1 Corinthians 1:18-25

1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Lent B15


18 For the messageA about the crossB is foolishnessC to thoseD who are perishing,E

Notes on verse 18a

A “message” = logos. From lego (to speak, tell, mention). This is word, statement, speech, analogy. It is a word that carries an idea or expresses a thought, a saying. It could refer to a person with a message or reasoning laid out in words. By implication, this could be a topic, line of reasoning, or a motive. It can be used for a divine utterance or as Word – Christ.
B “cross” = stauros. From the same as histemi (to stand, cause to stand). This is an upright stake, cross. Literally refers to the horizontal beam of a Roman cross, generally carried by the one convicted to die.
C “foolishness” = moria. 5x in NT. From moros (dull, stupid, foolish, flat; literally, not having an edge; used figuratively for someone whose understanding is dull, is sluggish, acts in a brainless way, or does not fully have a grip on reality). This is foolishness, absurdity, or dullness. This is where the word “moron” comes from.
D {untranslated} = men. This is truly, indeed, even, in fact. Often, it is not translated, but used to emphasize affirmation.
E “perishing” = apollumi. From apo (from, away from) + ollumi (to destroy or ruin; the loss that comes from a major ruination). This is to destroy, cut off, to perish – perhaps violently. It can also mean to cancel or remove.

but to us who are being savedF it is the powerG of God.H 

Notes on verse 18b

F “saved” = sozo. From sos (safe, rescued, well). This is to save, heal, preserve, or rescue. Properly, this is taking someone from danger to safety. It can be delivering or protecting literally or figuratively. This is the root that “savior” and “salvation” come from in Greek.  
G “power” = dunamis. From dunamai (to be able, have power or ability). This is might, strength, physical power, efficacy, energy, and miraculous power. It is force literally or figuratively – the power of a miracle or the miracle itself.
H “God” = theos. From Proto-Indo-European origins, meaning do, put, place. This is God or a god in general.

19 For it is written,

“I will destroyI the wisdomJ of the wise,K
    and the discernmentL of the discerningM I will thwart.”N

Notes on verse 19

I “destroy” = apollumi. Same as “perishing” in v18. See note E above.
J “wisdom” = sophia. From sophos (wise, clever, skilled, learned, cultivated); related to saphes (clear). This is skill, wisdom, insight, intelligence, clarity. It is wisdom as applied through a practical skill or shrewdness. It is not thoughtfulness or the mere gaining of intelligence for its own sake. Sophia is wisdom in action for everyday living.
K “wise” = sophos. Related to “wisdom” in v19. See note J above.
L “discernment” = sunesis. 7x in NT. From suneimi (to put together – used figuratively to mean understand, consider, gain insight; this is bringing together facts or notions and synthesizing them into a whole; making a summary to arrive at a final conclusion that includes how to apply the insight to life; it can also imply acting piously or being wise); from sun (with, together with) + hiemi (to send, put). This is understanding, cleverness, intelligence, knowledge, or insight. Just as the root verb, it is synthesized reasoning that brings facts together to understand indirect truths from the facts at hand.
M “discerning” = sunetos. Related to “discernment” in v19. 4x in NT. From suniemi (see note L above). This is intelligent, wise, discerning, clever. It is finding understanding within one’s own frame of reference by connecting facts and concepts. Focuses on the mental process of putting things together – being prudent or wise.
N “thwart” = atheteo. 16x in NT. From athetos (not having position or place); {from a (not) + tithemi (to put, place, set, fix, establish in a literal or figurative sense; properly, this is placing something in a passive or horizontal position)}. This is setting something aside, ignoring or nullifying it, refusing or rejecting. It can also mean to annul or cancel out the effect of something. Literally, this is to un-place. It can also be rejecting something, despising it, or considering something invalid.             

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe?O Where is the debaterP of this age?Q Has not God made foolishR the wisdom of the world?S 

Notes on verse 20

O “scribe” = grammateus. From gramma (what is drawn or written so a letter of the alphabet, correspondence, literature, learning); from grapho (to write). This is a writer, scribe, or secretary. Within Judaism, it was someone learned in the Law, a teacher. Also used in the Bible of the town-clerk of Ephesus. See Sirach 38:24-39:11 for a lengthier, positive passage about who scribes were and what they meant in society.
P “debater” = suzetetes. 1x in NT. From sun (with, together with) + zeteo (to seek, search for, require, demand, desire, deliberate, strive, try; properly, this is seeking something out by asking questions or investigating; looking for a final solution or conclusion to get to the bottom of things; by a Hebrew turn of phrase, this could be to worship God; it could also mean to plot to kill someone). This is a disputer or debater. As one who seeks together, they are inclined to seek out debate or argument so as to figure something out – generally philosophical or religious things.
Q “age” = aion. From the same as aei (ever, always, unceasingly, perpetually; on every occasion). This is an age, cycle of time, course, continued duration. It is also used to describe the eternal or forever. This is the word used to discuss the present age or the messianic age.
R “made foolish” = moraino. Related to “foolishness” in v18. 4x in NT. From moros (see note C above). This is being or making foolish, being tasteless of useless.
S “world” = kosmos. Perhaps from the base of komizo (to carry, convey, recover); from komeo (to take care of). This is order, the world, the universe, including its inhabitants. Literally, this is something that is ordered so it can refer to all creation. It can also refer to decoration in the sense that something is better ordered and, thus, made more beautiful. This is where “cosmos” and “cosmetics” come from.

