Doctor Of Theology, And Late Dean Of Marbach On Then Neckar
TRANSLATED FROM THE SECOND REVISED GERMAN EDITION WITH ADDITIONS
DANIEL W. POOR, D.D.
Pastor Of The High Str. Presbyterian Church, Newark, N.J.
VOL. VI. OF THE NEW TESTAMENT: CONTAINING THE TWO EPISTLES OF PAUL TO THE CORINTHIANS
After nearly four years of labor, remitted at intervals by reason of ill-health, I am able to lay before the public Dr. Kling’s able Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians in something of an English dress. The difficulties of translating his involved and scholastic style, designed only for German students, into readable English, suited for the public at large, can be known only by such as have attempted a like task. To have translated literally, and have strictly followed his method, would have been to make the work a comparative failure. By the consent, therefore, of the principal Editor, Dr. Schaff, I have, without altering the meaning, introduced such modifications of method and style as seemed necessary to give the Commentary the widest circulation. The changes made have been mainly, in substituting an English text for the Greek, excepting where the latter was absolutely required to render the comment intelligible,—in intercalating this text through the body of the Commentary instead of putting a few catch-words at the head of the paragraphs,—in breaking up the majority of the ponderous sentences into their component parts (a few being left as specimens here and there to show what a German scholar is capable of in this direction),—and in omitting some portions of the homiletical and practical sections which seemed to be needlessly extended. The parts added by me, are all inserted in brackets, with the exception of the text in black letter, and the headings under the caption “Doctrinal and Ethical” which are italicized. All matter thus enclosed, which is not accredited to particular authors, must be ascribed to me. This general acknowledgment of responsibility I have preferred to make here, rather than insert Tr. or D. W. P. all down the page—say, as a whim of my own. The additions made by me, it will be seen, amount to over one quarter of the whole Commentary. The authors consulted have been mainly Alford, Stanley, Wordsworth, Hodge, Robertson, Bloomfield, Barnes, Poole, Scott, Whitby, Meyer, de Wette, Olshausen, Bengel, Calvin, and Chrysostom. Such portions of their several works as seemed calculated to shed light on the text, or to illustrate the course of Biblical Criticism, I have freely used. These frequent citations, while they have served to enrich the body of thought, naturally tended to break up the logical structure of the paragraphs; but the lack of continuity, whereever seen to exist, will be tolerated for the sake of the benefit derived.
To the homiletical sections I have added the plans of such sermons as I have found in my library, not being in circumstances freely to consult any other as I would gladly have done.
In consequence of my ill-health, Dr. C. P. Wing, who has been pleasantly associated with me in preparing the Second Epistle, kindly consented to assist in furnishing the critical notes on the text from chapter 7 to the end. In this he has been far more full and painstaking than I was in the earlier chapters; for which scholars will thank him. The portions added by him are very properly distinguished by his initials C. P. W.
With these explanations I submit the work to the candid judgment of the Christian public, in the hope that they will find it a serviceable addition to the abundant and exceedingly valuable Commentaries that have been already issued on this portion of the New Testament. If it will aid in leading any to the better understanding and appreciation of this most important portion of Scripture, giving them a tithe of the benefit I have enjoyed, it will be the largest count in my recompense for the labor spent on it. Severe criticism on the style of the translation I must deprecate in advance. If I have succeeded in putting Dr. Kling’s exceedingly involved, prolix, cumbrous, yet thoughtful style into readable English, it is more than I dared to hope for after having enlisted in the work and clearly apprehended the nature of the task before me. In consequence of being obliged to recast the whole of the exegetical and critical part, and, as it were, work myself into a new method, some slight errors of punctuation and lettering will be found in the earlier chapters, for which I ask the reader’s indulgence.
With the ever-growing conviction that no Commentary of uninspired man can ever exhaust the fullness of meaning contained in the Scriptures, and deeply conscious how far short this new effort falls below the attainable standard, I with diffidence present it to the Church as a tribute of humble reverence and affection for the Word of God, and a token of sincere desire that this Word may be more and more known, felt, and enjoyed by all believers, not only in its obvious scope and more general meaning, but also in the subtler implications and suggestions of its moods and tenses, its particles and order of language, being all informed by the Spirit of the Living One who is the Sum and Source of all Beauty, Goodness, and Truth.
D. W. POOR.
Newark, March 21, 1868.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF DR. KLING
THE AMERICAN EDITOR
Friedrich Christian Kling, D. D., the author of the Commentary on the Epistles to the Corinthians in Dr. Lange’s Bibelwerk, was born Nov. 4, 1800, at Altdorf, in the kingdom of Würtemberg, and died at Marbach in April, 1861. His father was a clergyman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and destined him for the same calling. Young Kling passed through that thorough systematic course of classical, philosophical and theological training for which the Gymnasia, the lower Seminaries (Maulbroun, Schönthal, Blaubeuren and Urach), and the University of Würtemberg are unsurpassed even in Germany. After graduating in Tübingen he went to the University of Berlin, which was then at the height of its fame in the theological department. He attended chiefly the lectures of Schleiermacher and Neander, and enjoyed their personal friendship. His theological views were moulded by these celebrated divines, especially by Neander; but like most of their pupils, he advanced beyond them in the direction of a positive evangelical orthodoxy.
On his return to Würtemberg in 1824 he spent a few years as Repetent in the theological Seminary at Tübingen—an honorable position of tutor and assistant professor, to which a few of the best scholars of each graduating class are appointed, with the additional advantage of a literary journey at the expense of the government. In March, 1826, he was elected deacon (i. e. assistant minister) in the town of Waiblingen, where he spent six useful and happy years. He was married to a grand-daughter of the celebrated philosopher, Fr. H. Jacobi. While faithfully discharging his duties as pastor, he furnished frequent contributions to leading theological Reviews, which made his name favorably known throughout Germany.
In 1832 Dr. Kling received and accepted a call as professor of theology in the University of Marburg, where he labored successfully and acceptably for ten years. In 1842 he followed a call to the University of Bonn, and taught there till 1849 alongside of such eminent colleagues as Drs. Nitzsch, Bleek and Sack. The state of his health induced him to withdraw from the academic career to which he had devoted seventeen of his best years, to the more quiet and simple life of a country pastor at Ebersbach, in his native Würtemberg. When his health was restored, he entered upon a more extensive sphere of labor as Dean of Marbach on the Neckar (the birth-place of Schiller). His leisure hours he devoted to theological study till his peaceful death.
