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1. Called to be an apostle. See on Rom. i. 1. Compare 1 Tim. i. 1. Not distinguishing him from other apostles. Compare Matt. iv. 21; John vi. 70; but Paul was called no less directly than these by Jesus Christ. Gal. i. 12-16. John does not use the word apostle, but gives the idea, John xiii. 18.
2. Corinth. The Corinth of this period owed the beginning of its prosperity to Julius Caesar, who, a hundred years after its destruction by Mummius (B.C. 146), rebuilt and peopled it with a colony of veterans and freedmen. It was situated on the isthmus which divided Northern Greece from the Peloponnesus. It had three harbors, Cenchreae and Schoenus on the east, and Lechaeumn on the west. The isthmus, forming the only line of march for an invading or retreating army, was of the greatest military importance. It was known as "the eye of Greece." By Pindar it was called "the bridge of the sea;" by Xenophon, "the gate of the Peloponnesus;" and by Strabo, "the acropolis of Greece." In more modern times it was known as "the Gibraltar of Greece." Hence, at least as early as the march of Xerxes into Greece, it was crossed by a wall, which, in later times, became a massive and important fortification, especially in the decline of the Roman Empire. Justinian fortified it with an hundred and fifty towers. The citadel rose two thousand feet above the sea-level, on a rock with precipitous sides. In the days of the Achaean league it was called one of the "fetters" of Greece. "It runs out boldly from the surging mountain chains of the Peninsula, like an outpost or sentry, guarding the approach from the North. In days when news was transmitted by fire-signals, 76 we can imagine how all the southern country must have depended on the watch upon the rock of Corinth" (Mahaffy, "Rambles and Studies in Greece").
At its narrowest part the isthmus was crossed by a level track called the diolcus, over which vessels were dragged on rollers from one port to the other. This was in constant use, because seamen were thus enabled to avoid sailing round the dangerous promontory of Malea, the southern extremity of the Peloponnesus. A canal was projected and by Nero, but was abandoned. The common title of the city in the poets was bimaris, "the city of the two seas."
The commercial position of Corinth was, therefore, most important, communicating with the eastern and the western world, with the north and the south. The isthmus was one of the four principal points for the celebration of the Grecian games; and in Paul's day great numbers flocked to these contests from all parts of the Mediterranean.
On the restoration of the city by Julius Caesar, both Greek and Jewish merchants settled in Corinth in such numbers as probably to outnumber the Romans. In Paul's time it was distinctively a commercial center, marked by wealth and luxury. "It was the 'Vanity Fair' of the Roman Empire, at once the London and the Paris of the first century after Christ" (Farrar). It was conspicuous for its immorality. To "corinthianize" was the term for reckless debauchery. Juvenal sarcastically alludes to it as "perfumed Corinth;" and Martial pictures an effeminate fellow boasting of being a Corinthian citizen. The temple of Aphrodite (Venus) employed a thousand ministers. Drunkenness rivaled licentiousness, and Corinthians, when introduced on the stage, were commonly represented as drunk.
Paul's impression of its profligacy may be seen in his description of heathenism in the first of Romans, and in his stern words concerning sensual sin in the two Corinthian Epistles. "Politically Roman, socially Greek, religiously it was Roman, Greek, Oriental, all in one. When, therefore, the apostle preached to the Corinthians, the Gospel spoke to the whole world and to the living present" (Edwards).
Called to be saints. See on Rom. i. 7.
Call upon the name (epikaloumenoiv to onoma). Compare Romans x. 12; Acts ii. 21. The formula is from the Septuagint. See Zech. xiii. 9; Gen. xii. 8; xiii. 4; Psalm cxv. 17. It is used of worship, and here implies prayer to Christ. The first christian prayer recorded as heard by Saul of Tarsus, was Stephen's prayer to Christ, Acts vii. 59. The name of Christ occurs nine times in the first nine verses of this epistle.
Theirs and ours. A.V. and Rev. connect with Jesus Christ our Lord.
