From:  A Torah Commentary on First  Corinthians 1-6                   Return to Home

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.                               © 2011






Chapter 2                                                                                                 [Page 103] 






            In chapter 2 Paul stresses the authoritativeness of his teaching:  It is not mere personal opinion, it originates from the mouth of God.  Yet this very fact undermines its acceptance among many.  It simply does not fit what they think “could” be true nor what they think “should” be true.  They can’t reason their way to its demands and therefore reject its authority.  Only the truly spiritually orientated individual can escape from these severe blinders and embrace the redemptive message.  Implicit in the argument is that the reason the bulk of humankind does not accept the gospel lies in their own limitations rather than in any real or imagined failures in the message itself.






How the Themes Are Developed  






Paul never hid either then or in retrospect his

human weaknesses while originally with them.

This way their faith would be based on the

validity of his message and vindicated by

the miracle working power of God, rather than

in any personal intellectual or oratorical

ability of his own (2:1-2:5)



            ATP text:  1When I came to you, comrades, I did not come with brilliance of speech or of philosophical insight, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.  2The reason for this was that I determined to speak nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him nailed to the cross.  3While with you, I lacked physical strength and faced anxiety and was very nervous.  4My message and my preaching were not characterized by persuasive words of human wisdom, but were backed by demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5so that your faith would not rest on human wisdom, but on the proven power of God.”

Development of the argument:   Paul’s Gentile readers were well acquainted with the appeal of contemporary philosophy and the respect with which its practitioners


[Page 104]  were held.  In the preceding chapter he conceded that the “wisdom” of the gospel was of such a nature that such humanly invented philosophy (that is, the human conception of “wisdom”) found it unacceptable.  In this chapter he continues that theme by stressing that his single-minded emphasis upon Jesus had a vital bearing on the subject as well:  it precluded him appealing to them on the type of grounds human wisdom traditions utilized (2:1-2).

            In light of how different the gospel was from their expectations and their secular orientation, how then had they been converted?  How was it possible?  He attributes it to the fact that his words were backed up with such a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” that they were unable to ignore its validity (2:4).  Furthermore, this created an important difference between what they believed and what others believed:  unbelievers could only appeal to the reasoning of human wisdom while the Christian faith had proved its validity by the miraculous “power of God” that accompanied its proclamation (2:5).

            In first century society, many a teacher would have felt ashamed at their inability to verbally excel at their oratory.  Indeed, it is quite possible that some of the locals were snipping at him—carefully in his absence!—for that very thing, as a tool to undermine his credibility and authority.  If so, “Paul here endorses the very weakness and rhetorical deficiency for which he has been criticized. . . .”[1]  The gospel simply didn’t require it.  No doubt a not so veiled dagger is aimed at any locals relying on exactly that tool to get their way within the Corinthian congregation.[2]   

            Indeed, Paul even drops a strong hint that he could have preached in just an impressive a manner and style as the intellectuals of his day would have expected—if he had wanted to, certainly at least long enough to establish his bona fides as a “thinker.”  1 Corinthians 2:2 drops the tantalizing hint, “I decided not to know anything about you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”  “Decided” normally carries the connotation of a conscious policy decision.  In the NASB it is rendered “determined;” in the Contemporary English Version and Today’s English Version it is “I made up my mind;” in the International Standard Version it is, “I resolved.”  In short he didn’t utilize his full array of talents[3] because that was what was best for them and the ultimate success of the message he taught.







Yet the message he preached was more

profound than anything of human origin

because it originated in the depth of

Divine wisdom itself (2:6-2:8)



            ATP text:  6By doing this we speak wisdom to those who are genuinely mature, yet not the wisdom popular in this day nor to the rulers of this day, who will eventually pass away.  7Instead, we speak about God's secret and hidden wisdom that was set apart



[Page 105]  before the world began, which He destined to bring about our glory.  8This none of the rulers of this world knew; for had they understood, they would not have executed the Lord of glory.”

            Development of the argument:  This Divine “wisdom” was one previously “hidden,” but which, paradoxically, “God [had] ordained before the ages” (ATP: “set apart before the world began”) to be ultimately revealed (2:7).  Yet even the “rulers of this age” had not grasped this reality or they would never have crucified Jesus (2:8).  Hence the death of Jesus is rooted not in any inadequacy in Jesus Himself, but in the limitations of those who sat themselves up to be His judges.  The “shame of the cross” did not really represent a discrediting of Jesus, but the discrediting of those who, through their spiritual and intellectual limitations, had unjustly inflicted that death penalty upon Him.

Because they acted in this manner, in them was manifested the ancient adage that the human “eye” and “ear” can not grasp certain truths that, as a prerequisite, can only be understood by “those who love” God (2:9).  If verse 8 rebuts the rejection of Jesus on the grounds of the manner of His death, verse 9 rebuts the rejection when it is grounded in human “wisdom.”  From the standpoint of the Sanhedrin, it was the “prudent” thing to remove a potential threat to their control; from the standpoint of Pilate, it was the “prudent” thing to go along with the injustice to maintain tranquility with those locals most able to make life a governing misery for him.  Both—from their self-centered perspectives--were acting out of “prudent realism” or “the wisdom of prudence.”  Hence it was the human failure to perceive the true wisdom embodied in deity itself that was manifested in the judicial murder that had occurred.

Perhaps there is also intended here a small token of consolation to his readers:  If those who were theoretically in the best position to judge the matter—the earthly rulers who had access to the best advice available—could miss such an important reality, it was far from amazing that “average” people like themselves should have misunderstood it after their conversion.  Their “betters” had no excuse; at least they themselves could credibly plead ignorance.






This message was not one that any human

system of insight could ever conjure up but

could only have been obtained through the

revelation of the Holy Spirit (2:9-13)



            ATP text:  9This was in conformity with what was written: " Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of anyone imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him."  10God has revealed them to us through His Spirit for the Spirit searches out everything, even the deep intents of God.  11Who knows every thought of a person except that person's own spirit?  In the same way, no one except God’s Spirit fully comprehends



[Page 106]  the thoughts of God.  12Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we might recognize the things that have been freely given to us by God.  13These things we also speak, not in words which human wisdom provides but which the Holy Spirit teaches, explaining spiritual teachings to spiritual people.”

