The Ancient Israelite Festivals: Passover (Part 4)

Passover—Part 4:
Early Christian Tradition

Note: This belated article concludes a series begun earlier this year (cf. Parts 1, 2, and 3); I regret not having the opportunity to post it in a more timely manner.

Paul and the New Testament

It is somewhat surprising that, apart from the Gospels, the festival of Passover (and its symbolism) is hardly mentioned in the New Testament at all. There is a passing historical notice in Acts 12:4, and the author of Hebrews mentions the original historical tradition (and Exodus narrative, cf. Part 1) in 11:28, but without touching upon the typology and symbolism in relation to the death of Jesus (Part 3).

It may be assumed that the earliest Christians—specifically the Jewish Christians in Judea and Syria-Palestine—continued to celebrate the Passover festival in the traditional manner. Christian elements, based on the Gospel Tradition, may have been added to the celebration, but there is no clear evidence for this. There are several allusions to Paul celebrating the festivals (Acts 20:16; 1 Cor 16:8), but these are not entirely unambiguous, and, in any case, Passover is not mentioned in this regard.

The only significant reference to Passover in the New Testament (outside of the Gospels) is by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8. The way in which he draws upon the Passover tradition here suggests that it has been ‘spiritualized’, with no idea at all about the Corinthians actually celebrating the Jewish festival; rather, one ‘celebrates’ the festival only in the ethical-religious sense of removing the ‘leaven’ of sin and immorality. This is not so very different from Philo of Alexandria’s interpretation, such as in On the Preliminary Studies (§169), where he interprets the leaven as symbolizing “the sweetnesses of the pleasures according to the body, or the light and unsubstantial elations of the soul,” which are “by their own intrinsic nature profane and unholy” (Yonge translation). Philo makes this statement (cf. also On the Special Laws I.291-3) in the context of the sacrificial regulations (in Lev 2:11), but it could apply just as well to Passover and the festival of Unleavened bread. For more on Philo’s allegorical and ethical-philosophical interpretation of Passover, cf. the discussion in Part 2.

The context in which Paul makes his Passover reference is the issue of sexual immorality, and the specific case, addressed in chapter 5 (vv. 1-5). Paul attacks the willingness of the Corinthians to tolerate immorality and to continue associating with a person engaged in such behavior. He clearly is not limiting his instruction to a particular kind of sin only, as the general instruction in vv. 9-12 makes clear. He ends his instruction with the strong exhortation for the Corinthians to “take out [i.e. remove] the evil (person) from you (your)selves” (v. 13), which would be an application of the Passover symbolism of removing the leaven (v. 7).

Let us consider briefly Paul’s specific use of the Passover tradition in vv. 6-8. He begins:

“Your boasting (is) not good. Have you not seen that a little fermentation [zu/mh] ferments [zumoi=] the whole mass of dough?”

The Greek word zu/mh (“fermenting, fermentation”) in the LXX translates both ra)c= (the leavening agent) and Jm@j* (the sourdough that has been leavened), and is used in the instructions for Passover in Exodus 12-13 (12:15, 19; 13:3, 7). The natural process of working the fermenting agent throughout a mass of dough (fu/rama) is utilized as an ethical-religious illustration, much as Philo uses the same imagery (cf. above). Interestingly, in the Gospel tradition, in the teachings of Jesus, leaven can serve as both a negative (Mk 8:15 par) and positive (Matt 13:33 / Lk 13:21) symbol.

The ethical-religious exhortation, applying the leaven-symbolism, comes in verse 7:

“Clean out the old fermentation [zu/mh], (so) that you might be a new mass of dough [fu/rama], just as you are without fermentation [a&zumoi].”

Paul states that the Corinthian believers are, themselves, “without leaven” (a&zumoi), which refers to their corporate status as believers in Christ, the emphasis being on their identity as a community of believers. In this regard the “leaven” refers to an instance of (individual) sin which, if unchecked, can infect the entire community. Paul uses the same proverbial saying regarding leaven in Gal 5:9, where his concern, though involving different issues, was also that the community of believers would become distorted through the teaching and influence of certain individuals. The “new mass of dough” refers to the cleansed community—purged of the instance of immorality that had not been dealt with properly (within the community), and by which sin had thus been allowed to take root. Such leaven is called “old” (palaio/$) because it represents a vestige of the old way of life, before the Corinthian believers came to trust in Jesus, when they would have willingly followed the sinful ways and habits of the society around them.

“For our Pesaµ, (the) Anointed, has been slaughtered; so then, let us celebrate the festival, not with old fermentation [zu/mh], and not with fermentation of badness and evil, but with (bread) without fermentation [plur. a&zumoi] of clear judgment and (the) truth.” (vv. 7b-8)

Here Paul alludes more clearly to the Passover festival. Once the lamb has been slaughtered (vb qu/w), on the afternoon of Passover Eve (14 Nisan), then it will be time for the people to celebrate the festival in the evening. Paul’s reference to the sacrificial death of Jesus, in the context here, probably relates to the idea that the death of Jesus served to free believers from their bondage to the power of sin (cf. my recent notes on Rom 6:1-11 and 7:6). One no longer need to follow the old ways of sin and immorality, nor to tolerate them within the Community. Instead of the “old” way of the leaven of sin, believers should follow the “new” way in Christ.

In v. 7, Paul declared that believers themselves were “without leaven” (plur. adj. a&zumoi); here he states that believers should celebrate the Passover festival (symbolically) with bread that is “without leaven” (same plural adjective, a&zumoi). Clearly Paul is referring to the eating of unleavened bread in the Passover meal, and of Passover as marking the beginning of the festival of Unleavened bread (cf. the discussion in Part 1). There is no suggestion that the Corinthian Christians (or any believers, for that matter) need to actually celebrate the Jewish festival; rather, the celebration is figurative and symbolic, occurring at the ethical (and spiritual) level. This celebration done with ‘bread’ of clear judgment (ei)likrinh/$) and the truth (a)lh/qeia) is reminiscent of the saying of Jesus in John 4:23-24 (on which, cf. my recent note).

By identifying Jesus with the Passover lamb that is slaughtered, Paul is making an association that is not part of the Synoptic Gospel tradition. However, as we have seen, it is part of the Johannine Gospel tradition (cf. the discussion in Part 3), and the reference by Paul here indicates that other Christians (and groups of believers) had made the same connection. It is even possible that Paul shared with the Johannine Gospel the idea that Jesus’ death occurred on the afternoon of Passover Eve (14 Nisan), more or less at the same time that the lambs were being slaughtered.

The book of Revelation seems specifically to follow the Johannine tradition with its prominent identification of Jesus as the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29, 36). This imagery first appears in the throne vision of chap. 5, where it is central to the scene (vv. 6ff; 6:1). Of particular importance in the book of Revelation is the connection between the lamb-motif and the sacrificial death of Jesus—both by referring specifically to the Lamb being slain (5:6, 12; 13:8), and by references to its blood (7:14; 12:11; and note the wine-blood imagery [emphasizing the coming Judgment] in 14:11ff). These references to the lamb being slain probably derive primarily from the Passover tradition, though there may also be influence from Isa 53:7-8 (cf. Acts 8:32ff), as well as from the broader tradition of sacrificial offerings (cf. again the discussion in Part 3).

Another possible allusion to the Passover lamb is found in 1 Peter 1:19, where the blood of Jesus is compared to that of a lamb “without blemish [a&mwmo$] and without spot [a&spilo$]”. While such a description (with the use of the adjective a&mwmo$) is more common to the sacrificial offerings (for sin, etc), as detailed in Lev 1:3, etc, it also applies to the Passover lamb (Exod 12:5).