Better with in every place. Every place in the province where Christians are is our place also. The expression emphasizes the position of Paul as the founder and apostolic head of Christianity in Corinth and in all Achaia.
3. Grace - peace. Grace is the Greek salutation, peace the Jewish. Both in the spiritual sense. Compare Num. vi. 25, 26. This form of salutation is common to all Paul's epistles to the churches. In Timothy and Titus, mercy is added. James alone has the ordinary conventional salutation, cairein rejoice, hail, greeting.
My God. Some very high authorities omit. The pronoun implies close personal relationship. Compare Acts xxvii. 23; Philip. i. 3; iii. 8. By Christ Jesus (en). Better, as Rev., in; in fellowship with. The element or sphere in which the grace is manifested.
Utterance - knowledge (logw - gnwsei). The two words are found together, ch. xii. 8; 2 Cor. xi. 6; viii. 7. For knowledge, see on Romans xi. 33. Utterance, aptitude in speech. Paul gives thanks for speech as a means of testifying for Christ. "The saints have never been silent" (Pascal).
Waiting (apekdecomenouv). See on Rom. viii. 19. Denoting assiduous waiting. Dr. Thayer compares the phrase wait it out (ek).
Revelation (apokaluyin). See on Apoc. i. 1.
8. Confirm. Compare ver. 6.
Unto the end. Of the present aeon or period. See on end of the world, Matt. xxviii. 20.
Blameless (anegklhtouv). Used by Paul only. In apposition with you. Rev., unreprovable. The kindred verb ejgkalew occurs only in Acts and Romans. See on Rom. viii. 33. It means to accuse publicly, but not necessarily before a tribunal. See Acts xxiii. 28, 29; xxvi. 2, 7. Hence the word here points to appearance at God's bar.
Ye were called (eklhqhte). See on Rom. iv. 17.
10. I beseech (parakalw). See on consolation, Luke vi. 24. The word occurs more than one hundred times in the New Testament.
Divisions (scismata). See on John x. 19. In classical Greek used only of actual rents in material. So in Matt. ix. 16; Mark ii. 21. In the sense of discord, see John vii. 43; ix. 16; x. 19. Here, faction, for which the classical word is stasiv: division within the christian community. The divisions of the Corinthian church arose on questions of marriage and food (vii. 3, 5, 12); on eating, meat offered to idols (viii. 7; x. 20); on the comparative value of spiritual endowments, such as speaking with "tongues" 79 ; on the privileges and demeanor of women in the assemblies for worship (xi. 5-15); on the relations of the rich and the poor in the agape or love-feasts (xi. 17-22); and on the prerogatives of the different christian teachers (i. 12, 13; iii. 3-22).
Perfectly joined together (kathrtismenoi). Rev., perfected together. See on Matt. xxi. 16; Luke vi. 40; 1 Pet. v. 10. Carrying on the metaphor in divisions. Not of individual and absolute perfection, but of perfection in the unity of the Church.
Mind (noi). See on Rom. vii. 23.
Judgment (gnwmh). See on Apoc. xvii. 13. The distinction between mind and judgment is not between theoretical and practical, since nouv mind, includes the practical reason, while gnwmh judgment, has a theoretical side. Rather between understanding and opinion; nouv regarding the thing from the side of the subject, gnwmh from the side of the object. Being in the same realm of thought, they would judge questions from the same christian stand-point, and formulate their judgment accordingly.
11. It hath been declared (edhlwqh). Rev., signified, which is hardly strong enough. The word means to make clear, or manifest (dhlov). Compare ch. iii. 13. It may imply that Paul was reluctant to believe the reports, but was convinced by unimpeachable testimony.
Of the household of Chloe (twn Clohv). See on Rom. xvi. 10 for the form of expression. The persons may have been slaves who had come to Ephesus on business for their mistress, or members of her family. Chloe means tender verdure, and was an epithet of Demeter (Ceres), the goddess of agriculture and rural life. It is uncertain whether she belonged to the Corinthian or to the Ephesian church.
