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1 Corinthians 4:9-15

9. For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

9. Existimo enim, quod Deus nos postremos Apostolos demonstraverit tanquam morti destinatos: nam theatrum facti sumus mundo, et angelis, et hominibus.

10. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.

10. Nos stulti propter Christum, vos autem prudentes in Christo: infirmi, vos autem robusti: vos gloriosi, nos autem ignobiles.

11. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place;

11. Ad hanc enim horam usque et sitimus, et esurimus, et nudi sumus, et colaphis caedimur.

12. And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:

12. Etcircumagimur, et laboramus operantes manibus propriis: maledictis lacessiti benedicimus: persequutionem patientes sustinemus:

13. Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

13. Conviciis affecti obsecramus: quasi exsecrationes mundi facti sumus, omnium reiectamentum usque ad hunc diem.

14. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you

14. Non quo pudorem vobis incutiam, haec scribo: sed ut filios meos dilectos admoneo.

15. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

15. Nam etsi decem millia paedagogorum habueritis in Christo, non tamen multos patres; in Christo enim Iesu par Evangelium ego vos genui.


9. For I think, etc. It is uncertain whether he speaks of himself exclusively, or takes in at the same time Apollos and Silvanus, for he sometimes calls such persons apostles. I prefer, however, to understand it of himself exclusively. Should any one be inclined to extend it farther, I shall have no particular objection, provided only he does not understand it as Chrysostom does, to mean that the apostles were as if for the sake of ignominy reserved to the last place. 234234     “Et bien peu estimez;” — “And very little esteemed.” For there can be no doubt that by the term last, he means those who were admitted to the rank of apostles subsequently to the resurrection of Christ. Now, he admits that he is like those who are exhibited to the people when on the eve of being led forth to death. For such is the meaning of the word exhibitedas those who on occasion of a triumph were led round 235235     “On pourmenoit par toute la ville les poures prisonniers;” — “They led the poor prisoners round the whole town.” for the sake of show, and were afterwards hurried away to prison to be strangled.

This he expresses more distinctly by adding, that they were made a spectacle. “This,” says he, “is my condition, that I exhibit to the world a spectacle of my miseries, like those who having been condemned to fight with wild beasts, 236236     “Condamnez a seruir de passe-temps en combatrant contre des bestes;” — “Condemned to serve as a pastime in fighting against wild beasts.” or to the games of the gladiators, or to some other mode of punishment, are brought forth to the view of the people, and that not before a few spectators, but before the whole world.” Observe here the admirable steadfastness of Paul, who, while he saw himself to be dealt with by God in this manner, was nevertheless not broken or dispirited. For he does not impute it to the wantonness of the wicked, that he was, as it were, led forth with ignominy to the sport of the arena, but ascribes it wholly to the providence of God.

The second clause to angels and to men, I take to be expository in this sense — “I am made a sport and spectacle, not merely to earth, but also to heaven.” This passage has been commonly explained as referring to devils, from its seeming to be absurd to refer it to good angels. Paul, however, does not mean, that all who are witnesses of this calamity are gratified with such a spectacle He simply means, that the Lord has so ordered his lot that he seems as though he had been appointed to furnish sport to the whole world.

10. We are fools for Christ’s sake This contrast is throughout ironical, and exceedingly pointed, it being unseemly and absurd that the Corinthians should be in every respect happy and honorable, according to the flesh, while in the meantime they beheld their master and father afflicted with the lowest ignominy, and with miseries of every kind. For those who are of opinion that Paul abases himself in this manner, in order that he may in earnestness ascribe to the Corinthians those things which he acknowledges himself to be in want of, may without any difficulty be refuted from the little clause that he afterwards subjoins. In speaking, therefore, of the Corinthians as wise in Christ, and strong, and honorable, he makes a concession ironically, as though he had said 237237     “C’est une concession ironique, c’est a dire, qu’il accorde ce dont ils se vantoyent, mais c’est par mocquerie, comme s’il disoit;” — “It is an ironical concession; that is to say — he grants what they boast of, but it is in mockery, as though he had said.” — “You desire, along with the gospel, to retain commendation for wisdom, 238238     “En faisant profession de l’Euangile, vous voulez auec cela estre estimez prudens;” — “In making a profession of the gospel, you wish, along with that, to be esteemed wise.” whereas I have not been able to preach Christ otherwise than by becoming a fool in this world. Now when I have willingly, on your account, submitted to be a fool, or to be reckoned such, consider whether it be reasonable that you should wish to be esteemed wise. How in these things consort — that I who have been your master, am a fool for Christ’s sake, and you, on the other hand, remain wise!” In this way, being wise in Christ is not taken here in a good sense, for he derides the Corinthians for wishing to mix up together Christ and the wisdom of the flesh, inasmuch as this were to endeavor to unite things directly contrary.

