Exegesis of I Corinthians 1:10-18
DPE - January 23, 2002
Step One - Acquaintance
English Translations: 1 Cor. 1:2 (NIV) To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ--their Lord and ours: (NRSV) To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: (Peterson) I send this letter to you in you in God's church at Corinth, Christians cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life. I include in my greeting all who call out to Jesus, wherever they live. He's there master and ours.
1 Cor 1:10 (NIV) I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. (NRSV) Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. (Peterson) I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I'll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.
1 Cor 1:13 (NIV) Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? (NRSV) Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (Peterson) I ask you, "Has the Messiah been chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own?
1 Cor 1:17 (NIV) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel--not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (NRSV) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. (Peterson) God did not send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn't do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center - Christ on the cross - be trivialized into mere words.
1 Cor 1:18 (NIV) For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (NRSV) For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (Peterson) The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hell bent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out.
Textual Criticism: Nothing to note here.
Rough Translation: Do not want to do a rough translation. However I want to point out something that is not expressed in the English translation that is seen in the Greek that is some importance to how I will deal with this text. The word please here in the Greek in verse 10 suggests a strong and urgent; carries more weight than a request and slightly less than a command. When Paul talks about the divisions in the church he uses the word schismata. The word is translated in English to mean refer to schisms or factions. But it is the same verb is also used to describe the tearing of the curtain in the temple. This gives the image a much more violent image of tearing. The problems in the church was that it was being torn in two or ripped apart by its problems. Like wise the word their for unity is the same word used in Mark 1:19 and Matt. 4:21 used to describe the mending of fishing nets. The implication is then that the church was being torn in two or ripped and that he was encouraging them to be knit together like fishing net in common mind and thought. Also the word here for thought should really interpreted as purpose. Should be translated as knitted together in mind and purpose. Could translate the text like this then I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree with one another so that you will not be torn or ripped in two and that you may be knit together in mind and purpose. Also down at verse 13 it is better translated in a similar manner. Is Christ torn into pieces or as Peterson put it: "Has the Messiah been chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own?"
Step II - Disposition
Genre: The text is a pastoral letter directed to a specific congregation to deal with specific issues. It is unlike other epistles that were general and written for general circulation. Paul begins the letter by pointing out to the church who they are in Christ before he launches into the problems. Thanksgiving and praise for the congregation is expressed before Paul gets to the subject at hand. It's thanksgiving from beginning to end. Also important is realizing that Paul's letter is not addressed to an individual but to a community and the chief function of the pastoral letter as community formation. Likewise, when we read the letter we must hear it addressed to us as the church. We are as the interpretation commentary puts it that we are literally reading someone else's mail. Also there is an element of a defense here where he defends his apostleship. 3 Rhetorical questions. 1 Has Christ been divided? 2 Was Paul Crucified? 3 Were you baptized in the name of Paul? Dr. Alsup says "the letters served as surrogates for Paul's presence in these early Christian communities he formed. Embodies apostolic preaching in written form."
Personal Interaction: 1) Primary question tied to verse 10. What does it mean to be united in mind in thought? How can Paul expect such a thin to occur in a community as diverse as Corinth? Does mean theological uniformity and moral regularity? Where is there a community such as this? Where is that church? 2) What were the divisions in Paul's community? 3) Who were Chloe and her friends? Who was Apollos? Crispus? Gaius? Stephanaus? 4) What was Paul's position on Baptism? What role did it play in the church? 5) What was Corinth like and what insights might I gain by knowing more about it? 6) What was Paul's connection to the Church? 7) What is verse 17 about? Preach the Gospel? Human wisdom? How does it empty the cross of it's power? What is he referring too? 8) Verse 18 what does it mean? How is the cross foolishness to the world? Second time Paul uses the word power. What does it mean? How does the cross function in his Christology? 9) What does being saved here Mean? 10) Who preserved this letter? The community in Corinth or the community around Paul? If Corinth preserved it this would indicate the welcome reception of the letter. 11) What does it mean to be an apostle?
Organization of the Questions: 1) In step I B, III B and IV A. 2) III C and IV A. 3) IV A. 4) III B and C. 5) IV A. 6) III B,C, and IV A. 7) III A, IV A, IV C, and V 5. 8) III A, IV A, IV C, and V 5.
Step III - Composition
Immediate context: The pericope follows Paul's greetings at the beginning of the letter. The beginning is filled with praise and thanksgiving. When this pericope begins he goes straight to the heart of the matter. He is concerned about the wholeness and the integrity of the church. Following the pericope describes his theology of the cross as foolishness.