Development of the argument:  Another problem now arises:  If human wisdom could not summon up the doctrinal system Paul taught, how could Paul himself have gained access to it?  He explains this as possible through the action of the Holy Spirit:  The Spirit “searches all things” even the “deep[est] things of God” (2:10), just as the human spirit does for the individual human being (2:11).  Although the term is not used, the idea of omniscience is clearly present for if everything God knows is known by the Spirit then they both share access to that same “total” insight of reality (or whatever other terminology one prefers to substitute).[4]

It is this Divine Spirit which conveyed this wisdom which was “freely given to us by God” (2:12).  In other words, the Spirit was not in rebellion against Yahweh and doing something behind His back (so to speak) but was fulfilling a function the Father Himself ordained. 

            This idea of God revealing through the Spirit is also found in John 16:13-15 and can be constructively compared with this text.  The difference is that John explicitly notes Christ’s role in the matter.  Yet Paul clearly implies that he also holds a similar belief through his reference to Christians having “the mind of Christ” in 1 Corinthians 2:16 and the various references to the “Lord” as authority in this Corinthian epistle.  What John says explicitly, Paul embraces implicitly.  

            Having asserted that the message he has proclaimed came from God via the Spirit, how can Paul be sure that he has conveyed its true intent?  Could his own human limitations have distorted or bent or misperceived it or, equally importantly, misapplied it?  Paul answers this potential objection by asserting that he spoke “not in words (our emphasis) which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (2:13).  This likely means “comparing” spiritual truths with supposedly spiritual believers--thereby showing both discrepancies and similarities between the ideal and what was actually existing. 

In other words inspiration assured him that he got the application absolutely correct.  Hence the emphasis would be on the practical, down-to-earth results of the inspiration he claimed.    Alternatively the idea could be that the right spiritually orientated words are used to express the underlying spiritual message, in which case the emphasis is on the accuracy of the transmission process through its human intermediary.[5]  The end result is essentially the same in either approach.  

Paul is not a theorizer on how this could be accomplished; he simply emphatically stresses that the end result was fully and accurately that which God wanted taught. This is a credible or incredible assertion to the degree that one recognizes (or rejects) the legitimacy of Paul’s apostolic authority and the genuineness (or lack thereof) of the miraculous actions that he contends (2:4) confirmed his message.





[Page 107] 

Even so, the typical person refused to embrace

the Divine will because it seemed, by human

standards, to be mere foolishness,

while it was only the spiritual individual who

did not make that mistake (2:14-16)



            ATP text:  14The natural person does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they appear to be foolishness.  Nor can such a person comprehend them because they must be spiritually evaluated.  15The spiritual individual can evaluate all subjects, yet be rightly criticized by no one else.  16For “who has so comprehended the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”  Even so we have the teachings of the mind of Christ.”

Development of the argument:  There is yet another problem beyond those already mentioned previously.  If this message really came from God, why do so many people--the masses of all classes--reject it?  Paul’s attributes it to the mind frame of the listener:  “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (ATP:  The natural person does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they appear to be foolishness.  Nor can such a person comprehend them because they must be spiritually evaluated,” 2:14).  The colloquialism of the 1960s about not “being on the same wave length” sums up the idea very well. 

            The “natural man” of Paul is the typical person, the representative person, John or Jane Q. Citizen--the individual to whom such matters are of only the most passing concern.  They have an “opinion,” but it is beyond the interests, inclinations, and desires of the vast bulk of them to have a real reason for any beyond transitory emotions and mere personal preference.  The outward form of religion may even be present, but the substance that would transform their lives is lacking. 

It is not that they are ignorant.  In fact, in certain areas they may be very well informed and perceptive.[6]  The problem is that their own set of priorities or prejudgments has made them unable or unwilling to apply their capacities to spiritual realities that do not conform to their preferred assumptions.  

            Paul proceeds from this reality to the opposite, that the one who is concerned with “spiritual” matters is the type who can rightly “judge” (“evaluate” [ATP], i.e., interpret the pros and cons) of spiritual matters (2:15).  That person can not rightly be “judged” by others (2:15, referring to the “natural” person of verse 14) because they do not have the spiritual preoccupation to understand or do the subject justice.  Yet even the one centered on the spiritual side of life should beware of self-puffery:  no one can ever know “the mind of the Lord” so thoroughly and well that one can attempt to “instruct Him” (2:16).  We may learn much, but our human limitations prohibit us from learning everything. 

We have here a stringent blast at those Corinthians who were arrogantly self-centered—perhaps even genuinely smart in their own narrow areas of expertise.[7]  We have the mind of Christ,” i.e., Paul in contrast (and superiority) to their bravado . . . or all the Christians had it available rather than just their own local faction of admirers and



[Page 108]  followers.  Either way he labors to “pull the rug out” from under their assumption of superiority. 







Invoking of Explicit Old Testament

Quotations to Justify His Teaching






            2:9:  Divine decisions that human speculation would not have anticipated.  The book of Proverbs bears mute testimony that human reasoning, wisdom, and philosophy is not without value.  Yet the danger in it is that the greater its success, the greater the delusion that we can, unaided, reason out everything the mind and soul truly require.  Paul strikes at those who fall into this mind frame (and he is speaking of the crucifixion of Jesus in particular, 2:8) when he cites these words, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (ATP:  Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of anyone imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.")

            At least in part, Isaiah 64:4 clearly seems to be directly in the mind of Paul, “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who acts for the one who waits for him.”   The first part of the statement certainly comes from that source.  The remainder may be an interpretive application of the principle of the text to a different subject. 

            On the other hand, the idea of “the one who waits for him” certainly can carry the idea of one who respects and “loves” God for who else would be waiting?  Likewise the assertion in Isaiah that God “acts” for such a person reasonably carries with it the idea that God has a plan for that individual, that God has “prepared” something for him or her.  Hence if Paul has “interpreted” the last half of the Isaiah passage, it is in line with the mind frame of the original writer even if not his literal words.[8]  

            The wording Paul presents differs with both the Hebrew[9] as well as the Septuagint (LXX).[10]  This has led to the suspicion that the reliability of the reading in both languages was already regarded as open to suspicion and explains Paul following neither.[11]  In this scenario Paul may have either undertaken his own translation or used an alternative one that was currently available.[12]   Others take the approach that Paul has combined part of the verse from Isaiah with wording taken from a different text.  Isaiah 65:16, Jeremiah 3:16, and Sirach 1:10 have been proposed as the source of the remainder but none of the alternatives have gained much support.[13]  

Yet others wonder whether Paul had misremembered the wording of Isaiah 64:4 since he was not working with a copy of the manuscript in front of him.[14]  Some think memory had nothing to do with it:  Paul is summarizing the central point of the Isaiah



[Page 109]  64:4 text rather than, strictly speaking, trying to quote it.[15]

