
  • καταντάω – I come to, arrive, reach
  • ἀγνοέω – I do not recognize, disregard, do not know
  • ζηλόω – I strive, am jealous
  • κωλύω – I hinder
  • εὐσχημόνως – decently, becomingly; properly
  • τἀξις, ἡ – arrangement, order


33b. Ὡς ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῶν ἁγίων

As in all the c
hurches of the saints,

34. αἱ γυναῖκες ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις σιγάτωσαν· οὐ γὰρ ἐπιτρέπεται αὐταῖς λαλεῖν, ἀλλὰ ὑποτασσέσθωσαν, καθὼς καὶ ὁ νόμος λέγει.

Let women be silent in the churches; for it is not permitted for them to speak, but let them be subjected, as the Law also says.

35. εἰ δέ τι μαθεῖν θέλουσιν, ἐν οἴκῳ τοὺς ἰδίους ἄνδρας ἐπερωτάτωσαν· αἰσχρὸν γάρ ἐστιν γυναικὶ λαλεῖν ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ.

But if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husband in the home; for it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

36. ἢ ἀφ᾿ ὑμῶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθεν, ἢ εἰς ὑμᾶς μόνους κατήντησεν;

Or [was it] from you the word of God came, or into you alone it has arrived?

37. Εἴ τις δοκεῖ προφήτης εἶναι ἢ πνευματικός, ἐπιγινωσκέτω ἃ γράφω ὑμῖν ὅτι κυρίου ἐστὶν ἐντολή·

If anyone thinks to be a prophet or a spiritual one, let him recognise the things I am writing to you are a commandment of the Lord.

38. εἰ δέ τις ἀγνοεῖ, ἀγνοεῖται.

If anyone ignores, let him be ignored.

39. Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί [μου], ζηλοῦτε τὸ προφητεύειν καὶ τὸ λαλεῖν μὴ κωλύετε γλώσσαις·

Thus, my brothers and sisters, eagerly desire the [gift] to prophesy and do not forbid the [gift] to speak in tongues;

40. πάντα δὲ εὐσχημόνως καὶ κατὰ τάξιν γινέσθω.

But let all things become honestly and according to order.



  • Either third subsection concerning ‘ordering of women’ or continuation of instructions regarding prophecy, and the role played by women/wives.


  • Connected with preceding or following?
    • Some mss. show vv. 34-35 after v. 40.
    • Forms inclusio with v. 36.
    • Repetition of ἐν … ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις is awkward, but preferable to alternative.


  • Interpretation must be consistent with 11:2-16.
  • Placement here or after v. 40?
    • Later interpolation?
    • More likely simple scribal error, then corrected by adding to margin.
  • Silence
    • Within gathering.
    • Not absolute silence, otherwise 11:2
      -16, where women are described as praying/prophesying with head covered, would not make sense.
    • Disruptive speaking? Assumption that synagogue-seating, with women in separate part of room.
      • Pro: concern for speaking one at a time vv. 27, 31
      • Pro: general concern for order
      • Con: Unlikely modelled on synagogue.
      • Con: Paul gives instruction only to women.
    • When prophecy weighed
      • Something to do with submission of wives to husbands
      • Women or wives? Assumed they have their own husbands at home.
      • Submission to husband or to order established by God?
      • ‘Shame’?
        • Husband’s prophecy publicly examined by wife?
        • Intrinsic shamefulness? Or Greco-Roman social more? cf. ‘glory’ & ‘disgrace’ of 11:2-16.


  • Reinforce importance of heeding previous instruction.
  • Rebuke.


  • Rebukes arrogant pursuit of own way.
  • cf. 33b, and ‘all the churches’.
  • Primarily applicable to 34f., but also more widely applicable.


  • More specific rebuke of arrogance of those claiming to be ‘prophets’ or ‘spiritual’.
  • Textual variants for last couple of words are manifold, but not shown in UBS4.
  • Which things? Previous verse(s) or entire chapter?
    • Which would Paul be most defensive over?


  • Word play: ignores/ignored.
    • ἀγνοέω is negation of ‘I know’
    • ἐπιγνώσκω is an intensification.
  • Who ignores?
    • Passive indicative -> God
    • Third person active imperative -> community


  • Reiterate main points of chapter.
  • Prophecy is strongly endorsed (ζηλοῦτε), tongues less so (μὴ κωλύετε)
  • κατὰ τάξιν
    • Pragmatic – order within gathering
    • Theological – reflect God of order.

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1 Corinthians 13: Translation and exegesis notes

by on Nov.19, 2009, under Exegesis notes, Translation

1 Corinthians 13



  • χαλκός, ὁ – copper, brass (gong)
  • ἠχέω – I sound, ring out
  • κύμβαλον, τό – cymbal
  • ἀλαλαζω- I clash; cry out loudly
  • κἄν – and if, even if
  • μεθίστημι – remove
  • ψωμίζω – I feed, divide in small pieces, fritter
  • τὰ ὑπάρχοντα – one’s belongings
  • καίω – burn
  • ὠφελέω – help, benefit, profit
  • μακροθυμέω – I have patience
  • χρηστεύομαι – I am kind
  • ζηλόω – I am jealous; I strive
  • περπερεύομαι – I boast, brag
  • ἀσχημονέω – I behave disgracefully, dishonourably
  • παροξύνω – provoke to wrath, irritate
  • συγκαίρω – I rejoice together with
  • στέγω- I bear, endure
  • ὑπομένω – I bear, am steadfast, patient


1. Ἐὰν ταῖς γλώσσαις τῶν ἀνθρώπων λαλῶ καὶ τῶν ἀγγέλων, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, γέγονα χαλκὸς ἠχῶν ἢ κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον.

If I speak with the tongues of men [and women] and of angels, but don’t have love, I have become a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

2. καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω προφητείαν καὶ εἰδῶ τὰ μυστήρια πάντα καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γνῶσιν καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω πᾶσαν τὴν πίστιν ὥστε ὄρη μεθιστάναι, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐθέν εἰμι.

And if I have [the gift of] prophecy and I know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to move a mountain, but I do not have love, I am nobody.

3. κἂν ψωμίσω πάντα τὰ ὑπάρχοντά μου καὶ ἐὰν παραδῶ τὸ σῶμά μου ἵνα καυχήσωμαι, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐδὲν ὠφελοῦμαι.

And if I gave away all my possessions, and if I delivered my body in order that I might boast, but I do not have love, I gain nothing.

4. Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ, [ἡ ἀγάπη] οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται,

Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous, [love] does not brag, it does not cause conceit,

5. οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν,

It is not rude, it does not seek [the good] of itself, it does not suffer provocation, it does not consider [or keep a record of] evil,

6. οὐ χαίρει ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδικίᾳ, συγχαίρει δὲ τῇ ἀληθείᾳ·

It does not rejoice concerning unrighteousness, but rejoices together with the truth.

7. πάντα στέγει, πάντα πιστεύει, πάντα ἐλπίζει, πάντα ὑπομένει.

It bears all things, believes (trusts?) all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [Alternately, πάντα may be adverbial, i.e. ‘always bearing…’]


1-3 – ‘The Necessity of Love’

  • Applicable both at a personal and community level


  • Distinction between human & angelic tongues (angelic in emphatic position at the end)
    • Human eloquence vs. glossolalia
    • Difference of opinion amongst Corinthians re glossolalia – human or angelic? cf. Testament of Job 48-50, were a daughter of Job is said to speak ‘ecstatically in the angelic dialect’.
    • Reference to glossolalia + hyperbolic ‘even if they were the tongues of angels’. Paul uses angels as form of heightening elsewhere (1 Cor 4:9, 6:3; Gal 1:8)
  • ἀγάπη is not a precise term, but rather a colourless one taken up in LXX and NT.
  • χαλκὸς (brass gong) and κύμβαλον (cymbal) are both monotonic instruments. cf. flute & harp of 14:7-9. Used in mystery religions either to invoke a god or, drive away demons or rouse worshippers (Prior, 227-8).


  • Broadens his reference beyond tongues to other types of giftedness. Intensifies it to hypothetically extreme degree.
  • Echo language of Jesus in Mk 11:23


  • Further broadening to encompass laudable and self-sacrificing action:
    • Charitable giving
    • ??
  • t.v. καυχήσωμαι (‘boast’ or ‘glory’) vs. καυθήσομαι (‘be burnt’)
    • Selling oneself into slavery (literal or metaphorical??), an intensification of previous giving. But for one’s own glory rather than love for others.
      • PRO: Early and reliable early evidence
      • PRO: Harder reading
      • PRO: Transcriptional evidence – scribes more likely to try and improve the sense by substituting similar sounding word
      • PRO: 35 other uses in Pauline corpus
      • CON: PRO: Internal evidence, for no need to declare boasting or glorying worthless – ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω becomes superfluous. Although, Paul doesn’t necessarily consider ‘glorying’ to be bad cf. 15:31.
    • Martyrdom by fire
      • PRO: Impressive number of witnesses
      • CON: Martyrdom more likely to have crept in in later era, when death by fire was more common.
      • CON: would expect, as more natural expression, ἵνα καυθῇ (‘that it may be burnt’) or ἱνα + subjunctive.
  • ‘Gain nothing’ instead of ‘am nothing’ – shift may not be significant, but if it is, it could be addressing Jewish ideas of gaining credit with God by unusually good acts.

