Saturday, June 24, 2017

Homily, Study, Discussion Points on the Readings for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

First, Psalm and Gospel Readings: Jesus manifested the reign of God as a just and humble Savior who proclaimed peace to the nations and established worldwide dominion (Zech 9:9-10; Mt 10:28-30). As he praised the Father for the revelation of his compassion through himself (Mt 10:25-26), we are called upon to bless and extol God (Ps 145:1-2, 10-11) because of his mercy and compassion (Ps 145:8-9), manifested especially towards those who are weak and oppressed (Ps 145:14); and because of his everlasting reign, trustworthiness and love (Ps 145:11, 13-14). All of which Christ's person and work revealed (Mt 10:27).

Second Reading: The contrast between life in the flesh and life in the Spirit. Here a good bible dictionary could be of great help. I find Fr. John McKenzie's DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE very helpful; also THE CATHOLIC BIBLE DICTIONARY, edited by Dr. Scott Hahn. See articles such as "Flesh;" "Holy" (or "Holiness"); "Spirit" (or "Holy Spirit").

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Suggestions for Homilies, Bible Studies, Discussion Groups for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

For commentaries and other resources go here.

First Reading 2 Ki 4:8–11, 14–16a
Response Ps 89:2a
Psalm Ps 89:2–3, 16–19
Second Reading Ro 6:3–4, 8–11
Gospel Acclamation 1 Pe 2:9
Gospel Mt 10:37–42

Some Basic Suggestions: Note: Scripture passages below contained within red, rounded brackets (…) indicate a reference from today’s readings in whole or in part.

First, Psalm & Gospel Readings: God, because He is good/merciful (Ps 89:2-3) will bless those who exercise goodness/mercy by aiding the prophetic mission of the Church (2 Kings 4;14-16; Mt 10:40-42). Therefore, we ought to provide aid as the woman of Shunem did (2 Kings 4:9-10) and as Christ recommends (Mt 10:40-42). 

Second Reading: Baptism. See CCC 1213-1284. One could especially focus on the following: (A) Baptism establishes communion with our Lord's Death and Resurrection (Rom 6:3-4); [CCC 1227; cf. 790]. (B) Baptism effects the grace to live in newness of life (Rom 6:4, 8-11); [CCC 1265-1266] Here it should be noted that "live in newness of life" is not primarily a reference to our future resurrection (though this is implied), rather, It is a reference to living in new life now, free from the old life of sin (Rom 6:1-2, 6-19). In the context of Romans it is emphasized that this new life is lived in the Spirit (Rom 8:1-2, 8-11, 13). See also Gal 5:16-24; CCC 736). (C) The baptized have an obligation to support the apostolic mission of the Church (CCC 1270). This last point provides a connection with the first and gospel readings.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Suggestions for Homilies, Bible Studies, Discussion Groups for the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings and Catechism Links: 
First Reading Jer 20:10–13 See CCC 2584.
Response Ps 69:14c
Psalm Ps 69:8–10, 14, 17, 33–35
Second Reading Rom 5:12–15 See CCC 388, 400, 402, 602, 612, 1008.
Gospel Acclamation John 15:26b, 27a
Gospel Mt 10:26–33 See CCC 14, 305, 363, 816, 1034, 2145.

Some Basic Suggestions: 
Note: Scripture passages below contained within red, rounded brackets (...) indicate a reference from today's readings.

1. As always, the Psalm (Ps 69:8–10, 14, 17, 33-35) and it's response (Ps 69:14c) suggest themes for the first and Gospel readings. The first part of the response ("Lord, in your great love") relates well to the Lord's care and protection of the faithful (Jer 20:11, 12b, 13b; Mt 10:29-31). The second part of the antiphon ("answer me") relates to the theme of prayer (Jer 20:12b, 13b). The gospel reading itself doesn't relate to prayer, but the entire missionary discourse of Mt 10 is introduced with a reference to it, and this can be easily worked into a homily or brought up for discussion in a bible study (see Mt 9:35-39) .

2. God is our Father (Mt 10:29) and as such loves and cares for us (see Ps 103:13; CCC 268, 270), CCC 218-221, 733) even when friends (Jer 20:10) and family may not because of our faith and commitment to God and the Gospel (see Jer 9:3-5; 11:18-19, 21; Mt 10:34-36; Lk 4:16-30). This could help prepare for next Sunday's Gospel which is on Mt 10:37-42. See also God as Father, Mother, and Husband: CCC 219;  Isa 49:14-15; 66:13; Ps 131:2-3; Hos 11:1-4; Jer 3:4-19.

3. Terror (Jer 20:10), fear (Mt 10:26) and intimidation and how to cope with it by trusting in God's love (Ps 69:14, 17, 34).

4. Evil, suffering, and persecution as tests of faith. God's faithful can be and are tested by God (Jer 20:12; CCC 164) but such trials are of great value (Mt 10:32), especially when accompanied by prayer (Ps 69:14).  See also James 1:2-8; see also Heb 12:1-13.

5. Christ is the reason why believers are persecuted, insulted, ostracized, etc., (Mt 10:17-25; Mt 5:11-12) He is also a model to be imitated when such things occur (see 1 Pet 2:20-25 with 1 Pet 3:8-4:1 and 1 Pet 4:12-16). Jeremiah's experience in these matters prefigured Christ. Zeal for God's house (Ps 69:10) nearly consumed Jeremiah (Jer 26:1-19, cf. Jer 7:1-15), and did consume Jesus (Jn 2:13-22; cf. Mt 26:59-62; Mk 14:57-59). Here one could talk about the Church as a temple (2 Cor 6:16 Eph 2:20-22; 1 Tim 3:15 1 Pet 2:5); or the the believer's bodies as temples (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19), and relate how commitment to the Church, the Gospel and righteous living in faith can lead to opposition (see 2 Tim 3:12; 1 Pet 4:4)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Jesus Becomes a Lamb Led to the Slaughter (John 18:28-19:16)

Numbers in ornate brackets {...} indicate footnotes that can be found at the end of the post.

The section under consideration today has an interesting sevenfold parallel structure; Pilate is shown repeatedly alternating inside and outside of the Praetorium. Fr. Donald Senior {1} outlines it as follows (notice how the episodes parallel: 1 = 7; 2 = 6; 3 = 5. Words in italics are my additions):

(1) "outside"--the Jews hand Jesus over to Pilate for condemnation, Jn 18:28-32;
(2) "inside"--Pilate interrogates Jesus about His kingship, Jn 18:33-38a;
(3) "outside"--Pilate declares Jesus innocent, Jn 18:38b-40;
(4) "inside" [implied]-- Pilate has the Roman soldiers scourge and mock Jesus, Jn 19:1-3;
(5) "outside"-- Pilate agains declares Jesus not guilty, Jn 19:4-8;
(6) "inside"--Pilate interrogates Jesus about His origin, Jn 19:9-12;
(7) "outside"--Pilate delivers Jesus to crucifixion, Jn 19:13-16.

In such a structure the middle section--in this case # 4--is often a key to understanding the entire passage. Fr Senior rejects this in the present instance but I would note that in the Bible kingship is often associated with service/servanthood, and the prophesied Suffering Servant is a kingly, Messianic figure. Therefore, it is fitting that the mocking of Jesus kingship forms the central section.

Due to the length and complexity of the passage much will have to be ignored. In what follows I'll be examining the parallel passages and will examine #4 only in relation to #1 and 7

Read (#1) Jn 18:28-32 with (#7) Jn 19:12-16.  These two passages respectively open and close the overall section. In #1 the Jewish authorities led [agousin] Jesus to Pilate for a death sentence judgement which is rendered in #7 after Pilate brought [egagen] Jesus out of the praetorium. Both Greek word are from the root, ago. In #1 the Jewish leaders say: “If this man were not an evildoer, we would not have handed him over [paredokamen].” In #7, after declaring Jesus innocent several times (Jn 18:38; 19:6; cf. Jn 19:12), Pilate fulfills the leaders request that Jesus be put to death (Jn 18:31) when "he handed Him over [paredokan] to be crucified."

The reference to Jesus being led, along with the the reference to him being handed over, suggests Isaiah's Suffering Servant theme: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led [ago] to the slaughter..."; "The Lord delivered [paredokan] Him up for our sins" (Isa 53:6-7, LXX). If Jesus is a lamb led to slaughter then the Jewish leaders and Pilate are false shepherds, hirelings, thieves (Jn 10:10, 12-13). Here it should be noted that in the Bible the image of shepherd/shepherding was applied to various authority figures (e.g., David: 2 Sam 5:2; judges: 2 Sam 7:7; Pagan king: Isa 44:8).{2}

#4, Jn 19:1-3 in relation to #1 and #7:  Then Pilate took [elaben] Jesus and scourged Him. In #1 Pilate had told the leaders to "take" [labete] Jesus themselves and punish Him (Jn 8:31). Now, having just declared Jesus innocent, Pilate takes [elaben] Jesus to undergo the ghastly punishment of scourging. Roman soldiers mock Him as a this worldly king of the Jews even as the dress Him up as if He were a Roman emperor.

The scourging [emastigosen] and slapping [rhapismata] recalls the the third Suffering Servant song: "I gave my back to scourges [mastigas], and my cheeks to blows [rhapismata]; and I turned not away my face from the shame of spitting" (Isa 50:6, LXX). There may also be an allusion to the fourth Suffering Servant song: "We esteemed him stricken [plege, synonymous with rhapismata]. Ironically the Gentile soldiers are witnessing to a reality; Jesus' kingship cannot be limited to the Jews, and at the time of this Gospel's production, Gentile's were doing in earnest what the soldiers did in mockery, honoring Jesus as a king. He whose teaching was denied, and who was subjected to injustice and false judgement by Jewish and Gentile leaders would "bring forth judgement to the Gentiles," and "in His name the Gentiles shall hope" (Isa 42:1, 4, LXX. The first Suffering Servant song).