            It has been noted that Paul does not introduce his quotation in 1 Corinthians 2:9 with a reference such as “because it is written,” but with “as it is written.”  The former would suggest a direct quotation is intended (and we have seen potential difficulties with that scenario above); the other verbal formula might well carry the connotation of “to use the language of Scripture,” “to speak generally from Scripture,”[16] or even “express a prophetic sentiment.”[17]  Even an advocate of this approach wonders why, if this is what has happened, Paul has not done a better job to make the adaptation fit the flow of the surrounding text.[18] 

            John P. Heil argues that close attention should be given to the LXX of Isaiah 52:15, “Thus many nations will be amazed at him and kings will close their mouth, for those to whom it has not been reported concerning him will see and those who have not heard will understand.”[19]

            We certainly have here the idea of mankind being ignorant of the Divine way being prepared for the future and then becoming enlightened concerning it.  The emphasis on neither “seeing” nor “hearing” fits well with Paul’s description in 2:9 of mankind’s “natural” state; furthermore the shift to both “seeing” and “hearing”—expressly stated in Isaiah 52:15—would seem necessarily implied by Paul of those who had come to “love” God.  Although that “love” element is not brought out in Isaiah 52, it is hard to read the text without deducing a human awe, respect, and reverence for what is beheld heard.  What they would have called it, we don’t know; Paul’s description of the positive reaction as “love” would certainly do justice to the sentiment.

            The Psalms come close to the Pauline idea of God having things “prepared for those who love Him,” the words with which Paul closes 1 Corinthians 2:9.  In Psalms 31:19-20, the promise is, “Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You (our emphasis, RW) in the presence of the sons of men!  You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.”  Has Paul utilized part of both texts?

            The conjecture that Paul may be quoting from the Apocalypse of Elijah[20] is needless though it was advocated as early as Origen:[21]  The quotation, he insisted, “is found in no regular (i.e., canonical) book but only in the Apocryphon of Elijah the prophet.”[22]  The only document surviving to today with that name is a Christian rather than Jewish one and lacks anything close to the words.[23]

Assuming that Origen is correct as to his attribution (though to a Jewish work of the same name or a traditional Jewish variant of the Christian one), it is quite possible that both the Apocalypse and Paul may be utilizing a common tradition or the Apocalypse (if later than Paul, which is likely) may have utilized the apostle’s work.  Jerome vigorously denied Origen’s contention that the Apocalypse was Paul’s reference point, but concedes that it was contained in that document as well as the Ascension of Isaiah,[24] a composition of the late second-century A.D.[25]  

But the same question is still present of who got what from whom.  Of course, it is far from impossible that the authors of the Apocalypse and the Ascension might embody ideas congenial to the apostle and be totally independent in origin; even pseudipgriphical writings attempt to root themselves (more or less) in the traditions of the Torah and canonical prophets--just as Paul did.




[Page 110]       2:16:  Maintaining humility when faced with the instructions of God /  The inability of human beings to be teachers of God.  In the preceding verses Paul speaks of the work of our own spirit and that of the Spirit of God (2:11).  He then notes that we have received the Divine Spirit instead of remaining under the control of the “spirit of the world” (2:12).   The revelation of the Divine Spirit (2:13) consists of teachings our “natural” predilections do not appreciate (2:14).  Yet one who is truly “spiritual” judges matters rightly (2:15). 

            Then comes the text we are interested in, “For ‘who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?’  But we have the mind of Christ” (ATP:  “for ‘who has so comprehended the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?,’ ” 2:16).  The train of logic is that the Spirit of God has an impact upon our mind and that as the result of our accepting that message/impact, our minds are conformed to that of Christ.

Paul quotes the Old Testament challenge, “Who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”  (ATP:  who has so comprehended the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”).  This is often taken as an allusion to Yahweh’s challenge to Israel’s grandeur and power in Isaiah, “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has taught Him?  With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice?  Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding?” (40:13-14) 

The most immediate reference to the use of this knowledge is the creation of the world mentioned in Isaiah 40:12.  Richard Bauckham argues that, “This verse is a monotheistic denial that, in the creation of the world, YHWH needed or received advice from any other being.  It is the source of a standard Jewish way of claiming that God created the world alone and denying any polytheistic notion of creation as a collaborative project of several gods. . . .”[26]

Isaiah introduces the words, however, not to prove that God created the world alone (though the words certainly do that), but as an example of how God does not need or require the advice of anyone or anything on any subject—even one as vast as temporal creation.  Hence God can speak on any earthly matter and know what is best and gain zilch in insight or correction from any mortal.  Therefore verse 12 on creation is introduced to strengthen the argument in verses 13-14 rather than vice versa. 

This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that the learning under consideration is not about how to do wondrous deeds of construction (such as in world building) but behavioral instruction.  This can be seen in the pointed question as to “who instructed Him and taught Him in the path of justice?”  The need to be just; the rationale for it; the question of what is justice.  Legal issues in a sense, but the moral aspects of the matter.  Hence when we read the immediately following words, “Who taught him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding” the most natural reading is in regard to matters such as this. 

“Knowledge” then would likely refer not to facts per se but how to act, behave, and (in this context) govern; “understanding” would relate to grasping the reason behind the action or mode of conduct.[27]  The argument boils down to not whether God is the only God but whether His people will be wise enough to live by the standards He has degreed for them.



[Page 111]       The implicit challenge to rebellious Israel is:  Are you really smart enough to “second guess” Yahweh?[28]  The implied answer, of course, is “no;”[29] no one is.[30]  Mankind learns from God; God has nothing He needs to learn from the human race.  He created the world without needing their guidance (verse 12).  Having done so He still does not need their assistance.[31]

            Paul’s wording is a quotation from Isaiah 40:13 in the LXX (Septuagint), where “mind” is the rendering.[32]  The Hebrew is actually more powerful in continuing the theme of the role of the Spirit, “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has taught Him?”  Since Isaiah is describing the impact of the “counselor” on the Lord, the human equivalent would be the impact upon the “mind” that directs the person.  Hence the two renderings overlap in actual impact and result.   

            The almost despairing “who has known the mind of the Lord” echoes the Old Testament theme of how difficult it is to get people to pay attention to what the Lord has said—especially when it requires the incorporation of its principles into a heart that really doesn’t want to abide by what has been heard.  Hence in Jeremiah 23:18 we read, "But who has stood in the council of the Lord, that he should see and hear His word?  Who has given heed to His word and listened?” (New American Standard Bible). 

For the intertestamental literature on the theme, we go to Wisdom, “For what human will know the plan of God or who will conceive what the Lord wills?” (9:13).[33]  The implied answer:  precious few.  Similary, Wisdom links, as Paul does, the idea of receiving wisdom and receiving the divine Spirit, “Who has known your plan, unless you have given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high?” (Wisdom 9:17)[34].








