Commentaries on the Sunday Solemnity and Feast Readings, Years A, B, C (where applicable)

11/24/18 BLOG UPDATE: I have completed posting Fr. Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians. Fr. MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Cor will be started soon, as will his Commentary on Matthew.


First Sunday of Advent:  A  C
Second Sunday of Advent:  A  B  C.
Third Sunday of Advent:   A  B  C.
Fourth Sunday of Advent:  A  B  C.


Vigil for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Dec. 24).
Christmas Mass During the Night (Midnight Mass).
Christmas Mass At Dawn.
Christmas Mass During the Day.
Sunday Within the Octave of Christmas.
Jan. 1. Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
The Epiphany of the Lord.


Baptism of the Lord: B  C. Always Corresponds to the First Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Second Sunday of Ordinary Time: A  B  C.
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Solemnity of Christ the King (always the final Sunday of the year):  A  B  C.


Ash Wednesday.
First Sunday of Lent:  A  B  C.
Second Sunday of Lent:  A  B  C.
Third Sunday of Lent:  A  B  C.
Fourth Sunday of Lent:  A  B  C.
Fifth Sunday of Lent:  A  B  C.
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion:  A  B  C.
Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
Holy Thursday Chrism Mass.
Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion.

Including Ascension and Pentecost

Easter Vigil. In the evening of Holy Saturday.
Easter Sunday The Resurrection of the Lord.
Divine Mercy Sunday (Second Sunday of Easter):  A  B  C.
Third Sunday of Easter:  A  B  C.
Fourth Sunday of Easter:  A  B  C.
Fifth Sunday of Easter:  A  B  C.
Sixth Sunday of Easter:  A  B  C.
Seventh Sunday of Easter:  A  B  C.
The Ascension of the Lord:  A  B  C.
Vigil of Pentecost Years A, B and C.



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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians Chapter 16

Text in red are my additions.

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 16:1-9

In concluding his letter to the Corinthians St. Paul, according to his frequent practice, adds a few counsels and directions to his usual greeting and final benediction. He begins here by describing the way in which the collection for the faithful in Jerusalem should be made (1 Cor 16:1-4); and he hopes it will be completed and ready to be dispatched upon his arrival in Corinth soon after Pentecost (1 Cor 16:5-9).

1 Cor 16:1. Now concerning the collections that are made for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, so do ye also.

The collections. The singular is used in the Greek (λογιας). The way the Apostle begins to speak of this matter, “concerning,” etc., shows that it was among other things on which the Corinthians had sought his advice (1 Cor 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1).

For the saints, i.e., for the poor among the faithful of Jerusalem. St. Paul had spoken to the Corinthians on this subject in a previous letter which is now lost (1 Cor 5:9), and it is mentioned again in 2 Cor 8:1-24; 9:1-15 and in Rom 15:26. (“It is mentioned again,” i.e., the collection, not the letter).

When Paul and Barnabas went forth to convert the Gentiles, they promised to be mindful of the poor in the Holy City (Gal 2:9 ff.). As we know from Josephus, Palestine was very much disorganized at this time. This circumstance, together with the fact that the Christians were at all times objects of special hate and persecution, made their poverty and destitution such that systematic efforts had to be exerted on their behalf throughout the Gentile Churches.

We know nothing about the particulars of the Galatian collection here referred to.

The collectis of the Vulgate should be singular, to agree with the Greek.

1 Cor 16:2. On the first day of the week let every one of you put apart with himself, laying up what it shall well please him; that when I come, the collections be not then to be made.

On the first day, etc. Better, “Every first day of the week” (κατα μιαν σαββατων = kata mian sabbatou), i.e., every Sunday, which, as we know also from Acts 20:7; Rev 1:10, had been already substituted for the Sabbath. It is certain that the Christians from the beginning kept Sunday holy, instead of the Sabbath, in honor of our Lord’s Resurrection. The first explicit evidence, however, which we have that Sunday was called the Lord’s day is in Rev 1:10.

What it shall well please him. Literally, “To the extent in which he may be prosperous,” i.e., as much as he can afford. St. Paul wanted the Christians thus freely to put aside what they could afford every Sunday, so that upon his arrival the entire collection might be finished and ready to send away.

1 Cor 16:3. And when I shall be with you, whomsoever you shall approve by letters, them will I send to carry your grace to Jerusalem.

Whomsoever, etc. To remove all suspicion on the part of his adversaries the Apostle will let the Corinthians choose their own delegates to represent them in carrying their collection to Jerusalem.

By letters, i.e., whomsoever the Corinthians shall approve as delegates St. Paul will send with commendatory letters to the Christians in Jerusalem.

1 Cor 16:4. And if it be meet that I also go, they shall go with me.

If it be meet, etc., i.e., if the collection be a large one (Estius); or, if it seem good to you (MacRory). St. Paul is willing to accompany the Corinthian delegates all the way to Jerusalem, if this is desirable. Cf. Rom 15:23; Acts 20:1-6.

From 2 Cor 8 and 9 we gather that the collection promised to be very generous, and from Acts 20 and 21 we see that St. Paul did go to Jerusalem.

1 Cor 16:5. Now I will come to you, when I shall have passed through Macedonia. For I shall pass through Macedonia.

I will come to you, as he had already promised (1 Cor 4:19; 11:34; 14:6).

Through Macedonia. As we learn from 2 Cor 1:15, 16, St. Paul had first intended to go directly from Ephesus to Corinth, and thence to Macedonia; but conditions in the Corinthian Church were such that he was obliged to change his plan (2 Cor 1:23). This change of plan was afterwards made use of by his enemies in an attempt to show that he was fickle and lacking in decision (2 Cor 1:17).

I shall pass through, etc. Literally, “I am passing through,” etc. This seems to indicate that the Apostle did not intend to stay long in Macedonia.

1 Cor 16:6. And with you perhaps I shall abide, or even spend the winter: that you may bring me on my way whithersoever I shall go.

To show his affection for the Corinthians and to compensate for his deferred visit, St. Paul now says he will prolong his stay among them when he arrives. He was writing this letter around Paschal time, and intended to remain at Ephesus until Pentecost (verse 8). Then he would go to Macedonia, arriving in Corinth sometime in the autumn, perhaps to tarry until spring.

That you may bring me, etc. (προπεμψητε) , i.e., that they fit him out with the things necessary for his journey, wherever that may be. It was only from a Church that he especially loved and trusted that the Apostle would thus seek help.

1 Cor 16:7. For I will not see you now by the way, for I trust that I shall abide with you some time, if the Lord permit.

Now by the way. He means that his coming visit will not be a hurried one, as it would be if he passed through Corinth on his way to Macedonia. This verse seems strongly to support the view that St. Paul had made a flying visit to Corinth, but it does not require it.

1 Cor 16:8. But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.

I will tarry (επιμενω = epimeno), i.e., I will stay on. This shows that he intended to remain at Ephesus until Pentecost, nearly two months more. We know, however (Acts 19:25), that the Apostle was obliged to leave Ephesus sooner than he had planned.

1 Cor 16:9. For a great door and evident is opened unto me: and many adversaries.

The reason why St. Paul wished to tarry at Ephesus for some two months longer was because there was offered him there a great opportunity of preaching the Gospel with much fruit, and of opposing his adversaries with success (Acts 19:19 ff.).

Great . . . evident, i.e., a great and effectual opening for good.

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 16:10-18

As soon as St. Paul had received news of the troubles at Corinth he sent Erastus and Timothy to Macedonia (Acts 19:22), giving the latter instructions to go thence to Corinth for the purpose of putting in order the disturbances there (1 Cor 4:17). Meanwhile, having been more correctly informed of the gravity of the situation by special legates who had come to him from Corinth, the Apostle immediately wrote the present letter, in which, as we see here, he recommended to the faithful the young disciple who would soon be among them.

1 Cor 16:10. Now if Timothy come, see that he be with you without fear, for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do.

If Timothy come. This seems to indicate that St. Paul had some doubt about Timothy’s going to Corinth. The Apostle had sent him to Macedonia first, and perhaps the situation there demanded more of his time and attention than had been anticipated. At any rate, this letter was written after Timothy had departed for Macedonia, probably because there was reason to fear that he might not reach Corinth at all, or that he might arrive there too late.

Without fear, i.e., that you respect him and make his stay among you as easy as possible. Timothy was young (1 Tim 4:12), and perhaps somewhat lacking in courage (1 Tim 5:21-23; 2 Tim 1:6-8; 2:1, 3, 15; 4:1, 2) ; and yet he was by no means to be despised, for he was doing the work of the Lord, i.e., preaching the Gospel, like St. Paul himself.

1 Cor 16:11. Let no man therefore despise him, but conduct ye him on his way in peace: that he may come to me. For I look for him with the brethren.

I look for him, etc., i.e., St. Paul was awaiting at Ephesus the return of Timothy with Erastus, and probably some others who had gone with them to Macedonia (Acts 19:22). The meaning is not that Paul and the brethren at Ephesus were expecting Timothy alone.

1 Cor 16:12. And touching our brother Apollo, I give you to understand, that I much entreated him to come unto you with the brethren: and indeed it was not his will at all to come at this time. But he will come when he shall have leisure.

To show that he was in no wise envious of Apollo or opposed to the great Alexandrian’s again visiting the Corinthians, St. Paul now makes it plain that he had endeavored to get him to pay them another visit. Apollo declined for the time being, probably not wishing to visit the Corinthians while there existed any special faction devoted to him to the detriment of the Church as a whole (1 Cor 3:4-6).

I give you to understand (Vulg., vobis notum facio) should be omitted, to agree with the Greek.

The brethren, who were very likely the bearers of this letter.

1 Cor 16:13. Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, do manfully, and be strengthened.

The mention of Apollo brought back to the Apostle’s mind the factions at Corinth, so bitterly condemned in the first part of this letter. He, therefore, exhorts the faithful to be on their guard against the evils which imperil the unity and peace of their Church. Let them stand fast in the faith which has been preached to them, by which alone they shall be strengthened so as successfully to resist and overcome their adversaries.

1 Cor 16:14. Let all your things be done in charity.

Let all your things, etc., i.e., let all you do be done in charity. This virtue of charity is at all times necessary, but the Corinthians had special need of it, as was evident from the abuses and disorders that had grown up among them. The Apostle is giving a counsel here, not a precept (St. Chrys. and others, against Estius and many more).

1 Cor 16:15. And I beseech you, brethren, you know the house of Stephanas, and of Fortunatus, and of Achaicus, that they are the first-fruits of Achaia, and have dedicated themselves to the ministry of the saints:

The Apostle now speaks of the delegates who had brought to him the Corinthians’ letter and were probably to be the bearers of his reply. The best MSS. omit all mention in this verse of Fortunatus and Achaicus. Hence the household of Stephanas are the first-fruits of Achaia, i.e., the first of that province to embrace the faith (1 Cor 1:16). Stephanas and his family had dedicated themselves to works of charity among the faithful. Some think Stephanas was a leader of the Corinthian Church.

The first phrase here, And I beseech you, brethren, is doubtless to be joined to verse 16, making the remainder of the present verse a parenthesis.

In the Vulgate et Fortunati, et Achaici should be omitted.

1 Cor 16:16. That you also be subject to such, and to every one that worketh with us, and laboureth.

That you also be subject, etc. This is the thing to which the Apostle started in the beginning of the preceding verse to exhort the Corinthians. His counsel is that they should show great respect and gratitude to such generous and holy benefactors as Stephanas and his family. There is most probably no question here of the submission and obedience which subjects are bound to show to superiors.

To every one that, etc. Better, “to every one that helps and cooperates.”

1 Cor 16:17. And I rejoice in the presence of Stephanas, and Fortunatus, and Achaicus, because that which was wanting on your part, they have supplied.

Fortunatus and Achaicus are not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. It is the common opinion that they, with Stephanas, brought to St. Paul the letter of the Corinthians and also carried back the reply to it, this present letter.

That which was wanting, etc., i.e., the lack of you, the void occasioned by your absence. The Apostle is rejoiced by the presence of these Corinthian legates who, in a way, make up for the absence of all the other faithful whom he would love to see; he wishes he could see all, but in these three he is reminded of all.

1 Cor 16:18. For they have refreshed both my spirit and yours. Know them, therefore, that are such.

They have refreshed, etc. These legates, by carrying the Corinthians’ letter to St. Paul, had done a welcome service both to them and to him.

Know them, therefore, etc., i.e., to such as render such valuable services as these legates have done special respect and recognition are due.


During St. Paul’s three years’ stay in Ephesus, the capital of Proconsular Asia, the Gospel had spread throughout the whole province and Christian communities were established everywhere. Knowing, therefore, the ties of charity by which the faithful of Asia and of Ephesus were bound to those of Corinth, the Apostle, before giving his final blessing, sends the salutations of all the faithful.

1 Cor 16:19. The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house, with whom I also lodge.

The churches of Asia, i.e., the Christian communities of Proconsular Asia, the Roman province that lay along the western coast of Asia Minor with Ephesus as its capital (cf. Acts xix. 10). Aquila and Priscilla, who had contributed so much to the foundation of the Church at Corinth. See on Rom 16:3, 4; cf. Acts 18:1 ff.

In the Lord, i.e., out of charity and regard for their common faith.

The church in their house. Both at Rome and at Ephesus the house of Aquila and Priscilla served as a meeting-place of the faithful for religious purposes (Rom 16:3-5). As yet there were most likely no special buildings set aside for Christian worship anywhere.

With whom I also lodge. These words, and their equivalents in the Vulgate here, should be omitted as wanting in all the best MSS. and versions.

1 Cor 16:20. All the brethren salute you. Salute one another with a holy kiss.

All the brethren, i.e., all the other faithful of Ephesus besides those that met at the house of Aquila and Priscilla.

A holy kiss. The kiss of peace was once a prominent feature in the religious assemblies of the Christians (Rom 16:16; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14), but it was restricted at an early date to the members of the same sex (Const. Apost. ii. 57; viii. 11).

1 Cor 16:21. The salutation of me Paul, with my own hand.

With my own hand. The Apostle had dictated this Epistle to an amanuensis, as was his custom (Rom 16:22), but now he writes his own salutation as a guarantee of the authenticity and genuineness of the letter (2 Thess 2:2; 3:17).

1 Cor 16:22. If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema, maranatha.

Love (φιλει = philei), i.e., with a personal and special affection.

Anathema. See on Rom 9:3.

Maranatha. This is a combination of two Aramaic words, Marana tha, which mean “Our Lord, come.” Probably the meaning is that the Lord should come to judge the world and put into execution the sentence of condemnation merited by those who do not love Jesus. This Aramaic expression was perhaps a liturgical invocation in common use among the Apostles and their converts, like alleluia or hosanna with us (Didache 10; Const. Apost. vii. 26).

1 Cor 16:23. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

The grace, etc. See on Rom 16:24; cf. 2 Cor 13:13; Gal 6:18, etc.

1 Cor 16:24. My charity be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

My charity, etc. By these closing words, “the Apostle shows that he has written, not from anger or indignation, but from the care he has for them, since after so great an accusation he does not turn away from them, but loves and esteems them” (St. Chrys.).

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians Chapter 15

Text in red are my additions.

The final problem discussed by the Apostle in this Epistle concerns the resurrection of the just, and indirectly of all the dead. It was doubtless among the other questions submitted to him by the Church of Corinth, but it is answered last because of its paramount importance, its unusual difficulty, and its far-reaching consequences.

The resurrection of the body had been denied by the Sadducees among the Jews (Matt 22:3 ff.), it had been ridiculed by the pagans to whom St. Paul preached in Athens (Acts 27:18, 32), had been explained allegorically by certain Christians (2 Tim 2:17), and had been regarded as impossible and absurd by some of the Corinthians who were imbued with false philosophical notions (1 Cor 15:12, 29). Those Christians who denied the resurrection of the body very probably denied also, or at least doubted, the immortality of the soul. About the Resurrection of our Lord, however, it seems there was no special doubt at Corinth. The facts concerning it which had already been made known to the faithful needed only to be restated to evoke a general admission of, and an unshaken faith in it. Hence the Apostle begins to prove the reality of our future resurrection, first by an appeal to the Resurrection of Christ (1 Cor 15:1-28), and then by referring to a practice of some of the faithful and to the lives of the Apostles (1 Cor 15:29-34). The fact of the resurrection being established, its mode and the qualities of the resurrection body are next described (1 Cor 15:35-58).

If it be objected that the argumentation of St. Paul at times (verses 30-32) seems to prove directly the immortality of the soul, and only indirectly the resurrection of the body, this is doubtless due to the fact that to the Corinthians, as to the Jews generally, the two questions formed but one in reality; the whole man, body and soul, was either living or dead hereafter. Thus perhaps St. Paul had explained the matter when preaching to them. Of course there were some among the Greek philosophers, like Plato and his school, who admitted the immortality of the soul, while rejecting the very thought of corporal resurrection (Phaedo, 114 C; cf. Seneca, Ad Marcum xxiv. 4). These philosophers regarded matter as the source of all evil, as a thing essentially alien to the Divine, and the only barrier between the soul and the Absolute Good. Immortality, therefore, for them meant entire freedom from the body and its evil influences. Hence the doctrine of the resurrection of the body was at first the chief stumbling-block to many of the pagans.

Again we must note that St. Paul proves explicitly only the resurrection of the just, although the general resurrection is referred to in a passing way (verse 26), and is taken for granted as positively declared in other passages of Scripture and in Christian tradition (Matt 25:2, 33, 41; Acts 24:15; John 5:18 ff.). Cf. Cornely, h. 1.; Sales, h. 1.; Coghlan, St. Paul, Pg 154).

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Lest the Corinthians might think that he was proclaiming a new doctrine, St. Paul first reminds them that the Resurrection of Christ was one of the chief teachings which he delivered to them when founding their Church. It was a doctrine confirmed by the unanimous testimony of the first Apostles, and made certain by numerous apparitions of the Risen Lord to a great variety of other witnesses. To the Apostle himself the Saviour had also finally appeared, so that the preaching of all the Apostles and the faith of all Christians might be one and the same in regard to this fundamental truth.

1 Cor 15:1. Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand;
1 Cor 15:2. By which also you are saved, if you hold fast after what manner I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain.

I make known (γνωριζω = gnorizo) , i.e., I recall to your minds what I have already preached to you, which also you have received, i.e., have believed, and wherein you stand, i.e., which you have retained till now: by which also you are saved, i.e., in which you are being saved, and shall be saved eternally, if you hold fast, etc., i.e., if you retain, without addition or subtraction, the teaching I have given you. The reference is to all the doctrines, and in particular to that of the resurrection, which he explained to the Corinthians when founding their Church.

Unless you have believed in vain, i.e., unless there is no foundation for your faith.

1 Cor 15:3. For I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received: how
that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures:
1 Cor 15:4. And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures:

First of all, i.e., first in order of time, because first in importance. The Apostles were accustomed to begin their preaching with the death and Resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:22 ff.; 10:4 ff.; 13:29 ff.; 17:18, 31).

Which I also received by direct revelation from Christ Himself (1 Cor 11:23; Gal 1:1119).

Died . . . according to the scriptures. Christ’s death for our sins had been foretold by Isaias (Isa 53; cf. Gen 22; Deut 11:24-26; Zech 12:10).

Was buried. The aorist εταφη expresses the single act. The burial of our Lord is explicitly mentioned here, as also in the four Gospels, to show the reality both of His death and of His Resurrection.

He rose. Literally, “Hath risen” (εγηγερται = egegertai) . Whereas the aorist was used to express the single act of our Lord’s burial, the perfect is employed here to denote His continued existence after His Resurrection.

The third day. This circumstance is insisted upon in the various accounts of the Resurrection of our Lord, (a) because He had foretold that He would rise on the third day, and (b) because such a length of time was a proof that the Saviour was really dead.

According to the scriptures, Ps 16:10; Isa 53:10; Jonah 2:10; Matt 12:40; 16:4, etc.

1 Cor 15:5. And that he was seen by Cephas, and after that by the eleven.

The apparitions of the Risen Lord were convincing proofs of the truth of His Resurrection. He was seen by Cephas, i.e., by St. Peter, as St. Luke tells us (Luke 24:34); and afterwards by the eleven, i.e., by the whole Apostolic group, except Thomas, on the evening of the Resurrection (John 20:19 ff.; Luke 24:36).

For “eleven” (Vulg., undecim) the best MSS. and many versions have “twelve.” Even without Judas the Apostolic college was called by its usual name, “the twelve.”

1 Cor 15:6. Then was he seen by more than five hundred brethren at once: of whommmany remain until this present, and some are fallen asleep.

Five hundred brethren. This is probably the apparition recorded in Matt, xxviii. 16-20, where the “eleven disciples” are explicitly mentioned, and some others are referred to as doubting. It is generally believed that these doubters were among the five hundred here alluded to by St. Paul, as it is very unlikely that any of the Apostles doubted after the appearance of our Lord to the eleven eight days after the Resurrection (John 20:28, 29).

Of whom many. Better, “Most of whom” (εξ ων οι πλειους = ek hon hoi pleiones). What a convincing proof of the reality of the Resurrection that most of five hundred eyewitnesses were still living around A.D. 58!

Fallen asleep, i.e., have died in the Lord and are awaiting the resurrection.

1 Cor 15:7. After that, he was seen by James, then by all the apostles.

James, i.e., James the Less, Bishop of Jerusalem (Matt 13:55; Mark 15:40; Gal 1:19). St. Paul could hardly be referring to James the Greater who was long dead (Acts 12:2) when he preached at Corinth and when this Epistle was written. The apparition here mentioned is not recorded elsewhere in

Then by all the apostles. If St. Paul is relating the apparitions in chronological order, as he appears to be, and if the apparition of verse 5 was the same as that recorded in Matt 28:16-20, we must take the present one to be that which occurred at the Ascension (Luke 24:50; Acts 1:9), as most interpreters think, or some other private manifestation just before the Ascension, of which we have no record.

1 Cor 15:8. And last of all, he was seen also by me, as by one born out of due time.

St. Paul adds his own ocular testimony to that of the other Apostles. He saw the Risen Lord, when on the way to Damascus he was suddenly thrown to the ground and converted to the Apostolic life (Acts 9:3 ff.; 17:27 ff., etc.).

As by one born, etc., i.e., by one who was spiritually immature, unformed, and unprepared to see Christ and be an Apostle. The older Apostles, including Matthias (Acts 1:21, 22), had been trained and developed in the school of Christ while the Saviour was yet on earth.

If the other manifestations of the Risen Lord which are recorded in the Gospels are omitted here, it is not because they were unknown to the Apostle, but because those given would have most weight with the Corinthians.

1 Cor 15:9. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Another reason why St. Paul considered himself only as an abortive Apostle, unworthy to be named or classed with the rest, was because he had been a persecutor of the faithful (cf. Eph 3:8; 1 Tim 1:12-16).

1 Cor 15:10. But by the grace of God, I am what I am; and his grace in me hath not been void, but I have laboured more abundantly than all they: yet not I, but the grace of God with me:

In spite of what was just said St. Paul is by the grace of God, i.e., by the special grace of his Apostolate, what he is, namely, a true Apostle; and this grace has not been void, i.e., without fruit, in him, for he has laboured more abundantly, in preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, than any other of the Apostles, or, perhaps, than all of them put together.

Yet not I, etc. Lest anyone should think him boasting, St. Paul immediately adds that his Apostolic fruitfulness has been due to the grace of God, with which he has cooperated.

Grace in this verse means the special grace of Apostleship (Eph 3:8; Gal 1:15, 16; Rom 15:15, 16), not sanctifying grace.

1 Cor 15:11. For whether I, or they, so we preach, and so you have believed.

After the digression of verses 9, 10 concerning his own Apostolate, St. Paul returns to his theme of giving evidence for the Resurrection of Christ, and concludes that he, the least of the Apostles, as well as they, i.e., the older Apostles, preach the same doctrine of the Resurrection, which the Corinthians have believed without hesitation.

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 15:12-20a

Before coming to the main theme of the present chapter, which is the resurrection of the just, and of all the dead, St. Paul wishes still further to strengthen and enlighten the belief of the Corinthians in Christ’s glorious Resurrection, for it is upon this latter that he will base his great argument for the truth of the former. Therefore, after having cited in the preceding section what he considers to be the best witnesses for our Saviour’s corporal Resurrection, he proceeds now to show the dire consequences that would necessarily follow if Christ were not truly risen. In such an event both the preaching of the Apostles and the faith of Christians would be without foundation. Wherefore, he concludes, we must accept the Resurrection of Christ.

1 Cor 15:12. Now if Christ be preached, that he arose again from the dead, how do some among you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead?
1 Cor 15:13. But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen again.

These verses show that some among the Corinthians denied the resurrection of the dead, but they imply that those same sceptics believed that Christ was truly risen; otherwise St. Paul’s argument here would avail nothing against those who thought corporal resurrection was absurd and impossible (against MacR.). If they admitted, as seems evident, that Christ was risen, then it is possible for others to rise; and since the faithful form one mystical body of which Christ is the head (1 Cor 6:15; 12:27), their resurrection must naturally follow upon His. It is unseemly that the head should live without the body. Moreover, Christians, by reason of their union and fellowship with Christ, have become the adopted children of God, having a right to share in Christ’s inheritance and in the glory and honor, of body as well as soul, which is His. Thus the admitted Resurrection of Christ makes necessary the further admission that His members will also rise.

If it be objected that this argument proves only the resurrection of the just, of Christians who are united with Christ, we may reply with St. Chrysostom and St. Thomas that St. Paul was writing to, and arguing against those among the faithful of Corinth who denied the resurrection, but who did not consider that they thereby ceased to be Christians, united to Christ.

1 Cor 15:14. And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
1 Cor 15:15. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God: because we have given testimony against God, that he hath raised up Christ; whom he hath not raised up if the dead rise not again.

Terrible consequences would follow, if Christ were not risen again, (a) Both the preaching of the Apostles and the faith of their converts would be vain, i.e., without foundation, because Christ pointed to His Resurrection as the supreme proof of His Divinity and Messiahship (Matt 12:38 ff.; John 2:18 ff.); and if He be not truly risen, then we must conclude that He was a false prophet and has deceived both preachers and believers, and that there is no reason for either the Gospel or faith. The Apostles always proved the divine origin and authority of their preaching by appealing to the Resurrection of Jesus, holding that God would not have raised Him from the dead had He not been all He claimed to be, and had His doctrine not been true (Acts 1:22; 2:24, 32; 3:15, 21; 4:10, 33; 5:30; 10:37; 17:31 ; Rom 1:4; 4:24, etc.).

(b) The Apostles would be false witnesses of God, because they have attributed to Him something He never did, namely, the raising of Christ from the grave. And if it is an evil thing falsely to attribute something of grave moment to another human being, what a serious offence it would be to bear similar false witness to God!

Again, both in verse 14 and in verse 15 should be omitted, as not represented in the Greek.

1 Cor 15:16. For if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again.

For if the dead, etc., a solemn repetition of the conclusion stated above, in verse 13, from which still further evils would result.

Again in this and in the following verse should also be taken out.

1 Cor 15:17. And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins.
1 Cor 15:18. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished.

Your faith is vain, i.e., useless to you, for you could not be redeemed and freed from your sins by an impostor who claimed to be the true Messiah and Saviour of the world.

Then they also, etc. In the event that Christ is not truly risen, then those that died believing in Him and hoping for the remission of their sins through His redeeming merits, have died with their sins still upon them and are lost forever.

1 Cor 15:19. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

If Christ is not risen from the dead, faith in Him is not only useless for the living and the dead, but it is also a great detriment to Christians. If all our faith in Christ does for us is to give us in the present life a groundless hope of something false, causing us to deny ourselves many things which unbelievers enjoy, and bringing upon us numberless persecutions, then indeed we are of all men more to be pitied (ελεεινοτεροι = elleinoteroi, translated above as “most miserable”) than others.