Dr. Kling was a gentleman of great simplicity and purity of character, plain and modest in appearance, gentle and amiable in temper, kind and affectionate in disposition, decidedly evangelical, yet liberal in his views, of solid learning, sound and sober judgment, sincere and humble piety. As a pupil of Schleiermacher and Neander, he retained from the former a lively interest in the systematic arrangement and speculative construction of the doctrines of Christianity from the Christological and soteriological principle; while with Neander he shared a love of Scriptural simplicity, and taste for history and held to the motto: Pectus est quod facit theologum. He was no creative genius, opening new avenues of thought, but followed in the track of great and good men, yet with fine discrimination and independent judgment. He was not brilliant either as a lecturer or preacher, but very iustructive, sound and winning, and was highly esteemed and beloved by all who knew him. I spent several days with him in the family of Dr. Krummacher at Elberfeld (now at Potsdam) in 1844, where, together with Dr. Krummacher and Dr. Sander, he assisted at my ordination on the eve of my departure for America; and I met him afterwards at Stuttgard and at a missionary festival at Basel in 1854. I well remember the impression which his sweet and lovely spirit, his simplicity and humility made upon all on those occasions, and how he reminded us of the beloved disciple.
Dr. Kling commenced his literary career in 1824 by publishing from manuscripts, at the suggestion of Neander, the sermons of Bertholdt, a powerful Franciscan revival preacher of the 13th century, who is said to have addressed crowds of from 60,000 to 200,000 people, hungry for the bread of Life. This work was favorably reviewed by the celebrated German philologist, Jacob Grimm, and opened a mine of theological lore which lay buried among the German writers of the middle age. Since that time he prepared no extensive work except the Commentary on the Epistles to the Corinthians, to which he devoted the last years of his life. He wrote the Preface a few weeks before his death. He had repeatedly lectured on these Epistles while professor at Marburg and Bonn, and published comments on the more difficult sections in the Studien und Kritiken. He laid himself out mainly in the exegetical and doctrinal sections, while the homiletical hints are mainly gathered from older sources. This Commentary was well received for its solid learning and Christian spirit; but the style is somewhat heavy and diffuse. Hence I allowed the translators full liberty to reproduce it freely in justice to the English idiom as well as the thoughts of the original. It is no disparagement of the author to say that the American translators have greatly improved his work by condensation and valuable additions and adaptation to the English reader. In this form it will be received as one of the best parts of Lange’s Bibelwerk.
Dr. Kling was also a constant and highly esteemed contributor to the first theological Reviews of Germany, such as the Studien und Kritiken, the Tübinger Zeitschrift für Theologie, the Deutsche Zeitschrift, etc., in which he took an active part in the leading exegetical, critical and doctrinal questions of the age. His essays and reviews were always marked by conscientious care, solidity, sound sense, and justice to all who differed from him. Among the many elaborate articles and discussions of his industrious pen we may mention those on Clement of Alexandria, Hasse’s Anselm of Canterbury, the early life of Neander, Baur’s view on the Epistle to the Romans, on several passages in the Corinthians, on Schaff’s History of the Apostolic Church, on the relation of philosophy and theology,—all in Ullmann and Umbreit’s Studien und Kritiken. He also furnished the articles on “Athanasius,” “Augustine,” “Bertholdt the Franciscan,” “Hilary of Poictiers,” “Marheinecke,” “Möhler,” “Christianity,” “Conversion,” “Justification,” and other important subjects for Herzog’s “Theological Encyclopœdia;” but he died before the completion of this work, and found an honorable place in a supplementary volume (XIX p. 704–706) of this great storehouse of the modern evangelical theology of Germany. P. S.
EPISTLES OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS
§ 1. THE POSITION AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THESE EPISTLES
The Epistles to the Corinthians occupy the second place in the series ascribed to Paul, according to the order of Scripture. Preceding that to the Romans in the order of time by nearly a year, they rank next to it in importance, as it respects both their contents, and the Church addressed.
I. As to their contents. These are mainly of a practical kind. Unlike what we find so abundantly in the other Epistles of our author, we encounter here no discussions on the cardinal questions of Christianity, whether dogmatical or apologetic. Nothing is here said of the need of salvation, felt by the ancient world; nor of the supply of this need through Christ; nor of the relations of Christianity to the elder dispensation; nor of the nature of the Gospel salvation; nor of the way it fulfilled the law and the promise; nor of the great plan of God’s kingdom in relation to both Jews and Gentiles; nor of the part these were to bear in successively drawing each other to a participation of divine grace. Topics of this sort here give place to others more particularly called for by the peculiar condition of the Corinthian Church. Taking occasion from the circumstances immediately in view, Paul, in these Epistles, labors rather to exhibit the bearings of Christianity upon human conduct in its several relations to the church, to the state, to society in general, and to domestic life. And first of all, he begins with setting forth the varied condition of things in the Church, especially in their moral form and aspect. Under this head he treats of the position which church-members hold to their teachers; of their worthy maintenance of the grace which they have received; and of their high calling, both towards those who are Christians and those who are not,—alike at home and abroad,—but, above all, in the assemblier of the saints, whether convened in solemn festival, or for general edification. In short, Paul here solves the problem of preserving and restoring the purity of the Church as a body consecrated to God in Christ, by setting at work brotherly love, as well in the mutual furtherance of each other’s spiritual welfare—especially through the right use of spiritual gifts, as in the friendly balancing of all inequalities of outward condition, by a ready generosity on the part of the rich. From this, he goes on, taking occasion from the attempts of his opponents to undermine his Apostolical character and influence, to give various expositions of an apologetic and polemic kind respecting the Apostolic office, its value, and the proper recognition of it, especially in reference to himself and his position. One doctrinal question only is directly and thoroughly handled,—that of the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15); and this is so done that its connection with the fundamental facts of Christianity, and its bearing upon the whole body of Christian truth, as well as its ethical elements, is made to appear in the clearest light.
