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1 Corinthians 1:17-3:3 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

17 [a]For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence,[b] so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.

Paradox of the Cross. 18 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. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the learning of the learned I will set aside.”

20 Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? 21 [c]For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

The Corinthians and Paul.[d] 26 Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, 28 and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, 29 so that no human being might boast[e] before God. 30 It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.”

Chapter 2

When I came to you, brothers, proclaiming the mystery of God,[f] I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness[g] and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive [words of] wisdom,[h] but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

The True Wisdom.[i] Yet we do speak a wisdom to those who are mature, but not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away. Rather, we speak God’s wisdom,[j] mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, and which none of the rulers of this age[k] knew; for, if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written:

“What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
    and what has not entered the human heart,
    what God has prepared for those who love him,”

10 this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God. 11 Among human beings, who knows what pertains to a person except the spirit of the person that is within? Similarly, no one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms.[l]

14 Now the natural person[m] does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually. 15 The spiritual person, however, can judge everything but is not subject to judgment[n] by anyone.

16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Chapter 3

[o]Brothers, I could not talk to you as spiritual people, but as fleshly people,[p] as infants in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it. Indeed, you are still not able, even now, for you are still of the flesh. While there is jealousy and rivalry among you,[q] are you not of the flesh and behaving in an ordinary human way?

Footnotes:

  1. 1:17b–18 The basic theme of 1 Cor 1–4 is announced. Adherence to individual leaders has something to do with differences in rhetorical ability and also with certain presuppositions regarding wisdom, eloquence, and effectiveness (power), which Paul judges to be in conflict with the gospel and the cross.
  2. 1:17b Not with the wisdom of human eloquence: both of the nouns employed here involve several levels of meaning, on which Paul deliberately plays as his thought unfolds. Wisdom (sophia) may be philosophical and speculative, but in biblical usage the term primarily denotes practical knowledge such as is demonstrated in the choice and effective application of means to achieve an end. The same term can designate the arts of building (cf. 1 Cor 3:10) or of persuasive speaking (cf. 1 Cor 2:4) or effectiveness in achieving salvation. Eloquence (logos): this translation emphasizes one possible meaning of the term logos (cf. the references to rhetorical style and persuasiveness in 1 Cor 2:1, 4). But the term itself may denote an internal reasoning process, plan, or intention, as well as an external word, speech, or message. So by his expression ouk en sophia logou in the context of gospel preaching, Paul may intend to exclude both human ways of reasoning or thinking about things and human rhetorical technique. Human: this adjective does not stand in the Greek text but is supplied from the context. Paul will begin immediately to distinguish between sophia and logos from their divine counterparts and play them off against each other.
  3. 1:21–25 True wisdom and power are to be found paradoxically where one would least expect them, in the place of their apparent negation. To human eyes the crucified Christ symbolizes impotence and absurdity.
  4. 1:26–2:5 The pattern of God’s wisdom and power is exemplified in their own experience, if they interpret it rightly (1 Cor 1:26–31), and can also be read in their experience of Paul as he first appeared among them preaching the gospel (1 Cor 2:1–5).
  5. 1:29–31 “Boasting (about oneself)” is a Pauline expression for the radical sin, the claim to autonomy on the part of a creature, the illusion that we live and are saved by our own resources. “Boasting in the Lord” (1 Cor 1:31), on the other hand, is the acknowledgment that we live only from God and for God.
  6. 2:1 The mystery of God: God’s secret, known only to himself, is his plan for the salvation of his people; it is clear from 1 Cor 1:18–25; 2:2, 8–10 that this secret involves Jesus and the cross. In place of mystery, other good manuscripts read “testimony” (cf. 1 Cor 1:6).
  7. 2:3 The weakness of the crucified Jesus is reflected in Paul’s own bearing (cf. 2 Cor 10–13). Fear and much trembling: reverential fear based on a sense of God’s transcendence permeates Paul’s existence and preaching. Compare his advice to the Philippians to work out their salvation with “fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12), because God is at work in them just as his exalting power was paradoxically at work in the emptying, humiliation, and obedience of Jesus to death on the cross (Phil 2:6–11).
  8. 2:4 Among many manuscript readings here the best is either “not with the persuasion of wisdom” or “not with persuasive words of wisdom,” which differ only by a nuance. Whichever reading is accepted, the inefficacy of human wisdom for salvation is contrasted with the power of the cross.
  9. 2:6–3:4 Paul now asserts paradoxically what he has previously been denying. To the Greeks who “are looking for wisdom” (1 Cor 1:22), he does indeed bring a wisdom, but of a higher order and an entirely different quality, the only wisdom really worthy of the name. The Corinthians would be able to grasp Paul’s preaching as wisdom and enter into a wisdom-conversation with him if they were more open to the Spirit and receptive to the new insight and language that the Spirit teaches.
  10. 2:7–10a God’s wisdom: his plan for our salvation. This was his own eternal secret that no one else could fathom, but in this new age of salvation he has graciously revealed it to us. For the pattern of God’s secret, hidden to others and now revealed to the Church, cf. also Rom 11:25–36; 16:25–27; Eph 1:3–10; 3:3–11; Col 1:25–28.
  11. 2:8 The rulers of this age: this suggests not only the political leaders of the Jews and Romans under whom Jesus was crucified (cf. Acts 4:25–28) but also the cosmic powers behind them (cf. Eph 1:20–23; 3:10). They would not have crucified the Lord of glory: they became the unwitting executors of God’s plan, which will paradoxically bring about their own conquest and submission (1 Cor 15:24–28).
  12. 2:13 In spiritual terms: the Spirit teaches spiritual people a new mode of perception (1 Cor 2:12) and an appropriate language by which they can share their self-understanding, their knowledge about what God has done in them. The final phrase in 1 Cor 2:13 can also be translated “describing spiritual realities to spiritual people,” in which case it prepares for 1 Cor 2:14–16.
  13. 2:14 The natural person: see note on 1 Cor 3:1.
  14. 2:15 The spiritual person…is not subject to judgment: since spiritual persons have been given knowledge of what pertains to God (1 Cor 2:11–12), they share in God’s own capacity to judge. One to whom the mind of the Lord (and of Christ) is revealed (1 Cor 2:16) can be said to share in some sense in God’s exemption from counseling and criticism.
  15. 3:1–4 The Corinthians desire a sort of wisdom dialogue or colloquy with Paul; they are looking for solid, adult food, and he appears to disappoint their expectations. Paul counters: if such a dialogue has not yet taken place, the reason is that they are still at an immature stage of development (cf. 1 Cor 2:6).
  16. 3:1 Spiritual people…fleshly people: Paul employs two clusters of concepts and terms to distinguish what later theology will call the “natural” and the “supernatural.” (1) The natural person (1 Cor 2:14) is one whose existence, perceptions, and behavior are determined by purely natural principles, the psychē (1 Cor 2:14) and the sarx (flesh, a biblical term that connotes creatureliness, 1 Cor 3:1, 3). Such persons are only infants (1 Cor 3:1); they remain on a purely human level (anthrōpoi, 1 Cor 3:4). (2) On the other hand, they are called to be animated by a higher principle, the pneuma, God’s spirit. They are to become spiritual (pneumatikoi, 1 Cor 3:1) and mature (1 Cor 2:6) in their perceptions and behavior (cf. Gal 5:16–26). The culmination of existence in the Spirit is described in 1 Cor 15:44–49.
  17. 3:3–4 Jealousy, rivalry, and divisions in the community are symptoms of their arrested development; they reveal the immaturity both of their self-understanding (1 Cor 3:4) and of the judgments about their apostles (1 Cor 3:21).
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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