Passover in late-1st and 2nd century Christianity

In the writings of the so-called Apostolic Fathers (c. 90-160 A.D.), there are almost no references or allusions to Passover at all (cf. Diognetus 12:9). Probably the earliest discussion of note is found in Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho, where he discusses the true nature of the Passover, according to the Christian interpretation. The Passover lamb, referred to as “the lamb of God” (Jn 1:29, 36), is identified as a figure-type fulfilled by Jesus Christ through his sacrificial death (§40, cf. also §111). In his debate with Trypho (a Jew), Justin ties observance of the Passover festival to the broader concept of a person’s relationship to the Old Testament/Jewish Law (the Torah regulations), framing the matter in Pauline terms—i.e., one is saved only through faith in Christ, not by observing the Torah (§46).

Gradually, the separation from Judaism led to Christians viewing the celebration of the actual Jewish festival in a negative light. The pseudo-Ignatian letter to the Philippians illustrates this, in the case of Passover, by essentially prohibiting Christians from participating in the Jewish festival—by taking part in it they would be participating with the ones “who killed the Lord and his apostles” (§14).

This reluctance to follow the Jewish festival led to considerable controversy, in the second century, among Christians in different sectors of the Church, regarding the date for celebrating Easter and the timing of when (and how) to commemorate the death of Jesus. Working from the historical Gospel tradition and early (Jewish) Christian practice, Easter was regularly celebrated on the Sunday after the Jewish Passover (14/15 Nisan). Tertullian (in On Fasting §14) is a good representative of the Christian sentiment against continuing to follow the Jewish calendar. He also makes clear that commemoration (through fasting) of Jesus’ death should not take place on a Lord’s Day (Sunday), but on the Friday prior (cf. On Prayer 18, On Baptism 19, De Corona 3).

There were Christians, especially in Asia Minor, who continued to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on 14 Nisan, according to the Jewish calendar, regardless of which day of the week this was; they were referred to as “Quartodecimans”, in reference to the fourteenth day of the month. This practice was in conflict with the developing tradition in other regions. In the minds of many in the Church, there were two problematic points at issue: (1) the prospect of commemorating Jesus’ death on a Sunday (Lord’s Day), and (2) the growing belief that Jesus’ resurrection should (always) be celebrated on the Lord’s Day. The points of tension, and differences in practice, led to protracted controversy (or series of controversies) regarding the determination of the proper date/time for celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus.

There were numerous attempts at resolving these conflicts. In 154, for example, the distinguished bishop Polycarp (of Smyrna in Asia Minor) discussed the matter at Rome with bishop Anicetus. The situation was complicated by the influence of the Montanists, who celebrated the Pascha (Passover/Easter) on a fixed date (April 7) according to the Egyptian calendar. Bishop Victor of Rome was inclined to the Montanist views, and was also particularly hostile to the ‘judaizing’ practice of the Quartodecimans of Asia Minor. Councils were called in order to establish an orthodox standard, and to exclude the churches in Asia Minor that would not comply. The view of the Asia Minor churches, in response, was ably represented by Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus. Cf. the account of Eusebius, Church History 5.23-25.

There were additional complications related to the precise calculation for the Christian celebration; in these efforts, Christians in the late-2nd century continued to struggle with the legacy of the Jewish Passover festival. There were Christians who continued to follow the Jewish calendar, using 14/15 Nisan as standard. Others used the first full moon of the corresponding month as the standard, or the full moon following the spring equinox. If the full moon fell on a Sunday, then, for some, Easter would need be celebrated on the following Sunday. Notable Christian authors and theologians of the time, such as Melito of Sardis, Clement of Alexandria, and Hippolytus weighed in on the subject; fragments of these writings are preserved in the 7th century Paschal Chronicle and elsewhere. The first Council of Nicea (314) attempted to establish uniformity among the Churches: following the Egyptian practice, Easter was to be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox; this decision was re-affirmed at the council of Antioch in 341, but did not entirely resolve the matter.

The Paschal (Easter) Chronicle itself provides an extensive discussion of the matter, along with tables for the calculation of Easter. Somewhat earlier, the scholar Dionysius Exiguus had produced an “Easter Table”, that proved to be highly influential, following upon the nineteen-year cycle established by Cyril of Alexandria. This table, with extensions of it, came to be adopted by Rome and in much of the West.

All of this history illustrates both the prevailing importance and influence of the Passover festival within Christianity, as well as the struggles of early believers and congregations in dealing with the various implications of this Jewish heritage.


The Passion Narrative: Episode 2 (1 Cor 11:23-26, etc)

Episode 2: The Passover meal

The Words of Jesus—Institution of the Lord’s Supper

The last two notes have examined the Passover meal episode in the Passion Narrative. An important component of this scene is the institution of the “Lord’s Supper” —the words of Jesus over the bread and the cup. Most commentators recognize that this tradition in the Gospels is related in some way to the early Christian practice of observing the “Supper of the Lord” (1 Cor 10:16-22; 11:17-34, v. 20). It would hardly be surprising if early ritual and liturgical practice shaped, to varying degrees, the Gospel narrative at this point. But the direction and extent of the influence remains a matter of considerable debate.

It is clear that the “Last Supper” was identified as a Passover meal in the early Gospel tradition; this is certainly the case in the Synoptics (Mk 14:1, 12-16 par), though less definite in John’s Gospel (to be discussed in the next note). Luke brings out most prominently the Passover connection (see part 2 of this study), all the more so, it would seem, if one adopts the longer, majority text of vv. 17-20 (which includes vv. 19b-20). It has been argued that here, in the longer text, Luke preserved more of the original setting of the Passover meal, such as it would have been practiced in the 1st century A.D. These details are explored by J. Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus (Fortress Press: 1977), esp. pp. 41-88, and summarized by Fitzmyer, Luke, pp. 1389-91. According to this reconstruction, the outline of the meal in Lk 22:17-20 (longer text) would be:

    • The Cup (vv. 17-18)—a single cup, to be shared, it would seem, among all the disciples together. It is it perhaps to be identified with the initial cup of blessing (qiddûš), drunk prior to the serving of the meal. Possibly it may also represent the second cup of wine following the Passover liturgy (hagg¹d¹h).
    • The Bread (v. 19)—the “unleavened bread” (maƒƒôt) served and eaten together with the Passover lamb.
    • The Cup (v. 20)—the second cup of blessing (trad. kôš šel b§r¹k¹h), following the meal.

If Luke thus preserves more of the original historical setting, then the Synoptic version in Mark-Matthew (Mk 14:22-25/Matt 26:26-29) would have to be viewed as a simplification or abridgment of the scene. While this might be appealing from a historical-critical standpoint, the situation is not quite so straightforward, at least when considering the words of institution by Jesus. There are two basic forms preserved—(1) that in Mark/Matthew, and (2) that in Luke and 1 Corinthians. In addition to the Synoptic Gospels, the tradition is preserved by Paul in 1 Cor 11:22-26, part of his instruction regarding the “Supper of the Lord” (vv. 17-34, see also 10:16-21). Paul introduces the tradition in v. 23:

“For I received along from the Lord th(at) which I also gave along to you—that the Lord Yeshua, on the night in which he was given along [i.e. betrayed], took bread…”

The first phrase does not necessarily mean that Paul received this information as a special revelation by Jesus; it may simply indicate that the tradition goes back to the words and actions of Jesus himself. As in the Gospels, Paul recorded words spoken by Jesus over the bread and the cup/wine, in turn. Let us examine the tradition regarding each of these.