1 Cor 15:20a. But now Christ is risen from the dead.

But all these terrible consequences that have just been described are false, because Christ is truly risen from the dead, and neither our preaching nor your faith is vain.

Christ’s resurrection includes the resurrection of all men
A Summary of 1 Corinthians 15:20b-28

The Resurrection of Christ is connected with that of others as the first-fruits are connected with those that follow, which they precede in order of time and dignity (St. Thomas). As the spiritual death of Adam involved the physical and spiritual death of all his descendants, so the corporal Resurrection of our Lord involves the corporal resurrection of all the just. After He shall have conquered all the enemies of God and man, Christ, the representative man, will assume for Himself and for all the faithful the position which befits Him as man, that God may be all in all.

20b.  the first-fruits of them that sleep:

The first-fruits, etc. Christ was the first man to rise from the dead, but He is only the “first-fruits,” which shows there will be other fruits of the same kind. He is the model and pattern according to which all the just will rise. As the first-fruits of the harvest suppose the harvest, so the Resurrection of Jesus implies the harvest of the general resurrection of all the saved. The earth is the vast field in which our bodies like seed are planted, and since the first-fruits have already appeared, we can hope that soon the harvest will come.

Others, like Lazarus, who were called back to life before the Resurrection of Christ, were not raised to immortal life. Even those whom St. Matthew (Matt 27:52 ff.) speaks of as having come forth from their graves at the time of the crucifixion did not rise till after Christ had risen, and it is not certain that they did not die again.

1 Cor 15:21. For by a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead.
1 Cor 15:22. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

These verses show how Christ is the first-fruits of the dead. There exists the same relation between our Lord’s Resurrection and that of the just, as between the death of Adam and that of his descendants. As Adam was the father of fallen humanity, so Christ is the Father of regenerated humanity. By one man human nature was corrupted and despoiled of its gift of immortality, and so it was becoming that by one other man human nature should be restored, in the resurrection of the body, to its primitive state and dignity. Therefore, as all those who are born of Adam are condemned to death, so all they who are reborn in Christ shall be regenerated unto immortal life for body as well as soul.

So also in Christ, etc. Most modern interpreters, like Cornely, Le Camus, Bisping, etc., understand these words to refer only to the just, because there is question, they say, only of a glorious and immortal resurrection like that of Christ’s. Others, however, hold with St. Thomas that the Apostle is speaking of the resurrection of all,—of the good to a life of glory, of the bad to an existence of misery and shame (John 5:28 ff.; Dan 12:2).

Came of verse 21 is not represented in the Greek, although it is to be understood.

1 Cor 15:23. But every one in his own order: the first-fruits Christ, then they that are of Christ, who have believed in his coming.

All shall rise again, but each in his own order of time and according to his dignity. Christ has risen first, preceding all others in time and dignity, and becoming the model of the resurrection of all the saved. Then they that are of Christ, i.e., the just, shall rise at His second coming (1 Thess 4:15).

Who have believed (Vulg., qui crediderunt) should be omitted, as wanting in all the best MSS. and in the early editions of the Vulg.

1 Cor 15:24. Afterwards the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father, when he shall have brought to nought all principality, and power, and virtue.

Afterwards the end, i.e., after the resurrection shall come the end of the present world, the present order of things (Matt 24:14; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9), which shall be replaced by “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1).

When he, i.e., when Christ, the Redeemer, shall have delivered up, better, “shall hand over” (παραδιδω = paradido, pres. subj., according to the best MSS., instead of παραδω = parado, the aorist subj.), the kingdom, i.e., the Messianic Kingdom of the Church Militant, to God the Father, who as Creator is Lord of all creatures. Although as God Christ is also Creator and equal to the Father, as man He is in a particular way the Lord of the Messianic Kingdom, the Church, which He has purchased with His blood. It is the militant part of this Messianic Kingdom which Christ as man is here said to hand over to His Father at the end of the world, as a conqueror hands over to his sovereign the fruits of the victory he has won. Obviously Christ as God will not cease to reign equally with the Father and the Holy Ghost after the victory is won. But He will not surrender to His Father the Church Militant, until it is in peace, that is, until He has vanquished and brought to nothing all the enemies of God, demons and evil men, who have opposed and persecuted His Church.

The present subjunctive, the better reading, emphasize Christ’s action

Principality . . . power . . . virtue, i.e., all rule, authority and power that is opposed to God and Christ’s Kingdom, the Church.

1 Cor 15:25. For he must reign, until he hath put all his enemies under his feet.

For he must reign, etc., i.e., according to the decrees of God, Christ must govern and guide His Church, combat His enemies, and help the faithful, until He has triumphed over all the adversaries of His Kingdom, as was foretold in Psalm 110:1. In the Psalm it is God the Father who is represented as saying to Christ: “Sit at my right hand, until,” etc., but the Apostle is here plainly alluding to this Psalm and applying it to Christ, whose rule over the Church Militant will cease when the struggle finally gives way to victory. Of Christ’s eternal reign with the Father and the Holy Ghost in the Church Triumphant (Luke 1:32, 33; Dan 7:1414) there is no question here.

1 Cor 15:26. And the enemy death shall be destroyed last: For he hath put all things under his feet. And whereas he saith,
1 Cor 15:27. All things are put under him; undoubtedly, he is excepted, who put all things under him.

Now St. Paul alludes to Psalm 8:8 to show that in the resurrection death will be the last enemy to be destroyed. Literally the Psalm refers to man in the state of innocence, who was lord over visible creation; but in a mystical sense it points to the perfect man, Jesus Christ, the head of the human race.

Death is called the last enemy because, by retaining the bodies of mankind in the dust of the earth, it does an injury to the elect and keeps back their complete happiness after all other enemies have been rendered powerless. Christ, by His Resurrection, has thus conquered death in His own case, but the victory over this dread enemy will not be complete until the bodies of all the dead shall have been reclaimed in the general resurrection.

The resurrection of all the dead, good and bad, is argued from this verse, because if the triumph over death is to be complete, the bodies of all the dead must rise again.

And whereas he saith. These words should be connected with verse 27, as in the Greek. A better translation would be: “When he shall have said” (οταν δε ειπη = hotan de eipe) , i.e., when God the Father shall say at the end of the world that all things have been subjected to the Son, we must not understand the Father Himself to be included among the things subjected. Some interpreters supply αὐτός (autos = Him) from the last sentence, and understand Christ to be announcing the subjugation of all things to Him to whom it is owing (Lias).

1 Cor 15:28. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then the Son also himself shall be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

And when all things, etc., i.e., when all the enemies of the Church Militant shall have been conquered by Christ and the general resurrection takes place, then the Son, etc., i.e., then Christ also, as man, shall subject Himself, together with His redeemed Kingdom, the multitude of the elect, to His Father, without, however, forfeiting His own Kingship over His adoring subjects.

As man Christ has always, from the first moment of the Incarnation, been subject to and less than the Father, His humanity has been less than His Divinity, and less than the Holy Ghost; but in the resurrection when, together with the elect, His victorious army, He gives Himself over to the Father, His subjection will be greater in its extension and fulness (cf. Rickaby.).

That God may be all in all. The purpose of this final and universal subjection of Christ and His elect to the Father is that in the Church Triumphant God the Father may be recognized and glorified as the Lord of all, and as the author and primal source of all the blessings conferred upon Christ Himself, and through Christ upon the Church and the body of the elect; and that thus He may be all in all, i.e., may reign perfectly over all, rendering all perfectly and consummately happy.

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 15:29-34

After having given the authoritative teaching in regard to the resurrection St. Paul adds, by way of confirmation, two further considerations, one drawn from the practice of some of the faithful, and the other from the labors and trials of the Apostles. A brief exhortation then terminates his proofs of this momentous doctrine.

1 Cor 15:29. Otherwise what shall they do that are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not again at all? why are they then baptized for them?

In the supposition that there is no resurrection of the dead, why, asks St. Paul, do some of the Corinthians receive Baptism for their friends and relatives who died without it? The Apostle is assuming that such a practice had in view the future resurrection of the body.

What was this Baptism for the dead? Many widely different explanations have been given, but by far the most reasonable and the most common is the following: In the time of St. Paul, when a catechumen died without Baptism, it was customary for a friend or relative to have the ceremony performed upon himself on behalf of the dead person, thus publicly affirming, by a symbolic action, that his departed friend or relative had died in union with the Church and was awaiting a glorious resurrection. This is the explanation of Tertullian (Adv. Marc. v. 10; De Resurr. xxviii) and is adopted by the majority of modern exegetes, such as Bisping, Van Steenkiste, Le Camus, Cornely, MacRory, Rickaby, etc. The Apostle simply refers to this practice, which must have been well known to the Corinthians, without approving or condemning it. Although erroneous, it was perhaps tolerated in the early Church until heretics began to attribute to it the efficacy of real Baptism. Cf. Vacant, Bapteme des morts. in Diet, de la Bible; Cornely, h. 1.

Again of this verse should be omitted.

1 Cor 15:30. Why also are we in danger every hour?

If the dead rise not again, then to what purpose are all the sufferings and persecutions endured by the Apostles and by the faithful? If there is no resurrection, all should try to avoid harm and suffering, and get as much as possible out of this present life.

We refers primarily, at least, to the Apostles, who were in constant danger of punishment, prison, and death itself, on account of their faith and the doctrines they preached. This and the two following verses seem directly to prove immortality, and only indirectly the resurrection of the body, unless we say that the danger, persecutions and trials to which the Apostle alludes were occasioned only or chiefly by their preaching the resurrection. This supposition, however, is very improbable, as it is quite evident that the allusion is to sufferings sustained for being a Christian, and for believing and preaching all the doctrines for which Christianity stands. Therefore we hold that these three verses are proofs primarily of immortality, and only secondarily of the resurrection. We must observe, however, with St. Thomas (on verse 19) that if the resurrection of the body be denied it is difficult to maintain the immortality of the soul, because without the body the soul is in an unnatural, and therefore unenduring state. Aquinas, In his lecture on 1 Cor 15:12-19 has this: ” [I]f the resurrection of the body is denied, it is not easy, yea it is difficult, to sustain the immortality of the soul. For it is clear that the soul is naturally united to the body and is departed from it, contrary to its nature and per accidens. Hence the soul devoid of its body is imperfect, as long as it is without the body. But it is impossible that what is natural and per se be finite and, as it were, nothing; and that which is against nature and per accidens be infinite, if the soul endures without the body. And so, the Platonists positing immortality, posited re-incorporation, although this is heretical. Therefore, if the dead do not rise, we will be confident only in this life. In another way, because it is clear that man naturally desires his own salvation; but the soul, since it is part of man’s body, is not an entire man, and my soul is not I; hence, although the soul obtains salvation in another life, nevertheless, not I or any man. Furthermore, since man naturally desires salvation even of the body, a natural desire would be frustrated.”

1 Cor 15:31. I die daily, I protest by your glory, brethren, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I die daily, i.e., every day St. Paul, like the other Apostles, was in danger of death for his faith and his preaching (Rom 8:36).

I protest, etc. The Apostle solemnly affirms by the pride he feels in the Corinthian Church, which he founded in Christ Jesus, that he is truly exposed to death every day of his life. Why all this, if there is no future life and no resurrection?

1 Cor 15:32. If (according to man) I fought with beasts at Ephesus, what doth it profit me, if the dead rise not again? Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die.

If (according to man), etc. There should be no parentheses here. The meaning is: If for merely human motives, without a hope of future life and a consequent glorious resurrection, St. Paul on account of his preaching was exposed to wild beasts at Ephesus, what profit, what advantage was there in his action? He was exposing himself to death for no purpose, if the dead rise not again.

I fought with beasts, etc. The word εθηριομαχησα (thēriomacheō)  used here by St. Paul, with its derivatives, became a technical expression for men contending with wild beasts in the amphitheatre. A metaphorical sense, however, is given it in the present instance by nearly all modern interpreters; and this for the following reasons: (a) St. Paul’s actual fighting with wild beasts is not mentioned by St. Luke, who speaks at considerable length of the Apostle’s sojourn at Ephesus (Acts 19:1; 20:1); (b) nor does St. Paul speak of such an experience when enumerating the various kinds of perils and sufferings to which he had been exposed for the sake of the Gospel (2 Cor 11:23); (c) it would be difficult to account for such treatment of a Roman citizen (Acts 22:26). The expression, therefore, must refer to the bitter opposition sustained by the Apostle from the Jews and his other enemies during his two years at Ephesus (Acts 19:1 ff.; 20:19; 2 Tim 4:17). St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing to the Romans (Ad Rom. 5), employs the very same word in a metaphorical sense: “All the way from Syria to Rome I have to fight with beasts, bound as I am to ten leopards, that is, a file of soldiers.”

What doth it profit me. In Greek the interrogation point is after this clause, and not after the one that follows, as in our version and in the Vulgate. The quotation is from Isaiah 22:13, where the Jews are represented as scoffing at God’s threats to destroy them. The Apostle, by alluding to these words from the Prophet, is only expressing the conclusion which would commonly be drawn from a denial of the resurrection; “for himself it was recompense enough that his action was pleasing to God” (St. Chrys.).

Again should be away (i.e., omitted), and we shall die (Vulg., moriemur) should be in the present tense.

Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. A quote from Isaiah 22:13.

1 Cor 15:33. Be not seduced: Evil communications corrupt good manners.

Be not seduced, i.e., by those who say there is no resurrection.

Evil communications, etc. This is a line from the play Thais of the Athenian comedian Menander (320 B.C.), which in the time of St. Paul had doubtless become a proverbial expression. The meaning here is that false doctrines, such as the denial of the resurrection, corrupt one’s morals and manner of life.

1 Cor 15:34. Awake, ye just, and sin not. For some have not the knowledge of God, I speak it to your shame.

The Apostle now exhorts those Christians who had permitted themselves to be seduced to return to their previous state of justice and right living.

Awake. The meaning of the Greek imperative, εκνηψατε, is that they should awake from their sleep of intoxication and come to themselves again. εκνηψατε (=epnapsate) is used only here in the New Testament. It literally means to sober up from a drunken sleep. The word is certainly meant to contrast with the worldly philosophy of verse 32~Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. The related word, ανανηψωσιν (= ananepsosin =”recover”), is used in 2 Tim 2:26~And they may recover themselves from the snares of the devil by whom they are held captive at his will. Compare with Joel 1:5.

Ye just. Literally, “Righteously” (δικαιως = dikaios). The meaning is: Awake, (a) as you ought; or (b) do what is right and just; or (c) so as to become just. St. Paul is bidding those seduced Corinthians to rouse themselves from their erroneous notions to a state of justice and righteousness.

For some, etc., i.e., those who say there is no resurrection of the dead are like the Pharisees whom our Lord rebuked for their ignorance of divine things (Matt 22:29), they have not the knowledge of God.

In the Vulgate justi would better be juste or ad justitiam.

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 15:35-58

The fact of the resurrection being established, the Apostle now goes on to describe how it will take place. He first shows, by illustrations drawn from what takes place in the natural order of the world around us, that the risen body will be indeed the same body that was buried, but vested with vastly different qualities (verses 35-50). The manner of the resurrection, the transition from the present to the future life, and the effects of the resurrection are next discussed (verses 51-58).

1 Cor 15:35. But some man will say: How do the dead rise again? or with what manner of body shall they come?

The resurrection of the body was a hard doctrine, a stumbling-block to many of the Christians, as it had been before to some among the Jews (cf. Matt 22:23-33). It was difficult to see how it could come to pass. Wherefore St. Paul now begins to explain the nature of the resurrection body and the process whereby the body that is buried is brought back to life.

Again and or are not represented in the Greek, and shall they come (Vulg., venient) should be in the present tense, “are they coming?”

1 Cor 15:36. Senseless man, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die first.

Senseless man. Literally, “O man without understanding.” As in the vegetable world the seed that is planted must die first, i.e., must go into dissolution and lose the form it has before it can burst forth into new life, so in like manner the human body, passing through the process of death, will rise to a new and more beautiful life; as dissolution and corruption do not make a return of life impossible to the seed, so neither do the death and corruption of the body make its resurrection impossible. Our Lord also said: “Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone,” etc. (John 12:24, 25).

 Cor 15:37. And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not the body that shall be; but bare grain, as of wheat, or of some of the rest.

Although the risen body will be essentially the same as the body that was laid in the grave, it shall be endowed with new and more excellent qualities, just as the wheat and the corn are more wonderfully clothed than the bare grain from which they spring. The identity of the body does not depend upon its material particles, which are in continual flux during this life, and are completely renewed every few years; but upon the soul or form which is the principle of physical life and continuity.

“As the body of Jesus after His Resurrection was endowed with many strange and new qualities (John 20:19, 26), so as often to be unrecognized by His disciples (Luke 24:16, 31, 37; John 20:14; 21:4), though yet it was the same body (Luke 24:39, 40; John 20:20, 27); so we learn that the body we sow in the grave is not the body that shall be, but that the resurrection body—the spiritual body, as St. Paul calls it—while it exhibits visible and unequivocal signs of its connection with the body out of which it has arisen, will be possessed of many wondrous faculties which are denied to us here” (Lias).

1 Cor 14:38. But God giveth it a body as he will : and to every seed its proper body.

God giveth … as he will. Better, “God giveth … as he hath willed” ( ηθελησεν = ethelesen) . The use of the aorist points back to the creation when God established the laws of nature, according to which every seed unfolds into a particular determinate body with the qualities which befit its state. Hence the body that is planted in the grave will unfold in the resurrection into a new form, endowed with new qualities according to the will of God and the consequent laws that govern its nature. The body was made to be the instrument and companion of the soul, and therefore it was also designed that the body should ultimately share the eternal destiny of the soul. In this life certain accidents and qualities appear in the body, corresponding to its earthly condition; but in the resurrection, like the seed that has unfolded into its new existence, the body will be clothed with qualities unknown to it now.

The vult of the Vulgate should be voluit.

1 Cor 15:39. All flesh is not the same flesh: but one is the flesh of men, another of beasts, another of birds, another of fishes.

The principle which has just been applied to plant nature is now applied to the animal kingdom. That God should make a resurrection body, differing in qualities from our present bodies, ought not to cause any more surprise or doubt than do the different varieties and forms of bodily life (σαρξ = sarx) which we behold in men, beasts, birds and fish. If God can produce the latter, why can He not make also the former?

Flesh (σαρξ = sarx) before of men is not in any of the best MSS., nor in the Old Latin or Vulgate, but is plainly understood; on the contrary, it is expressed before birds in most of the best MSS., but is omitted there by A. Rec, Vulgate and Peshitto.

1 Cor 15:40. And there are bodies celestial, and bodies terrestrial: but, one is the glory of the celestial, and another of the terrestrial.

The same principle is now extended to the heavenly bodies. Since God can make bodies differing as widely as do the sun, moon and stars, on the one hand, and the animals and plants, on the other, who will say that it is impossible for Him to make still another, namely, a resurrection body?

The ετερα (= hetera), another, of this verse, as distinguished from the αλλη (=alle), another, of the following verse, shows the wide difference there is between the heavenly and the earthly bodies about which the Apostle has been speaking: it is a difference in kind; while the various heavenly bodies of the following verse are the same in kind but different in degree.

1 Cor 15:41. One is the glory of the sun, another the glory of the moon, and another the glory of the stars. For star differeth from star in glory.

Even among the heavenly bodies themselves there is a great variety, one star differing from another in beauty and excellence. It is not strange or impossible, therefore, that there should be a resurrection body different and more excellent than our earthly body. Indirectly also this argument proves that among the risen bodies of the just there will be a vast variety according to their respective merits. There will be hereafter splendordispar; coelum commune (St. Aug.).

1 Cor 15:42. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption.

In this and the two following verses the Apostle digresses somewhat to enumerate certain qualities which shall be common to all glorified bodies, distinguishing them from mortal bodies. Our present body is sown in corruption, etc., i.e., the mortal body that is buried in the earth and given over to corruption, shall rise free from death and from everything that tends to death; it will be impassible.

It shall rise (Vulg., surget) in this and in the two following verses should be in the present tense, according to the Greek.

1 Cor 15:43. It is sown in dishonour, it shall rise in glory. It is sown in weakness, it shall rise in power.

It is sown in dishonour, etc., i.e., the mortal body throughout its life is a prey to innumerable miseries, and especially when planted in the grave it becomes subject to corruption with all the revolting and dishonoring accompaniments of the latter; but it shall rise in glory, shining as the sun in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 13:43).

It is sown in weakness, etc. The mortal body is at all times a weak and imperfect instrument of the soul, slow to act and easily fatigued, constantly requiring food and rest to repair its wasted strength; but in the resurrection it will possess the gift of agility, making it the strong, swift and perfect instrument of the soul.

1 Cor 15:44. It is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body. If there be a natural body, there is also a spiritual body, as it is written:

A natural body. Our present bodies are called “natural,” or “animal,” because they are subject to the laws and conditions of animal life, such as vegetation, generation, nutrition and the like; but after the resurrection they will no longer need these material aids that serve a present and temporary purpose. Then they shall be spiritual, i.e., entirely subject to the needs and wishes of the glorified soul. This does not mean that the risen body ceases to be material, but that it is freed from those conditions and functions which serve only a temporal end and which make it the imperfect instrument of the glorified spirit. The endowment by which the body thus partakes of the nature of the soul, while not losing its material character, is called the gift of subtility.

If there be a natural body, etc. From the existence of a natural body accommodated to the needs of man’s animal life, the Apostle concludes the existence of a spiritual body suited to the conditions and needs of the soul’s glorified life. The body was created to be the instrument of the soul, and therefore the conditions  of its existence should vary according to the different states of the soul.

As it is written. Better, “Even so it is written” (the Vulg. should read: Sic et scriptum est). These words are connected with the following verse in Greek. The Apostle is going to cite a passage of the Old Testament (Gen 2:7), to prove what he has just said about the existence of a natural and of a spiritual body.

1 Cor 15:45. The first man Adam was made into a living soul; the last Adam into a quickening spirit.

The Apostle’s argument here is that there should be two bodies, one natural or animal, and one spiritual, because mankind has two heads, from whom respectively they derive a different life. From the first man Adam, who, in virtue of his origin, abstracting from his elevation to the supernatural order to which he had no claim, had only a natural, or animal body, mankind could derive only natural bodies having the animal qualities mentioned above, in verses 41-43. But from thelast Adam, Jesus Christ, the head and author of regenerated humanity (Rom 5:14), whose soul was at all times essentially spiritual and lifegiving, being filled from the first moment of its existence with the fulness of the graces of the Holy Ghost, and whose body at the Resurrection was allowed to manifest the glorious qualities which always belonged to it by reason of the Hypostatic Union of the divine and human natures,—from such a spiritual head the mystical members can inherit only a supernatural and spiritual body. St. Paul is considering Christ’s spirit as it was at the Resurrection in particular; for it was then that the risen Christ possessed the fulness, not only of grace, but of glory, and that He became in a special manner the communicating principle of grace and glory, for body as well as soul, to the members of His mystical body.

It is true that Adam from the beginning was elevated to the supernatural order, that his soul before the fall was endowed with habitual grace and with many other spiritual gifts, and that, had he not sinned, his natural body would have been transformed into a spiritual and immortal body; but St. Paul is not at present considering any of these endowments. He is confining himself to what was essentially and naturally due to Adam as a creature, and to what consequently could be inherited from him in the natural order by his descendants.

A living soul is a Hebraism signifying a being that has a soul.

A quickening spirit, or “life-giving spirit,” means a being having a spirit that gives life to itself and to others. Therefore, as we inherit our natural body from the first Adam, so we shall inherit our supernatural or spiritual body from Christ, the second Adam.

1 Cor 15:46. Yet that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; afterwards that which is spiritual.

According to the plan of divine Providence the natural or animal body precedes the supernatural or spiritual body. “Even in the order of nature we see that in one and the same being the imperfect precedes the perfect” (St. Thomas).

1 Cor 15:47. The first man was of the earth, earthly : the second man, from heaven, heavenly.

The first man, etc., i.e., Adam, the first head of the human race, had a body that was earthly in its origin, having been made from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7); it was therefore naturally subject to disease, death and corruption. But the second man, i.e., Christ, the second head of the human race, was from heaven because, as a Divine Person, He was the true Son of God, coexisting eternally with the Father; and in time He took a human body, being “made of a woman” (Gal 4:4).

The word heavenly (Vulg., coelestis) is wanting in all MSS. except two of inferior authority (F G). Some authorities (Rec. with A and Peshitto) insert “the Lord” before from heaven.

 Cor 15:48. Such as is the earthly, such also are the earthly: and such as is the heavenly, such also are they that are heavenly.

The first and the second Adam have bequeathed to their descendants bodies like their own respectively. The first had a mortal and earthly body, and so all his children have inherited bodies that are destined to death and corruption. But the heavenly Adam will give to all His spiritual descendants a body like His own, heavenly, immortal, glorious.

1 Cor 15:49. Therefore as we have borne the image of the earthly, let us bear also the image of the heavenly.

As we have borne, etc., i.e., before our Baptism we bore the image of the earthly man, that is, a body subject to corruption and death; but now let us bear, etc., i.e., let us become spiritual and lead a holy life, so that in the resurrection we may deserve to have a heavenly and glorified body conformable to the divine image, the risen body of Christ.

It is disputed whether this verse is hortatory or declarative. The great weight of authority is in favor of the former (φορεσωμεν = phoresomen, let us bear), rather than the latter (φορεσομεν = phoresōmen, we shall bear). Note that the difference is one letter, ω (= o) in the former and ο (= ō) in the latter.

Therefore (Vulg., igitur) at the beginning of the verse should be replaced by “And,” et, in accordance with all the Greek MSS.

1 Cor 15:50. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot possess the kingdom of God: neither shall corruption possess incorruption.
The Apostle now instructs his readers that a real change must take place in our bodies before they can enter heaven. Substantially they shall remain the same, but their qualities must be changed completely.

Flesh and blood cannot possess, etc., i.e., the earthly, natural, corruptible body which we have inherited from the first Adam cannot enter into heaven and eternal beatitude.

Corruption, i.e., a corruptible body, destined for corruption and dissolution.

Possess incorruption, i.e., inherit incorruptible life. In the Vulgate possunt (with A C D E F G) should be potest according to the two oldest MSS.

1 Cor 15:51. Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall all indeed rise again: but we shall not all be changed.

Coming now to describe the way the dead shall rise at the end of the world, the Apostle first solves a difficulty that might arise out of the preceding verse, namely, if our corruptible bodies cannot inherit incorruptible life, what about the just who will be living when Christ appears on the last day? In reply the Apostle says: I tell you a mystery, i.e., a truth of revelation, which human means could not discover (1 Thess 4:14). What is this mystery? It is that the just who are living at the Second Coming of Christ shall not die, but shall be suddenly changed from their corruptible to an incorruptible and glorious state.

This interpretation is (a) according to the best reading of the second part of this verse; (b) it is in harmony with the context, verses 50 and 52, and with the whole drift of St. Paul’s argument; (c) it agrees with the explanation of the same doctrine given by St. Paul elsewhere (1 Thess 4:15-17; 2 Cor 5:1-9; 2 Tim 4:1), and with the teaching of St. Peter on the subject (1 Peter 4:5); (d) it alone gives to mystery the proper and obvious meaning of that term; (e) it finds approval in the words of the Creed, “He shall come to judge the living and the dead”; (f) it has the support of practically all the Greek Fathers, and of all modern exegetes.

There is no “mystery” in St. Paul’s mind about the dead, good or bad, rising again. Neither is there any sense in: We shall not all be changed of this verse, and “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” etc., of the following verse. In fact, we shall not be changed here is in direct contradiction with the words, we shall be changed of the next verse.