4-7 – ‘The Character of Love’

  • Definition of ἀγάπη.
  • Unbroken series of verbs – love is known by how it acts
    • All present continuous, denoting habitual action (Prior, 229-30).


  • Both passive (μακρθυμεῖ) and active (χρηστεύεται).
  • Series of 7 negatives
  • περπερεύεται – a fairly gross boasting (rare)
  • φυσιοῦται – being puffed up, which Paul has already condemned numerous times in this letter.


  • οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἐαυτῆς – ‘it does not seek the things of itself’ – cf. 10:24, 33
  • οὐ παροξύνεται – verb to be angered -> ‘not easily angered’


  • οὐ χαίρει ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδικίᾳ
    • Seeing others in the wrong
    • Taking pleasure in gaining advantage over others through wrong-doing.
    • Sympathy with wrong-doing.
    • Whichever, it is lack of love that is important, so probably one of first two.


  • Climax
  • Rapid fire πάντα repeated. Adverbial function? This makes best sense of middle two clauses at least.
  • στέγει – bears, endures, protects, covers, sustains
    • cf. 9:12b, hence synonymous with ὑπομένει (‘endures’).
    • Chiasm, with faith & hope also closely related.
  • How do these things relate to love? Live life of Christian faith and hope in all circumstances, and this will govern how you relate to God and to others.



  • οὐδεποτε – never
  • παύω – cause to stop; mid. cease
  • φρονέω – I think
  • ἔσοπτρον, τό – mirror
  • αἴνιγμα, τό – riddle, indistinct image
    • ἐν αἰνίγματι – dimly
  • μείζων – greater, better


8. γάπη οδέποτε πίπτει· ετε δ προφητεαι, καταργηθήσονται· ετε γλσσαι, παύσονται· ετε γνσις, καταργηθήσεται.

Love never falls. Now prophecies, they will be nullified; tongues, they will cease; knowledge, it will be nullified.

9. κ μέρους γρ γινώσκομεν κα κ μέρους προφητεύομεν

For we know from a fragment and we prophesy from a fragment

10. ταν δ λθ τ τέλειον, τ κ μέρους καταργηθήσεται.

But whenever the perfect thing comes, that which [is] from a fragment will be nullified.

11. τε μην νήπιος, λάλουν ς νήπιος, φρόνουν ς νήπιος, λογιζόμην ς νήπιος· τε γέγονα νήρ, κατήργηκα τ το νηπίου.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child, I reasoned as a child; when I became a man, I nullified the things of a child.

12. βλέπομεν γρ ρτι δι᾿ σόπτρου ν ανίγματι, τότε δ πρόσωπον πρς πρόσωπον· ρτι γινώσκω κ μέρους, τότε δ πιγνώσομαι καθς κα πεγνώσθην.

For we see now through a mirror in a dim reflection, but then face to face. Now I know from a fragment, but then I shall fully know, even as I have been fully known.

13. Νυν δ μένει πίστις, λπίς, γάπη, τ τρία τατα· μείζων δ τούτων γάπη.

Now faith, hope and love, these three remain; but love is the greatest of these.


8-13 – ‘The Permanence of Love

  • Return to contrasting love with prophecy, tongues & knowledge


  • Does ‘love never fails’ connect with what precedes or follows? Bridge between them. Thus, both love continues under all circumstances and is eternal.
  • End of sign-gifts after apostolic era? Context makes clear that the eschaton is in view.
  • Cessation of γνῶσις refers to end of partial knowledge.


  • Explanation of why these things come to an end – they belong to an age of incompleteness.
  • ἐκ μέρους – ‘part by part’ or ‘piece by piece’


  • Reinforces image of incompleteness by suggesting childhood state in which the aid of spiritual gifts is appropriate, in contrast with time of perfection to come.


  • Second analogy: mirror. Indirectness (and hence incompleteness) of vision.
  • God’s knowledge of us is already complete (καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην).


  • Conclusion: triad of faith, hope, love, then singling out love.
  • Singling out:
    • Context?
    • Eschatological?
  • νυνὶ δὲ μένει – logical rather than temporal
  • Triad unexpected, and thus independent origin of passage? but cf. v. 7.

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1 Corinthians 12: Translation and exegesis notes

by on Nov.19, 2009, under Exegesis notes, Translation

vv. 1-11

vv. 1-3


  • ἀπάγω – I lead away
  • διαίρεσις – apportionment, division; difference, variety


1. Περὶ δὲ τῶν πνευματικῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν. Now concerning the things of the spirit, brothers [and sisters], I do not want you to be ignorant.
2. Οἴδατε ὅτι ὅτε ἔθνη ἦτε πρὸς τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε ἀπαγόμενοι. You know that when you were gentiles you, if you were being led, you were being led astray towards mute idols.
3. διὸ γνωρίζω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ λαλῶν λέγει· Ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν· Κύριος Ἰησοῦς, εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking in the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one is able to say, “Jesus is Lord,” except in the Holy Spirit.


  • Response to Corinthian letter – ‘περὶ δὲ’.
  • Is πνευματικῶν masc. (i.e. ‘spiritual people’) or nt. (‘spiritual gifts’)? Treat as neuter and as encompassing both (cf. Fee & Thiselton).
  • Paul uses ἔθνη here to speak of past state of gentiles.
  • tr. Required to supply an additional ἦτε between ἤγεσθε and ἀπαγόμενοι
  • ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε = subordinate clause
  • ἦτε ἀπαγόμενοι = periphrastic imperfect
  • cf. ESV ‘You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led.’
  • Being led?
    • Cultic processions? (Garland)
    • ‘Led’ by spirits – cf. being led by the Spirit. Not a new experience for pagans.

  • διὸ – ‘therefore’ i.e. because spiritual phenomena can be either pagan or Christian (v. 2)
  • Rule of thumb: Spirit’s work is seen where Jesus is glorified.

vv. 4-11


  • ἐνέργημα – activity
  • φανέρωσις, ἡ – manifestation, disclosure
  • συμφέρω – I am profitable
  • ἴαμα, τό – healing, remedy
  • γένος, τό – class, kind; nation
  • ἑρμηνεία, ἡ – interpretation
  • βούλομαι – I wish, will


4. Διαιρέσεις δ χαρισμάτων εσίν, τ δ ατ πνεμα·

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit;

5. κα διαιρέσεις διακονιν εσιν, κα ατς κύριος·

And there are different kinds of ministries, an
d the same Lord;

6. κα διαιρέσεις νεργημάτων εσίν, δ ατς θες νεργν τ πάντα ν πσιν.

And there are different kinds of workings, but the same God who is working them all in all.

7. κάστ δ δίδοται φανέρωσις το πνεύματος πρς τ συμφέρον.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the bringing together.

8. μν γρ δι το πνεύματος δίδοται λόγος σοφίας, λλ δ λόγος γνώσεως κατ τ ατ πνεμα,

For to one a word of wisdom is given through the Spirit, but  to another a word of knowledge according to the same spirit,

9. τέρ πίστις ν τ ατ πνεύματι, λλ δ χαρίσματα αμάτων ν τ ν πνεύματι,

To another faith in the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing in the one Spirit,

10. λλ δ νεργήματα δυνάμεων, λλ] προφητεία, λλ] διακρίσεις πνευμάτων, τέρ γένη γλωσσν, λλ δ ρμηνε
tyle=”font: normal normal normal 12px/normal ‘Lucida Grande'; letter-spacing: 0px”>ί
α γλωσσν·

To another workings of powers, to another prophecy, to another discernment [weighing?] of spirits, to another kinds of tongues, to another interpretation of tongues;

11. πάντα δ τατα νεργε τ ν κα τ ατ πνεμα διαιρον δίᾳ κάστ καθς βούλεται.

All these the one and the same Spirit works, apportioning to each individually, just as he wills.



  • Contrast different (διαιρέσεις, ‘different kinds’) vs. same (αὐτὸ).
  • χαρίσματα, διακονίαι, ἐνεργήματα
  • Garland – different ‘categories’ of gifts (unconvincing)
  • Fee, Bruce et al synonyms
  • Starting with χαρίσματα may emphasise origin of gifts. Remaining words broaden scope.
  • Spirit/Lord/God – trinitarian


  • ἑκάστῳ – each and every
    • Over against Corinthian elitism.
    • cf. ἐν πᾶσιν in v. 6.
  • φανέρωσις implies activity or ability that reveals the presence of Spirit.
    • cf. v. 3 for a sign of revealing Spirit
  • Paul corrects view of gifts as being συμφέρον – ‘for the common good’
    • Thus anticipates chs. 13-14.