1. The Bread—Mk 14:22; Matt 26:26; Luke 22:19 [MT]; 1 Cor 11:24

First, the action of Jesus as described:

    • Mark 14:22: “taking [labœ¡n] bread (and) giving a good account [eulog¢¡sas, i.e. blessing] (to God), he broke [éklasen] (it) and gave [édœken] (it) to them and said…”
    • Matt 26:26: “taking bread and giving a good account [i.e. blessing] (to God), Yeshua broke it and, giving [doús] it to the learners [i.e. disciples], said…”
      [Note how close Mark and Matthew are, the differences in the latter’s version are indicated by the words in italics]
    • Luke 22:19: “taking bread (and) giving (thanks for God’s) favor [eucharist¢¡sas], he broke (it) and gave (it) to them, saying…”
      [Luke is even closer to Mark, except for the verb eucharistéœ instead of eulogéœ]
    • 1 Cor 11:24: “Yeshua…took bread and, giving (thanks for God’s) favor [eucharist¢¡sas], broke (it) and said…”

Paul agrees with Luke in use of the word eucharistéœ (“give [thanks] for [God’s] favor”) instead of eulogéœ (“give a good account [i.e. words of blessing] [to God]”). His version is simpler in that it omits mention of Jesus giving the broken bread to the disciples.

Now the words of Jesus:

    • Mark 14:22: “Take (it)—this is my body [toúto estin to sœ¡ma mou]”
    • Matt 26:26: “Take (it and) eat—this is my body”
      [Matthew is identical to Mark, except for the addition of the command fágete (“eat/consume [it]”)]
    • Luke 22:19: “This is my body (be)ing given over you—do this unto my remembrance [i.e. in memory of me]”
      [The italicized portion is not in Mark/Matthew]
    • 1 Cor 11:24: “This is my body th(at is given) over you—do this unto my remembrance [i.e. in memory of me]”

Again, we see how close Paul is to Luke—nearly identical except for the participle didómenon (“being given”), which is to be inferred. The only portion common to all four versions are the words “this is my body” —in Greek, toúto estin to sœ¡ma mou, though Paul has a slightly different word order (toúto mou estin to sœ¡ma).

2. The Cup—Mk 14:23-25; Matt 26:27-29; Luke 22:20 [MT]; 1 Cor 11:25

Jesus’ action and words associated with the cup are clearly parallel to those associated with the bread. First, the action:

    • Mark 14:23-24: “and taking [labœ¡n] (the) drinking-cup (and) giving (thanks for God’s) favor [eucharist¢¡sas], he gave [édœken] (it) to them and they all drank out of it. And he said to them…”
    • Matt 26:27: “and taking (the) drinking-cup and giving (thanks for God’s) favor, he gave (it) to them saying, ‘Drink out of it all (of) you’
      [Matthew is identical to Mark, except that the reference to drinking has been made part of Jesus’ directive]
    • Luke 22:20: “and so the same (way) also (he took) the drinking-cup after th(eir) dining, saying…”
    • 1 Cor 11:25: “and so the same (way) also (he took) the drinking-cup after th(eir) dining, saying…”
      [Luke and Paul have virtually the same version, with slightly different word order]

And the words of Jesus:

    • Mark 14:24: “This is my blood of the agreement [i.e. covenant] set through [diath¢¡k¢] (by God), th(at) is poured out over many”
    • Matt 26:27: “This is my blood of the agreement set through (by God), th(at) is poured out around many unto [i.e. for] the release [i.e. forgiveness] of sins
      [Differences between Matthew and Mark are indicated by italics]
    • Luke 22:20: “This drinking-cup is the new agreement set through (by God) in my blood, th(at is) being poured out over you”
    • 1 Cor 11:25: “This drinking-cup is the new agreement set through (by God) in my blood—do this, as often as you should drink it, unto my remembrance”

Again, the common tradition inherited by Luke and Paul is clear. Their version differs significantly from that of Mark/Matthew in one respect:

    • In Luke/Paul, the cup is identified as the “new covenant”
    • In Mark/Matthew, the blood (wine) itself is identified with the “covenant”

The reference in Mark/Matthew is more obviously to the original covenant ceremony in Exodus 24:8; in the Greek LXX the declaration reads:

“See, the blood of the agreement which the Lord set through toward you around/about all these words”
In Hebrew:
“See, the blood of the agreement which YHWH cut with you upon all these words”

In ancient Near Eastern thought and religious/cultural practice, an agreement between two parties was often established through the ritual slaughter (sacrifice) of an animal. It may involve the sprinkling or application of blood, as in the Exodus scene, where Moses throws blood upon the people (or their representatives). This action followed the reading of all the words which God had spoken to Moses, referred to collectively (in written form) as the “Book of the Agreement [i.e. Covenant]” (v. 7).

This symbolism is less direct in the Lukan/Pauline version; indeed, the emphasis has switched to the symbolic act of giving the cup, rather than the wine (i.e. blood) in it. Also the reference is now to the “New Covenant” of Jer 31:31, a passage of tremendous importance for early Christian identity, much as it also had been for the Qumran community (CD 6:19; 1QpHab 2:4ff, etc). Along with the other Synoptics, Luke has retained the expression (and image) of the blood being “poured out” (the verb ekchéœ) “over” (hyper) people. In addition to Exod 24:8, we find this ritual/sacrificial imagery elsewhere in the Old Testament, such as Lev 17:11, where the idea of expiation and atonement for sin is present. Paul omits this aspect in 1 Cor 11:22-26. Instead, he gives emphasis to the rite of the Supper as a memorial of Jesus’ death. Luke includes this in the words over the bread (22:19), but not the cup.


If we consider all four versions, it would seem that, while 1 Corinthians may have been the earliest written (in the form we have it), it is also the version which most reflects early Christian ritual. This can be seen in the way that the Passover and sacrificial elements are missing, and by the emphasis of the Supper as a memorial. In addition, the Pauline form has a more consistent shape. The rougher contours of the Synoptic version would, I think, suggest a closer approximation to the original (Aramaic?) words of Jesus. Here, as often is the case, Mark may record the earliest form of the tradition; note the common elements highlighted in bold:

    • “Take (it)—this is my body [toúto estin to sœ¡ma mou]”
    • This is my blood [toúto estin to haíma mou] of the agreement/covenant, th(at) is poured out over many”

It would seem that Matthew and Luke have both adapted this core tradition in various ways (see above). The real problem lies with the text-critical question in Luke. The similarity between Luke and Paul here has been used as an argument in favor of the shorter text, with vv. 19b-20 (so close to 1 Cor 11:24-25), being viewed as a harmonization or interpolation. However, if vv. 19b-20 are original, then there can be no doubt that Luke and Paul have inherited a common historical tradition, however it may differ from the version in Mark/Matthew. I would argue that all four versions—that is, both primary lines of tradition (Mark/Matthew and Luke/Paul)—have adapted the original words and setting into a framework that reflects, to some degree, early Christian practice regarding the Supper. In Mark/Matthew, this is done primarily through the narrative description of Jesus’ action, and the sequence of verbs used (cf. above), especially with the key pairing of eulogéœ and eucharistéœ (the latter giving rise to the term “Eucharist”). In the case of Luke and Paul, it may be that Jesus’ words (in Greek translation) have been shaped to reflect the ritual context. Even so, as I noted in part 2 of this study, Luke has clearly retained (and carefully preserved) a connection with the Passover setting of the original tradition.

References above marked “Fitzmyer, Luke” are to J. A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke X-XXIV, Anchor Bible [AB] Vol. 28A (1985).

January 21: 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

[This series of notes, on 1 Corinthians 2:10-15, is part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”. The previous note dealt with 2:16; and see the initial note with links to earlier notes covering 1:18-2:6; cf. also the main article.]