The case is the same as to the subsequent clauses — “You are strong says he, and honorable, that is, you glory in the riches and resources of the world, you cannot endure the ignominy of the cross. In the meantime, is it reasonable that I should be on your account 239239     “Pour l’amour de vous;” — “From love to you.” mean and contemptible, and exposed to many infirmities? Now the complaint carries with it so much the more reproach 240240     “Est d’autant plus picquante, et aigre;” — “Is so much the more cutting and severe.” on this account, that even among themselves he was weak and contemptible. (2 Corinthians 10:10.) In fine, he derides their vanity in this respect, that, reversing the order of things, those who were sons and followers were desirous to be esteemed honorable and noble, while their father was in obscurity, and was exposed also to all the reproaches of the world.

11. For to this hour. The Apostle here describes his condition, as if in a picture, that the Corinthians may learn, from his example, to lay aside that loftiness of spirit, and embrace, as he did, the cross of Christ with meekness of spirit. He discovers the utmost dexterity in this respect, that in making mention of those things which had rendered him contemptible, he affords clear proof of his singular fidelity and indefatigable zeal for the advancement of the gospel; and, on the other hand, he tacitly reproves his rivals, who, while they had furnished no such proof, were desirous, nevertheless, to be held in the highest esteem. In the words themselves there is no obscurity, except that we must take notice of the distinction between those two participles — λοιδορουμενοι και βλασφημουμενοι (reviled and defamed.) As λοιδορια means — that harsher sort of raillery, which does not merely give a person a slight touch, but a sharp bite, and blackens his character by open contumely, there can be no doubt that λοιδορειν means — wounding a person with reproach as with a sting. 241241     λοιδορια, is supposed by Eustathius to be derived from λογος, a word, and δορυ, a spear A similar figure is employed by the Psalmist, when he speaks of words that are drawn swords (Psalm 55:21.) — Ed I have accordingly rendered it — harassed with revilings Βλασφημια signifies a more open reproach, when any one is severely and atrociously slandered. 242242     “Or le premier signifie non seulement se gaudir d’vn homme, mais aussi toucher son honneur comme en le blasonnant, et le naurer en termes picquans: ce que nous disons communement, Mordre en riant. Le second signifie quand on detracte apertement de quelqu’vn sans vser de couuerture de paroles;” — “Now the first means not simply to make one’s self merry at another’s expense, but also to touch his reputation, as if with the view of blackening it, and wounding it by cutting expressions, as we commonly say — to give a good humored bite. The second means when persons slander any one openly, without using any disguise of words.”

12. When he says that while persecuted he suffers it, and that he prays for his revilers, he intimates that he is not merely afflicted and abased by God, by means of the cross, but is also endowed with a disposition to abase himself willingly. In this, perhaps, he gives a stroke to the false apostles, who were so effeminate and tender, that they could not bear to be touched even with your little finger. In speaking of their laboring he adds — with our own hands, to express more fully the meanness of his employments 243243     “Que c’estoit vn mestier ville, et mechanique;” — “That it was a mean and mechanical occupation.” — “I do not merely gain a livelihood for myself by my own labor, but by mean labor, working with my own hands.”