The reading, therefore, of the second part of this verse, which is found in our version, in the Codex Bezae, and in the Vulgate, and which was commonly accepted by all the Latin Fathers and Latin versions from the time of Tertullian, must be rejected as erroneous for the reasons given above. The Council of Trent, in making the Vulgate the official version of the Church, was well aware that it contained some wrong readings; but when these are of minor importance, or can receive a correct interpretation from other parallel passages of Scripture, as in the present instance, there is no difficulty. Moreover, the Council approved of all the parts of the original Vulgate, “as they were wont to be read in the Catholic Church”; but the East never read this verse as it is in the Vulgate. “If the Vulgate in the present passage were interpreted to mean that all the just without exception are to rise from the dead at the last day, it would not merely contradict the inspired text and the Creeds, but would be hopelessly at variance with itself” (Lattey, in Westm. Ver.).

The reading, therefore, of the second part of this verse which is adopted by all modern scholars, Catholic and non-Catholic, and which has the support of the Greek MSS. B E K L P, of practically all cursives, and of most versions, is: “We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed.” A rival reading of  א C F G and of the cursive no. 17, if read without punctuation, might have the same meaning, thus:  “we shall all sleep (die) not but we shall all be changed.” Generally, however, this reading is understood to agree with that of the Vulgate, and is given as follows: “We shall all sleep (die), but we shall not all be changed.”

While it is practically certain that the reading of this verse which we have adopted is the only correct one, it must be admitted that the Vulgate reading, taken by itself, can receive an orthodox explanation. Thus, we shall all indeed rise again may be taken to refer to mankind as a whole, without including the few that will be alive at the end (cf. Titus 1:12, 13; Heb 9:27). In like manner, the words, we shall not all be changed can mean that all the dead shall not be glorified.

It is objected against the above interpretation (a) that verse 22 of this chapter, Rom 5:12, and Heb 9:27 seem to say that all men must die; (b) that St. Paul seemed to expect to be still alive when Christ would come. Answer: (a) Even though all men do not actually die, still there is in them all the liability to death, but the penalty can be taken away by God (St. Thomas, Summa, 1a 2ae, qu. 81, a. 3, ad 3). (b) St. Paul did not really believe or mean to teach that the end of the world was at hand in his time. Doubtless he had no revelation on this subject. If here he associates himself with those who are to be alive at the last day, he elsewhere (1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14) speaks of being among those who are to be raised up from the dead at that time. Hence he seems to have been uncertain about the time of the Lord’s coming.

1 Cor 15:52. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible: and we shall be changed.

In a moment, etc. These words indicate the swiftness with which the dead shall be called from their graves and the bodies of the living just glorified at the last day.

The last trumpet, i.e., the last sign by which the living and the dead shall be summoned to judgment. Perhaps it will be the voice of Christ (John 5:28), or the voice of an archangel (1 Thess 4:15), or some other signal from on high. The expression, “trumpet,” is metaphorical, being borrowed from the instrument used by the Jews to convoke their religious assemblies (Num 10:2-10).

The dead shall rise again incorruptible, i.e., the just shall rise clothed with glorified bodies.

We shall be changed, i.e., the just who are alive at the last day shall not die as others do, but shall pass in the twinkling of an eye from their mortal to an immortal and glorious state.

1 Cor 15:53. For this corruptible must put on incorruption; and this mortal must put on immortality.

The Apostle again insists upon the necessity of the transformation already spoken of in verse 50. The just who are in their graves must put on incorruptible bodies, and those who are still living must exchange their mortal frames for immortal and glorified bodies.

1 Cor 15:54. And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory.

Most authorities repeat here both clauses of the preceding verse. The Vulgate reading in this place, however, is found in the Sinaitic MS. and in some other versions. When the transformation spoken of in the preceding verse is effected, then shall come the complete triumph of Christ over death.

Death is swallowed up, etc. The Apostle is referring to Isaiah 25:8, where the Hebrew reads: “He (Jehovah) hath swallowed up death forever.” The Prophet is announcing that in the heavenly Jerusalem there shall be no more death, or pain, or the like; and St. Paul, slightly modifying the same words, proclaims the victory of Christ in the Resurrection over death and its consequences (Gen 3:19).

In the LXX this passage of Isaias is very obscure: “Death having prevailed swallowed up” (κατεπιεν ο θανατος ισχυσας). With the resurrection, death, the last enemy of man, shall be defeated and life shall triumph in all its glory.

1 Cor 15:55. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?

At the thought of the final triumph over death the Apostle bursts forth in a hymn of exultation, freely citing the Septuagint of Hosea 13:14. Literally, the Prophet was foretelling the restoration of Israel, which was a figure of the redemption of Christ.

Where is thy victory over the dead who are risen again from their graves? Where now is the sting of thy cruel dominion over them?

1 Cor 15:56. Now the sting of death is sin: and the power of sin is the law.

The sting of death is sin, i.e., death wounds us, like a poisonous serpent, through sin. The reference is to original sin by which death first stung and poisoned our race. And the Mosaic Law which was later given only served, by its numerous regulations and prohibitions, to stir up and strengthen the baneful consequences of original sin (cf. Rom 4:5 ff.; 5:13; 7:7-11).

1 Cor 15:57. But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What the Law could not do, Christ our Lord has done for us. By His death He has conquered both sin and death, satisfying for our transgressions and delivering us from bondage.

Who hath given (Vulg., qui dedit). The Greek has the present tense, which better expresses the victory already begun, although its completion is reserved for the resurrection.

1 Cor 15:58. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and unmoveable; always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

The Apostle concludes with a brief practical exhortation to the faithful to steadfastness and zeal because of their faith in a glorious resurrection.

In the work of the Lord, i.e., in all good works, performed by command and with the aid of our Saviour. Some think the work of the Lord means the propagation of the faith (1 Cor 16:10).

Knowing that, etc. The Christians should always be mindful of the reward that is in store for them, being assured that whatever good they perform in union with Christ shall not have been done in vain.

These closing words of St. Paul show very clearly how lawful and commendable it is for us to seek a reward for the good we do.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians Chapter 14

 Text in red are my additions.
A Summary of 1 Corinthians 14:1-6
By his glorious tribute to charity the Apostle tried indirectly to withdraw the Corinthians from their inordinate desire for charisms. But even in their pursuit of these special gifts they were greatly mistaken in that they considered the ability to speak with tongues more excellent than prophecy, which they regarded as little above ordinary preaching. The aim of the present chapter is to correct this error and to show that prophecy is in every way more useful than speaking with tongues.
After eulogizing charity in the preceding chapter the Apostle now adds a final word, exhorting the faithful to strive for its possession. If they have this most excellent virtue, it is not forbidden them to be zealous also for gifts more unusual, though less perfect. But in seeking these latter, they should desire rather to prophesy than to speak strange tongues, for prophecy is more useful to the faithful.
1 Cor 14:1. Follow after charity, be zealous for spiritual gifts; but rather that you may prophesy.
Spiritual gifts are those mentioned in 1 Cor 12:8-10.
Prophesy. The gift of prophecy in the early Church consisted not only in foretelling the future, but also, and especially in the ability extemporaneously to preach and exhort the faithful under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Although prophecy is here compared only with the gift of tongues, it seems the Apostle rated it above all other charisms.
1 Cor 14:2. For he that speaketh in a tongue, speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man heareth. Yet by the Spirit he speaketh mysteries.
Speaketh in a tongue, i.e., in a strange language unknown to him before, and which neither the speaker, nor the hearer for the most part understood. The gift of tongues is frequently mentioned in the New Testament. In Mark 16:17 there is question of speaking “with new tongues”; and in Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6; and in 1 Cor 12-14 “tongues” are spoken of in different ways. There are various opinions regarding the nature of this gift, (a) Some Rationalists think it consisted in certain inarticulate and unintelligible sounds and cries uttered in a state of enthusiasm. But such an explanation is directly contrary to the obvious meaning of those passages of Scripture in which this gift is mentioned, and also to the manner in which it was regarded by those who heard the strange tongues on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:6 ff.). (b) Bisping and others believe it gave the faculty of speaking in the primitive language of our first parents. But if this were so, we could not explain the clear declarations of Scripture about divers tongues, and new tongues, (c) We hold, therefore, the common view that the gift in question meant the ability to speak in one or more foreign languages unknown to the speaker before, and for the most part unintelligible both to himself and to those who heard him. Thus on the day of Pentecost the languages spoken by the Apostles were not understood by any except those to whom they were native (Acts 2:8, 11). In Corinth it seems the strange tongues were not understood by any who heard them, nor as a rule by those who spoke them. Hence there was always need of an interpreter, or of the gift of interpretation on the part of the speaker.
Speaketh not unto men, etc. This shows that the gift of tongues was not for preaching and teaching, but for praying to God.
No man heareth, i.e., no one understood the strange language.
By the Spirit, i.e., with his soul and heart stimulated to utterance, although he would not understand. Since the article is not used with “spirit” in the Greek, it is better to understand the reference to be to the mind rather than to the Holy Ghost, as some think, and hence the term should not be written with a capital either in Latin or in English.
Mysteries, i.e., truths hidden by reason both of their nature and of the language in which they were expressed.
1 Cor 14:3. But he that prophesieth, speaketh to men unto edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
Very different from the gift of tongues, which was unintelligible, apart from interpretation, both to speaker and hearer, was the gift of prophecy, which was understood by all and useful to all. Through prophecy the speaker edified the faithful by exciting them to good endeavors; he exhorted them to fervor and zeal; he comforted them in their temptations and difficulties in pursuing  virtue.
It is clear that prophecy here does not so much refer to foretelling the future and revealing secrets, as to the special power of instructing, exhorting and comforting the faithful.
1 Cor 14:4. He that speaketh in a tongue, edifieth himself: but he that prophesieth, edifieth the church.
He that speaketh in a strange language, which neither he nor his hearers understand, edifieth himself, not because he necessarily understands what he is saying, but because he knows he is praising God and speaking to God in prayer, and in consequence his faith and love are stimulated and increased; but he does not help others who do not know what he is saying.
He that prophesieth, on the contrary, helps not only himself, but the church, i.e., the assembly of the faithful who hear him. See on 1 Cor 12:10, 28. Prophecy therefore is superior to the gift of tongues.
Dei of the Vulgate is not represented in the best Greek MSS.
1 Cor 14:5. And I would have you all to speak with tongues, but rather to prophesy. For greater is he that prophesieth, than he that speaketh with tongues: unless perhaps he interpret, that the church may receive edification.
The Apostle does not wish to be understood as despising the gift of tongues, which is very good in itself, but he would have the faithful seek rather to prophecy because that is more useful. “That which is useful only to the one who does it, is less than that which is useful also to others” (St. Thomas).
To prophesy. Literally, “That ye should prophesy.”
Interpret. The power of interpreting the gift of tongues was distinct from that gift, although both were sometimes united in the same person.
1 Cor 14:6. But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, unless I speak to you either in revelation, or in knowledge, or in prophecy, or in doctrine.
If I come, etc. To show the inutility of speaking with tongues the Apostle refers to himself as an illustration. He asks the faithful of Corinth what profit he could be to them on his forthcoming visit, if he should speak to them only in a strange language which they could not understand. It is evident that, if he is going to be useful to them when he comes, he must speak either in revelation, i.e., as a prophet, communicating to them what he has received through revelation; or in knowledge, i.e., as a doctor explaining doctrine.
Modern authorities are agreed that there is question here of only two charisms, prophecy and doctrine, being regarded only as external manifestations of what is possessed internally through revelation and knowledge. 
By examples drawn from two musical instruments and from the daily use of language St. Paul now shows the uselessness of the gift of tongues, so far as the faithful in general are concerned. If, therefore, one has this gift, he should pray that he may also receive the power of interpreting what he says to others.
1 Cor 14:7. Even things without life that give sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction of sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?

1 Cor 14:8. For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
1 Cor 14:9. So likewise you, except you utter by the tongue plain speech, how shall it be known what is said? For you shall be speaking into the air.

The necessity of intelligible language for purposes of utility is illustrated even by inanimate things. If a musical instrument, like the pipe or harp, gives only a confusion of sounds, makes only noise, who can perceive any melody or meaning in its music? It would not, in fact, be music at all. Likewise if the trumpet gives not a distinct and intelligible sound, how shall the soldier, who waits upon its signal, know whether to prepare for battle or not? The same rule holds with regard to the gift of tongues. Unless one speaks in such a way as to be understood by others, he can be of no verbal profit to them, he may as well speak to the winds.

To the battle (verse 8) should be “for battle,” as in the Greek.

1 Cor 14:10. There are, for example, so many kinds of tongues in this world; and none is without voice.
1 Cor 14:11. If then I know not the power of the voice, I shall be to him to whom I speak a barbarian; and he that speaketh, a barbarian to me.

Another example is drawn from the use of foreign languages. The Apostle says there is a certain number of different languages in the world, none of which is without its own determined signification. But if one knows not the power of the voice, i.e., the meaning of the language, he will be a barbarian, etc., i.e., he will be making only unintelligible sounds. The ancients called everyone who did not understand their own language, or who spoke a language they did not understand, a barbarian.

1 Cor 14:12. So you also, forasmuch as you are zealous of spirits, seek to abound unto the edifying of the church.

The practical conclusion for the Corinthians then, is that since they are anxious to possess spiritual gifts, they should try to abound in those which especially contribute to the edification of the Church, such as prophecy.

Spirits means the gifts of the Spirit.

1 Cor 14:13. And therefore he that speaketh by a tongue, let him pray that he may interpret.

Since, therefore, the gift of tongues by itself does not edify or help the Church, he who has it ought to pray that he may also obtain the gift of interpreting his language. A less probable meaning of let him  pray, etc., is that he should pray in a language which he already understands and can thus interpret to others.

1 Cor 14:14. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is without fruit.

If the gift of interpretation were joined to that of tongues, the latter would be more useful not only to others, but also to its possessor. For if one prays in a strange language which he does not understand, his spirit, i.e., his soul with its affections, indeed, prays under the impulse of the Holy Ghost; but his understanding, i.e., his mind and human faculties, do not grasp the meaning of his prayer and of the words he is using.

1 Cor 14:15. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, I will pray also with the understanding; I will sing with the spirit, I will sing also with the understanding.

What is it then? i.e., what are we to conclude from the foregoing? This, that we should try to have not only the gift of speaking strange languages, but also the further gift of interpreting them. Thus we shall be able to pray both affectively and understandingly.

There is no argument here against the use of Latin by the Church in her liturgy, or by nuns in the recitation of their office. For very wise reasons the Church has adopted a uniform and unchangeable language for her liturgy, and the faithful through their prayer books, as also the nuns in their office books, are supplied with vernacular translations of everything that is said in Latin.

1 Cor 14:16. Else if thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that holdeth the place of the unlearned say, Amen, to thy blessing? because he knoweth not what thou sayest.

A further argument is now given against the gift of tongues taken alone. If in the public religious assemblies of the faithful anyone, under the impulse of the Holy Ghost, shall bless with the spirit, i.e., shall praise God in an unintelligible language, how shall the unofficial person who is assisting the speaker be able to give the proper response to what he does not understand?

If thou shalt bless (ευλογησης = eulogses, with Rec, F G, Vulg., and most copies of Old Latin). Better, “If thou bless” (ευλογñς = euloges, with B, A, D, E).

Unlearned (ιδιωτου = idiotou) means ordinarily a private person as opposed to one holding a public office, or an unskilled person as opposed to one having technical knowledge (Acts 4:13; 2 Cor 11:6). The meaning here is one who unofficially represented the listeners in responding to the prayers of the person speaking in a tongue (Estius).

Amen. Literally, “The Amen,” i.e., the response to prayers, meaning: So be it, or So it is. Justin Martyr (c. 150 a.d) says this response was used in answer to the Eucharistic prayer in his day.

Thy blessing. Literally, “Thy thanksgiving,” i.e., your prayer.

1 Cor 14:17. For thou indeed givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

Thou indeed givest thanks well, etc., i.e., he who speaks with the strange language prays worthily to God, but the other, i.e., his neighbor, is not helped because he does not understand.

1 Cor 14:18. I thank my God I speak with all your tongues.
1 Cor 14:19. But in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may instruct others also; than ten thousand words in a tongue.

To show his readers that he does not despise the gift of tongues, St. Paul now says he thanks God that he speaks in a tongue more than all of them. Literally, the best Greek is : “I thank God, I speak in a tongue more than you all” (γλωσσαις λαλω = glossais mallon, with N D E F G, Old Latin, and Vulg. against the rendering of B and Peshitto). Nevertheless, he adds that in the church, i.e., in the religious assemblies of the faithful, he prefers to speak five words which he and his hearers understand than ten thousand words which, while they would edify himself, would not be

1 Cor 14:20. Brethren, do not become children in sense : but in malice be children, and in sense be perfect.

Closing now what he has said about the in-utility of tongues for the faithful, the Apostle exhorts the Corinthians not to be children in sense (ταις φρεσιν), i.e., in mind and intelligence, but to become perfect (τελειοι), i.e., full grown men and women, who are not carried away by showy things like the gift of tongues, but prize rather things of greater usefulness like the gift of prophecy. If they wish to be children in any respect, he tells them, let it be in regard to malice and sin, as our Lord Himself commanded (Matt 18:3).

A Summary of 1 Cor 14:21-25

While it is true that tongues are a sign for unbelievers, yet even for them prophecy is more excellent.

1 Cor 14:21. In the law it is written: In other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; and neither so will they hear me, saith the Lord.

The law here means the entire Old Testament, as in Rom 3:19; Gal 3:23, 24; 4:5; John 10:34; 12:34, etc. The particular reference is to Isa 28:11-12, cited freely, but more according to the Hebrew than the LXX.

In other tongues, etc. Literally and directly the Prophet is foretelling the coming of the Assyrian conquerors whose barbarous and unknown language the Jews should be constrained to listen to in punishment for having mocked at the utterances of the Prophets and complained of their obscurity (Rickaby).

And neither so will they hear. Better, “And even so they shall not,” etc. The Prophet also foretells that the Jews will not be moved to repentance by this punishment, but will persevere in their incredulity.

Now these incredulous Israelites were a type of the unbelievers of the Christian era who would not be converted in spite of God’s efforts, through the gift of tongues, to lead them to the faith; and the Assyrians were a type of those who in Corinth had the gift of tongues for the purpose of converting the unbelievers. Therefore, concludes the Apostle, just as the unbelieving Jews were not converted to repentance for their sins by the strange language of the Assyrians, so neither will the unbelieving pagans be converted to Christianity by listening to those who speak with strange tongues.

St. Paul deviates considerably from the text of Isaias, as we have it both in the Hebrew and in the LXX, but he is summing up, under divine inspiration, what the Prophet means, and applying it to the question in hand.

1 Cor 14:22. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to believers, but to unbelievers; but prophecies, not to unbelievers, but to believers.

There are two explanations of this verse: (a) The gift of tongues is bestowed principally to excite the attention and curiosity of unbelievers, and thus lead them to embrace the faith; prophecy, on the contrary, is primarily for the purpose of instructing, exhorting and comforting the faithful (Le Camus, Van Steenkiste, etc.). (b) The gift of tongues is a sign, i.e., an extraordinary and miraculous phenomenon to unbelievers, inasmuch as it makes manifest their infidelity, without, however, effecting their conversion. As the faithless Hebrews of the time of Isaias were unmoved by the strange tongues of the Assyrians whom God sent to them, so in the time of our Lord the incredulous Jews who heard the strange tongues of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, instead of being thereby drawn to the faith, rather calumniated the Apostles, saying they were full of wine (Acts 2:13, 14). The Apostle is not saying that the gift of tongues was not at times useful to the faithful (verse 4), but only that it was not primarily intended for the conversion of unbelievers. Prophecy, however, is a sign by which God approves, confirms and manifests the faith of believers, and which, when directed to unbelievers, leads them to conversion (Cornely, Brassac, etc.). This latter explanation is more in agreement with the following verse, which says that the gift of tongues rather caused unbelievers to deride and despise the faithful.

1 Cor 14:23. If therefore the whole church come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in unlearned persons or infidels, will they not say that you are mad?

In this and the two following verses it is shown that prophecy is more useful than tongues even for unbelievers. The Apostle says here that if the whole local assembly of the faithful be gathered together, all speaking to God in tongues at the same time, and unlearned persons (ιδιωται = idiotai), i.e., catechumens, persons not yet well instructed in the faith, or strangers, who had not before witnessed such an extraordinary phenomenon, or unbelievers were to come in, they would think the faithful beside themselves. The context shows that ιδιωται has not the same meaning here as in verse 16.

1 Cor 14:24. But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or an unlearned person, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all.
1 Cor 14:25. The secrets of his heart are made manifest; and so, falling down on his face, he will adore God, affirming that God is among you indeed.

If all prophesy, i.e., if all exhort and instruct together.  Probably this was done in different sections of the assembly so that there was no confusion.

Unlearned person, i.e., one not yet well instructed in the faith, or a strange Christian who had never before heard speaking with tongues (verse 23).

He is convinced, i.e., he is constrained to admit his sinfulness by force of the preaching of all; he is 

judged, i.e., he is induced to recognize the vanity of the excuses by which he formerly tried to justify himself. Thus the secrets of his heart, i.e., his half-hidden, half-forgotten sins, are brought vividly before his mind, so that, moved by sorrow and sentiments of repentance, he falls on his face, adoring God and proclaiming that God is really in the preachers (εν υμιν = en hymin) and speaking through them.

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 14:26-40

As the Apostle terminated his discussions on idol-worship and the love-feasts with certain practical rules which he wished to be observed (1 Cor 10:14-11:1; 11:33 ff.) , so now, passing from the theoretical doctrine of charisms to practice, he instructs the Corinthians how they should make use of their gifts of tongues and of prophecy in the public assemblies of the faithful for the good of the Church.

1 Cor 14:26. How is it then, brethren? When you come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation: let all things be done to edification.
1 Cor 14:27. If any speak with a tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and in course, and let one interpret.
1 Cor 14:28. But if there be no interpreter, let him hold his peace in the church,
 and speak to himself and to God.

How is it then, etc. Better, “What is it then,” i.e., what are we to conclude from what has been said about tongues and prophecy? How are you to exercise these gifts in public?

Every one of you, i.e., all of you who have some special gift. Different ones had different gifts, as we see here. Some had a psalm, i.e., an original spiritual canticle with which to praise God, as the Blessed Virgin uttered the Magnificat, and Zachary, the Benedictus. St. Paul has not mentioned this gift before. Others had doctrine, i.e., “the word of knowledge” (1 Cor 12:8), which was proper to Doctors; others again had a revelation, i.e., prophecy; still others had tongues and interpretation. All of these, the Apostle says, should be used for the purpose of edifying, 27, 28. After the general rule just given touching all charisms the Apostle now speaks in particular about tongues. If, in the public assemblies of the faithful there are present some who can speak with tongues, two or three of them may make public use of their gift, not together but in turn, provided there be present also an interpreter. If they have no interpreter, the gift of tongues must not be used except in private, for personal edification and communion with God (verse 4).

The church refers to the public assembly of the faithful, not to a building.

1 Cor 14:29. And let the prophets speak, two or three; and let the rest judge.

The prophets, etc., i.e., two or three of those who pretend to have the gift of prophecy, may also speak in the public assemblies; while the rest, i.e., they who have the gift of discerning spirits (12:10), should judge whether those who prophesy are real or false prophets.

1 Cor 14:30. But if anything be revealed to another sitting, let the first hold his peace.

From this verse it is clear that the prophets spoke one at a time, and that standing. If, while one was speaking, something were revealed by the Holy Ghost to another nearby, the first should draw his discourse to a close in favor of the other who wanted to speak.

1 Cor 14:31. For you may all prophesy one by one; that all may learn, and all may be exhorted:

You may all prophesy, i.e., all who have the gift of prophecy may exercise it, one after another, two or three at each assembly (verse 29), so that all may learn, i.e., so that all the faithful may have a chance to be instructed and consoled by those whose speaking is most useful to them individually. The prophets, like ordinary preachers, appealed differently to different individuals; and St. Paul is anxious that all the faithful may derive the utmost personal profit from the prophecies delivered to them.

Exhortentur of the Vulgate is to be understood in a passive sense.

1 Cor 14:32. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

The Apostle forestalls a difficulty against what he said in verse 30. Because the prophets spoke under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they might say that they should not be interrupted in their discourses. In reply to this St. Paul says the spirits of the prophets, i.e., the gift of prophecy with which the prophets were endowed, was subject to them; they could exercise it or not at will. Hence there was no reason why they should not stop talking when requested.

1 Cor 14:33. For God is not the God of dissension, but of peace; as also I teach in all the churches of the saints.

Another reason why a prophet should desist from discoursing when another wished to speak was that discord and dissension might be avoided. God is the author and lover of peace and harmony (Rom 15:33), and in bestowing His various gifts He desires not to frustrate, but to promote these blessings.

As also, etc. Most editions and versions of the Bible join this final clause to the preceding words, and so the older interpreters understood the meaning to be: “I teach in all the churches that God is the God of peace” (Rom 15:33; Philip 4:9). But this opinion seems unlikely. In the first place, there appears to be little reason for telling the Corinthians that he taught everywhere such an obvious truth as this; and secondly, the phrase I teach is not in the best MSS. Hence nearly all modern commentators join the above clause to the following verse, and make it read: “As in all the churches of the saints, let women keep silent,” etc. (Cornely, Bisping, Beelen, Van Steenkiste, etc.). The  Vulgate follows the first opinion.

1 Cor 14:34. Let women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted them to speak, but to be subject, as also the law saith.

St. Paul here forbids women to speak publicly in the church, that is, to take public part in the solemn functions of the Church. A discharge of such offices implies a certain preeminence and superiority which does not belong to women, since by nature they ought to be subject to man, as the Law (Gen 3:16) requires. I do not here wish to enter into the fray surrounding this particular passage of Scripture. The explanations, interpretations, suggestions, denials, caveats, etc., advanced by modern scholars regarding this subject are legion, not something that can be dealt with in a brief notation in a blog post. I’ll merely note that the claim-extremely popular today-that the teaching (however it is to be interpreted) does not come from St Paul but, rather, is an early interpolation is to be rejected. See WOMEN IN THE PRIESTHOOD, by Manfred Hauke, pages 340-403 for a good treatment of the interpolation hypothesis and other issues related to the subject in St Paul’s writings.

It would seem from 1 Cor 11:4-5 that the Apostle implied that women might sometimes prophesy in the public religious assemblies, provided they were veiled; but from the present passage, as well as 1 Tim 2:12, where he forbids women “to teach” in church, it must be concluded that in chapter 11 he was speaking about all the women who attended the public church services and joined in the prayers and prophecies by a union of spirit, and by answering Amen (MacR.).  St Paul does appear to be talking about two different things in 1 Cor 11 and in the current passage (see Hauke, WOMEN IN THE PRIESTHOOD, pages 372 ff for this verse and what follows).

To be subject, is according to the infinitive reading υποτασσεσθαι  (D F G, Old Latin and Vulg.); but the imperative, “Let them be subject” (υποτασσεσθωσαν) , is read in the three oldest MSS.

1 Cor 14:35. But if they would learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church.

If women do not understand something that is said in church, they must not publicly seek an explanation there, but wait until they return home, and there interrogate their husbands. If unmarried women desire enlightenment and instruction, let them ask their fathers or brothers at home. The same reason holds for all, which is that it is unbecoming a woman’s modesty to speak publicly in the church.

1 Cor 14:36. Or did the word of God come out from you? or came it only unto you?

Perhaps the Corinthians would attempt to justify their abuses by saying they were following the practice of their Church; but St. Paul reminds them that they are not the mother, or the only Church in Christendom, and that, therefore, they must conform to the discipline and practice of the more ancient Church of the Apostles and first Christians.

1 Cor 14:37. If any seem to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him know the things that I write to you, that they are the commandments of the Lord.

The Apostle now tells the Corinthians that there is divine authority behind the precepts and rules he has been giving them. If any one seem to be, etc., i.e., thinks he has the gift of prophecy, or any other spiritual gift, he ought to know that what I write to you is according to the will of God. From this it is clear that St. Paul was conscious of the fact that he was speaking in the name of God and with the authority of Christ Himself (Rom 12:3; 1 Cor 2:10-16; 7:40; 2 Cor 13:3; 1 John 4:6).