That Epistles of so preëminently ethical a character (whose teachings are, however, every where made to rest on their proper doctrinal basis) should be made to follow an Epistle like that to the Romans, was perfectly proper—all the more so, because of their importance in a twofold respect: 1. Historically, as illustrating to a remarkable degree the condition and circumstances of the Christian churches in the midst of the pagan world; 2. Normally, inasmuch as the Apostle so portrays the proper demeanor of a Christian Church and of those holding office in and for it, that churches and office-bearers may here find a mirror for themselves for all time to come.
II. Looking at the relative importance of the two churches (at Rome and at Corinth), it must be conceded, that the church of the former city, as being the capital of a world-wide empire, and furnishing the largest opportunity for the spread of the Gospel, stands preëminent. Yet the church at Corinth, too, possessed a high degree of consequence, derived from the peculiar position and character of the city in which it was planted. Corinth, as is well known, was the metropolis of Achaia—a province that embraced in its bounds Hellas and the Peloponnesus. Situated on a narrow isthmus which just parted the Ionian Sea from the Peloponnesus, it commanded two celebrated harbors—the one looking toward the East, and the other toward the West. It thus became the centre of an extended and varied commerce. The arts and sciences also flourished there in unrivalled splendor. It was noted, too, as the centre of religious worship for the whole Greek nation. In it was gathered a population numbering from 400,000 to 500,000—comprising people from all parts of the world. Of these a large portion were Latins, the descendants of that colony which had been sent here by Julius Cæsar, about a century and a half previously, for the purpose of recovering it from the desolation and ruin which had been brought upon it by Mummius. An illustration of Paul’s estimate of the importance of the place we have in the fact, that he labored here no less than a year and a half for the establishment of a church. In his view, it was a fit point from whence the Gospel might be made to diffuse its rays far and wide over the world, and where a church, once planted, might stand forth as an example for other churches scattered over the globe, whose members would naturally cluster here upon the errands of trade and commerce. And for this there were peculiar facilities arising from the manifold activity and cultivation of the people generally, which gave promise of a spiritual development no less rich and varied. But while Corinth presented peculiar advantages for a church, it also abounded in peculiar perils. No place was so noted for its luxury and licentiousness as Corinth. The infamous goddess Aphrodite was here worshipped with sensual rites of the grossest kind, having no less than three thousand priestesses of loose character ministering at her shrine. Indeed, so notorious was the dissipation of the people, that the word Corinthianise (
) was used to express conduct the most voluptuous and debauched. There was danger therefore lest in such a place the development of a Christian church would be obstructed by prevailing immoralities. No less great an evil was to be apprehended from the peculiar proneness of the Greek mind to intellectual conceit and party strife. In short, it may be said that in this one city there were concentrated in the fullest degree all those dangerous and corrupting influences which proceed from a thorough-going epicureanism, at once the most vicious and the most refined.
A church occupying so important a position, and at the same time so beset with temptations, naturally required a special care on the part of the Apostle. Of this the two Epistles before us give abundant evidence. The nearer the Apostle stood related to this church, founded by his labors, and the more it threatened to deviate from its true course or actually went astray, the more was he, as its spiritual father, constrained to exert himself in its behalf and give vent to his own deep emotions of concern for its welfare; and the more energetically, too, did he find it necessary to assert the consciousness of the position which he held towards them. In the first of these Epistles it is only here and there that he gives us a glimpse into his inmost thoughts and feelings on the subject. But it is from the second that we ascertain far more of the real traits of his noble character. For here it is, that, with the most unrestrained candor, and borne on by emotions which carry him beyond himself, he pours forth his whole soul, showing them with the utmost frankness how he had felt and acted, labored and suffered in their behalf. At the same time, also, in reply to the attacks of his foes, he so conducts his self-defence, that not only what he says of himself, but also the way in which he says it, vividly presents to our view abundant evidences of his rare fidelity and truthfulness, shining forth, as these traits do, both in his deep humility and in his lofty bearing, in his simplicity and in his honesty, in his self-denial and in his love, in his magnanimity and in his boldness, in his ardent devotion and in his deliberate demeanor, in his exaltation of soul and in his quiet, resigned cross-bearing.
II. RISE AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE CORINTHIAN CHURCH
Upon his second missionary tour, after a divine providence had led Paul from Asia to Europe (Act_16:7-9), and he had here amid various fortunes established churches at Philippi and Thessalonica, and Berea, and finally at Athens had encountered Grecian philosophy, and pride of learning, with the doctrine of a heavenly wisdom, Paul came on his way, about the year 52, to Corinth. The city was then in the height of its prosperity, puffed up with the pride of wealth and the vanity of carnal science, and captivated by a fondness for sophistical dialectics and pompous rhetoric; and Paul entered it, not in the lofty consciousness of his own strength, but in weakness and fear and much trembling, (Act_18:1; 1Co_2:3) and with an humbling sense of the inadequacy of his own abilities to the great task before him. And his resolve was not to oppose human wisdom and eloquence with weapons of like character, but with the simple preaching of Christ crucified, in order that the faith of believers might stand in the power of God alone (1Co_2:1; 1Co_2:5; 2Co_10:3-4).