  • Variation between ἄλλω and ἑτέρω
    • Structure list by breaking into 3 groups:
      • A: Word gifts (knowledge and wisdom)
      • B: Diverse gifts
      • C: Tongues
  • Deliberately ordered list
    • First, emp
      hasis on edifying others by intelligible wisdom and knowledge
    • Middle, reinforce diversity of gifts
    • Last & least is tongues
  • λόγος σοφίας and λόγος γνώσεως
    • Wisdom cf. 2:6-16, ability to convey message of cross
    • Knowledge cf. 8:4, truth about idols and oneness of God.
  • χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων
    • Plural – many gifts? many types of healing?
  • προφετεία
    • Agreement
      • Intelligible verbal content (14:2-3)
      • Originates with Spirit (12:11)
      • Different from pagan ecstatic speech (14:31-33
      • Functions to edify and encourage (14:3)
      • Distinct from teaching, but those who receive prophecy can be instructed by it (14:19, 31).
    • Disagreement
      • Pastoral preaching?
      • Spontaneity?
      • Require testing? (1 Cor 14; 1 Thess 5)
        • cf. διακρίσεις πνευμάτων
  • διακρίσεις πνευμάτων – ‘weighing’ of spirits
    • cf. 14:29
    • Parallel with προφητεία in the same way that γένη γλωσσῶν parallels ἑρμηνεία γλωσσῶν.
    • γένη γλωσσῶν and ἑρμηνεία γλωσσῶν
      • Last, therefore least?
      • Real tongues?
        • But addressed to God, not humans (14:2, 14, 28)
        • Ref to foreign human languages in 14:10-11 is analogy
      • Heavenly tongues?
      • Instructions in 14:28-29 suggest able to control, i.e. not ecstatic.


  • Ties together vv. 4-11 as a paragraph, echoing language and ideas of vv. 4-7.

vv. 12-31

vv. 12-26


  • καθάπερ – just as
  • ἀκοή, ἡ – faculty of hearing, art of hearing; report
  • ὄσφρησις, ἡ – smelling
  • χρεία, ἡ – need
  • ἀναγκεῖος – necessary
  • ἄτιμος – insignificant, dishonoured
  • τιμή, ἡ – honour, price
  • περισσότερος – greater, more
  • περιτίθημι – grant, bestow; put around
  • ἀσχήμων – shameful, unpresentable; indecent
  • εὐσχημοσύνη, ἡ – propriety, decorum
  • εὐσχἠμων – proper, presentable
  • συγκεράννυμι – mix, blend, unite
  • ὑστερέω – I lack, miss, am inferior
  • σχίσμα, τό – division, dissension
  • μεριμνάω – I am anxious, care for


12. Καθάπερ γὰρ τὸ σῶμα ἕν ἐστιν καὶ μέλη πολλὰ ἔχει, πάντα δὲ τὰ μέλη τοῦ σώματος πολλὰ ὄντα ἕν ἐστιν σῶμα, οὕτως καὶ ὁ Χριστός·

For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all of the parts, though they are many, are one body, so is Christ.

13. καὶ γὰρ ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι ἡμεῖς πάντες εἰς ἓν σῶμα ἐβαπτίσθημεν, εἴτε Ἰουδαῖοι εἴτε Ἕλληνες εἴτε δοῦλοι εἴτε ἐλεύθεροι, καὶ πάντες ἓν πνεῦμα ἐποτίσθημεν.

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all given one Spirit to drink.

14. Καὶ γὰρ τὸ σῶμα οὐκ ἔστιν ἓν μέλος ἀλλὰ πολλά.

For the body is not one part but many.

15. ἐὰν εἴπῃ ὁ πούς· ὅτι οὐκ εἰμὶ χείρ, οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ σώματος, οὐ παρὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ σώματος;

If the foot says, “I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” it is not because of this not of the body, is it?

16. καὶ ἐὰν εἴπῃ τὸ οὖς· ὅτι οὐκ εἰμὶ ὀφθαλμός, οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ σώματος, οὐ παρὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ σώματος;

An if the ear says, “I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” it is not because of this not of the body, is it?

17. εἰ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα ὀφθαλμός, ποῦ ἡ ἀκοή; εἰ ὅλον ἀκοή, ποῦ ἡ ὄσφρησις;

If the whole body were an eye, where the hearing? If the whole hearing, where the sense of smell?

18. νυνὶ δὲ ὁ θεὸς ἔθετο τὰ μέλη, ἓν ἕκαστον αὐτῶν ἐν τῷ σώματι καθὼς ἠθέλησεν.

But now God has placed the parts, each one of them in the body just as he willed.

19. εἰ δὲ ἦν τὰ πάντα ἓν μέλος, ποῦ τὸ σῶμα;

If they were all one part, where the body?

20. νῦν δὲ πολλὰ μὲν μέλη, ἓν δὲ σῶμα.

But now many parts, but one body.

21. οὐ δύναται δὲ ὁ ὀφθαλμὸς εἰπεῖν τῇ χειρί· χρείαν σου οὐκ ἔχω, ἢ πάλιν ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῖς ποσίν· χρείαν ὑμῶν οὐκ ἔχω·

The eye is not able to say to the hand, “I do not have a need of you.” Nor again, the head to the feet, “I do not have a need of you.”

22. ἀλλὰ πολλῷ μᾶλλον τὰ δοκο
ῦντα μέλη τοῦ σώματος ἀσθενέστερα ὑπάρχειν ἀναγκαῖά ἐστιν,

But rather many parts of the body  seeming weaker are necessary to have for existence.

23. καὶ ἃ δοκοῦμεν ἀτιμότερα εἶναι τοῦ σώματος τούτοις τιμὴν περισσοτέραν περιτίθεμεν, καὶ τὰ ἀσχήμονα ἡμῶν εὐσχημοσύνην περισσοτέραν ἔχει,

And the parts of the body we think to be dishonourable to these we put on more honour, and our shameful parts have more modesty,

24. τὰ δὲ εὐσχήμονα ἡμῶν οὐ χρείαν ἔχει. ἀλλὰ ὁ θεὸς συνεκέρασεν τὸ σῶμα τῷ ὑστερουμένῳ περισσοτέραν δοὺς τιμήν,

but our presentable parts do not have a need. But God has united the body, having given greater honour to those lacking,

25. ἵνα μὴ ᾖ σχίσμα ἐν τῷ σώματι ἀλλὰ τὸ αὐτὸ ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων μεριμνῶσιν τὰ μέλη.

in order that there is no division in the body but the parts are anxious for each other.

26. καὶ εἴτε πάσχει ἓν μέλος, συμπάσχει πάντα τὰ μέλη· εἴτε δοξάζεται [ἓν] μέλος, συγχαίρει πάντα τὰ μέλη.

And if one part suffers, all the parts suffer together; if one part is honoured, all the parts rejoice.



  • Teaches diversity through analogy with parts of body.
  • Is the emphasis on unity or diversity?
    • Majority say unity
    • Fee argues diversity
      • Culminates in string of rhetorical questions about diversity in vv. 29-30.


  • tr. ὄντα is concessive – i.e. ‘though being’
  • Introduction of analogy… although cf. 6:15, 10:17.
    • Initially only an analogy, but by end of verse could be metonymy.


  • Unity traced to common baptism/drinking-of one Spirit
    • Primary image is bathed in Spirit, secondary is water baptism, as βαπτίζω was not a technical term.
  • Parallelism:
    • πάντες εἰς ἓν σῶμα    ἐβαπτισθημεν
    • πάντες       ἓν πνεῦμα ἐποτίσθημεν
    • Synonymous or synthetic?
      • σῶμα / πνεῦμα held together (spiritual body) in 15:44, so there is no implicit contradiction… although the σῶμα πνευματικὸν is spoken of as the post-resurrection state.
  • Explicit inclusions reinforce point that within community there is no room for divisions/hierarchy
  • Not ‘second blessing’, for this would undermine Paul’s argument for abolishing distinctions.


  • Recapitulate initial analogy and introduce development.


  • Personification of parts to paint ridiculous picture.
  • All are needed in their variety.
  • Questions or statements?
    • UBS4 shows questions but majority of English versions translate as statements – probably to avoid necessity of unravelling double negatives.
    • οὐ usually indicates expectation of affirmative response – very difficult to render.
    • Given that this is a change from UBS3, surprising that Metzger’s Textual Commentary contains no comment.


  • tr. Need to supply a subjunctive form of verb to be.
  • Continues absurd image to reinforce point that envy is not appropriate, as all gifts (and all those gifted) are necessary for the whole body to function.


  • Diversity is both necessary and desirable – indeed, it is according to God’s plan.
  • νυνὶ δὲ is logical rather than temporal – indicates the status quo.
  • Redundant ἓν is for emphasis – ‘every single one’… although this is not entirely satisfactory because throughout the rest of the passage ἓν refers to the whole rather than the parts?


  • Reiterate conclusion of v. 17, stressing both unity and diversity.


  • Focus on hierarchy becomes clearer here than in 15-17, with distinctions between part and part rather than part and whole.
    • It is a single part that excludes another, rather than that part excluding itself from the whole body.
    • Outward focused here – excluding others rather than excluding self.
    • Parts who speak are representative of ‘puffed up’ Corinthians.


  • Paul directly contradicts superiority (strong adversative)
  • ‘Unimportant’ members are necessary.


  • From unimportant to shameful/unpresentable, suggesting that these we treat with special honour.

24b – 25

  • Positive conclusion.
  • Analogy or allegory?
    • Members caring for one another demands application to church.