How Old Testament Concepts Are

Repeatedly Introduced and Woven

into the Heart of His Argument





            2:1:  Non-eloquent spokesmen for God in the Old Testament.  The prototype for such an individual was Moses.  When he behelt the burning bush on the mountain and was commissioned by God to return to Egypt, Moses threw up objection after objection.  He was still, technically, a murderer back in that country, and the potential danger was quite real.  Furthermore, he had set down roots in a new place.  It would have been less than human not to have been hesitant and fearful.

            One of his objections was that he was simply not a great speaker, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am



[Page 112]  slow of speech and slow of tongue” (4:9).  The response to this was not a pledge that he would become eloquent, but that his present level of ability was itself quite adequate to carry out God’s plans (4:10-11). 

            When Moses continued to protest, God ordered Moses to let Aaron do the talking since “he can speak well” (4:12).  This concession to Moses’ insecurities did not change the fact that Moses was adequate, even without a special gift of eloquence, to carry out his task or he would not have been chosen in the first place.  Although Paul felt a similar deficiency, he did not permit it to short-circuit his own teaching and ministry.  One overcame it on his own; the other, Moses, overcame it through the assistance of others, Aaron.  

            A similar self-evaluation of inadequacy is likely behind Jeremiah’s initial objection to his prophetic ministry that, “I cannot speak, for I am a youth” (1:6).  As such he would not have had the opportunity to gain the appropriate training for effective speaking and teaching.  The objection is dealt with by the assurance that the needed message would be given to Him by God (1:7, 9) and that Yahweh would be there to protect him (1:8).  Less reassuring was the fact that the protection would be needed because it would be a message many would not appreciate (1:10).     



            2:4-5:  Paul’s preaching as backed not by the power of human reasoning “but in demonstration of the Spirit of power” (2:4) so that their faith might not be rooted in the “wisdom of men but in the power of God” (2:5).  Our verses touch on at least three different concepts with strong Old Testament roots.  First of all there is that of human wisdom at war with God’s will.

            The quite clear implicit argument is that though scholars and sages may, indeed, have “wisdom” it is nothing when compared with the true wisdom that comes from God and His revealing Holy Spirit—indeed such earthly accomplishments can become an outright hindrance to perceiving where the true wisdom resides.  Back in the days of Job, one of the sufferer’s critics pointed to this self-centered mind frame (however unjust it was in its application to Job himself), “Have you heard the counsel of God?  Do you limit wisdom to yourself?” (15:8).   “Counsel” / teaching equating “wisdom.”

            Yahweh’s instructions/revelations being viewed as an impeding nuisance was known back in the days of the Proverbist, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  It gets in their way and impedes them.        The unbridled cynic who always finds an excuse to reject even the strongest evidence is self-condemned to ignorance, “A scoffer seeks wisdom and does into find it, but knowledge is easy to him who understands” what to look for and the ultimate truth that lies in God (Proverbs 14:6).

            Isaiah rebuked those of his day because their wisdom was being used to justify their evil, “For you have trusted in your wickedness; you have said, ‘No one sees me’; your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you; and you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me’ ” (Isaiah 47:10).  This is roughly equivalent to “I am the smartest person around; I don’t need to listen to anyone else.”    

            Sometimes it is only the savage utilitarian backlash from one’s actions that make people recognize their folly.  Jeremiah 8:9 points to how “the wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken.  Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; so what



[Page 113]  wisdom do they have?”  Obviously, precious little or at least not the kind that counts.

            Secondly, our text speaks of the fact that God reveals wisdom; He does not leave mankind in ignorance or abandon it to guess work.

            The “wisdom” God gives in the Old Testament is given in several contexts and with different purposes in mind, such as:

 (1)  In some cases it is the wisdom to utilize a temporal skill in the most expertly and impressive fashion, especially in regard to preparing objects for the worship of God:”   Exodus 28:3, 31:3, 31:6, 35:26, 35:31, 36:2.

(2)  In other cases it is giving the practical insight that permits a ruler to govern his kingdom effectively and justly.  The classic example, of course, is Solomon’s famous prayer for “wisdom and knowledge,” which was answered with his being given vast wealth as well (2 Chronicles 1:10-12).  Ezra also was promised a similar blessing and it is fascinating that his being given this “wisdom” went hand-in-hand with making sure that administrators knew well the law of God:  “And you, Ezra, according to your God-given wisdom, set magistrates and judges who may judge all the people who are in the region beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God; and teach those who do not know them” (7:25). 

“Wisdom” here could be read as the “good judgment to appoint the right individuals,” not merely the ones who superficially knew enough to handle matters.   (Who has not had experience today with preachers who knew the scriptures well but who you would not wish for a second to have the authority to make judgments as to your status in the church or world?)  Less likely, though compatible with this, is the desire to have men selected who not only knew or learned the facts of God’s will but were willing to be counseled in the “wisdom” of how to wisely apply it to particular circumstances and situations.

            What is most important in the Pauline context of stress on divine moral wisdom are those references that speak of (3) how God revealed His will and wisdom through what He taught the people.   Part of God’s inherent nature is that of wisdom, insight, perceptivity, the capacity and ability to rightly guide,  With Him are wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding” (Job 12:13). 

From this naturally flows the idea that God is the revealer of wisdom and to act upon it is to show our understanding and to grasp His own understanding of moral reality:  “Then He saw wisdom and declared it; He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out.  And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:27-28).  Proverbs 2:6-7 puts the concept this way, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly.” 

            Since the scriptures repeatedly describe what the individual writers record as coming from God, it is but a natural step that the scriptures themselves become the embodiment of the Divine wisdom and a tangible means whereby to communicate it to others.  In regard to the Torah in particular, Deuteronomy 4:6 presents the concept this way, “Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ ”                       


[Page 114]       Before departing this discussion of 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, we need to note how God’s power both stood behind His revelation of wisdom and verified the reasonableness of embracing it since we ourselves have only “wisdom / logic” (often merely disguised self-interest or preference) to justify an opposing approach to behavior. 

            The idea of seeing God’s guiding hand behind even human artistic talents of wisdom can be seen in the Exodus texts we referred to above.  Several of these explicitly link the Spirit with wisdom.  To give only one example, “And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship” (Exodus 35:31).

