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1. Divisions in the Church
1Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2unto the church of God which is at Corinth, even them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, their Lord and ours: 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus; 5that in everything ye were enriched in him, in all utterance and all knowledge; 6even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ; 8who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye be unreproveable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful, through whom ye were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 10Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11For it hath been signified unto me concerning you, my brethren, by them that are of the household of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos: and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul? 14I thank God that I baptized none of you, save Crispus and Gaius; 15lest any man should say that ye were baptized into my name. 16And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. 17For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made void. 18For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,
I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And the discernment of the discerning will I bring to nought.
20Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe. 22Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: 23but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumblingblock, and unto Gentiles foolishness; 24but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; 28and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that are: 29that no flesh should glory before God. 30But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption: 31that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
19. For it is written, etc. He shows still farther, from the testimony of Isaiah, how unreasonable a thing it is that the truth of the gospel should be regarded with prejudice on the ground that the wise of this world hold it in contempt, not to say derision. For it is evident from the words of the Prophet, that their opinion is regarded as nothing in the account of God. The passage is taken from Isaiah 29:14, where the Lord threatens that he will avenge himself upon the hypocrisy of the people by this kind of punishment, that wisdom will perish from the wise, etc. Now the application of this to the subject in hand is this: “It is nothing new or unusual for men to form utterly absurd judgments, who appear in other respects to be distinguished for wisdom. For in this manner the Lord has been wont to punish the arrogance of those who, depending on their own judgment, think to be leaders to themselves and others. In this manner did He, among the Israelitish people of old, destroy the wisdom of those who were the leaders of the people. If this happened among a people, whose wisdom the other nations had occasion to admire, what will become of others?”
It is proper, however, to compare the words of the Prophet with those of Paul, and to examine the whole matter still more closely. The Prophet, indeed, makes use of neuter verbs when he says, Wisdom will perish and prudence will vanish, while Paul turns them into the active form, by making them have a reference to God. They are, however, perfectly the same in meaning. For this is a great prodigy which God declares he will exhibit, so that all will be filled with astonishment. Wisdom, therefore, perishes, but it is by the Lord’s destroying it: wisdom vanishes, but it is by the Lord’s covering it over and effacing it. As to the second term αθετεῖν, (which Erasmus renders reject,) as it is ambiguous, and is sometimes taken to mean efface, or expunge, or obliterate, I prefer to understand it in this sense here, so as to correspond with the Prophet’s word vanish, or be hid. At the same time, there is another reason that has weighed more with me, 8383 “Combien que j’aye vne raison encore plus valable, qui m’a induit a changer ceste translation;” — “At the same time, I have a still more forcible reason, which has induced me to alter this translation.” — that the word reject was not in accordance with the subject, as will appear ere long. Let us see, then, as to the meaning.
The Prophet’s meaning, without doubt, is precisely this, that they would no longer have governors that would rule well, because the Lord will deprive them of sound judgment and intelligence. For as he elsewhere threatens to send blindness upon the whole nation (Isaiah 6:10,) so here, upon the leaders; which is just as though he were plucking the eyes out of the body. However this may be, a great difficulty arises from the circumstance, that the term wisdom or prudence was taken by Isaiah in a good sense, while Paul quotes it for an opposite purpose, as though the wisdom of men were condemned by God, as being perverted, and their prudence set aside as being mere vanity. I confess that it is commonly expounded in this way; but as it is certain that the oracles of the Holy Spirit are not perverted by the Apostles to meanings foreign to their real design, I choose rather to depart from the common opinion of interpreters than to charge Paul with falsehood. In other respects, too, the natural meaning of the Prophet’s words accords not ill with Paul’s intention; for if even the wisest become fools, when the Lord takes away a right spirit, what confidence is to be placed in the wisdom of men? Farther, as it is God’s usual way of punishing, to strike blind those who, following implicitly their own judgment, are wise in their own esteem, it is not to be wondered if carnal men, when they rise up against God, with the view of subjecting His eternal truth to their rashness, are turned into fools, and become vain in their imaginations. We now see with what appropriateness Paul makes use of this testimony. Isaiah declares that the vengeance of God upon all those that served God with their own inventions would be, that wisdom would vanish from their wise men. Paul, with the view of proving that the wisdom of this world is vain and worthless, when it exalts itself against God, adduces this testimony from Isaiah.