Commandments. The best authorities  read the singular “commandment”; others of less weight omit the term altogether; the Rec, Vulg., and Peshitto have the plural, as here.

1 Cor 14:38. But if any man know not, he shall not be known.

Know not, i.e., will not recognize that what I have said comes from God, he shall not be known (αγνοειται, with N D F G and Vulg.), i.e., he shall not be recognized by God as a prophet or as having any supernatural gift; or, “let him remain not knowing” (αγνοειτω, with B E and Peshitto), i.e., let him continue in his wilful ignorance.

1 Cor 14:39. Wherefore, brethren, be zealous to prophesy: and forbid not to speak with tongues.
1 Cor 14:40. But let all things be done decently, and according to order.

Summing up what he has said about prophecy and the gift of tongues the Apostle encourages the brethren at Corinth to be zealous for the former, which especially edifies the Church, and not to forbid the latter, which also, in its degree, contributes to edification, in particular when united with the gift of interpretation. In general he desires all things to be done in a becoming manner (alluding to what he said about women not speaking in church) and in proper order (alluding to what he said in regard to speaking with tongues and prophesying one after another).

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians Chapter 13

Text in red are my additions

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

In these verses St. Paul treats of the necessity of charity; in verses 4-7 he portrays its exalted qualities; and finally, in the last section, verses 8-13, he shows that charity outlasts all other virtues. It was very shortsighted and foolish in the Corinthians to be seeking so ardently the extraordinary gifts of tongues, of prophecy, and of faith, while neglecting, in their hot pursuit of them, the very foundation of them all, that without which they all were as nothing, namely, charity.

1 Cor 13:1. If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

If I speak. Literally, “Even if I were to speak.”

The charity of this chapter is that supernatural virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for God’s sake. It is either identical with sanctifying grace, or inseparable from it. The Apostle begins by comparing it with the gift of tongues, because the Corinthians esteemed the latter so highly. He tells them that if they could speak the languages of all men, and knew the mysterious modes of intercommunication which the angels have, it would be of no use to them without charity: they would be like sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal, i.e., of some little use perhaps to others, but of no real profit to themselves, so far as eternal life is concerned.

As (Vulg., velut) is not in the Greek.

1 Cor 13:2. And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

Charity is now compared with four other gifts,—prophecy, wisdom, knowledge and faith. See notes on 1 Cor 12:8-10. If one should possess all these extraordinary gifts and powers, and still be without the love and grace of God, he is nothing in the sight of heaven.

1 Cor 13:3. And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Here the Apostle compares charity with those gifts, such as “healings,” “helps,” and the like (1 Cor 12:28), which have mercy towards others for their object. Endowed with these extraordinary graces one might be willing to give all he possessed to relieve the distresses of others, he might be ready to cast himself into flames to save his neighbor; but all such heroic acts would profit their doer nothing toward life eternal without the supernatural virtue of charity.

The reading “that I may be burned,” has the majority of MSS. and the versions in its favor. But the three oldest MSS. give “that I may glory.” The latter reading, however, is out of harmony with the context and with the argument of St. Paul, because it introduces a bad motive for the heroic actions performed, and this alone would vitiate them, independently of the absence of charity. But St. Paul is supposing the actions to be good, to be extraordinary, yet of no worth in the supernatural order, simply on account of a want of charity in their author.

There is more probably no question in this verse, of one’s suffering martyrdom (against Estius), because martyrdom always confers sanctifying grace, and therefore charity; whereas St. Paul is here supposing the absence of charity. It is better, then, to hold with Comely that there is here question of death endured for some natural motive.

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

A striking difference between charity and the extraordinary gifts which the Corinthians prized is this, that it alone suffices for eternal life, while they are supernaturally of no avail without charity. The reason is that charity is the root and life giving principle of all the other virtues. In order that we may better understand the nature of this exalted gift, St. Paul now describes its characteristics and actual fruits,—both negative and positive. If the qualities enumerated seem to pertain directly only to the neighbor, it is (a) because the love of God is presupposed, as included in charity towards the neighbor; and (b) because there was more need of insisting on the love of one’s neighbor.

1 Cor 13:4. Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up;

Charity is patient, i.e., it endures evils without complaint or anger.

Is kind, i.e., is useful in helping others.

Charity envieth not, i.e., is not offended or saddened at the good or success of others.

Charity dealeth not perversely, better, “is not boastful,” “is not pretentious” (περπερεύομαι = perpereuomai) in words and actions.

Is not puffed up, i.e., is not proud or boastful in thought.

1 Cor 13:5. Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own ; is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil;

Is not ambitious. Better, “Behaveth not amiss” (ουκ ασχημονει = ok aschemonei).

Seeketh not her own, to the detriment and disregard of others.

Is not provoked to anger for injuries received.

Thinketh no evil, i.e., does not take account of the evils she suffers and put them down against the evil-doer; she bears no malice.

1 Cor 13:6. Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, i.e., is not pleased with the evil others do.

With the truth, i.e., with the virtue and goodness that appear in others.

1 Cor 13:7. Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Beareth, etc. (στεγει = stegei,) i.e., tolerates and excuses all the defects and faults of one’s neighbor.

Believeth . . . hopeth . . . endureth, i.e., according to the Greek Fathers, charity believes only good things about one’s neighbor, so far as possible, hopes for the best concerning him, and bears patiently all the evils that come from men. St. Aug. and St. Thomas, however, think the meaning is that charity believes all that God has revealed, hopes for all that He has promised, and endures with patience the fulfillment of His promises.

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 13:8-13

Not only is charity the root and soul of all other virtues, but it endures forever. From their very imperfection charismata must cease, while charity abides even after hope has vanished and faith has given way to vision.

1 Cor 13:8. Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed.

The Apostle now contrasts the durability of prophecies, of tongues, and of knowledge with that of charity. The former, he says, must cease either during this life, or at its close; whereas the latter will last throughout eternity.

here is no question in this verse of charity or grace being inadmissible in this life. Such a stupid heresy of the Reformers is clearly refuted by the Apostle in 1 Cor 9:27. Cf. Cone. Trid., Sess. VI., cap. XV. can. 27  CANON XXVII.-If any one saith, that there is no mortal sin but that of infidelity; or, that grace once received is not lost by any other sin, however grievous and enormous, save by that of infidelity ; let him be anathema. (source).

1 Cor 13:9. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
 1 Cor 13:10. But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.

The reason is now given why charismatic gifts will cease hereafter, but charity will remain; namely, charisms, such as wisdom, knowledge and prophecy, like earthly knowledge also, are possessed only in part, i.e., they are imperfect, incomplete, because they suppose and depend on faith; but faith by its very nature is obscure. But when faith yields to vision in the life to come, then those gifts which have depended on it will also pass away. Charity, it is true, will be more perfect in heaven, but it will remain specifically the same.

Perfect (vs 10) refers to the vision of God hereafter in which we shall see and know all things.

1 Cor 13:11. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child.

The imperfection of faith and of present knowledge, as compared with charity and the vision of God, is here beautifully illustrated by the difference between childhood and perfect maturity.

1 Cor 13:12. We see now througn a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known.

By another striking illustration the same truth is enforced; and while the Apostle has been speaking of charismatic knowledge, commentators are generally agreed that he now includes all our present knowledge of divine things.

We see now, etc. Better, “For now we see,” etc. (βλεπομεν γαρ = blepomen gar), i.e., in the present life we do not know God directly, as He is in Himself, but only through the medium of creatures or of revelation, which, like a dim mirror, reflect the divine perfections only incompletely.

A glass, etc., means a mirror, which in ancient times was made of brass or polished steel, and, unlike our modern looking-glasses, reflected the object only dimly and imperfectly.

In a dark manner, i.e., obscurely, both because our knowledge of God is not immediate, and because our minds cannot now penetrate and understand with perfection the great mysteries which God has revealed to us (cf. Num 12:6-8).

But then, i.e., in the blessedness of heaven, we shall see God face to face, i.e., clearly and distinctly as He is in Himself.

Now I know in part, etc., i.e., in this present life I know only imperfectly, in an indirect and obscure manner; but then, i.e., in heaven, I shall know God and divine things immediately and perfectly, as God will know me. St. Paul does not mean that our knowledge of God will be equal to His understanding of us, but only that it will be similar; it will be direct and perfect in its kind.

1 Cor 13:13. And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.

But this happy state is reserved for the life to come.

Now, i.e., in the present life, there remain, etc. The Apostle insists on the permanent necessity in this life of the theological virtues, as contrasted with the transient character and utility of the charisms.  

Faith, hope, and charity are the very foundation of the Christian life; and hence they are far superior to those extraordinary gifts, such as, tongues and prophecy, which serve only a passing need in the Church. But of these three theological virtues charity is the most excellent, because, while faith gives place to vision (2 Cor 5:7) and hope to possession (Rom 8:24), charity remains throughout eternity.
Protestant commentators hold generally that faith and hope, as well as charity, remain in the future life; but this is opposed to St. Paul’s plain teaching in 2 Cor 5:7 and in Rom 8:24, just cited.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians Chapter 12

Text in red represent my additions.

A Summary of1 Cor 12:1-11

Before their conversion the faithful were blind, without understanding; and they were led away to dumb idols who could give them no instruction in religious matters. But now they have criterions by which to test these things, and they can tell whether those appearing to be endowed with extraordinary gifts have received real powers from God or not. And if one really possesses any of these freely given graces, St. Paul would have the faithful understand that such gifts are to be used for the spiritual benefit of those in the Church who have not been favored with them.

1 Cor 12:1. Now concerning spiritual things, my brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

Now (δε = de). This adversative connective shows, in opposition to the last clause of the preceding chapter, that St. Paul considered the necessity of instruction on spiritual gifts too imperative to be left until he would visit the Corinthians and impart to them oral directions and enlightenment.

The Corinthians had written to St Paul in regard to several matters which he begins to deal with in 1 Cor 7:1. His final words in chapter 11 were: And the rest I will set in order, when I come. “The rest” apparently referring to certain things the Corinthians had written to him for advice about.  Father Callan assumes that the issue Paul is now taking up was also one of the items mentioned in the letter, however, this need not necessarily be the case. St Paul had been informed of certain problems at Corinth by word of mouth (1 Cor 1:11; also, probably 1 Cor 11:18).

Spiritual things (πνευματικων = pneumatikon) , i.e., spiritual gifts, which are called by theologians, gratiae gratis datae (graces gratuitously given), as opposed to gratia sanctificans (sanctifying grace) or gratum faciens (grace that makes one pleasing, i.e., to God. These last two terms designate the same thing). The latter, like the gifts of the Holy Ghost, is for the spiritual benefit of those who possess it; while the former are bestowed on certain individuals, not for their own sanctification, but for the spiritual advantage of others in the Church (Rom 12:6). These transient spiritual gifts are bestowed quite independently of the merit or personal sanctity of those who receive them. This the Corinthians did not understand.

The Catholic Encyclopedia: The gift of miracles is one of those mentioned by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:910, among the extraordinary graces of the Holy Ghost. These have to be distinguished from the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost enumerated by the Prophet Isaiah 11:2 ff. and from the fruits of the Spirit given by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians 5:22. The seven gifts and the twelve fruits of the Holy Ghost are always infused with sanctifying grace into the souls of the just. They belong to ordinary sanctity and are within the reach of every Christian. The gifts mentioned in the Epistle to the Corinthians are not necessarily connected with sanctity of life. They are special and extraordinary powers vouchsafed by God only to a few, and primarily for the spiritual good of others rather than of the recipient. In Greek they are called charismata, which name has been adopted by Latin authors- they are also designated in theological technical language as gratiae gratis datae (graces gratuitously given) to distinguish them from gratiae gratum facientes, which means sanctifying grace or any actual grace granted for the salvation of the recipient.

1 Cor 12:2. You know that when you were heathens, you went to dumb idols, according as you were led.

You know, etc. The majority of the faithful of Corinth were of Gentile origin, as this verse proves, and St. Paul reminds them of their ignorant condition as pagans. They went to dumb idols, who were unable to instruct them in spiritual matters, as they were led by the devil (1 Cor 10:19 ff.; Eph 2:2), or by evil custom. See also 1 Thess 1:9Acts 14:14-18.

1 Cor 12:3. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man, speaking by the Spirit of God, saith Anathema to Jesus. And no man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost.

Wherefore. This most probably goes back to the ignorance mentioned in verse 1. Verse 2, then, is parenthetical.

I give you to understand, i.e., he lays down a general rule by which the Corinthians may judge whether a fact which seems extraordinary really comes from God. No one who curses Jesus is speaking under the influence of the Holy Ghost, while he who confesses that Christ is God does so, as a rule, because he is moved by God’s Holy Spirit.

That no man, speaking, etc., i.e., no one speaking with tongues, by the Spirit of God, i.e., under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, saith Anathema, etc., i.e., curses Jesus, or declares that Jesus is accursed of God. Anyone who denies or doubts the Divinity, humanity, mission, doctrine or the like, of Christ, cannot be moved by God’s Spirit; and consequently all extraordinary phenomena that may proceed from such a one must be ascribed to diabolical influences.

On the other hand, no one can say the Lord Jesus, i.e., can confess that Christ is the Lord of all things, and therefore God, but by the Holy Ghost, i.e., except he be influenced by divine inspiration (Matt 16:17). The faithful, then, are to be guided in their interpretation of extraordinary phenomena on the part of individuals by this general rule: If any extraordinary effect is directed against the faith of Christ, and tries to do away with Christ’s doctrine, it is to be considered as coming from diabolical sources; but if, on the contrary, it promotes the faith and love of Christ, it is to he judged as proceeding from the Holy Ghost.

1 Cor 12:4. Now there are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit;
1 Cor 12:5. And there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord;
1 Cor 12:6. And there are diversities of operations, but the same God, who worketh all in all.

4-6. The pagans believed that various gifts were to be attributed to different gods; for example, wisdom to one, power to another, and so on. Lest the faithful should be guilty of a similar absurdity regarding the gifts bestowed on them St. Paul tells them, (a) that while there are diversities of graces, i.e., different gifts bestowed on different persons, they all proceed from the same Holy Spirit; (b) that while there are diversities of ministries, i.e., different ministers, such as Apostles, bishops, priests and the like, in the Church, they all depend on the same divine Lord and Mediator, Jesus Christ, who is head of the whole Church; (c) that while there are diversities of operations, i.e., various marvelous effects, such as cures, conversions and the like, produced by the different ecclesiastical ministers according to their varied gifts, all are due to the one God, the Father, who, as the first cause of all things, worketh all in all, i.e., moves all creatures to their actions, and cooperates with the operations of all (cf. St. Thomas, h. 1.).

In these three verses we have an explicit mention of the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. They are introduced to emphasize the argument, beginning with the Holy Ghost, and leading us step by step to the one source of all (Estius).

The interpretation just given of these verses, which, in the main, is that of St. Thomas and Fr. Cornely, seems to us most correct; but there are other authorities who explain them somewhat differently. The graces, they say, mean the gifts possessed by different individuals ; the ministries, or ministrations (διακονιων = diakonion) are the services rendered by those who possessed those gifts; and the  

operations refer to the effects, or results of the services of those who possessed the gifts. Cf. MacR., h. 1.

1 Cor 12:7. And the manifestation of the spirit is given to every man unto profit.

And the manifestation, etc., i.e., the manifestation which the Spirit produces, the spiritual gifts just spoken of. These gifts not only proceed from the same Spirit, but are ordained to the same end, namely, to the advantage and utility of the Church.

Concerning verses 8-10 in general: The enumeration of the gifts of the Spirit in these verses was not intended to be complete, since in verse 28, Rom 12:6-8, and Eph 4:11 different accounts occur. There is much disagreement among interpreters as to the nature and classification of these various gifts of the Spirit. There then follows references to the writings of Cornely, Le Camus, Prat and Fouard.

1 Cor 12:8. To one indeed, by the Spirit, is given the word of wisdom: and to another, the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit;

The word of wisdom means an understanding of the deeper mysteries and truths of faith, such as was possessed especially by the Apostles, together with the faculty of explaining them in a clear and convincing manner to others.

The word of knowledge is an understanding of the ordinary truths of religion, coupled with the ability to explain them by the use of rational arguments, illustrations and the like. Knowledge is the gift possessed in particular by Doctors of Theology. With the Corinthians these gifts were not the result of study, but of the extraordinary “manifestation of the spirit” (verse 7).

1 Cor 12:9. To another, faith in the same Spirit; to another, the grace of healing in one Spirit;

Faith does not mean the theological virtue which all must possess to be saved, but that special faith which can move mountains (Matt 21:21) and work other miracles. It was this faith that the Apostles asked for, saying: “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5).

The grace of healing, such as was possessed by St. Peter, whose shadow delivered the sick from their infirmities (Acts 5:15), and by St. Paul, whose handkerchiefs and aprons dispelled diseases and evil spirits from the bodies of the infirm (Acts 19:12).

1 Cor 12:10. To another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the discerning of spirits: to another, diverse kinds of tongues; to another, interpretation of speeches.

The working of miracles (ενεργηματα δυναμεων = energemata dynameon) , i.e., the power of producing more extraordinary effects, such as raising the dead cf. Matt 7:22; 11:20 where δύναμις (= dunamis, force, power, whence our word dynamite) is also used in the sense of miracle.

Prophecy, i.e., the gift, not only of foretelling the future, but of so speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost as to instruct, edify and move the faithful by exhortation (1 Cor 14:3).

The discerning of spirits, i.e., the faculty of distinguishing the works of the Holy Ghost from those that come from Satan or from mere human agencies (1 Cor 14:29).

Diverse kinds of tongues, i.e., the gift not only to preach, but especially to pray and speak in strange languages.

Interpretation of speeches, i.e., the power of interpreting those who praised God in strange tongues. The Apostle speaks at length in 1 Cor 14 about these last gifts.

1 Cor 12:11. But all these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he wilt.

All these gifts that have just been mentioned, so different from one another, are due, not to the merits or sanctity of those who possess them, but to the one Holy Spirit who freely distributes them to whom He wishes, according to the needs of the Church.

A Summary of1 Corinthians 12:12-30.

St. Paul now illustrates how the different members of the Church, with their various gifts are all one, as parts of the one mystical body of which Christ is the head. As the human body is one, in spite of its various members, and as its vital spirit is one, although manifesting itself differently through different members, so it is with the mystical body of Christ, of which He is the Head and His Holy Spirit the soul. If, therefore, all the spiritual gifts possessed by the different members of the Church come from the same divine source and are intended for the same lofty purpose, which is the good of the Church, those who have the more humble gifts ought to be contented, not envying those who are more highly endowed (verses 12-20); and, contrariwise, those who have been more especially favored must not look down upon or despise their less fortunate brethren (verses 21-30).

1 Cor 12:12. For as the body is one, and hath many members ; and all the members of the body, whereas they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ.

So also is Christ. Literally, “So also Christ.” On this passage, where we might expect the word “Church” to be in the place of the term “Christ,” St. Chrysostom remarks: “As head and body are one man, so, says the Apostle, the Church and Christ are one; wherefore he puts Christ instead of the Church.”

1 Cor 12:13. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free; and in one Spirit we have all been made to drink.

St. Paul now proves that the faithful are all one. All have been regenerated by means of the same Baptism, operating in virtue of the same Holy Spirit, and all are incorporated in the same Jesus Christ, so that they form one mystical body, vivified by Christ’s Holy Spirit. All former differences of religion, race, or condition of life have thus been obliterated.

We have all been made to drink, i.e., all the faithful have participated in the effusion of gifts, some ordinary, some extraordinary, which the one Holy Spirit has poured out on them in the Sacrament of Confirmation. Here St. Chrysostom says: “He seems to me now to speak of that descent of the Holy Ghost which is after Baptism, and before the reception of the (Eucharistic) mysteries” (cited by Rick.). In the early days of the Church Confirmation was administered immediately after Baptism, as in the Greek Church still (cf. Prat, La Theol. de Saint Paul, tom. II. p. 379).

Gentiles (Vulg., gentiles) is “Greeks” in the MSS.

1 cor 12:14. For the body also is not one member, but many.

In verse 12 the analogy was drawn between the oneness of the human body and that of Christ’s mystical body, the Church, and it was shown to be complete. In verse 13 it was proved that the Church is one. Therefore the conclusion now follows that the human body is one, although its parts and members are many.

1 Cor 12:15. If the foot should say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
1 Cor 12:16. And if the ear should say, because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
1 Cor 12:17. If the whole body were the eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?
1 Cor 12:18. But now God hath set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased him.
1 Cor 12:19. And if they all were one member, where would be the body?
1 Cor 12:20. But now there are many members indeed, yet one body.

15-20. The relation of the different members of the human body to the whole are now indicated, leaving it to be understood that similar relations exist among the faithful with regard to their common mystical body, the Church. The Apostle observes (a) that the greater or lesser nobility of a member of the human body does not make it more or less a part of the body; and (b) that the variety which exists between the different members is necessary for the perfection and harmony of the whole. Because the foot performs less noble functions than the hand, or the ear than the eye, it does not follow that the foot and the ear are not a part of the body, as well as the hand and the eye. Therefore, those who have received more simple spiritual gifts must not thence think they are not a part of the Church.

Moreover, the needs of the human body are many. But if all the members had the same function, if all “were the eye,” for example, how could the various necessities of the whole be satisfied? Or if all the members were equal, “where would be the body?” since each member has to perform a different function. The diversity of the members is, therefore, according to the will of God, both in the human body and in Christ’s mystical body; whence it follows that he who is not content with the gifts he has received acts contrary to the will of God.

1 Cor 12:21. And the eye cannot say to the hand: I need not thy help; nor again the head to the feet: I have no need of you.
1 Cor 12:22. Yea, much more those that seem to be the more feeble members of the body, are more necessary.

21, 22. St. Paul in the preceding verses has been arguing that those Christians whose special spiritual endowments were of a lower order ought, nevertheless, to be satisfied with their necessary part and functions in the mystical body of Christ. In the following verses (21-30) he wishes to repress pride and contempt in those who were more highly favored toward those of humbler gifts. The human body and its members continue to be the means of illustrating what goes on in the Church.

The nobler members of the body, such as the eye with regard to the hand, or the hand with regard to the feet, cannot disdain the need of the lower member which it must have. Nay more, certain members of the body, like the heart, brain and stomach, while of far greater delicacy than certain others, are really more necessary (μᾶλλον, meaning more).

Some think that the Apostle is still speaking in verse 22 of the outer organs, and that by the more feeble members he means the more delicate, such as the eye.

1 Cor 12:23. And such as we think to be the less honourable members of the body, about these we put more abundant honour; and those that are our uncomely parts, have more abundant comeliness.

The less honourable members (Vulg., ignobiliora membra) doubtless refers to such as the feet, the legs and the like; while the uncomely parts (Vulg., inhonesta) are those of which St. Thomas says: Dicuntur autem membra aliqua inhonesta in Sanctis non propter aliquam peccati turpitudinem, sed propter inobedientiam membrorum genitalium subsecutam ex peccato originali. (Translation: Our base members are treated with much more diffidence, particularly, by human diligence. Some members are called base in holy things, not as the result of the baseness of sin, but due to the disobedience of the genitalia, as a consequence of original sin.) Therefore we think more abundant honour means more clothing, and likewise more abundant comeliness means more covering.

1 Cor 12:24. But our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, giving to that which wanted the more abundant honour,

But our comely parts, such as the face, the hands and the like, have no need of external covering. This clause really belongs to the preceding verse.

But God hath tempered, etc., i.e., God has so arranged the various parts of the human body that men by natural instinct are led to give more abundant honour, i.e., more clothing to some of its parts than to others.

1 Cor 12:25. That there might be no schism in the body; but the members might be mutually careful one for another.
1 Cor 12:26. And if one member suffer anything, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory all the members rejoice with it.

25. 26. God has wisely provided for the care of the different members of the human organism, in order that they may all perform their respective functions and work in beautiful harmony. Hence it is that the various parts share in one another’s pain or pleasure, and that some of the less honorable parts can least be dispensed with. So it is in society and in the Church; often  those members who perform the lowest functions are the most indispensable to the welfare of the whole.

Anything (Vulg., quid) in verse 26 should be omitted, as wanting in the Greek MSS.

1 Cor 12: 27. Now you are the body of Christ, and members of member.

What has been said of the human body is now applied to Christ’s mystical body, the Church, where also there is one unifying vital principle, but different members. You are the body of Christ, i.e., the faithful taken together constitute the body of the Church.

Members of member, i.e., the faithful are mutually dependent on one another; or (according to a better Greek reading, given below), taken severally, they are the members of the Church.

The Vulgate, et membra de membro represents an inferior Greek manuscript, but the best Greek has μελη εκ μερους, et membra ex parte, i.e., taken together you are the body of Christ, but taken singly or individually, you are His members. (The RSV reads: Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it).

1 Cor 12:28. And God indeed hath set some in the church; first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly doctors; after that miracles; then the graces of healings, helps, governments, kinds of tongues, interpretations of speeches.

Although the members of the Church constitute one body, if taken together, they are distinct, with various offices and functions, if considered severally. The Apostle now speaks df some of the extraordinary gifts and powers that were bestowed on different individuals in the Church. There is no question here of the ordinary functions of the various grades in the hierarchy, that is, of bishops, priests and the like; but only of those classes that possessed certain extraordinary powers, such as prophecy.

Hath set. Literally, “Hath placed.”

In the Vulgate and in our version nine gifts are enumerated here, as in verses 8-10, above; but the Greek text and the old Latin versions contain only eight, interpretations of speeches being omitted.

The church, i.e., the Church in general, not only the Corinthian Church.

Apostles, i.e., those endowed with extraordinary powers for preaching the Gospel to unbelievers in new parts of the world.

Prophets, . . . doctors. See above, on verses 8-10. The first three classes are named here in the order of their dignity. Prophets, as such, always spoke under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; whereas doctors, although especially instructed and assisted by the Holy Spirit, made use of their natural knowledge in their exposition of doctrine.

Miracles … the graces of healings. See above, on verses 8-10.

Helps, i.e., persons having extraordinary powers for looking after and assisting the poor, the sick and the destitute. Governments, i.e., those gifted for the exercise of authority over external affairs in the Church.

Kinds of tongues. See above, on verse 10. The Apostle mentions this gift last probably to show the Corinthians that it was not so important as they had thought.

Interpretations of speeches (Vulg., interpretationes sermonum) should be omitted here.

1 Cor 12:29. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all doctors?
1 Cor 12:30. Are all workers of miracles? Have all the grace of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

29, 30. Although the most of these extraordinary graces were generally found in different individuals, it sometimes happened that several of them were possessed by the same person. Nevertheless, the Apostle is referring in these verses to the general rule, according to which the different gifts were variously distributed among the members of the Church. The conclusion is that all should be contented with the graces which God has been pleased to bestow upon them, not envying one another, not despising one another.

1 Cor 12:31. But be zealous for the better gifts. And I shew unto you yet a more excellent way.

While St. Paul admonished the Corinthians to be satisfied with the gifts they had, he did not mean to forbid them to strive for higher perfection; rather, he desired this. But in order to attain to greater excellence and the more perfect state, it is necessary to enter upon and learn the way of charity, the only road to true perfection. Accordingly, before going into a more exhaustive consideration of those gifts which the Corinthians erroneously sought above everything, the Apostle unfolds to them (1 Cor 12:31-13:13) the treasures of charity, without which all other endowments can profit them nothing. The present verse, therefore, serves as a transition from this to the following chapter.

The Corinthians are encouraged to seek the better gifts (τα κρειττονα, as in the Rec, with D E F G, Old Latin and Vulg.), i.e., the gifts that were really more useful for themselves and for the Church, although not so showy. A better reading of the above phrase has, “greater gifts”, as in B A C, i.e., gifts of a higher order than those he has been speaking about, and which he will discuss at length in chapter 14; these “greater gifts” are faith, hope and especially charity.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians Chapter 11

Text in red are my additions.

