Ancient Greek letters customarily began with the names of sender and recipient and a short greeting (cf. Acts 23.26
). Paul expands this form to express his faith in Christ as well (see Rom 1.1–7
). If he is the same person, Sosthenes plays a different role here from that in Acts 18.17
The church of God is the local community of the new worldwide movement or “assembly of God” and constitutes a pointed alternative to the official
city “assembly” (Gk “ekklesia”) of Corinth.
After the salutation in ancient letters there usually came a short prayer of thanksgiving or of petition for those addressed.
This element Paul also expands in a characteristically Pauline way (see Rom 1.8–15
). Paul mentions positively the eloquent speech, transcendent knowledge, and spiritual gifts valued by some Corinthians that
he then discusses more critically in the body of the letter. But he emphasizes the future revealing or day of our Lord Jesus Christ at the end, the final time of judgment and fulfillment (elaborated in ch 15
Beginning with his appeal for agreement and no divisions among the Corinthians, the argument unfolds in five steps.
Speaking like a political leader of a city, Paul appeals for agreement or concord and no divisions among the Corinthians, who have divided at least in their loyalty to particular leaders or teachers, although not necessarily
into different parties or factions. As indicated in
, Paul believes the division is primarily between followers of Apollos and himself (cf. 3.22–23
). Cephas (Peter) and particularly Christ are included here for rhetorical effect. Apollos, from Alexandria in Egypt, was known for his eloquence and knowledge of the scriptures (Acts 18.24–28
Chloe is not mentioned elsewhere.
Not an attack on baptism itself, but on its connection with the Corinthians' attachment to particular leaders such as Apollos
or himself. It is uncertain whether this is connected with some Corinthians' interest in “baptism for the dead,” mentioned
(see Acts 18.8
), Gaius, and Stephanas were apparently heads of households prominent in the Corinthian assembly. The household of Stephanas may have included some slaves or freed‐persons, perhaps including Fortunatas and Achaicus, who have typical slave names (“Lucky”
and “the Greek”), included with Stephanas in the delegation visiting Paul in
Paul quickly identifies wisdom (Gk “sophia”) and eloquent wisdom as the root of the divisiveness in the Corinthian assembly and hence a threat to the power of the cross of Christ, the content of his own gospel. For high valuation of eloquent words in connection with wisdom (among some Hellenistic Jews), see Wis 8.8,12,18
The contrast of Christ crucified with wisdom. In the second step of his argument for unity, Paul contrasts Christ crucified
with wisdom and its eloquent communication by means of several plays on the words “wisdom,” “fool ishness,” “power,” and “weakness.”
In Paul's play on words, the meaning of the cross/Christ crucified remains stable, while that of wisdom shifts, from opposition to the cross and opposition by God (vv. 18–20
) into apposition with the crucified Christ (and the power of God) and finally into identifica tion as the wisdom of God (vv. 23–24
The wisdom of God apparently refers to God's plan for salvation (see Dan 2.27–30
), in which Christ's crucifixion is the key event, as indicated by the “secret and hidden” wisdom of God in
. By contrast, wisdom through which the world did not know God refers to the transcendent or heavenly wisdom so highly valued by some of the Corinthians (see esp. Wis 6.12–10.21
), which Paul denigrates as wisdom of the world in
Crucifixion was an excruciatingly painful Roman form of torturous death by hanging on a pole or cross, reserved for the lower
class, usually inflicted on slaves or rebels in subject provinces such as Judea. Thus (as in
) the cross and Christ crucified would indeed have been foolishness to the dominant Roman and Greek culture. Paradoxically, the crucifixion had become the very power of God and wisdom of God to the members of the new movement of Christbelievers (cf. v. 17
Explains the paradox stated in vv. 18–25
by reference to the Corinthians' own call into the salvation now underway by God's power manifested in the crucifixion of
Christ. The aristocratic qualities of being wise,
powerful, and of noble birth (and “rich, kings,” as in
) were commonly used in a spiritualized sense both by Greek and by Hellenistic Jewish philosophers, particularly as the qualities
gained by possession of wisdom (see Wis 6.20–21; 7.7–14; 8.3–5; 9.6; 10.11,14
Paul implies that, in contrast to their concrete social origins as poor common people, some of the Corinthians now claim to
be spiritually powerful and nobly born.
But precisely by calling them as poor, weak, “nothings” in the world, God is manifesting his purpose of overturning the established
order, the dominance of the powerful, wise, and nobly born. (Overturning the dominance of the powerful is deeply rooted in
biblical tradition, e.g., Ex 15.1–17,21; Judg 5; 1 Sam 2.1–10
Christ Jesus is now identified as the wisdom from God, which is relativized by association with God's other effects on believers, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
Therefore boasting should be in the Lord, not in one's spiritual mentor (as in
Provides a second illustration of the paradox stated in
. Now Paul contrasts lofty words or wisdom not only with his message of the crucified Christ, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power as the effects of that message on the Corinthians.
The alternative reading “testimony” (see note e) is to be preferred over mystery, which spoils the effect of “secret and hidden” (lit. “wisdom in a mystery”) in
The alternative reading the persuasiveness of wisdom (see note f) is to be preferred to plausible words of wisdom.
Recapitulates the argument from
, repeating the main point from
1.18 and 1.23–24
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