It is against this Gentile theme that the reference to Caiaphas in #1 should be seen. He had uttered a prophecy that it was expedient for Jesus to die rather than have the Temple and whole nation destroyed by the Romans (Jn 11:45-53). Commenting on this John wrote that Caiaphas was uttering a prophecy "not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God scattered abroad." His comment clearly relates to a major theme of the Gospel: Jesus' mission was to benefit not just Jews, but those in the world who came to have faith (Jn 1:12-14). This would include the (apparently) Pagan royal official (Jn 4:46-54, see Mt 8:5-10; Lk 7:2-10); the half-pagan Samaritans who hailed him as "Savior of the world" (Jn 4:39-42); the "other sheep" not currently of the Good Shepherd's fold (Jn 10:16). Remember also the Greek's who wished to see Jesus during His entry into Jerusalem (Jn 12:20-24). The entry was introduced with a prophecy from Zechariah which John only partially quotes, thereby intending to evoke its context. Jesus entered Jerusalem as king of peace (see Jn 12:15 quoting Zech 9:9), but it was in order that He might "cut off" instruments of war and "command peace to the nations (Gentiles);" and establish His "dominion" worldwide (" to the ends of the earth" see Zech 9:10). This He would accomplish by dying like a seed in order to bear much fruit (Jn 12:24).

Read (#2) Jn 18:33-38a with (#6) Jn 19:9-12. The primary focus is on the origin and nature of Jesus' kingship. In #2 (Jn 18:33-38a) Pilate makes a statement (it should not be seen as a question): "You are the king of the Jews" {3}. The "you" is emphatic and should be seen as derogatory, mocking, or both, but also as an expression of Pilate's incredulity: "You! of all people are king of the Jews!"  His mockery and incredulity will give way to fear (Jn 19:8), and when Jesus says (#6, Jn 19:11~“You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above"--the place not of this world that Jesus kingly power comes from (#2, Jn 18:36)--Pilate for the first and only time begins to seek Jesus' release: "At this he began seeking to release him" (literal Greek, #6, Jn 19:12). The truth Pilate so casually rejected as unknowable (#2, Jn 18:38a) now begins to matter too late for him.

The Suffering Servant and Lamb theme continue. In Jn 18:35 Pilate says that Jesus' own nation handed Him over [paredokan]; while in Jn 19:11 Jesus says “You would have no power over me unless it had been given [dedomenon] you from above; therefore he who delivered [pardous] me to you has the greater sin.” All three words are derived from the root, didomi. From this we see that the theme of the suffering servant who was "handed over" is still very much in focus, as in # 1 and 7 treated above.

Jesus makes it clear that His kingship is not of this world, for, "if my kingship were of this world, my servants [hyperetai] would fight [agonizomai], that I might not be handed over [paradotho] to the Jews." Since He is the Lamb of God who is led [ago] to the slaughter (see above), it is incongruous that His servants be "led [ago] to fight," (the basic meaning of  agonizomai). The word "servants" [hyperetai] calls to mind the hyperetai of the chief priests and Pharisees who formed part of the contingent that arrested Jesus (Jn 18:3). On that occasion Jesus had bidden the contingent to "let these men go" [hypago, from ago]. Peter drew a sword and used it against one of the hyperetai, but Jesus ordered him to stop. Acting like a hyperetai Peter soon began to associate and seek comfort with them (Jn 18:18). The uncontentious Suffering Servant (Isa 42:1-4) is the only weapon God needs (Isa 49:2-3) to bring about salvation (Isa 49:6), and to bring kings to their feet and princes to their knees (Isa 49:7).

In # 2, Jn 18:37 Jesus says: “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” Jesus' words could imply that His origin is from somewhere besides this world (faithful readers of course know this as a fact). Confronted with the voice of truth Pilate refuses to hear it, rejecting Jesus' testimony concerning His kingship/kingdom, His coming into the world, etc. It is for this reason that Jesus refuses to speak to him in #6, Jn 19:9.

Read #3, Jn 18:38b-40 with #5, Jn 19:4-8. Earlier, in relation to #7, Jn 19:12, we saw that Pilate for the first time "began seeking to release" Jesus. In light of that, this episode must be seen as a manifestation of Pilate's lack of concern for truth. The offer to release either Jesus or Barabbas (a robber!), and the declarations of Jesus' innocence, are not manifestations of justice, rather, they are  nothing more than things said and done to aggravate and annoy the Jewish leaders. Witness that in #5, Jn 19:6, he tells the leaders to crucify Jesus themselves. Those scholars who insist that John is attempting to mitigate Pilate's responsibility, and thus interpret his bringing the scourged Jesus out to arouse the compassion of His accusers, are quite wrong {4}.



{2} See the article "Shepherd" in MCKENZIE'S DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE, or in THE CATHOLIC BIBLE DICTIONARY. One can also profitably consult the article "Servant of the Lord" in both these works.

{3} Pilate makes a statement (it should not be seen as a question): "You are the king of the Jews." That Pilate's words are to be taken as a statement rather than a question is indicated by Jesus' response: "It is you who say so."

{4} For example, Fr. Gerard Sloyan in JOHN: INTERPRETATION: A BIBLE COMMENTARY FOR PREACHING AND TEACHING says of Pilate that he "was of an uncompromising nature and a bully (cf. Josephus, War II, 169-177; Antiquities, XVIII, 55-62; 85-89). He goes on to write that "the softer picture of him which John shares with the Synoptics may result from early Christian attempts to gain concessions from the Empire." He also writes: "the Gospel picture of a high priesthood getting a Roman prefect to do its will is certainly doubtful." If one takes Pilate's declaration of Jesus' innocence (Jn 18:38) as being in earnest, then how does his actions in offering to leave Jesus' fate up to His accusers (Jn 18:39-40) and scourging him constitute a "softer picture" of Pilate? The same could be asked regarding his offer that the Jewish leaders themselves crucify Him whom he once again declares innocent! (Jn 19:6).

As for the doubts concerning Pilate's being cowed to do the wishes of the Jewish priests both texts from Josephus that Fr. Sloyan references show that Pilate could be forced to relent of his intransigence. Since they're nearly identical I'll quote just one: "BUT now Pilate, the procurator of Judea, removed the army from Cesarea to Jerusalem, to take their winter quarters there, in order to abolish the Jewish laws. So he introduced Caesar’s effigies, which were upon the ensigns, and brought them into the city; whereas our law forbids us the very making of images; on which account the former procurators were wont to make their entry into the city with such ensigns as had not those ornaments. Pilate was the first who brought those images to Jerusalem, and set them up there; which was done without the knowledge of the people, because it was done in the night time; but as soon as they knew it, they came in multitudes to Cesarea, and interceded with Pilate many days that he would remove the images; and when he would not grant their requests, because it would tend to the injury of Caesar, while yet they persevered in their request, on the sixth day he ordered his soldiers to have their weapons privately, while he came and sat upon his judgment-seat, which seat was so prepared in the open place of the city, that it concealed the army that lay ready to oppress them; and when the Jews petitioned him again, he gave a signal to the soldiers to encompass them routed, and threatened that their punishment should be no less than immediate death, unless they would leave off disturbing him, and go their ways home. But they threw themselves upon the ground, and laid their necks bare, and said they would take their death very willingly, rather than the wisdom of their laws should be transgressed; upon which Pilate was deeply affected with their firm resolution to keep their laws inviolable, and presently commanded the images to be carried back from Jerusalem to Cesarea" (Antiquities, XVIII, 55-62; 85-89).

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Father Callan's Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:1-13


 At the close of the preceding chapter the Apostle had proposed his own austerity of life to the Corinthians as an example which they should imitate. And lest they should think his fear exaggerated and groundless, he now cites a fact of Jewish history, which shows that, though all the Israelites that went out from Egypt received the same typical Baptism and were fed with the same miraculous food, only those few finally entered the promised land who had the spirit of self-denial and sacrifice, all the rest having perished for their sins. Therefore, we have need of watchfulness at all times. And yet there is no reason for discouragement, because God will always do His part, if we do ours.

1 Cor 10:1. For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea.

The Corinthian faithful must have known the history St. Paul now refers to, and so he proceeds to unfold to them its spiritual meaning. For (γάρ = gar) links this chapter, or at least the first thirteen verses of it, very closely with the preceding chapter.

Our fathers, i.e., the Jews of the Exodus, who, like the other ancient Jews, were really the spiritual forefathers of all Christians, whether Jewish or Gentile, because the Church had naturally succeeded the Synagogue, and the faithful were the true heirs and sons of Abraham (Rom 9:6-8; Gal 3:6-9).

Under the cloud is an allusion to the “pillar of cloud” which guided the Israelites in their march out of Egypt, screening them from the Egyptians and protecting them from the sun (Exod 14:19 ff.; Num 14:14; Ps 104:39; Wis 10:17; 19:7).

The sea, i.e., the Red Sea (Exod 13:21; 14:19 ff.). All those Jews of the Exodus received divine favors that were typical of the two greatest Sacraments of the New Law: Baptism, which is the most necessary, and the Blessed Eucharist, which is the most excellent. They all received a typical Baptism and a typical Communion (Cornely, MacR.).

1 Cor 10:2. And all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in the sea:

All in Moses were baptized, i.e., all the Jews of the Exodus were baptized unto the following of Moses as their leader, whose Law they were thereafter obliged to observe, just as Christians, through the Sacrament of Baptism, are enrolled under the leadership of Christ, promising to obey His law.

