1 Corinthians 1:18-31

1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Tuesday of Holy Week ABC


18 For the messageA about the cross is foolishnessB to those who are perishing,C but to us who are being savedD it is the powerE of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroyF the wisdomG of the wise,H
    and the discernmentI of the discerningJ I will thwart.”K

Notes on verses 18-19

A “message” = logos.  From lego (to speak, tell, mention). This is word, statement, speech, analogy. It is a word that carries an idea or expresses a thought, a saying. It could refer to a person with a message or reasoning laid out in words. By implication, this could be a topic, line of reasoning, or a motive. It can be used for a divine utterance or as Word – Christ.
B “foolishness” = moria. 5x in NT. From moros (dull, stupid, foolish, flat; literally, not having an edge; used figuratively for someone whose understanding is dull, is sluggish, acts in a brainless way, or does not fully have a grip on reality). This is foolishness, absurdity, or dullness. This is where the word “moron” comes from.
C “perishing” = apollumi. From apo (from, away from) + ollumi (to destroy, ruin). This is to fully destroy, kill, be perishing, lose, or entirely cut off. It can be used for perishing violently or being permanently destroyed as well as for being removed.
D “saved” = sozo. From sos (safe, rescued, well). This is to save, heal, preserve, or rescue. Properly, this is taking someone from danger to safety. It can be delivering or protecting literally or figuratively.
E “power” = dunamis. From dunamai (to be able, have power or ability). This is might, strength, physical power, efficacy, energy, and miraculous power. It is force literally or figuratively – the power of a miracle or the miracle itself.
F “destroy” = apollumi. Same as “perishing” in v18. See note C.
G “wisdom” = sophia. From sophos (wise, clever, skilled, learned, cultivated); related to saphes (clear). This is skill, wisdom, insight, intelligence, clarity. It is wisdom as applied through a practical skill or shrewdness. It is not thoughtfulness or the mere gaining of intelligence for its own sake. Sophia is wisdom in action for everyday living.
H “wise” = sophos. Related to “wisdom” in v19. See note G.
I “discernment” = sunesis. 7x in NT. From suneimi (to put together – used figuratively to mean understand, consider, gain insight; this is bringing together facts or notions and synthesizing them into a whole; making a summary to arrive at a final conclusion that includes how to apply the insight to life; it can also imply acting piously or being wise); [from sun (with, together with) + hiemi (to send, put)]. This is understanding, cleverness, intelligence, knowledge, or insight. Just as the root verb, it is synthesized reasoning that brings facts together to understand indirect truths from the facts at hand.
J “discerning” = sunetos. Related to “discernment” in v19. 4x in NT. From suneimi (see note I above). This is intelligent, prudent, wise, discerning, or clever. This is a personal understanding that comes from one’s own working of the facts and ideas.
K “thwart” = atheteo. 16x in NT. From athetos (not having position or place) [from a (not) + tithemi (to put, place, set, fix, establish in a literal or figurative sense; properly, this is placing something in a passive or horizontal position)]. This is setting something aside, ignoring or nullifying it, refusing or rejecting. It can also mean to annul or cancel out the effect of something. Literally, this is to un-place. It can also be rejecting something, despising it, or considering something invalid.

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe?L Where is the debaterM of this age?N Has not God made foolishO the wisdom of the world?P 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided,Q through the foolishness of our proclamation,R to save those who believe.S 

