Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:1-12

I’ve included his notes on vss 7-9, though these are not part of the liturgical reading.


From speaking of the contest, in which those who deny themselves and strive lawfully are rewarded, and in which the slothful and self-indulgent are condemned and put to confusion, of which the Apostle treated at the end of the preceding chapter, he goes on to the manners of the Hebrews of old, their lusts and vices, especially idolatry, its punishment and condemnation, that by such examples he may teach the Corinthians how vices and temptations, and especially idolatry, are to be guarded against.

Consequently, in ver. 18 he descends and returns to things offered to idols, and answers a question concerning them which had been broached in chapter 8 And—

i. He lays down that it is not lawful for them to eat of things in so far as they are offered to idols; for this would be to give consent to the sacrifice, and to profess idol worship.

ii. In ver. 22 he points out that it is not lawful to eat of them when the weaker brethren are offended at it. Hence in ver. 31 he recommends to the Corinthians edifying above everything, and bids them do everything to the glory of God and the salvation of their neighbours.

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

For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud. The particle for gives the cause of what was said at the end of the preceding chapter. He means, I have said that Christians must strive after baptism in their contest, lest they become reprobates and lose the prize, as the Hebrews, after their typical baptism and heavenly food, lost slothfully through their sins the land of promise, their prize, so that out of 600,000, Joshua and Caleb alone entered the Promised Land. So do you, O Corinthians, take care, lest, through your sloth, and a life out of harmony with your faith and baptism, you be excluded from heaven. So Chrysostom and Anselm. The argument is from the type or figure to the thing prefigured.

Our fathers, i.e., the fathers of the Jews, of whom I am one, as many of you are, O Corinthians.

Under the cloud. This cloud was the pillar which overshadowed the Hebrews in the daytime as a cloud, and shone at night as a fire, which led them for forty years through the wilderness, which settled over the ark and went before their camp, and protected them from the heat by spreading itself over the camp. Its mover and charioteer, so to speak, was an angel. See Exod. xiii.

And all passed through the sea. The Red Sea, and dry shod, because Moses smote the waters with his rod, and divided them.

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

See Exod. 14. The passage of the Red Sea is a type of baptism, in which we are reddened with the blood of Christ, and drown the Egyptians, viz., our sins. Moses is a type of Christ; the cloud is the Holy Spirit, who cools the heat of lust and gives us light. Theodoret says: “Those things were typical of ours. The sea stood for the font, the cloud for the grace of the Spirit, Moses for the priest, his rod for the cross. Israel signified those who were baptized; the persecuting Egyptians represented the devils, and Pharaoh himself was their chief.”

In Moses as the legislator signifies, according to some, that the Hebrews were initiated into the Mosaic law by a kind of baptism when they passed through the sea. So we are baptized into Christ or initiated and incorporated into Christ and Christianity, by baptism. Hence in Exod. xiv., after the account of the passage through the sea, it is added, “They believed the Lord and His servant Moses.”

But our baptism was not a type of the baptism of the Hebrews in the Red Sea, but , on the contrary, theirs was a type of ours. Moreover, in this passage the Hebrews were not initiated into the law of Moses, for they did not receive it till they reached Sinai.

I say, then, that since the Apostle frequently puts into for in, it is more simple to understand the phrase to mean through Moses, or under his leadership. So Ephrem, Chrysostom, Theophylact take it. The sense, then, is: all the Hebrews were baptized by Moses spiritually and typically, or bore the type of our baptism, in that, when they saw the sea divided by Moses, and Moses passing through it before, they, as Chrysostom says, also ventured to trust themselves to the sea, and that in the cloud, that is, under the guidance and protection of the cloud going before then, and in the sea, viz., in which the Egyptians were drowned, and through which they passed from Egyptian slavery to liberty and newness of life, just as we pass through the waters of baptism from the service of the devil to the Kingdom of Christ. So Anselm, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Theophylact.

Notice, too, with Chrysostom, that the Scriptures give the name of the type to the antitype, and vice versâ. Here the passage through the Red Sea is called a baptism, because it was a type of one. Hence ver. 6 is explained, where he says, “These things were our examples.”

1Co 10:3 And did all eat the same spiritual food:

And did all eat the same spiritual food. Not, as Calvin supposes, the same as we, as though Christians and Hebrews alike feed, not on the Real Body of Christ, but on the typical.