A Summary of 1 Cor 11:1-16

Passing from their domestic (7:1 ff.) and social duties (8:1 ff.), the Apostle now proceeds to treat of the religious life of the Corinthians. He has learned of certain abuses that have crept into their religious assemblies, the first of which regards the headdress of women. Ladies should not appear in church without a covering for their heads, (a) because of their inferiority to men, as shown by the history of creation (verses 2-12), and (b) because nature itself, as well as Apostolic approval, suggests that they should wear veils at the sacred services (verses 13-16).

1 Cor 11:1. Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ.

This verse really belongs to the end of the last chapter, and concludes the argument there given.

1 Cor 11:2. Now I praise you, brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me: and keep my ordinances as I have delivered them to you.

I praise you, etc. Although some of the Christians at Corinth had been guilty of faults, the Church on the whole, was deserving of praise fof their faithfulness to the Apostle’s ordinances, i.e., to the doctrines and the liturgical rules and regulations he had given them. He proceeds now to give some further “ordinances” for the correction of abuses that have sprung up among the faithful, on account of which he cannot praise them (verse 17).

Brethren (Vulg., fratres) is according to D E F G, Old Latin, and Peshitto; B, A,  C omit.

1 Cor 11:3. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

In ancient times women in the East and among the Ionic Greeks were degraded to the condition of slaves. Christianity gradually did away with this state of servitude. Buf it seems that some of the ladies in Corinth were carrying their emancipation too far by declaring their perfect equality with men, and, consequently, by appearing in church to pray and prophesy with uncovered heads. This was contrary to the Word of God (Gen 3:16; 1 Tim 2:12, 13), which requires women to be in subjection, both in society, and in the family.

Wherefore the Apostle, calling the Corinthians’ attention to something on which he, it appears, had not yet instructed them, says, I would have you know, etc., i.e., in the external organization of the Church the order of authority is as follows: God, Christ, man, woman. God is over the Sacred Humanity of Christ whom He raised from the dead, and to whom He gave all power in heaven and in earth (15:24 ff.; Matt 18:18; Acts 20:28); Christ is over man in the government of His Church, and man is over woman in external authority, although woman is equal to man in her internal and individual relation to Christ (verse 5).

Every man may mean only every Christian man (Cornely); or, more probably, every man, Christian or non-Christian, since all mankind, by Christ’s assumption of human nature, has been subjected to the authority of Christ (MacRory).

Woman (γυνή = gunē) here is used in a general sense, embracing both the married and the unmarried.

I do not here wish to wade into the controversy of how to interpret this and related passages. By and large I accept the interpretation given by Manfred Hauke in his scholarly work WOMEN IN THE PRIESTHOOD? He deals with the pauline passages on pages 340-403, and specifically with 1 Cor 11 on pages 347-351, which should also be seen in relation to his examination of 1 Cor 14 on pages 363-390. You may also wish to consult another work-which I have not yet read but which comes highly recommended–THE CATHOLIC PRIESTHOOD AND WOMEN: A GUIDE TO THE TEACHING OF THE CHURCH by Sister Sara Butler. Sister Sara was head of the Catholic Theological Society in 1978 when it came out in favor of women’s ordination, but she has since changed her views. See also these online resources WIVES BE SUBJECT TO YOUR HUSBANDS (by Catholic Answers); SPIRITUAL HEADSHIP (Catholic Answers).

1 Cor 11:4. Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered, disgraceth his head.
1 Cor 11:5. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered, disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven.

Every man praying, etc., i.e., every man who attends the public religious assemblies of the Christians, whether leading in the prayers and prophecies, or joining in them disgraceth his head by having it covered, because to appear with a covered head before God was to imitate the Grecian slaves who thus used to come before their masters. It is a disgrace for man to wear the emblem of slavery before his Lord, since Christ has made us all free (Gal 3:28).

On the other hand, the woman who prays or prophesies at the public liturgical assemblies with head not covered, disgraceth her head, because she thereby shows that she is the equal of man and has no earthly superior, and by so acting she loses that modesty which is her charm and her glory. Only women of evil life were accustomed to appear in public among the Greeks with unveiled heads.

As if she were shaven. For a woman to have her head shaven has always and everywhere been considered shameful (Isa 3:17, 24). The Hebrews used to shave the head of a woman accused of adultery (Num 5:18); and Tacitus (Germ, xix) says the Germans cut close the hair of an adulteress.

The Romans shaved the heads of their dancing women, who were mostly harlots, and the Greeks did the same to their female slaves. A woman, therefore, who appeared at the public devotions of the Christians with head uncovered was acting, says St. Paul, like a slave and an adulteress.

It is to be noted that St. Paul is insisting here on women’s heads being covered; he is not now considering whether it is right or wrong for them to prophesy. Later on (14:34) he will utter his disapproval of women’s performing such functions.

1 Cor 11:6. For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let her cover her head.

If a woman will cast aside the covering for her head, which is required by divine ordinance, let that also be taken away which nature has provided (St. Chrys.), namely, her hair, and thus she will be subjected to the ignominy of a slave and an adulteress, as explained in the preceding verse.

1 Cor 11:7. The man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man.

The Apostle now appeals to the story of creation to show that woman is inferior to man, and so ought to be subordinated to him. Man should not cover his head in the public religious assemblies of the faithful because that is a sign of subjection and inferiority; whereas he is by divine ordinance the glory of God and lord of the earth, having been created immediately in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:27; 2:7). But woman ought to observe the contrary practice, since she was created only indirectly, that is, through man, to God’s image and likeness, and is consequently subject to man (Gen 2:18 and the glory of man. All this, of course, regards only the exterior and physical condition of woman. Her spiritual part is not unlike that of man’s; she has an intellect and a will, and is capable of grace and glory.

1 Cor 11:8. For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man.
1 Cor 11:9. For the man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man.

That woman is the glory of man, as man is the glory of God, is clear from the fact that woman was derived from man in her creation, and made for man (Gen 2:18, 21-23).

1 Cor 11:10. Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels.

Since woman, by the law of her creation, is inferior to man, and ought consequently to be subject to him, she should have a power over her head, i.e., she should have a veil or covering on her head at public prayer, as a sign of the power and authority which man has over her.

Because of the angels, i.e., women at the public Christian devotions ought to wear a veil in token of their modesty and submission, and also on account of the ministering angels who are present at the sacred functions of the faithful (4:9; Eph 3:10; Heb 1:14), and who would be deeply grieved if women did not observe the modesty and appearance of submission which God desires of them (Gen 48:16; Tob 12:12; 2 Macc 3:25; Matt 18:10; Luke 1:19; Rev 8:13). Erasmus paraphrases this passage as follows: “If a woman has arrived at that pitch of shamelessness that she does not fear the eyes of men, let her at least cover her head on account of the angels who are present at your assemblies.”

Another explanation, that by “angels” are meant the priests (Ambrosiaster) is very improbable. The opinion of Tertullian that there is question here of demons who might lust after the unveiled women, or incite men to do so, is to be rejected.

1 Cor 11:11. But yet neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord.
1 Cor 11:12. For as the woman is of the man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God.

The Apostle corrects a possible wrong inference from what he has just been saying about woman’s inferiority and subjection to man. It must not be concluded from this that in the Lord, i.e., among Christians, woman is in a state of servitude with regard to man, as was the case too often among the pagans. Christianity has so vindicated the dignity of woman that ordinarily she and man are mutually dependent, each needing the help of the other, and both sharing in the same means of grace and personal sanctification which Christ has bequeathed to His Church.

For as the woman is of the man, etc. There is a certain natural equality and dependence between man and woman; for whereas the latter in her creation was made from man, being drawn from Adam’s rib, the former in the propagation of the human species is born of woman.

All things, i.e., all that I have said about man and woman are according to the ordinance of God.

1 Cor 11:13. You yourselves judge : doth it become a woman, to pray unto God uncovered?
1 Cor 11:14. Doth not even nature itself teach you, that a man indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame unto him?
1 Cor 11:15. But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.

At the time St. Paul wrote, it was the custom, among civilized peoples, for men to wear their hair short, and for women, on the contrary, to have long hair. Anything opposed to this was looked upon as a disgrace and a shame. The Apostle, therefore, now appeals to this universal practice, which seems to have had its origin in the natural fitness of things, and he asks the Christians to judge for themselves if it is not unbecoming in a woman to pray at the public devotions without some extra covering for her head, since at all other times she is supposed to wear her hair long as a covering provided for her by nature.

If a woman nourish her hair, etc. “The true glory of every creature of God is to fulfil the law of its being. Whatever helps woman to discharge the duties of modesty and submissiveness assigned to her by God is a glory to her” (Lias).

1 Cor 11:16. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the church of God.

If any man seem, etc., i.e., if there is anyone at Corinth who is not convinced by what has been said against women appearing in church with uncovered head, we (ἡμεῖς = hēmeis), i.e., St. Paul and the other Apostles, have one final answer to give him, which is that the Apostles and the various Churches founded by them do not recognize any such custom as would tolerate women to assist at the public religious assemblies of the faithful
without a veil.

Church (Vulg., ecclesia) should be “churches” (ecclesiæ), to correspond with the Greek.

A Summary of 1 Cor 11:17-34

Besides the abuse of women’s appearing at the religious assemblies of the faithful in Corinth with uncovered head, there were others of a far more serious nature, namely, those in connection with the love-feasts and with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

In imitation of our Lord, who instituted the Holy Eucharist in the evening, after the eating of the Paschal Supper, it seems that the early Christians also, at least in Corinth, held the Eucharistic celebration in the evening and accompanied it by a common supper or feast which, because it was intended to strengthen the bond of charity among the faithful, was called the Agape, or love-feast. The necessaries of this supper or love-feast were contributed by those who could afford to bring something with them, and especially by the rich, who thus came to the assistance of the poor. Soon, however, abuses crept in. The poor were crowded out or prevented from getting their share of the supper, some drank to excess, and divisions and animosities were excited among the brethren. Naturally all this was a bad preparation for, and a great irreverence towards, the Eucharistic celebration which in Corinth at this time appears to have followed the common supper.

St. Paul, therefore, in this section of the present chapter sternly reproves the Corinthian abuses in connection with the love-feasts (1 Cor 11:17-22); he recalls the fact and purpose of the institution of the Holy Eucharist (1 Cor 11:23-26); he shows what preparation is required of him who would partake of this great Sacrament (1 Cor 11:27-29); arguing from effects he points out that due preparation has been wanting in many of the Corinthian faithful (1 Cor 11:30-32); and finally, he lays down some practical rules to be observed at the love-feasts (1 Cor 11:33-34).

It is to be noted here that what has just been said, as well as what will be further said in the following verses with regard to the common meal which the faithful of Corinth were accustomed to take before the Eucharistic celebration when St. Paul wrote the present letter, refers, according to the opinion universally accepted, to the Agape. This traditional view of the Agape as a Christian feast is mainly traceable to what St. Paul says in the verses that follow. But Msgr. Batiffol (Dict, de Theol. Cath., tom. I, col. 551-556) takes a very different view of the question. He holds that there is no trace of the Agape, as we here understand it, either in this Epistle or anywhere else, before the end of the second century, and that St. Paul in the following verses is condemning at most an attempt on the part of the Corinthians to introduce a common meal along with the Eucharistic celebration.

In trying to prove his opinion, however, we feel that Msgr. Batiffol has not done justice to the present passage of St. Paul. His analysis of the text almost entirely overlooks the force of 1 Cor 11:21 and 1 Cor 11:33, which, we believe, are nearly unintelligible, short of the explanation commonly given of the Agape. Having just condemned  the dissensions among the Christians when they came together (1 Cor 11:19), the Apostle says in 1 Cor 11:20-21: “When therefore you come together to the same place it is not to eat the Lord’s supper (implying that previously it was otherwise); for at the repast each one first takes (προλαμβανει = parolambanei) his own supper, and one is hungry, while another is overindulged.” And then, after showing what an injury such actions are to the poor, and in particular what a bad preparation they make for the Eucharistic celebration which was supposed to follow, the Apostle concludes his instructions by saying in 1 Cor 11:33, “Wherefore, my brethren, when you come together for the repast, wait for one another.”

It seems plain from these verses that St. Paul is not imposing a fast on the faithful before Communion. He is taking it for granted that the common meal before the celebration of the Eucharist is according to existing custom in Corinth, and therefore legitimate; but what he is condemning is the uncharitable and unbecoming manner in which this meal came to be held. In 1 Cor 11:21 he is complaining of the private, individual taking of this meal, with the result that some are overindulged while others are deprived; and in 1 Cor 11:33 he points out that these abuses can be corrected, not by giving up the practice of the common meal, but by waiting for one another. What meaning would these two verses convey if at Corinth there were no such thing as a common meal accompanying the Eucharistic celebration, or if St. Paul were resisting any attempt to establish such a custom?

In view of these remarks we see no sufficient reason for departing from the traditional explanation of the present passage.

1 Cor 11:17. Now this I ordain: not praising you, that you come together not for the better, but for the worse.

Now this, namely, what I have just said about women veiling their heads in church. Such is the reference of “this,” according to the best interpreters (St. Aug., St. Thomas, Corn., etc.); and the best reading of the verse is as follows : “Now commanding this (concerning women covering their heads) I do not praise (what I am going to speak about) that you come together not unto the better, but unto the worse.”

Not praising you, etc., i.e., I do not praise you for the abuses that take place in your religious assemblies.

The first “you” in this verse ought to be omitted.

1 Cor 11:18. For first of all I hear that when you come together in the church, there are schisms among you; and in part I believe it.

First. The Apostle begins with the first more serious abuse, which is in connection with the love-feast; the second grave abuse he begins to discuss in 12:1.

I hear, etc., i.e., he learned it through the letter he had received.

In the church. Literally, “In church,” i.e., in your religious assemblies, whether these took place in a building set apart for the purpose, or not. Most likely the Corinthians had no special buildings at so early a date which they called churches. In fact, it was very probably only about the third century that the name church was given to any building.

There are schisms, etc., i.e., divisions and dissensions. Schisms in a strict sense are not thought of here; neither are the various factions of the first part of the Epistle in question.

In ecclesiam of the Vulgate should be in ecclesia.

1 Cor 11:19. For there must be also heresies: that they also, who are approved, may be made manifest among you.

St. Paul says that he is prepared to believe the report that there are divisions among the Corinthians at their religious meetings, because he knows, from his acquaintance with human weakness and perversity, that even heresies, i.e., pertinacious denials of doctrine and ruptures in faith and with the authority of the Church, must also arise. If it is necessary (Matt 18:7; Luke 17:1) that these more serious divisions should occur, it is not wonderful that among the faithful there shoufd be divisions and misunderstandings, bad as these latter also are. The Apostle is speaking in general about heresies, and does not mean that any actually existed at Corinth.

Some authors (MacRory, Rickaby, etc.) hold that “heresies” here means nothing more than sects or factions, since the Greek term, here used occurs in eight other places of the New Testament (Acts 5:17; xv. 5; 26:5; 24:5, 14; 28:22; Gal 5:20; 2 Peter 2:1), and in six of these it means sect. 

That they also, etc. “Also” should be omitted. The meaning is that God permits heresies in order to test and purify the faith of true Christians, as gold is tried, but not consumed by fire.

The second et of the Vulgate should be away.

1 Cor 11:20. When you come therefore together into one place, it is not now to eat the Lord’s supper.

It is not now, etc. Some say the meaning is: It is not possible or lawful to eat the Lord’s Supper. But more probably the Apostle means that, while the Corinthians ostensibly came together for the purpose of showing mutual charity and celebrating the Holy Eucharist, their conduct was such that they violated the whole spirit of the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord’s supper doubtless embraces both the Agape (verses 21, 33) and the Eucharistic celebration (verse 23). It was a reproduction of our Lord’s Last Supper, which consisted of the Paschal Supper and the reception of the Holy Eucharist.

Was it the common practice at that time to partake of the love-feast before receiving Holy Communion? A definite answer to this question cannot be given. According to St. Chrysostom the offering and reception of the Eucharist preceded the Agape; according to others the reverse order was observed. It seems certain that at this early date there was no definite practice in the matter. For from Acts 2:46; 20:11 it appears that the “breaking of bread,” i.e., the celebration of the Eucharist, occurred before the common meal ; while from the present passage of St. Paul it is clear that, at Corinth at least, the same order was observed which our Lord made use of at the Last Supper (Cornely).

After some years, it appears, the love-feast was separated from the Eucharistic celebration, perhaps on account of abuses such as St. Paul is here condemning. The Eucharist was then celebrated in the morning. This was the case in Bithynia in the early part of the second century (Plin., Ep. 96 ad Trajan.). In the middle of the second century Justin Martyr (Apol. i. 67) describes the Eucharistic feast, but is silent about the Agape. Tertullian (De Corona, c. 3) speaks of the Eucharist as celebrated before daylight. The same author in describing the Agape, makes no reference to the Eucharist (Apol. 39).

When the general practice of fasting before receiving Holy Communion began we cannot determine with certainty. St. Aug. (Ep. cxviii., ad Januar.) thought it came down from the Apostles. But if this were so, it would be difficult to explain the contrary custom at Corinth in St. Paul’s time and also the ruling of the 29th canon of the Third Council of Carthage (a.d. 397): Ut sacramenta altaris nonnisi a jejunis hominibus celebretur, excepto uno die anniversario, quo cena Domini celebratur. Sozomen, the historian, says there was no obligation in Egypt in the fifth century to receive Holy Communion fasting. Cf. MacR., h. 1.

1 Cor 11:21. For every one taketh before his own supper to eat And one indeed is hungry and another is drunk.

That the religious celebrations of the Corinthians had become unlike the Lord’s Last Supper, which they were supposed to reproduce, was evident from the way the faithful in their religious assemblies conducted themselves. Those who could afford it brought food and drink for the common meal, as was the proper custom, but they did not have a common meal of which all partook.

For every one, etc. Literally, “For in the eating every one taketh first his own,” etc., i.e., all those who brought provisions ate them in private, and before all had assembled or distribution could be made, with the result that the poor were left hungry. And the rich, instead of helping to feed the poor, gave themselves to excessive drinking. It seems that the members of those cliques spoken of in verse 18 used to share their provisions together to the exclusion of those who belonged to a different clique, some of whom had no provisions.

Is drunk (μεθυει = methyei) is softened down by some commentators to signify something short of actual intoxication.

1 Cor 11:22. What, have you not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God; and put them to shame that have not? What shall I say to you? Do I praise you? In this I praise you not.

Indignant over these abuses the Apostle asks the Corinthians if they had not their own homes in which to hold their banquets without injury to the poor.

Despise ye the church of God, etc., i.e., do you despise the assembly of the faithful which is composed of rich and poor, all of whom are equal before God? It is an injury to the poor to exclude them as unworthy from a part in the common meal at the religious assemblies, and thus put them to shame by making more conspicuous their poverty. For such actions the Apostle cannot but blame those who are guilty.

Do I praise you? Better, “Shall I praise you?”

1 Cor 11:23. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread,
1 Cor 11:24. And giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye, and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of me.

St. Paul could not praise the Corinthians for their conduct at the Eucharistic celebration; for their behavior there was a gross profanation of a sacred banquet solemnly instituted by Christ Himself. In order that they may the better understand the gravity of their actions he starts here to recall to their minds what he had taught them when founding the Church at Corinth.

For I have received, etc (ver 23). It is not entirely clear whether St. Paul received from the Lord what follows by direct revelation or through others. But the emphatic use of the pronoun (εγω γαρ = ego gar), together with what he says in 9:1 and in Gal 1:12, makes it almost certain that what he is about to say was vouchsafed to him from the Lord’s own lips, perhaps during his three years’ stay in Arabia (Gal 1:17). He does not say “from the disciples of the Lord,” but “from the Lord” (απο του κυριου = apo to Kurios).

Which also I delivered unto you. (ver 23) He had made known to the Corinthians very exactly what had been revealed to him concerning the Blessed Eucharist. St. Paul’s account agrees very closely with that given by his disciple St. Luke (Luke 22:19, 20), who had learned of this great event directly from the Apostle himself.

That the Lord Jesus, the same night, etc. (ver 23) St. Paul gives this circumstance to show the intimate connection between the Eucharist and the Passion of our Lord, and to set out more in relief the enormous ingratitude and irreverence of the Corinthians who dared to celebrate the august mysteries with so much laxity and neglect.

Took bread, etc., (ver 23) as recorded also in Matt 26:2-29; Mark 14:17-25; Luke 22:10-20.

Giving thanks (ευχαριστησας~ from the Greek εὐχαριστέω = eucharisteō) (ver 24). The same expression is found in St. Luke’s account of the Last Supper (Luke 22:19), and is equivalent to the “blessing” (ευλογησας = eulogesus) of Matt 26:26; Mark 14:22. The blessing contained thanksgiving for that which was blessed (Westm. Ver.), and hence our Lord both gave thanks and blessed the bread before the consecration.

Broke (ver 24). Estius and others say the breaking of the bread was only after the consecration, as in the Mass. Some hold there were two breakings, one into larger pieces before the consecration, and one into smaller pieces afterwards.

The words take ye, and eat are not in any of the best MSS., and are omitted by the Fathers and many of the oldest versions. They were most likely inserted here by a copyist from Matt 26:26. Likewise the words shall be delivered (Vulg. tradetur), having only the Vulgate and Syriac versions with Theodoret in their favor, must be omitted. Somewhat better supported, but still insufficiently so is another reading, “which is broken for you,” (Greek: klasmenon,  E F G K L P, Rec, Peshitto, and some copies of the Old Latin). Two Greek-Latin MSS. (Codex Claromontanus of the 6th cent., and the Codex Sangermanensis of the 9th cent.) render klasmenon here by frangitur.

The best reading, therefore, of this passage in the four oldest  and best MSS. is: “This is my body, which is for you” (τουτο μου εστιν το σωμα το υπερ υμων = touto mou estin to soma to hyper hymon). The words, which is for you, i.e., which is given for you, taken in conjunction with the clearer words used with the chalice, point unmistakably to the sacrificial character of the Eucharistic celebration at the Last Supper.

This do for the commemoration of me (ver 24).  On this passage the Council of Trent (Sess. XXII. can. 2) says: “If anyone say that by the words, ‘This do in remembrance of me” Christ did not constitute His Apostles priests, or did not ordain that they and other priests should offer His body and blood, let him be anathema.”

1 Cor 11:25. In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me.

In like manner, etc. As He had done for the bread, so immediately afterwards He did for the chalice, i.e., He took it, gave thanks to the Father, blessed it, etc.

After he had supped, i.e., after the Paschal supper was in the main over. St. Luke speaks to the same effect, “after he had supped” (Luke 22:20). St. Matthew says, “While they were at supper” (Matt 26:26); and St. Mark has, “Whilst they were eating” (Mark 14:22). The expression, μετα το δειπνησα (= meta to deipnesai- after he supped, or dined), which occurs only in St. Paul and in St. Luke, was perhaps added to render more definite the vague indication of time conveyed by the εσθιοντων δε αυτων (= eathionton de auton- as they were eating) of Sts. Matt, and Mark (Cornely). Taking together all four accounts we can plainly see that the institution of the Blessed Eucharist took place while our Lord and the disciples were still at the supper table, but towards the end of the meal. Very probably the fourth cup of wine, which legally terminated the Jewish Paschal supper, was the one consecrated by the Saviour.

This chalice, etc., i.e., the contents of this chalice is “my blood,” as directly stated in Matt 26:28, and in Mark 14:24: “This is my blood.”

The new testament in my blood, i.e., the contents of this chalice is the seal or ratification of the New Covenant through my blood. The reference is clearly to the words of Moses (Exod 24:8) who, after he had read the book of the covenant and the people had promised to observe it, sprinkled them with sacrificial blood saying, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you.” In like manner Christ’s sacrificial blood, which the disciples drank, is the seal of the New Covenant. As in the case of Moses there was present real sacrificial blood which had been offered in sacrifice, so at the Last Supper there was present real blood—the blood of Christ, which was being offered in sacrifice for the sins of the world (Heb 8:8; Jer 31:31-34).

This do ye . . . for the commemoration of me. These words, in connection with the chalice, are found only in St. Paul. They emphasize the commission given to the Apostles and show the purpose of the Eucharistic celebration.

This, i.e., the whole action which Christ had just performed in changing bread and wine into His body and blood and in giving the sacred species to others for their spiritual nourishment, this the Apostles and their successors were to repeat and continue till the Second Coming of the Lord at the end of the world, as St. Paul indicates in the following verse.

1 Cor 11:26. For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come,

The Apostle now shows what the celebration of the Eucharistic banquet was intended to commemorate or recall. The words eat, drink, and shew are all in the present tense in the original.

You shall shew the death of the Lord. The Eucharist is the commemorative sacrifice of the death of Christ, and this death is mystically signified by the separate consecrations of the two distinct elements of bread and wine.

Until he come, i.e., until Christ comes at the end of the world. This proves that the Eucharistic sacrifice is to be continued till the end of time, and, since sacrifice requires a priest, it also proves that our Lord ordained the Apostles priests at the Last Supper, and at the same time empowered them to provide their successors to the end.

1 Cor 11:27. Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.

From the real presence of Christ’s body and blood under the Eucharistic species St. Paul deduces the momentous conclusion that whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice, i.e., any one who receives our Lord’s body and blood under either species unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord, i.e., shall be guilty of an outrage, grave or slight, according to his condition, against the flesh and blood of Christ. It is a proof of the total presence of Christ under either species that the Apostle says whosoever shall eat, or drink, etc. (η πινη = e pine, with B א A C D E F G, Vulg., Peshitto, etc.), shall be guilty of both the body and the blood of the Lord. “Many Protestant translators, including those of the A. V., have evaded the force of the or, from a fear lest they should thereby be countenancing the denial of the Cup to the laity” (Lias).

Further, it is a proof of our Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist that St. Paul says the unworthy communicant is guilty of the body and blood of Christ. How could these words be true if the Eucharist were only a figure or a sign of Christ’s flesh and blood? Who would say that to show irreverence, however great, to a king’s picture or statue would make the offender guilty of the body and blood of the king? Such language would be ridiculous in its absurdity.

1 Cor 11:28. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice.

In order to avoid an unworthy Communion the Apostle now says, let a man prove himself, i.e., let each one before communicating carefully examine his conscience to see whether he is in proper spiritual condition to receive so great a Sacrament. The Council of Trent (Sess. XIII. cap. 7) says on this subject: “The custom of the Church declares that such proving is necessary, as that no one conscious to himself of mortal sin, however contrite he may think himself, ought to approach the Holy Eucharist without previous sacramental confession.”

That bread should be “the bread”; in the Vulgate illo should be omitted.

1 Cor 11:29. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.

This verse brings out still more clearly the thought of verse 27. The words unworthily and of the Lord are not in the four oldest MSS.; but they are found in D E F G, Vulg., Peshitto, which, together with the sense of the verse in itself and from the context, make the meaning clear: He that eateth and drinketh without distinguishing the body (from other food), eateth and drinketh judgment to himself. The implication here, as in verse 27, seems to be that the unworthy, or non-discerning communicant, is guilty of mortal sin, although one guilty of lesser sins would also be liable to judgment, i.e., to chastisement, if he did not duly prepare himself before receiving Holy Communion.

In the Vulgate indigne and Domini should probably be omitted.

1 Cor 11:30. Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep.

Therefore, i.e., because you Corinthians have not communicated with devout dispositions you have been visited with many afflictions, such as sickness, death, and the like. Many of you are infirm (ασθενεις = asthenesis  literally strengthless), i.e., ill, and weak (αρρωστο = arrostoi), i.e., in poor physical condition, and many sleep, (κοιμωνται = koimontai ), i.e., many of you have been taken away by premature death. The word employed for “sleep” here is used to signify the death of those who are finally saved in ten other places of the New Testament. These temporal chastisements visited for unworthy Communions on those who had died in the Lord could mean that the unworthiness was due only to venial sins, or to mortal sins and sacrilegious Communions which had been repented of before death.

