My Expanded Notes On 1 Corinthians 1:1-3

Please note that I have previously published comments of my own on 1 Corinthians 1:1-3, what follows is an expanded presentation of those earlier notes.

1Co 1:1  Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes a brother,
1Co 1:2  To the church of God that is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that invoke the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place of theirs and ours.
1Co 1:3  Grace to you and peace, from God our father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul: “We find Paul’s biographical details respectively in the Letter to Philemon, in which he says he is “an old man” (Phlm 9: presbytes) and in the Acts of the Apostles in which, at the time of the stoning of Stephen, he is described as “a young man” (7: 58: neanías). Both these expressions are obviously generic but, according to ancient calculations, a man of about 30 was described as “young” whereas he would be called “old” by the time he had reached the age of about 60. The date of Paul’s birth depends largely on the dating of the Letter to Philemon. He is traditionally supposed to have written it during his imprisonment in Rome in the mid-60s. Paul would have been born in approximately the year 8. He would therefore have been about 30 at the time of the stoning of Stephen. This ought to be the correct chronology and we are celebrating the Pauline Year in accordance with precisely this chronology. The year 2008 was chosen with a date of birth of about the year 8 in mind. In any case, Paul was born in Tarsus, Cilicia (cf. Acts 22: 3). The town was the administrative capital of the region and in 51 B.C. had had as Proconsul no less than Marcus Tullius Cicero himself, while 10 years later, in 41, Tarsus was the place where Mark Anthony and Cleopatra met for the first time. A Jew from the Diaspora, he spoke Greek although his name was of Latin origin. Moreover, it derived by assonance from the original Jewish Saul/Saulos, and he was a Roman citizen (cf. Acts 22: 25-28). Paul thus appears to be at the intersection between three different cultures – Roman, Greek and Jewish – and perhaps partly because of this was disposed for fruitful universalistic openness, for a mediation between cultures, for true universality. He also learned a manual trade, perhaps from his father, that of “tentmaker” (Acts 18: 3: skenopoios). This should probably be understood as a worker of uncarded goat wool or linen fibres who made them into mats or tents (cf. Acts 20: 33-35). At about the age of 12 to 13, the age in which a Jewish boy becomes a bar mitzvah (“son of the commandment”), Paul left Tarsus and moved to Jerusalem to be educated at the feet of Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, a nephew of the great Rabbi Hillel, in accordance with the strictest Pharisaic norms and acquiring great zeal for the Mosaic Torah (cf. Gal 1: 14; Phil 3: 5-6; Acts 22: 3; 23: 6; 26: 5).~Pope Benedict XVI.

The Acts of Apostles first introduces us to Paul (Saul) in chapter 6, where we read:

8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, arose and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly instigated men, who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” (RSV)

What is interesting about this passage is that it mentions the fact that Stephen debated with some fellow Jews from various parts of the Empire, including Cilicia, and that they could not get the better of him  in these debates.  Now Paul (Saul) was from Tarsus in Cilicia, a fact which raises an obvious question: was the young Rabbi Paul (Saul) one of those whose arguments against the faith Stephen thwarted?  It appears so.  Look what is said by St Luke at the end of the Stephen narrative: “Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul…And Saul was consenting to his death.”

This suggests that Paul had a leading role in the charges brought against Stephen, though he was not one of those who gave testimony against him.  Jewish law required that those who brought a capital offense charge against another were-consequent upon a guilty verdict-to cast the first stones at the condemned.  I think it highly significant that the accusers of St Stephen lay their cloaks at the feet of Paul (Saul) as they get ready to cast their stones, for, as Luke Timothy Johnson points out, in Acts of Apostles, laying your possessions at the feet of another person implies a recognition of that persons authority (see Acts 4:35-37 and 5:1; see also L.T. Johnson’s THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, pg. 140).  Furthermore, though the RSV speaks of Paul consenting to their actions, the Greek word used is much stronger: he was in collusion (συνευδοκέω).

After this event “Saul (Paul), still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest  and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (RSV).  This situation continued until his conversion on the Damascus Road (see Acts 9:1-19).

Paul, along with Silvanus and Timothy evangelized the City of Corinth during what is commonly called St Paul’s second missionary journey (see Acts 15:36-18:28).

Called to be an apostle: Called is a reference to the divine choice of Paul for the mission of Apostle which was bestowed on him (see Romans 1:1). This divine choice is rooted in the salvific will of God (see 1 Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1).  God’s wisdom as manifested in the “word of the Cross” (1:18) is a revelation of His will (see Ephesians) and Paul will have much to say about his Apostleship and ministry in general in this letter. An Apostle is an emissary of someone with authority; in this case Jesus Christ. They have been commissioned by Him and endowed with His authority to communicate to men the gift of reconciliation which Christ, as head of the human race, won on behalf of man (see 2 Corinthians 5:11-21; and CCC 858, 859, 860).