In the cloud, and in the sea, i.e., the cloud, the sensible sign of the presence of God, was a type of the Holy Ghost who is given in the Sacrament of Baptism; and the sea, through which the Israelites were delivered from the bondage of Pharaoh, was a type of the waters of Baptism through which we are liberated from the power of sin and the devil.

The Vulgate in Moyse should be in Moysen (εις τον μωση), unto Moses.

1 Cor 10:3. And did all eat the same spiritual food,

Besides a typical Baptism the Israelites had also a typical Communion; for they all ate the same spiritual food, i.e., the manna (Exod 16:15), which, as being given in a miraculous manner and as typifying the Eucharist, is rightly termed “spiritual food” (John 6:35, 48, 50).

1 Cor 10:4. And all drank the same spiritual drink; (and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.)

A further great blessing enjoyed by the Jews of the Exodus was that while in the desert they all drank the same spiritual drink, i.e., the water which was miraculously produced from the rock in the desert the second year after leaving Egypt (Exod 17:6), and in the desert of Sinai during the last year of the Israelites’ wanderings (Num 20:8). This water was a “spiritual drink,” both because of its miraculous origin, and because it was a figure of the blood of Christ given us in the Eucharist.

And they drank of the spiritual rock. Better, “For they drank,” etc. What was this “spiritual rock”? According to St. Chrysostom and the majority of Catholic exegetes it was Christ (Verbum incarnandum) , who was spiritually present with the Jews in the desert, and who, on at least two occasions of which we are told (Exod 17:6; Num 20:8), provided the water in question.

It is the opinion of many of the Fathers that the Son of God used to appear at times as an angel or messenger in Old Testament days. And furthermore, there is no objection to Christ being called a rock, because this same term is often applied to God in the Old Testament (Deut 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31, 37; Isa. 17:10; 21:4; etc.). In this explanation there is no difficulty in the subsequent words of the verse, that followed them, etc.

But others believe the “spiritual rock” was an actual material rock, just as the “spiritual food” and the “sea,” spoken of in the verses preceding, were corporal food and actual water respectively. It was called a “spiritual” rock because of the miraculous water that flowed from it and because of the holier reality it typified, namely, the blood of Christ. But how could a material rock be said to follow the Israelites in their wanderings? Some have answered that it rolled with them, as an old Rabbinical fable had it (Bemidbar Rabbah, c. 2), supplying them with water as they needed it. If this were so, how could we explain the distress of Num 20:1-13? Others hold with greater probability that St. Paul means to say that any rock they met in their wanderings, which Moses was divinely directed to strike, responded with fts flow of miraculous water.

And the rock was Christ, i.e., Christ spiritually present, according to the first opinion explained above; or Christ in figure, a type of Christ, according to the second view just explained.

1 Cor 10:5. But with most of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the desert.

More than 600,000 men of twenty years and upwards went out of Egypt; and although each and all of them partook of the same spiritual favors, they all perished because of their sins, except two, Josue and Caleb, who lived to enter the promised land (Num 1:46; 14:20; 26:63 ff.).

1 Cor 10:6. Now these things were done in a figure of us, that we should not covet evil things as they also coveted.

These things were done in a figure, etc., i.e., the benefits bestowed, and the punishments later inflicted on the Israelites were figures of what has happened and will happen to us if we, like them, are unfaithful. “As you eat the Lord’s body, so did they eat manna; and as you drink His blood, so did they drink water from the rock; and as they were severely punished for their sins, so shall you be punished, if you sin like them” (St. Chrys.).

That we should not covet, etc. Perhaps the reference is not to avoiding sins in general, as St. Chrysostom thinks, but only to the fault of the Corinthians, who should not covet meats offered to idols, for fear of idolatry, as the Jews coveted the fleshpots of Egypt and turned to idolatrous worship.

1 Cor 10:7. Neither become ye idolaters, as some of them, as it is written: The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

Above all we Christians must avoid all idolatrous practices, such as those of the Jews in the desert (Exod 32:6), who sacrificed and feasted and indulged in idolatrous dances in honor of the golden calf.

1 Cor 10:8. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed fornication, and there fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

The reference here is to the sins committed by the Hebrews in the desert with the daughters of Moab (Num 25:1) who had invited them to their sacrifices in honor of the idol Beelphegor. The worship of this idol included many impurities. The Corinthians are admonished to be on their guard against taking part in similar licentious sacrifices in worship of Aphrodite, whose temple on the Acrocorinthus contained a thousand prostitutes.

Three and twenty thousand. The account of the same event in Num 25:1-9 gives four and twenty thousand. The difference is doubtless due to a copyist, who wrote three for four in transcribing St. Paul. Or perhaps St. Paul is speaking of the number that fell in one day, whereas Numbers gives all who fell on that occasion. Others say the Apostle is speaking in round numbers.

1 Cor 10:9. Neither let us tempt Christ: as some of them tempted, and perished by the serpents.

Neither let us tempt Christ, etc. The best MSS. have “the Lord” instead of “Christ,” but the latter is also well supported (by D E F G, Old Lat, Vulg., Peshitto). The Corinthians are warned not to complain of their humble conditions and restrictions as Christians, as the Israelites in the desert murmured against the providence of God and doubted His faithfulness (Num 21:4-6), and in consequence were destroyed by serpents.

1 Cor 10:10. Neither do you murmur: as some of them murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

The Apostle is warning the Corinthians not to complain of him and their other lawful superiors. Some think the murmuring here referred to was the complaint of the Jews at being deprived of the delights of Egypt, and their demand for meat (Num 11:4 ff.); but it is more probable that the reference is to the occasion mentioned in Num 16:41, where we read that “all the multitude murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, You have slain the people of God.”

The destroyer (ολοθρευτου) spoken of here is doubtless the same as the plague of Num. xvi, because Wis. (28:25), referring to the same event, uses the same word (ὀλοθρευτής) that we have here.

1 Cor 10:11. Now all these things happened to them in figure: and they are written for our correction, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

The Apostle now tells his readers that the sins and consequent calamities that befell the Jews in the desert were types of what may happen to them, if they be not faithful.

The ends of the world. Better, “The close of the ages,” i.e., the Christian dispensation, “the fulness of time” (Gal 4:4), which is not to be succeeded by any further religious dispensation, but will continue till the Second Coming of Christ. For similar expressions which refer to the Messianic or Christian era, see Eph 1:10; Heb 9:26; 1 Peter 1:15; 1 John 2:18; etc.

The Vulgate in correptionem nostram should be in correptionem nostri.

1 Cor 10:12. Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall.

The conclusion from the foregoing is that, if what befell the Israelites is a figure of what may happen to us Christians, baptized in Christ and fed on His flesh and blood, we must be ever on our guard against over-confidence, lest, while thinking ourselves secure in God’s favor, we lose His grace and fall away into sin, perhaps losing our souls.

Himself (Vulg., se) is not in the Greek, but is implied in the context.

No one, short of a special divine revelation, can be absolutely certain that he is in the state of grace (Conc. Trid., Sess. VI. De Justificatione, cap. 9, 13).

1 Cor 10:13. Let no temptation take hold on you, but such as is human. And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it.

Fearing that the faithful at Corinth may be discouraged at the picture just drawn of the calamities that befell the Jews, St. Paul now wishes to console and hearten them, assuring them that in all their temptations and trials God will never fail to give them sufficient help to overcome. In other words, their temptations in the past have been only human, i.e., tolerable; and God will continue to help them in the future.

Let no temptation, etc. Rather, according to nearly all of the Greek MSS., the Fathers, and most of the versions, “No temptation hath come upon you, but such as you could bear,” i.e., the temptations of the Corinthians in the past have been bearable, with God’s grace; and God is faithful, i.e., He can be trusted to continue in the future what He has done so far. By “temptation” is meant all that induces man to moral evil, and that may be the occasion of spiritual death.

But will make also, etc., God will give with the temptation also the way of escape, so that you may be victorious and overcome.

In the Vulgate apprehendat should be apprehendit, to agree with the best Greek MSS. and the best versions.

Fther Callan's Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:19-27

A Summary of 1 Cor 9:19-23

The Apostle has just told us at considerable length how he refused the temporal support to which he was entitled, in order not to impede the spread of the Gospel. But this was only one of the privations he freely chose to undergo. He also gave up his liberty and became ail things to all men, that he might gain all for Christ, and that his own reward might be the greater. How such an example ought to shame those Corinthians who were unwilling to abstain from eating meats that offended their weaker brethren!

1 Cor 9:19. For whereas I was free as to all, I made myself the servant of all, that I might gain the more.

St. Paul was God’s messenger to men, and as such he was in no wise subject to human beings. He could have lived and acted as he pleased so long as he was in conformity with his mission; but he surrendered his rights to such liberty of life and action and became the servant of all to whom he preached, in order that he might gain a greater number to Christ.

1 Cor 9:20. And I became to the Jews, a Jew, that I might gain the Jews:
1 Cor 9:21. To them that are under the law, as if I were under the law, (whereas myself was not under the law), that I might gain them that were under the law. To them that were without the law, as if I were without the law, (whereas I was not without the law of God, but was in the law of Christ), that I might gain them that were without the law.

When he was with the Jews he lived and acted like one of them, observing the Law and its ceremonies (Acts 16:3; 18:18; 21:23-26), although he knew these were unnecessary. All this he did that he might win the Jews more easily to the Gospel. Likewise when among those that were without the law, i.e., with the pagans who had not the Law of Moses, he conducted himself as if he also knew not that Law. And yet he did not, like the Gentiles, observe no law; for he was subject and obedient to the law of Christ which imposes the moral precepts of the Mosaic Law, summed up in the two great Commandments of the love of God and of our neighbor (Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:14).