  • Again, suffering together and rejoicing together demands application to the church.

vv. 27-31


  • ἀντίλεμψις, ἡ – help
  • κυβέρνησις, ἡ – administration
  • διερμηνεύω – I interpret, translate
  • ζηλόω – strive, be jealous
  • μείζων – better
  • ὑπερβολή – excess, extraordinary quality;
    • καθ᾽ὑπερβολήν – better
  • δείκνυμι – show


27. Ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε σῶμα Χριστοῦ καὶ μέλη ἐκ μέρους.

Now you are the body of Christ and part of a part.

28. Καὶ οὓς μὲν ἔθετο ὁ θεὸς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρῶτον ἀποστόλους, δεύτερον προφήτας, τρίτον διδασκάλους, ἔπειτα δυνάμεις, ἔπειτα χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων, ἀντιλήμψεις, κυβερνήσεις, γένη γλωσσῶν.

And whom in the church God has appointed first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then powers, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, earthly tongues.

29. μὴ πάντες ἀπόστολοι; μὴ πάντες προφῆται; μὴ πάντες διδάσκαλοι; μὴ πάντες δυνάμεις;

Not all are apostles, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? Not all are teachers, are they? Not all are [workers of] powers, are they?

30. μὴ πάντες χαρίσματα ἔχουσιν ἰαμάτων; μὴ πάντες γλώσσαις λαλοῦσιν; μὴ πάντες διερμηνεύουσιν;

Not all have gifts of healings do they? Not all speak in tongues, do they? Not all interpret, do they?

31. ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ μείζονα.

Καὶ ἔτι καθ᾿ ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν ὑμῖν δείκνυμι.

But be zealous for the greater gifts.

And yet according to a greater way I show to you.



  • Emphatic identification between body of Christ and Corinthians church
    • Ὑμεῖς is in first postion for emphasis
  • ἐκ μερους indicates role of individual in the whole body, rather than that this is how to view the whole community.


  • Second list of things God has given church
    • Reflects Paul’s emphases.
    • Introduction stresses God’s sovereign role.
    • Numbered items (first/second) remind of Paul’s founding role
      • Although Fee notes plural of apostles reminds of larger work of God, beneficiary of all the apostles.
    • Unnumbered items intersperse ‘unspectacular’ gifts amongst the more ‘spectacular’.
    • κυβερνήσεις is metaphor for leadership from steering of a ship.


  • String of slanted rhetorical questions, requiring negative response, by way of conclusion.


  • Statement or question?
    • Statement: ‘You desire… but now I shall tell you the greater way’
    • Command: ‘Desire greater gifts… and this is the greatest’
    • Latter to be preferred:
      • No adversative conjunction
      • cf. 14:1 and 14:39-40
      • μείζονα clearly redefined from Corinthians’ interpretation


  • Depends on
    interpretation of 31a, but intention is clear. The way of love (expounded in 13:1-13) is the priority.

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Baptism for the dead: A Jewish practice?

by on Nov.19, 2009, under Essay

A comparison of 1 Corinthians 15:29 with 2 Maccabees 12:44

Many scholars have posited a Greco-Roman influence upon the Corinthian practice of vicarious1 baptism for the dead (1 Cor 15:29).2 Fewer have investigated the possibility of a Jewish origin for such a practice. This paper seeks partially to redress that imbalance by investigating the apparent parallel between the Corinthian practice and that described in 2 Maccabees 12:44 of offering prayers and sacrifices for the dead.3

2 Maccabees4 is an abridgement of a larger history by a man named Jason of Cyrene.5 It covers the events of the Maccabean revolt from the priesthood of Onias III (180 B. C. E.) until the defeat of Nicanor (161 B. C. E.) and focuses on the life of Judah Maccabee.6 The specific incident of interest comes in the aftermath of a battle, when Judah and his companions discover idols on the bodies of the Jewish dead (12:40-45). Judah’s response is to praise God for revealing their sin (12:41), pray that God might not remember the sin of the slain (12:42), and take up a collection of money to send to Jerusalem as a sin offering (12:43). In doing these things, the author says,7 Judah clearly demonstrated that he believed in the resurrection of the dead, ‘for if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead [ὑπὲρ νεκρῶν εὔχεσθαι]… he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin’ (12:44, 5).

This passage, then, is clearly of interest when trying to understand 1 Cor 15:29, for in it we see a similar confluence of vicarious action on behalf of the dead and argument for a resurrection.8 But many important questions must be answered before any link between the two can be established.

Would Paul and/or the Corinthians have been aware of this text?

Scholars are generally in agreement that 2 Maccabees was composed some time in the last 150 years before Christ, probably in Alexandria.9 Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, on the other hand, must be dated some time after Gallio’s proconsulship (either 50-51 or 51-52 C. E.) for Paul was brought before Gallio during his stay in Corinth (Acts 18:12).10 Thus at least half a century had elapsed between the composition of 2 Maccabees and 1 Corinthians, allowing time for transmission from Alexandria to both Jerusalem and Corinth. The likelihood of transmission is increased by the fact that there was a significant trade between Alexandria and Corinth.11 Indeed, at least one Alexandrian had some prominence in Corinth (Acts 18:24; 19:1). Paul himself may well have studied 2 Maccabees as part of his rabbinic studies under Gamaliel, since 2 Macc 7:9 is one of the principal texts underpinning the Pharisaic doctrine of the resurrection,12 one of the hottest theological issues of his day (e.g. Matt 22:23-33; Acts 4:2; 23:6-8 etc.).13 Thus it is reasonable to conclude that both Paul and the Corinthians would have been aware of 2 Maccabees.

Are the two texts genuinely similar?

At a macroscopic level the two texts are quite different, being of different genres (Hellenistic historiography vs. epistle) and having different audiences (a general and implicit audience vs. the explicit audience of the community in Corinth). But what of the microscopic level? Let us consider 2 Macc 12:44 and 1 Cor 15:29 side by side.14

2 Macc 12:44 1 Cor 15:29
εἰ μὴ γὰρ τοὺς προπεπτωκότας ἀναστῆναι προσεδόκα, περισσὸν καὶ ληρῶδες ὑπὲρ νεκρῶν εὔχεσθαι· Ἐπεὶ τί ποιήσουσιν οἱ βαπτιζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν; εἰ ὅλως νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, τί καὶ βαπτίζονται ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν;
For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. Then what will the ones baptising on behalf of the dead do? If the dead are not raised at all, why are they being baptised on behalf of the dead?

The most striking parallel is the usage of the phrase ὑπὲρ [τῶν] νεκρῶν. Whilst the Apostle’s meaning in using this phrase is unclear, the meaning in 2 Macc is indisputable: the prayer was that ‘the sin committed might wholly be put out of [God’s] remembrance’ (12:42) so that the dead might participate in the resurrection.15 Thus we see a vicarious action on behalf of those who were dead which, it is hoped, will bring about their reconciliation to God.

There are two main differences between these two passages which represent difficulties in linking 2 Macc 12:44 and 1 Cor 15:29. The first is the actual action being undertaken (prayer and sacrifice vs. baptism) and the second the direction of the authors’ arguments. The first is not insuperable, for the Corinthians clearly held a high view of baptism (1 Cor 1:14-17; 10:1-5);16 this, combined with a Greco-Roman respect for ritual and tradition,17 may well have led the Corinthians to think of baptism in the same instrumental terms as the Jews used for prayer and sacrifice. The second difference is more complicated. Paul refers to baptism for the dead in the middle of a sustained argument aimed at refuting the belief that there is no bodily resurrection of the dead (1 Cor 15:12). The Maccabean author, on the other hand, presupposes the resurrection. His argument is intended to cast Judah Maccabee in a favourable light, perhaps thus appropriating him as a proto-Pharisee. Nevertheless, whilst Paul’s purpose is very different, he is not averse to appropriating such texts for his own purposes.18 The passing nature of his comment and the apparent difficulties of reconciling vicarious baptism with his theology of baptism elsewhere suggest that his argument is ad hominem. If he was consciously referring to 2 Maccabees, he was most likely reminding the Corinthians of the ‘moral’ or ‘punch-line’ of the story.19

Thus, at the microscopic level, 2 Macc 12:44 and 1 Cor 15:29 are similar in language but differ in rhetorical purpose. The vicarious action in question is different, and the point drawn from it is tangential in 2 Macc 12 but closely related to the overall argument in 1 Cor 15.

In conclusion, the value of 2 Macc 12:44 in understanding 1 Cor 15:29 is that it provides evidence that at least some Jews in Paul’s time held beliefs that may render baptism for the dead an intelligible process.20 It provides a clearly defined meaning in a Jewish context for the phrase ὑπὲρ [τῶν] νεκρῶν, a phrase that Paul uses. The Apostle’s brief response is to draw the implications of the practice to their logical conclusion – perhaps echoing the Maccabean author – that vicarious action on behalf of the dead makes no sense if there is no resurrection.

Works cited

Bartlett, John R. The First and Second Books of the Maccabees, The Cambridge Bible Commentary: New English Bible. Cambridge [Eng.]: University Press, 1973.

Brenton, Lancelot Charles Lee. The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament and Apocrypha. With an English Translation and with Various Readings and Critical Notes. Grand Rapids,: Zondervan Pub. House, 1972.

DeMaris, Richard E. “Corinthian Religion and Baptism for the Dead (1 Corinthians 15:29) : Insights from Archaeology and Anthropology.” Journal of Biblical Literature 114, no. 4 (1995): 661-82.