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

Before concluding this series of daily notes (focusing on 1 Corinthians 2:10-15), it is necessary to study briefly the opening of the section which follows (3:1-4:21), in which Paul applies the arguments of 1:18ff more directly to the situation at Corinth. To begin with, the parallel between 2:6 and 3:1 is unmistakable, and must be noted:

“And we speak wisdom among the (one)s (who are) complete…” (2:6)
“And I was not able to speak to you as (one)s with the Spirit…” (3:1)

This allows us to supplement the earlier conclusions regarding a proper interpretation of 2:6a more precisely: the ones who are “complete” essentially = the ones who “have the Spirit”. However, the distinction in 2:6-16 was between those who have the Spirit and those who have (only) the soul/spirit of a human being—the contrast of the adjectives pneumatiko/$ and yuxiko/$ being that of believer vs. non-believer. Here in 3:1ff, on the other hand, Paul is speaking directly to believers, which means that he now gives a somewhat different nuance to the adjective pneumatiko/$ (“spiritual”). To the basic sense of “one who has (received) the Spirit”, we must add the connotation of “one who thinks/acts according to the Spirit“. This is confirmed by Paul’s use of the more familiar contrast between “Spirit” and “flesh”, with its strong moral/ethical implication. The Corinthian believers are not living out (i.e. thinking and acting according to) their identity as believers who have the Spirit. We can capture this through a careful translation of v. 1:

“And I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as (one)s of the Spirit [pneumatikoi/], but (rather) as (one)s (still) of the flesh [sarki/noi], as infants in (the) Anointed {Christ}.”

This “fleshly” manner of thinking/acting is marked by the very divisions (“rips/tears”) in the Community mentioned in 1:10ff, along with jealously, quarreling and partisan/sectarian identity (“of Paul”, “of Apollos”, etc). Paul actually makes use of two related adjectives:

    • sa/rkiko$ (sárkikos)—generally belonging to, or characterized by, the flesh (sa/rc)
    • sa/rkino$ (sárkinos)—more specifically, something made of, or constituted by, the flesh

The second of these is used initially in v. 1, followed by the first (twice) in v. 3. The adjective sa/rkino$ (sárkinos) carries the more neutral sense of a physical human being (i.e. made of flesh). It is used by Paul, somewhat metaphorically, in 2 Cor 3:3, while in Rom 7:14 it preserves the moral/ethical sense of the spirit vs. flesh distinction; the only other NT occurrence is in Heb 7:16. The adjective sa/rkiko$ (sárkikos) is a bit more common, used by Paul in 1 Cor 9:11; 2 Cor 1:12; 10:4 and Rom 15:27; the only non-Pauline occurrence in the NT is 1 Pet 2:11. It is likely that the specific use of sa/rkino$ in 3:1 is due to the earlier usage of the adjective yuxiko/$ (psychikós) in 2:14. There would seem to be a progression of terms involved, which narrows the focus of Paul’s discussion:

    • yuxiko/$ (2:14)—one who has the inner life-breath (“soul”) of a human being, but has not received the Spirit of God
    • sa/rkino$ (3:1)—a human being who is “made of flesh”, i.e. in his/her physical and sensual aspect
    • sa/rkiko$ (3:3)—a person who thinks/acts “according to the flesh” —that is, fundamentally in a sinful, selfish or “immature” manner

The progression involves a kind of natural and logical consequence:

    • The person without the Spirit is merely a human being, and is not able to be guided by the power and direction of the Spirit
    • He/she is left to be guided by his/her own natural impulses and inclinations, which tend to be dominated by physical and sensual concerns
    • As a result, the person tends to act, and ultimately think, in a selfish and sinful manner

This again allows us to refine a basic conclusion regarding Paul’s terminology in 2:6a: the ones who are “complete” are defined, in a negative sense by the opposite—those who think and act in a “fleshly” manner are “incomplete”.

January 20: 1 Corinthians 2:16 (cont.)

[This series of notes, on 1 Corinthians 2:10-15, is part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”. See the initial note with links to earlier notes covering 1:18-2:6; cf. also the main article.]

1 Corinthians 2:16

In yesterday’s note, I looked at the first part of this verse, the citation from Isa 40:13 (LXX); today I will examine the second part, with Paul’s concluding declaration:

“…and (yet) we hold the mind of (the) Anointed {Christ}”

There are four components to this statement, beginning with the (emphatic) pronoun h(mei=$ (“we”), to be discussed below. The remaining three elements are:

    • de/ (“and/but”)—a conjunctive particle with an adversative sense, establishing a contrast with what is stated in the quotation of Isa 40:13. There the rhetorical question (“who knows/knew the mind of God?”) carries the obvious (implied) answer of “no one”. For the relation of the context of Isa 40:12-13 with 1 Cor 2:10ff, cf. my discussion in the previous note. Paul’s declaration may be (re)formulated as: “Of course, no one knows (or can have known) the mind of the Lord (God) Himself, and yet we do hold the mind of the Lord (Christ)!”
    • nou=$ xristou= (“[the] mind of [the] Anointed”)—as I indicated in the prior note, many witnesses read “mind of [the] Lord [kuri/ou]”; if original, then Paul is certainly making use of the wordplay involving ku/rio$, which can be understood as “the Lord (YHWH)” or “the Lord (Jesus Christ)”, interchangeably, by early Christians. The expression “mind of Christ” does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament (nor “mind of Jesus”, or anything similar). Perhaps the closest we come is in Philippians 2:5:
      “This (work)ing of (the) mind must (be) in you which also (was) in (the) Anointed Yeshua {Jesus Christ}”;
      though here Paul uses the verb frone/w rather than the noun nou=$. For more on this verse, cf. below. There are a number of points of contact between 1 Cor 1:18-2:16 and Romans 7-8, especially 8:26-27, which has the parallel expression “mind [fro/nhma] of the Spirit”.
    • e&xomen (“we hold”)—the verb e&xw is often translated more generally as “have”, i.e. “hold (in one’s possession)”; however, here it seems useful to retain the more concrete and fundamental sense of holding something. This preserves contact with the basic context of Isa 40:12-13, with its concept of measuring—it is impossible to contain the Spirit/Mind of the Lord in a measuring-vessel, etc, and yet we hold the mind of the Lord (Christ) within (and among) us. That this occurs through the presence and work of the Spirit is confirmed both by the overall context of 1 Cor 2:10ff as well as the parallel expressions mentioned above:
      • “the mind [nou=$] of Christ” (v. 16)
      • “the working of (the) mind [frone/w]…which was in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5)
      • “the mind [fro/nhma] of the Spirit” (Rom 8:27)

Paul’s argument in Phil 2:1-5ff is similar to 1 Cor 1:18-2:16, in several important respects:

Finally, something must be said regarding the use of the pronoun “we” (h(mei=$) in v. 16. Often there is a certain ambiguity regarding Paul’s use of the 1st person plural in his letters; it can be understood three ways:

    • As a (rhetorical) reference to Paul himself, essentially = “I”
    • As a (collective) reference to Paul and his fellow ministers
    • Collectively, and generally, of (all) believers

So, when Paul says “we have the mind of Christ”, he could be saying:

    • I have the mind of Christ” (cf. 7:40, etc), in which case it brings us back to the start of his argument and the autobiographical aspect of 1:14-17; 2:1-5
    • “We (the inspired apostles, etc) have the mind of Christ”, which generally fits the context of 2:1-7 and 3:4ff
    • “We (all believers) have the mind of Christ”

The overall emphasis of 1:18-4:21, in my view, decisively favors the latter interpretation. Recall that the initial emphasis in the narratio (1:11-17) was that believers should not be relying on the status and gifts/abilities of prominent ministers (such as Paul and Apollos, etc), but should rather be trusting in (a) Christ and the message of the Gospel, and (b) the presence and work of the Spirit—these two being closely connected. What follows in 3:1 only confirms this view, as Paul laments the fact that is not able to speak to the Corinthians as ones who are “complete” (2:6)—they are not thinking and acting according to their true identity (in Christ), as those who are “spiritual” (i.e. who have the Spirit).

However, it is possible that there is a progression or development in 2:1-16, which I would chart as follows:

    • “I came to you” (vv. 1-5)—Paul himself, as the founding apostle, proclaiming the Gospel message (“the secret of God”)
    • “We speak…” (vv. 6-9)—Paul and his fellow ministers, those who first preached the Gospel among the Corinthians and worked to establish congregations, etc
    • “To us…revealed…” (vv. 10-12)—transitional, emphasizing the work of God and the giving of the Spirit to believers
    • “We speak these things…” (vv. 13-15)—Believers as ministers, those gifted to speak and interpret the “deep things of God”, especially apostles, prophets and teachers, etc
    • “We hold the mind of God” (v. 16)—All believers, united with Christ, who have received the Spirit of God (and Christ)

The progression is from the (initial) proclamation of the Gospel of Christ (vv. 1-2) to the unity of believers in Christ (v. 16). This point will be touched on further in the next daily note.