Notes on verses 20-21

L “scribe” = grammateus. Related to “written” in v19. From gramma (what is drawn or written so a letter of the alphabet, correspondence, literature, learning); from grapho (to write). This is a writer, scribe, or secretary. Within Judaism, it was someone learned in the Law, a teacher. Also used in the Bible of the town-clerk of Ephesus. See Sirach 38:24-39:11 for a lengthier positive passage about who scribes were and what they meant in society.
M “debater” = suzetes. 1x in NT. From sun (with, together with) + zeteo (to seek, search for, require, demand, desire, deliberate, strive, try; properly, this is seeking something out by asking questions or investigating; looking for a final solution or conclusion to get to the bottom of things; by a Hebrew turn of phrase, this could be to worship God; it could also mean to plot to kill someone). This is a disputer or debater. As one who seeks together, they are inclined to seek out debate or argument so as to figure something out – generally philosophical or religious things.
N “age” = aion. From the same as aei (ever, always, unceasingly, perpetually; on every occasion). This is an age, cycle of time, course, continued duration. It is also used to describe the eternal or forever. This is the word used to discuss the present age or the messianic age.
O “made foolish” = moraino. Related to “foolishness” in v18. From moros (see note B above). This is being or making foolish, being tasteless of useless.
P “world” = kosmos. Perhaps from the base of komizo (to carry, convey, recover); from komeo (to take care of). This is order, the world, the universe, including its inhabitants. Literally, this is something that is ordered so it can refer to all creation. It can also refer to decoration in the sense that something is better ordered and, thus, made more beautiful. This is were “cosmos” and “cosmetics” come from.
Q “decided” = eudokeo. From eu (good, well, well done) + dokeo (to have an opinion, seem, appear, suppose; a personal judgment; to think); from dokos (opinion). This is to think well of, to be pleased or resolved. Properly, this is what someone finds good or acceptable – approving of some action or generally thinking well of.
R “proclamation” = kerugma. 9x in NT. From kerusso (proclaim, preach, publish; properly, to act as a herald – announcing something publicly with confidence and/or to persuade). This is proclamation – both the preaching and that which is preached. Sometimes times used to refer to the Gospel itself.
S “believe” = pisteuo. From pistis (faith, faithfulness, belief, trust, confidence; to be persuaded or come to trust); from peitho (to have confidence, urge, be persuaded, agree, assure, believe, have confidence, trust). This is to believe, entrust, have faith it, affirm, have confidence in. This is less to do with a series of beliefs or doctrines that one believes and more to do with faithfulness, loyalty, and fidelity. It is trusting and then acting based on that trust.

22 For JewsT demandU signsV and GreeksW desireX wisdom, 23 but we proclaimY ChristZ crucified,AA a stumbling blockBB to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,CC 

Notes on verses 22-23

T “Jews” = ioudaios. From Ioudas (Judah, Judas); from Hebrew Yehudah (Judah, son of Jacob, his tribal descendants, a name for the southern kingdom. Literally, it means praised); probably from yadah (to throw one’s hands into the air in a gesture of praise); from yad (hand). This is Jewish, a Jew, or Judea.
U “demand” = aiteo. This is ask, request, petition, beg, call for, or demand. I cannot find evidence to suggest that the harsher “demand” is specifically called for here.
V “signs” = semeion. From the same as semaino (to give a sign, signify, indicate, make known); from sema (a sign or mark). This is a sign given by God to confirm or authenticate a message or prophecy. It is not necessarily miraculous, but it can be. The Gospel of John generally uses this word instead of miracle.
W “Greeks” = hellen. From Hellas (Hellas, what Greeks called themselves); perhaps from helane (torch) OR from selene (moon). This is Greek, but was used for Gentiles, broader populations that spoke Greek and were a part of Greek culture regardless of their heritage. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_(given_name)
X “desire” = zeteo. Related to “debater” in v20. See note M above.
Y “proclaim” = kerusso. Related to “proclamation” in v21. See note R above.
Z “Christ” = christos. From chrio (consecrate by anointing with oil; often done for prophets, priests, or kings). Literally, the anointed one, Christ. The Greek word for Messiah.
AA “crucified” = stauroo. From stauros (upright stake, cross; literally the horizontal beam of a Roman cross, generally carried by the one convicted to die); from the same as histemi (to stand, cause to stand). This can be to attach someone to a cross or fencing with stakes. In a figurative sense, it could be to destroy, mortify, or subdue passions/selfishness.
BB “stumbling block” = skandalon. 15x in NT. Perhaps from kampto (to bend or bow). This is a stumbling block, offense, hindrance, or scandal. Properly, this is the part of the trap that triggers it shut on the victim. So, as a snare, it is anything that causes error or offense, something that makes one stumble or traps someone. This is where the word “scandal” comes from.
CC “Gentiles” = ethnos. Probably from etho (a custom or culture). This is people who are united by having similar customs or culture. Generally, it is used to refer to Gentiles. This is a tribe, race, nation, or Gentiles in general. This is where the term “ethnicity” comes from.