You will say, perhaps, that S. Augustine (tract. 25 in Johan.) and S. Thomas explain it to be the same as we eat. I reply: They understand “the same” by analogy, for the Hebrews received typically what we receive really. But this is beside the meaning of the Apostle, who understands the same to refer, not to us but to themselves. All the Hebrews, whether good or bad, ate the same food, that is the same manna. This is evident from the context, “But with many of them God was not well pleased,” that is to say, that though all ate the same manna, drank of the same water from the rock, yet all did mot please God. As, then, they had one baptism and one spiritual food, so too have we; and as, notwithstanding, they were not all saved, but many of them perished, so is it to be feared that many of us may perish, although we have the same sacraments common to us all. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Anselm, and others. And notice with them that manna is here called “spiritual food,” or mystical, or typical, because the manna was a type of the Eucharist. So the water from the rock is called “spiritual drink,” because it was a type of the blood of Christ. Others take “spiritual” to mean miraculous, i.e., not produced by the powers of nature but of spirits, viz., God and the angels; for of this kind was manna, of which the Psalmist says, “So man did eat angels’ food” (Ps. lxxviii. 25).

1. Manna allegorically stood for Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, as is evident from S. John vi. 49, 50. Especially did it represent the contained part, and the effect of the sacrament, as Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Cyril point out at length, in commenting in the passage of S. John just quoted. Hence the Apostle says here: “They did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink.” Even Calvin takes this of the Holy Communion, and says that the manna was a type of the body of Christ. From this you may rightly infer that in the Blessed Sacrament the flesh of Christ is truly present, since manna was a symbol of a thing really existing, and not merely imagined; for some of us as well as of the Jews will eat the spiritual meat, i.e., the typical and symbolical flesh, and will not have more of the truth signified than the Jews, nay, much less; for manna was sweeter than our bread, and far more clearly than dry bread represented the body of Christ. A certain minister of this new flock has lately yielded this point as a clear consequence. But who does not see that it is at variance with Holy Scripture and with reason? For the New Law is more excellent than the Old, and therefore the sacraments of the New surpass those of the Old. Therefore the Apostle says: “These things were our examples.” But the thing figured is better than the figure, as a body is than its shadow, and a man than his likeness. Therefore the sacraments of the New Law, and especially the Eucharist, as a thing figured, must be more noble than the sacraments of the Old Law, and than the manna itself, which was but a type and figure of our Eucharist. Again, in S. John vi., Christ at some length puts His body in the Eucharist before the manna (vers, 48 and 59). The bread that He there speaks of is that which is Divine, consecrated and transubstantiated into the body of Christ. Who does not see that the manna was a better representation of the body of Christ than bread? It can be shown in many ways.

2. S. Paul has most fittingly compared manna to the body of Christ in the Eucharist, and has most beautifully shadowed it out: (a) the element in the Eucharist and the manna have the same colour; (b) it is not found except by those who have left the fleshpots of Egypt and the lusts of the flesh; (d) to the covetous and to infidels both turn to worms and bring condemnation; (e) the manna was not given till after the passing of the Red Sea—the Eucharist is not given till after baptism; (f) after the manna came, the Hebrews fought with Amalek, but before that God alone had fought for them against the Egyptians. They fought and conquered; so the obstacles and temptations which beset the heavenly life are allowed by God to trouble those only who are fortified against them, and they are overcome by the power of the Eucharist. (g) The manna was bread made by angels, without seed, or ploughing, or any human toil; so the body of Christ was formed of the Virgin alone by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. (h) Manna gave every kind of sweet taste to those who were good and devout. Hence Wisdom (xvi. 20) says of manna: “Thou feddest Thine own people with angels’ food, and didst give them bread from heaven prepared without labour, containing in itself all sweetness and every pleasant taste.” So Christ is milk to babes, oil to children, solid food to the perfect, as Gregory Nyssen says. (j) The manna was small: Christ is contained by a small Host; (k) the manna was beaten in a mortar: Christ was stripped of His mortality in the mortar of the Cross. (l) The faithful wonderingly exclaim, “Man-hu—What is this—that God should be with us!” (m) All collected an equal measure of manna, viz., one omer; so all alike receive whole Christ, though the species or the Host be greater of smaller, as Rupert says. (n) The manna was collected in the wilderness on the six week-days only; so in our eternal Sabbath and Promised Land the veil of the sacrament will be done away, and in perfect rest we shall enjoy the sight of Christ face to face. (o) The manna melted under the sun, so is the sacrament dissolved when the species are melted by heat. More will be found in the commentary on Exod. xxi.