Doran, Robert. Temple Propaganda : The Purpose and Character of 2 Maccabees, Catholic Biblical Quarterly. Monograph Series 12. Washington, D.C.: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1981.

Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1987.

Hays, Richard B. First Corinthians, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press, 1997.

Herms, Ronald. “‘Being Saved without Honor': A Conceptual Link between 1 Corinthians 3 and 1 Enoch 50?” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 29, no. 2 (2006): 187-210.

Horsley, Richard A. “Gnosis in Corinth : 1 Corinthians 8:1-6.” New Testament Studies 27, no. 1 (1980): 32-51.

Mearns, Christopher L. “Early Eschatological Development in Paul : The Evidence of 1 Corinthians.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament no. 22 (1984): 19-35.

Meijer, Fik. A History of Seafaring in the Classical World. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986.

Stauffer, Ethelbert. New Testament Theology. London,: SCM Press, 1955.

Thiselton, Anthony C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000.

White, Joel R. “”Baptized on Account of the Dead” : The Meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:29 in Its Context.” Journal of Biblical Literature 116, no. 3 (1997): 487-99.

Witherington, Ben. Conflict and Community in Corinth : A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995.


  1. This paper presupposes a Corinthian belief in the efficacy of being vicariously baptised for those who have died. Whilst certainly not the only view, this is nevertheless the majority view amongst scholars. For an enumeration of some of the other options, please see the other paper in this series. Helpful summaries may also be found in Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1242-49. and Joel R. White, “”Baptized on Account of the Dead” : The Meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:29 in Its Context,” Journal of Biblical Literature 116, no. 3 (1997).
  2. Notable examples include Richard E. DeMaris, “Corinthian Religion and Baptism for the Dead (1 Corinthians 15:29) : Insights from Archaeology and Anthropology,” Journal of Biblical Literature 114, no. 4 (1995): 663. and Ben Witherington, Conflict and Community in Corinth : A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995), 293-4.
  3. The comparative framework used is in part modelled on that used by Ronald Herms, “‘Being Saved without Honor': A Conceptual Link between 1 Corinthians 3 and 1 Enoch 50?,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 29, no. 2 (2006).
  4. Both Greek text and English translation of 2 Maccabees are taken from Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton, The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament and Apocrypha. With an English Translation and with Various Readings and Critical Notes (Grand Rapids,: Zondervan Pub. House, 1972), 207.
  5. Little is known of Jason of Cyrene, and even less of the anonymous abridger.
  6. Also known as Judas Maccabeus.
  7. Or possibly the abridger.
  8. Several scholars note this parallel e.g. Ethelbert Stauffer, New Testament Theology (London,: SCM Press, 1955), 299 n. 544.; Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1987), 767 n. 32.; Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press, 1997), 297.; Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1247. Of these: Stauffer merely asserts the connection without argument; Fee argues that Judah’s actions ‘were not so much vicarious sacrifices for the dead as an appeal to God to have mercy’ and therefore an ‘innocent’ practice that Paul feels no need to rebuke in the Corinthians; Hays sees evidence that provides a way to render vicarious baptism an ‘intelligible process'; and Thiselton rejects the connection as ‘too slender and tenuous to bear the weight of such an extension of the theology of baptism’.
  9. So John R. Bartlett, The First and Second Books of the Maccabees, The Cambridge Bible Commentary: New English Bible (Cambridge [Eng.]: University Press, 1973), 215. cf. Doran, who argues for a date sometime during ‘the early years of John Hyrcanus’ Robert Doran, Temple Propaganda : The Purpose and Character of 2 Maccabees, Catholic Biblical Quarterly. Monograph Series 12 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1981), 112.
  10. Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 29-30.
  11. cf. Fik Meijer, A History of Seafaring in the Classical World (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986), 143. Meijer notes that it was the Alexandrian corn trade that was the cause of ‘rapid development’ and ‘economic revival’ in Roman Corinth.
  12. Others include Isa 26:19 ; Dan 12:2; Tob 13:2. cf. Christopher L. Mearns, “Early Eschatological Development in Paul : The Evidence of 1 Corinthians,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament, no. 22 (1984): 20.
  13. cf. Herms, “Being Saved without Honor.” and Richard A. Horsley, “Gnosis in Corinth : 1 Corinthians 8:1-6,” New Testament Studies 27, no. 1 (1980): 51. If Herms’ hypothesis of a link between 1 Corinthians 3 and 1 Enoch 50 is correct, 1 Cor 15:29 is not even the first text in the epistle to be connected to Alexandrian literature. Similarly, Horsley’s conjecture is that the Corinthian conception of σοφία is largely congruous with Wisdom and Philo; the latter is certainly Alexandrian, whilst the former, if not Alexandrian, is at least heavily influenced by an Alexandrian worldview.
  14. The Greek text of 1 Cor 15:29 is taken from UBS4, whilst the English text is the author’s translation. As mentioned above, both Greek and English texts of 2 Macc 12:44 are from Brenton, Septuagint, 207.
  15. Similarly, the sin offering was, apparently, ‘a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin’ (12:45).
  16. cf. DeMaris, “Corinthian Religion and Baptism for the Dead (1 Corinthians 15:29) : Insights from Archaeology and Anthropology,” 662.
  17. Witherington, Conflict & Community, 294.
  18. cf. Acts 17:28, where Paul repurposes the writings of gentile poets. One of the texts, in its original context, applied to Zeus, but Paul uses them both for his own purposes.
  19. In a similar way, a Christian today might complete a half-quoted proverb or an alluded to parable.
  20. Hays, First Corinthians, 267.
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Over-realised eschatology in 1 Corinthians

by on Nov.19, 2009, under Essay, Theology


How much evidence is there in 1 Corinthians that a distorted eschatology lies behind the errors and excesses of the Corinthian church? What do we learn from 1 Corinthians concerning Paul’s own eschatological perspective?


This paper posits an ‘over-realised’ eschatology in Corinth as foundational to many of the errors and excesses observed and addressed by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians. The evidence for this position is presented, largely following the work of Thiselton,1 and defended against the competing claim of Hays that the Corinthians suffered from a lack of eschatological thinking rather than an overabundance.2 This over-realized eschatology is then connected to many of the errors and excesses on view in 1 Corinthians, particularly those associated with their pneumatic enthusiasm. A second stream of eschatological distortion, a denial of future bodily resurrection based on a Hellenistic dualism, is then identified. This is tied to the errors and excesses of the libertines and ascetics in chapters 5-7. Throughout, the Apostle’s own eschatological position is traced, and found to reflect a dialectical tension between that which is and that which will be: the age to come is inaugurated in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and this brings attendant blessings; but the present age has not yet passed away, nor will it do so until all things (including death) are placed under Christ’s feet.


The Apostle Paul uses eschatological language throughout his first epistle to the Corinthians, starting in his opening prayer (1:7-9) and eventually climaxing in his sustained defence of a bodily resurrection (15:1-58). He frequently stresses future events as a basis for present action (4:5; 6:2, 9; 7:29-31; 11:26, 32; 15:58). In fact, this very stress on future events (as future events) has led numerous scholars to posit the presence of an eschatological distortion in the Corinthian church, which Paul attempts to correct in this epistle. The most common such reconstruction is that of an ‘over-realised’ eschatology, in which the Corinthians saw themselves as already living in the eschatological kingdom. This view boasts support from impressive array of scholars, including Barrett, Thiselton, Mearns, Fee and Witherington.3 Recent years, however, have seen the rise of a new theory, offered by scholars such as Hays (1997), Horsley (1997), and Wright (2003).4 This reconstruction suggests that the Corinthian problem was not one of too much eschatology, but rather too little. In spite of Wright’s confident assertion that ‘[m]any scholars have come round’ and that the earlier reading is ‘increasingly abandoned’, this latter is still by far the minority reading.5 The works of Thiselton and Hays may be considered representative of these two viewpoints, and will usefully serve as touchstones for the following comparison.

In his landmark article, Thiselton lays out the evidence for an over-realised eschatology in Corinth by showing that it provides a ‘single common factor which helps to explain an otherwise diverse array of apparently independent problems at Corinth’.6 Thus, he detects in chapters 1-4 a Corinthian party challenging the need for spiritual leadership now that all believers have the Spirit;7 an anti-nomian party in chapters 5-10;8 the Lord’s Supper interpreted as an eschatological banquet in chapter 11;9 eschatologically driven pneumatic enthusiasts in chapters 12-14;10 and a denial of a future bodily resurrection in chapter 15.11 Repeatedly, on Thiselton’s reading, Paul urges the Corinthians to remember that significant aspects of the eschatological kingdom remain yet future. Christ will return (1:7-9; 11:26; 15:23) and it is in his wake that resurrection (15:23), judgement and reward (3:10-15; 4:5; 6:2, 9; 9:24-27; 11:32), perfect knowledge and wisdom (4:8-13; 8:2; 13:2) will follow.