1 Cor 9:22. To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all.

To the weak, etc., i.e., for the sake of those who were weak in faith and easily scandalized (8:7, 9-12; Rom 14). St. Paul refrained from indifferent actions which they might misunderstand and take to be wrong.

I became all things . . . that I might save all. A better reading of this last clause is, “that I may save some” (ινα παντως τινας σωσω). Thus, he acted in such a way as to save all, in order to save some.

The Vulgate ut omnes facerem salvos should be, ut aliquos faciam salvos.

1 Cor 9:23. And I do all things for the gospel’s sake : that I may be made partaker thereof.

The sacrifices and works of supererogation performed by St. Paul were not only for the sake of others, but for his own sake as well. 

For the gospel’s sake, i.e., for the sake of the great rewards promised in the Gospel. The Apostle has labored so generously, in order that he may be made partaker, along with his converts, of the blessings held out in the Gospel.

 A Summary of 1 Cor 9:24-27

The Corinthians must not think that to be Christians is enough to make certain their salvation. The Apostle directs their attention to his own life of severity: he so labors that there may be no doubt of his gaining the eternal prize; he chastises his body that he may save his immortal soul. If they would be saved, the faithful likewise must labor arduously to gain their crowns.

1 Cor 9:24. Know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain.

To illustrate the effort necessary to save one’s soul St. Paul reminds the Corinthians of what they were accustomed to witness every three years at the famous Isthmian games on the sea-coast about nine miles from Corinth. Those competitors in the stadium, or race-course, exerted every effort, and yet only one received the prize, which was a garland of leaves of the pine or olive. As the mere entrance into the arena was not sufficient to gain this material prize, so the bare fact of one’s being a member of the Church is not sufficient to win the prize of eternal life. On the contrary, we must, like the racers, so strive for the victory as to overcome and defeat our spiritual adversaries.

The Apostle is insisting on the effort that must be put forth to gain heaven, without wishing to say how many are saved. For all a place is prepared hereafter, but all will not attain to their destined seats in glory.

1 Cor 9:25. And every one that striveth for the mastery, refraineth himself from all things: and they indeed that may receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible one.

In the days of the Grecian games, as now, athletes who took part in the public contests severely disciplined themselves beforehand for a long period of time, abstaining from every indulgence that might weaken their bodies and lessen their strength; and all this that they might win a corruptible crown of leaves. How much more, then, should we Christians deny ourselves for the glory of never-fading crowns in heaven!

From ancient writers we learn that candidates for the prize at the Isthmian and Olympic games had to abstain from every kind of sensual indulgence for ten months, and to undergo a most rigorous bodily training (cf. Horace, De Arte Poetica, 412; Epictetus, Enchir. 29).

And (Vulg., et) after all things is not represented in the Greek.

1 Cor 9:26. I therefore so run, not as at an uncertainty: I so fight, not as one beating the air:

Calling attention to his own conduct, which the Corinthians should strive to imitate, St. Paul says he directs all his efforts to the goal of eternal life. He so runs as to obtain the prize; he so fights as to overcome his adversaries. The latter figure is an allusion to the pugilistic contests in Greek games.

1 Cor 9:27. But I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.

I chastise. The best Greek reading here (υπωπιαζω) means literally, “I beat the face black and blue.” As the pugilist beat the face of his adversary black and blue, so St. Paul practiced such corporal austerities as figuratively to make his body black and blue.

And bring it into subjection, i.e., conquer its evil propensities and bring it, as it were, into bondage. The conqueror in some Greek contests was permitted to lead his adversary around the arena and exhibit him to the spectators as a captive and slave.

When I have preached. Literally, “Having announced” (κηρυξας) . The allusion is again to the games in which’ a herald made the announcements of the combatants, proclaimed the conditions, and excluded any who were unworthy. St. Paul was not only a herald but a competitor in the struggle for eternal life, and he feared that while he had announced the conditions for victory to others, he himself might fail to observe them and thus lose his own prize.

Father Callan's Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:1-18


 At the close of the preceding chapter St. Paul, in order to encourage the Corinthians to abstain from whatever might imperil the eternal welfare of their weaker brethren, called attention to his own determination never to do anything, however licit in itself, that could scandalize his brother in Christ. And now, lest they should say or think that he had promised more than he would be willing to fulfil, he goes into his own past life, as that of one who was free and a genuine Apostle, and shows how he had renounced the rights that were his, so as to promote the Gospel and the spiritual good of others. He had foregone the support which he could have claimed from the faithful, in order to make more beneficial his preaching and to attain to greater perfection (1 Cor 9:1-18); he had made himself the slave of all men in order to save all (1 Cor 9:19-23). The Corinthians, therefore, should imitate his life of austerity and self-denial for the sake of gaining the incorruptible crown of eternal life (1 Cor 9:24-27).

A Summary of 1 Cor 9:1-18

 As a genuine Apostle, equal in every way to the twelve, St. Paul had a right to be supported, as they had been, by the faithful for whom he labored in preaching the Gospel. But for fear that the pagans and the new converts might think he preached only for this temporal purpose, and not for their eternal interests, he freely chose to earn his living by his own hands. From this the Corinthians could see and learn what it meant to deny one’s self for spiritual ends and for the sake of others.

1 Cor 9:1. Am not I free? Am not I an apostle? Have not I seen Christ Jesus our Lord? Are not you my work in the Lord?

The Apostle anticipates what may be in the minds of his adversaries. They will explain his self-denial by saying he was not free to do otherwise; that he was not a real Apostle, and so could not demand his support from the faithful.

Here, therefore, St. Paul first claims the right of freedom which belongs to every Christian who is properly instructed; he next insists that he is a true Apostle like the rest. To be a genuine Apostle it was necessary (a) to have seen Christ risen from the dead (Acts 1:21, 22); and (b) to have been immediately commissioned by Christ to go and preach (Acts 10:41; Gal 1:1, 12). Now St. Paul had seen Christ, had been called to the Apostolate by Him, and had been commissioned to preach by Him (Acts 9:17; 18:9; 22:14 ff.; 26:15-18).

A further proof that he was a real Apostle lay in the evidence afforded by the fruits of his labors. Were not the Corinthians his work in the Lord, i.e., had he not converted them to the faith by his Apostolic labors among them?

Christ (Vulg., Christum) is not in the Greek.

1 Cor 9:2. And if unto others I be not an apostle, but yet to you I am. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

If unto others, etc., i.e., if in other places where he had not preached, he was not regarded as an Apostle, the Corinthians could not doubt the truth of his mission; for he had founded their Church and they were the seal, i.e., the proof and confirmation of his Apostleship.

In the Lord, as in verse 1, may mean in cooperation with the Lord; or that as Christians, whom he had converted, they were incorporated in the Lord.

And (Vulg., et) at the beginning of the verse should be omitted.

1 Cor 9:3. My defence with them that do examine me is this.

My defense with them, etc., i.e., his defense against those who would question his Apostleship was the Corinthian Church which he had founded, and which, in confirmation of his work, the Lord had blessed with abundant graces and favors (2 Cor 3:2).

1 Cor 9:4. Have not we power to eat and to drink?

Have not we power, etc. Although the plural is used, the Apostle is referring only to himself. He asks if he has not the right to receive their food, drink and other necessaries of life at the expense of the faithful. The reply is obviously in the affirmative, as illustrated in the following verse.

1 Cor 9:5. Have we not power to carry about a woman, a sister, as well as the rest of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

Just as the other Apostles, and even our Lord Himself (Matt 27:55; Luke 8:1 ff.), were accustomed to be followed on their missions by certain pious ladies of means who supported them, so St. Paul could have had such faithful assistants who would have provided for his needs; but he chose to labor with his own hands for his food and clothing, independently of anyone’s help.

A woman, a sister, i.e., a lady who is a Christian, a Christian lady (αδελφην γυναικα). The word γυνή is a general term signifying woman, married or single, and it is against the whole context and tradition, as well as what the Apostle said above (8:7, 8) about not having and not wanting to have a wife, to restrict its meaning here to a wife, as the Revised Version does. The great majority of the Fathers, both Latin and Greek, understand St. Paul here to speak of being accompanied by a woman like those who were accustomed to provide support for the Apostles on their missions. There was no fear of the Jews taking offence at such a custom on the part of those Apostles who preached to them, because their own Rabbins often received similar assistance from their pious female disciples (cf. Luke 8:2, 3). If St. Paul, however, had availed himself of his right in this matter, it might have caused scandal among the pagans.

It may be admitted that some of the Apostles had wives before being called by Christ (Mark 1:30), but afterwards they left all things to follow their divine Master (Matt 19:27; Luke 18:28, 29), and our Lord replying to Peter’s declaration, “Behold we have left all things,” enumerated “wife” among the things the Apostles had left for His “name’s sake.” If, therefore, on their missions the Apostles were accompanied by pious ladies, these were “not wives, but sisters,” as Clement of Alex, says (Strom. III. 6).

Brethren of the Lord, i.e., James the Less, Joseph, Simon and Jude (Matt 13:55), who were cousins of our Lord (Matt 12:46; 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25). James (Mark 15:40; Acts 15:13; 21:18), Simon and Jude (Matt 10:3, 4; Acts 1:13) were Apostles.

Cephas, the Prince of the Apostles, is mentioned to give emphasis to the lawfulness of the custom just spoken of.