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

The rock which gave water to the Hebrews was a type of Christ, who is the true Rock from which flowed the blood to quench the heat of our lust. But what is meant by saying that this rock followed the Hebrews?

1. The Hebrews reply that their tradition, and the Chaldean rendering of Num. xxi. 16, is that this rock miraculously followed the Jews everywhere in the wilderness till they came to Canaan, and supplied them with water. Hence Ephrem renders this, “They drank of the spiritual rock which same with them;” and Tertullian (de Baptismo, c. ix.) calls this rock their “companion.” He says: “This is the water which flowed from the rock which accompanied the people.” But farther on he interprets this rock of Christ, who in His Godhead accompanied and led the Hebrews through the wilderness. He says again (contra Marcion, lib. ii. c. 5): “He will understand that the rock which accompanied them to supply them with drink was Christ.” S. Ambrose, too (in Ps. 38) says: “There is a shadow in the rock which poured forth water and followed the people. Was not the water from the rock a shadow of the blood of Christ, who followed the people, though they fled from Him, that He might give them drink and quench their thirst, that they might be redeemed and not perish?” Again, S, Ambrose (de Sacramentis, lib. v. c. 1) takes the rock to be Christ. He says: “It was no motionless rock which followed the people. Drink, that Christ may follow Thee also.” But I should like to have better authorities for this tradition, for it is against it that after this water came from the rock (Num_20:11), the people murmured again because of the scarcity of water ver. 16).

2. Others soften down the passage and explain it thus: “The waters which burst forth from the rock flowed for a long time and rushed forth as a torrent, and this stream followed the Hebrews till they came to a place where there was plenty of water. For had it been a supply to last but for one day, the rock would have had to be struck on the next day, and the third, and the fourth, and so on, to get a supply of water.” And this explanation they support by pointing out that the manna is literal manna, and that therefore the rock or the drink spoken are material rock and material drink; but the objections to the first explanation are equally strong against this.

3. Photius supposes that the word for following simply means serving, and he would paraphrase the verse, “This rock satisfied the thirst of the Hebrews.” But the Greek cannot possibly bear this interpretation.

4. It is better, then, to understand this of the spiritual Rock signified, not the one signifying. The meaning is then: By the power of the Godhead of Christ, which was the spiritual Rock signified by the rock that gave water to the Hebrews, and which was their constant companion in the wilderness, water was given to them from the material rock. It is so explained by S. Chrysostom, Ambrose, Anselm, Œcumenius.

It may be said, By “spiritual meat” the Apostle meant manna, not the body of Christ, and by “spiritual drink” he means the water signifying the blood of Christ, not the blood itself; therefore, by parity of reasoning, the “spiritual rock” is the actual rock that typified Christ, not Christ Himself.

I deny the consequence, for the Apostle in speaking of the Rock inverts the phrase, and passes from the sign to the thing signified. This is evident from his saying in explanation of the Rock, “That Rock was Christ.” In other words, “When I speak of the spiritual Rock, I mean Christ.” What can be clearer? For it was not the material but the spiritual Rock which was Christ: one was type, the other antitype.

It may be urged again, that the phrase “They drank of the spiritual Rock,” means that they drank the spiritual or typical drink, for the rock giving this drink was spiritual or typical. This would give the connecting idea, and the reason for saying that “they drank the same spiritual drink,” for the rock was a type of Christ.

The answer to this objection is that the sequence of thought is clear enough. The particle for gives the efficient cause of so great a miracle; in other words, the Hebrews drank of water which served as a type, for Christ was foreshadowed by the rock which gave this water, and He miraculously gave them this typical water in order that they might know and worship Christ giving it; but this, as the sequel shows, very many of them did not do.