January 19: 1 Corinthians 2:16

[This series of notes, on 1 Corinthians 2:10-15, is part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”. The previous note discussed verses 14-15, and see the initial note with links to earlier notes covering 1:18-2:6; cf. also the main article.]

1 Corinthians 2:16

Today’s note examines the concluding verse of the section, which brings together the strands of the contrastive argument into a rhetorically charged Scripture citation followed by a decisive (positive) declaration. The first part of the verse contains a quotation from Isaiah 40:13, an abridgment of the LXX version:

“Who knew the mind of the Lord, th(e one) who will bring (things) together (to instruct) him?”

The verb sumbiba/zw means “bring (or put) together” sometimes in the (logical) sense of bringing things together for the purpose of instruction. The LXX also uses the related noun su/mboulo$, which typically refers to a person who gives instruction (or counsel, advice, etc). Conventionally, the LXX would be translated:

Who knew the mind of the Lord, and who became His instructor/advisor that will instruct/advise Him?”
ti/$ e&gnw nou=n kuri/ou kai\ ti/$ au)tou= su/mboulo$ e)ge/neto o^$ sumbiba=| au)to/n;

The portion cited by Paul (with only slight variation) is indicated by italics and bold above. The taunting rhetorical question is centered in the idea of the greatness of God (YHWH the Creator) and the insignificance of (created) human beings by comparison. Paul retains the thrust of this rhetoric and applies the question to his own line of argument comparing worldy/human wisdom with the wisdom of God. The ‘abridged’ citation is, in certain formal respects, closer to the tone and feel of the original Hebrew; the Masoretic text (MT) reads:

“Who has measured the spirit of YHWH and (is) a man of his counsel/plan [i.e. his counselor] (who) causes him to know?”

An English translation tends to obscure the relatively simple, 3:3 poetic rhythm of the Hebrew:

hwhy j^WrÁta# /K@T!Áym!
WDu#yd!oy otx*u& vya!w+

Each line involves a related concept:

(a) “measuring” the spirit of YHWH—on the meaning and context of the verb /kt, cf. below.
(b) functioning as a counsellor/advisor (lit. “man of his counsel”) who instructs/advises YHWH (“causes him to know”)

The first (a) essentially implies probing and estimating the depths of God’s own “spirit” (j^Wr rûaµ), much as Paul describes the Spirit (pneu=ma) doing in 1 Cor 2:10. No human being is capable of comprehending the depths (“deep things”) of God. The second (b) touches on the idea that a human being might serve as God’s counselor or advisor; but, of course, God, who knows all things, cannot be informed about anything by a mortal being. The LXX renders Hebrew j^Wr (“spirit/breath”) with nou=$ (“mind”). More often, it is translated by pneu=ma, which corresponds closely to the Hebrew term; however, the use of nou=$ in Greek offers a distinctive interpretation of the verse. It is useful to consider the basic meaning of this word.

Greek nou=$ (or no/o$) fundamentally refers to sensual perception or recognition (i.e. by the senses), but eventually the act of perception came to dominate the meaning, along with the inner/inward faculties of a human being to enable recognition of something—primarily as intellectual faculty (i.e. “mind”), though often there may be an emotional or (deeper) “spiritual” component involved. In addition to an internal faculty (or ability), nou=$ also came to refer to an attitude (or disposition, etc), as well as the result of one’s ability (knowledge, understanding, insight, etc). Generally, this corresponds to the English word “mind”, which can be used, more or less accurately (and consistently) to translate nou=$. It is the third of three primary Greek terms used to describe the invisible, inner aspect of the human person—yuxh/ (“soul”), pneu=ma (“spirit”), nou=$ (“mind”). The first two have already been used by Paul in 1 Cor 1:18-2:16 (cf. the prior notes), and now he introduces the third. Actually, the word was already used in the main proposition (propositio) of the letter in 1:10, a verse that is worth citing here:

“And (so) I call you alongside, brothers, through the name of our Lord Yeshua (the) Anointed, that you should all give the same account and (that) there should not be (any) tears [i.e. divisions] in you, but (that) you should be joined (completely) in the same mind and in the same (way of) knowing.”

The emphasis is clear: in contrast to the divisions among the Corinthians, there should be a unity of mind for believers in Christ. Paul uses a dual formula to express this:

    • “in the self(same) mind” (e)n tw=| au)tw=| noi+/)
    • “in the self(same) knowing” (e)n th=| au)th=| gnw/mh|)

The word gnw/mh (related to the verb ginw/skw, “[to] know”) more properly refers to a way or manner of knowing; there is no English word which corresponds precisely, and it is translated variously as “opinion, judgment, decision”, etc. As will become even more clear when one looks at what follows in 3:1ff, the divisions (“rips/tears”) in Corinth are the result of believers thinking and acting in a human manner (i.e. through worldly/human ‘wisdom’) rather than according to the “mind” (wisdom) of God and Christ. This is the very point Paul makes in the second half of verse 16:

“…and (yet) we (do) hold the mind of (the) Anointed [i.e. of Christ]”

The reading xristou= (“of [the] Anointed”) is found in a number of key MSS (Ë46 a A C Y al), and probably should be considered original; however, many other witnesses read kuri/ou (“of [the] Lord”), matching the earlier citation of Isa 40:13. For early Christians, of course, the word ku/rio$ (“lord”, i.e. “the Lord”) had a double-meaning—it can refer to God the Father (YHWH) or to Jesus Christ, almost interchangeably:

“the mind of Christ” –>
“the mind of the Lord (Jesus)” –>
“the mind of the Lord (YHWH)”

The pronoun “we” (h(mei=$) is in emphatic position— “and (yet) we (do) hold the mind of Christ”. As often in Paul’s letters, there is some ambiguity as to just whom “we” refers. This is rather important for a correct interpretation of this verse (and the passage as a whole), and will be discussed briefly in the next daily note.

The two rhetorical questions of Isa 40:12-13:

Verses 12 and 13 each pose a question beginning with the interrogative particle ym! (“who”). The first (v. 12) asks who has “measured” out the various elements and aspects of the created world. The answer is as obvious as it is unstated: God (YHWH) alone—no other being, let alone a mere human being. The question itself is asked by way of a series of verbal phrases, governed by four verbs, each of which indicates some form of measuring:

    • dd^m*—stretching (a line, etc) to measure out—the waters (<y]m^) in the hollow (lu^v)) of His hand
    • /k^T*—regulating or fitting (according to a standard [measure])—the heavens (<y]m^v*) with the spread/span (tr#z#) of His hand
    • lWK—containing (i.e. filling/fitting a measuring-vessel)—the dust of the earth in a mere vyl!v* (“third part”?), a (small) unit of measure
    • lq^v*—weighing out—the mountains and the hills in a pair of scales or balances (cl#P#//z@am))

The second question (v. 13) asks who, besides YHWH, could know even how any of this is done, let alone offer YHWH any advice or instruction in such matters. The verb /k^T* is repeated, indicating the impossibility of “measuring” the Spirit (j^Wr) of YHWH, in the basic sense, it would seem, of “fitting” or “setting” a standard of measure. There is no way of doing this when one is dealing with the Spirit/Wisdom/Mind of God. The LXX understands the verb in intellectual terms—of a (human) being’s ability (or rather, inability) to comprehend (“know”) the Mind (nou=$) of God—which is quite appropriate for Paul’s theme of wisdom in 1 Corinthians.

January 18: 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 (cont.)