13. As the execrations of the world. He makes use of two terms, the former of which denotes a man who, by public execrations, is devoted, with the view to the cleansing of a city, 244244     “Comme c’estoit vne chose qui se faisoit anciennement entre les payens;” — “As this was a thing that was practiced anciently among the heathens.” for such persons, on the ground of their cleansing the rest of the people, by receiving in themselves whatever there is in the city of crimes, and heinous offense, are called by the Greeks sometimes καθαρμοι, but more frequently καθάρματα. 245245     The Scholiast on Aristophanes, Plut. 454, gives the following explanation of the term κάθαρμα: Καθάρματα ἐλέγοντο ὁι επὶ τὢ καθάρσει λοιμοῦ τινος ἤτινος ἕτὲρα; νάσου θυόμενοι τοις θεοῖς. Τοῦτο δὲ ἔθος καὶ παρὰ ̔ρωμαίοις ἐπεκράτησε. Those were called cleansings who were sacrificed to the gods for the cleansing out of some famine, or some other calamity. This custom prevailed also among the Romans. — Ed Paul, in adding the preposition περὶ (around) seems to have had an eye to the expiatory rite itself, inasmuch as those unhappy men who were devoted to execrations were led round through the streets, that they might carry away with them whatever there was of evil 246246     “De malediction;” — “Of curse.” in any corner, that the cleansing might be the more complete. The plural number might seem to imply that he speaks not of himself exclusively, but also of the others who were his associates, and who were not less held in contempt by the Corinthians. There is, however, no urgent reason for regarding what he says as extending to more than himself. The other term — περίψημα, (offscouring,) denotes filings or scrapings of any kind, and also the sweepings that are cleared away with a brush. 247247     “Les ballieures d’vne maison;” — “The sweepings of a house.” As to both terms consult the annotations of Budaeus. 248248     The view given by Budaeus of the former term (περικαθάρματα) is stated by Leigh in his Critica Sacra to be the following: That “the Apostle had allusion unto the expiations in use among the heathens, in time of any pestilence or contagious infection; for the removal of such diseases they then sacrificed certain men unto their gods, which men they termed καθάρματα. As if the Apostle had said — We are as despicable and as odious in the sight of the people, as much loaded with the revilings and cursings of the multitude, as those condemned persons who were offered up by way of public expiation.” The latter term (περίψημα) Budaeus renders as follows: “Scobem aut ramentum et quicquid limando fleter;” — “Filings or scrapings, or whatever is cleared off by filing.” — Ed

In so far as concerns the meaning of the passage before us, Paul, with the view of expressing his extreme degradation, says that he is held in abomination by the whole world, like a man set apart for expiation, 249249     “Destine a porter toutes les execrations et maudissons du monde;” — “Set apart to bear all the execrations and curses of the world.” and that, like offscourings, he is nauseous to all. At the same time he does not mean to say by the former comparison that he is all expiatory victim for sins, but simply means, that in respect of disgrace and reproaches he differs nothing from the man on whom the execrations of all are heaped up.

14. I write not these things to shame you As the foregoing instances of irony were very pointed, so that they might exasperate the minds of the Corinthians, he now obviates that dissatisfaction by declaring, that he had not said these things with a view to cover them with shame, but rather to admonish them with paternal affection. It is indeed certain that this is the nature and tendency of a father’s chastisement, to make his son feel ashamed; for the first token of return to a right state of mind is the shame which the son begins to feel on being reproached for his fault. The object, then, which the father has in view when he chastises his son with reproofs, is that he may bring him to be displeased with himself. And we see that the tendency of what Paul has said hitherto, is to make the Corinthians ashamed of themselves. Nay more, we shall find him a little afterwards (1 Corinthians 6:5) declaring that he made mention of their faults in order that they may begin to be ashamed. Here, however, he simply means to intimate, that it was not his design to heap disgrace upon them, or to expose their sins publicly and openly with a view to their reproach. For he who admonishes in a friendly spirit, makes it his particular care that whatever there is of shame, may remain with the individual whom he admonishes, 250250     “Tasche sur toutes choses que toute la honte demeure entre lui et celui lequel il admoneste;” — “Endeavors above all things that the shame may remain between him and the person whom he admonishes.” and may in this manner be buried. On the other hand, the man who reproaches with a malignant disposition, inflicts disgrace upon the man whom he reproves for his fault, in such a manner as to hold him up to the reproach of all. Paul then simply affirms that what he had said, had been said by him, with no disposition to upbraid, or with any view to hurt their reputation, but, on the contrary, with paternal affection he admonished them as to what he saw to be defective in them.

