Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

This post opens with a brief analysis of 1 Corinthians 2 followed by notes on verses 1-5. Text in purple represents Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.


In this chapter, the Apostle shows how far he himself acted in accordance with the economy of God in excluding human wisdom in the work of redemption, when he came to preach the gospel to the Corinthians. His preaching was recommended neither by the graces of oratory, nor by the powers of reasoning, because he wished that their faith should rest on its proper basis, viz., the powerful grace of God (verses 1–5). He next asserts his own dignity, and says that, although he rejected all the aids derived from human wisdom in preaching the gospel among the Corinthians; still, he discoursed on another and more exalted kind of wisdom, on befitting occasions—a wisdom far different from that of men or demons (6)—a wisdom concealed from the world in all past ages, and now revealed for our temporal and eternal glory (7)—a wisdom unknown to the devils (8); and according to, the prophecy of Isaias, fully comprehended by God alone (9). But, though hidden and mysterious, it was made known to the Apostle by the revelation of God’s spirit, who is intimately acquainted with the divine secrets; and who alone knows the hidden thoughts of the divine mind (10, 11). This was the spirit from whom the Apostle received a knowledge of the general benefits and gifts conferred through Christ on his Church, of which gifts he treats in proper circumstances in a manner suited to the capacity and requirements of his hearers; he treats of the exalted truths of faith before those only, who are far advanced in Christian knowledge (12–13). Because it would be useless to treat of them before persons not sufficiently versed in the principles of faith. To such men, truths of this kind would appear folly. Hence, he declined proposing them to the Corinthians (14, 15). He should not be judged or undervalued for this line of conduct; for, to judge him, acting in this way, would be to judge and instruct God himself (16).

1 Cor 2:1 AND I, brethren, when I came to you, came not in loftiness of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of Christ.

(Since, then, God has been pleased to confound human wisdom in the work of redemption), I, therefore, when amongst you, preaching the gospel of Christ, did not employ the elegant diction of the orator, nor the fine-drawn conclusions and reasonings of the philosopher.

. The Apostle applies now to his own case, what he said in the preceding chapter, in general, regarding the decree of God, “to save the believers by the folly of preaching,” (1:21). It was in accordance with the will of God in this respect, that he preached “the testimony,” or “gospel of Christ,” (in the Greek, τοῦ θεοῦ, of God), among them, in a plain, simple style, and “not in the loftiness of speech or of wisdom,” i.e., without employing the splendid diction of the orator, or the wisdom of the philosopher, so attractive at the time to the Corinthians.

1 Cor 2:2 For I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ: and him crucified.

For, I judged it expedient, and, therefore, I resolved, to pretend to no further knowledge amongst you, except as regarded the principal mysteries of Christ, and especially those of his death and crucifixion.

He conducted himself amongst them, as if he knew only “Christ crucified.” Not that his preaching was confined to this article merely; for, it is likely, he explained to them all the necessary articles of faith, as well as some duties of Christian morality; but that he merely propounded, in a simple, catechetical way, the rudiments of Christian faith, founded on the article of Christ’s crucifixion; reserving for more befitting circumstances the more elevated doctrines of faith, “the wisdom in a mystery,” (verse 7). Of what avail will all other knowledge be to us, if we neglect this all necessary knowledge “of Christ crucified?” From this sacred fountain, the saints derived more useful knowledge than they could find in the most learned books. Who can seriously meditate on this prodigy of justice and mystery of mercy, the dead body of a God hanging on a cross, and not be moved to hate sin and forcibly drawn to love God? It is because men never seriously meditate on the passion of Christ. It is because they never seriously reflect on, who it is that suffers these ignominious tortures. Why, is it He thus suffers? It is because they never attend to the cause, the circumstances, the consequences of His sufferings, that their callous hearts are so insensible to this excessive charity of God, which should press them—charitas Christi urget nos.—2 Cor. 5:14.

1 Cor 2:3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.

And when amongst you, I was in a state of great weakness, both as regards mental anxiety and bodily uneasiness;

“In weakness,” is understood by some to refer to bodily distempers and sickness; by others, to the lowliness of his condition, being obliged to earn his subsistence by working at a trade. “And in fear and in much trembling.” The former refers to his mental anxiety; the latter, to bodily uneasiness. This was probably occasioned by his fears of persecution from the Jews. Hence, he required a vision from God to comfort him.—(Acts, 18:12). According to others, it arose from the apprehension that he might, either by word or deed, give offence, and obstruct the cause of the gospel. He wishes to convey to us in this verse, that not only was his language simple, but also that his personal appearance was lowly.

1 Cor 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom. but in shewing of the Spirit and power:

And my private conversation, and my public preaching were recommended neither by the eloquence of the orator, nor by the reasoning of the philosopher; their only recommendation were the zeal inspired by the Holy Ghost, with which they were delivered, and the miracles, with which they were accompanied.

“And my speech,” i.e., private conversation, “and my preaching,” in public, “was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom,” i.e., recommended by the graces of oratory, or the reasonings of philosophy, which men are apt to employ when they endeavour to persuade others, and which, with the haughty Corinthians, especially, would be a most powerful instrument of persuasion—“but in the shewing of the spirit and of power,” are thus interpreted by some, “but in the shewing of the power of the Holy Ghost.” It may, however, be better to understand the words “spirit and power” separately; the former referring to the zeal and energy with which the Apostle discoursed both publicly and privately on the truths of faith—a zeal and fire which displayed the interior workings of the Holy Ghost—and the latter, to the miracles which he wrought in confirmation of the truth of his doctrine.

1 Cor 2:5 That your faith might not stand on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

And I pursued this line of conduct in order that your faith might be referred’ to its proper cause only, viz., the power of God (which is particularly displayed in bringing about prodigies of strength by means so weak and inadequate).

We have disregarded the adventitious aid of human wisdom and eloquence, in order that “your faith,” your conversion to Christ might not be ascribed to human wisdom, but to the powerful grace of God; so that it should appear to be, not a human, but, as it is in reality, a divine work.

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One Response to Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Tear A | stjoeofoblog

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