Hays offers a number of criticisms of Thiselton’s reconstruction.12 He accuses Thiselton of basing his hypothesis on ‘an improbable construction about Gnosticism in Corinth’,13 although Thiselton explicitly denies this in a later work.14 Hays’ primary criticism, however, is that Thiselton’s case rests on only two substantive texts (4:8 and 15:12).15 The rest, he says, is merely repeatedly showing that Paul appeals to future eschatology in order to correct the Corinthians’ behaviour, but this does not prove a realised eschatology. Hays’ criticism is undermined by his imprecise characterisation of Thiselton’s position,16 yet he is correct in his analysis of Thiselton’s exegetical support. 1 Corinthians 4:8 and 15:12 are the key texts upon which Thiselton’s case hangs.

Over against this position, Hays offers two theses: (a) Paul was trying to teach the Corinthians to think eschatologically; and (b) Paul wanted the Corinthians to reshape their identity in the light of Israel’s Scripture.17 Of these the first is directly relevant to the present discussion, for it implies that the Corinthians did not have any concept of an eschaton to start with, whereas a realised or over-realised eschatology necessarily presupposes such an eschatological framework.18 Instead, Hays posits that the Corinthians drew upon non-eschatological Greco-Roman culture, and specifically popular Cynic and Stoic thought.19 In support of this he reads πάντα ἔξεστιν (10:23) as a Corinthian slogan reflecting the belief that the σοφός is free to do whatever he wishes for he possesses knowledge to choose.20 On Hays’ reading, then, the source of freedom is wisdom and knowledge. But it may be argued in response that wisdom and knowledge were themselves considered eschatological gifts (cf. 12:8; 13:12b). Paul says that, when they were called, not many amongst the Corinthians were σοφοὶ κατὰ σάρκα (1:26), and the implication is that if they are now wise they are σοφοὶ κατὰ πνεῦμα. Hays has not disproved eschatological thinking in Corinth but may rather have identified a means by which it may have been expressed in the language of the contemporary culture.

Both sides claim 4:8 as positive evidence for their respective positions, and so this is the obvious place to begin comparing them. 1 Corinthians 4:8-13 represents biting irony on the part of the Apostle, made apparent by the emphatic ἤδη at the start of the first two statements.21 The difficulty lies in discerning Paul’s purpose in using such irony. Lincoln is here representative of the over-realised eschatology reading, arguing that the Corinthians believed themselves to be living – indeed, ruling (4:8) – in the eschatological kingdom, and thus the beneficiaries of the Spirit and attendant charismatic gifts.22 Hays concedes that they were ‘suffering from an excess of pride and self-satisfaction’ but responds that ‘there are other ways to arrive at such a state besides having an accelerated apocalyptic timetable.’23 In support of this, he points out that claims to be rich and to reign were made by both Cynic and Stoic philosophers.24 Witherington goes further, citing numerous specific instances.25 Importantly, however, he does not find this insight incompatible with the over-realised eschatology reading.26 In fact, in noting the presence of an imperial eschatology in Corinth he may well have suggested the idea linking the two.27

Fee points out that the three verbs chosen – κεκορεσμένοι, ἐπλουτήσατε and ἐβασιλεύσατε – directly attack both the Corinthians’ pride in general and specifically their view of spirituality.28 The aorist tenses of the latter two suggest eschatological fulfilment.29 They believed that all gifts had been given and were enthusiastically exercising them to the exclusion of all else. This led to significant errors and excesses, such as arrogance (4:18), flirting with idolatry (8:9-13; 10:14-17), a ‘magical’ view of the sacraments (10:1-6; 11:28-30; 15:29)30 and an exalted view of the χαριματα that precluded a need for others (12:21). They believed that by the Spirit, and especially the gift of tongues, they already spoke the language of the angels, the language of heaven (13:1).31 This last is particularly important, since it highlights a significant weakness in Hays’ reconstruction: it is unable to account for the evident pneumatic enthusiasm in Corinth. If the source of the Corinthian excesses and errors lies in their Stoic knowledge and wisdom, how did they understand the presence of the Spirit and the charismatic gifts? It is difficult to conceive of a Christian pneumatology not derived from eschatology; 1:7 suggests that Paul made an explicit connection between the two,32 whilst 13:1 may suggest the Corinthians did also. Thus Thiselton’s conjectured over-realised eschatology is to be preferred as it brings coherence to more of the overall epistle than does Hays’.

Paul attempts to correct both the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’ of the Corinthian position. He does this by emphasising the contrast with the acknowledged leaders of the church, the apostles, for whom suffering was a present and continuing reality (4:9-13).33 He also reminds them later on that they are in a race not yet completed (9:24f.) and that they do not yet know as they ought (8:2; 13:8-10). On the subject of spiritual gifts and spirituality, he explains that they are not of the same order as those that characterise the eschatological kingdom, though they may herald it; they will not be needed in the age to come.34 The only thing with abiding significance is love (13:8). As Thiselton writes, ‘Paul’s futurist perspective… is not only to qualify an over-realized eschatology at Corinth; it also represents an anti-enthusiastic stance’.35

According to Paul, Christians live at the intersection of two ages: the proof that the new has come is the availability of eschatological gifts (1:7; 4:7);36 the proof that the old is not yet gone is the continuing presence of affliction and death (4:9-13).37 The Corinthians evidently think of themselves as having commenced life and reign in a kingdom (whether eschatological or otherwise) as evidenced by the repeated ingressive aorist ἐβασιλεύσατε (4:8, twice).38 Paul instead points to a kingdom inaugurated but not yet consummated.39 Similarly, the Apostle’s response in 15:54-57 suggests that the Corinthians made much of the ‘victorious’ life, so that Paul had to point to a victory still future.40 The kingdom is inaugurated by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but will only be consummated when the full and final victory is won and every enemy is placed under his feet (15:25).41 And the last such enemy is death (15:26).

Death, or rather life after death, is the subject of another Corinthian eschatological distortion. That this is proved by 15:12 – ‘some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead’ – is not seriously contested by scholars. This is as far as the consensus goes, however, with the exact nature of the distortion hotly debated. Reconstructions are legion, but most commentators posit one or more of the following as Corinthian beliefs: (a) there is no life after death; (b) the resurrection has already occurred; (c) their Hellenistic dualism precluded belief in a bodily resurrection.42 To the first, Barrett objects that they could not have been considered Christians – ἐν ὑμῖν (15:12) – and hold such a belief. Mearns raises the possibility that this is Paul’s (possibly deliberate) misunderstanding of the Corinthian position, but his case is unpersuasive.43 Of the second there are many variant readings. Schweitzer argued that the Corinthians believed the Jewish notion that only those alive at the Parousia would enter the kingdom, and the corollary that those alive at the coming of the Messiah (a past event in their eyes) would enter the kingdom; thus, since they were alive at his appearing they must now have gone through the resurrection event (baptismal regeneration) and be living in the Messianic kingdom.44 Davies argues against this, pointing out that there were unlikely to be such ultra-conservative Jews in Corinth, and that there are other far more plausible explanations.45 Instead, Davies endorses Héring’s view that there was no need for resurrection, as they were already experiencing the blessings of the kingdom.46 Mearns develops this further, suggesting that they believed the mechanism by which they were transferred into the kingdom was through baptism, and thus the Corinthians interpreted resurrection as a metaphor for baptism,47 whilst both Fee and Lincoln suggest that the Corinthians’ magical view of baptism and eucharist was such as for them to preclude the possibility of death altogether.48 Thiselton argues strongly against all of these, on the grounds that they could hardly have misconstrued Paul so thoroughly after he lived with them for 18 months.49

The third main view, that the Corinthians were possessed of a Hellenistic dualism that held a low view of the body, is the majority view.50 Such a preconception would cause a natural resistance to the new (to them) idea of a bodily resurrection.51 As Davies puts it, ‘it was escape from the body, not any future reunion with it in resurrection, that seemed desirable to the Hellenistic world owing to its particular anthropology’.52 The main textual evidence for this is that the apostle devotes substantial energy in 15:35-49 towards answering the questions: πῶς ἐγείρονται οἱ νεκροί; and ποίῳ δὲ σώματι ἔρχονται; (15:35). Wright is persuasive in his argument that these are distinct, though related, questions.53 On his reading, the first question pertains to the mechanism by which resurrection is accomplished (the Spirit) and the second relates to the nature of the post-resurrection existence.54 The most attractive aspect of Wright’s hypothesis is the neatness of Paul’s use of σῶμα πνευματικόν as an answer to both questions. Ultimately, however, the syntax of 15:35 mandates against this as it would require δέ to function in a correlative manner without a corresponding μέν (or οὐ).55 Thus the more natural reading is to take the second question as a specification of the first, with δέ functioning in a more mundane connective manner.56 Thus Robertson and Plummer capture the sense of the first question in their paraphrase, ‘Can we conceive of such a thing? We cannot be expected believe what is impossible and inconceivable’.57 In either case, judging by Paul’s response the emphasis seems to be on the second question: ‘With what kind of body do they [the dead who are raised] come?’ (15:35, NRSV). The nature of the anticipated objection is suggestive that Paul believed the Corinthians would not accept a future bodily resurrection.