[This series of notes, on 1 Corinthians 2:10-15, is part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”. See the initial note with links to earlier notes covering 1:18-2:6; cf. also the main article.]

1 Corinthians 2:14-15

In yesterday’s note, I provided a fairly detailed study on two key words used in these verses (14-15)—the adjective yuxiko/$ (related to yuxh/) and the verb a)nakri/nw. This was necessary in order to give a proper translation and interpretation of the passage.

“And the man with a soul does not receive [i.e. accept] the (thing)s of the Spirit of God, for it is (all) stupidity [mwri/a] to him and he is not able to know (them), (in) that they are judged (carefully) with the Spirit. And the (one) with the Spirit judges all ([th]ese) things, and (yet) he is judged under no one.”

It will be helpful to offer notes on specific words and phrases as they occur in the passage:

“with a soul” —I have decided, as a practical necessity, to slant the grammar of my translation, in order to give a meaningful rendering of the adjectives yuxiko/$ and pneumatiko/$ (cf. the previous note). Fundamentally, Paul’s use of yuxiko/$ here (and in 15:44-46), means a human being with a soul, but not yet united to (i.e. having received) the Spirit of God. As the prior look at the usage of yuxiko/$ in James 3:15 and Jude 19 makes clear, the sense of the term as a whole is not limited to this—it also connotes a distinctly worldly, human way of thinking and acting. However, Paul captures this more negative aspect in 1 Cor 1:18-2:16 by specific use of “world” (ko/smo$) and “(hu)man” (a&nqrwpo$).

“receive” —It is worth noting the difference between the verbs de/xomai (here) and lamba/nw (in v. 12), both of which can be rendered “receive”. The verb lamba/nw basically means “receive” in the sense of taking (hold) of something, while de/xomai as accepting something offered as a gift, etc. This also touches back on verse 12, where the “things of God [lit. under God]” are said to be given (by God) to us as a favor or gift. The human being without the Spirit does not (indeed, can not) receive or accept the things offered to us (believers) as a gift.

“the (thing)s of the Spirit of God” —Paul’s use of a plural substantive with the definite article (“the [thing]s…”) is an important syntactical (and thematic) element of his argument in 1:18-2:16, and especially of 2:6ff, where the emphatic “wisdom” (sofi/a), i.e. of God, is given collective (and comprehensive) expression by the plural. It begins with the Scriptural citation(s) in verse 9— “the (thing)s which” (a%)—and continues on through the passage:

    • V. 10: “all (thing)s [pa/nta]”
    • V. 10-11: “the deep (thing)s of God [ta\ ba/qh tou= qeou=]”; “the (thing)s of God [ta\ tou= qeou=]”
    • V. 12: “the (thing)s under God [ta\ u(po\ tou= qeou=] given as a favor/gift to us”
    • V. 13a: “the (thing)s which [a%] we also speak”
    • V. 13b: “spiritual (thing)s [pneumatika/]”, or better, “(thing)s of the Spirit”
    • V. 14: “the (thing)s of the Spirit of God [ta\ tou= pneu/mato$ tou= qeou=]”
    • V. 15: “all ([th]ese thing)s [{ta\} pa/nta]”

“to him it is stupidity” —The noun mwri/a (“dullness, stupidity”), along with the related adjective mwro/$ and verb mwrai/nw, is a keyword of the entire section (cf. 1:18, 20-21, 23, 25, 27, and the notes on these verses; also 3:18-19; 4:10). Previously it described the world’s view of God’s wisdom as expressed specifically in the proclamation of the Gospel (and the death of Christ); now, it represents the world’s reaction to the wisdom of God taken as a whole— “all the (deep) things of God”. Note how the comprehensive plural is here put into the singular “it is [e)stin]”; Paul may be suggesting that the human mind/soul is inclined to dismiss all of God’s wisdom at a single stroke. I have tried to capture this with a parenthesis— “it is (all) stupidity”. The pronoun is emphatic in the phrase: “to him [i.e. the human] it is stupidity”.

“he is not able to know (them)” —The verb du/namai essentially means having the power, i.e. being empowered, to do something. Paul has already established the connection between the Spirit of God and power (du/nami$) in 2:4-5 (cf. also 1:18, 24; 4:19-20). The idea of knowledge (gnw=nai [ginw/skw], “to know”) is implicit under the arching theme of wisdom (sofi/a) in the passage (cf. 2:8, 11, 16; also 3:20; 4:19). Earlier, Paul applied this to believers with the verb ei&dw (“see”, i.e. perceive, recognize, know) in 2:2, 11-12. The object of the verb “know” here has to be supplied—I identify it with the comprehensive plural (“the [thing]s…”, i.e. “them”) relating to the wisdom of God (cf. above).

“judged/judges” —Paul uses the verb a)nakri/nw three times in vv. 14-15. Understanding the prepositional component (a)na) to the verb as an intensive, I render it as “judge (something) closely”, in the basic sense of “examine closely/carefully”. Each instance of the verb here has a slightly different nuance:

    • “the things of the Spirit of God…are judged with the Spirit” —they can only be examined (and understood) spiritually, by way of the Spirit of God, through the guidance of the Spirit; this may be related to the idea of the Spirit “searching out” the (deep) things of God in vv. 10-11.
    • “the one with the Spirit judges all (these) things” —the Spirit enables the believer to examine all the things of God closely. It is possible that Paul is beginning to shift the meaning slightly, with a play on pa/nta (“all things”); there may be an allusion here to the idea of believers judging the world (“all things”), as in 6:2ff.
    • “he is judged under no one” —here it would seem that Paul is drawing on a specific judicial meaning of the verb (interrogate, etc); i.e. believers stand under the judgment of no other human being, since we are truly judged only by God before the (heavenly) tribunal at the end-time. This emphasis would seem to be confirmed by the parallel discussion in 4:1-5.

We should probably also understand a bit of word-play between a)nakri/nw and sugkri/nw in v. 13 (see below).

“with the Spirit” —As indicated above, I use this to render the adjective pneumatiko/$ (second instance in the translation above), but also the related adverb pneumatikw=$ (first instance above). This contrasts with the standard translation “spiritual(ly)”, which is accurate enough, but misses the comparison between the human soul and God’s Spirit. The adjective describes the person (the believer), who is characterized by the Spirit, while the adverb describes the action (judging/examining). There is almost certainly a close parallel to be drawn with the phrase in verse 13: “judging spiritual (thing)s with spiritual (word)s”.

The verb sugkri/nw shares with a)nakri/nw the root verb kri/nw (“judge, examine,” etc), which is extremely wide-ranging, but usually retains something of the primitive sense (“separate, divide, sift/sort”). As believers examine the things of God (of his Spirit), by the Spirit, and begin to understand them, we are able to sift through them and bring them together, allowing us to express and communicate them to others in the body of Christ.

“all ([th]ese thing)s” ([ta\] pa/nta)—There is a textual question regarding this word. A number of important manuscripts (Ë46 A C D* al) include the definite article, while many others do not. If the article is original, it almost certainly means that Paul is referring specifically to “the (thing)s of God”, i.e. the wisdom of God in a comprehensive/collective sense (see above). Even if the article is secondary, it may indicate that scribes sought to make the same point clear, to avoid confusion—the word pa/nta (“all [thing]s”) being taken in a general sense. I believe that here, as in verse 10, Paul is playing on the two aspects of this word: (a) all things generally, and (b) the wisdom of God specifically. The dual meaning is more properly combined at the end of the chapter 3 (vv. 21-23), where “all things” (in creation, etc) are subsumed under Christ (the wisdom of God manifest), who is, in turn, under God (YHWH, the Father) himself.

“under no one” —The preposition u(po/ can carry an instrumental sense (“by [way of], through”), but more properly it means “under”; here specifically the reference is to believers being examined and judged (in a judicial sense) under a human authority. Only God truly has the authority to judge believers (in Christ), at the end time (cf. 4:1-5). Note an interesting kind of parallel in Paul’s use of u(po/:

The line of reasoning serves as a fittingly climax to the overall contrast of human vs. divine wisdom, etc, running through this section, and which culminates powerfully with the declaration in verse 16, to be discussed in the next daily note.