For the sake of support, be first joined in company, as a tent-maker, with one Aquila, a Jew of Asia Minor, who had been banished from Italy in consequence of the decree of Claudius Cæsar which drove all Jews from Rome (Act_18:2-3). This co-partnership proved also a fellowship in the faith. But whether Aquila and Priscilla, his wife, were already Christians at that time, or were converted by Paul, it is impossible to decide. His first intercourse on the themes of the Gospel was also with the Jews. To them he was directed by the prophecy and the promise of which they were the bearers. Among them he obtained an entrance and foothold in the character of a travelling brother, and as one learned in the Scriptures. On entering the synagogue, it was expected of him, as was customary, that he would speak a word by way of edification; and he improved the opportunity to announce, and lay before them for suitable proof, the advent of the long expected Messiah. Here, too, he found certain Greeks who had attached themselves to the Jewish communion, or who, at least, came occasionally into the synagogues as hearers. These, by means of their social position and family connections, formed a bridge of access to the rest of the Gentile community. To convince both these parties of the truth which he had to impart was therefore his chief labor. But here again, as often before, only a small number believed. And when, by the arrival of his helpers, Silas and Timothy, Paul gathered fresh strength for his work, a fierce opposition arose, which so kindled the indignation of the Apostle that, shaking off the very dust from his mantle, and casting on them the guilt of their exclusion from the promised salvation, he declared himself henceforth at liberty to labor with a pure conscience among the heathen. From this time onward he delivered his discourses in the house of a proselyte, Justus by name, who dwelt hard by the synagogue. Here Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, joined him with all his house, and many others also, who believed and were baptized. But with the growth of the church, the opposition rose likewise, and waxed to such a degree that the Apostle began to despair, and needed a word of encouragement from the Lord. This was graciously vouchsafed him in a night vision—“Fear not, but speak boldly,” &c. (Act_18:9-10). The result corresponded with the declaration. An attempt of the Jews to secure a judgment against Paul before the tribunal of the Proconsul Gallio so signally failed, that the accusers themselves were set upon and roughly handled by the Greeks without interference from the authorities. After remaining awhile longer in Corinth, Paul departed for Ephesus, attended by Aquila and Priscilla, whom he left behind at this latter place as he journeyed onward. These persons were destined henceforth to exert an important influence upon the development of the Corinthian Church. Meeting with the eloquent Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew, who had been a disciple of John and was well versed in Christianity, they took him and instructed him in the Gospel, and on his going to Corinth gave him letters of introduction to the disciples there. In this congenial sphere his talents soon found full scope, and by the assistance of divine grace he proved greatly useful to the infant Church through the skill with which he was able to convince the Jews, out of their own scriptures, that Jesus was the Christ (Act_18:11; Act_18:28.). So far the narrative in the Book of Acts.
Our first Epistle gives us further glimpses into the after-condition and development of this Church. We here mark a gratifying progress on the whole. There appears among them a wealth of spiritual gifts, especially in the department of religious knowledge (1Co_1:5). But there is no steadfastness in the progress made. The old life of nature continues still to assert its power in various ways, and in different forms and degrees in different persons, according to their several peculiarities and relations, and that, too, to such an extent, that the Apostle denies them a proper spiritual character, and designates them as
: creatures of flesh, and
One indication of this carnal temper was seen in the re-appearance of the old Greek Party spiril under a Christian form. The Corinthian Church failed to abide unitedly in Christ. Following the fashion of the schools, they soon joined themselves to different human organs of the spirit of Christ, with a one-sided and exclusive devotion, maintaining and magnifying the peculiar excellencies of their favorite teachers in a contentious zeal, until at last they broke into factions, each separate tendency pushing itself to an extreme, and settling there.
In 1Co_1:12, four parties are enumerated,—those of Paul, of Apollos, of Cephas, and of Christ; and they are mentioned in the order of their rise. The occasion which gave them birth was the appearance of Apollos at Corinth. His mode of understanding and interpreting the Gospel was no doubt essentially the same as that of Paul. But while Paul made it a rule to preserve the utmost simplicity in his preaching, Apollos, on the contrary, gave full scope to his Alexandrine learning and to his well trained powers of eloquence and argument. These shining qualities so attracted a portion of the Church, that in their over-estimate of them, they exaltedApollos above Paul, as a teacher of superior education and culture. In opposition, however, to such pride of “wisdom,” Paul insisted upon that “demonstration of the Spirit and of Power” (1Co_2:1; 1Co_2:4; 2Co_11:6) which characterized his own discourses. Thus an opposition was developed. Over against the adherents of Apollos, there arose a party for Paul, who applauded the founder of the Church as their master, and wished to make him their head. But while between these two parties there existed hardly any essential difference, and the issue respected only the relative worth of the two leaders, it was otherwise with those who professed to follow Peter. In this case the antagonism turned altogether upon a diversity of views both in morals and religion. Inasmuch as there is no proof that Peter himself was ever at Corinth, we must ascribe the origin of this movement to the presence of Judaizing teachers, who were interested in setting up a strictly legalistic party, and who appealed to Peter’s authority, as an Apostle who had been directly called of Christ, and had enjoyed personal communion with him.
But what does the Apostle mean when he speaks of some as saying that they were “of Christ?” If the language here used indicates a vicious partisanship, as would appear both from the connection and from the order of the words, how are we to understand it? It were natural to suppose here, that in view of the devotion manifested by the several parties just mentioned towards their favorite leaders, there were still others who felt opposed to all adherence to men, and were resolved to exalt Christ alone as the Head to whom they belonged, but who did this in so exclusive and partisan a manner, that instead of proving a uniting element in the Church, they only made the rents worse. If, now, we may assume with Osiander, that under the opposers whom the Apostle assails 2 Corinthians 10, this party be meant (1Co_5:7), we should detect in them a Judaizing clique, (1Co_11:22) whose leaders, intruding into this Church, arrogated to themselves Apostolic authority, while they rejected that of Paul (2Co_11:5; 2Co_11:15; 2Co_13:11). That they are to be linked with the Petrinists, or are to be regarded as a modification of this party, is an unwarrantable assumption, since in 1Co_1:12, they are co-ordinate with these as a distinct body, and in the Second Epistle throughout, no further allusion to Peter occurs.
As to the grounds on which they rested their special connection with Christ, opinions differ: No sufficient reasons exist for supposing with some that they appealed to a direct family relationship with Christ, or to an immediate personal acquaintance with him, or, with others (Schentkel, Dähne, Goldhorn), that they were a set of Gnosticizing theosophic mystics, who prided themselves upon visions and revelations which they professed to have received from God. Perhaps, with Thiersch, (The Church in the Apostolic Age, 2d ed. p. 144.) we might take them to have been personal disciples of Christ, tinged with Pharisaic notions, who had come from Palestine as well as from Rome to Corinth to exert here a dangerous hostility to Paul by stealing from him the hearts of the Church, but who had nevertheless so far unmasked themselves as to merit from Paul the epithets “false apostles” and “servants of Satan” (2Co_11:13.). But there is no evidence compelling us to such conclusions.