In addition to denying the resurrection, the Corinthian disparagement of the body apparently led to errors and excesses in two other directions. Firstly, a party of libertines reasoned that if the body was doomed to eventual destruction anyway then what was done with, through and to it was of no importance. Their slogan was πάντα μοι ἔξεστιν (6:12; cf. 10:23). The results of this logic may be seen in the case of the incestuous man (5:1) and subsequent pride on the part of the church that such a thing should occur in their midst (5:2, 6). Similarly the sexual promiscuity on display in 6:12-20 may be attributed to this radical devaluing of that which is physical. The body was free to indulge fleshly appetites so long as the spirit was also free to meet spiritual appetites (6:13). To these people Paul offers the instruction δοξάσατε δὴ τὸν θεὸν ἐν τῷ σώματι ὑμῶν (6:20). Secondly, however, a party of ascetics applied their understanding of physical existence in a different direction. They reasoned that any indulgence of the σῶμα would be at the expense of the πνεῦμα.58 Thus they argued that believers should abstain from sexuality altogether, reflected in their slogan  καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ γυναικὸς μὴ ἅπτεσθαι (7:1b).59 Paul is more circumspect in his response to this group, acknowledging that abstinence is indeed appropriate if it aids in serving the Lord (7:32-35); if it does not, however, there is nothing wrong with sexuality providing it is in the context of marriage (7:36). Thus, whilst Paul agrees to some extent with the ascetic party line, he does not agree with the reasoning that led them to it.60

That Paul himself conceived of a bodily resurrection is quite clear. Resurrection is mentioned first in 6:14, in support of the argument that culminates in the imperative, ‘glorify God in your body’ (6:20, NRSV). Robertson & Plummer note that the inclusion of ἐκ νεκρῶν in 15:12 suggests a bodily resurrection, for Christ could not be conceived of as among the spiritually dead.61 The strongest evidence, however, is Paul’s response to the anticipated Corinthian objection (15:35). Paul offers two analogies that reveal the shape of his thought: (a) the planting of a seed (15:36-38); and (b) different kinds of bodies (15:39-41). The first emphasises both continuity and transformation.62 That which is sown goes from one existence to another by passing through death (36), at which time it is transformed from one body to another, according to the will of God (38). The second analogy stresses the adaptation of each body to its sphere of existence (39-41), with the implication that there will be an appropriate body for resurrection life. The σῶμα πνευματικόν is both continuous with and utterly distinct from σῶμα ψυχικόν. Thus Paul, whilst affirming a bodily existence in the age to come, distinguishes his position from a ‘crass Jewish conception of a “fleshly” resurrection’.

Neither σῶμα nor ψυχικόν hold negative connotations in this context, except possibly that of perishability (15:42b).63 As Vos points out, the absence of the σαρκικός / σαρκινός word group in this passage is strong proof that the contrast here is between the creation body and the resurrection body, for these are Paul’s stock terms for describing the body invaded by sin (e.g. Rom 7:14; 1 Cor 3:1, 3; 2 Cor 10:4).64 The Apostle is neither disparaging the ψυχικός nor exalting the πνευματικός but rather contrasting between the bodies belonging to the pre-eschatological and the eschatological ages respectively.65

In 15:45-49, Paul appeals to the analogy of Adam and Christ, further reinforcing the eschatological flavour of his argument. Lincoln points out the progression in his comparisons: first, types of bodies (15:35-41); next, representatives of those types (15:42-46); finally Adam and Christ are reconsidered as representatives of two world orders, γῆ and οὐρανός (15:47-49).66 Once again, the trajectory of Paul’s thought is an eschatological one.

What, then, may be said in conclusion? Thiselton’s case for an over-realised eschatology in Corinth is persuasive. The key exegetical evidence for the position is found in 4:8-13, wherein Paul satirises their arrogance and wilful blindness to the affliction that surrounds them, not least his own. The real strength of Thiselton’s argument is that it provides sufficient cause for the Corinthians’ pneumatic enthusiasm, something that Hays’ reading cannot. Even if one allows Hays’ position, however, this merely transforms the Corinthians’ eschatological distortion from too much eschatology to too little; rather than an over-realised eschatology they had an undeveloped eschatology. Either way, Paul’s consistent methodology is to repeatedly emphasise the remaining imperfections of the present age, and the blessings that await in the age to come. In particular, he lays great stress on a future somatic existence. In so doing, he comes into conflict with the second main stream of Corinthian eschatological distortion, a Hellenistic dualism that values the ‘spiritual’ (πνευματικός) to the exclusion of the ‘unspiritual’ (ψυχικός) and thus denies a future bodily resurrection (15:12). Between them, these two eschatological distortions may be seen to be causal in many, if not all, of the excesses and errors observed and addressed by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians.

Works cited

Barrett, C. K. A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Black’s New Testament Commentaries. London,: Adam & Charles Black, 1968.

Blomberg, Craig. 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1994.

Carson, D. A. The Cross and Christian Ministry : Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians. Paperback ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 2004.

Davies, W. D. Paul and Rabbinic Judaism : Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology. 4th ed. Mifflintown: Siegler Press, 1980 (1947). Reprint, 1998.

Dunn, James D. G. The Theology of Paul the Apostle. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1998.

Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1987.

Hays, Richard B. First Corinthians, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press, 1997.

———. “The Conversion of the Imagination : Scripture and Eschatology in 1 Corinthians.” New Testament Studies 45, no. 3 (1999): 391-412.

Horsley, Richard A. 1 Corinthians, Abingdon New Testament Commentaries. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998.

Hurd, John C. The Origin of 1 Corinthians S.P.C.K, 1983.

Kistemaker, Simon. Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993.

Kreitzer, L. Joseph. Jesus and God in Paul’s Eschatology, Journal for the Study of the New Testament. Supplement Series 19. Sheffield, England: JSOT Press, 1987.

Lincoln, Andrew T. Paradise Now and Not Yet : Studies in the Role of the Heavenly Dimension in Paul’s Thought with Special Reference to His Eschatology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

Mearns, Christopher L. “Early Eschatological Development in Paul : The Evidence of 1 Corinthians.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament no. 22 (1984): 19-35.

Morris, Leon. The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians : An Introduction and Commentary. 2nd ed, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.

Pate, C. Marvin. The End of the Age Has Come : The Theology of Paul. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1995.

Plevnik, Joseph. Paul and the Parousia : An Exegetical and Theological Investigation. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997.

Robertson, Archibald, and Alfred Plummer. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians. Edited by Samuel Rolles Driver, Alfred Plummer and Charles Augustus Briggs. Second ed, The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1914.

Thiselton, Anthony C. “Realized Eschatology at Corinth.” New Testament Studies 24, no. 4 (1978): 510-26.

———. The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000.

Vos, Geerhardus. The Pauline Eschatology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961.

Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics : An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1996.

Witherington, Ben. Conflict and Community in Corinth : A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995.

Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of the Son of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God. London: SPCK, 2003.

Yarbrough, O. Larry. “Not Like the Gentiles : Marriage Rules in the Letters of Paul.” PhD, Scholars Press, Yale University, 1986.


