Father Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians, Chapter 6

Text in red, if any, represent my additions to the text.

Chapter 6. In this chapter the Apostle prohibits recourse to pagan tribunals in secular matters; and earnestly warns his readers against the sin of fornication.

1. Some one among you, having a cause against another, ventures to be judged before the ungodly, and not before the Saints.

1. Ventures to he judged. In the Greek this verse is in the form of an indignant question. Does any dare? This has reference only to a plaintiff or prosecutor: a defendant could not avoid the judgment of any court before which he was summoned.

Before the ungodly, literally, the unjust. Pagans are unjust, because they are without faith, by which the just man lives. They are without the true religion, and do not render to God what is his due. They who do not give to God what is due, how shall they render justice to man? He who is unjust to God will be unjust also to man. The Saints are just to God and man.

2. Know you not that the Saints will judge concerning this world? And if the world will be judged in you, are you unworthy to judge the least things?

Know you not that the Saints will judge the world? by approving the sentence of the Judge. The Apostles, and those who are like the Apostles, will pass judgment as assessors of Christ, not with the mouth, but with the spirit, as Saint Thomas explains. If you are to judge the world, are you unworthy to judge of money, lands, and houses? See Aquinas Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6:1-6, article 269.

3. Know you not that we shall judge angels? how much more things secular!

You will judge more than the world: you will judge angels. Good angels by the judgment of praise and approbation; evil with the judgment of condemnation and exprobration. The Church of Christ is one, made up of angels and men; and has one Head, Jesus Christ, the Judge of men and angels. In this judgment of Christ the accidental reward of the holy angels will be increased, by the reward of holy men whom they have enlightened. And the penalty of evil angels will be augmented by the punishment of men whom they have led astray, says Saint Thomas.  It may be added that the punishment of evil angels will be further increased by the glory of the Saints who have triumphed over them, and who, though clothed in frail flesh, remained faithful to God, while angels fell. See Aquinas Commentary, article 271.

Let not the judge of the world be subject to the world, enticed by its attractions, or enslaved to its opinions. Let not the judge of demons be subject to the demons, whose empire he renounced in the laver of Baptism. And if you judge the world and angels in eternal things, be not judged by the world in temporal things, sccularia βιωτικός = biōtikos, which pertain to this passing life.

4. If therefore you have secular judgments, those who are contemptible in the Church, these constitute to judge.

If you must have judgments regarding these temporal matters, establish as your judges the most ignorant and contemptible among you, persons set at
nought, as in the Greek, and held of no account, rather than recourse to pagan magistrates. The goods of this life are not worthy of contention among Christians, whose hearts should be with their treasures in heaven. One thing is necessary. But if such judgments are necessary, choose your judges at any rate from among yourselves, and rather select judges who may be less erudite, but are holy and just, in preference to judges like those of the pagans, who may be learned and experienced, but are not in the true sense just.

5. I speak to your shame. So is there not among you one wise man, who can judge between his brothers?
6. But brother with brother contends in judgment, and this before Infidels.

I speak to your shame. He spoke in irony, when he advised them to choose the most contemptible among them for their judges. It was to put them to shame. Is there not even one wise man among you, able to act as arbiter in any dispute that may arise about property? Brother contends with brother. All lawsuits in families are discreditable, and Christians are all brothers in the family of Jesus Christ. And this before infidels, which is put in by the way, as aggravating the error, for the Apostle is now passing from this subject to the more general one. But if he could see sons going to law with parents, monks with abbots, priests with bishops, before secular tribunals, would he not be indignant and surprised?

7. Now indeed there is altogether a fault in you, that you have judgments between you. Why do you not rather accept injury?

There is altogether a fault among you. It is a fault that you go to law with one another at all. The Greek word  ἥττημα = hēttēma means a fault in a negative sense, a diminution, defect, or falling off; or otherwise a defeat and humiliation. Why do you not rather accept injury? He condemns litigation in itself, and does not admit the excuse of alleged injury. Saint Augustine, Enchirid. 78. Saint Thomas: He imputes it to you for a fault that you have lawsuit between those among whom certainly peace should reign. Saint Chrysostom expresses the same opinion, and distinguishes a fourfold wrong. 1. Not bearing with wrong. 2. Doing wrong, which one party must have done. 3. Recurrence to the judgment seat of the unjust. 4. The injury to fraternal charity, and the scandal that ensues. See St Augustine’s Enchiridion, chapter 78,  Aquinas’ Commentary, article 275, and St John Chrysostom’s 16th Homily on 1 Corinthians-scroll down to the heading 1 Corinthians 6:8-10.