            The Pharaoh under whom Joseph lived made the jump from insight to inspiration as well.  He regarded Joseph’s recommendations of how to deal with a coming famine as so brilliant as to require a Divine origin, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?”  (Genesis 41:38).  It wasn’t spiritual or moral teaching but earthly counsel under consideration; the linkage of the ability to provide it to God’s assistance is certainly present.

            Later we have the miracles of Moses that humbled Pharaoh repeatedly when he rebelled; they combined instruction with raw power.  God tried the “non-punitive” type of miracle first but the obstinate stubbornness of Pharaoh ultimately drove Him to utilize naked destructive power.  It was God’s last step in the war for Israel’s future, but one He was quite willing to use if he had to. 

Similarly during the Exodus itself when the people grew “bored” and tired of doing things the right way, He repeatedly intervened with power to show the seriousness of His demands.  Revelation was accompanied with power to verify its necessity and the logic of obedience.

            Afterwards in the history of Israel, though miracles happened to aid a prophet, or expose false gods (think the prophet’s battle of rival sacrifices with the priests of Baal), or to benefit the extreme needs of the hurting or poor, they can only be viewed as sporadic in nature.  If one accepts the accounts as historical, the underlying logic seems clearly to be:  having established the validity of the revelation by miracles at the time of its initial revelation, latter revelations were held to a minimum since the essential truths had been revealed “once for all time” (so to speak) for those willing to listen.   

To return to the Exodus wanderings one final time, we should note that “seventy elders” were appointed to assist Moses in his governance, they were given “part” of “the Spirit” given Moses to assure they could govern/decide wisely.  Yet here the Spirit provided not only wisdom but more as well:  “they prophesied, although they never did so again” (Numbers 11:25-27).  It would be hard not to see here a precedent for the “gifts of the Spirit” teaching of Paul in 1 Corinthians.


          Is Zechariah 4:6 the Text that Paul Has Specifically in Mind?


In our judgment Paul has a variety of Old Testament concepts in mind when he wrote 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 rather than any one specific text.  Some, however, suspect that Paul was centered on Zechariah 4:6 in particular, “So he [the angel] answered and said to me:  This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel:  ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” 

That the vision he saw had truly come from the Lord, would be proved not by the



[Page 115]  manifestation of the power of the Spirit but by the fact that the temple reconstruction was completed, “ ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it.  Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you’ ” (4:9).   In contrast, in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 the supernatural origin of Paul’s message is verified by the Spirit’s actions (presumably miracles); in Zechariah 4 the message is explicitly said to be “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” the implication seemingly being that the Spirit was not verifying it by His own supernatural actions.  Instead that proof would come later through the successful completion of Zerubbabel’s work.

Theoretically the text could be glossed, “not by human might nor by human power, but by the action of My Spirit,” thereby maintaining the introduction of the Spirit’s explicit intervention found in Paul.  However this seems hardly intended since it is only the completion of the temple that is pointed to as verification of the reality of the vision.[35] 



            2:6-7:  God as possessor and revealer of “wisdom” that no mortal can gain by study, research, or insight.   If God in any meaningful sense lies behind the origin of our earth and the human race, then this bears stark testimony that He possesses a powerful and perceptive wisdom that the human species can barely touch the edge of.  Indeed, as pre-existing the cosmos, He would have to have a knowledge capacity superior to any available to us.

            Daniel 2:20-23 develops these interlocked themes of the ability of Divine power to operate in this cosmos with that of Divine wisdom unreachable by the human intellect,                

                        Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are           His.  And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have     understanding.  He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the        darkness, and light dwells with Him.  I thank You and praise You, O God of my        fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me    what we asked of You, for You have made known to us the king’s demand.


            Jeremiah touched on the same theme when he wrote that Yahweh’s wisdom excelled that of all the noted “wise” (= philosophers and intellectuals) found anywhere in his world (Jeremiah 10:7).  That unfathomable “wisdom” was demonstrated by the Divine creation of the world (11:12) and control over natural phenomena (11:13;  cf. the same assertions in 57:15-16). 

            Neither testament denies that there are insightful and intelligent men and women in every age.  Some of these we regard as geniuses due to their incredible ability.  The point of these texts is different:  that the wisdom of even geniuses pale into nothingness when compared with the wisdom that is God’s resource.




[Page 116]       2:6:  The “wisdom” of earthly “rulers” is ultimately frustrated and they are “coming to nothing” (ATP:  “will pass away”) in their defiance of  the Divine will. Perhaps the best single Old Testament commentary on this thought are the sad but mocking words of Psalms 2:1-5, 9


                        Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?  The kings of            the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and     against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away         their cords from us.”   

                        He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in          derision.  Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep            displeasure. . . .  You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them to     pieces like a potter’s vessel.


            The purpose of this warning, says the Psalmist, is to put rulers on notice as to how to be truly “wise” (2:10).  That comes by serving God with “fear” and “trembling” (2:12), recognizing that whatever power one may have, God has even greater.  The whole theme of this Psalms might be summed up in the modern adage, “Man proposes; God disposes.”

            Egypt in the days of Isaiah is held up as an example of a nation whose most astute political advisers (19:11) were steering the nation into a path in collision with the will of Yahweh.  And the nation had absolutely no chance of winning such a conflict (19:11-17). 



            2:8:  “The Lord of glory.”  Since this person is described as having been “crucified,” the reference is certainly to Jesus.  Similar rhetoric, however, is applied to Yahweh in the Old Testament.  We repeatedly read of “the glory of the Lord,” which puts the same idea in a different word order (for example, Psalms 104:31; 138:5; Isaiah 35:2; 40:5; 58:8).  Likewise, in Psalms 24:7-10 the expression “King of glory” is utilized four times in the context of a description of Israel’s God.



            2:10:  The Holy Spirit as revealer of God’s will.

            Although the dominant presentation of the means of revelation in the Old Testament--the prophets in particular--is to quote God as speaking directly through the individual and giving the desired message to the people of the nation.  Even so, there are occasional references to the Spirit playing a role in the revelatory process.

            In Isaiah we find the teaching, “ ‘As for Me,’ says the Lord, ‘this is my covenant with them; My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,’ says the Lord, ‘from this time and forever-

more’ ” (59:21). 

            Why would the “Spirit” be described as being within the prophet (when speaking in a context of revealing the Divine will) unless it is taken for granted that the Spirit is playing a role in that revelation?  Any other frame of reference would seem to be out of keeping with the context.  A similar image of the Spirit within as the proclaimer of God’s message is also found in the Messianically interpreted Isaiah 61:1.