1 Cor 9:6. Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to do this?

Power to do this. Better, “Power to refrain from working” (εξουσιαν του μη εργαζεσθαι) , i.e., the right to be supported without working with our own hands, either by the faithful or by the help of pious ladies who could accompany us. St. Paul here, as in the preceding verse, is insisting that he was not obliged to support himself, as he had done ; he could have had his living provided for him either by the faithful, or by Christian ladies of means. Protestants lose the force of this whole argument by maintaining that wife is meant in verse 5. A wife would have been an added expense to St. Paul, a reason why he would have had to work harder with his own hands, to provide support for her as well as himself.

The mention of Barnabas looks as if he was known to the Corinthians.

1 Cor 9:7. Who serveth as a soldier at any time, at his own charges ? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Who feedeth the flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

Just as the soldier has a right to support from his country, as a husbandman and a shepherd have a right to the fruits of their farm and their flock, so has the Apostle a right to his maintenance from the faithful.

“This verse shows that a priest should have a soldier’s courage, a husbandman’s care, and a shepherd’s solicitude; and for it all should seek no more than bare necessaries” (St. Chrys.).

1 Cor 9:8. Speak I these things according to man? Or doth not the law also say these things?
1 Cor 9:9. For it is written in the law of Moses : Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?

What has been just said is very reasonable, but St. Paul points to the divine sanction which he also has for his words. The Mosaic Law, given by God to the Jewish people, forbade the muzzling of the ox that was used to thresh the grain of their owners (Deut 25:4). The sheaves were spread on the floor of the barn and the ox was driven round and round upon them, until all the grain was trodden out of the straw. Now the Law forbade that the animal should be muzzled during this labor, so that, if it wished to grab a mouthful now and then, it might do so.

Doth God take care for oxen, i.e., did God make this law only for the sake of oxen? Did He not give it primarily for the sake of man, over whom He has a special providence? The meaning is that if God does not want the irrational laborer to be deprived of the food necessary for its maintenance and usefulness, how much more does He wish the human worker to receive his needed support!

1 Cor 9:10. Or doth he say this indeed for our sakes? For these thinge are written for our sakes: that he that plougheth, should plough in hope; and he that thrasheth, in hope to receive fruit.

Or doth he say, etc. Better, “Or is it not, indeed, said for our sakes?” This shows that God, in giving the above law, had our instruction chiefly in view, so that we may labor with the hope of receiving something for our work.

For these things, etc. Better, “For it was written for our sakes.”

In hope to receive fruit. Better, “In hope of partaking.”

1 Cor 9:11. If we have sown unto spiritual things, is it not a great matter if we reap your carnal things?

The Apostle’s contention that he has a right to support from the faithful is strengthened by a new thought. If for material labor one has the right to that temporal maintenance which is necessary for his life and usefulness, how much more has St. Paul a right to temporal support from the faithful for whom he has performed such a great spiritual service as he has done in making known to them the faith, and in converting them to Christianity! Temporal support would be little compensation for such surpassing blessings.

If we reap, etc. Two well-supported readings are possible here. That found in the oldest MSS. (B, A, and D) would seem to imply an actual partaking on the part of the Apostle of the Corinthians’ temporal goods. But as this does not fit the context, it is better to follow the other reading, which is supported by the Vulgate, Vetus Itala and the MSS., C D E F G. (Note: the above has been slightly edited by me)

1 Cor 9:12. If others be partakers of this power over you, why not we rather? Nevertheless, we have not used this power: but we bear all things, lest we should give any hindrance to the gospel of Christ.

If others, i.e., most probably, the other genuine teachers, like Apollo, who followed St. Paul at Corinth, and who, it seems, made use of their right to support by the faithful. If these subsequent preachers insisted on their rights, how much more could St. Paul, the founder of their Church, have insisted on his! And yet he did not, lest the evil and suspicious minded might thence take occasion to accuse him of false purposes, and thus hinder the spread of the Gospel.

This power over you (τη  εξουσια ταυτη), i.e., this right of support in regard to you (cf. 7:4).

1 Cor 9:13. Know you not, that they who work in the holy place, eat the things that are of the holy place; and they that serve the altar, partake with the altar?

Another argument is drawn from the practice of the priests of the Old Law, who shared in the victims offered for sacrifice.

They who work in the holy place, i.e., they who minister in the Temple, performing the sacred functions (τα ιερα εργαζομενοι), namely, the priests and Levites, eat the things, etc., i.e., have part in the sacrifices offered in the Temple at Jerusalem, as was ordained by God (Num 18:8-20; Deut 10:9; 8:1).

And (Vulg., et), connecting the clauses of this verse, is not in the Greek.

1 Cor 9:14. So also the Lord ordained that they who preach the gospel, should live by the gospel.

That the genuine preachers of the Gospel have a right to their temporal support has been so far proved from reason, from the authority of the Law, and from the practice of the priests of the Old Testament. A final argument is now given from the words of Christ Himself who said that the evangelical “workman is worthy of his meat” (Matt 10:10 ff.; Luke 10:7). The words of our Saviour do not mean that the Apostles were bound to insist on their right to support, but that they could, if they wished, and the faithful are obliged to admit this right and to comply with it.

1 Cor 9:15. But I have used none of these things. Neither have I written these things, that they should be so done unto me: for it is good for me to die, rather than that any man should make my glory void.

I have used none of these things, i.e., I have used none of the arguments just given to enforce my rights; or, better, I have made use of none of my rights as an Apostle.

Neither have I written, etc., i.e., the Apostle has not written these things with the intention of insisting on his temporal maintenance at the hands of the Corinthians; he would rather die than give up the superior benefit of preaching the Gospel without present emolument.

For it is good, etc. The Apostle breaks up his sentence here, in his eagerness to give vehement expression to his feelings. A better translation is: “It were well for me rather to die than my boast no one shall make void.” The meaning is that just given above.

1 Cor 9:16. For if I preach the gospel, it is no glory to me, for a necessity lieth upon me: for woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel.

The glorying (καυχημα) spoken of at the end of the preceding verse did not refer to the fact of having preached the Gospel, for since St. Paul was acting in obedience to the command of Christ in preaching (Acts 26:16 ff.; Rom 1:14), he was not free to do otherwise. His glory, therefore, consisted in preaching without insisting on his temporal rights, in denying himself the maintenance he might justly claim.

1 Cor 9:17. For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation is committed to me:

This verse is very difficult. To what does this thing refer? Does it refer to the mere fact of preaching the Gospel, which St. Paul was obliged to do, or to preaching the Gospel gratis, which he was not obliged to do? In our judgment the reference is rather to the fact of preaching the Gospel, of which there was question in the preceding verse. Willingly, then, means “uncommanded,” and against my will means under “necessity” (verse 16). The meaning of the verse therefore is: If St. Paul had preached the Gospel without having been commanded to do so, of his own choice, he would receive a special reward, and would have reason for glorying (verse 16); but if, as was the case, he preached because he had been commanded to preach, therefore under necessity, he was only fulfilling the commission entrusted to him, and so was not deserving of anything but the ordinary reward due to the fulfillment of one’s obligations.

A dispensation is committed, etc. Literally, “I have been entrusted with a stewardship.”

1 Cor 9:18. What is my reward then? That preaching the gospel, I may deliver the gospel without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

Had then the Apostle no special reward awaiting him, since the preaching of the Gospel was not his free choice but his bounden duty? Yes, his special reward consisted in foregoing his right to temporal support by the faithful and in preaching the Gospel without charge.

I abuse not. Better, “I use not to the full” (μη καταχρησασθαι). This and the preceding verse prove the existence and merit of works of supererogation.

Father Callan's Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8:1-13


Another question asked St. Paul by the faithful of Corinth regarded meats offered to idols. It was true that the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:23 ff.) had legislated in this matter, but since the decision there given seemed intended especially for the Christians of Antioch, Syria and Cilicia, where there were
great numbers of Jews whom it was important not to scandalize by pagan practices, the Corinthians, as being mostly of Gentile origin and surroundings, were not certain just what their attitude should be toward pagan feasts and sacrificial meats.

The difficulty was increased by the fact that nearly all pagan banquets, both public and private, took on a religious character (Aristotle, Ethics viii. 9; Thucydides, ii. 38); and of the victims offered to the idols only a part was destroyed on the altar, the rest being given to the priests and those who offered the sacrifice for their own consumption in a sacrificial banquet, the remainder to be taken home for private use, or to be sold on the public market. It was customary for pagans to invite their friends to these private religious banquets, and it was held to be the part of loyalty to the State also to attend those that were celebrated publicly. Some of the Christians did not hesitate to attend these festivities and freely to partake of the meats offered to the idols, and to purchase such meats at the public market. Others were scandalized at such conduct, holding that it was entirely wrong to eat things profaned by idol worship. Still others ate with a bad conscience, feeling it was wrong to do so, but being unable to resist. Hence the matter was submitted to St. Paul. The present chapter gives his reply, which is to the effect that, while it is not wrong in itself to eat meats offered to idols, yet on account of scandal it is necessary sometimes to abstain from them.

A Summary Of  1 Corinthians 8:1-7

It is not possible that anything offered to an idol be really denied, since an idol is nothing. Those who have true knowledge understand this, because they know that there are not many gods, but one God only. But some are weak in the knowledge of the truth, and hence it is unlawful for them to eat meats offered to idols.

1 Cor 8:1. Now concerning those things that are sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up; but charity edifieth.

Now concerning … we know that. St. Paul here departs from the subject he starts to discuss, and through the second half of verse 1 and all of verses 2, 3, speaks parenthetically of “knowledge.” Perhaps those among the Corinthians who were scandalizing their weaker brethren had boasted in the letter to the Apostle that they had superior knowledge, and consequently knew there was no harm in eating meats offered to idols.