The rock that gave the water allegorically stood for Christ, because Christ, like a rock most firm, supports the Church, and was smitten, i.e., killed, by Moses, i.e., the Jews, with a rod; that is, the Cross poured forth waters, that is, most fruitful streams of grace, to the faithless of contradiction, to the faithful of sanctification. This is especially true of the waters of His blood in the Eucharist, with which He gives us drink in the desert of this life, that, strengthened by them, we may attain to our country in the heavens. See S. John vii. 37 and iv. 14. S. Augustine (contra Faustum, lib. xvi. c. 15).

It may be argued: Some Catholic writers, according to the first explanation given above, say that, as “that Rock was Christ” means that it was typical of Christ, so in the same way it can be said of the Eucharist, that “this is My body” means “this bread is a figure of My body.”

But add that the Apostle expressly says that he us speaking of the spiritual, not the material rock. “They drank of that spiritual Rock,” he says, and “that spiritual Rock was Christ.” It is called a spiritual Rock, or typical, because it was a type of Christ. But neither Christ nor S. Paul speak then of the Eucharist.  S. Paul and all the Evangelists uniformly declare that Christ said, “This is My Body,” not, “This is My spiritual or typical Body.” Secondly, I answer that that explanation of some writers is not a very probable one; for that spiritual Rock, i.e., the One signified, was really Christ, not a type of Him. The words of S. Paul clearly say this.

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

All the Hebrews who left Egypt with Moses died for their sins in the wilderness, except Joshua and Caleb, who, with a new generation, entered the Promised Land (Num_14:29).

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

Neither be ye idolaters . . . and rose up to play. Viz., when the Hebrews fashioned and worshipped the golden calf they closed their idolatrous festivities with a banquet. Thus they ate of the victims offered to their idol, that they might, after the manner of the Egyptians, celebrate the worship of this new food of theirs with a banquet and games, Hence it is said, “They rose up to play,” i.e., to dance and sing. For Moses (Exod 32:19), when he descended, a little time afterwards, from the mount, saw them dancing. This was the custom of the Gentiles after their sacrifices, and these games were frequently of a most obscene character. Hence the Rabbins and Tertullian (de Jej. contra Psychicos) interpret this play of the Jews of fornication and uncleannes. They celebrated, too, public games, which, Tertullian says, were forbidden to Christians, as being held in honour of idols, and on the same level, therefore, as things offered to idols (SeeTert. de Spectac.). But presently the wrath of God came on the people, as they were worshipping the calf and sporting, and 23,000 of them were slain by the Levites at the command of Moses.  S. Paul impresses these thing on the Corinthians, because it was likely that they, before their Christianity, had engaged in such games and feasts, and had eaten of things offered to idols, in honour of their gods, and especially of Venus, to whom they daily offered a thousand maidens for prostitution. They were, too, much given to lust and impurity. Hence here, and in chap. vi. 9, he warns them against fornication. His meaning, then, is: See, O Corinthians, that you do not return to idols, nor eat of things offered to them, and so become partakers of idolatrous sacrifices; and do not give yourselves up to games, to lust, and self-indulgence; otherwise, like the Hebrews, you will be punished by God, as apostates and idolaters, as gluttons and drunkards.

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

As some of them that committed. When they worshipped Baal-peor. i.e., Priapus, and in his honour committed fornication with the daughters of Moab (Num. 25.).

There fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Chrysostom, Anselm, Cajetan, refer this to the plague which was sent because of the fornication with the daughters of Moab, and which is related in Num. xxv. But in ver. 9 of that chapter the number slain is given as 24,000, not 23,000. (1.) Some account for this by saying that on one day only 23,000 were slain, and 1000 on the day before. But this is pure conjecture, for Scripture says nothing of this. (2.) Cajetan explains it by an error of some scribe, who wrote 23,000 for 24,000. (3) Œcumenius says that some read 23,000 in Num_25:9 as well as here. (4.) Others say that the Apostle is not wrong, because the greater number includes the less. But it is simpler and more natural to say that the Apostle is referring to Exod. xxxii. 28, where, according to the Roman Bible, 23,00 fell for worshipping the golden calf. S. Paul, if this be so, is not referring to the punishment inflicted on the fornicators of Num. xxv., but by a Hebrew custom he looks back to the idolaters of ver. 7. We must suppose that, having forgotten to mention the punishment inflicted on them, he now gives it as an after-thought: certainly in the sins he goes on to name he in each case adds the punishment. He does this to warn the Corinthians against such sins, and especially because the worship of the calf and the lust accompanying it were exactly parallel, both in punishment and guilt, to the worship and fornication in the matter of Baal-peor.  S. Paul’s number agrees with the older rendering of the Greek in Exod 32:28. The LXX. now has 3000.