1 Cor 11:31. But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

Here the Apostle tells the Corinthians that if they would be more careful to examine and purify their consciences before Communion and do penance for their past sins they would not be visited with so many temporal sufferings and punishments. He includes himself in the first person plural to soften the rebuke he is giving the faithful.

1 Cor 11:32. But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord, that we be not condemned with this world.

A word of consolation is added now. St. Paul tells the faithful that if the Lord chastises them in the present life for their sins of irreverence toward the Holy Eucharist, it is only for the purpose of leading them to repentance and to the avoidance of further sins, so that they may escape eternal condemnation with this wicked world.

This verse, which is evidently addressed to those who are among the saved, is a proof that the term “sleep”  in 1 Cor 11:30 refers to the dead that are saved.

1 Cor 11:33. Wherefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
1 Cor 11:34. If any man be hungry, let him eat at home; that you come not together unto judgment. And the rest I will set in order, when I come.

Referring again to the abuses connected with the Agape, the Apostle urges the Corinthians, when they assemble for their love-feasts and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, to have their meal in common. Let them wait to eat, until all are present, so that the rich may not overindulge themselves, nor the poor be deprived of their portion.

If some get so hungry that they cannot wait for the common meal, they should take something at home beforehand; so that they may come together, i.e., to the assembly, with spiritual profit, and not unto judgment, i.e., not to their spiritual ruin and condemnation. The love-feast was not instituted to satisfy hunger, but to nourish charity among the faithful; and likewise, the religious assemblies of the Christians were not the places to have profane banquets, but were for the purpose of celebrating the Holy Eucharist.

And the rest, etc., i.e., the Apostle will complete his instructions to the faithful at Corinth when he arrives there in person; he will supplement his written word by oral teaching: “from which it is evident,” says St. Thomas on this verse, “that the Church has many things from the direction of the Apostles which are not found in Sacred Scripture.”

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians Chapter 10

Text in red are my additions.

A Summary of  1 Cor 10:1-13

At the close of the preceding chapter the Apostle had proposed his own austerity of life to the Corinthians as an example which they should imitate. And lest they should think his fear exaggerated and groundless, he now cites a fact of Jewish history, which shows that, though all the Israelites that went out from Egypt received the same typical Baptism and were fed with the same miraculous food, only those few finally entered the promised land who had the spirit of self-denial and sacrifice, all the rest having perished for their sins. Therefore, we have need of watchfulness at all times. And yet there is no reason for discouragement, because God will always do His part, if we do ours.

1 Cor 10:1. For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea.

The Corinthian faithful must have known the history St. Paul now refers to, and so he proceeds to unfold to them its spiritual meaning. For (γάρ = gar) links this chapter, or at least the first thirteen verses of it, very closely with the preceding chapter.

Our fathers, i.e., the Jews of the Exodus, who, like the other ancient Jews, were really the spiritual forefathers of all Christians, whether Jewish or Gentile, because the Church had naturally succeeded the Synagogue, and the faithful were the true heirs and sons of Abraham (Rom 9:6-8; Gal 3:6-9).

Under the cloud is an allusion to the “pillar of cloud” which guided the Israelites in their march out of Egypt, screening them from the Egyptians and protecting them from the sun (Exod 14:19 ff.; Num 14:14; Ps 104:39; Wis 10:17; 19:7).

The sea, i.e., the Red Sea (Exod 13:21; 14:19 ff.). All those Jews of the Exodus received divine favors that were typical of the two greatest Sacraments of the New Law: Baptism, which is the most necessary, and the Blessed Eucharist, which is the most excellent. They all received a typical Baptism and a typical Communion (Cornely, MacRory).

1 Cor 10:2. And all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in the sea:

All in Moses were baptized, i.e., all the Jews of the Exodus were baptized unto the following of Moses as their leader, whose Law they were thereafter obliged to observe, just as Christians, through the Sacrament of Baptism, are enrolled under the leadership of Christ, promising to obey His law.

In the cloud, and in the sea, i.e., the cloud, the sensible sign of the presence of God, was a type of the Holy Ghost who is given in the Sacrament of Baptism; and the sea, through which the Israelites were delivered from the bondage of Pharaoh, was a type of the waters of Baptism through which we are liberated from the power of sin and the devil.

The Vulgate in Moyse should be in Moysen (εις τον μωση = eis hon Mousen), unto Moses.

1 Cor 10:3. And did all eat the same spiritual food, 

Besides a typical Baptism the Israelites had also a typical Communion; for they all ate the same spiritual food, i.e., the manna (Exod 16:15), which, as being given in a miraculous manner and as typifying the Eucharist, is rightly termed “spiritual food” (John 6:35, 48, 50).

1 Cor 10:4. And all drank the same spiritual drink; (and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.)

A further great blessing enjoyed by the Jews of the Exodus was that while in the desert they all drank the same spiritual drink, i.e., the water which was miraculously produced from the rock in the desert the second year after leaving Egypt (Exod 17:6), and in the desert of Sinai during the last year of the Israelites’ wanderings (Num 20:8). This water was a “spiritual drink,” both because of its miraculous origin, and because it was a figure of the blood of Christ given us in the Eucharist.

And they drank of the spiritual rock. Better, “For they drank,” etc. What was this “spiritual rock”? According to St. Chrysostom and the majority of Catholic exegetes it was Christ (Verbum incarnandum) , who was spiritually present with the Jews in the desert, and who, on at least two occasions of which we are told (Exod 17:6; Num 20:8), provided the water in question.

It is the opinion of many of the Fathers that the Son of God used to appear at times as an angel or messenger in Old Testament days. And furthermore, there is no objection to Christ being called a rock, because this same term is often applied to God in the Old Testament (Deut 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31, 37; Isa. 17:10; 21:4; etc.). In this explanation there is no difficulty in the subsequent words of the verse, that followed them, etc.

But others believe the “spiritual rock” was an actual material rock, just as the “spiritual food” and the “sea,” spoken of in the verses preceding, were corporal food and actual water respectively. It was called a “spiritual” rock because of the miraculous water that flowed from it and because of the holier reality it typified, namely, the blood of Christ. But how could a material rock be said to follow the Israelites in their wanderings? Some have answered that it rolled with them, as an old Rabbinical fable had it (Bemidbar Rabbah, c. 2), supplying them with water as they needed it. If this were so, how could we explain the distress of Num 20:1-13? Others hold with greater probability that St. Paul means to say that any rock they met in their wanderings, which Moses was divinely directed to strike, responded with fts flow of miraculous water.

And the rock was Christ, i.e., Christ spiritually present, according to the first opinion explained above; or Christ in figure, a type of Christ, according to the second view just explained.

1 Cor 10:5. But with most of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the desert.

More than 600,000 men of twenty years and upwards went out of Egypt; and although each and all of them partook of the same spiritual favors, they all perished because of their sins, except two, Josue and Caleb, who lived to enter the promised land (Num 1:46; 14:20; 26:63 ff.).

1 Cor 10:6. Now these things were done in a figure of us, that we should not covet evil things as they also coveted.

These things were done in a figure, etc., i.e., the benefits bestowed, and the punishments later inflicted on the Israelites were figures of what has happened and will happen to us if we, like them, are unfaithful. “As you eat the Lord’s body, so did they eat manna; and as you drink His blood, so did they drink water from the rock; and as they were severely punished for their sins, so shall you be punished, if you sin like them” (St. Chrys.).

That we should not covet, etc. Perhaps the reference is not to avoiding sins in general, as St. Chrysostom thinks, but only to the fault of the Corinthians, who should not covet meats offered to idols, for fear of idolatry, as the Jews coveted the fleshpots of Egypt and turned to idolatrous worship.

1 Cor 10:7. Neither become ye idolaters, as some of them, as it is written: The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

Above all we Christians must avoid all idolatrous practices, such as those of the Jews in the desert (Exod 32:6), who sacrificed and feasted and indulged in idolatrous dances in honor of the golden calf.

1 Cor 10:8. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed fornication, and there fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

The reference here is to the sins committed by the Hebrews in the desert with the daughters of Moab (Num 25:1) who had invited them to their sacrifices in honor of the idol Beelphegor. The worship of this idol included many impurities. The Corinthians are admonished to be on their guard against taking part in similar licentious sacrifices in worship of Aphrodite, whose temple on the Acrocorinthus contained a thousand prostitutes.

Three and twenty thousand. The account of the same event in Num 25:1-9 gives four and twenty thousand. The difference is doubtless due to a copyist, who wrote three for four in transcribing St. Paul. Or perhaps St. Paul is speaking of the number that fell in one day, whereas Numbers gives all who fell on that occasion. Others say the Apostle is speaking in round numbers.

1 Cor 10:9. Neither let us tempt Christ: as some of them tempted, and perished by the serpents.

Neither let us tempt Christ, etc. The best MSS. have “the Lord” instead of “Christ,” but the latter is also well supported (by D E F G, Old Lat, Vulg., Peshitto). The Corinthians are warned not to complain of their humble conditions and restrictions as Christians, as the Israelites in the desert murmured against the providence of God and doubted His faithfulness (Num 21:4-6), and in consequence were destroyed by serpents.

1 Cor 10:10. Neither do you murmur: as some of them murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

The Apostle is warning the Corinthians not to complain of him and their other lawful superiors. Some think the murmuring here referred to was the complaint of the Jews at being deprived of the delights of Egypt, and their demand for meat (Num 11:4 ff.); but it is more probable that the reference is to the occasion mentioned in Num 16:41, where we read that “all the multitude murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, You have slain the people of God.”

The destroyer (ολοθρευτου = olothreutou) spoken of here is doubtless the same as the plague of Num. 16, because Wis 28:25 , referring to the same event, uses the same word (ὀλοθρευτής = olothreutes) that we have here.

1 Cor 10:11. Now all these things happened to them in figure: and they are written for our correction, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

The Apostle now tells his readers that the sins and consequent calamities that befell the Jews in the desert were types of what may happen to them, if they be not faithful.

The ends of the world. Better, “The close of the ages,” i.e., the Christian dispensation, “the fulness of time” (Gal 4:4), which is not to be succeeded by any further religious dispensation, but will continue till the Second Coming of Christ. For similar expressions which refer to the Messianic or Christian era, see Eph 1:10; Heb 9:26; 1 Peter 1:15; 1 John 2:18; etc.

The Vulgate in correptionem nostram should be in correptionem nostri.

1 Cor 10:12. Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall.

The conclusion from the foregoing is that, if what befell the Israelites is a figure of what may happen to us Christians, baptized in Christ and fed on His flesh and blood, we must be ever on our guard against over-confidence, lest, while thinking ourselves secure in God’s favor, we lose His grace and fall away into sin, perhaps losing our souls.

Himself (Vulg., se) is not in the Greek, but is implied in the context.

No one, short of a special divine revelation, can be absolutely certain that he is in the state of grace (Conc. Trid., Sess. VI. De Justificatione, cap. 9, 13).

1 Cor 10:13. Let no temptation take hold on you, but such as is human. And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it.

Fearing that the faithful at Corinth may be discouraged at the picture just drawn of the calamities that befell the Jews, St. Paul now wishes to console and hearten them, assuring them that in all their temptations and trials God will never fail to give them sufficient help to overcome. In other words, their temptations in the past have been only human, i.e., tolerable; and God will continue to help them in the future.

Let no temptation, etc. Rather, according to nearly all of the Greek MSS., the Fathers, and most of the versions, “No temptation hath come upon you, but such as you could bear,” i.e., the temptations of the Corinthians in the past have been bearable, with God’s grace; and God is faithful, i.e., He can be trusted to continue in the future what He has done so far. By “temptation” is meant all that induces man to moral evil, and that may be the occasion of spiritual death.

But will make also, etc., God will give with the temptation also the way of escape, so that you may be victorious and overcome.

In the Vulgate apprehendat should be apprehendit, to agree with the best Greek MSS. and the best versions.

Summary of 1 Cor 10:14-22
Note: “22a” indicates that the first half of verse 22 will be dealt with in this section. 22b will be treated in the next section.

After the long digression begun with chapter 9 regarding the necessity of self- denial and vigilance as indispensable to salvation, St. Paul now returns to the subject of not eating meats offered to idols, and gives some practical rules. First, he says, it is entirely wrong, as being indirect idolatry, for the faithful to take part in the public sacrificial banquets of the pagans. It must be plain to all that through the Eucharistic sacrifice the Christians are intimately united to Christ, just as the unfaithful Jews were united to their altars by their sacrifices. Wherefore, those who take part in pagan sacrifices are similarly joined to the demons to whom those banquets are offered. How perverse this is, to wish to be united at the same time to Christ and to the demons, everyone can see.

1 Cor 10:14. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, fly from the service of idols.

Returning now to the theme from which, by way of illustration, he had digressed in the beginning of chapter 9, the Apostle draws the practical conclusion that the service of idols must be shunned. Since the Israelites, in spite of the divine favors they enjoyed, were visited with terrible calamities on account of their sins, the Corinthians, while not losing confidence in God’s goodness and abiding help, must be on their guard against exposing their souls to deadly peril.

1 Cor 10:15. I speak as to wise men: judge ye yourselves what I say.

The Apostle submits the matter of abstaining from pagan sacrifices to the judgment of the Corinthians, whose intelligence will surely see the reasonableness of what he has said and is about to prove.

1 Cor 10:16. The chalice of benediction, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord?

This verse shows that Christians are united to the body and blood of Christ by partaking of the consecrated species of bread and wine. They are consequently “debarred from communion with any beings alien to Him; a communion into which, by the analogy of all sacrificial rites, we enter with the beings to whom such sacrifices are offered” (Lias).

The chalice of benediction, etc., i.e., the Eucharistic chalice, which we bless, i.e., which we as priests consecrate. If “we” here includes the body of the faithful, the meaning is that they, by their presence and assent, made the consecration pronounced by the priest their own; their assent was expressed by the response Amen. St. Paul speaks of the consecration as a blessing, because it was preceded by blessing, just as at the Last Supper (Matt 26:26). He could not mean, by mentioning only blessing, that there was no consecration, since he is speaking of a real banquet and a real sacrifice, against which he sets the heathen’s sacrifice.

The communion, i.e., the sharing in common (κοινωνια = koinōnia) of the blood of Christ, by which we become intimately united to Christ. “The fact of this Eucharistic feeding upon Christ is adduced as the strongest reason why Christians cannot lawfully take part in idolatrous rites. The sense here is that Christ feeds His people with His flesh and blood, and that they participate in the same” (Lias).

And the bread, which we break, i.e., the bread which has been consecrated and made the body of Christ, is it not the partaking, etc., i.e., is it not a sharing in the body of the Lord?

And (Vulg., et) is not in the Greek here. “The breaking of the bread,” or “of bread” became, in consequence of our Lord’s action at the Last Supper (Matt 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24), a characteristic phrase to signify the Eucharistic celebration (Acts 2:42, 46; Acts 20:7, Acts 20:11; Didache XIV. etc.). If the chalice is mentioned first it is because the pagan rites, with which the Apostle is comparing the Christian rite, began with a libation (MacR.).

Since, therefore, the drinking of this consecrated chalice and the eating of this consecrated bread mean a partaking of and a sharing in the blood and the body of Christ, it is evident that Christ is really and substantially present in the Eucharist. Moreover, as the Apostle is contrasting table with table, i.e., altar with altar, and sacrifice with sacrifice, it is clear that he regarded the Eucharistic celebration as a true sacrifice (cf. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXII, cap. 1).

Of the Lord (Vulg., Domini) should be “of Christ” (Christi), as in the Greek.

1 Cor 10:17. For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread.

As a result of the union which the partaking of the body and blood of the Lord established between Christ and Christians, the latter are intimately united among themselves; though individually many, they are all one in Christ.

There are two renderings of this verse: (a) “We, being many, are one bread, one body, for we all partake of the one bread”; or, “because (there is) one bread, we, though many, are one body, for we all,” etc. The first translation is more in conformity with the context and is preferable.

All that partake, etc., i.e., all we who eat of the one Eucharistic bread are one mystical bread and one mystical body; in other words, since Christ is really present in this Eucharistic bread all we who eat of it are spiritually transformed in Christ, and are thus intimately united to Him and to one another. This could not be, if what we eat were ordinary bread; for in that case it would be converted into our individual substances, instead of we being converted into it. Hence St. Augustine said, personifying this Eucharistic bread: “Nor shalt thou change Me into Thee, as thou dost the food of thy flesh: but thou shalt be changed into Me.” The real body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist is the food and consolidation of His mystical body, the Church (Eph 1:23; 5:20; Col 2:19; 1 Cor 6:15) (Rickaby).

The Apostle wishes to show the Corinthians that as the faithful, by partaking of the table of the Lord, are incorporated in Christ and closely united among one another, so those who partake of the table of idols and assist at idolatrous banquets become, to a certain extent, united to the idols and to those who
adore them.

The unity with Christ’s body which St. Paul makes characteristic of all those who eat the Eucharistic bread is a clear proof, not only of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but it is also a refutation of both consubstantiation and impanation; otherwise how could Christians in Ephesus, Corinth and elsewhere be said to partake of one bread while they were so far apart?

To the inspired St. Paul and to the Christians alike the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and transubstantiation are clearly truths accepted without question. This verse, however, does not prove transubstantiation, at least directly (against MacRory).

1 Cor 10:18. Behold Israel according to the flesh: are not they, that eat of the sacrifices, partakers of the altar?

An illustration of the unity between a sacrifice or banquet and those who partake of it is now drawn from the sacrifices of the Jews.

Israel according to the flesh, i.e., the unconverted Jews who have descended from Abraham according to the flesh, but not according to the spirit (Rom 4:11; Gal 6:14-16).

They, that eat of the sacrifices, etc. The reference is to the victims offered by the Jews in sacrifice, a portion of which was burnt on the altar, and the rest eaten by the offerers, or by the priests (1 Kings 2:13-16; Lev 7). Those who thus partook of a part of the victim sacrificed were considered to be closely united with the sacrifice and with the altar of sacrifice.

It is to be noted that the Apostle does not say that these Jews, by participating in their sacrifices and banquets, became united with God, as those who partake of the Eucharist are united to and become one with Christ (verses 16, 17). Could there be a clearer demonstration of the Apostle’s belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and of his consequent appreciation of the superiority of the Eucharistic sacrifice over the Jewish sacrifices?

1 Cor 10:19. What then? Do I say, that what is offered in sacrifice to idols, is anything; or, that the idol is anything?

St. Paul answers a possible difficulty. Some of his readers might think from what he has just been saying about the unity that is established between a sacrifice and those who partake of it, that what is offered in sacrifice to idols is in some way changed, so as to become harmful to those who eat it; or that the idol is a real being, having a real existence. This would go against what he has already said in 8:4. But, as was stated there, the truth is that idols, such as Zeus, Aphrodite and the rest, do not, and never did exist; they are nothing, and so cannot affect for better or for worse the meats or other things offered to them.

1 Cor 10:20. But the things which the heathens sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God. And I would not that you should be made partakers with devils.
 1 Cor 10:21. You cannot drink the chalice of the Lord, and the chalice of devils: you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord, and of the table of devils.

If the idol was nothing, and if the thing offered to it was in nowise affected by the non-existing idol, where was the wrong in the heathens’ sacrifices? It was this, (a) that their religious rites became so degrading and sinful that the evil spirits (δαιμόνιον = daimonion) made use of them to corrupt and lead to moral ruin the benighted pagans who indulged in such false worship; (b) that oftentimes the evil spirits, by causing false signs and wonders, seem to have taken an actual personal part in those pagan rites; (c) that the supreme worship which is due to God alone was transferred to a creature.

Thus unconsciously perhaps, for the most part, the heathens were really serving the interests and wishes of the demons by their sacrifices; and those Christians who took part with them were trying to assist at the table of the Lord, i.e., at the Eucharistic sacrifice, and at the table of devils, the mortal enemies of the Lord.

The word table (τράπεζα = trapeza) is used in the Old Testament (Mal 1:7, Mal 1:12; Ezekiel 41:22; Ezekiel 44:16) to signify the altar of the true God, and also the altar of idols (Isa 45:1). Now this contrast of the table of the Lord with the table of devils would mean nothing, as Le Camus observes (L’Oeuvre des Apot., tom. III. p. 122), if the Eucharist, besides being a Sacrament, were not also a true sacrifice. Wherefore the Council of Trent (Sess. XXII. cap. 1, De Sacrif. Missae) has said that in these words the Apostle has not obscurely indicated that the celebration of the Eucharist is a true sacrifice.

1 Cor 10:22a. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? 

Do we provoke, etc., i.e., do we wish to excite the jealousy of the Lord by taking part in pagan sacrificial banquets?

Are we stronger than he, so that we need not fear His wrath? From these two questions the Corinthians should learn what terrible chastisements await them, if they cease not to offend Christ by their traffic with His enemies.

This whole passage (verses 15-22a) affords the clearest proof that the Eucharist is a true sacrifice. First of all, it is compared with the real sacrifices of the Jews and of the heathens, and secondly the whole force of the Apostle’s reasoning requires that it be a real and true sacrifice. His argument is that as the Christian sacrificial banquet unites Christians with Christ, and as the Jewish banquets unite the Jews with their altar, so the heathen sacrifices unite their votaries with the demons. The argument would be meaningless, and would have been regarded as such by the Corinthians, unless it was generally understood by the Christians that they had a real sacrifice in connection with their “chalice” and “bread” (Cornely, MacRory).

If There is Danger of Scandal the Faithful Should Abstain, Even at a Privage Table, From Meats Offered to Idols
A Summary of 1 Cor 10:22b-33 

1 Cor 10:22b. All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient.
1 Cor 10:23. All things are lawful for me, but all things do not edify.

All things are lawful, etc. See above, on 1 Cor 6:12 (see note below). The Apostle is speaking of all indifferent things, which, though lawful in themselves, sometimes are not expedient for the doer and do not edify the observer. “Saying they are not expedient, he alludes to injury to one’s self, and saying they do not edify, he hints at scandal to the brother” (St. Chrys.).

For me (Vulg., mihi) after “lawful” in these two verses is not represented in the best MSS.

Note: Here is what Father Callan wrote on 1 Cor 6:12~All things are lawful to me. When preaching at Corinth the Apostle had perhaps made use of this phrase with reference to the ceremonial observances of the Mosaic Law, telling his hearers that they were now free to eat all kinds of foods. Here he cautions that there are certain limitations to this Christian liberty, even in indifferent matters. Abusing the maxim, some of the Christians had extended it to the practice of fornication. All indifferent things, regarded in themselves, are permissible, but they are not always expedient, i.e., not profitable; and they may become positively harmful, if they bring us under their power and make us slaves. Thus one is obliged to abstain from the use of certain foods and drinks, if he foresees that these will enslave him to intemperance and gluttony. Furthermore, if an indifferent thing becomes a source of scandal it should be avoided (1 Cor 10:22-23) .

1 Cor 10:24. Let no man seek his own, but that which is another’s.

Let no man seek his own, etc., i.e., no one should seek his own good to the disregard and injury of his neighbor. The Apostle is referring to real scandal, which we are to avoid when our neighbor’s welfare demands it (1 Cor 13:5).

1 Cor 10:25. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, eat; asking no question for conscience’ sake.
1 Cor 10:26. The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. 

In the shambles, i.e., in the market.

Asking no question, etc., i.e., the Christians should buy and eat anything they find for sale in the market, since the foods there sold are harmless, whether they have previously been offered to idols or not. And in order not to excite any scruples, they should not ask whether the foods have been so offered; neither should they yield to such interior scruples as would make inquiries necessary.  They are free to eat anything because, as the Psalmist declared (Ps. 24:1) the earth, etc., i.e., everything belongs to the Lord and nothing is unclean in itself, or of itself able to defile. Naturally the Apostle is speaking to those Christians who are well instructed and whose consciences are right 1 Cor 8:1 ff.). If it be asked how this advice can be made to harmonize with the decree of the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:23, 29), the answer given by Estius, Bisping, Cornely and others is that Achaia and Macedonia did not fall within the scope of that decree. The decree was intended only for those countries where there were many Jews, such as Antioch, Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:23). The decree of the Council was, after all, only a temporary measure, and perhaps at the writing of this Epistle it was not considered any longer necessary to abide by it.

In the Greek, verse 26 is joined to verse 25 by the conjunction (γάρ = gar), because, which shows that it is a proof of the direction given in verse 25.

1 Cor 10:27. If any of them that believe not, invite you, and you be willing to go; eat of anything that is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake.

If any of the faithful should be invited by their pagan relatives or friends to a private or ordinary banquet, they may go if they wish; and if they go, they should eat whatever is given them, asking no questions about where the food was procured, or whether it had previously been offered to idols, or the like, and this so as not to upset their consciences.

1 Cor 10:28. But if any man say: This has been sacrificed to idols, do not eat of it for his sake that told it, and for conscience’ sake.

But If any man say, i.e., if any fellow-Christian should say to you at the banquet, “this has been sacrificed” (which is the best reading), i.e., this has been offered to an idol, do not eat it, for fear of leading your scrupulous brother to follow your example against his conscience, and thus to commit sin. Similarly, if one of your pagan friends or relatives should call your attention to the fact that the meat had been offered in sacrifice, do not eat it, because you may cause him to think you do not care about your own religion, and thus, instead of edifying him by your example or abstinence, you will scandalize him, and make him, who might otherwise later become a convert, persevere in his own erroneous religion.

The conjunction (ἐάν = ean, translated “if”) which introduces this verse, as compared with (εἰ = ei, also translated “if”) at the beginning of the preceding verse, implies that the supposition here is far less likely to occur than the invitation spoken of there.

1 Cor 10:29. Conscience, I say, not thy own, but the other’s. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience?

In 1 Cor 10:25, 27 the Apostle was speaking about the conscience of a well-instructed Christian, who knows that idols are nothing and that meat offered to them is not defiled. But here, as also in verse 28, it is the false and timid conscience of someone else that is in question; and it is only for the sake of this weak person that an enlightened Christian need abstain from eating certain things.

For why is my liberty, etc. The Apostle means that it is absurd to say that the conscience of an instructed Christian is to be judged as really wrong, and so condemned, just because the conscience of someone else thinks what that instructed Christian does is wrong. Why should one who is free be forced to think like one who is a slave? If, therefore, an enlightened Christian should abstain from eating things in themselves licit, it is not because his conscience tells him, contrary to fact, that those things are bad, but only for the sake of not giving scandal to his weaker neighbor. Apart from serious danger of scandal the lawful exercise of one’s liberty must not be enslaved by others’ scruples.

1 Cor 10:30. If I partake with thanksgiving, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?

The sense of this verse, like that of the preceding one, seems to be: If I perform a good action, is that action made wrong in itself just because of the false judgment of someone else? The Apostle is alluding here to the custom among the Christians of saying grace before and after meals.

1 Cor 10:31. Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God.

Concluding the subject of partaking of food offered to idols the Apostle now gives the general precept (Estius, Cornely, etc.) to all Christians of performing all their actions for the glory of God. Naturally this is to forbid all bad actions, such as the giving of scandal would be. St. Paul here commands that Christians should, at least virtually, direct everything they do to God’s honor and glory. Some interpreters (a Lapide, Estius, Corn.) regard this precept, although affirmative in form, as negative in meaning; and they argue this from what is said in the following verse: we must not do anything which could impede the glory of God. Thomists, however, hold that the precept here given is affirmative, and that it is satisfied by a virtual implicit reference of all our actions.

1 Cor 10:32. Be without offence to the Jews, and to the Gentiles, and to the church of God:

Be without offence, etc., i.e., give no scandal or other offence to the unconverted Jews, and to the Gentiles (literally, to the Greeks), nor to the church of God, i.e., to the faithful. Charity requires us to edify all, and to scandalize none.