We all have knowledge, i.e., the Apostle and most of the faithful in Corinth knew very well how to regard the rites, sacrifices, and gods of pagans—they knew that idols were nothing.

Knowledge puffeth up, i.e., human wisdom, and even divine science, without charity, are often the occasion of pride and arrogance. Some of the Corinthians had knowledge, but without charity.

Charity edifieth. Literally, “Love buildeth up,” i.e., the love of God (verse 3), which includes also love of our neighbor, builds up (οἰκοδομέω= oikodomeō) the temple of God, the Christian society, by procuring the spiritual welfare and progress of the Christian community.

1 Cor 8:2. And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he hath not yet known as he ought to know.

If any man think, etc., i.e., if anyone thinks he understands that meats offered to idols are not defiled, and has not charity, which will teach him further that he must not overlook the weakness and needs of his neighbor, such a one hath not yet known, etc., i.e., has, as yet, only imperfect and one-sided knowledge. True knowledge consists in knowing our limitations, and in subordinating everything to the love of God and the good of souls. Socrates said: “He is the wisest of men who knoweth that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing” (Plato, Apology, IX.).

1 Cor 8:3. But if any man love God, the same is known by him.

If any man love God, etc., i.e., if anyone have real supernatural charity, which always includes the love of our neighbor (1 John 4:20), he will be known, i.e., approved (cf. Matt 7:23; John 10:14, 27; Gal 4:9; etc, for this sense of γινώσκω = ginōskō) by God. In other words, such a person will not only understand the question of meats offered to idols, but will also know all that is necessary for his own salvation and that of his neighbor, and therefore will have God’s approval and blessing upon him. While we are all loved by God prior to our knowledge and love of Him, this approving love of God follows only upon our love of Him (MacR., against MacEv. and Estius).

1 Cor 8:4. But as for the meats that are sacrificed to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no God but one.

The Apostle now takes up the thought broken off in verse 1, and begins to treat directly the question of meats offered to idols.

But as for the meats, etc. Better, “Concerning, therefore, the eating of things offered to idols.”

We know that an idol is nothing, etc. Better, “We know that there is no idol in the world, and that there is no God but one,” i.e., there is nothing really and objectively corresponding to the images representing false gods, there is no being actually existing which has the properties of God except the one true God (Psalm 9:5; 113:4; Isa 41:24; 42:17; 44:9; etc.). Hence meat offered to idols is really not a bit different from other meat.

1 Cor 8:5. For although there be that are called gods, either in heaven or on earth (for there be gods many, and lords many);
1 Cor 8:6. Yet to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

The thought of the preceding verse is amplified. Although, according to the erroneous beliefs of various pagan nations, there are many so-called gods and lords, some celestial, some terrestrial, in the world; for us Christians, who know that God means the first principle and the last end of all things, there is only one God, the Father, from whom all things proceed as from their first cause, and to whom we tend as to our ultimate end (Rom 11:26). Furthermore, for us who know that Lord means Him on whom all entirely depend, there is only one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom, as the examplar and efficient cause, all things were made (John 1:3), and through whom, as God incarnate, we Christians have been redeemed (cf. Eph 4:5, 6).

The equality of the Father and the Son as God is clearly set forth in this verse. If the Arians would conclude from it that the Son is not God, then they ought consistently to conclude that the Father is not Lord, because (it says) there is “one Lord Jesus Christ.” Of course to deny that the Father is Lord would be blasphemy (Theodoret).

1 Cor 8:7. But there is not knowledge in every one. For some until this present, with conscience of the idol: eat as a thing sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

The conclusion from the preceding verses (4-6) is that, since an idol has no real objective existence aside from its mere image of stone or plaster or the like, it cannot affect food offered to it. So much was clear to most of the Christians, but there were some who had not yet been sufficiently instructed to grasp this truth, and who consequently were not entirely persuaded that it was harmless to eat meats offered to idols. However, following the example of others they did eat such meats with conscience of the idol, i.e., believing that the idol had power to defile, and so went against the dictates of their conscience, and became defiled with sin. It is sinful to act against even an erroneous conscience (Rom 14:23), but one is obliged to do all he can to correct his false conscience.

Instead of the reading of the Vulgate and of most MSS. and versions, with conscience of the idol, the three oldest Greek MSS. and some versions have through being used to the idol. The former is the preferable reading.

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 8:8-13

The eating of meats offered to idols is harmless in itself, and yet it is forbidden to those who do not understand that it is harmless. And even they who have a correct conception of the matter must abstain from such food when their eating of it might give scandal to others who would misunderstand their action, or who would, through frailty, be induced to follow their example, and thus violate their own conscience. Those who give scandal and lead others into sin commit a most grievous crime.

1 Cor 8:8. But meat doth not commend us to God. For neither, if we eat, shall we have the more: nor, if we eat not, shall we have the less.

In this verse the Apostle declares that meats considered in themselves are indifferent, being governed by no law; hence per se it is all the same in the sight of God whether we eat them or not.

Meat doth not commend, etc. Better, “Food will not commend,” etc., i.e., food is a matter of indifference before God; for whether we eat it or abstain from it we are neither better nor worse in God’s sight.

The doctrine of this verse looks to meats objectively considered, without any reference whatever to the legislation of the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:23, 29), or to the Catholic teaching and practice regarding fasting. The Church can make laws affecting meats, if it wishes, but there was no such law binding the Corinthians; and this latter is all that St. Paul is talking about.

1 Cor 8:9. And take heed lest perhaps this your liberty become a stumbling-block to the weak.

And take heed, etc., i.e., those who are well instructed must be on their guard against doing anything that could scandalize and lead into sin those of their brethren who are wanting in more perfect knowledge.

1 Cor 8:10. For if a man see him that hath knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple; shall not his conscience, being weak, be emboldened to eat those things which are sacrificed to idols?

Him that hath knowledge. Better, “Thee (σέ = se) that hast knowledge.” The Apostle gives an example of the scandal he is warning against.

In the idol’s temple, i.e., in the house or shrine devoted to idol worship. It often happened that the meats offered in sacrifice were partaken of, not only in the temple or shrine of the idol, but in the courts or grove adjoining. Later on (10:14 ff.) St. Paul denounces such action on the part of anyone under any circumstances, but here he is concerned only with the scandal it gives.

Being weak. Weak refers to the condition of the man (αυτου ασθενους = autos asthenēs) , rather than to his conscience; he is weak in knowledge, and hence his conscience is erroneous.

Emboldened, usually employed in a good sense, meaning to edify, is here used ironically.

1 Cor 8:11. And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ hath died?

Behold the enormity of the sin of scandal! A Christian who is well informed, by his injudicious and careless action, causes a fellow-Christian, to whom a double portion of charity is due, to commit a grievous sin and lose his soul—a soul for whom Christ died on the cross (Rom. xiv. 15, 20). Shall the weak brother perish. This is the reading of E F G, Rec, Vulg., Peshitto, and Iren.; Other manuscripts have the present tense, “perisheth.”

It follows from this verse that Christ died for more than the elect.

1 Cor 8:12. Now when you sin thus against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.

The sin of scandal is not only an injustice to one’s neighbor, whose right to charity it violates and whose conscience it wounds, but it is also an injustice and a cruelty to Christ, of whom our neighbor is a member and who died for all. What is done to the least of Christ’s servants is done to Him (Matt 25:34 ff.)

1 Cor 8:13. Wherefore, if meat scandalize my brother, I will never eat flesh, lest I should scandalize my brother.

The Apostle proposes his own resolve and example to the Corinthians for imitation. As far as he goes he will abstain from all meats (βρῶμα = brōma, i.e., food of any kind), whether offered to idols or not, and this forever, if it be necessary to avoid giving scandal to his brother.

We must, therefore, avoid things perfectly licit in themselves, if there is danger of giving scandal to “little ones” (Matt 18:6). Of course things necessary for salvation are never to be abandoned for fear of scandal; neither are we obliged to take any notice of Pharisaical scandal (cf. St. Thomas, IIa IIae, q. 43, aa. 7, 8).

Father Callan's Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:25-40

A Summary of 1 Corinthians 7:25-40

What the Apostle had just said in the preceding verses, about remaining after conversion in the same condition of life as before, might cause much uncertainty and doubt in the minds of the Corinthians. Did he mean that young persons who were not yet married should remain single? And that widows should not remarry? It is true he had briefly touched on these questions in verses 8, 9; but after all that had been said in verses 17-24, regarding the advisability of continuing unchanged in one’s former state of life after receiving Baptism, it became quite necessary that the questions involved be more thoroughly discussed and elucidated. Accordingly, the Apostle now explains that, while virginity is only a counsel, it is far more excellent than married life. He then gives some practical advice to parents in regard to their daughters, and terminates with a few words of instruction for widows.

1 Cor 7:25. Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord; but I give counsel, as having obtained mercy of the Lord, to be faithful.

Beginning to speak of virginity and its excellence, the Apostle observes in the first place that he has no precept from the Lord in the matter, as was otherwise in the question of matrimony (verse 10).

Virgins (παρθενων). Perhaps this term here embraces both sexes, as in Matt 19:12; Apoc 14:4, and as would seem probable from verses 28, 32, 33 of this chapter.

No commandment of the Lord. Our Lord extolled the excellence of virginity (Matt 19:12), but He did not command it as something necessary for salvation.

I give counsel (γνωμην δε διδωμ), i.e., he gives very serious advice, as one who has obtained mercy of the Lord, i.e., who has been called to the Apostolate by the divine mercy, and has been commanded to preach by Christ Himself (Gal 1:1).