But what was the design of this admonition? It was that the Corinthians, who were puffed up with mere empty notions, might learn to glory, as he did, in the abasement of the cross, and might no longer despise him on those grounds on which he was deservedly honorable in the sight of God and angels — in fine, that, laying aside their accustomed haughtiness, they might set a higher value on those marks 251251     “Les marques et fietrisseurs de Christ en luy;” — “The marks and brands of Christ in him.” The allusion, as our Author himself remarks, when commenting upon Galatians 6:17, is to “the marks with which barbarian slaves, or fugitives, or malefactors were branded.” Hence the expression of Juvenal: stigmate dignum credere — “to reckon one worthy of being branded as a slave.” (Juv. 10. 183.) — Ed. of Christ (Galatians 6:17) that were upon him, than on the empty and counterfeit show of the false apostles. Let teachers 252252     “Les docteurs et ministres;” — “Teachers and ministers.” infer from this, that in reproofs they must always use such moderation as not to wound men’s minds with excessive severity, and that, agreeably to the common proverb, they must mix honey or oil with vinegar — that they must above all things take care not to appear to triumph over those whom they reprove, or to take delight in their disgrace — nay more, that they must endeavor to make it understood that they seek nothing but that their welfare may be promoted. For what good will the teacher 253253     “Le ministre:” — “The minister.” do by mere bawling, if he does not season the sharpness of his reproof by that moderation of which I have spoken? Hence if we are desirous to do any good by correcting men’s faults, we must distinctly give them to know, that our reproofs proceed from a friendly disposition.

15. For though you had ten thousand. He had called himself father, and now he shows that this title belongs to him peculiarly and specially, inasmuch as he alone has begotten them in Christ. In this comparison, however, he has an eye to the false apostles to whom the Corinthians showed all deference, so that Paul was now almost as nothing among them. Accordingly he admonishes them to consider what honor ought to be rendered to a father, and what to a pedagogue 254254     “The Greek word pedagogue,” says Calmet, “now carries with it an idea approaching to contempt. With no other word to qualify it, it excites the idea of a pedant, who assumes an air of authority over others, which does not belong to him. But among the ancients a pedagogue was a person to whom they committed the care of their children, to lead them, to observe them, and to instruct them in their first rudiments. Thus the office of a pedagogue nearly answered to that of a governor or tutor, who constantly attends his pupil, teaches him, and forms his manners. Paul (1 Corinthians 4:15) says: “For though you have ten thousand instructors (pedagogues) in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers’ — representing himself as their father in the faith, since he had begotten them in the gospel. The pedagogue, indeed, may have some power and interest in his pupil, but he can never have the natural tenderness of a father for him.” — Ed. “You entertain respect for those new teachers. To this I have no objection, provided you bear in mind that I am your father, while they are merely pedagogues.” Now by claiming for himself authority, he intimates that he is actuated by a different kind of affection from that of those whom they so highly esteemed. “They take pains in instructing you. Be it so. Very different is the love of a father, very different his anxiety, very different his attachment from those of a pedagogue What if he should also make an allusion to that imperfection of faith 255255     “Quel mal y auroit-il, quand nous dirions, qu’il fait aussi vne allusion a ceste petitesse et enfance en la foy?” — “What harm were there, though we should say that he also makes an allusion to that littleness and childhood in the faith?” which he had previously found fault with? For while the Corinthians were giants in pride, they were children in faith, and are, therefore, with propriety, sent to pedagogues 256256     Our Author evidently alludes to the etymology of the original term παιδαγωγοὺς, as being derived from παῖς, a boy, and ἄγω, to lead Such instructors were generally slaves, whose business it was to attend upon their youthful charge, to observe their behavior, and to lead them to and from school. (Herod. 8. 75, Eur. Ion, 725.) — Ed He also reproves the absurd and base system of those teachers in keeping their followers in the mere first rudiments, with the view of keeping them always in bonds under their authority. 257257     “La mauuaise procedure et faqon d’enseigner des docteurs, d’autant qu’ils amusoyent leurs disciples aux premiers rudimens et petis commencemens, et les tenoyent tousiours la;” — “The base procedure and method of instruction of the teachers, inasmuch as they amused their followers with the first rudiments and little beginnings, and kept them constantly there.”

For in Christ Here we have the reason why he alone ought to be esteemed as the father of the Corinthian Church — because he had begotten it. And truly it is in most appropriate terms that he here describes spiritual generation, when he says that he has begotten them in Christ, who alone is the life of the soul, and makes the gospel the formal cause. 258258     “Qu’on appelle;” — “As they call it.” Let us observe, then, that we are then in the sight of God truly begotten, when we are engrafted into Christ, out of whom there will be found nothing but death, and that this is effected by means of the gospel, because, while we are by nature flesh and hay, the word of God, as Peter (1 Peter 1:24, 25) teaches from Isaiah, (Isaiah 40:6, 7, 8,) is the incorruptible seed by which we are renewed to eternal life. Take away the gospel, and we will all remain accursed and dead in the sight of God. That same word by which we are begotten is afterwards milk to us for nourishing us, and it is also solid food to sustain us for ever. 259259     Our Author probably refers to what he had said when commenting on 1 Corinthians 3:2.