The “yet carnal” character of the Corinthian church showed itself also in an incapacity rightly to apprehend and apply Christian truth in its purity and power, and to enjoy Christian liberty in its laws and limitations. They were carnal in their boasting over the gifts of knowledge existing in the church, i. e. their pride of wisdom, their vain self-satisfiedness, and consciousness of perfected attainment (1Co_3:4).—Carnal, too, in the grossest sense, was it for a member of the church to hold concubinage with his own stepmother; and the church betrayed a lack of spiritual life in so far as it was wanting in earnestness, power and courage, sufficient to expel this impure and all-defiling element from the midst of it.—It was carnal also, only in a different direction, for church members to go to law one with another, and that, too, before heathen tribunals (1Co_6:1-8), since in this there was manifested not only a lack of that yielding brotherly love which prefers to suffer wrong than to do wrong, but also a defective sense of the high dignity of Christians who are called to share hereafter in the judicial functions of their Lord, when he shall sit to judge the world.—The immaturity of their carnal state, and their defective sense of Christian liberty and obligation, appeared also in the sphere of the sexual relations, developing themselves in two opposite directions. On the one hand, there were some who insanely held that Christian liberty involved the right to gratify the sexual impulse in promiscuous intercourse with those who prostituted themselves for money, after a fashion allowed and religiously consecrated among the Pagans (whoredom)—as if the Christian were free to dispose as he chose of that body which God had redeemed unto himself (1Co_6:12 ff). On the other hand, there were those so fettered by legal scruples as to maintain that even marital intercourse was inconsistent with the sanctity of a Christian life, and who therefore insisted not only upon the duty of celibacy, but also upon the cessation of connubial intercourse between parties already married, yea even upon the dissolution of the marriage tie, in case of one of the parties still remained unconverted. Such austere notions betrayed a lack of sound religious prudence, an ignorance of human infirmity, as well as of that divinely ordained diversity in human constitutions which rendered what might be possible and meet for one person wholly unsuitable for another. They also indicated a want of confidence in the power of Christianity to draw those, who consented to remain with believing companions in the closest intimacies of the natural life, into a fellowship of the spirit also. And last of all, they evinced a want of insight into the Gospel rule of abiding in the vocation wherein a person is called—a rule which ceases to be valid only in case the unbelieving party insists on a separation.
In contrast with such asceticism there existed also in some quarters an unrestricted desire for marriage, as though celibacy were an evil and a disgrace. In reference to such a tendency the Apostle insisted only that in view of “the present distress” believers hold themselves free from earthly ties, and that in forming new connexions they take care to keep within the circle of Christian fellowship (1 Corinthians 7).
A further antagonism of a similar kind was called for by the same cause in relation to the use of meat that had been offered unto idols (8 ff.). On this point, likewise, two parties were formed; one strict, and the other liberal-minded. On the part of the former, there was a clinging to the external aspects of the act, or at least some remains of heathenish superstition in regard to an actual objective influence exerted by the idols upon the meats offered to them. On the part of the latter there was evinced indeed a more correct insight into the merits of the subject; but this was accompanied by an overweening pride, and a lack of self-denying love, which was shown in the reckless use they made of their liberty, by reason of which some were scandalized, and others were led to participate in heathen ceremonials in a manner utterly inconsistent with the proper observance of the most sacred feast of Christian worship. This lack of knowledge in regard to the privileges belonging to a Christian, as well as the lack of consideration and self-denial towards others, were alike indications of the “yet carnal” mind. In the one case faith was not live enough to beget a liberalizing knowledge; in the other case, it was not strong enough to produce brotherly love.
This same lack of decorum as well as of brotherly love, was also to be seen in the sphere of public worship (1 Corinthians 11); the former, in that the women violated the custom, prevalent in the Churches of God, of appearing in the congregation veiled; the latter, in that the love-feasts to which the Lord’s Supper was attached, were celebrated in a manner entirely at variance with the design for which they were instituted, which was to awaken and preserve a just sense of the unity and equality of all believers in Christ, for here the rich separated themselves from their poorer brethren, and kept the portions they brought, aside for their own use, so that the affluence of the one class and the poverty of the other were exhibited in painful contrast.
The “yet carnal” mind was furthermore manifest in relation to the spiritual gifts which abounded in the Church. There was a lack both of correct insight into the ground and purpose of these gifts and of determination to maintain a constant reference to this ground and purpose, in the use of them. In other words, there was wanting an humble recognition of dependence upon the one God, and Lord, and Spirit, for the existence of these gifts, and also a sincere and loving endeavour to employ them for the furtherance of the interests of the Church. Besides, there was mingled with this a foolish pride at the possession of such gifts, and an unreasoning over-estimate of those in particular which had in them something remarkable and astonishing, such as the gift of tongues. The ability to speak what was incomprehensible, except through an interpreter, in a state of ecstasy, was more highly prized than the ability to prophesy, even though this was better fitted for edification. It was also a token of carnal immaturity, that they were indisposed to repress the impulse to prophesy when it was operating to disturb the order of the congregation, and to hinder edification. With this there was associated also a display of vanity on the part of women in their desire to imitate the men in speaking in an inspired vein (1 Corinthians 12-14).
In addition to all these erroneous moral tendencies, there existed also a theoretic error, (easily passing over, however, into one of practice) which resulted from an adherence to the old heathenish habits of thought. It was an aversion to the doctrine of the glorification of the body (cf. Act_17:32). There were persons in the Corinthian Church who denied the possibility of the resurrection of the dead, inasmuch as they could not see into the method of the process. (1Co_15:35). In this case they showed themselves guilty of gross ignorance, partly in relation to the consequences of such a denial (1Co_15:1-19), partly in relation to the whole system of God’s counsels and ways, of which the resurrection formed an important part (1Co_15:20-28), partly in respect to the practical significance of the resurrection (1Co_15:29), partly in respect to God and His power (1Co_15:34), and partly in regard to the development of the life in Christ; which was in accordance with the analogies of the natural life, and with the precedent set by Christ himself (1Co_15:35 ff.).