24 but to those who are the called,DD both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishnessEE is wiser than humanFF wisdom, and God’s weaknessGG is strongerHH than human strength.

Notes on verses 24-25

DD “called” = kletos. 11x in NT. From the same as klesis (calling, invitation); from kaleo (to call by name, invite, to name, bid, summon, call aloud); related to keleuo (to command, order, direct); from kelomai (to urge on). This is the called, invited, calling. Used in the NT as God’s calling.
EE “foolishness” = moros. Related to “foolishness” in v18 & “made foolish” in v20. 12x in NT. See note B above.
FF “human” = anthropos. Probably from aner (man, male, husband) + ops (eye, face). This is human, humankind. Used for all genders.
GG “weakness” = asthenes. From a (not) + sthenes (strong, vigor) [from the base of sthenoo (to strengthen so that one can be mobile); from sthenos (strength)]. This is without strength so weak, sick, helpless, frail, feeble. It can also be unimpressive or impotent. It can be used for physical or moral weakness.
HH “stronger” = ischuros. From ischuo (to be strong, healthy and vigorous, able, have power, prevail; strength that engages a resisting force); from ischus (strength, might, power, force, ability; power that engages immediate resistance). This is strong – first of physical strength. Later, also used figuratively for forcible, powerful, mighty, vehement, or sure.

26 ConsiderII your own call,JJ brothersKK and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards,LL not many were powerful,MM not many were of noble birth.NN 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shameOO the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is lowPP and despisedQQ in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothingRR things that are, 29 so that no one might boastSS, TT in the presenceUU of God. 

Notes on verses 26-29

II “consider” = blepo. This is literally to see – it is primarily used in the physical sense. However, figuratively it can be seeing, which includes attention and so to watchfulness, being observant, perceiving, and acting on the visual information. It can also mean beware.
JJ “call” = klesis. Related to “call” in v24. 11x in NT. From kaleo (see note DD above).
KK “brothers” = adelphos. From a (with, community, fellowship) + delphus (womb). This is a brother in a literal or figurative sense. It is also used of another member of the Church.
LL “human standards” = sarx. Literally “according to the flesh.” May be from saroo (to sweep, cleanse by sweeping); from sairo (to brush off). This is flesh, the body, human nature, materiality, kindred. Flesh is not always evil in scripture (as when it refer to Jesus taking on a human body). However, it is generally used in a negative way for actions made selfishly and not through faith. This can mean animal flesh, i.e. meat, or refer to body in contrast to soul/spirit. Flesh can be a way of talking about how things or people are related or talking about human frailty (physical or moral).
MM “powerful” = dunatos. Related to “power” in v18. From dunamai (see note E above). This is mighty, able, powerful. It can also mean possible – what can be because of the ability of the subject.
NN “of noble birth” = eugenes. 3x in NT. From eu (good, well, well done) + ginomai (to come into being, to happen, become, be born; to emerge from one state or condition to another; this is coming into being with the sense of movement or growth). This is noble or high status birth. It can literally refer to a higher rank or it can be used to speak of a noble nature, which is to say, generous.
OO “shame” = kataischuno. 13x in NT. From kata (down, against, according to, among) + aischunomai (to dishonor, put to shame, shrink, disfigure) [from aischos (shame, disgrace, disfigurement)]. This is literally to shame down, which is to say disgrace or implying make someone blush. It can be frustrate, dishonor, confound or shame.
PP “low” = agenes. Related to “of noble birth” in v26. 1x in NT. From a (not) + ginomai (see note NN above). This is literally someone without a family and, by extension, someone low or ignoble. It would describe someone whose ancestry/origin is unknown.
QQ “despised” = exoutheneo. 11x in NT. From ek (from, from out of) + oudeis (no one, none, nothing; ruling out absolutely) [from oude (and not, neither, not even) {from ou (not, no) + de (but, and, now, indeed)} + heis (one, first, alone)]. Properly, this is casting someone or something out as nothing, consider someone or something nothing – of no account. This would be to treat someone with utter contempt or to ignore them.
RR “reduce to nothing” = katargeo. From kata (down, against, according to, among) + argeo (to delay, linger, be at rest, be idle, do nothing); {from argos (inactive, idle, lazy, thoughtless, useless, unemployed, unprofitable) {{from a (not) + ergon (word, task, action, employment)}}This is making something inactive or bringing it to nothing. So, it could mean making something inoperative or powerless, annulling, or severing. It can also mean to make something ineffective or invalid.
SS “boast” = kauchaomai. Perhaps from auxen (neck). This is literally holding one’s head high – to boast proudly or to glory, joy, exult, rejoice. It can be boasting in a positive or negative sense.
TT Literally “so that none might boast [out] of all flesh.”
UU “presence” = enopios. From en (in, on, at, by, with) + ops (eye, face). Literally “in the eye of.”