Is it therefore sin to endeavour to recover rights by process of law?

Saint Thomas replies 1. That for the religious it is a sin, out of avarice or covetousness, to seek to recover what is their own; but not sin to seek justly what belongs to their community, any injury to which is robbery of the poor. 2. To all it is sin, if it proceeds from covetousness; or if it involves disturbance of the public peace ; or if the mode of procedure be fraudulent and underhand: or if it occasions scandal. 3. It is lawful to claim your own in charity, if in the procedure nothingcontrary to justice and charity is done. But these conditions are difficult to fulfil. Lawsuits generally arise from excessive love of temporal things; they generally give occasion to sins against charity, sinister suspicions, hatred, detraction, revenge; or against justice, fraud, crafty dealing, false statements, calumny. Add loss of time, distraction of mind, neglect of salvation for temporal things, forgetfulness of God. See Aquinas’ Commentary, article 279.

Christ says: He that would go to law with thee, and take thy coat, let him have also the cloak. If they take thy goods, seek them not again. Precepts, says Saint Thomas, not always to be observed in actual practice, but to be retained in the preparation of the mind.

8. But you do wrong, and defraud, and this to your brethren.

You not only do not suffer injury, but you do it, for there must be wrong to give occasion to legal proceedings.

9. Know you not, that the ungodly shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not mistake; neither fornicators, nor servers of idols, nor adulterers.

The ungodly. Greek: the unjust. This is a continuation and amplification of his statement in verse 8. He has blamed those who do not suffer wrong with patience; but he blames far more severely those who do the wrong. Do not mistake. Greek: be not deceived. There is reason to think that the heresies which were on the point of breaking out at Corinth, taught a doctrine in opposition to that which the Apostle here states, and this is glanced at in verse 2.

10. Nor effeminate, nor unnatural, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor evil speakers, nor rapacious, shall possess the kingdom of God.

Shall possess the kingdom of God. The Greek, shall inherit. The Syriac: shall not possess in inheritance.

The city of Corinth was considered by the pagans sacred to the goddess Venus, or Aphrodite, to whose temple, which was enriched by splendid offerings, a thousand of the fairest young maidens from the eastern provinces of the empire were conveyed annually. Their profession was considered pious and reputable, and was so lucrative, from the large sums of money they received, as to give rise to the words of the Roman poet, Non cuivis homini contingit adire Corinthnm. They lived in great luxury and splendour. See Cornelius a Lapide in loc. It was from the population of this city that the Gentile portion of the Corinthian Church was drawn.

11. And these things some of you have been: but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.

You were washed. This is the meaning of the Greek, which uses the aorist. The Latin language is less precise in distinction of tense, and abluti estis, santificati estis, might mean, either you are washed, you were washed, or you have been washed, sanctified, &c. Baptism confers complete and absolute remission of all sins, of whatever degree of guilt, previously contracted, so that they cannot be charged at the day of judgment. But the same sins renewed after baptism are far more terrible, and can only be washed away by penance.

12. All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
13. Meat for the belly, and the belly for meat: but
God will destroy both it and them. But the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
14. And God has both raised up the Lord, and will raise us by his power.

All things are lawful. The prohibition which the Apostle has given in verses 1, 6, of bringing suits before pagan judges, was capable of being maliciously misrepresented, as if he had denied the authority of the civil rulers of the empire, and advised his readers not to submit to it. He therefore explains, that to seek recovery of our goods by suit at law is not forbidden by the laws of the Church of Christ, and does not necessarily involve mortal sin: but it is inexpedient, unfitting the dignity of a Christian, if it can with justice and charity be avoided. Neither is it unlawful to appear as a suitor before a pagan judge, but it places you in that judge’s power, and exposes you to the danger of causing the Christian faith to be outraged and blasphemed. The Greek has: I will not be insulted, or set at nought, by any. That is, if it is in my power to avoid it. All these contentions of law regard, directly or indirectly, the contemptible and transitory wants of our mortal bodies, in their present animal and physical condition. God will, one day, and before long, destroy both the belly and the meats. The stomach and digestive organs of the human body were made for the support of animal life (verse 13a).