Besides the more general exegetical works on the New Testament, or on the Pauline Epistles, and the patristic expositions of Crysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Oecumenius, and those of the Reformers Calvin, Flacius, and others, and those subsequent to the Reformation by Grotius and his radical opponents, Calovius and others, and the later commentaries of Flatt, Olshausen, de Wette, Meyer, Burger, Neander, etc.; the one especially deserving of consideration is that by Osiander (Stuttg. 1863). It were well to compare with these also the Roman Catholic exposition of the two Epistles to the Corinthians by Bisping, 2d ed., 1863. Along with these are to be mentioned Melancthon (1st Ep. and a few chapters of the 2d Ep.), W. Musculus, Aretius, Bullinger, Seb. Schmid, Mosheim, S. J. Baumgarten, Schulz, Morus, Emmerling, Krauss, Heydenreich (on 1st Cor.), and Billroth. To these may be added the general works: Critici Sacri, Pool’s Synopsis, Wolfii Curiæ Starke’s Bibelwerk, the Berlenburger Bible, C. H. Rieger’s Observations on the New Testament, which are annexed to the remarkable Gnomon of Bengel; Heubner’s Practical Exposition of the New Testament (1818), drawn for the most part from the Berlen Bibel and from Zinzendorf; and W. F. Besser’s Bibelstunden (8 vols. 1862). Important contributions to the explanation of these Epistles are furnished by treatises on the Apostolic period by Hess, Neander, Lechler, Lange, Thiersch and others; and on the Apostolic and Pauline doctrine by Messner, Lutterbek, Usteri, Dähne; on the New Testament Theology by Chr. Schmid and others. Besides Baur on the Apostle Paul and from the earlier time, Storii notitiæ historicæ (in his Opuscula). [Among English and American works, which deserve honorable mention, are Hodge on the Corinthians, 2 vols., Barnes’ Commentary on the New Testament, Alford’s Commentary on the New Testament, Conybeare and Howson’s Life and Epistles of St. Paul, Stanley’s Epistles to the Corinthians, F. W. Robertson’s Expos. Lectures on the Epistles to the Corinthians, Paul, the Preacher, by Eadie, Wordsworth on the New Testament, Scott’s Commentary on the Bible, Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, Bloomfield’s Commentary on the New Testament.]
FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTIANS
§ I. ITS GENUINENESS
The genuineness of this Epistle is undoubted. The witnesses for it stretch far back into the remotest antiquity; and among the earliest are Polycarp, Ignatius, Clemens Romanus, Irenæus, Athenagoras, and Clemens Alexandrinus, [Lardner adds Barnabas and Hermas].
[As specimens of the testimony they adduce, take the following furnished by Lardner and Alford:
Barnabas (A. D. 71) has the following evident allusions to 1Co_3:16, in his Epistle 1 Corinthians 6 : “The habitation of our heart is an holy temple to the Lord;” and in 1 Corinthians 16. “God truly dwells in our house, that is, in us. This is the spiritual temple built unto the Lord.”
Clemens Rom. (A. D. 96) in his Epistle to the Corinthians, 1 Co 47. writes: “Take into your hands the Epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle. What did he write unto you at the first, in the beginnning of the Gospel? Verily he did by the Spirit admonish you concerning himself, and Cephas, and Apollos, because that even then ye did form parties.” And then we have citations in 48 from 1Co_10:24; in 37 from 1Co_12:12; in 49 from 1Co_13:4; in 24 from 1Co_15:20.
Hermas (A. D. 100) in Sim. 5 § 7 alludes to 1Co_7:11, “If therefore a man or woman perseveres in anything of this kind and repents not; depart from her, and live not with her; otherwise thou also shalt be partaker of her sin. But it is therefore commanded, that both the man and the woman should remain unmarried, because such persons may repent.”
Ignatius (A. D. 107) in his Epistle to the Ephesians § 2. quotes from 1Co_1:10, “That in one obedience ye may be perfectly joined together [in the same mind, and in the same judgment, and may all speak the same thing of the same thing”]. And in ibid. §18 from 1Co_1:18; in Epistle to Rome § 5 from 1Co_4:4; in Epistle to the Magnes § 10 from 1Co_5:7; in Epistle to Ephesians from 1Co_6:9-10, etc.
Polycarp (A. D. 108) in Epistle to the Phil. ch.11 quotes from 1Co_6:2, “ Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world? as St. Paul teaches. Another citation in 1 Corinthians 5 from 1Co_11:9.
Further illustration might be given, but the above are sufficient to show the strength of the evidence. Those interested in prosecuting the investigation are referred to Lardner and Tregelles and Alford].
The internal characteristics also allow-no uncertainty on the subject. The boldest criticism of our day, that of the Tübingen school, has suffered it to go unchallenged, and puts these two Epistles beside those to the Romans and the Galatians as the genuine writings of St. Paul.
[The best exposition of these internal evidences is given us by Paley in his Horæ Paulinæ, 1 Corinthians 3. Among these may be mentioned a minuteness of detail and characterization, also incidental allusions and omissions, such as could hardly be looked for in a forged document; and besides these numerous close, yet undesigned coincidences between the statements in the Epistle and portions of the narrative in the Book of Acts.
But aside from and beyond all these evidences is the style and tone of the Epistle itself. Its every line is instinct with the spirit of Paul. All the features of his great and unique character are too sharply impressed upon it to allow of any hesitation as to the authorship].
II. PLACE AND TIME OF WRITING
The subscription purports that this Epistle was written at Philippi. But this is directly contradicted by Paul’s own statement in 1Co_16:8, where he says that he would “Tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.” Michaelis thinks that the mistake must have arisen from a mis-apprehension of
in 1Co_16:5, which being read in the present was made to mean “ I am now passing through Macedonia,” thus indicating his whereabouts at the time of writing. All modern critics agree in taking 1Co_16:8 as deciding the point of place.
As to the time, there is not the same unity of opinion, though Conybeare and Howson assert that “its date can be fixed with more precision than any other.” Kling says “about the close of Paul’s well-nigh three years’ residence at Ephesus, some time before Pentecost, and shortly before Easter, after he had sent away Timothy and Erastus (1Co_4:17; Act_19:22), and had himself resolved to go through Macedonia and Achaia. (Act_19:21; 1Co_16:8).” The editor of the second edition singularly adds, without any apparent sense of the contradiction, “that it is not to be put before the month Tisri (Sept.), the beginning of the Jewish year, since the Apostle must certainly have followed the Jewish reckoning, and not the Attic-Olympian.” Whatever may have been meant by this, Kling’s view as to the season of the year (Spring) is accepted by the majority of recent critics. (Meyer, De Wette, Words., Alf., Hodge, etc.)
