Father Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians, Chapter 5

1. It is certain by report that there is among you fornication, and such fornication as is not even among the Gentiles; so that one has his father’s wife.
2. And you are inflated ; and have not rather had grief, so that he who has done this deed may be taken away from the midst of you.

Chapter 5. In this chapter the Apostle insists upon the excommunication of incestuous persons.

1. It is certain by report. Literally, there is altogether heard, both in the Vulgate and the Greek : that is, with a consistency and unanimity of statement that admits of no doubt. That there is among you, who have received such august mysteries, are partakers of Divine secrets, are heirs of heaven, says Saint Chrysostom. The word used in the Greek includes every kind of illicit connection of the sexes, whether marriage is affected by it or not. The Greek and the Syriac have, such as is not named or heard of among the Gentiles, that is, as a common practice, or without horror. He says his father’s wife, rather than step-mother or mother-in-law, though the meaning is the same, in order to bring out more strongly the greatness of the wrong done. One has his father’s wife, not has married, for such a marriage would be forbidden by pagan law and custom. What made it worse was that it appears from an expression in 2 Cor 7:12, that the injured father was still living.

2. The Corinthians exhibited no humiliation or sorrow for this occurrence, for which, as it was public and notorious, they should have done public penance, and had taken no measures to expel the offender from the communion of the Church.

3. I, indeed, absent in body, but present in spirit, have already judged as being present, him who has so wrought.
4. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, you being assembled and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5. To deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3-4.  I, indeed, absent in body. The authority of Saint Paul, as an Apostle of Christ, was not limited as to place, like that of a Bishop, but was co- extensive with the world, and could be exercised even at a distance, and where he was not personally present. He was able, therefore, to be present spiritually, and by the exercise of his Apostolic authority, in the assembly of the Corinthian Christians, which he orders to be convened for the purpose of pronouncing sentence on the offender. And this authority he exercised as the representative of Jesus Christ, and with his power. Saint Chrysostom joins the words in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ with you being assembled. Saint Thomas, with greater probability, joins them with, I have judged.

5. To deliver such an one to Satan. Outside the kingdom of Jesus Christ is the kingdom of Satan, into which the offender, by his excommunication, must necessarily be turned out. For the destruction of the flesh. Not for the destruction of his soul, the salvation of which was the object in view: but that in body he might be vexed by the damon (i.e., demon) with some disease, wound, or plague, in order to bring him to repentance. This was usual in those days of miracle; according to the opinion of Origen, Hilary, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, Theodore: who are quoted by Gagne, Cornelius a Lapide, and Tyrinus. Saint Chrysostom and Theophylact understand, deliver to Satan as his teacher and corrector. Estius, on the other hand, thinks that a spiritual penalty only is intended. Saint Chrysostom says: He is punished for his improvement, for the acquisition of grace, for his everlasting salvation. The gain outweighs the penalty, for the penalty is temporal, the gain eternal. The object is the salvation of the soul at the great day of account.

6. Your boasting is not good. Know you not that a little yeast corrupts the whole mass?
7. Purge out the old yeast, that you may be a new conspersion, as you are unleavened. For Christ our Pasch has been immolated.
8. Therefore, let us feast, not in the old yeast, nor in the yeast of malice and wickedness, but in the azyme of sincerity and truth.

6. Your boasting is not good. Saint Chrysostom, and with him Theodoret and Theophylact, and the Greek Fathers generally, think the Corinthian Christians actually gloried in the proceeding of this incestuous person, and that he was one of their chief men and leader of a faction among them, and they extolled his wisdom. But the Apostle’s words may also be taken in a general sense, your glorifying in secular knowledge, and in the talents and attainments of your leaders, which were blamed in the last chapter. A little yeast corrupts the whole mass. The Greek has ζυμόω (zumoo),̄ leavens; there is some reason to think the Latin translator must have read some other word, but the general sense is not affected (see note 1 at end of paragraph). An evil example only corrupts, as Saint Thomas observes, when it is tolerated and overlooked, not when it is censured and punished. Purge out the old yeast, by the rejection of sinners from communion. The old vices of paganism have no place in the newly-founded Church of Christ: but this is said generally, and not with reference to this particular case, which pagan law would not sanction, as the Apostle observes in verse 1. A new conspersion. In the Greek, a new kneading, or as we call it, paste; the meal was first sprinkled or scattered over the board, and hence the term used in the Vulgate.

Notes: 1. Piconio writes: :The Greek has ζυμόω (zumoo),̄ leavens; there is some reason to think the Latin translator must have read some other word…” Since Zumoo (leaven) is a corrupting agent and it is clearly this aspect which St Paul is highlighting, it seems to me to be likely that the Latin translator simply translated zumoo as corrupts. 2. Conspersion means the act of sprinkling.

7. Christ our Pasch has been immolated. Let us therefore, in figure, and continually, feast: in the Greek text and the Syriac, keep the festival, by eating unleavened bread, as ordered, Exodus 12. Or rather, you are yourselves the unleavened bread (v, 7) and should be free from every trace of defilement. Not in the old leaven, the malice and wickedness of the pagan world, which you have abandoned and renounced; but in the azyme, or feast of unleavened bread, of sincerity or purity of life, and adherence to the truth of the faith of Jesus Christ. The Hebrew festival of unleavened bread, with all its accompaniments, was habitually spoken of both as the Pasch, and azyma, or unleavened; but the latter term signified particularly the term of seven days during which it lasted. Exod. 12:18-19.

9. I wrote to you in an epistle: be not associated with fornicators.
10. Not altogether fornicators of this world, or the avaricious, or rapacious, or servers of idols; otherwise you would have had to go out of the world.
11. But now I have written to you not to associate; if he who is called a brother, is a fornicator, or avaricious, or a server of idols, or an evil speaker, or a drunkard, or rapacious: with such an one not even to take food.
12. For what is to me to judge concerning those that are without? Do not you judge concerning those who are within?
13. For those, who are without, God will judge. Take away the evil from yourselves

9-13. I wrote to you in an epistle. In this Epistle, as the Greek Fathers think. In a former one which is lost, in the opinion of Saint Thomas and others. They were not to associate with the wicked, or with idolators. But this did not apply to the Gentiles, association with whom could not be avoided, because the world was then so full of them. But I have now written (in the Greek, I now write) that you are not to associate with Christians who are of this character, or who join in idol worship; not even to sit down to table with them. It is not for me to judge the Gentiles. Christ is their judge: not the Church. Leave to him, therefore, all judgment concerning those that are without; but put away from the midst of yourselves the wicked person.

Corollary of Piety.
The life of the Christian is a perpetual Pasch. Christ, our Paschal Lamb, who taketh away the sin of the world, has been sacrificed for us: is continually sacrificed for us, to the end of time. His blood has been sprinkled on us, in our baptism, as the blood of the lamb was sprinkled on the doors and thresholds of the Israelites; is continually sprinkled on us anew, in the sacrament of penance. Therefore let us keep the feast of unleavened bread: for the Christian’s life should be continually pure, holy, free from sin, unleavened by the spirit of the world. And this, not merely for ourselves. A little leaven leavens all the mass. One evil example may be, must be, a source of evil to the whole. Let everyone be pure, and all will be pure. The Christian does not stand alone ; he belongs to the mass, or paste, of which the Church of Christ is kneaded together. The evil of one infects the whole. To reject the evil-doer is the condition of the existence of the Church of Christ, into which there shall not enter anything defiled, Apoc. 21:27. Who would wish to hear the sentence against himself: auferte malum ex vobis ipsis?

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