August 25: 1 Corinthians 2:12

[This series of notes is on 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16; the previous note dealt with 2:10]

1 Corinthians 2:12

“And (so) we did not receive the spirit of the world, but the Spirit th(at is) out of [i.e. from] God, (so) that we should see [i.e. know] the (thing)s under God given as a favor to us.”

This declaration follows upon what has been stated in vv. 10-11 (cf. the prior note). The first half of the verse continues the running contrast between God and the world—only Paul now shifts from wisdom (sofi/a) to spirit (pneu=ma):

    • “the spirit of the world” (to\ pneu=ma tou= ko/smou)
    • “the Spirit th(at is) out of [i.e. from] God” (to\ pneu=ma to\ e)k tou= qeou=)

Note the slight difference in terminology:

(1) the first phrase uses an expression with the genitive (of the world), which can either be subjective (belonging to the world) or objective (consisting of [the things of] the world)—both are possible, but the former perhaps fits the context (and the comparison) better
(2) the second phrase uses the preposition e)k (“out of, from”), indicating primarily the source of the spirit (God himself)

The “spirit of the world” builds upon “the spirit of man” in v. 11:

    • “the spirit of man” (to\ pneu=ma tou= a)nqrw/pou)—the invisible, inner aspect (“th[at is] in him”) of a human being, corresponding roughly with our concept of “soul”; the relation between the terms pneu=ma (“spirit”), yuxh/ (“soul”), and nou=$ (“mind”) in Greek thought and anthropology is complex, and Paul uses all three terms in the verses which follow.
    • “the spirit of the world” (to\ pneu=ma tou= ko/smou)—this expression is parallel to “the wisdom of the world” in 1:20 (and 3:19), with the term “world” (and “of the world”) appearing repeatedly throughout the passage (cf. 1:20-21, 27-28). The Greek ko/smo$ fundamentally refers to an (orderly) arrangement, sometimes emphasizing decorative beauty; commonly it applies to the order of creation or the world. Paul, and other New Testament writers draw upon a basic three-fold meaning for the term:
      (a) the created order, along with the powers which govern it
      (b) the human institutions, authorities, etc, which govern and dominate the operation of society, and
      (c) humankind, or human society, treated collectively
      Often in early Christian thought ko/smo$ has a decidedly negative connotation—signifying the corrupt/sinful condition of humankind (and creation at large), and especially human thought and endeavor which is opposed to God or seeks to function apart from him. The expression “spirit of man” is essentially neutral, while “spirit of the world” draws upon this negative meaning.

There are several points to consider in the second half of the verse. First, we should note the connecting particle i%na (“[so] that”), indicating purpose—we received the Spirit from God so that we might see, etc. The verb form ei)dw=men (from ei&dw, “see”) is a rare occurrence of a perfect subjunctive; there are only 10 occurrences in the New Testament (apart from several participial forms), and always with the verb ei&dw (Mark 2:10 par; 1 Cor 13:2; 14:11, etc). Rendered literally, the phrase would be “so that we might have seen…”, but this is misleading in English; the (intensive or consummative) force of the phrase is perhaps better translated, “so that we might surely/truly see…”. In Greek idiom, to “see” (esp. with the verb ei&dw) essentially means to know (i.e. perceive, recognize). And what is it that we might come to see/know?—this is expressed in the final phrase of the verse: “the (thing)s given as a favor to us under God”. The verb xari/zomai is derived from the noun xa/ri$ (“favor”) and means “give/grant/do (something) as a favor”. It is relatively frequent in the Pauline letters (16 of the 23 occurrences in the NT), though the noun xa/ri$ (typically translated “grace”, or, more accurately, “gift”) is much more common. The preposition u(po/ (“under”) means that the things given as a favor to believers are under God’s control and come through his guidance and generosity. Note the important parallel with verse 10:

    • “the deep (thing)s of God” (ta\ ba/qh tou= qeou=)
    • “the (thing)s under God” (ta\ u(po\ tou= qeou=)

In a locative sense, u(po/ indicates “beneath”, making the connection with the “deeps/depths” of God more obvious. There is no way in English to translate the plural literally without adding in a word like “thing”—”the (thing)s…”—and yet it is perhaps not entirely appropriate to the Greek idiom. We should perhaps understand the formal expression in a collective, comprehensive sense—i.e., “(all) the depths of God”, “(every)thing under God” (cf. ta\ pa/nta, “all [thing]s” in v. 10a). In terms of Paul’s thought here, it also would not be inappropriate to combine the expressions—”all the deep (thing)s under God”—to summarize what it is that God, through the Spirit, gives to us as a favor (or gift). We might outline this as follows:

This analysis also allows us to draw several additional conclusions regarding the interpretation of verse 6a (cf. the previous daily notes):

    • The “wisdom” is not limited to the Gospel message, but ought to be understood more comprehensively as “all the (deep) things under God”.
    • It is dependent upon our having received the (Holy) Spirit
    • Through the Spirit we are able to know and experience this wisdom

It will be possible to expand upon these points as we proceed through vv. 13-16 in the upcoming notes.

August 24: 1 Corinthians 2:10

[This series of notes is on 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16; the previous day’s note dealt with 2:6]

1 Corinthians 2:10

“And (yet) to us God has uncovered (this) through the Spirit—for the Spirit searches out all (thing)s, and (even) the deep(est thing)s of God.”