21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not knowT God through wisdom, God decided,U through the foolishness of our proclamation,V to save those who believe.W 

Notes on verse 21

T “know” = ginosko. This is to know, recognize, realize, perceive, learn. It is knowledge gained through personal experience.
U “decided” = eudokeo. From eu (good, well, well done) + dokeo (to have an opinion, seem, appear, suppose; a personal judgment; to think); from dokos (opinion). This is to think well of, to be pleased or resolved. Properly, this is what someone finds good or acceptable – approving of some action or generally thinking well of.
V “proclamation” = kerugma. 9x in NT. From kerusso (proclaim, preach, publish; properly, to act as a herald – announcing something publicly with confidence and/or to persuade). This is proclamation – both the preaching and that which is preached. Sometimes times used to refer to the Gospel itself.
W “believe” = pisteuo. From pistis (faith, faithfulness, belief, trust, confidence; to be persuaded or come to trust); from peitho (to have confidence, urge, be persuaded, agree, assure, believe, have confidence, trust). This is to believe, entrust, have faith it, affirm, have confidence in. This is less to do with a series of beliefs or doctrines that one believes and more to do with faithfulness, loyalty, and fidelity. It is trusting and then acting based on that trust.

22 For JewsX demandY signsZ and GreeksAA desireBB wisdom, 

Notes on verse 22

X “Jews” = Ioudaios. From Ioudas (Judah, Juadas); from Hebrew Yehudah (Judah, son of Jacob, his tribal descendants, a name for the southern kingdom. Literally, it means praised); probably from yadah (to throw one’s hands into the air in a gesture of praise); from yad (hand). This is Jewish, a Jew, or Judea.
Y “demand” = aiteo. This is to ask, demand, beg, desire.
Z “signs” = semeion. From the same as semaino (to give a sign, signify, indicate, make known); from sema (a sign or mark). It is literally a sign of any kind. It also refers to a sign given by God to confirm or authenticate a message or prophecy. It is not necessarily miraculous, but it can be. The Gospel of John generally uses this word instead of miracle.
AA “Greeks” = Hellen. From Hellas (Hellas, what Greeks called themselves); perhaps from helane (torch) OR from selene (moon). This is Greek, but was used for Gentiles, broader populations that spoke Greek and were a part of Greek culture regardless of their heritage. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_(given_name)
BB “desire” = zeteo. Related to “debater” in v20. See note P above.

23 but we proclaimCC ChristDD crucified,EE a stumbling blockFF to JewsGG and foolishness to Gentiles,HH 

Notes on verse 23

CC “proclaim” = kerusso. Related to “proclamation” in v21. See note V above.
DD “Christ” = Christos. From chrio (consecrate by anointing with oil; often done for prophets, priests, or kings). Literally, the anointed one, Christ. The Greek word for Messiah.
EE “crucified” = stauroo. Related to “cross” in v18. From stauros (see note B above). This can be to attach someone to a cross or fencing with stakes. In a figurative sense, it could be to destroy, mortify, or subdue passions/selfishness.
FF “stumbling block” = skandalon. 15x in NT. Perhaps from kampto (to bend or bow). This is a stumbling block, offense, hindrance, or scandal. Properly, this is the part of the trap that triggers it shut on the victim. So, as a snare, it is anything that causes error or offense, something that makes one stumble or traps someone. This is where the word “scandal” comes from.
GG {untranslated} = men. Same as {untranslated} in v18. See note D above.
HH “Gentiles” = ethnos. Probably from etho (a custom or culture). This is people who are united by having similar customs or culture. Generally, it is used to refer to Gentiles. This is a tribe, race, nation, or Gentiles in general. This is where the term “ethnicity” comes from.

24 but to those who are the called,II both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishnessJJ is wiser than humanKK wisdom, and God’s weaknessLL is strongerMM than human strength.

Notes on verses 24-25

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

Image credit: “Enlightenment” by H. Kopp-Delaney, 2009.

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