30 He is the source of your life in ChristVV Jesus,WW who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousnessXX and sanctificationYY and redemption,ZZ 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”AAA

Notes on verses 30-31

VV Literally “out of him however you are in Christ.”
WW “Jesus” = iesous. From Hebrew Yehoshua (Joshua, the Lord is salvation); from YHVH (proper name of the God of Israel; the self-existent and eternal one); from havah (to become) or from hayah (to come to pass, become, be) + yasha (to deliver, defend, help, preserve, rescue; properly, to be open, wide or free, which implies being safe. So, in a causative sense, this is to free someone. This is Jesus or Joshua in Greek – the Lord saves or the Lord is salvation.
XX “righteousness” = diakiosune. From diakios (correct, righteous – implies innocent; this is that which conforms to God’s notion of justice, uprightness); From dike (the principle of justice; that which is right in a way that is very clear; a decision or the execution of that decision; originally, this word was for custom or usage; evolved to include the process of law, judicial hearing, execution of sentence, penalty, and even vengeance; more commonly, it refers to what is right); may be from deiknumi (to show, point out, exhibit; figurative for teach, demonstrate, make known). This is judicial or divine approval of character or action. This is righteousness, justice, justness, divine righteousness.
YY “sanctification” = hagiasmos. 10x in NT. From hagiazo (to make holy, consecrate, sanctify, set apart as holy, purify, venerate); from hagios (sacred, holy, set apart, different other; physically pure, morally blameless, or ceremonially set apart); from hagnos (holy, sacred, pure ethically, ritually, or ceremonially; prepared for worship, chaste, unadulterated, pure to the core; undefiled by sin; figurative for innocent, modest, perfect). This is consecration, sanctification, holiness. It is making something holy or holier, set apart, being purified.
ZZ “redemption” = apolutrosis. 10x in NT. From apo (from, away from) + lutroo (to redeem, liberate, release because ransom was paid in full; figuratively, returning something or someone to their rightful owner) [from lutron (ransom, the money used to free slaves; also a sacrifice of expiation; figurative for atonement); from luo (to loose, release, untie; figuratively, to break, destroy, or annul; releasing what had been withheld)]. This is redemption, deliverance, or release particularly with the notion of ransom paid – a buying back what had been lost.
AAA “Lord” = kurios. From kuros (authority, supremacy). This is a respectful address meaning master or sir. It refers to one who has control or power greater than one’s own. So, it was also applied to God and Jesus as Master or Lord.

Image Credit: “Cicero Denounces Cataline” by Cesare Maccari, 1889.

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