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

Neither let us tempt Christ by disbelieving His promises, as some of the Corinthians were doubting of the resurrection, as is seen in chap. 15. See 2Pet 3:4.

As some of them tempted. The reference is to Num. 21:5. The words there, “against God,” S. Paul here applies to Christ; therefore Christ is God. Hence the Greek Fathers say that the angel who appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and led the Hebrews out of Egypt, was a type of Christ to come in the flesh, i.e., of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

And perished by the serpents. See Num. 21:6. These fiery serpents are not so called because they were of a fiery nature, for this is repugnant to their true nature, but from the effect of their bite and the heat of their breath: these caused such a heat in those who were bitten that they seemed to be burning, These snakes are called by the Greeks by names (Praester and Canso), which denote burning, and are found in Libya and in Arabia, through which the Hebrews were then passing.

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

As some of them murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer, i.e., the angel by whom God inflicted punishment on the Hebrews for murmuring, because Korah and his followers were swallowed up alive by the earth. Fourteen thousand seven hundred perished by fire (see Num 16:30, Num 16:25, Num 16:40, Num 16:45; Wisd. 18:20; Anselm in loco). This angel seems to have been Michael, the leader of the people, the giver of the law on Sinai and its vindicator, and a type of Christ, as was said just now (see Exod 23:21). Others suppose that this “destroyer” was an evil angel or a devil, and refer to Ps 78:49. But the Psalmist is speaking of the plague sent on the Egyptians, but Paul of those that God inflicted on the Hebrews. Besides, it is truer to say that the plagues were inflicted on the Egyptians by good angels, not by evil ones; for, as S. Augustine says, when commenting in Ps 78:49, it is well known that it was by good angels that Moses turned the water into blood, and produced frogs and lice; for it was by these miraculous punishments that Moses and the good angels strove against the magicians of Pharaoh and the devils: hence at the third miracle of the lice they exclaimed, “This is the finger of God.” The good angels are called, in Ps 78:49, “evil,” as inflicters of evil.

The Hebrews murmured very often in the wilderness, and nearly always were punished by God. He thus wished to show that murmuring and rebellion are worse than other sins in His sight. So, in Num. 11, He slew those who murmured through fleshly lust, and the place was therefore called “the graves of lusts.” In the same way all who murmured because of the report of the spies, who said that Canaan was a land strongly fortressed, were excluded from it, and perished in the wilderness; and of 600,000, Joshua and Caleb alone entered it (Num. 14:29). So were Korah and his followers punished clearly and severely.

1Co 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.

Now all these things happened to them in figure. Viz., all those here mentioned. We are not to imagine that everything that is related in the Old Testament is merely typical, as though it contained nothing which did not figuratively represent something in the New Testament.  S. Augustine (de Civ. Dei, lib. xvii. c. 5) says truly: “They seem to me to make a great mistake who think that the things recorded in the Old Testament have no meaning beyond the events themselves, just as much as those people are very venturesome who contend that everything without exception in it contains allegorical meanings.”

Gabriel Vasquez (p. 1, qu. i. art. 10, disp. 14, c. 6) rightly points out that the word “figure” or “type” used here, does not mean so much an allegorical sense, or a mystical one, as an example which may be well applied for the purpose of persuasion. Thence S. Paul adds, “they are written for our correction.” In other words, God punished the Hebrews that they might be an example to us, and teach us wisdom.

Upon whom the ends of the world are come. That is, the last age of the world. The Prophets call the time of the Messiah: the last time,” (See 2 John 2:18.) Ambrose and Chrysostom add that the Apostle often speaks in this way, as though the end of the world was at hand, that he may keep every one in expectation and in fear of it, that so each one may be taught to prepare for it diligently.

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

S. Augustine (de Bono Persev. cviii.) says: “It is good for all, or nearly all, not to know what they will be, that each one, from not knowing that he will persevere in good, may humbly and anxiously pray for the grace of God, and with it do all he can to watch against falling and to persevere in grace.”

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One Response to Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:1-12

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Third Sunday of Lent, Year C | stjoeofoblog

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