  1. Anthony C. Thiselton, “Realized Eschatology at Corinth,” New Testament Studies 24, no. 4 (1978).
  2. Richard B. Hays, “The Conversion of the Imagination : Scripture and Eschatology in 1 Corinthians,” New Testament Studies 45, no. 3 (1999).
  3. C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Black’s New Testament Commentaries (London,: Adam & Charles Black, 1968), 108f.; Thiselton, “Realized Eschatology.”; Christopher L. Mearns, “Early Eschatological Development in Paul : The Evidence of 1 Corinthians,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament, no. 22 (1984): 25.; Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1987), 12, 172.; Ben Witherington, Conflict and Community in Corinth : A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995), 139, 292, 302-4.
  4. Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press, 1997), 70.; Hays, “Conversion of the Imagination.”; Richard A. Horsley, 1 Corinthians, Abingdon New Testament Commentaries (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998), 69.; N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God (London: SPCK, 2003), 279, 96-7.
  5. Ibid., 279.
  6. Thiselton, “Realized Eschatology,” 512.
  7. Ibid.: 513ff.
  8. Ibid.: 515ff.
  9. Ibid.: 521-2.
  10. Ibid.: 512, 22.
  11. Ibid.: 523-4.
  12. Hays, “Conversion of the Imagination,” 407-8. cf.
  13. Ibid.: 408 n. 41.
  14. Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1174.
  15. These are representative of two of the three main categories of eschatological thought found in this epistle: fulfilment/abundance (1:7-9; 4:8-13; 8:2; 10:11; 13:8-12; 15:20-28) and resurrection (6:14; 15:1-58). The third category is judgement/reward (3:10-15; 4:5; 6:2, 9; 9:24-27; 11:32).
  16. In addition to reading a Gnostic element into Thiselton’s article (on which see above), Hays attacks the ‘tortuous interpretation’ of 15:12 as a belief that the Corinthians had already experienced resurrection ‘on the analogy of 2 Tim 2.17-18… which requires us to suppose that Paul misunderstands or misrepresents the Corinthians’ actual opinions’ (Hays, “Conversion of the Imagination,” 408.). In this he misrepresents Thiselton, whose actual position was that the Corinthians ‘placed such weight on the experience of transformation in the past and present that when they thought about resurrection the centre of gravity of their thinking was no longer in the future.’ (Thiselton, “Realized Eschatology,” 524.)
  17. Hays, “Conversion of the Imagination,” 391.
  18. Ibid.: 407.
  19. Ibid.: 399. cf. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 279. Contra Barrett, First Epistle, 108f.
  20. Hays, “Conversion of the Imagination,” 399. cf. 8:1.
  21. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 172. Both Fee and Witherington note the possibility that these could be a continuation of the rhetorical questions in 4:7 (Ibid., 172 n. 36.; Witherington, Conflict & Community, 141.). The force of the irony remains undiminished in either case.
  22. Andrew T. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet : Studies in the Role of the Heavenly Dimension in Paul’s Thought with Special Reference to His Eschatology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 33.
  23. Hays, First Corinthians, 70.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Witherington, Conflict & Community, 142f.
  26. Ibid., 139.
  27. Ibid., 139, 304.
  28. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 172.
  29. Barrett, First Epistle, 108f.
  30. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 34. Lincoln suggests that the Corinthians viewed the sacraments as expressions of pneumatic existence in the kingdom.
  31. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 12, 778. cf. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 34, 41.
  32. Admittedly the connection in this case is with the ‘already’ of Paul’s eschatological outlook, but the emphasis here seems to be on the fact that they are given for the interval until the parousia.
  33. D. A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry : Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians, Paperback ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 2004), 105.
  34. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 295.
  35. Thiselton, “Realized Eschatology,” 515.
  36. James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1998), 477.
  37. C. Marvin Pate, The End of the Age Has Come : The Theology of Paul (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1995), 106.
  38. Simon Kistemaker, Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993), 138. Kistemaker also argues that the periphrastic construction of the perfect passive participle κεκορεσμένοι together with the verb ‘to be’ in the present tense ‘signifies that for a considerable time the Corinthians have had all the things they needed’.
  39. Of seven occurrences of the phrase ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ in Paul, five of them are found in this epistle (4:20; 6:9, 10; 15:24, 50). cf. Joseph Plevnik, Paul and the Parousia : An Exegetical and Theological Investigation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997), 148.
  40. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 52. Yet, as Lincoln points out, Paul can still use the present participle διδόντι for the giving of victory in 15:57
  41. L. Joseph Kreitzer, Jesus and God in Paul’s Eschatology, Journal for the Study of the New Testament. Supplement Series 19 (Sheffield, England: JSOT Press, 1987), 148.
  42. cf. Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1172ff. Thiselton also notes the possibility that there may have been more than one group with more than one problem (Ibid., 1176.).
  43. Mearns, “Early Eschatological Development,” 24.
  44. Schweitzer, cited in Barrett, First Epistle, 347.
  45. W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism : Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology, 4th ed. (Mifflintown: Siegler Press, 1980 (1947); reprint, 1998), 292.
  46. Héring, cited in Ibid. cf. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 37.; Kistemaker, First Corinthians, 540. This is the view that Hays latches on to as representative of Thiselton’s reconstruction of an over-realised eschatology in Corinth (on which, see above).
  47. Mearns, “Early Eschatological Development,” 20.
  48. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 715.; Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 34.
  49. Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 511.
  50. So Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 11-12.; Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, 301.; Horsley, 1 Corinthians, 200.; Plevnik, Paul and the Parousia : An Exegetical and Theological Investigation, 151.; Witherington, Conflict & Community, 306.; and Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 316, 30.
  51. cf. John C. Hurd, The Origin of 1 Corinthians (S.P.C.K, 1983), 286.
  52. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, 303.
  53. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 343.
  54. cf. Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians : An Introduction and Commentary, 2nd ed., The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985), 219.
  55. cf. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics : An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1996), 670.
  56. So Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 775, 80. and Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 38.
  57. Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians, ed. Samuel Rolles Driver, Alfred Plummer, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Second ed., The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1914), 368. and quoted in Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1262.
  58. Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The Niv Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1994), 132.
  59. O. Larry Yarbrough, “Not Like the Gentiles : Marriage Rules in the Letters of Paul” (PhD, Scholars Press, Yale University, 1986), 119.
  60. Ibid., 5.; Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, 136.
  61. Robertson and Plummer, First Epistle, 351.
  62. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 779.
  63. Both Fee and Wright follow Jeremias in suggesting that Paul’s usage of φθείρω in 15:42, 50 indicates ‘the dead’ οver against the living. On this reading, ‘perishable’ is an indication of mortality and not intrinsically negative. Ibid., 799.; Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 358.
  64. Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961), 168.
  65. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 40.
  66. Ibid., 44.
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What is the deal with getting married?

by on Dec.07, 2008, under Bible Study, Reflection

The Bible is an intensely practical book. Whenever it reveals a truth it also gives us a cue as to how to live according to that truth. This afternoon we are going to look at a small portion of what the Bible teaches about marriage, and from that try to answer the very practical question: When, if ever, should I get married?

Before I read to you from 1 Corinthians 7, just a quick comment about the word ‘virgin’. Paul uses this word to refer to those who have never been married – as opposed to those who have married and then been widowed. In his eyes that also people who had never had sex (and hopefully that’s the way you see it too!) but it is their marital status that he is emphasising rather than their sexual experience.

The Master did not give explicit direction regarding virgins, but as one much experienced in the mercy of the Master and loyal to him all the way, you can trust my counsel. Because of the current pressures on us from all sides, I think it would probably be best to stay just as you are. Are you married? Stay married. Are you unmarried? Don’t get married. But there’s certainly no sin in getting married, whether you’re a virgin or not. All I am saying is that when you marry, you take on additional stress in an already stressful time, and I want to spare you if possible.

I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple—in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out.

I want you to live as free of complications as possible. When you’re unmarried, you’re free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master. Marriage involves you in all the nuts and bolts of domestic life and in wanting to please your spouse, leading to so many more demands on your attention. The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, the unmarried can spend in becoming whole and holy instruments of God. I’m trying to be helpful and make it as easy as possible for you, not make things harder. All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions.

If a man has a woman friend to whom he is loyal but never intended to marry, having decided to serve God as a ‘single,’ and then changes his mind, deciding he should marry her, he should go ahead and marry. It’s no sin; it’s not even a “step down” from celibacy, as some say. On the other hand, if a man is comfortable in his decision for a single life in service to God and it’s entirely his own conviction and not imposed on him by others, he ought to stick with it. Marriage is spiritually and morally right and not inferior to singleness in any way, although as I indicated earlier, because of the times we live in, I do have pastoral reasons for encouraging singleness.

     – 1 Corinthians 7:25-38 (The Message)

On first reading this passage seems quite negative towards marriage – and it is! Paul is at pains to point out how much effort marriage is, and how it requires more effort and energy than the single life – things that could just as easily be devoted towards God. How do we reconcile this with Paul’s teachings on marriage elsewhere, where he paints a much rosier picture? I believe that the key is to recognise that Paul’s highest priority is to serve and honour God. ‘All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions’ (35).

But if serving God is the priority, why would anyone ever get married? Why did I? The simple answer is that I reached a point where I was better able to serve and honour God as a married man than as a single. After I met Katrie I found that increasing amounts of my time, energy and affection were being directed towards her… and less towards God. This was a real dilemma because I wanted to serve God but my attention was divided and that was not honouring to him. Paul wrote that ‘when you’re unmarried, you’re free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master’ (32) but that was no longer true for me.

After much prayer I realised that the answer was marriage. Not because it would reduce my distraction but rather because it redeemed it. God had entrusted me with the task of caring for Katrie; being married meant that I could serve my wife and serve God at the same time. The service that God required and continues to require of me is to love and serve my wife (and, soon, my child!).

Sometimes getting married will not help to honour God. For example getting married to someone who is not a Christian will certainly not be helpful in this regard. Similarly if you are marrying because you think it is the ‘right thing to do’, because you’re afraid of ‘ending up single’ or because you want to have sex then your marriage will be on very shaky foundations and this will not be honouring to God.

So the first thing to consider in deciding whether or not to marry is a theological question: will marriage help me to honour God or not? But once that question is answered there is another to follow: is now a good time for me to marry? Are you finishing your studies or trying to establish a career? Probably not a good time to be getting married. Are you financially placed to be married? Marriage is not a great place for brand new Christians either. The wrong answers to any of these questions should act as a red flag; this is not to say you definitely shouldn’t get married but you should definitely get godly council from mature Christians who know you well.

I believe that Paul’s instruction in this chapter is clear: wherever you are, whatever your situation in life is, seek to honour God. If you are married, honour God in your marriage; if single serve him in your singleness; if studying study for his glory; if working then work as an act of worship. Don’t spend your time wishing you were married, unmarried etc. especially not because some religious nut-job tells you that ‘all Christians are called to be X'; Paul reminds us that serve God where you are. And if the time comes where getting married will aid you in serving God better – go for it!

And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life.

     – 1 Corinthians 7:17 (The Message)


One of your friends says marriage is a waste of time, and it’s better to stay single so as to be better able to serve God; another says every Christian should get married because it honours God. What would you say to each of them?

Read 1 Cor. 7:25-38 again. What is your initial reaction to that passage? What is Paul teaching us about marriage? Does he see it as a good thing or not?

What is Paul’s main reason for arguing against marriage in this passage? (See particularly v. 32). What are some of the concerns that marriage brings?

What are some of the things that you should consider before getting married? Imagine you have a close friend who is considering getting married – what would you say to him or her?

Read 1 Cor. 7:12-16. These verses are directed towards people who are already married when one of them becomes a believer – but what about those who are not yet married? Some people marry a non-Christian believing that this may bring about the conversion of their new spouse. Is this a good idea? Why?

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