[Page 117]       2:11:  The inner “spirit” of a person “know[ing] the things” that are within the heart and mind.  Proverbs refers to how an outsider can never know the emotions that lie within the heart (14:10, of “bitterness” in particular).  In a very real sense, every one of us is an island to ourselves.  If we are ever going to know “what makes us tick,” the effort will have to center on a careful self-analysis.

Presenting a concept that Paul echoes, the Proverbist also speaks of how the spirit can penetrate those otherwise hidden depths, “The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the inner depths of his heart” (20:27).  In other words, the Lord intends to use our spirit as an internal “light” so we can probe the inner crannies of our real intents, motives and goals.  Although not spelled out, there could hardly be any reason to determine such things unless it is intended that we then utilize our spirit to guide, control and master any inclination to do the wrong things.[36]  Knowledge without action is like a car without gasoline. 



            2:11:  The degree of God’s wisdom.   This verse also makes allusion to mankind’s inability to penetrate, unaided, into anything beyond the most superficial  of God’s total knowledge and insight:  the revelatory work of the Spirit, Paul stresses, involves how He “searches all things, yes the deep things of God.”  “Depths,” of course, suggests vastness; we look at it and realize that there is simply too much for us to fully grasp.  We see part but not all for it is beyond our capacity. 

This echoes the caution urged in Job 11:7-9,  Can you search out the deep things of God?  Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?  They are higher than heaven--what can you do?  Deeper than Sheol--what can you know?  Their measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea.”  In short, unfathomable by human intellect alone.  

            In this case Paul does not allude (as he so often does) to the LXX text (which refers to “the trace of God”) but the Hebrew underlying it.[37]  In the Hebrew and Pauline form, it is an adage thoughtful minds referred to in a variety of places.  For example, the deuterocanoncial Judith 8:14, for example, spells out the argument Paul implies, “You cannot plumb the depths of the human heart or grasp the workings of the human mind; how then can you fathom God, who has made all these things, discern His mind and understand His plan? . . .   (New American Bible)            



2:14:  God’s will is “foolishness” to those who are unable to think in terms of anything beyond their “natural” selves and the world immediately around them.  There are some people who simply lack the right frame of mind to accept anything beyond their own preferences.  The history of the sciences is full of this, as even the strongest evidence is rejected by one side or another because it requires a major revision or rejection of a “truth” that they have spent decades defending or perhaps even in popularizing. 

            Paul is interested in this unproductive resistance to change not from the standpoint of how it hinders human thought or progress but how it interferes with accepting spiritual truth.  In Proverbs 14:6 this approach is referred to in terms of unjustified mocking, “A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find, but knowledge is easy to him who understands.”  If you are determined never to accept something--no matter how strong the evidence may



[Page 118]  be--you probably won’t, ever; you have to take satisfaction in your mocking for that is the only tool you really have left.  In contrast, the one who is willing to make the effort to “understand” will find it amazingly “easy” to accept evidence that the professional scoffer refuses to entertain.  It may be embarrassing, but it won’t be a body blow to the ego or self-respect.  “To err is human,” even if we do it ourselves.       








Historical Allusions to the

Old Testament:  None 






Problem Texts






            2:3:  Paul’s physical and/or mental condition when preaching in Corinth.  At first reading, Paul’s description of his internal and external state of being seems odd, “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” (ATP:  I lacked physical strength and faced anxiety and was very nervous”).   Within the context of his ministry, however, the description is quite understandable. 

The apostle would have been disappointed due to the meager impact he had had in Athens.  Furthermore, the Jewish community in Corinth would have been extremely annoyed at him due to his success in gaining the support of their synagogue leader when the bulk of the group had rejected the message.  In short, there was an immense psychological burden on the apostle, from events both past and then current.[38]  From the purely human standpoint, he must have asked himself, “Am I up to the task?”[39]   

            It is purely conjectural as to the physical appearance of the apostle, but it is hard to believe that the pressures and hardships he endured were not, ultimately, written in his face as “worry lines” and on his body as scars.  Even without these extra burdens, there is no hint that Paul was particular impressive as a human being.  There is a pseudephrigphal description of the apostle from the later part of the second century that is particularly intriguing because it does not cast him in a heroic mode such as people, centuries later, are inclined to romanticize him.  According to the Acts of Paul, the apostle was “a man little of stature, thin-haired upon the head, crooked in the legs, of good state of body, with eyebrows joining, and nose somewhat hooked.”[40]  Because he was brave, heroic, and



[Page 119]  pivotal in the expansion of Christianity does not mean he had to look the role of a hero.  Heroes often don’t.  



            2:6, 8:  The identity of the “rulers of this age” (ATP, “rulers of this day,” verse 6; “rulers of this world,” verse 8).[41]

            Verse 6 identifies these rulers as those responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus.  Hence Paul has in mind temporal authorities--but which ones?[42]  The judicial murder was uniquely made possible by the collaboration of two often hostile forces:   the Sanhedrin (pushed by its leader, Caiaphas), as chief body of the Jewish nation, and the Roman governor, as representative of the occupying power.  Theoretically, Paul could have had just one of these in mind. 

The Sanhedrin was the ultimately depository of ritual, Temple, and Palestinian religious justice—in theory—and to abrogate those obligations out of religio-political self-interest was particularly despicable by its leadership.  Indeed, the Biblical text does not make clear how much of the Sanhedrin was involved; if this was a self-centered power play by Caiaphas to protect his dominant Sadducean faction from potential challenge, it is quite possible that Pharisees were intentionally omitted from participation as well as anyone the high priest did not feel he could dominate.  (This would go far to explain the often discussed divergences of “the Jewish trial” from the apparently established “proper” juridical behavior of the institution.)      

On the other hand, the Romans claimed control if the country as part of their empire.  With such came obligations to avoid brazen injustice such as this one.  Even if it was simply part of Pilate’s strategy of “accommodation” with the Sadducees who dominated the Sanhedrin--in modern terminology, “you rub my back and I’ll rub yours--it created a precedent for the future that could compromise his own independence of action.[43]  He had purchased temporary peace but only at an unknown future price.