But this is not the case with regard to another subject, as to which also there was in turn some risk of his being misunderstood. The body is not for fornication (vs 13b). The pagans saw nothing wrong in simple fornication, for which reason the Apostle thinks it prudent to make this remark. It belongs to Christ, and Christ belongs to the body, as its head. The head is to sanctify and rule, the body to obey, in chastity and holiness. The body belongs to the head, and the head to the body. And this is not, like the other, a temporary relation, confined to this mortal life, for God, who has raised the Lord from death, will raise our bodies from death, by his own omnipotent power, to live united with him for ever (vs 14).

15. Know you not that your bodies are members of Christ? Taking away then, the members of Christ, shall I make them members of a harlot? God forbid.

Your bodies are members of Christ. Hoc est corpus meum, the body mystical and adoptive, as the Eucharist is the body natural, by transubstantiation. Christ is our head coextensively with our whole nature, which includes soul and body.

16. Know you not that who cleaves to a harlot, is made one body: for they shall be, he saith, two in one flesh.

Who cleaves to a harlot is made one body: the Greek: with her. Gen 2:24. They shall be two in one flesh. Saint Thomas observes that marriage and fornication are different in a moral sense, as to the external act, one being of virtue, justice, and temperance, and the other of concupiscence and vice, but they do not differ physically, and according to the species of nature.

17. But who cleaves to the Lord, is one spirit.

He who adheres to Christ in chastity of body and soul becomes one spiritwith him, by consent and grace. It is not sufficient to avoid unchastity unless in heart and spirit we adhere to Christ.

18. Flee fornication. Every sin, whatsoever a man does, is without the body: but who fornicates, sins against his own body.
19. Know you not that your members are a temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have of God, and you are not your own?

Flee fornication. Other enemies of the soul are to be resisted: this one is to be escaped from by flight. If the injury to Christ is not regarded, he adds another argument, that the fornicator sins against his own body, which he withdraws from the control of reason and spirit, wholly to the influence of sense and brute matter. St. Augustine. Other explanations of this passage, from various ecclesiastical writers, are quoted by Cornelius a Lapide in loc. CEcumenius brings forward no fewer than ten, from the Greek Fathers, most of which are open to the objection that they would apply equally to marriage. Probably the words are introductory to the statement in the next verse. As he has before urged that our bodies are members of Christ, he now (vs 19) goes on to say that they are temples of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us. The whole man is the temple of the Holy Spirit: the mind is the sanctuary; the powers of the soul the basilica: the body as it were the porch. And of this temple, Tertullian says de cultu fem. 2, chastity is the keeper and custodian.

20. For you are bought for a great price; give glory and carry God in your body.

A great price: the blood of Christ. The Greek text, and the Syriac, read the rest: Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. Carry God in your body, as in the procession of the Corpus Domini.

Corollary of Piety~
The materialist sees only the outside of the temple. But within, there is in the soul of every child of Adam an inmost shrine and sanctuary, into which no eye but his own, and God’s, who created it, can or will ever penetrate, to all eternity: the seat of consciousness, the self, immortal and indestructible. And in this sanctuary, in the grace that accompanied creation, there dwelt the Spirit of God, for the adoration and worship of the creature: till sin came and ruined the shrine, and drove away the presence that once dwelt there.

In the temple that stood on Mount Moria there was an inner sanctuary, where in silence, unseen, unvisited, shrouded by the veil, there dwelt from year to year, from century to century, the presence of the God of the Hebrew nation: until the awful voice was heard, amid the sweep of the wings of the retiring angels, Let us depart hence, and the shrine was left to ruin and desolation.

In the sanctuary of the Christian Churches, upon the altar, beneath the figure of the Crucified, opposite the ever-burning lamp, there is the tabernacle in which dwells the real presence of the Lamb, who taketh away the sin of the world; and the solemnity, the sanctity, and beauty of that presence, make the spot the centre of the universe for the behever, and have a strange awe and attraction even for the unbeliever, should chance or Providence guide his footsteps thither.

The mystical shrine within the soul of man is restored to its splendour by the presence of the Spirit of God, who dwells in you. There the human soul is united with its Creator, to eternity, in a spiritual embrace of charity, which the sounds of earth, which even the harmonies of heaven, shall not interrupt or terminate. Portate Deum in corpore vestro. Let the shrine be ever holy, the light of faith always burning, the incense of prayer ever rising before the throne of God, who dwelleth in you, for wherever God is, he is to be adored.

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