To be faithful, i.e., he must speak as he does, and give counsel regarding virginity, otherwise he will not be faithful to his mission and to the grace that has been given him; he must counsel as one “worthy of belief, called by the Lord’s great mercy, and entrusted with the ministry of preaching (Theodoret).

1 Cor 7:26. I think therefore that this is good for the present necessity, that it is good for a man so to be.

The Apostle’s counsel regarding virginity is this, that it is good, i.e., excellent, more perfect than the married state (cf. on verse 1)

For the present necessity, i.e., on account of the trials, troubles and anxieties of this present life, to which married people are more exposed than those who remain single (Cornely, Fillion, and most of the older interpreters); or, on account of the near approach of the end of the world (Bisping, Toussaint, Prat in La Theolegie, etc., vol. 1, p. 154). This latter explanation is out of harmony with the teaching of St. Paul in a previous Epistle (2 Thess 2:2 ff.; 3:5 ff), and with the decisions of the Biblical Commission of June 18, 1915, on the Parousia. Whatever may have been St. Paul’s private opinions on this, or any other subject, we cannot admit that he ever taught or wrote anything which subsequent facts have proved to have been false.

1 Cor 7:27. Art thou bound to a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

Notwithstanding the excellence of virginity, those who are already married should stay with their wives. On the other hand, those who are unmarried should remain single.

Loosed from a wife could include widowers, but the context seems to restrict it to men who have never been married.

1 Cor 7:28. But if thou take a wife, thou hast not sinned. And if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned: nevertheless, such shall have tribulation of the flesh. But I spare you.

If thou take a wife (with D E F G). Better, “If thou marry” (with B), The Apostle wishes to say that what he has just counselled about not seeking a wife must not be understood as meaning that those who marry will thereby sin; for matrimony is good, having been instituted by God Himself in the garden of paradise (Cornely). The verbs hast not sinned (Vulg., non peccasti), hath not sinned (Vulg., non peccavit), although representing the Greek aorist, would better express the meaning here, if they were in the future tense. The aorist is thus at times correctly rendered by the future in the Vulgate (cf. John 15:6). Note: B, D, E, F and G are manuscript designations).

Tribulation of the flesh means the trials, anxieties and annoyances of life, which are more numerous for the married than for the single.

I spare you, i.e., I do not insist on your leading a life of virginity, which would be very difficult, if you have not the gift of continence. Others explain as follows: I recommend virginity to you in order to “spare you” from the difficulties and hardships of married life.

1 Cor 7:29. This therefore I say, brethren; the time is short; it remaineth, that they also who have wives, be as if they had none;

This therefore I say. Better, “But this I say.” The Apostle explains why it is better to remain unmarried.

The time is short, i.e., the days of this life are few and short, and so it is better to avoid the cares and anxieties inseparable from married life, in order to give ourselves more fervently to the service of God. Some interpret these words as referring to the nearness of the day of judgment, which cannot be allowed, since this would make the Apostle teach something which was not true. Of course it is a fact that each one’s particular judgment is never far off, and all uncertain to the individual whom, therefore, it behooves to keep as free as possible from distracting annoyances and to be ever watching for his Master’s coming.

It remaineth, etc. The conclusion which follows from the brevity of our life on earth is that we ought to keep our hearts detached from all temporal cares, solicitudes, joys and sorrows which may obscure the vision of our real purpose in life, namely, the service of God and the salvation of our souls.

1 Cor 7:30. And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;

The meaning is that we must not allow any of our earthly experiences, whether of sorrow, of joy, or of business, to absorb our attention and distract us from loving and serving God. We must rather turn all these things to our sanctification by regarding them in the light of faith.

1 Cor 7:31. And they that use this world, as if they used it not: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

Use this world, as if they used it not. Better, “Use the World, as not using it to the full.”

The fashion . . . passeth away, i.e., the show, the external appearance, of things, such as riches, honors, pleasures, sorrows and the like, are fleeting, and should not be permitted to take our hearts away with them. These external things of the present world shall be destroyed at the judgment; the substance of the world, though changed and purified, shall not be destroyed (Rom 8:19 ff.; 2 Peter 3:13; 1 John 2:17; Apoc 21:1).

1 Cor 7:32. But I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God.
1 Cor 7:33. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided.

St. Paul says that he prefers the Christians to be free from the cares and responsibilities of married life, in order that they may give their thoughts and affections more entirely to God. If one is unmarried, he can more easily give his undivided attention to his spiritual welfare; whereas, if married, one’s wife and family justly claim a part of his thoughts and affections, and thus he is divided.

God (Vulg., Deo) at the end of verse 32 ought to be “Lord” (Domino), as in the Greek.

1 Cor 7:34. And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

What was just said of the unmarried and of the married man is also true of the unmarried and of the married woman.

The beginning of this verse has two readings, namely, that of the Vulgate and our version, which is supported by some of the best MSS. and the majority of critics; and that of the Revised Version, Tischendorf and others, which makes the verse begin with the last words of verse 33, and he is divided. Those who follow this less probable reading translate the beginning of the present verse as follows: “And there is a difference also between the wife and the virgin.”

It is clear that the meaning is the same in either reading; for both proclaim the one thing, namely, the superior perfection of the unmarried over the married state.

1 Cor 7:35. And this I speak for your profit: not to cast a snare upon you; but for that which is decent, and which may give you power, to attend upon the Lord, without impediment.

After having extolled the superior excellence of virginity the Apostle tells the Christians that he has spoken only for their profit, for their greater advantage. He does not want to cast a snare upon them, i.e., to deprive them of their liberty to get married, if they want to, but only to encourage them to seek that which is decent, i.e., what is seemly, more perfect, so that they may be better able to serve the Lord, without impediment, i.e., without the distracting cares of wedded life.

1 Cor 7:36. But if any man think that he seemeth dishonoured, with regard to his virgin, for that she is above the age, and it must so be: let him do what he will; he sinneth not, if she marry.

This and the two following verses give practical rules to guide parents in marrying off their daughters. The Apostle addresses the father to whom, according to ancient custom among the Jews and the Greeks, it pertained in particular to direct the future choice of the daughters of the family.

If any man think, etc., i.e., if a father of a family thinks he is being disgraced in the eyes of his neighbors for not providing a husband for his virgin, i.e., his daughter, and allowing her to get married, since she is above the age, i.e., since she has reached, or already passed the flower of her age, and it must so be, i.e., and, either she is determined not to lead a life of virginity, or there is need to let her marry on account of the danger of immorality, let him do, etc., i.e., let the father permit his daughter to marry; he commits no sin thereby.

If she marry. Better, “Let them marry,” i.e., let the daughters get married; or, let the daughter and her suitor get married.

1 Cor 7:37. For he that hath determined being steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but having power of his own will; and hath judged this in his heart, to keep his virgin, doth well.

For should be “But” (δέ). On the other hand, if he that hath determined, etc., i.e., if a father, being steadfast (ἵστημι) in his heart against the criticism and erroneous judgments of his neighbors, having no necessity, i.e., being under no necessity of giving his daughter in marriage, but being able to follow his own wishes and hers, hath judged, etc., i.e., has decided to keep his daughter from marriage, permitting her to follow a life of virginity—such a father doth well, literally, “shall do well.”

The statuit of the Vulgate should be stat, and facit should be faciei, to agree with the best Greek.

1 Cor 7:38. Therefore both he that giveth his virgin in marriage, doth well; and he that giveth her not, doth better.

Since, therefore, matrimony is good, a father does well to give his daughter in marriage; but he does better that keeps his daughter for a life of virginity. The Apostle’s teaching on this subject is decisive.  
Doth better (Vulg., melius facit) should be in the future tense.

1 Cor 7:39. A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband die, she is at liberty: let her marry to whom she will; only in the Lord.

St. Paul now turns to the question regarding widows. In this verse he teaches three things: (a) The indissolubility of marriage; (b) that a widow has the right to remarry; (c) that she should marry a Christian.

The words, by the law (Vulg., legi) are not represented in the best MSS. here, and were probably inserted from Rom 7:2.

1 Cor 7:40. But more blessed shall she be, if she so remain, according to my counsel; and I think that I also have the spirit of God.

But a widow shall be more blessed, literally, “is more blessed,” if she continue in her widowhood, since the state of the unmarried is more perfect, giving greater freedom from the cares of life and enabling one to serve God more constantly and more fervently (verses 25, 26, 32-35).

I think that I also, etc. The Apostle had no doubt of his inspiration to counsel as well as teach, but he speaks modestly, saying less than he wishes to be understood (Estius). The “also” looks back to the other Apostles and leaders among the Corinthians who were so much admired by the faithful.

Father Callan's Commentary o 1 Corinthians 7:10-24

A Summary of 1 Cor 7:10-24

However more excellent celibacy is than the married state, it remains true that matrimony is a holy union of man and woman which has been ordained by God for high and noble purposes, and that for the proper accomplishment of these purposes the marriage bond is sacred and firm. Among the faithful it is altogether indissoluble by the ordinance of God Himself. And while some exception to this rule may be allowed, when one party is Christian and the other non-Christian, it must be remembered that the conditions of matrimonial unity which obtained before conversion remain for the most part after one has embraced the faith.

1 Cor 7:10. But to them that are married, not I, but the Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband.
1 Cor 11:11. And if she depart, that she remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. And let not the husband put away his wife.

Fearing that some of his married readers might take too seriously the counsels he had just uttered and try to separate from their lawful partners, the Apostle now warns them of the sacred character of the marriage tie.