Should any one bring forward this objection, “As new sons are begotten to God in the Church every day, why does Paul say that those who succeeded him were not fathers?” the answer is easy — that he is here speaking of the commencement of the Church. For although many had been begotten by the ministry of others, this honor remained to Paul untouched — that he had founded the Corinthian Church. Should any one, again, ask, “Ought not all pastors to be reckoned fathers, and if so, why does Paul deprive all others of this title, so as to claim it for himself exclusively?” I answer — “He speaks here comparatively.” Hence, however the title of fathers might be applicable to them in other respects, yet in respect of Paul, they were merely instructors We must also keep in mind what I touched upon a little ago, that he is not speaking of all, (for as to those who were like himself, as, for example, Apollos, Silvanus, and Timotheus, who aimed at nothing but the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, he would have had no objection to their being so named, and having the highest honor assigned to them,) but is reproving those who, by a misdirected ambition, transferred to themselves the glory that belonged to another. Of this sort were those who robbed Paul of the honor that was due to him, that they might set themselves off in his spoils.

And, truly, the condition of the Church universal at this day is the same as that of the Corinthian Church was at that time. For how few are there that love the Churches with a fatherly, that is to say, a disinterested affection, and lay themselves out to promote their welfare! Meanwhile, there are very many pedagogues, who give out their services as hirelings, in such a manner as to discharge as it were a mere temporary office, and in the meantime hold the people in subjection and admiration. 260260     “Qui se loent, comme ouuriers a la iournee, pour exercer l’office a leur profit, ainsi qu’on feroit vne chose qu’on aura prise pour vn temps certain, et cependant, tenir le peuple en obeissance, et acquerir bruit, ou estre en admiration enuers iceluy;” — “Who hire themselves out, as workmen for the day, in order to exercise the office to their own advantage, as if one were doing a thing that he had taken up for a certain time, and in the meantime to hold the people in subjection, and acquire fame, or be in admiration among them.” At the same time, even in that case it is well when there are many pedagogues, who do good, at least, to some extent by teaching, and do not destroy the Church by the corruptions of false doctrine. For my part, when I complain of the multitude of pedagogues, I do not refer to Popish priests, (for I would not do them the honor of reckoning them in that number,) but those who, while agreeing with us in doctrine, employ themselves in taking care of their own affairs, rather than those of Christ. We all, it is true, wish to be reckoned fathers, and require from others the obedience of sons, but where is the man to be found who acts in such a manner as to show that he is a father? 261261     “Combien yen a-t-il qui facent office de pere, et qui demonstrent par effet ce qu’ils vetdent estre appelez?” — “How many are there of them that discharge the office of a father, and show in deeds what they wish to be called?”

There remains another question of greater difficulty: As Christ forbids us to

call any one father upon earth, because we have one Father in heaven,
(Matthew 23:9,)

how does Paul dare to take to himself the name of father? I answer, that, properly speaking, God alone is the Father, not merely of our soul, but also of our flesh. As, however, in so far as concerns the body, he communicates the honor of his paternal name to those to whom he gives offspring, while, as to souls, he reserves to himself exclusively the right and title of Father, I confess that, on this account, he is called in a peculiar sense the Father of spirits, and is distinguished from earthly fathers, as the Apostle speaks in Hebrews 12:9. As, however, notwithstanding that it is he alone who, by his own influence, begets souls, and regenerates and quickens them, he makes use of the ministry of his servants for this purpose, there is no harm in their being called fathers, in respect of this ministry, as this does not in any degree detract from the honor of God. The word, as I have said, is the spiritual seed. God alone by means of it regenerates our souls by his influence, but, at the same time, he does not exclude the efforts of ministers. If, therefore, you attentively consider, what God accomplishes by himself, and what he designs to be accomplished by ministers, you will easily understand in what sense he alone is worthy of the name of Father, and how far this name is applicable to his ministers, without any infringement upon his rights.

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