Larger Context in Composition: The fundamental appeal of the whole letter is found in verse 10. Everything that follows in the whole letter must be viewed through the lens of this text. Chapter five begins another major section in the letter.
Issues of Authorship: The church is being torn apart by division in the church. Also a whole host of moral issues have come into question: sex, marriage, and such. As well, people were lining up behind various personalities along with creating a hierarchy of power based on the spiritual gifts given.
Step IV - Context
Primitive Christianity: Important to note that Acts tells the story of Paul in his ministry? Key text that relates to the issue of unity is Ephesians 4:4-6. Apollo's story is told in Acts 18:24-28. He was a learned Jew from Alexandria who "taught" accurately the things concerning Jesus" with great passion and eloquence. He was a preacher a operating in Ephesus before coming into contact with representatives of Paul's mission. According to Acts, Priscilla and Aquilla took Apollos in hand and gave him additional instruction, especially on the subject of baptism. The congregation at Ephesus sent him with their blessing to the congregation at Corinth. Evidently he was a polished speaker and grew quite a following. Could be Paul is poking at him in this text. Gaius - Romans 16:23, Stephanas- head of household of converts in Achaia 1 Cor. 16:16-17, and Crispus - ruler of synagogue, Acts 18:18 - were converts of Paul who were people with privilege and wealth. Problem is that they are caught up in rivalries because they take pride in the human wisdom of the age. They are boasting about their own wisdom or the wisdom of their leaders. Romans 1:16-18 relevant to verse 18.
Hebrew Context: 1 Cor. 1:19 is a direct quote of Isa 29:14. (NRSV). "so I will again do amazing things with this people, shocking and amazing. The wisdom of their wise shall perish, and the discernment of the discerning shall be hidden." Idea here is that God acts in a way to save his people that defies human wisdom. Paul links the gospel of the cross to the older story of grace and judgment told in the Hebrew Canon.
Hellenistic Context: The City of Corinth where the church was an important sea port on the Isthmus of Corinth. It was not only an important sea route but also an important overland route. It was a hodgepodge of cultures and a strategic center of communication and commerce. Typical of the cities that Paul chose to do his work in what is now Turkey and Greece. It was in Greece. At one point the city was completely destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC and then rebuilt by Julius Caesar a century later. So the city was not a place of ancient tradition but only a 100 years old. The old city had gained a reputation for luxury and loose living. It Paul's time it wasn't much different either. A population of mostly mixed background and according to Paul disadvantaged people. This was the case with the church especially. There were slaves and free people, Jews and non-Jews in the congregation. From the 2 Letter it is obvious this created some tension in the church. Truly amazing that they gathered in a community. Only thing like it in the community. A new community in every way defined by the cross of Jesus. See it in verse 1 Cor. 1:18. This is what Paul is talking about here.
Step V - Distillation
Salient Features: My thoughts about this text are directed to verse 2 in chapter one where Paul says that they are sanctified - which means set apart for special use by God. The church has been set apart to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is obvious to me that verse 10 demonstrates that Paul is concerned that this purpose will not be fulfilled because of divisions in the church. Here he makes his proposal that they should be of the same mind and thought to bring about the desired unity. The danger here would be to think that Paul is insisting that unity is achieved through theological uniformity and moral homogeny. This would be an unrealistic expectation; however, for a community as diverse as the Corinthian congregation. It would also be dangerous in a world torn apart by the narrow claims of fundamentalism if it were preached as such. What Paul is referring to then is something altogether different. By same mind he is talking about the mind of Christ that is referred to in Philippians 2:5-9 (NRSV) "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross." This means the way to bring unity to the church is through humility and service and love for one another. Christology is important to understand in the letter. Though it is not a major emphasis of the letter Paul's Christology downplays the atonement for our sins and instead plays up the theme that Christ's death and ressurection has been formed out of Christ's sacrificial act of love on behalf of the other. When he talks about the foolishness of the cross in verse 18 this is what he is referring to. The idea the world could be redeemed through giving your life for someone else, through weakness as opposed too using your strength to get your way. The cross then has made it possible for all kinds of people to come together to form a new community. Any time the community begins to define itself under other terms -whether in the names of specific leaders or behind specific doctrines - division is the result. On the issue of Baptism Paul makes it clear that we are all baptized into the name of Jesus and no one else. The foundation for unity is two things then the cross of Jesus and baptism in his name. As well, Paul makes it clear that how you speak or the words you use are not important. All that matters is that you preach Jesus. The power is in Jesus not the rhetorical skills of the preacher. Important to note that theological uniformity would have been an unrealistic expectation for a church like the one in Corinth that has rich and poor, educated and uneducated, former cult prostitutes and community leaders, and a variety of races.