To them that are married, i.e., to those Christians of Corinth to whom St. Paul was writing, as to all the faithful everywhere, the Lord (Matt 5:32; 19:3 ff.; Mark 10:11, 12; Luke 16:18) has said that their marriages are indissoluble, and cannot be put asunder by any human power. This command of the Lord has been explained by the Church of Christ as pertaining to marriages that have been lawfully contracted and consummated. Of course the words of St. Paul here, as well as the command of Christ, apply also to pagan and Jewish marriages, since our Lord bases His teaching of the indissolubility of the marriage tie on the character of its primitive institution (Gen 2:24).

The Apostle here supposes that there may be just reasons which will permit two married Christians, whose matrimony has been consummated, to live apart; but it is just in such cases that the inseparable nature of their marriage bond is perceived, for they must be reconciled to each other, or remain unmarried, until one of them is dead.

It is evident that what is said of the wife in this verse applies equally to the husband, (a) because the rights and duties of married people are the same for both parties; and (b) because Christ said of the husband: “Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her” (Mark 10:11).

1 Cor 7:12. For to the rest I speak, not the Lord. If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she consent to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
1 Cor 7:13. And if any woman hath a husband that believeth not, and he consent to dwell with her, let her not put away her husband.

In verses 8, 9 the Apostle had spoken to the unmarried; and in verses 10, 11 he addressed directly married Christians, indirectly and implicitly touching also the marriages of Jews and pagans. Now he begins to speak to the rest, i.e., to those who were married before they knew of the Gospel, and one of whom has since embraced the faith, the other remaining in paganism or Judaism.

I speak, not the Lord, i.e., Christ had given no declaration regarding mixed marriages, but St. Paul, the inspired Apostle, who is speaking in the name and with the authority of the Holy Ghost (verses 25, 40) now says, by way of counsel, not of precept (St. Thomas), that in mixed marriages the Christian party should not depart from the non-Christian, provided the latter be willing to dwell in peace and not interfere with the other’s Christian duties.

That St. Paul is giving a counsel here and not a precept seems more probable on account of the practice of the Church, which has understood his words as a counsel and not as a command, and also on account of the mild language he uses here (εγω λεγω, I speak). Many grave authorities, however, hold that the Apostle is giving a precept in this matter, and consequently that the Christian party must not leave his or her peaceful and inoffensive non-Christian partner.

1 Cor 7:14. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband: otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy.

A reason is now given why the Christian party ought to follow the counsel just given.

The unbelieving husband is sanctified, etc. It is plain that there can be no question here of real internal sanctification of which the unbelieving party is the recipient by reason of marriage with a Christian. The meaning is that the non-Christian party is to some extent disposed and inclined to the faith by the good life and example of the other party; or that, by virtue of the close union between husband and wife, who become one flesh, the unbelieving party participates, to some degree, in the sanctity of the Christian party, inasmuch as he begins to subject himself to the sway of Christ, withdrawing from the power of the evil one (Cornely).

Is sanctified by the believing husband. Better, “Is sanctified in the brother,” (with manuscripts B A C D E F G).

Otherwise your children should be unclean, i.e., if, as I have said, the unbelieving husband or wife, in a mixed marriage is not to some extent sanctified by the faithful party, it would follow that your children, i.e., the children of you Corinthians, would not be sanctified, which is admittedly false. It is evident that the Apostle is here speaking in general of the children of the Corinthian Christians, and not of the mixed marriages of the first part of the verse; for there he spoke in the third person singular, “the unbelieving husband,” etc., while here he uses the second person plural, “your children,” meaning the children of the Corinthian Christians to whom he was writing this letter.
Therefore just as the unbaptized children of Christians participate to some extent in the holiness of their parents, inasmuch as they are destined to receive the faith and the graces that follow upon Baptism, so in a mixed marriage the unbelieving party is sanctified by living with a partner who has embraced the faith.

From the above explanation of the final clause of this verse it would seem that the practice of baptizing infants had not been introduced in the Corinthian Church when this letter was written.

1 Cor 7:15. But if the unbeliever depart, let him depart. For a brother or sister is not under servitude in such cases. But God hath called us to peace.

This verse announces what is known as the “Pauline Privilege,” by virtue of which the Christian party of a mixed marriage that was contracted when both parties were non-Christian is not bound by the matrimonial tie and can remarry when the unbelieving party refuses cohabitation or makes this morally impossible. This privilege, however, is not recognized by modern
civil legislation.

If the unbeliever depart, i.e., if he refuses cohabitation with the Christian party, or makes their living together a moral impossibility.

For a brother or sister, etc. “For” is not in the Greek; and “the,” instead of “a,” should precede “brother” and “sister.” The meaning of the passage is that when one of an unbelieving couple is converted to the faith, and the other either departs, or makes cohabitation practically impossible, the Christian party is no longer under servitude, i.e., is no longer bound by the matrimonial tie, and consequently can remarry at discretion.

This doctrine is not de fide, but it is theologically certain. Evidently St. Paul is making a greater concession here than he made in verse 11, where separation was supposed as permissible. But if the right to remarry is not granted here, it is hard to see how the Christian party with an unbelieving and contumelious partner is any better off than the Christian wife of verse 11, who may separate from her Christian husband, but must remain unmarried.

The reason why a Christian is not obliged to live with an unbelieving and injurious husband or wife is because the faithful are called by God to a life of holy peace. But there can be no peace if the Christian is in constant turmoil with the unbelieving party.

1 Cor 7:16. For how knowest thou, wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

The only cause that could induce a Christian to bear with the abuse of a disagreeable and unbelieving partner is the hope of the latter’s conversion. Since, however, this is most uncertain, liberty and peace are to be preferred to such a life.

St. Chrysostom makes this verse refer to verses 12, 13, as giving a reason, namely, the hope of conversion, why the Christian party ought not to separate from his or her unbelieving partner.

1 Cor 7:17. But as the Lord hath distributed to every one, as God hath called every one, so let him walk: and so in all churches I teach.

But as, etc., (ει μη, in an adversative sense), i.e., whatever may be said of the doctrine of the preceding verse, (Erasmus); or, aside from the case given in verse 15 (Cornely, Van Steenkiste), we must not think that conversion to the faith breaks up previous relations. Therefore let each one continue after his conversion in the same state of life and relationship to society in which he was before, provided this is not incompatible with the holiness required of every Christian.

I teach, i.e., this same doctrine St. Paul taught everywhere, namely, that it was not necessary to change one’s respectable state of life after conversion to the faith.

1 Cor 7:18. Is any man called, being circumcised? let him not procure uncircumcision. Is any man called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
1 Cor 7:19. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing: but the observance of the commandments of God.

The Apostle illustrates (in verse 19) the meaning of the previous verse. It makes no difference whether a man was circumcised or uncircumcised before his conversion to the faith. There is only one thing that counts for salvation, and that is the keeping of the commandments of God.

Is any man called in uncircumcision (verse 18). Better, “Hath any man been called,” etc.

1 Cor 7:20. Let every man abide in the same calling in which he was called.

So long as a man was leading a good respectable life before he was called by God to the faith, there is no reason for changing it after he becomes a Christian. A good natural calling in the world is also a gift of God.

Calling, i.e., the invitation to lead a certain kind of life. The word κλῆσις (klēsis), calling, used here, means everywhere in the New Testament the invitation to embrace Christianity. Thus whatever be one’s occupation in life, if it be decent, this will not interfere with his summons to lead a Christian life. Let every man abide, then, in the respectable condition of life in which God’s call to Christianity found him.

1 Cor 7:21. Wast thou called, being a bond man? care not for it; but if thou
mayest be made free, use it rather.

Therefore, whether one be a slave or a free man, his call to Christianity ought not to interfere with his previous respectable state.

But if thou mayest be made free, use it rather, i.e., when converted to Christianity as a slave do not change your condition, but remain faithful to your master. In this interpretation, which is that of the Fathers generally, “use it” means continue in your state as a slave. The explanation is made very probable by the fact that St. Paul would have incurred the great displeasure of Roman power had he meant to encourage slaves to become Christians as a means of getting their freedom. Moreover, St. Paul is counselling everyone to continue after his conversion in the state of life in which Christianity found him, provided that state offers no obstacles to piety. However, a Lapide, Calmet, Bisping and others think the Apostle is counselling slaves to embrace Christianity in order to gain their liberty. In either case, the Apostle is giving only a counsel and not a precept. 

1 Cor 7:22. For he that is called in the Lord, being a bondman, is the freeman of the Lord. Likewise he that is called, being free, is the bondman of Christ.

Whatever may be their external condition of life, all Christians are equal before Christ (12:13; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11). Hence the bondman when called in the Lord, i.e., when converted to the faith, becomes the freeman of the Lord, i.e., is liberated from the slavery of sin and the evil one. In like manner, when a freeman is called to the faith he becomes the bondman of Christ, i.e., the slave of Christ, who has redeemed him from the servitude of sin.

Freeman should rather be freedman.

1 Cor 7:23. You are bought with a price; be not made the bond-slaves of men.

Addressing the Corinthians in general, the Apostle tells them that they were all, slaves and freedmen, formerly under the tyranny of sin, but now they are bought with a price (τιμης ηγορασθητε) , i.e., with the blood of Jesus Christ (6:20; 1 Peter 1:18, 19). Wherefore, since they are now the property and possession of their Redeemer, they should not permit themselves to be made the bond-slaves of men, i.e., they should not so make themselves the slaves of human masters as to neglect in any way their duties to their divine Master. As Christ is here contrasted with men, His Divinity is clearly implied.

1 Cor 7:24. Brethren, let every man, wherein he was called, therein abide with God.

Again for the third time (cf. verses 17, 20) the Apostle counsels that every convert should continue in the honest and upright state of life in which the faith found him.

Abide with God. This shows that St. Paul is presupposing that the life in which he advises to continue was good in the sight of God.