Contentions (eridev). Socrates in Plato's "Republic" distinguishes between disputing (erizein) and discussing (dialegesqai), and identifies contention (eriv) with gainsaying (antilogia), "Republic," v., 454. Compare Tit. iii. 9.
I am of Paul and I of Apollos. The repeated de and, expresses the opposition between the respective parties. The followers of Apollos preferred his more philosophical and rhetorical preaching to the simpler and more direct utterances of Paul. Others ranged themselves under the name of Peter.
Cephas. Aramaic for Petrov Peter. See on John i. 42. It is Paul's usual name for Peter, Petrov occurring only Gal. ii. 7, 8. Peter would be the rallying-point for the Judaizing Christians, who claimed him as the apostle of the circumcision. The state of the Corinthian church offered the most favorable ground for Paul's Jewish-Christian adversaries, who took advantage of the reaction created by the looser views and practice of Gentile Christians, and by the differences of opinion on important questions, to press the necessity of legal regulation, and of ceremonial observances in non-essentials.
Of Christ. Many modern authorities hold that Paul thus designates a fourth and quite distinct party. This view rests mainly on the form of statement in this verse, and has no support in the epistle. The peculiar characteristics of this party, if it were such, can only be conjectured. It seems more probable that those who were "of Christ" belonged to the party of Peter: that they were native Jews, coming from abroad with letters of recommendation to Corinth, representing themselves as ministers and apostles of Christ, and using His name as the watchword under which they could most successfully prosecute their opposition to Paul and the gospel which he preached. The allusion in this verse would therefore link itself with those in the tenth and eleventh chapters of the second epistle.
13. Is Christ divided? (memeristai o Cristov). Some of the best expositors render as an assertion. Christ has been divided by your controversies. He is broken up into different party Christs. This gives a perfectly good and forcible sense, and is favored by the absence of the interrogative particle mh, which introduces the next clause. 78 Divided: so portioned up that one party may claim Him more than another. Christ has the article. See on Matt. i. 1.
In the name (eiv to onoma). Rev., correctly, Into the name. See on Matt. xxviii. 19. Of Paul as the name of him whom you were to confess. The order of the original is: Was it into the name of Paul that ye were baptized?
15. l had baptized (ebaptisa). The correct reading is ejbaptisqhte ye were baptized. So Rev. Paul's commission contains no mention of baptism. Compare Acts ix. 15, with Matt. xxviii. 15. From his peculiar position as the inaugurator of a second epoch of Christianity, many would be tempted to regard him as the real founder of the Church, and to boast of having been baptized into his name. "No outward initiation of converts entered into his ministry" (Edwards).
17. Should be made of none effect (kenwqh). Lit., emptied. Rev., made void. Compare is made void, Rom. iv. 14, and the kindred adjective kenon, kenh vain, ch. xv. 14. The nucleus of the apostolic preaching was a fact - Christ crucified. To preach it as a philosophic system would be to empty it of its saving power, a truth which finds abundant and lamentable illustration in the history of the Church.
To them that perish (toiv apollumenoiv). Lit., that are perishing. So Rev. The present participle denotes process: they who are on the way to destruction. Compare 2 Cor. ii. 15.
Foolishness (mwria). Only in this epistle. See on have lost his savor, Matt. v. 13.
Which are saved (toiv swzomenoiv). Rev., being saved: in process of salvation.
19. I will destroy, etc. Cited literally from the Septuagint, Isa. xxix. 14, except that the Septuagint has kruyw I will conceal, instead of I will reject. The Hebrew reads: "The wisdom of its (Judah's) wise men shall perish, and the sagacity of its sagacious men shall hide itself."
Wisdom - prudence (sofian - sunesin). The two words are often found together, as Exod. xxxi. 3; Deut. iv. 6; Col. i. 9. Compare sofoi kai sunetoi wise and prudent, Matt. xi. 25. For the distinction, see, as to sofia wisdom, on Rom. xi. 33; as to sunesiv prudence, on Mark xii. 33; Luke ii. 47. Wisdom is the more general; mental excellence in its highest and fullest sense. Prudence is the special application of wisdom; its critical adjustment to particular cases.