Neither side had anything to be proud of in what happened; there was plenty of guilt and abnegation of responsibility to go around.  Hence it seems most likely that Paul includes both in his condemnation.[44]

            Some interpreters opt for a reference to the underlying forces of evil that encouraged them, i.e., demonic powers,[45] an interpretation that goes back at least to Tertullian and Origen.[46]  In Colossians 2:15 Paul refers to hostile “principalities and powers” that Jesus triumphed over through His resurrection.  Even more vividly and applicable to earthly conditions is Paul’s admonishment in Ephesians.  There Paul mentions the “wiles of the devil” (6:12) and immediately adds, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” 

An effective argument against human “rulers” being under consideration (at least exclusively) is found in the obvious fact that Paul referred to the “rulers” as doomed to perish—something that is obviously going to happen to all human beings whether in the right or wrong.  It is a punishment ultimately traceable to Adamic sin and not the treatment of Jesus.[47]    

            A third possibility that blends the “natural” and “supernatural” approaches is to argue that both were involved[48] or that the demonic powers were working through the earthly ones.[49]  Knowingly or unknowingly, the latter were being utilized as tools by the



[Page 120]  explicitly supernatural evil forces.[50] 

Although a quite reasonable deduction, the lack of any reference to the demonic in the Corinthian context argues against Paul having either the second or third possibilities in mind.  He would have been unlikely to deny that they were true since they are both quite consistent with his thinking:  the closest he comes in the Corinthians correspondence to the needed linkage is a reference to “the god of this age [who] has blinded” unbelievers, 2 Corinthians 4:4.  But that is far different from affirming that it was what was in his mind when he wrote the current text.  A statement may well be true on its own merits but not part of the writer’s intent in a specific passage.



            2:12:  The influence of the environment for encouraging hostility to the gospel message.    Paul argues that those rejecting the apostolic message possess “the spirit of the world” rather than God’s Spirit.  Some interpret the “spirit of the world” as a kind of demonic equivalent of the Divine Spirit.[51]  It is far more like to represent “the habitual mental attitude and disposition of those who evaluate everything by natural and temporal standards.”[52]  It represents the prevalent attitude of the surrounding culture in its skepticism toward anything that imposes limits and restrictions on self-indulgent behavior.

            For such people, there is little or no room for anything religious or spiritual in their mind frame.  They may or may not be theoretical agnostics or atheists, but they live as if they were such, with spiritual considerations having minimal or no impact on behavior or convictions.  They will willingly enter a church edifice when they are to be buried, but preferably not sooner.

            This approach to the text recognizes that in Paul’s world (as ours)--though true evil exists as a corrosive degrading influence--the Devil hardly needs to intervene if we voluntarily do his work on our own.  In other words, when mankind’s blindness and self-interest dominate, the old joke “the devil made me do it” becomes utter nonsense:  we made ourselves do it.  To blame the satanic for humanity’s irresponsibility is to pass the responsibility and blame on to another when it is far too often ours.



            2:15:  “He who is spiritual judges all things” (ATP:  “the spiritual individual can evaluate all subjects”).              Paul certainly does not have in mind, that only the truly spiritual will come to the best and right judgment on everything that exists; to give a simple example, the judgment of colors and their relative attractiveness and usefulness are surely not in the apostles’ mind![53]  Instead we should examine the broader context.  As we have suggested in the introductory matter to the chapter above,  the essence of Paul’s argument is that only the individual centered on “spiritual” matters can correctly “judge” the merits and demerits of various religio-spiritual issues.  That man or woman’s judgment can not rightly be cavalierly rejected (“judged” with condemnation) by the individual who has no interest or grounding in the subject.  

            At least secondarily, however, the text could be taken as referring to judgment on one’s behavior rather than one’s convictions.  One “judges” (makes, determines) all one’s moral, ethical, and behavioral decisions “rightly.”  This is not because one was previously callous or unconcerned--at least consciously--but because now one approaches



[Page 121]  such matters from the standpoint of what is acceptable to God rather than just what is prudent or self-interested.         

Although this text is often introduced as a prime proof that the unsaved can only be reached by the direct action of God through the Holy Spirit, this misdirects the passage entirely.  Paul doesn’t have under consideration when and whether non-Christians can be brought to faith; rather the issue is whether those who are already Christians will act in the right way.  They have not “matured as believers”[54] and he wishes them to understand that this is the underlying obstacle that is their way.

            If they do, the changed perspective from self-interest to Divine interest will result in changed decisions.  As the result, “he himself is judged by no one,” the NKJV adding an interpretive “rightly” in front of judged (2:15).  In other words, one will no longer face the justified condemnatory judgment of others as to one’s lifestyle.  Even pagans had standards and Paul’s epistle makes plain that some of the Corinthian misjudgments opened the members to serious censure, both in what they did and in what they condoned.

            They were currently full of “envy, strife, and divisions” and are “behaving like mere men” (= like typical fellow Corinthians at their worst!) (3:3).  When they finally get their standards of judgment right they will no longer have to listen to his critical/condemnatory judgment on their behavior.  Nor that of their fellow citizens.  For that behavior will have been corrected and removed.  








[1] Raymond Pickett, The Cross in Corinth:  The Social Significance of the Death of Jesus, Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement 143 (Sheffield, England:  Sheffield Academic Press, Limited, 1997), 75.


[2] Cf.  Ibid., 75-76.


[3] Mark D. Given, Paul’s True Rhetoric:  Ambiguity, Cunning, and Deception in Greece and Rome (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania:  Trinity Press International, 2001) 97-99.


[4] R. C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith ([N.p.]:  Tyndale House, Publishers, 1998), 110.


[5] Cf. Bruce, Corinthians, 40, and W. E. Vine, 1 Corinthians (London:  Oliphants Limited, 1951), 41-42.   


[6] Henri de Lubac, Henri de, Theology in History, translated From the French (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, 1996), 124. 


[7] Ciampa and Rosner, 702.



[Page 122]  [8] Raymond Bryan Brown, 307, looks upon it as “making an exceptionally free reference from memory . . . or else he is following a text that is considerably different what we find in the Old Testament.”  Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah; volume 3:  Chapters 40-66 (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), 494, sees it attempting to present the general thrust of the Isaiah text (not its exact words) and blending it with his own teaching in the process.      


[9] John Scullion, Isaiah 40-66,  in the Old Testament Message:  A Biblical-Theological Commentary series (Wilmington, Delaware:  Michael Glazier, Inc., 1982), 195; G. W. Wade, The Book of the Prophet Isaiah, in the Westminster Commentaries series (London:  Methuen & Company, Ltd., 1911), 402-403.  For a detailed argument that the Hebrew text of the verse can not be regarded as accurately preserved, see Anthony T. Hanson, The New Testament Interpretation of Scripture (London:  SPCK, 1980), 51-54.  


[10] Wade, 402-403.


[11] George A. F. Knight, The New Israel:  Isaiah 56-66, in the International Theological Commentary series (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985), 84.  A fascinating scenario and it may even be right, but then we would still be faced with the question of upon what basis did he determine the reading he adopted?    


[12] For the approach that Paul utilizes an existing non-LXX translation, see Hanson, Interpretation, 54.  Whatever the source, the Pauline form is also found in Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities.  For an analysis of this, see 58-61.     