But not so agreed are they as to the year itself. Kling puts it at A. D. 58, and so also Meyer. De Wette says 57 or 58. Alf.: “ It is almost certain that it was written before Pentecost A. D. 57;” and so also Pearson, Mill and Wordsworth. According to Lardner’s computation it was in the year 56. This was also the opinion of the French commentators, L’Enfant and Beausobre. This variation of two years is however a very slight one. The judgment of critics preponderates in favor of the year 57].
III. THE OCCASION AND DESIGN OF THE EPISTLE
From what has been said in the general Introduction it is easy to infer what prompted the Apostle to write to the Corinthians, and what object he had in view. The moving cause was the whole condition of the church as unfolded in this Epistle. And in view of the evils which had broken out among them he felt constrained to attempt their suppression without delay, and that, too, by writing, as he had good reason for not wishing to defer his work in Macedonia. The chief points he aimed at was to restore harmony, repress inordinate license, correct errors of faith and practice, and confirm them in their allegiance to their Divine Master. [To these we may add, to reëstablish his own authority and vindicate his own character and style of preaching from the attacks of enemies who had crept into the church during his absence, and assailed his Apostleship].
Already before this had he learned of some of the excesses into which several of the converts had fallen, and in an Epistle (now lost) had warned them against keeping company with fornicators, and urged the expulsion of such members from their communion. (1Co_5:9; 1Co_5:11). And now again he had received further information, through persons arrived from Corinth, of the party-strifes which had sprung up among them. Besides this he had received a letter from the church (also lost) propounding various questions on points at issue in regard to which he was asked to decide. [Reason enough therefore was there for his writing; and from the abrupt manner in which he enters upon the case in hand, after his calm opening, which is not without indications of restrained feeling, we see how thoroughly his whole soul was roused to his work, and how strongly he felt the necessity upon him for plain and decided utterances. The result was an Epistle which forms one of the most important portions of Sacred Writ. Thus man’s evil occasions are God’s grandest opportunities for good].
IV. ITS STYLE
[On this point we can do no better than give entire the statements of Alford in his Introduction.
“This Epistle ranks perhaps the foremost of all as to sublimity and earnest impassioned eloquence. Of the former, the description of the simplicity of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 2.—the concluding apostrophe of 1 Corinthians 3. from 1 Corinthians 3"16 to the end—the same in 1 Corinthians 4 from 1Co_4:9 to the end—the reminiscence of the shortness of the time 1Co_7:29-31—the whole argument in 1 Corinthians 15 are examples unsurpassed in Scripture itself; and of the latter 1Co_4:8-15, and the whole of 1 Corinthians 9, while the panegyric of love in 1 Corinthians 13 stands a pure and perfect gem, perhaps the noblest assemblage of thoughts in beautiful language extant in this world. About the whole Epistle there is a character of lofty and sustained solemnity, an absence of tortuousness of construction, and an apologetic plainness, which contrast remarkably with the personal portions of the second Epistle.”
And all these qualities shine forth unconsciously, without effort, while in the earnest and direct prosecution of his purpose, yea, while entirely repudiating all attempts at rhetoric as utterly inconsistent with the simplicity of the Gospel. Here we have a beautiful illustration of the unconscious character of the truest eloquence.
“No Epistle,” Alf. proceeds, “raises in us a higher estimate of the varied and wonderful gifts with which God was pleased to endow the man whom he selected for the Apostle of the Gentile world, or shows us how large a portion of the Spirit, who worketh in each man severally as He will, was given to him for our edification. The depths of the spiritual, the moral, the intellectual, physical world are open to him. He summons to his aid the analogies of nature. He enters minutely into the varieties of human infirmity and prejudice. He draws warning from the history of the chosen people; example from the Isthmian foot-race. He refers an apparently trifling question of costume to the first great proprieties and relations of Creation and Redemption. He praises, reproves, exhorts, and teaches. [He is tender, sarcastic, ironical]. Where he strikes, he heals. His large heart holding all, when he has grieved any, he grieves likewise; where it is in his power to give joy, he first overflows with joy himself. We may form some idea from this Epistle—better perhaps than from any one other, because this embraces the widest range of topics,—what marvellous power such a man must have had to persuade, to rebuke, to attract and fasten the affections of men.”
The main thought of this Epistle is to be seen in the object aimed at (§ 3); its organic unfolding in the General Introduction in the development we have given of the history of the Church (§ 2).
The entire contents of the Epistle revolve round the one purpose of leading the Corinthian Church to realize its true idea, and to set aside all those faults and defects in knowledge and practice which obstructed its proper growth.
I. To this end, after the benediction connected with the address, the Apostle first alludes to the good beginning which the Corinthians had, on the whole, made in a sound church life, thankfully acknowledging the divine grace which had been vouchsafed to them in this respect, and their spiritual good estate as established therein. To this he adds the hope, grounded upon the truth of God, that they would continue steadfast unto the end (1Co_1:4-9).
II. From this he turns to reprove their defects and discords of which he had been informed, first, by word of mouth from members of the Church, and then by letters of inquiry sent to him touching these things.
A. These defects were, first, a lack of sound Christian community of feeling.
1. As it respects the position of Church members towards Christ and his organs (1Co_1:11, ff. 1Co_1:4.). He begins with rebuking the party spirit which was manifested towards himself, who had given no occasion for it, and towards Apollos; mainly in so far as this grew out of an inordinate estimate of human wisdom, learning and eloquence, an estimate which was wholly inconsistent with the plan of salvation, with the character of those called to participate in it, and with the style of that preaching which was to lay the foundation of the Christian life. (1Co_1:17 to 1Co_2:5.). This preaching, however, he maintains, involved a high divine wisdom, which remained a closed mystery only to such as were not spiritual, (1Co_2:6 ff.). This declaration he then applies to the Corinthian converts as being not yet spiritual (1Co_3:1 ff.) and leads them to a right estimate of those who were reverenced as party leaders, and of their doings (5 ff.), warning them at the same time against all destructive violations of the Church, which was the temple of God. (18 ff.). From this he proceeds to instruct them in regard to the lofty claims of Christians to the several means and instruments of salvation (21 ff.) and exhibits to them the proper standard for measuring the worth of Christ’s servants, a worth which was to be manifest in due time, and the manifestation of which therefore was to be waited for in suspense of judgment (1Co_4:1 ff.). After he had thus set before them the contrast between their imagined self-sufficiency, and the actual condition of the Apostles (6 ff.) he passes from the severe into a paternal tone, points out the difference between a mere teacher and a spiritual father, and rebukes their arrogance towards the latter, which seemed to proceed from the assumption that he was unable to punish (4). With this he proceeds to notice a further defect in Christian community of feeling.