January 17: 1 Corinthians 2:14-15

[This series of notes, on 1 Corinthians 2:10-15, is part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”. The previous note discussed verse 13, and see the initial note with links to earlier notes covering 1:18-2:6; cf. also the main article.]

1 Corinthians 2:14-15

Before proceeding with the translation of these verses, it is necessary first to examine two important words which are central to a correct interpretation of the passage.

yuxiko/$ (psychikós)—An adjective here parallel to pneumatiko/$ (pneumatikós), the two being related to the words yuxh/ (psych¢¡, usually translated “soul”) and pneu=ma (pneu¡ma, usually translated “spirit”), respectively. The fundamental meaning of both words is of something blowing (cf. the primary verbs yu/xw and pne/w)—especially of wind (as a natural phenomena) or breath (of a living being), the two concepts or images being related in the ancient mind (wind as the ‘breath’ of the deity). The main difference between the word-groups can be described this way:

    • yu/xw refers to blowing in the sense of cooling—i.e. a cool(ing), cold breeze
    • pne/w refers primarily to movement—a stream of air (i.e. wind) with its visible effect (causing motion)

Each aspect, however, could be (and was) related to the life-breath of a (human) being. The ancient conception is preserved in Genesis 2:7, in which God breathes (blows) a wind/breath into the first human being; according to the Greek version (LXX), God breathes/blows in (e)nefu/shsen) a “living breath [pnoh/]” and the man becomes a “living breath [yuxh/]”. Here we see the two words used in tandem—pnoh/ (pno¢¡, closely related to pneu=ma pneu¡ma) and yuxh/ (psych¢¡). John 20:22 records a similar process (a “new creation”), when Jesus blows/breathes in(to) the first believers and they receive the Holy Spirit [pneu=ma]. The distinction between the two nouns can be defined generally as follows:

    • yuxh/ is the “life-breath” —that is, the invisible, inward aspect of a person, marking him/her as a living, breathing being (i.e., “soul”)
    • pneu=ma is the life-giving “breath” which animates and sustains a (human) being (i.e. “spirit”)

The two terms overlap in meaning, and the relationship between them in Greek thought is rather complex. Paul uses them each to refer to the inner dimension of a human being, but they are not to be understood as separate “things”, as though a person has “a spirit” in addition to “a soul”.

Earlier in 1 Cor 2:11, Paul refers to the “spirit/breath [pneu=ma] of man th(at is) in him“, and distinguishes it from the Spirit/Breath of God—that is to say, every human being has a “spirit” in him/her, but only believers (in Christ) have the “Spirit (of God)”. Now here in verse 14, a similar contrast is made—i.e., between the believer and the “ordinary” human being. This time, Paul establishes it, not by playing with the two senses of pneu=ma (“spirit”), but by playing on the difference between the two words pneu=ma and yuxh/ and their corresponding adjectives; which brings us to the problem of translation:

    • pneumatiko/$ (pneumatikós)—something belonging to, or characterized by, pneu=ma “spirit” (i.e. “spiritual”), only here it refers specifically to the “Spirit (of God)”
    • yuxiko/$ (psychikós)—something belonging to, or characterized by, yuxh/ “soul”, that is, the human soul

Unfortunately, there is no appropriate English word corresponding to this last adjective. A formal equivalence would be something like “soulish”, but that is exceedingly awkward. Most translators tend to use “natural”, for lack of any better option; however, while this manages to get the meaning across, and preserves a meaningful comparison here in verse 14, it distorts the original Greek and the fine word-distinction being used. Based on Paul’s vocabulary elsewhere, we might expect him to use the adjective sarkiko/$ (sarkikós, “fleshly”) here (see esp. 1 Cor 3:3, also Rom 15:27; 1 Cor 9:11; 2 Cor 1:12; 10:4). Only that word carries a definite negative connotation in Paul’s thought (associated with sin); here he wishes to preserve the more neutral, quasi-scientific sense of a normal, living human being.

The adjective yuxiko/$ appears in only three other passages in the New Testament; in Paul’s letters, the only other occurrences are in 1 Cor 15:44-46, which I will touch on below. The other two instances are in James 3:15 and Jude 19 and may help us to understand its usage by Paul here:

    • James 3:15—As in 1 Cor 1:18-2:16, a contrast is made between the wisdom (sofi/a) of God (“from above”, a&nwqen) and earthly (e)pi/geio$) wisdom. The adjective “earthly” (lit. “[from] upon earth”) is followed by yuxiko/$, and then daimoniw/dh$ (“of the daimons“). Here yuxiko/$ means essentially human, as part of a triad of terms characterizing this inferior “wisdom” —earthly–human–demonic. In verse 16, the author (“James”) mentions jealousy and strife/quarrels associated with this worldly “wisdom”, which is also an important aspect of Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians.
    • Jude 19—Again the adjective yuxiko/$ is the second of three descriptive terms, characterizing the ‘false’ Christians of vv. 5ff:
      (a) oi( a)podiori/zonte$ “the (one)s marking (themselves/others) off from”, i.e. separating (them) from the rest of the (true) believers
      (b) yuxikoi/—i.e. “ordinary” human beings, the term being glossed by
      (c) pneu=ma mh\ e&xonte$ “not holding/having the Spirit (of God)”

Paul uses the adjective yuxiko/$ in much the same sense as Jude—referring to human beings who possess a soul/spirit but who have not (yet) received the (Holy) Spirit. Without the guidance of the Spirit, they are led by their own human (or animal) desires and impulses.

a)nakri/nw (anakrínœ)—Paul uses this verb several times in vv. 14-15, but it does not allow for easy translation. The primary verb kri/nw I have consistently rendered with the semantic range “(to) judge”, sometimes with the nuance of “decide, examine,” etc, though its original meaning was something like “(to) separate, divide, distinguish”. The prepositional component a)na/ is best understood here as “again”, in the sense of doing something again (i.e. repeatedly); however, in the verbal context it essentially functions as an intensive element. Perhaps the best translation of the verb is “examine closely“; in a judicial setting, it can refer to an interrogation or investigation. More than half of the NT occurrences (10 of 16) are in 1 Corinthians, the only letter of Paul where the verb is used; 6 are in 1 Cor 1:18-4:21 (2:14-15; 4:3-4), being neatly divided:

    • 3: 2:14-15—the reference is to the “complete” believer, “the spiritual (one)” (see v. 6)
    • 3: 4:3-4—the reference is to Paul himself as a minister of Christ

On 1 Cor 15:44-46—Returning to the word yuxiko/$ (cf. above), it may be helpful to consider briefly Paul’s use of it in 1 Cor 15:44-46, where the context is the (end-time) resurrection. Here, too, it is contrasted with pneumatiko/$; the human being is:

    • scattered [i.e. sown, in death] (as) a yuxiko/$ body—i.e., as body in which there is a life-breath (yuxh/, “soul”)
    • raised [i.e. from the dead] (as) a pneumatiko/$ body—i.e., as a spiritual body, transformed by the Spirit of God/Christ

In verse 45, Paul explicitly cites Gen 2:7 (cf. above), making the contrast more definite—between the human soul [yuxh/] (Adam) and the Spirit [pneu=ma] (Christ). It is not simply the Spirit of God (YHWH), according to traditional Jewish thought; following his resurrection, Christ himself becomes a life-giving Spirit. The two passages, using the yuxiko/$/pneumatiko/$ contrast, reflect the two ends of early Christian (and Pauline) soteriology:

    • Regeneration—The believer experiences a “new creation” in Christ, whereby the human soul/spirit is united with the Spirit of God/Christ
    • Resurrection—The human soul (and body) of the believer is completely transformed by the Spirit of God/Christ

In 1 Cor 2:14-15, Paul has the first of these in view. The analysis above should go far in helping us gain a solid understanding of what Paul is saying in these two verses. A translation and (brief) interpretation will be offered in the next daily note.