Important Note: Being saved indicates a process as opposed to a one time event. Also this does not appear to be an individualistic saving. It is a being saved in a community. As well it is not an atonement term here - it was a term referring to the new community established by the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross.
Hermeneutical Bridge: I immediately think of the recent Churches of Christ Uniting that has occurred. I think of the people who are opposed to this are opposed because we cannot be together with people who ordain homosexuals or who baptize infants and so on. But the kind of unity Paul proposes here does not require a unity on issues. F we try to get unity around these issues we never will. The unity must be based on something else. I think of two disciples sayings: No Creed but Christ and I think of In Essentials unity, Non Essentials Liberty. (Gal 3:26-28 NRSV) for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
Step VI - Contemporary Address.
Description of Audience: Congregation much like the church in Corinth. Houston is center of great cultural diversity and commerce. Also the Christian Church is struggling with issues of diversity as most Mainline Protestant Denominations. My congregation has more economic and educational diversity than most of the congregations in our community. People have come to our church from many different religious backgrounds. Keeping the unity in congregation where we have people on all extremes theologically is a challenge.
Goals For address: 1) Familiarize people with occasion for the writing of the letter and the church in Corinth. Walk them through the first 18 verses of the letter. 2) Unpack what it means to be of same mind and purpose to get unity. Demonstrate that Paul is not referring to theological uniformity. 3) Clarify that the unity of the church is built on two foundations. A. The Cross of Jesus - sacrificial love for one another - that has made it possible for Jew and Greek and slave and free to become members of a new household of faith. B. Baptism in the name of Jesus. Show that these two are the same mind. 4) The same purpose is the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 5) Explain the link between verse 18 and verse 10 and how that is what he means by same mind and purpose. 6) Want to inform the congregation that there was no golden age where everyone agreed on everything. There was a diversity of thought on every possible subject. Mistake then to try to build the unity of the church around uniformity of issues. Must be built on ethic of humility and love. And Baptism in the Name Of Jesus. Preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ and the new kind of community that his death on the cross makes possible. 7) Wrap up by referring to the Referring to "In essentials Unity, Non-Essentials Liberty, And All Things Charity." Remind people that our Church has always been concerned about the unity of Christians. Make a case for how we can talk about difficult issues without dividing.
Address: Beginning: Witnessed a church spilt as a youth minister over a pastor. What I witnessed is just a mirror of the church at large. We are divided among four major traditions and among those traditions line up behind personalities Calvin, Wesley, Luther, Campbell, Criswell, Spong. But today we are not dividing behind personalities but social issues. New Area Minister interviewed and first question asked; "What is Your Position on the place of Homosexuals in the Church and it's ministry." Reporter was going straight for the things that divide us. I want to talk then about the foundation for Unity. Hundreds of years ago Paul wrote a pastoral letter on the subject. The Christian Church in Corinth was splitting up and wrote to them about the foundation for Christian Unity.
Paul does not begin his letter by going straight to the problem. Paul begins instead by reminding them they are God's church who has been sanctified - called by God and set apart by God for a special use. To fulfill this special purpose God has given them what they need to fulfill it. They have been:
1) Given the grace of God. Vs. 4.
2) Enriched in speech and knowledge. Vs. 5
3) Strengthened with spiritual gifts. Vs. 6-7.
4) Called into the fellowship of Jesus. Vs. 9.
And that purpose was Gospeling.
But from what we learn in verse 10 it appears that this purpose was in danger because the church was being ripped apart by division.
In response Paul appeals to them to be knit together by having the same mind and the same purpose. The word agreement here used in the NRSV is that speaking the same name of Jesus Christ - Baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. I appeal to you that you all speak the same name of Jesus Christ and that what has been ripped apart will be knit together by being of the same mind and purpose. Mind and purpose here tied back to the name of Jesus Christ.
Introduction to the New Testament; Raymond Brown, provides a brief summary of the major issues in the Epistles of Paul.
I Corinthians; The Anchor Bible Series, Double Day Press, William F. Orr and James Arthur Walther. This commentary does a good job a looking at some of the key issues in the translation of the Greek to the English. The authors were the ones who made it clear to me that it should be translated "mind and purpose" in verse 10.
First Corinthians: A Commentary for Today; Chalice Press, William A. Beardslee. Helpful commentary that is brief and offers good insight into the city of Corinth and the congregation Paul planted there.
I Corinthians; Interpretation Series, Richard B. Hays. This was the most helpful of the three resources I consulted. Hays was careful to point out to me that division should be translated as ripped or torn and unity as knit together like someone knits together a net.