The statement in verse 10 is the culmination of the line of argument in vv. 6ff. It may be helpful to outline the thematic (and logical) development:

  • There is a wisdom spoken to the believers who are “complete”—it is different from the wisdom of this Age and its rulers/leaders (who have no effect for believers and will be without power in the Age to Come) [v. 6]
    • instead (“but/rather”, a)lla), this wisdom (of God) is spoken in a secret hidden away from the world [v. 7a]
      • which [h%n] God established (“marked out”) before the beginning of this Age, for the honor/glory of believers [v. 7b], and
      • which [h%n] none of the rulers/leaders of this Age knew (or understood) [v. 8]
        —demonstrated by the fact that they put Jesus Christ (“the Lord of honor/glory”) to death
        • instead (“but/rather”, a)lla), this secret was prepared beforehand, only to be revealed for “those who love God” [v. 9, citing Scripture]
          • and (de) God has revealed this to us (believers) through the Spirit [v. 10]

The thrust of this argument is clear: the wisdom of God has been kept secret, hidden away from the world, and is only revealed now to believers through the Spirit. The emphasis on the Spirit (of God) here is vital to Paul’s discussion. With regard to a correct interpretation of verse 6a (cf. the previous note), it is possible to make at least one firm conclusion—the wisdom spoken to the “complete” comes by way of the Spirit. No other source of “wisdom” is possible. Based on the context of vv. 6ff, we may assume that apostles and ministers (such as Paul), are the immediate (proximate) source, as chosen/inspired preachers and teachers, to communicate this wisdom. The wording in v. 6 (“we speak…”) is slightly ambiguous—it could refer to (a) Paul primarily, (b) Paul and his fellow ministers, or (c) believers generally. Probably the first person plural should be understood as inclusive of all three points of reference, in the order given here: Paul (founding Apostle)–Ministers–Believers.

It is significant that the work of the Spirit essentially reverses the process established by God—the (secret) wisdom is, first:

    • hidden from [a)pokekrumme/nhn] the world [v. 7], and then
    • the cover is removed from [a)peka/luyen] it [v. 10], revealing it to believers

The first verb (a)pokru/ptw, “hide [away] from”) is a passive perfect (participle) form, indicating action which began at a point (in time) and the force or effect of which continues into the present. It is an example of the “divine passive”, with God as the one performing the action (unstated). As a participle it modifies the noun “wisdom” (sofi/a), emphasizing its character as hidden/secret wisdom; this is especially clear from the precise Greek syntax and word order:

    • wisdom of God
      —in (a) secret
    • hidden from (the world)

The second verb (a)pokalu/ptw, “take/remove the cover from”, i.e. “uncover”) is a simple aorist indicative form with God as the subject. The aorist would suggest a past action performed by God (through the Spirit); there are several possibilities for a specific point of reference here:

    • The resurrection and exaltation of Jesus
    • The preaching/communication of the Gospel
    • The receipt of the Spirit by believers (associated with the baptism ritual)
    • Post-conversion work/manifestation of the Spirit to believers

The second of these—the proclamation of the Gospel (by Paul and his fellow ministers)—best fits the context. This allows us to draw a second conclusion regarding the interpretation of v. 6a: the revelation of the (secret) wisdom of God is fundamentally tied to the proclamation of the Gospel. However, I believe we will gain additional insight by a careful consideration of the last half of verse 10, which describes more generally the work of the Spirit:

“…for the Spirit searches out all (thing)s, and (even) the deep(est thing)s of God”

Two phrases are combined, the second of which builds on the first:

    • “for the Spirit searches out [e)rauna=|] all things [pa/nta]
      • even the deep things [ta\ ba/qh] of God

The essential activity of the Spirit is described by the verb e)reuna/w, which means to search out (or after) something. The searching of God’s Spirit is all-powerful and all-inclusive—it searches out all things. The second phrase narrows this to “the deep things” of God. The idea is that the Spirit, in its searching, travels (steps) all the way to the “depths” of God himself, in a manner (somewhat) similar to the functioning of the human “spirit” (v. 11). By inference, we may draw a third conclusion in relation to verse 6a: the hidden wisdom of God relates to the very depths (the deepest parts) of God’s own being. It is an extraordinary thought (and claim) that the Spirit might communicate to believers the deepest wisdom of God himself. Perhaps this suggests something of what Paul means when he states that such wisdom is spoken to “the ones (who are) complete” (in this regard, see esp. the famous words of Jesus in Matt 5:48). For a more immediate exposition (and explanation), in the context of this passage, we now turn to verse 12, to be discussed in the next daily note.

Commentators have had difficulty identifying the Scripture Paul cites in verse 9. The citation formula (“as it has been written”) clearly indicates that he regards it as coming from the Scriptures, yet it does not quite correspond with anything in the books of the Old Testament as they have come down to us. There are two possibilities:

  1. He freely quotes or alludes to parts of a number of passages, combining them in a creative fashion. Perhaps the most likely passages would be Isa 52:15; 64:4; 65:17; Jer 3:16; Sirach 1:10. New Testament authors frequently cite or allude to the Scriptures very loosely, adapting them freely—either from memory, or intentionally in order to fit the circumstances in which they are writing.
  2. Paul is quoting from a book otherwise unknown or lost to us today. Origen (Commentary on Matthew 5:29) states that it comes from an “Apocalypse of Elijah”, but it is impossible to verify this one way or the other. It is also found in the Ascension of Isaiah 8:11, but that work has been heavily Christianized and probably is simply citing 1 Cor 2:9.

The first option is much more likely; probably Isaiah 64:4 is most directly in Paul’s mind.