[13] Christopher D. Stanley, Paul and the Language of Scripture:  Citation Technique in the Pauline Epistles and Contemporary Literature (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1992), 188-189. 


[14] Barrett, Corinthians, 73, though conceding the possibility that Paul could be utilizing a translation not available to us.   


[15] Kistemaker, Exposition, 84-85.  


[16] Mare, 200-201.   


[17] Orr and Walther, 157.  Cf. Grosheide, 66; J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton,  Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians and Romans, in the Standard Bible Commentary series (Reprint edition, Delight, Arkansas:  Gospel Light Publishing Company, 19--), 60.  


[18] Orr and Walther, 157.   


[19] As quoted by Heil, 54.



[Page 123]  [20] Ruef, 19, notes that “most commentators” as of his work took this view.  Specific commentators who embrace it include, for example, Jean Hering, The First Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, translated from the Second French Edition by A. W. Heathcote and P. J. Allcock (London:  Epworth, 1962; 1966 reprint), 18-19.     


[21] Kugelman, 258; Orr and Walther, 157.  For an analysis of the weakness of citing Origen as establishing the apocryphal origin of the text, see the analysis in Hanson, Interpretation, 43-44.  


[22] As quoted by Fitzmyer, Corinthians, 177-178.


[23] Ibid., 178.

[24] Robertson and Plummer, 41-42.   


[25] Fitzmyer, Corinthians, 178.


[26] Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel:  God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009) 192.


[27] This seems a bit better explanation that Oystein Lund, who inspired it, who makes the term refer to “a way of action, while ‘understanding’ shows what characterizes the action” (Way Metaphors and Way Topics in Isaiah 40-55 [Tubingen, Germany:  Mohr Siebeck, 2007], 116.


[28] John D. W. Watts,  Isaiah 34-66, in the Word Biblical Commentary series (Waco, Texas:  Word Books, 1987), 90.


[29] Page H. Kelley, “Isaiah,” in Proverbs-Isaiah, in the Broadman Bible Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee:  Broadman Press, 1971), 300.


[30] Trail, Ronald, Exegetical 1-9, 113, and Shiu-Lun Shum, Paul’s Use of Isaiah in Romans (Tubingen, Germany:  Mohr Siebeck, 2002), 246, referring to Paul’s use of the same Isaiah text in Romans 11:33-36 in particular.


[31] Wade, 254.


[32] Raymond Bryan Brown, 308-309; Grosheide, 74; Kugelman, 259.


[33] As quoted by Heil, 70.


[34] As quoted by Ibid, 70.



[Page 124]  [35] The reasons given by Ciampa and Rosner (700) to seriously consider this text as the rhetorical background for Paul’s reference strike me as far from convincing.


[36] John John Phillips, Proverbs:  An Expository Commentary, Volume Two (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Kregel Publications, 2002), 96-97.


[37] Fitzmyer, Corinthians, 180.


[38] Cf. Bruce, Corinthians, 37; Lipscomb and Shepherd, 39.    


[39] Cf. Coffman, 30; Grosheide, 60. 


[40] Thrall, 23. 


[41] For a detailed discussion of possible interpretations, see especially Thiselton, 233-239.  


[42] Lambrecht, “1 Corinthians,” 1607.  Orr and Walther, 164.  Coffman, 31-32 includes cultural and scientific pace-setters along with the political ruling class.    


[43] Those who make the reference apply to the Romans include Bruce A. Ware, God’s Greater Glory:  The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith (Wheaton, Illinois:  Crossway Books, 2004):   The reference “would include both Herod and Pontius Pilate” (119).  Or as he puts it in a slightly modified version a few years later, it “would, surely, include both” men (“A Modified Calvinist Doctrine of God,” in Perspectives on the Doctrine of God, edited by Bruce A Ware [Nashville, Tennessee:  B & H Publishing Group,  2008]), 82.


[44] Howard, 28-29, and Mare, 200.


[45] Kugelman, 258, citing Colossians 2:15; Ephesians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 4:4.  F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (Exeter [Great Britain]:  Paternoster Press, 1972), 90, believes that they are “primarily” in mind.


[46] Fitzmyer, Corinthians, 175.


[47] Cf. Gerald R. McDermott, Gerald R, God’s Rivals:  Why Has God Allowed Different Religions?  Insights from the Bible and the Early Church (Downers Grove, Illinois:  InterVarsity Press, 2007),  73.


[48] Robert J. Karris, A Symphony of New Testament Hymns (Collegeville, Minnesota:  Liturgical Press, 1996), Walter Wink, Naming the Powers:  The Language of Power in the New Testament (Philadelphia:  Fortress Press, 1984), 40-45, provides a very effective summary of the evidence for both sides of the issue.  However, the evidence for a human/earthly sphere is full of Biblical references; that for a demonic/non-benevolent supernatural explanation are abundant with apocryphal and other non-Biblical  



[Page 125]  documentation.  Though the latter proves “the mind frame was in the air” (so to speak) that still falls considerably short of showing that it was in Paul’s mind in particular; in short, suggestive and interesting, but not rising to the level of evidence of the preceding argumentation.  


[49] After stressing the demonic aspect in verse 6, when he turns to verse 8, Kugelman, 258, notes that they were working through “incit[ing] men to crucify him.”  For Biblical precedents for supernatural forces working through human intermediaries (though angelic rather than demonic or questionable ones) see F. F. Bruce, A Mind for What Matters:  Collected Essays (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Inc., 1990), 104-106.


[50] Dale B. Martin, The Corinthian Body (New Haven:  Yale University Press, 1995), 62-63.    


[51] E. Earle Ellis argues that the “spirit of the world” refers to “an evil, extra-natural power” (an oddly long winded way of saying, in essence, demonic).  He does so because he believes the rulers of the current age in verses 6, 10, “represent demonic powers” (Prophecy and Hermeneutic [Tubingen, Germany:  J. C. B. Mohr, 1978], 29-30, but does not make the divine Spirit parallel that would seem to naturally follow.


[52] Kugelman, 258.


[53] Norman W. DeWitt, St. Paul and Epicurus (Minneapolis, Minnesota:  University of Minnesota, 1954), 170.


[54] Hutson Smelley, Deconstructing Calvinism:  A Biblical Analysis and Refutation ([N.p.]:  Xulon Press, 2009), 74, who goes on to note the early verses of chapter 3.



Roland H. Worth, Jr.

A Torah Commentary on First Corinthians 1-6:

Interpreting the Text in Light of

Its Old Testament Roots


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