Will bring to nothing (aqethsw). See on Luke vii. 30. Originally, to make disestablished (aqeton) something which is established or prescribed (qeton). Hence to nullify, make void, frustrate, and, in a milder sense, to despise or reject, as Gal. ii. 21. The stronger sense is better here, so that Rev., reject is not an improvement on the A.V. The American revisers render: And the discernment of the discerning will I bring to nought.
Disputer (suzhththv). Only here. Compare the kindred verb suzhtew to question with, Mark i. 27; Luke xxii. 23; Acts vi. 9; and suzhthsiv disputation, Acts xv. 2, 7. Referring to Grecian sophistical reasoners, while scribe refers to rabbinical hair-splitters.
World (aiwnov). See on John i. 9. More correctly, age or period.
21. After that (epeidh). Rev., correctly, seeing that.
By wisdom (dia thv sofiav). Better, as Rev., giving the force of the article, "through its wisdom."
Preaching (khrugmatov). Not the act, but the substance of preaching. Compare ver. 23.
To save (swsai). The word was technically used in the Old Testament of deliverance at the Messiah's coming; of salvation from the penalties of the messianic judgment, or from the evils which obstruct the messianic deliverance. See Joel ii. 32; Matt. i. 21; compare Acts ii. 40. Paul uses it in the ethical sense, to make one a partaker of the salvation which is through Christ. Edwards calls attention to the foregleam of this christian conception of the word in the closing paragraph of Plato's "Republic:" "And thus, Glaucon, the tale has been saved, and has not perished, and will save (swseien) us if we are obedient to the word spoken, and we shall pass safely over the river of forgetfulness and our soul will not be defiled."
22. The Jews. Omit the article. Among the Jews many had become Christians.
Require (aijtousin). Rev., ask. But it is questionable whether the A.V. is not preferable. The word sometimes takes the sense of demand, as Luke xii. 48; 1 Pet. iii. 15; and this sense accords well with the haughty attitude of the Jews, demanding of all apostolic religions their proofs and credentials. See Matt. xii. 38; xvi. 1; John vi. 30.
Seek after (zhtousin). Appropriate to the Greeks in contrast with the Jews. The Jews claimed to possess the truth: the Greeks were seekers, speculators (compare Acts xvii. 23) after what they called by the general name of wisdom.
Christ crucified (Criston estaurwmenon). Not the crucified Christ, but Christ as crucified, not a sign-shower nor a philosopher; and consequently a scandal to the Jew and folly to the Gentile.
Unto the Greeks (%Ellhsi). The correct reading is eqnesin to the Gentiles. So Rev. Though %Ellhnev Greeks, is equivalent to Gentiles in the New Testament when used in antithesis to Jews, yet in this passage Paul seems to have in mind the Greeks as representing gentile wisdom and culture.
25. The foolishness (to mwron). Lit., the foolish thing. More specific than the abstract mwria foolishness (vers. 18, 21), and pointing to the fact of Christ crucified.
Noble (eugeneiv). Of high birth. So originally, though as Greece became democratic, it came to signify merely the better sort of freemen. Plato applies it to the children of native Athenians ("Menexenus," 237).
Aeschylus makes Clytaemnestra say to the captive Cassandra that if slavery must befall one there is an advantage in having masters of ancient family property instead of those who have become unexpectedly rich ("Agamemnon," 1010).
27. Hath chosen. The threefold repetition of the word emphasizes the deliberate and free action of God's gracious will.
28. Base (wgenh). Of no family. The reverse of eujgeneiv noble.
Despised (exouqenhmena). Lit., set at nought. Not merely despised, but expressly branded with contempt. See Luke xxiii. 11.
30. Wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
The last three terms illustrate and exemplify the first - wisdom. The wisdom impersonated in Christ manifests itself as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. 79 For dikaiosunh righteousness, see on Rom. i. 17. For aJgiasmov sanctification, on Rom. vi. 19. For ajpolutrwsiv redemption, Rom. iii. 24.
31. He that glorieth, etc. From Jer. ix. 23, 24, abridged after the Septuagint.