2. As it respects the discipline of unworthy and corrupt Church members (v.).
He here insists upon the excommunication of a member who had disgraced the Church by gross immorality, and the toleration of whom hitherto was a just cause for deepest shame. In this connection he corrects a misunderstanding of what he had said in a former letter in regard to intercourse with immoral persons.
3. As it respects the demeanor of Church members in their civil relations toward each other (1Co_6:1 ff.).
He rebukes the practice of Christians going to law with each other before heathen tribunals, especially when they were in the wrong, since unrighteousness belongs to the sins which exclude from God’s kingdom, and from which therefore they as Christians had been purified.
4. As it respects a becoming Christian deportment in the sexual relations as opposed to heathenish fornication (1Co_6:12 ff.).
That this practice was by no means one morally indifferent, is shown from the relation of the body to Christ as the head of the Church, from its character as a dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit, and from the price paid for its ransom.
5. As it respects their views of marriage (the foundation of all social life), and the conduct of the several parties in this relation (1 Corinthians 7).
One inquiry in the letter of the Church had touched upon the relations of the marriage and the celibate state. Marriage and the bed undefiled he advised as a safeguard against fornication and as a relief to incontinence. Otherwise, to remain single were a noble thing (1Co_7:1 ff.). But the dissolution of existing marriage relations is discountenanced except in cases where the unbelieving party insisted upon it (1Co_7:10 ff.). The general rule laid down is for a person to abide in the condition wherein he is called (1Co_7:17 ff.). But the unmarried are advised to remain as they are, both on account of the existing distress which demanded an entire freedom of the spirit in regard to all possession and enjoyments, and for the sake of a more entire devotion to the Lord and His will. Nevertheless, the contracting of marriage is not condemned as sinful, and in some cases is approved (1Co_7:25 ff.).
6. As it regards the conduct of the strong and liberal-minded towards the weak in things indifferent; that is to say, a defect in self-denying love (1 Corinthians 8-10).
The discussion here, which was called forth by an inquiry about the eating of meat offered unto idols, proceeds on the assumption, that mere knowledge without love, so far from furthering the life of the Church, only begets a corrupting pride (1Co_8:1 ff.). He then gives them to understand that an insight into the nothingness of gods, so called, was not so general as to divest all persons of a conscious relation to the idols in the eating of the meat offered to them. Hence to lead such persons to eat of this meat by the exercise of a liberty conformed to such an insight, when the mere eating was of no moral worth before God, was in fact a betrayal into sin, and so a beguiling to perdition. And this was entirely contrary to the love of Christ, who had made the greatest sacrifice in their behalf (1Co_8:5 ff.). Here the Apostle shows them, by his own example, that the surrender of an acknowledged right for the sake of furthering the cause of Christ was the proper boast of the Christian, and the condition of obtaining an indestructible crown (9). He then warns them against all false confidence, in supposing those once received into the communion, of God’s people, and into a participation of the means of grace, could ever fail, while at the same time he points them comfortingly to the faithfulness of God in keeping them from temptation (1Co_10:1 ff.); dissuades them from participating at idol altar-feasts, as inconsistent with a participation in Christian solemnities (1Co_10:14 ff.) and finally exhorts them to follow the rule of love, and do what was for the glory of God. (1Co_10:25 ff.).
7. As it respects their deportment at the assemblies of the Church.
a. Of women in the matter of dress. He pronounces the covering of their head in public as a custom that was in accordance with nature and suited to the position ordained of God for woman, while that of being uncovered was more suited to the man (1Co_11:1-16.).
b. Of the rich towards the poor in the observance of the Lord’s Supper. He reproves the custom of the two classes separating at the love feasts, as contrary to the nature of the institution, and calculated to draw down upon it the judgment of God, because of the unworthy communion it occasioned (1Co_11:17 ff.).
c. Of the Church generally, and of those endowed with spiritual gifts in their improper estimate and use of these gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14).
In respect to these, he exhibits, first, their foundation and object and hence their unity in manifoldness, as designed for mutual helpfulness, suitably to the organic character of the Church (12).
He next shows the measure of their worth and the rule of their use, viz. : Love which is described according to its qualities, and recommended and praised above all transient gifts, because of its eternal duration.
Finally, he compares the gifts of prophecy and of speaking with tongues in respect to their worth, as measured by their fitness to edify the Church; and sets forth the rules that are to regulate their use in accordance with their design and with what is seemly for the Church of God. (1 Corinthians 14).
To these defects in true Christian community of feeling, there is added, still.
B. A defect in doctrinal knowledge and of steadfastness in respect to the article of the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15).
On this point the Apostle teaches them, 1. How the possibility of this fact is essentially presupposed in the resurrection of Christ, that well attested event on which the faith and hope of Christians rest (1Co_15:1-19); 2. What position it occupies in the carrying out of God’s plan of salvation, (1Co_15:20 ff.); 3. What practical consequences its denial involves; 4. How the objections against it arising from its mode, and from the nature of the resurrection body, are groundless and irrational, (1Co_15:35 ff.); and 5. How it will be with those who survive at the moment of Christ’s appearing (1Co_15:51 ff.).
III. The concluding portion of the Epistle (16) is made up of instructions in regard to the the collection for the Christians at Jerusalem; of intimations in regard to his approaching visit; and hints respecting the treatment they were to give his friends and helpers; and, finally, of greetings and parting wishes accompanied with earnest exhortation.
Obs. The survey above given of the contents of this Epistle finds its proper supplement in the attempt made in Introd. §2. to refer back all its faults to the lingering carnality of the Corinthian Church. These are but the various points of view from which to consider and expound it.
How nearly the contents of this Apostolic letter touch our Christendom, and what practical bearing it has for us is well expressed by old Hedinger in the following powerful language, which we may well consider (comp.) Starke, Einl. § 12 “A Christianity decayed in all the duties of life and its several relations, may see itself distinctly mirrored in this Epistle, and may perceive how, with the Corinthians, all their mistakes and idle fancies about the nature of true blessedness have not yet entirely died out. How sadly is the Ch