1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Epistle lection, Feb. 2, 2014
On the left is the SBL text (pretty close to the best Greek texts). On the right is my translation–as literal as possible while maintaining at least roughly comprehensible English. (Words I’ve added that I think are implied in the text, but not actually present, are enclosed in [brackets].) I’ve also added footnotes to the Greek text in places where I’ve offered brief comments. The goal here is not to offer a complete commentary on the text, but simply to highlight some issues where looking at the original language may help to illumine what is going on overall here. One of my purposes for this whole approach is to encourage those who are preaching and teaching the lectionary text to explore the original languages, and to give them a head start on what they might discover.
|1Co 1:18 Ὁ λόγος[A] γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν, τοῖς δὲ σῳζομένοις ἡμῖν δύναμις θεοῦ ἐστιν.||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.|
|1Co 1:19 γέγραπται γάρ· Ἀπολῶ[B] τὴν σοφίαν τῶν σοφῶν, καὶ τὴν σύνεσιν[C] τῶν συνετῶν ἀθετήσω.||For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise ones, and the intelligence of the understanding ones I will nullify.|
|1Co 1:20 ποῦ σοφός; ποῦ γραμματεύς; ποῦ συζητητὴς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου; οὐχὶ ἐμώρανεν ὁ θεὸς τὴν σοφίαν τοῦ κόσμου;||Where [is the] wise one? Where is [the] scribe? Where is [the] debater of this age? Did not God make moronic the wisdom of the world?|
|1Co 1:21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔγνω ὁ κόσμος διὰ τῆς σοφίας τὸν θεόν, εὐδόκησεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος[D] σῶσαι τοὺς πιστεύοντας.||For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased, through the folly of what is preached, to save those who believe.|
|1Co 1:22 ἐπειδὴ καὶ[E] Ἰουδαῖοι σημεῖα αἰτοῦσιν καὶ Ἕλληνες σοφίαν ζητοῦσιν·||Since Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek wisdom,|
|1Co 1:23 ἡμεῖς δὲ κηρύσσομεν Χριστὸν ἐσταυρωμένον[F], Ἰουδαίοις μὲν σκάνδαλον ἔθνεσιν δὲ μωρίαν,||But we preach Christ crucified, on the one hand to Jews a stumbling block, and other the other hand, to gentiles, foolishness;|
|1Co 1:24 αὐτοῖς δὲ τοῖς κλητοῖς[G], Ἰουδαίοις τε καὶ Ἕλλησιν, Χριστὸν[H] θεοῦ δύναμιν[I] καὶ θεοῦ σοφίαν.||But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ [is the] power of God and [the] wisdom of God.|
|1Co 1:25 ὅτι τὸ μωρὸν[J] τοῦ θεοῦ σοφώτερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων[K] ἐστίν, καὶ τὸ ἀσθενὲς τοῦ θεοῦ ἰσχυρότερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων.||For the folly of God is wiser than humans, and the weakness of God is stronger than humans.|
|1Co 1:26 Βλέπετε γὰρ τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι οὐ πολλοὶ σοφοὶ κατὰ σάρκα, οὐ πολλοὶ δυνατοί, οὐ πολλοὶ εὐγενεῖς[L]·||Look at your calling, brothers [and sisters,] since not many [were] wise according to the flesh; not many [were] strong; not many [were] well-born;|
|1Co 1:27 ἀλλὰ τὰ μωρὰ[M] τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τοὺς σοφούς, καὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τὰ ἰσχυρά[N],||But God chose the foolish things of the world, in order that he might put the wise ones to shame, and God chose the weak things of the world, in order that he might put the strong things to shame.|
|1Co 1:28 καὶ τὰ ἀγενῆ[O] τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τὰ ἐξουθενημένα ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, τὰ μὴ ὄντα, ἵνα τὰ ὄντα καταργήσῃ,[P]||Indeed, the common things of the world, and the despised things God chose—the things that are nothing, so that he might nullify the things that are something,|
|1Co 1:29 ὅπως μὴ καυχήσηται[Q] πᾶσα[R] σὰρξ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ.||So that no flesh [i.e. human being] might boast before God.|
|1Co 1:30 ἐξ αὐτοῦ δὲ ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ,[S] ὃς ἐγενήθη σοφία ἡμῖν[T] ἀπὸ θεοῦ, δικαιοσύνη τε καὶ ἁγιασμὸς[U] καὶ ἀπολύτρωσις,||But from him, you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom for us from God, and righteousness and holiness and redemption,|
|1Co 1:31 ἵνα καθὼς γέγραπται· Ὁ καυχώμενος ἐν κυρίῳ καυχάσθω.||so that , as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”|
[A] λόγος has a wide range of meaning. In this context, it could mean “word,” “meaning,” “message,” etc.
[B] Note that this is the same verb translated “perishing” in the previous verse (though in a different tense). A search on this verb in Paul more widely will yield some interesting results. You can do that online here: http://biblewebapp.com/study/. When you click on the English word, the correct Greek word is highlighted. Click on the Greek verb, scroll down, and click on “find all occurrences.”
[C] Definitions include intelligence, acuteness, shrewdness, insight, and understanding.
[D] Or possibly “the foolishness of preaching.” Both the act and the content are possible meanings.
[E] The double καὶ construction is hard to translate, but the meaning is to treat Jews and Greeks in a parallel way to each other.
[F] A perfect passive participle—“in the present and enduring state of having been crucified.”
[G] Don’t miss the verbal allusion back to 1:2.
[H] The accusative case makes it clear that this verse looks back to the same Christ who is preached in the previous verse. It’s hard to render this in translation into English.
[I] Interesting to speculate: does Christ the power of God correspond to the “stumbling block” to Jews referenced above, and Christ the wisdom correspond to the foolishness of the gospel to Greeks in the previous verse? In any case, we see a second theme introduced here. In addition to the polarity of foolishness and wisdom, Paul begins to develop the contrast between strength and weakness.
[J] Note that these are both neuter singular noun substantives—“the foolish thing” and “the weak thing—rather than the abstract noun “foolishness” which Paul has used earlier in vv. 21 & 23 (Paul doesn’t reference weakness earlier).
[K] Most likely just the genitive of comparison (as I have translated). But it could also be a possessive genitive, with an implied noun, rendering the verse: “For the folly of God is wiser than [the wisdom] of humans, and the weakness of God is stronger than [the strength] of humans.”
[L] Now Paul adds a third category: not just wisdom and power, but social status/standing.
[M] Note the neuter gender. It’s not foolish people but foolish things.
[N] Even here we see the neuter plural—it’s the strong things that are shamed, in contrast to the wise ones who are shamed earlier in the verse.
[O] Note again the high-born/commoner polarity here.
[P] Again—the neuter plurals are worth noting. God does not nullify people, but things—values, assumptions, etc. Also, check the Bauer lexicon on this verb—some interesting nuances.
[Q] One gets the sense that this negation of boasting is the goal toward which this whole passage has been moving. C f. 1:31.
[R] The construction μὴ . . . πᾶσα does not suggest ‘not all, but perhaps some.” Rather, it has the connotation “none at all.”
[S] This phrase could be understood several ways. The two most likely: (1) By God’s doing, you are in Christ Jesus.” (2) “You are from God, in Christ Jesus.”
[T] A huge soteriological bundle is tied up in these words “who became for us . . .” We access all these things (wisdom, power, and status) by becoming joined to the one who became for us righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (three huge soteriological terms).
[U] Could be “holiness” or “sanctification.”