The calling (choice) of St Paul by God was a manifestation of His mercy and was to be a sign of that mercy too all: “but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (see 1 Tim 1:12-16).  Paul has good reasons to emphasize the gratuitous nature of his apostleship at the beginning of his letter to the Corinthians, for they have completely misunderstood the nature of ministry in the Church (see 3:5-4:13).  Also, he may have to exercise that authority in a rather hard way if they do not straighten up (4:18-21).  Finally, even though he has and can take advantage of certain rights as an Apostle he has not done so, this in order to set an example for others, and to avoid false charges of using the ministry in a self-serving way (a charge brought against him anyway; see 9:1-27).

By the will of God.  As already mentioned, this is the salvific will of God towards man. Paul’s ministry, the Apostolic ministry, and the mission of the Church are part of that overall will, which Paul sometimes refers to as the “mystery of God” (see 1 Corinthians 2:1), of which he is a servant (1 Corinthians 4:1). For more on mysterious plan of God see CCC 51, 52, 53. For more from the Catechism, see HERE.

Sosthenes our brother.  He is often identified as the synagogue official mentioned in Acts of Apostles 18:17, but this is uncertain.  Brother highlights the familial nature of relations among members of the Church, the household of God (Ephesians 2:19-22 and see 1 Cor 4:14-21).

1:2 To the church of God that is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. Not the Church of Paul, Apollos, or Cephas (see 1:12).  Ekklesia is the Greek word here translated as Church. In the Greek OT known as the LXX or Septuagint, ekklesia translated the Hebrew qahal, which was used to designate the people of God, often in the context of worship and holiness, two prominent themes in this letter. For more on the city of Corinth, see HERE.

The Church is a community called together by God, through Christ.  The calling take place through the proclamation of the Gospel by those sent to preach it (Rom 10:14-17).  What is preached and heard is “the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).  This phrase should be understood as an objective genitive; it is Christ himself who is heard in the preaching, for it is through him and by his power that the Gospel is proclaimed (see Luke 10:16).  This is why St Paul can speak of the risen and ascended Christ as coming to preach peace to those near (Jews) and far off (Gentiles) in Ephesians 2:11-22.  Also, consider the opening of Acts of Apostles:  “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,” implying that he was still “doing” and “teaching.”

Sanctified, Called to be saints.  The word called in Greek is kletos, which is related to ekklesia (Church).

Sanctified means literally, “made holy”. In Christ Jesus means: “Incorporated by baptism into Christ, whom God has made our wisdom and our justice, our holiness and our redemption” (see 1 Corinthians 1:30; 6:11. Jerome Biblical Commentary). The term sanctified, and related words such as holy and holiness, witnesses first and foremost to the fact that Christians have been dedicated to holy use. Only God is holy in essence (Isaiah 6:3), but holiness extend to whatever is taken up into relation with the divine. This involves both a negative and a positive side. Negatively, it means that whatever enters into a relation with the divine must no longer be used profanely. Positively, it means that what is holy is consecrated in a special way to God, as a special possession. Because Christians have been sanctified (made holy) by incorporation into Christ, they must no longer live a profane existence. Such holiness is rooted in God’s choice/calling (Exodus 19:5-8; 1 Peter 2:9). To be saints (holy ones) is the primary vocation of Christians, as the next part of the verse shows.

Called to be saints (see 1:9, 24). As noted, the primary Christian vocation (Romans 1:7; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 3:12) which should manifest itself in upright conduct.  At the beginning of this letter St Paul emphasizes the theme of sanctity because he will treat of the immoral conduct of the Corinthians latter.

with all that invoke the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place of theirs and ours.  Invoking or calling upon the name of the Lord is what the chosen people of God are to do, like the chosen line of Adam, traced through his son Seth (Genesis 4:26). When the sons of Seth (i.e., sons of God, sons of Heaven) began to profane themselves with “the daughters of men” (sinners) they brought upon themselves divine punishment, with only Noah and his family surviving (Genesis 6:1-13).  Calling upon the name implies prayer, and especially worship, which is incompatible with a sinful lifestyle.  Notice the sacrificial and liturgical themes in these 1 Corinthian texts warning against immorality:

“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
Cleanse out the old leaven
that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.  Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men;  not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.  But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber — not even to eat with such a one. ” (1 Cor 5:6-11.  See Exodus 12).  “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts,  nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (6:9-11).  “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!  Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two shall become one flesh.”  But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.  Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body.  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (6:15-20).

1:3 Grace and peace. A standard for of greeting for Paul. The standard greeting at the time was simply chairein=greetings. Paul, however, employs the similar charis=a gift freely given. He adds the Greek word eirene= peace, which certainly is to be understood as equivalent to the Hebrew greeting shalom=a total state of well being. When used in the greeting (though not necessarily elsewhere, when something specific may be meant), the words are to understood as designating the fullness of divine blessing.

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One Response to My Expanded Notes On 1 Corinthians 1:1-3

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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