1 Cor 10:33. As I also in all things please all men, not seeking that which is profitable to myself, but to many, that they may be saved.

The Apostle directs attention to his own conduct, which the faithful should imitate.

In all things, of an indifferent nature, he tried to accommodate (ἀρέσκω = areskō, translated “please”, used in the same sense in Rom 15:2; 1 Thess 2:4) himself to the needs and wishes of others in order to save as many as possible. The Christians, by imitating St. Paul in self-denial and self-sacrifice for others, will be imitating Christ who suffered all privations and sufferings, even death itself, for the salvation of men.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians Chapter 9

Text in red are my additions.


At the close of the preceding chapter St. Paul, in order to encourage the Corinthians to abstain from whatever might imperil the eternal welfare of their weaker brethren, called attention to his own determination never to do anything, however licit in itself, that could scandalize his brother in Christ. And now, lest they should say or think that he had promised more than he would be willing to fulfil, he goes into his own past life, as that of one who was free and a genuine Apostle, and shows how he had renounced the rights that were his, so as to promote the Gospel and the spiritual good of others. He had foregone the support which he could have claimed from the faithful, in order to make more beneficial his preaching and to attain to greater perfection (1 Cor 9:1-18); he had made himself the slave of all men in order to save all (1 Cor 9:19-23). The Corinthians, therefore, should imitate his life of austerity and self-denial for the sake of gaining the incorruptible crown of eternal life (1 Cor 9:24-27).

A Summary of 1 Cor 9:1-18

As a genuine Apostle, equal in every way to the twelve, St. Paul had a right to be supported, as they had been, by the faithful for whom he labored in preaching the Gospel. But for fear that the pagans and the new converts might think he preached only for this temporal purpose, and not for their eternal interests, he freely chose to earn his living by his own hands. From this the Corinthians could see and learn what it meant to deny one’s self for spiritual ends and for the sake of others.

1 Cor 9:1. Am not I free? Am not I an apostle? Have not I seen Christ Jesus our Lord? Are not you my work in the Lord?

The Apostle anticipates what may be in the minds of his adversaries. They will explain his self-denial by saying he was not free to do otherwise; that he was not a real Apostle, and so could not demand his support from the faithful.

Here, therefore, St. Paul first claims the right of freedom which belongs to every Christian who is properly instructed; he next insists that he is a true Apostle like the rest. To be a genuine Apostle it was necessary (a) to have seen Christ risen from the dead (Acts 1:21, 22); and (b) to have been immediately commissioned by Christ to go and preach (Acts 10:41; Gal 1:1, 12). Now St. Paul had seen Christ, had been called to the Apostolate by Him, and had been commissioned to preach by Him (Acts 9:17; 18:9; 22:14 ff.; 26:15-18).

A further proof that he was a real Apostle lay in the evidence afforded by the fruits of his labors. Were not the Corinthians his work in the Lord, i.e., had he not converted them to the faith by his Apostolic labors among them?

Christ (Vulg., Christum) is not in the Greek.

1 Cor 9:2. And if unto others I be not an apostle, but yet to you I am. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

If unto others, etc., i.e., if in other places where he had not preached, he was not regarded as an Apostle, the Corinthians could not doubt the truth of his mission; for he had founded their Church and they were the seal, i.e., the proof and confirmation of his Apostleship.

In the Lord, as in verse 1, may mean in cooperation with the Lord; or that as Christians, whom he had converted, they were incorporated in the Lord.

And (Vulg., et) at the beginning of the verse should be omitted.

1 Cor 9:3. My defence with them that do examine me is this.

My defense with them, etc., i.e., his defense against those who would question his Apostleship was the Corinthian Church which he had founded, and which, in confirmation of his work, the Lord had blessed with abundant graces and favors (2 Cor 3:2).

1 Cor 9:4. Have not we power to eat and to drink?

Have not we power, etc. Although the plural is used, the Apostle is referring only to himself. He asks if he has not the right to receive their food, drink and other necessaries of life at the expense of the faithful. The reply is obviously in the affirmative, as illustrated in the following verse.

1 Cor 9:5. Have we not power to carry about a woman, a sister, as well as the rest of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

Just as the other Apostles, and even our Lord Himself (Matt 27:55; Luke 8:1 ff.), were accustomed to be followed on their missions by certain pious ladies of means who supported them, so St. Paul could have had such faithful assistants who would have provided for his needs; but he chose to labor with his own hands for his food and clothing, independently of anyone’s help.

A woman, a sister, i.e., a lady who is a Christian, a Christian lady (αδελφην γυναικα). The word γυνή is a general term signifying woman, married or single, and it is against the whole context and tradition, as well as what the Apostle said above (8:7, 8) about not having and not wanting to have a wife, to restrict its meaning here to a wife, as the Revised Version does. The great majority of the Fathers, both Latin and Greek, understand St. Paul here to speak of being accompanied by a woman like those who were accustomed to provide support for the Apostles on their missions. There was no fear of the Jews taking offence at such a custom on the part of those Apostles who preached to them, because their own Rabbins often received similar assistance from their pious female disciples (cf. Luke 8:2, 3). If St. Paul, however, had availed himself of his right in this matter, it might have caused scandal among the pagans.

It may be admitted that some of the Apostles had wives before being called by Christ (Mark 1:30), but afterwards they left all things to follow their divine Master (Matt 19:27; Luke 18:28, 29), and our Lord replying to Peter’s declaration, “Behold we have left all things,” enumerated “wife” among the things the Apostles had left for His “name’s sake.” If, therefore, on their missions the Apostles were accompanied by pious ladies, these were “not wives, but sisters,” as Clement of Alex, says (Strom. III. 6).

Brethren of the Lord, i.e., James the Less, Joseph, Simon and Jude (Matt 13:55), who were cousins of our Lord (Matt 12:46; 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25). James (Mark 15:40; Acts 15:13; 21:18), Simon and Jude (Matt 10:3, 4; Acts 1:13) were Apostles.

Cephas, the Prince of the Apostles, is mentioned to give emphasis to the lawfulness of the custom just spoken of.

1 Cor 9:6. Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to do this?

Power to do this. Better, “Power to refrain from working” (εξουσιαν του μη εργαζεσθαι = exousian ho me ergazesthai ) , i.e., the right to be supported without working with our own hands, either by the faithful or by the help of pious ladies who could accompany us. St. Paul here, as in the preceding verse, is insisting that he was not obliged to support himself, as he had done ; he could have had his living provided for him either by the faithful, or by Christian ladies of means. Protestants lose the force of this whole argument by maintaining that wife is meant in verse 5. A wife would have been an added expense to St. Paul, a reason why he would have had to work harder with his own hands, to provide support for her as well as himself.

The mention of Barnabas looks as if he was known to the Corinthians.

1 Cor 9:7. Who serveth as a soldier at any time, at his own charges ? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Who feedeth the flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

Just as the soldier has a right to support from his country, as a husbandman and a shepherd have a right to the fruits of their farm and their flock, so has the Apostle a right to his maintenance from the faithful.

“This verse shows that a priest should have a soldier’s courage, a husbandman’s care, and a shepherd’s solicitude; and for it all should seek no more than bare necessaries” (St. Chrysostom).

1 Cor 9:8. Speak I these things according to man? Or doth not the law also say these things?
1 Cor 9:9. For it is written in the law of Moses : Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?

What has been just said is very reasonable, but St. Paul points to the divine sanction which he also has for his words. The Mosaic Law, given by God to the Jewish people, forbade the muzzling of the ox that was used to thresh the grain of their owners (Deut 25:4). The sheaves were spread on the floor of the barn and the ox was driven round and round upon them, until all the grain was trodden out of the straw. Now the Law forbade that the animal should be muzzled during this labor, so that, if it wished to grab a mouthful now and then, it might do so.

Doth God take care for oxen, i.e., did God make this law only for the sake of oxen? Did He not give it primarily for the sake of man, over whom He has a special providence? The meaning is that if God does not want the irrational laborer to be deprived of the food necessary for its maintenance and usefulness, how much more does He wish the human worker to receive his needed support!

1 Cor 9:10. Or doth he say this indeed for our sakes? For these thinge are written for our sakes: that he that plougheth, should plough in hope; and he that thrasheth, in hope to receive fruit.

Or doth he say, etc. Better, “Or is it not, indeed, said for our sakes?” This shows that God, in giving the above law, had our instruction chiefly in view, so that we may labor with the hope of receiving something for our work.

For these things, etc. Better, “For it was written for our sakes.”

In hope to receive fruit. Better, “In hope of partaking.”

1 Cor 9:11. If we have sown unto spiritual things, is it not a great matter if we reap your carnal things?

The Apostle’s contention that he has a right to support from the faithful is strengthened by a new thought. If for material labor one has the right to that temporal maintenance which is necessary for his life and usefulness, how much more has St. Paul a right to temporal support from the faithful for whom he has performed such a great spiritual service as he has done in making known to them the faith, and in converting them to Christianity! Temporal support would be little compensation for such surpassing blessings.

If we reap, etc. Two well-supported readings are possible here. That found in the oldest MSS. (B, A, and D) would seem to imply an actual partaking on the part of the Apostle of the Corinthians’ temporal goods. But as this does not fit the context, it is better to follow the other reading, which is supported by the Vulgate, Vetus Itala and the MSS., C D E F G. (Note: the above has been slightly edited by me)

1 Cor 9:12. If others be partakers of this power over you, why not we rather? Nevertheless, we have not used this power: but we bear all things, lest we should give any hindrance to the gospel of Christ.

If others, i.e., most probably, the other genuine teachers, like Apollo, who followed St. Paul at Corinth, and who, it seems, made use of their right to support by the faithful. If these subsequent preachers insisted on their rights, how much more could St. Paul, the founder of their Church, have insisted on his! And yet he did not, lest the evil and suspicious minded might thence take occasion to accuse him of false purposes, and thus hinder the spread of the Gospel.

This power over you (τη  εξουσια ταυτη = ho exousia taute), i.e., this right of support in regard to you (cf. 7:4).

1 Cor 9:13. Know you not, that they who work in the holy place, eat the things that are of the holy place; and they that serve the altar, partake with the altar?

Another argument is drawn from the practice of the priests of the Old Law, who shared in the victims offered for sacrifice.

They who work in the holy place, i.e., they who minister in the Temple, performing the sacred functions (τα ιερα εργαζομενοι), namely, the priests and Levites, eat the things, etc., i.e., have part in the sacrifices offered in the Temple at Jerusalem, as was ordained by God (Num 18:8-20; Deut 10:9; 8:1).

And (Vulg., et), connecting the clauses of this verse, is not in the Greek.

1 Cor 9:14. So also the Lord ordained that they who preach the gospel, should live by the gospel.

That the genuine preachers of the Gospel have a right to their temporal support has been so far proved from reason, from the authority of the Law, and from the practice of the priests of the Old Testament. A final argument is now given from the words of Christ Himself who said that the evangelical “workman is worthy of his meat” (Matt 10:10 ff.; Luke 10:7). The words of our Saviour do not mean that the Apostles were bound to insist on their right to support, but that they could, if they wished, and the faithful are obliged to admit this right and to comply with it.

1 Cor 9:15. But I have used none of these things. Neither have I written these things, that they should be so done unto me: for it is good for me to die, rather than that any man should make my glory void.

I have used none of these things, i.e., I have used none of the arguments just given to enforce my rights; or, better, I have made use of none of my rights as an Apostle.

Neither have I written, etc., i.e., the Apostle has not written these things with the intention of insisting on his temporal maintenance at the hands of the Corinthians; he would rather die than give up the superior benefit of preaching the Gospel without present emolument.

For it is good, etc. The Apostle breaks up his sentence here, in his eagerness to give vehement expression to his feelings. A better translation is: “It were well for me rather to die than my boast no one shall make void.” The meaning is that just given above.

1 Cor 9:16. For if I preach the gospel, it is no glory to me, for a necessity lieth upon me: for woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel.

The glorying (καυχημα) spoken of at the end of the preceding verse did not refer to the fact of having preached the Gospel, for since St. Paul was acting in obedience to the command of Christ in preaching (Acts 26:16 ff.; Rom 1:14), he was not free to do otherwise. His glory, therefore, consisted in preaching without insisting on his temporal rights, in denying himself the maintenance he might justly claim.

1 Cor 9:17. For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation is committed to me:

This verse is very difficult. To what does this thing refer? Does it refer to the mere fact of preaching the Gospel, which St. Paul was obliged to do, or to preaching the Gospel gratis, which he was not obliged to do? In our judgment the reference is rather to the fact of preaching the Gospel, of which there was question in the preceding verse. Willingly, then, means “uncommanded,” and against my will means under “necessity” (verse 16). The meaning of the verse therefore is: If St. Paul had preached the Gospel without having been commanded to do so, of his own choice, he would receive a special reward, and would have reason for glorying (verse 16); but if, as was the case, he preached because he had been commanded to preach, therefore under necessity, he was only fulfilling the commission entrusted to him, and so was not deserving of anything but the ordinary reward due to the fulfillment of one’s obligations.

A dispensation is committed, etc. Literally, “I have been entrusted with a stewardship.”

1 Cor 9:18. What is my reward then? That preaching the gospel, I may deliver the gospel without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

Had then the Apostle no special reward awaiting him, since the preaching of the Gospel was not his free choice but his bounden duty? Yes, his special reward consisted in foregoing his right to temporal support by the faithful and in preaching the Gospel without charge.

I abuse not. Better, “I use not to the full” (μη καταχρησασθαι = to katachresasthai ). This and the preceding verse prove the existence and merit of works of supererogation.

A Summary of 1 Cor 9:19-23

The Apostle has just told us at considerable length how he refused the temporal support to which he was entitled, in order not to impede the spread of the Gospel. But this was only one of the privations he freely chose to undergo. He also gave up his liberty and became ail things to all men, that he might gain all for Christ, and that his own reward might be the greater. How such an example ought to shame those Corinthians who were unwilling to abstain from eating meats that offended their weaker brethren!

1 Cor 9:19. For whereas I was free as to all, I made myself the servant of all, that I might gain the more.

St. Paul was God’s messenger to men, and as such he was in no wise subject to human beings. He could have lived and acted as he pleased so long as he was in conformity with his mission; but he surrendered his rights to such liberty of life and action and became the servant of all to whom he preached, in order that he might gain a greater number to Christ.

1 Cor 9:20. And I became to the Jews, a Jew, that I might gain the Jews:
 1 Cor 9:21. To them that are under the law, as if I were under the law, (whereas myself was not under the law), that I might gain them that were under the law. To them that were without the law, as if I were without the law, (whereas I was not without the law of God, but was in the law of Christ), that I might gain them that were without the law. 

When he was with the Jews he lived and acted like one of them, observing the Law and its ceremonies (Acts 16:3; 18:18; 21:23-26), although he knew these were unnecessary. All this he did that he might win the Jews more easily to the Gospel. Likewise when among those that were without the law, i.e., with the pagans who had not the Law of Moses, he conducted himself as if he also knew not that Law. And yet he did not, like the Gentiles, observe no law; for he was subject and obedient to the law of Christ which imposes the moral precepts of the Mosaic Law, summed up in the two great Commandments of the love of God and of our neighbor (Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:14).

1 Cor 9:22. To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all.

To the weak, etc., i.e., for the sake of those who were weak in faith and easily scandalized (8:7, 9-12; Rom 14). St. Paul refrained from indifferent actions which they might misunderstand and take to be wrong.

I became all things . . . that I might save all. A better reading of this last clause is, “that I may save some” (ινα παντως τινας σωσω). Thus, he acted in such a way as to save all, in order to save some.

The Vulgate ut omnes facerem salvos should be, ut aliquos faciam salvos.

1 Cor 9:23. And I do all things for the gospel’s sake : that I may be made partaker thereof.

The sacrifices and works of supererogation performed by St. Paul were not only for the sake of others, but for his own sake as well. 

For the gospel’s sake, i.e., for the sake of the great rewards promised in the Gospel. The Apostle has labored so generously, in order that he may be made partaker, along with his converts, of the blessings held out in the Gospel.

 A Summary of 1 Cor 9:24-27

The Corinthians must not think that to be Christians is enough to make certain their salvation. The Apostle directs their attention to his own life of severity: he so labors that there may be no doubt of his gaining the eternal prize; he chastises his body that he may save his immortal soul. If they would be saved, the faithful likewise must labor arduously to gain their crowns.

1 Cor 9:24. Know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain.

To illustrate the effort necessary to save one’s soul St. Paul reminds the Corinthians of what they were accustomed to witness every three years at the famous Isthmian games on the sea-coast about nine miles from Corinth. Those competitors in the stadium, or race-course, exerted every effort, and yet only one received the prize, which was a garland of leaves of the pine or olive. As the mere entrance into the arena was not sufficient to gain this material prize, so the bare fact of one’s being a member of the Church is not sufficient to win the prize of eternal life. On the contrary, we must, like the racers, so strive for the victory as to overcome and defeat our spiritual adversaries.

The Apostle is insisting on the effort that must be put forth to gain heaven, without wishing to say how many are saved. For all a place is prepared hereafter, but all will not attain to their destined seats in glory.

1 Cor 9:25. And every one that striveth for the mastery, refraineth himself from all things: and they indeed that may receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible one.

In the days of the Grecian games, as now, athletes who took part in the public contests severely disciplined themselves beforehand for a long period of time, abstaining from every indulgence that might weaken their bodies and lessen their strength; and all this that they might win a corruptible crown of leaves. How much more, then, should we Christians deny ourselves for the glory of never-fading crowns in heaven!

From ancient writers we learn that candidates for the prize at the Isthmian and Olympic games had to abstain from every kind of sensual indulgence for ten months, and to undergo a most rigorous bodily training (cf. Horace, De Arte Poetica, 412; Epictetus, Enchir. 29).

And (Vulg., et) after all things is not represented in the Greek.

1 Cor 9:26. I therefore so run, not as at an uncertainty: I so fight, not as one beating the air:

Calling attention to his own conduct, which the Corinthians should strive to imitate, St. Paul says he directs all his efforts to the goal of eternal life. He so runs as to obtain the prize; he so fights as to overcome his adversaries. The latter figure is an allusion to the pugilistic contests in Greek games.

1 Cor 9:27. But I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.

I chastise. The best Greek reading here (υπωπιαζω = hypopiazo) means literally, “I beat the face black and blue.” As the pugilist beat the face of his adversary black and blue, so St. Paul practiced such corporal austerities as figuratively to make his body black and blue.

And bring it into subjection, i.e., conquer its evil propensities and bring it, as it were, into bondage. The conqueror in some Greek contests was permitted to lead his adversary around the arena and exhibit him to the spectators as a captive and slave.

When I have preached. Literally, “Having announced” (κηρυξας) . The allusion is again to the games in which’ a herald made the announcements of the combatants, proclaimed the conditions, and excluded any who were unworthy. St. Paul was not only a herald but a competitor in the struggle for eternal life, and he feared that while he had announced the conditions for victory to others, he himself might fail to observe them and thus lose his own prize.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians Chapter 8

Text in red are my additions.

Another question asked St. Paul by the faithful of Corinth regarded meats offered to idols. It was true that the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:23 ff.) had legislated in this matter, but since the decision there given seemed intended especially for the Christians of Antioch, Syria and Cilicia, where there were great numbers of Jews whom it was important not to scandalize by pagan practices, the Corinthians, as being mostly of Gentile origin and surroundings, were not certain just what their attitude should be toward pagan feasts and sacrificial meats.

The difficulty was increased by the fact that nearly all pagan banquets, both public and private, took on a religious character (Aristotle, Ethics viii. 9; Thucydides, ii. 38); and of the victims offered to the idols only a part was destroyed on the altar, the rest being given to the priests and those who offered the sacrifice for their own consumption in a sacrificial banquet, the remainder to be taken home for private use, or to be sold on the public market. It was customary for pagans to invite their friends to these private religious banquets, and it was held to be the part of loyalty to the State also to attend those that were celebrated publicly. Some of the Christians did not hesitate to attend these festivities and freely to partake of the meats offered to the idols, and to purchase such meats at the public market. Others were scandalized at such conduct, holding that it was entirely wrong to eat things profaned by idol worship. Still others ate with a bad conscience, feeling it was wrong to do so, but being unable to resist. Hence the matter was submitted to St. Paul. The present chapter gives his reply, which is to the effect that, while it is not wrong in itself to eat meats offered to idols, yet on account of scandal it is necessary sometimes to abstain from them.

A Summary Of  1 Corinthians 8:1-7

It is not possible that anything offered to an idol be really denied, since an idol is nothing. Those who have true knowledge understand this, because they know that there are not many gods, but one God only. But some are weak in the knowledge of the truth, and hence it is unlawful for them to eat meats offered to idols.

1 Cor 8:1. Now concerning those things that are sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up; but charity edifieth.

Now concerning … we know that. St. Paul here departs from the subject he starts to discuss, and through the second half of verse 1 and all of verses 2, 3, speaks parenthetically of “knowledge.” Perhaps those among the Corinthians who were scandalizing their weaker brethren had boasted in the letter to the Apostle that they had superior knowledge, and consequently knew there was no harm in eating meats offered to idols.

We all have knowledge, i.e., the Apostle and most of the faithful in Corinth knew very well how to regard the rites, sacrifices, and gods of pagans—they knew that idols were nothing.

Knowledge puffeth up, i.e., human wisdom, and even divine science, without charity, are often the occasion of pride and arrogance. Some of the Corinthians had knowledge, but without charity.

Charity edifieth. Literally, “Love buildeth up,” i.e., the love of God (verse 3), which includes also love of our neighbor, builds up (οἰκοδομέω= oikodomeō) the temple of God, the Christian society, by procuring the spiritual welfare and progress of the Christian community.

1 Cor 8:2. And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he hath not yet known as he ought to know.

If any man think, etc., i.e., if anyone thinks he understands that meats offered to idols are not defiled, and has not charity, which will teach him further that he must not overlook the weakness and needs of his neighbor, such a one hath not yet known, etc., i.e., has, as yet, only imperfect and one-sided knowledge. True knowledge consists in knowing our limitations, and in subordinating everything to the love of God and the good of souls. Socrates said: “He is the wisest of men who knoweth that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing” (Plato, Apology, IX.).

1 Cor 8:3. But if any man love God, the same is known by him.

If any man love God, etc., i.e., if anyone have real supernatural charity, which always includes the love of our neighbor (1 John 4:20), he will be known, i.e., approved (cf. Matt 7:23; John 10:14, 27; Gal 4:9; etc, for this sense of γινώσκω = ginōskō) by God. In other words, such a person will not only understand the question of meats offered to idols, but will also know all that is necessary for his own salvation and that of his neighbor, and therefore will have God’s approval and blessing upon him. While we are all loved by God prior to our knowledge and love of Him, this approving love of God follows only upon our love of Him (MacRory, against MacEvilly and Estius).

1 Cor 8:4. But as for the meats that are sacrificed to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no God but one.

The Apostle now takes up the thought broken off in verse 1, and begins to treat directly the question of meats offered to idols.

But as for the meats, etc. Better, “Concerning, therefore, the eating of things offered to idols.”

We know that an idol is nothing, etc. Better, “We know that there is no idol in the world, and that there is no God but one,” i.e., there is nothing really and objectively corresponding to the images representing false gods, there is no being actually existing which has the properties of God except the one true God (Psalm 9:5; 113:4; Isa 41:24; 42:17; 44:9; etc.). Hence meat offered to idols is really not a bit different from other meat.

1 Cor 8:5. For although there be that are called gods, either in heaven or on earth (for there be gods many, and lords many); 
1 Cor 8:6. Yet to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

The thought of the preceding verse is amplified. Although, according to the erroneous beliefs of various pagan nations, there are many so-called gods and lords, some celestial, some terrestrial, in the world; for us Christians, who know that God means the first principle and the last end of all things, there is only one God, the Father, from whom all things proceed as from their first cause, and to whom we tend as to our ultimate end (Rom 11:26). Furthermore, for us who know that Lord means Him on whom all entirely depend, there is only one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom, as the examplar and efficient cause, all things were made (John 1:3), and through whom, as God incarnate, we Christians have been redeemed (cf. Eph 4:5, 6).

The equality of the Father and the Son as God is clearly set forth in this verse. If the Arians would conclude from it that the Son is not God, then they ought consistently to conclude that the Father is not Lord, because (it says) there is “one Lord Jesus Christ.” Of course to deny that the Father is Lord would be blasphemy (Theodoret).

1 Cor 8:7. But there is not knowledge in every one. For some until this present, with conscience of the idol: eat as a thing sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

The conclusion from the preceding verses (4-6) is that, since an idol has no real objective existence aside from its mere image of stone or plaster or the like, it cannot affect food offered to it. So much was clear to most of the Christians, but there were some who had not yet been sufficiently instructed to grasp this truth, and who consequently were not entirely persuaded that it was harmless to eat meats offered to idols. However, following the example of others they did eat such meats with conscience of the idol, i.e., believing that the idol had power to defile, and so went against the dictates of their conscience, and became defiled with sin. It is sinful to act against even an erroneous conscience (Rom 14:23), but one is obliged to do all he can to correct his false conscience.

Instead of the reading of the Vulgate and of most MSS. and versions, with conscience of the idol, the three oldest Greek MSS. and some versions have through being used to the idol. The former is the preferable reading.

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 8:8-13

The eating of meats offered to idols is harmless in itself, and yet it is forbidden to those who do not understand that it is harmless. And even they who have a correct conception of the matter must abstain from such food when their eating of it might give scandal to others who would misunderstand their action, or who would, through frailty, be induced to follow their example, and thus violate their own conscience. Those who give scandal and lead others into sin commit a most grievous crime.

1 Cor 8:8. But meat doth not commend us to God. For neither, if we eat, shall we have the more: nor, if we eat not, shall we have the less.

In this verse the Apostle declares that meats considered in themselves are indifferent, being governed by no law; hence per se it is all the same in the sight of God whether we eat them or not.

Meat doth not commend, etc. Better, “Food will not commend,” etc., i.e., food is a matter of indifference before God; for whether we eat it or abstain from it we are neither better nor worse in God’s sight.

The doctrine of this verse looks to meats objectively considered, without any reference whatever to the legislation of the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:23, 29), or to the Catholic teaching and practice regarding fasting. The Church can make laws affecting meats, if it wishes, but there was no such law binding the Corinthians; and this latter is all that St. Paul is talking about.

1 Cor 8:9. And take heed lest perhaps this your liberty become a stumbling-block to the weak.

And take heed, etc., i.e., those who are well instructed must be on their guard against doing anything that could scandalize and lead into sin those of their brethren who are wanting in more perfect knowledge.

1 Cor 8:10. For if a man see him that hath knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple; shall not his conscience, being weak, be emboldened to eat those things which are sacrificed to idols?

Him that hath knowledge. Better, “Thee (σέ = se) that hast knowledge.” The Apostle gives an example of the scandal he is warning against.

In the idol’s temple, i.e., in the house or shrine devoted to idol worship. It often happened that the meats offered in sacrifice were partaken of, not only in the temple or shrine of the idol, but in the courts or grove adjoining. Later on (10:14 ff.) St. Paul denounces such action on the part of anyone under any circumstances, but here he is concerned only with the scandal it gives.

Being weak. Weak refers to the condition of the man (αυτου ασθενους = autos asthenēs), rather than to his conscience; he is weak in knowledge, and hence his conscience is erroneous.

Emboldened, usually employed in a good sense, meaning to edify, is here used ironically.

1 Cor 8:11. And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ hath died? 

Behold the enormity of the sin of scandal! A Christian who is well informed, by his injudicious and careless action, causes a fellow-Christian, to whom a double portion of charity is due, to commit a grievous sin and lose his soul—a soul for whom Christ died on the cross (Rom. 14:15, 20). Shall the weak brother perish. This is the reading of E F G, Rec, Vulg., Peshitto, and Iren.; Other manuscripts have the present tense, “perisheth.”