January 16: 1 Corinthians 2:13

[This series of notes, on 1 Corinthians 2:10-15, is part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”. The previous note discussed verse 12, and see the initial note with links to earlier notes covering 1:18-2:6; cf. also the main article.]

1 Corinthians 2:13

“…which we also speak not in words taught of [i.e. by] (hu)man wisdom, but in (words) taught of [i.e. by] (the) Spirit, judging spiritual (thing)s together with/by spiritual (word)s.”

It must be emphasized that this verse, along with much that follows in vv. 14-15, is difficult to translate accurately into English, for a variety of reasons. Here, especially, translation and interpretation go hand-in-hand.

To begin with, verse 13 builds upon (and concludes) the declaration in v. 12 (cf. the prior note). The relative pronoun form a% (“which”) refers back to the concluding expression of v. 12: “the (thing)s under God given as a favor to us”. In the note on v. 12, I pointed out the parallel between this expression and “the deep (thing)s of God”, and connected both to the “wisdom of God” mentioned previously—and especially at the beginning of verse 6. This is confirmed by Paul’s language here at the start of v. 13:

    • “we speak (the) wisdom [of God]” (vv. 6-7)
    • “which (thing)s we also [kai/] speak” (v. 13)

The particle kai/ should be regarded as significant here, since it may be intended to draw a distinction between what it is that “we” speak in vv. 6-7 and 13, respectively. There are two ways to place the emphasis:

    • “these things also we speak” —as it is have been given to us to know them, so also we speak/declare them
    • “these things also we speak” —not only the Gospel do we proclaim, but all the deep things of God given to us by the Spirit

Most commentators opt for the first reading, according to the immediate context of vv. 12-13; however, the overall flow and structure of Paul’s argument in vv. 6-16 perhaps favors the second.

More important to the meaning of the verse is the continuation of the comparison/contrast between worldly/human wisdom and the wisdom of God. Here Paul formulates this with a specific expression: “in words of… [e)nlo/goi$]”. I have regularly been translating lo/go$ as “account” (i.e. oral, in speech); but here it is perhaps better to revert to a more conventional translation which emphasizes the elements or components of the account (i.e. the words). Earlier, in 1:17 and 2:1ff, Paul uses lo/go$ in the sense of the manner or style of speech used (in proclaiming the Gospel); here he seems to be referring to the actual content (the words) that a person speaks.

The contrast he establishes is as follows:

    • “in words taught of [i.e. by] (hu)man wisdom” (e)n didaktoi=$ a)nqrwpi/nh$ sofi/a$ lo/goi$)
    • “in (word)s taught of [i.e. by] (the) Spirit” (e)n didaktoi=$ pneu/mato$ [lo/goi$])
      Note: I include lo/goi$ in square brackets as implied, to fill out the comparison, though it is not in the text

The contrast is explicit— “not [ou)k] in… but (rather) [a)ll’] in…” Especially significant too is the use of the adjective didakto/$ (“[being] taught”, sometimes in the sense “able to be taught”, “teachable”), rare in both the New Testament and the LXX. The only other NT occurrence is in the discourse of Jesus in John 6:45, citing Isa 54:13, part of an eschatological prophecy where it is stated that the descendants of God’s people (“your sons/children”) “…will all (be) taught [didaktou\$] by God”. This same reference is certainly in the background in 1 Thess 4:9, where Paul uses the unique compound form qeodi/dakto$ (“taught by God”). This passage is helpful for an understanding of Paul’s thought here:

“And about the fondness for (the) brother(s) [i.e. fellow believers] you hold no occasion [i.e. there is no need] (for me) to write to you, for you (your)selves are taught by God [qeodi/daktoi] unto the loving of (each) other [i.e. to love one another].”

If we ask how believers are “taught by God”, apart from Paul’s written instruction, there are several possibilities:

    • The common preaching and tradition(s) which have been received (including the sayings/teachings of Jesus, etc)
    • The common witness and teaching of the believers together, in community
    • The (internal) testimony and guidance of the Spirit

Probably it is the last of these that Paul has primarily in mind, though not necessarily to the exclusion of the others. This would certainly be an indication of spiritualism in Paul’s thought. For a similar mode of thinking expressed in Johannine tradition, cf. 1 John 2:7-8, 21, 24; 3:10ff; 4:7-8ff, and the important passages in the discourses of Jesus in the Gospel. We will be considering these passages in upcoming articles and notes in this series.

Here, in 1 Cor 2:13, we may simply note that Paul is, rather clearly enough, referring to the work of the Spirit. That the Spirit would give (“teach”) believers (and, especially, Christian ministers/missionaries) the words to say was already a prominent feature of the sayings of Jesus in Gospel tradition (Mark 13:11 par, etc), depicted as being fulfilled with the first preachers of the Gospel in the book of Acts (2:4ff; 4:8, 29ff; 6:10, etc). However, the underlying thought should not be limited to the (uniquely) inspired preaching of the apostles, but to all believers. Paul’s use of “we” in this regard will be discussed in more detail in an upcoming note (on 1 Cor 2:16).

Particularly difficult to translate is the verb sugkri/nw in the last phrase of verse 13. A standard literal rendering would be “judge together” or “judge [i.e. compare] (one thing) with (another)”. However, in the case of this verb, it is sometimes better to retain the more primitive meaning of selecting and bringing/joining (things) together. Paul’s phrase here is richly compact—pneumatikoi=$ pneumatika\ sugkri/nonte$. He (literally) joins together two plural forms of the adjective pneumatiko/$ (“spiritual”), one masculine, the other neuter. The first is in the dative case, but without any preposition specified, indicating a rendering something like “spiritual (thing)s with/by spiritual (one)s”. However, given the expression e)nlo/goi$ (“in words of…”) earlier in the verse, it is probably best to read this into the context here as well.

I would thus suggest the following basic translation:

“bringing together spiritual (thing)s in spiritual (word)s”

I take this to mean that the “spiritual things” are given expression—and communicated to other believers—through “spiritual words”, i.e. words given/taught to a person by the Spirit. The “spiritual (thing)s [pneumatika]” almost certainly refer to “the deep (thing)s of God” and “the (thing)s under God” in vv. 10 and 12, respectively.

The Spirit “searches out” these things and reveals or imparts them to believers. This is especially so in the case of ministers—those gifted to prophesy and teach, etc—but, according to the view expressed throughout chapters 12-14, in particular, all believers have (or should have) gifts provided by the Spirit which they can (and ought to) impart to others.

This allows us to draw yet another conclusion regarding the “wisdom” mentioned in verse 6a: it is “taught” by the Spirit to believers, and is to be communicated (“spoken”) to others in turn. It is also worth noting that all throughout the discussion in verses 9-13, there is no real indication that this “wisdom” is limited to the proclamation of the death/resurrection of Jesus. We should perhaps keep an eye ahead to Paul’s discussion of the “spiritual (thing)s” in chapters 12-14.

The next daily note will examine verses 14-15.

January 14: 1 Corinthians 2:12

[This series of notes, on 1 Corinthians 2:10-15, is part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”. The previous note discussed verses 10-11, with links to earlier notes covering 1:18-2:6; cf. also the main article.]

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” (see 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 discussion in the previous note, and the main article):

    • 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.

January 13: 1 Corinthians 2:10

These notes on 1 Corinthians 2:10-15 are part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”. They are reproduced, in large part, from an earlier set of notes, covering 1:18-2:16 (and including 3:1-3). You may wish to consult these earlier notes, beginning with 1:18—cf. also the following notes on 1:21, 23-24, ,27-28, 30; 2:1-5, and 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 (see the main article, as well as my earlier note on the verse), 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 note.