It follows from this verse that Christ died for more than the elect.

1 Cor 8:12. Now when you sin thus against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.

The sin of scandal is not only an injustice to one’s neighbor, whose right to charity it violates and whose conscience it wounds, but it is also an injustice and a cruelty to Christ, of whom our neighbor is a member and who died for all. What is done to the least of Christ’s servants is done to Him (Matt 25:34 ff.)

1 Cor 8:13. Wherefore, if meat scandalize my brother, I will never eat flesh, lest I should scandalize my brother.

The Apostle proposes his own resolve and example to the Corinthians for imitation. As far as he goes he will abstain from all meats (βρῶμα = brōma, i.e., food of any kind), whether offered to idols or not, and this forever, if it be necessary to avoid giving scandal to his brother.

We must, therefore, avoid things perfectly licit in themselves, if there is danger of giving scandal to “little ones” (Matt 18:6). Of course things necessary for salvation are never to be abandoned for fear of scandal; neither are we obliged to take any notice of Pharisaical scandal (cf. St. Thomas, IIa IIae, q. 43, aa. 7, 8).

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians Chapter 7

Text in red are my additions. 

The second part of the body of the present letter (7:1-15:58) starts here. See introduction, part 8 concerning the division of the letter.

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 7:1-9

It seems that some of the faithful at Corinth were uncertain whether it was better to make use of their matrimonial rights and privileges or not,—whether, namely, they should abstain from carnal intercourse, if married, and remain single, if unmarried. St. Paul replies that, while it is better for a man to surrender his matrimonial privileges, the use of marriage is a protection against the danger of incontinence, and that for this reason married people ought not to deny each other their lawful rights, except under certain conditions and for a special legitimate purpose. It would be better if all could be celibates, as he is, but this gift is not bestowed on everyone. If there is fear of incontinence, it is better to marry.

1 Cor 7:1. Now concerning the things whereof you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

Concerning the things, etc. This shows that the Corinthians had written St. Paul a letter proposing questions about the subject he now undertakes to discuss.

Not to touch a woman, i.e., not to have carnal intercourse with one’s wife. The reason is that it is more excellent to abstain from intercourse. The term γυνή = gunē  is taken for “wife” here, since it is used in this sense throughout the present chapter. And if it is more perfect in married people to abstain from using matrimony, it is likewise more excellent to abstain from marriage

Marriage and legitimate carnal intercourse are good and virtuous, but it is, absolutely speaking, more perfect for the individual to abstain from them. When God said (Gen 2:18), “It is not good for a man to be alone,” He was speaking not of individuals, but of mankind in general, for whom matrimony is necessary as the only lawful means of propagating and perpetuating the human race. The Apostle is here speaking of individual cases.

1 Cor 7:2. But for fear of fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Although it is, absolutely speaking, more excellent for married people to abstain from using matrimony, and likewise more excellent for individual men and women to refrain from marriage altogether, still if there is danger of incontinence, of fornication and other impurities, it is better to make lawful use of one’s matrimonial rights.

It seems more probable that there is question in this verse of using matrimony already contracted, than of entering the married state, because the expression γυναικα εχετω is nowhere else used in Scripture of taking a wife. However, if one wishes to hold, with many exegetes, that there is question here of contracting marriage, it must be noted that the Apostle is not giving a precept but only a counsel (verse 6). Furthermore, it is to misunderstand St. Paul to say, as some Rationalists do, that he has a low concept of marriage, regarding it only as a means of avoiding a greater evil. That the Apostle considers matrimony as a high and holy state is evident from verse 14 of this chapter, from 11:3, and from Eph 5:23-27.

Fornication is plural in the Greek, to signify the various sins of impurity to which a man abstaining from his marriage rights might be exposed.

1 Cor 7:3. Let the husband render the debt to his wife; and the wife also in likemanner to the husband.
1 Cor 7:4. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband. And in like manner the husband also hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

By reason of their mutual contract and the mutual rights thence resulting the husband is bound to yield to the wishes of his wife, and the wife to those of her husband, when there is request for legitimate intercourse. Man and woman united in lawful wedlock become one flesh; hence the use of the body of each is subject to the will of the other, provided, of course, there exists no reasonable impediment. 

1 Cor 7:5. Do fraud not one another, except, perhaps by consent, for a time, that you may give yourselves to prayer; and return together again, lest Satan tempt you for your incontinency.

Defraud not one another. Better, “Deprive not one another,” i.e., married people are not to deny each other the right to intercourse which each party has from the very nature and contract of matrimony. Of course the exercise of this right can be suspended by mutual consent, either for a time, or perpetually.

That you may give yourselves to prayer, i.e., to some special devotions, such as prayer accompanied by fasting, with which the use of matrimony would interfere. There is no question here of ordinary prayer, because the injunction to “pray always” (1 Thess 5:17) holds for married people as for all others.

Return together again. Better, “Be together again,” i. e., return to the use of matrimony.

Lest Satan tempt you, i.e., lest Satan take occasion, by your abstinence from your mutual rights, to tempt you to unlawful indulgence.

1 Cor 7:6. But I speak this by indulgence, not by commandment.

I speak this, etc. What does “this” refer to? Those who understand verses 1, 2 to treat of entrance to the married state think the Apostle here is saying that he does not command, but only counsels getting married. Others, with greater probability and with better conformity to the context, understand
“this” to refer to what is said in verse 5 about abstaining from the use of matrimony only for a time and then coming together again, as if perpetual continence were wrong. Hence, when the Apostle said “return together again,” he was not giving a command, but a counsel only, as he here explains. This interpretation agrees with the more probable meaning of verses 1, 2 and with what follows in verse 7.

1 Cor 7:7. For I would that all men were even as myself: but every one hath his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that.

I would that, etc. Since continence is more perfect than intercourse, and celibacy more excellent than the married state, the Apostle wishes that all men might have the grace to be like himself, unmarried and free from sexual indulgence. It is the common opinion of the Fathers that St. Paul was never

But if all men were, like the Apostle, to live a life of continence, human generation would cease, and the plan of divine Providence would not be carried out. To answer this difficulty some have said that the Apostle restricted his wish to the Corinthians; others, that he was expressing mere velleity (i.e., an inclination not strong enough for someone to act upon), knowing that it was impossible (Estius); others, that he was speaking in the abstract, not considering the present order of things (St. Thomas); still others, that he was expressing a real wish, even though it cannot be realized (Cornely).

The opinion of St. Thomas seems preferable, because St. Paul goes on to say that in the present order of things God has willed it otherwise, calling some to the married, some to the celibate state, and that the fulfillment of the duties of either state is a gift from God. See Aquinas’ Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:1-9.

1 Cor 7:8. But I say to the unmarried, and to the widows: it is good for them if they so continue, even as I.
1 Cor 7:9. But if they do not contain themselves, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to be burnt.

Even though marriage is good, being a gift from God, it is more perfect to remain single, if this is possible. I say to the unmarried (λεγω δε τοις αγαμοις), i.e., to all those now unmarried, men and women, whether ever before married or not. Although widows would be included among unmarried persons, St. Paul mentions them in particular to encourage them to remain single in spite of their usual destitute state in ancient times and other special reasons they might have for wishing to remarry. He returns to them again in verse 39, as he also speaks again in verse 25 of those who were never married.

Even as I, i.e., it is good, it is a more perfect thing, if all who are unmarried, even including widows, should remain unmarried, like the Apostle himself. Of course, if they are unable to observe continence, let them marry; for it is better to choose a less perfect state, like matrimony, than so to be burnt by the fires of concupiscence as to be unfaithful to the more excellent life of continence.

A Summary of 1 Cor 7:10-24

However more excellent celibacy is than the married state, it remains true that matrimony is a holy union of man and woman which has been ordained by God for high and noble purposes, and that for the proper accomplishment of these purposes the marriage bond is sacred and firm. Among the faithful it is altogether indissoluble by the ordinance of God Himself. And while some exception to this rule may be allowed, when one party is Christian and the other non-Christian, it must be remembered that the conditions of matrimonial unity which obtained before conversion remain for the most part after one has embraced the faith.

1 Cor 7:10. But to them that are married, not I, but the Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband.
1 Cor 11:11. And if she depart, that she remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. And let not the husband put away his wife.

Fearing that some of his married readers might take too seriously the counsels he had just uttered and try to separate from their lawful partners, the Apostle now warns them of the sacred character of the marriage tie.

To them that are married, i.e., to those Christians of Corinth to whom St. Paul was writing, as to all the faithful everywhere, the Lord (Matt 5:32; 19:3 ff.; Mark 10:11, 12; Luke 16:18) has said that their marriages are indissoluble, and cannot be put asunder by any human power. This command of the Lord has been explained by the Church of Christ as pertaining to marriages that have been lawfully contracted and consummated. Of course the words of St. Paul here, as well as the command of Christ, apply also to pagan and Jewish marriages, since our Lord bases His teaching of the indissolubility of the marriage tie on the character of its primitive institution (Gen 2:24).

The Apostle here supposes that there may be just reasons which will permit two married Christians, whose matrimony has been consummated, to live apart; but it is just in such cases that the inseparable nature of their marriage bond is perceived, for they must be reconciled to each other, or remain unmarried, until one of them is dead.

It is evident that what is said of the wife in this verse applies equally to the husband, (a) because the rights and duties of married people are the same for both parties; and (b) because Christ said of the husband: “Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her” (Mark 10:11).

1 Cor 7:12. For to the rest I speak, not the Lord. If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she consent to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
1 Cor 7:13. And if any woman hath a husband that believeth not, and he consent to dwell with her, let her not put away her husband.

In verses 8, 9 the Apostle had spoken to the unmarried; and in verses 10, 11 he addressed directly married Christians, indirectly and implicitly touching also the marriages of Jews and pagans. Now he begins to speak to the rest, i.e., to those who were married before they knew of the Gospel, and one of whom has since embraced the faith, the other remaining in paganism or Judaism.

I speak, not the Lord, i.e., Christ had given no declaration regarding mixed marriages, but St. Paul, the inspired Apostle, who is speaking in the name and with the authority of the Holy Ghost (verses 25, 40) now says, by way of counsel, not of precept (St. Thomas), that in mixed marriages the Christian party should not depart from the non-Christian, provided the latter be willing to dwell in peace and not interfere with the other’s Christian duties.

That St. Paul is giving a counsel here and not a precept seems more probable on account of the practice of the Church, which has understood his words as a counsel and not as a command, and also on account of the mild language he uses here (εγω λεγω, I speak). Many grave authorities, however, hold that the Apostle is giving a precept in this matter, and consequently that the Christian party must not leave his or her peaceful and inoffensive non-Christian partner.

1 Cor 7:14. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband: otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy.

A reason is now given why the Christian party ought to follow the counsel just given.

The unbelieving husband is sanctified, etc. It is plain that there can be no question here of real internal sanctification of which the unbelieving party is the recipient by reason of marriage with a Christian. The meaning is that the non-Christian party is to some extent disposed and inclined to the faith by the good life and example of the other party; or that, by virtue of the close union between husband and wife, who become one flesh, the unbelieving party participates, to some degree, in the sanctity of the Christian party, inasmuch as he begins to subject himself to the sway of Christ, withdrawing from the power of the evil one (Cornely).

Is sanctified by the believing husband. Better, “Is sanctified in the brother,” (with manuscripts B A C D E F G).

Otherwise your children should be unclean, i.e., if, as I have said, the unbelieving husband or wife, in a mixed marriage is not to some extent sanctified by the faithful party, it would follow that your children, i.e., the children of you Corinthians, would not be sanctified, which is admittedly false. It is evident that the Apostle is here speaking in general of the children of the Corinthian Christians, and not of the mixed marriages of the first part of the verse; for there he spoke in the third person singular, “the unbelieving husband,” etc., while here he uses the second person plural, “your children,” meaning the children of the Corinthian Christians to whom he was writing this letter.
Therefore just as the unbaptized children of Christians participate to some extent in the holiness of their parents, inasmuch as they are destined to receive the faith and the graces that follow upon Baptism, so in a mixed marriage the unbelieving party is sanctified by living with a partner who has embraced the faith.

From the above explanation of the final clause of this verse it would seem that the practice of baptizing infants had not been introduced in the Corinthian Church when this letter was written.

1 Cor 7:15. But if the unbeliever depart, let him depart. For a brother or sister is not under servitude in such cases. But God hath called us to peace.

This verse announces what is known as the “Pauline Privilege,” by virtue of which the Christian party of a mixed marriage that was contracted when both parties were non-Christian is not bound by the matrimonial tie and can remarry when the unbelieving party refuses cohabitation or makes this morally impossible. This privilege, however, is not recognized by modern
civil legislation.

If the unbeliever depart, i.e., if he refuses cohabitation with the Christian party, or makes their living together a moral impossibility.

For a brother or sister, etc. “For” is not in the Greek; and “the,” instead of “a,” should precede “brother” and “sister.” The meaning of the passage is that when one of an unbelieving couple is converted to the faith, and the other either departs, or makes cohabitation practically impossible, the Christian party is no longer under servitude, i.e., is no longer bound by the matrimonial tie, and consequently can remarry at discretion.

This doctrine is not de fide, but it is theologically certain. Evidently St. Paul is making a greater concession here than he made in verse 11, where separation was supposed as permissible. But if the right to remarry is not granted here, it is hard to see how the Christian party with an unbelieving and contumelious partner is any better off than the Christian wife of verse 11, who may separate from her Christian husband, but must remain unmarried.

The reason why a Christian is not obliged to live with an unbelieving and injurious husband or wife is because the faithful are called by God to a life of holy peace. But there can be no peace if the Christian is in constant turmoil with the unbelieving party.

1 Cor 7:16. For how knowest thou, wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

The only cause that could induce a Christian to bear with the abuse of a disagreeable and unbelieving partner is the hope of the latter’s conversion. Since, however, this is most uncertain, liberty and peace are to be preferred to such a life.

St. Chrysostom makes this verse refer to verses 12, 13, as giving a reason, namely, the hope of conversion, why the Christian party ought not to separate from his or her unbelieving partner.

1 Cor 7:17. But as the Lord hath distributed to every one, as God hath called every one, so let him walk: and so in all churches I teach.

But as, etc., (ει μη, in an adversative sense), i.e., whatever may be said of the doctrine of the preceding verse, (Erasmus); or, aside from the case given in verse 15 (Cornely, Van Steenkiste), we must not think that conversion to the faith breaks up previous relations. Therefore let each one continue after his conversion in the same state of life and relationship to society in which he was before, provided this is not incompatible with the holiness required of every Christian.

I teach, i.e., this same doctrine St. Paul taught everywhere, namely, that it was not necessary to change one’s respectable state of life after conversion to the faith.

1 Cor 7:18. Is any man called, being circumcised? let him not procure uncircumcision. Is any man called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
1 Cor 7:19. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing: but the observance of the commandments of God.

The Apostle illustrates (in verse 19) the meaning of the previous verse. It makes no difference whether a man was circumcised or uncircumcised before his conversion to the faith. There is only one thing that counts for salvation, and that is the keeping of the commandments of God.

Is any man called in uncircumcision (verse 18). Better, “Hath any man been called,” etc.

1 Cor 7:20. Let every man abide in the same calling in which he was called.

So long as a man was leading a good respectable life before he was called by God to the faith, there is no reason for changing it after he becomes a Christian. A good natural calling in the world is also a gift of God.

Calling, i.e., the invitation to lead a certain kind of life. The word κλῆσις (klēsis), calling, used here, means everywhere in the New Testament the invitation to embrace Christianity. Thus whatever be one’s occupation in life, if it be decent, this will not interfere with his summons to lead a Christian life. Let every man abide, then, in the respectable condition of life in which God’s call to Christianity found him.

1 Cor 7:21. Wast thou called, being a bond man? care not for it; but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.

Therefore, whether one be a slave or a free man, his call to Christianity ought not to interfere with his previous respectable state.

But if thou mayest be made free, use it rather, i.e., when converted to Christianity as a slave do not change your condition, but remain faithful to your master. In this interpretation, which is that of the Fathers generally, “use it” means continue in your state as a slave. The explanation is made very probable by the fact that St. Paul would have incurred the great displeasure of Roman power had he meant to encourage slaves to become Christians as a means of getting their freedom. Moreover, St. Paul is counselling everyone to continue after his conversion in the state of life in which Christianity found him, provided that state offers no obstacles to piety. However, a Lapide, Calmet, Bisping and others think the Apostle is counselling slaves to embrace Christianity in order to gain their liberty. In either case, the Apostle is giving only a counsel and not a precept. 

1 Cor 7:22. For he that is called in the Lord, being a bondman, is the freeman of the Lord. Likewise he that is called, being free, is the bondman of Christ.

Whatever may be their external condition of life, all Christians are equal before Christ (12:13; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11). Hence the bondman when called in the Lord, i.e., when converted to the faith, becomes the freeman of the Lord, i.e., is liberated from the slavery of sin and the evil one. In like manner, when a freeman is called to the faith he becomes the bondman of Christ, i.e., the slave of Christ, who has redeemed him from the servitude of sin.

Freeman should rather be freedman.

1 Cor 7:23. You are bought with a price; be not made the bond-slaves of men.

Addressing the Corinthians in general, the Apostle tells them that they were all, slaves and freedmen, formerly under the tyranny of sin, but now they are bought with a price (τιμης ηγορασθητε) , i.e., with the blood of Jesus Christ (6:20; 1 Peter 1:18, 19). Wherefore, since they are now the property and possession of their Redeemer, they should not permit themselves to be made the bond-slaves of men, i.e., they should not so make themselves the slaves of human masters as to neglect in any way their duties to their divine Master. As Christ is here contrasted with men, His Divinity is clearly implied.

1 Cor 7:24. Brethren, let every man, wherein he was called, therein abide with God.

Again for the third time (cf. verses 17, 20) the Apostle counsels that every convert should continue in the honest and upright state of life in which the faith found him.

Abide with God. This shows that St. Paul is presupposing that the life in which he advises to continue was good in the sight of God.


What the Apostle had just said in the preceding verses, about remaining after conversion in the same condition of life as before, might cause much uncertainty and doubt in the minds of the Corinthians. Did he mean that young persons who were not yet married should remain single? And that widows should not remarry? It is true he had briefly touched on these questions in verses 8, 9; but after all that had been said in verses 17-24, regarding the advisability of continuing unchanged in one’s former state of life after receiving Baptism, it became quite necessary that the questions involved be more thoroughly discussed and elucidated. Accordingly, the Apostle now explains that, while virginity is only a counsel, it is far more excellent than married life. He then gives some practical advice to parents in regard to their daughters, and terminates with a few words of instruction for widows.

1 Cor 7:25. Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord; but I give counsel, as having obtained mercy of the Lord, to be faithful.

Beginning to speak of virginity and its excellence, the Apostle observes in the first place that he has no precept from the Lord in the matter, as was otherwise in the question of matrimony (verse 10).

Virgins (παρθενων). Perhaps this term here embraces both sexes, as in Matt 19:12; Apoc 14:4, and as would seem probable from verses 28, 32, 33 of this chapter.

No commandment of the Lord. Our Lord extolled the excellence of virginity (Matt 19:12), but He did not command it as something necessary for salvation.

I give counsel (γνωμην δε διδωμ), i.e., he gives very serious advice, as one who has obtained mercy of the Lord, i.e., who has been called to the Apostolate by the divine mercy, and has been commanded to preach by Christ Himself (Gal 1:1).

To be faithful, i.e., he must speak as he does, and give counsel regarding virginity, otherwise he will not be faithful to his mission and to the grace that has been given him; he must counsel as one “worthy of belief, called by the Lord’s great mercy, and entrusted with the ministry of preaching (Theodoret).

1 Cor 7:26. I think therefore that this is good for the present necessity, that it is good for a man so to be.

The Apostle’s counsel regarding virginity is this, that it is good, i.e., excellent, more perfect than the married state (cf. on verse 1)

For the present necessity, i.e., on account of the trials, troubles and anxieties of this present life, to which married people are more exposed than those who remain single (Cornely, Fillion, and most of the older interpreters); or, on account of the near approach of the end of the world (Bisping, Toussaint, Prat in La Theolegie, etc., vol. 1, p. 154). This latter explanation is out of harmony with the teaching of St. Paul in a previous Epistle (2 Thess 2:2 ff.; 3:5 ff), and with the decisions of the Biblical Commission of June 18, 1915, on the Parousia. Whatever may have been St. Paul’s private opinions on this, or any other subject, we cannot admit that he ever taught or wrote anything which subsequent facts have proved to have been false.

1 Cor 7:27. Art thou bound to a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

Notwithstanding the excellence of virginity, those who are already married should stay with their wives. On the other hand, those who are unmarried should remain single.

Loosed from a wife could include widowers, but the context seems to restrict it to men who have never been married.

1 Cor 7:28. But if thou take a wife, thou hast not sinned. And if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned: nevertheless, such shall have tribulation of the flesh. But I spare you.

If thou take a wife (with D E F G). Better, “If thou marry” (with B), The Apostle wishes to say that what he has just counselled about not seeking a wife must not be understood as meaning that those who marry will thereby sin; for matrimony is good, having been instituted by God Himself in the garden of paradise (Cornely). The verbs hast not sinned (Vulg., non peccasti), hath not sinned (Vulg., non peccavit), although representing the Greek aorist, would better express the meaning here, if they were in the future tense. The aorist is thus at times correctly rendered by the future in the Vulgate (cf. John 15:6). Note: B, D, E, F and G are manuscript designations).

Tribulation of the flesh means the trials, anxieties and annoyances of life, which are more numerous for the married than for the single.

I spare you, i.e., I do not insist on your leading a life of virginity, which would be very difficult, if you have not the gift of continence. Others explain as follows: I recommend virginity to you in order to “spare you” from the difficulties and hardships of married life.

1 Cor 7:29. This therefore I say, brethren; the time is short; it remaineth, that they also who have wives, be as if they had none;

This therefore I say. Better, “But this I say.” The Apostle explains why it is better to remain unmarried.

The time is short, i.e., the days of this life are few and short, and so it is better to avoid the cares and anxieties inseparable from married life, in order to give ourselves more fervently to the service of God. Some interpret these words as referring to the nearness of the day of judgment, which cannot be allowed, since this would make the Apostle teach something which was not true. Of course it is a fact that each one’s particular judgment is never far off, and all uncertain to the individual whom, therefore, it behooves to keep as free as possible from distracting annoyances and to be ever watching for his Master’s coming.

It remaineth, etc. The conclusion which follows from the brevity of our life on earth is that we ought to keep our hearts detached from all temporal cares, solicitudes, joys and sorrows which may obscure the vision of our real purpose in life, namely, the service of God and the salvation of our souls.

1 Cor 7:30. And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;

The meaning is that we must not allow any of our earthly experiences, whether of sorrow, of joy, or of business, to absorb our attention and distract us from loving and serving God. We must rather turn all these things to our sanctification by regarding them in the light of faith.

1 Cor 7:31. And they that use this world, as if they used it not: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

Use this world, as if they used it not. Better, “Use the World, as not using it to the full.”

The fashion . . . passeth away, i.e., the show, the external appearance, of things, such as riches, honors, pleasures, sorrows and the like, are fleeting, and should not be permitted to take our hearts away with them. These external things of the present world shall be destroyed at the judgment; the substance of the world, though changed and purified, shall not be destroyed (Rom 8:19 ff.; 2 Peter 3:13; 1 John 2:17; Apoc 21:1).

1 Cor 7:32. But I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God.
1 Cor 7:33. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided.

St. Paul says that he prefers the Christians to be free from the cares and responsibilities of married life, in order that they may give their thoughts and affections more entirely to God. If one is unmarried, he can more easily give his undivided attention to his spiritual welfare; whereas, if married, one’s wife and family justly claim a part of his thoughts and affections, and thus he is divided.

God (Vulg., Deo) at the end of verse 32 ought to be “Lord” (Domino), as in the Greek.

1 Cor 7:34. And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

What was just said of the unmarried and of the married man is also true of the unmarried and of the married woman.

The beginning of this verse has two readings, namely, that of the Vulgate and our version, which is supported by some of the best MSS. and the majority of critics; and that of the Revised Version, Tischendorf and others, which makes the verse begin with the last words of verse 33, and he is divided. Those who follow this less probable reading translate the beginning of the present verse as follows: “And there is a difference also between the wife and the virgin.”

It is clear that the meaning is the same in either reading; for both proclaim the one thing, namely, the superior perfection of the unmarried over the married state.

1 Cor 7:35. And this I speak for your profit: not to cast a snare upon you; but for that which is decent, and which may give you power, to attend upon the Lord, without impediment.

After having extolled the superior excellence of virginity the Apostle tells the Christians that he has spoken only for their profit, for their greater advantage. He does not want to cast a snare upon them, i.e., to deprive them of their liberty to get married, if they want to, but only to encourage them to seek that which is decent, i.e., what is seemly, more perfect, so that they may be better able to serve the Lord, without impediment, i.e., without the distracting cares of wedded life.

1 Cor 7:36. But if any man think that he seemeth dishonoured, with regard to his virgin, for that she is above the age, and it must so be: let him do what he will; he sinneth not, if she marry.

This and the two following verses give practical rules to guide parents in marrying off their daughters. The Apostle addresses the father to whom, according to ancient custom among the Jews and the Greeks, it pertained in particular to direct the future choice of the daughters of the family.

If any man think, etc., i.e., if a father of a family thinks he is being disgraced in the eyes of his neighbors for not providing a husband for his virgin, i.e., his daughter, and allowing her to get married, since she is above the age, i.e., since she has reached, or already passed the flower of her age, and it must so be, i.e., and, either she is determined not to lead a life of virginity, or there is need to let her marry on account of the danger of immorality, let him do, etc., i.e., let the father permit his daughter to marry; he commits no sin thereby.

If she marry. Better, “Let them marry,” i.e., let the daughters get married; or, let the daughter and her suitor get married.

1 Cor 7:37. For he that hath determined being steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but having power of his own will; and hath judged this in his heart, to keep his virgin, doth well.

For should be “But” (δέ). On the other hand, if he that hath determined, etc., i.e., if a father, being steadfast (ἵστημι) in his heart against the criticism and erroneous judgments of his neighbors, having no necessity, i.e., being under no necessity of giving his daughter in marriage, but being able to follow his own wishes and hers, hath judged, etc., i.e., has decided to keep his daughter from marriage, permitting her to follow a life of virginity—such a father doth well, literally, “shall do well.”

The statuit of the Vulgate should be stat, and facit should be faciei, to agree with the best Greek.

1 Cor 7:38. Therefore both he that giveth his virgin in marriage, doth well; and he that giveth her not, doth better.

Since, therefore, matrimony is good, a father does well to give his daughter in marriage; but he does better that keeps his daughter for a life of virginity. The Apostle’s teaching on this subject is decisive.  
Doth better (Vulg., melius facit) should be in the future tense.

1 Cor 7:39. A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband die, she is at liberty: let her marry to whom she will; only in the Lord.

St. Paul now turns to the question regarding widows. In this verse he teaches three things: (a) The indissolubility of marriage; (b) that a widow has the right to remarry; (c) that she should marry a Christian.

The words, by the law (Vulg., legi) are not represented in the best MSS. here, and were probably inserted from Rom 7:2.

1 Cor 7:40. But more blessed shall she be, if she so remain, according to my counsel; and I think that I also have the spirit of God.

But a widow shall be more blessed, literally, “is more blessed,” if she continue in her widowhood, since the state of the unmarried is more perfect, giving greater freedom from the cares of life and enabling one to serve God more constantly and more fervently (verses 25, 26, 32-35).

I think that I also, etc. The Apostle had no doubt of his inspiration to counsel as well as teach, but he speaks modestly, saying less than he wishes to be understood (Estius). The “also” looks back to the other Apostles and leaders among the Corinthians who were so much

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