corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

1 Corinthians 4



Other Authors
Verse 1

Ministers ( ὑπηρέτας )

See on officer, Matthew 5:25. Only here in Paul's epistles.


See on Luke 16:1.

Verse 2

It is required ( ζητεῖται )

Lit., it is sought for; thus agreeing with found in the following clause.

Verse 3

A very small thing ( εἰς ἐλάχιστον )

Lit., unto a very small thing: it amounts to very little.


See on 1 Corinthians 2:14. Rev., in margin, examined.

Man's judgment ( ἀνθρωπίνης ἡμέρας )

Lit., man's day, in contrast with the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:5).

Verse 5

Judge ( κρίνετε )

See on 1 Corinthians 2:14. The change of the verb favors the rendering examine for ἀνακρίνω . The Lord is the only competent examiner therefore do not judge until He comes to judgment. Even I myself am not competent to institute a conclusive examination, for the absence of condemnation from my conscience does not absolutely acquit me. See the critical note on 1 John 3:19-22.

Verse 6

I have in a figure transferred ( μετασχημάτισας )

From μετά , denoting exchange, and σχῆμα outwardfashion. Here the fashion in which Paul expresses himself. See on transfigured, Matthew 17:2.

Not to go beyond the things which are written ( τὸ μὴ ὑπὲρ ἃ γέγραπται )

Lit. (that ye might learn) the not beyond what stands written. The article the introduces a proverbial expression. The impersonal it is written is commonly used of Old-Testament references.

Be puffed up ( φυσιοῦσθε )

Used only by Paul in Corinthians and Colossians. From φῦσα apair of bellows.

Verse 8

Now ye are full ( ἤδη κεκορεσμένοι ἐστέ )

Rev., better, filled. Ironical contrast between their attitude and that of the apostle in 1 Corinthians 4:3, 1 Corinthians 4:4. We are hungering for further revelations; ye are already filled without waiting for the Lord's coming.

Ye have reigned ( ἐβασιλεύσατε )

American Rev., better, ye have come to reign; attained to dominion, that kingship which will be bestowed on Christians only at Christ's coming.

Without us

Though it is through us that you are Christians at all.

Verse 9


Introducing a contrast between the inflated self-satisfaction of the Corinthians and the actual condition of their teachers. You have come to reign, but the case is very different with us, for I think, etc.

Hath set forth ( ἀπέδειξεν )

Only twice in Paul's writings; here, and 2 Thessalonians 2:4. See on approved, Acts 2:22. In classical Greek used of publishing a law; shewing forth, and therefore naming or creating a king or military leader; bringing forward testimony; displaying treasure, etc. So here, exhibiting.

Last ( ἐσχάτους )

As in Mark 9:35, of relative rank and condition: as having in men's eyes the basest lot of all.

Appointed to death ( ἐπιθανατίους )

Rev., doomed. Only here in the New Testament. Probably an allusion to the practice of exposing condemned criminals in the amphitheatre to fight with beasts or with one another as gladiators. The gladiators, on entering the arena, saluted the presiding officer with the words Nos morituri salutamus, We who are to die greet you. Tertullian paraphrases this passage, God hath chosen us apostles last as beast-fighters. “The vast range of an amphitheatre under the open sky, well represents the magnificent vision of all created things, from men up to angels, gazing on the dreadful death-struggle; and then the contrast of the selfish Corinthians sitting by unconcerned and unmoved by the awful spectacle” (Stanley). For a similar image of spectators watching the contest in the arena, see Hebrews 12:1. Compare also 1 Corinthians 15:32.

Spectacle ( θέατρον )

Primarily, a theatre; then that which is exhibited. Compare the kindred verb θεατριζόμενοι beingmade a gazing-stock, Hebrews 10:33.

Unto the world ( τῷ κόσμω )

The universe, a sense not usual with Paul; compare 1 Corinthians 8:4. The words to angels and to men define world; so that the rendering of the American Rev. is preferable, both to angels and men. Principal Edwards remarks: “This comprehensive use of the word kosmos is remarkable, because, on the one hand, it is an advance on the Old-Testament conception of two separate spheres of existence, heaven and earth, not comprehended under any wider designation; and, on the other, because it differs from the meaning attached to the word among the Greeks; inasmuch as the apostle uses it of the spiritual as well as the physical totality of existence.” The spiritual oneness of the universe is a conception eminently characteristic of St. Paul; but it is foreshadowed by Plato. “Communion and friendship and orderliness and temperance and justice bind together heaven and earth and gods and men; and this universe is therefore called kosmos or order; not disorder or misrule” (“Gorgias,” 508).

Verse 10

For Christ's sake - in Christ ( δια Χριστόν - ἐν Χριστῷ )

We apostles are fools in the world's eyes on account of ( διὰ ) Christ, because we know and preach nothing but Christ: You are wise in Christ, as Christians, making your Christianity a means to your worldly greatness - union with Christ the basis of worldly wisdom. “Wise men are ye in your connection with Christ! Sagacious, enlightened Christians!” (Meyer).

Honorable ( ἔνδοξοι )

With a suggestion of display and splendor. Right honorable are ye!

Verse 11

We have no certain dwelling-place ( ἀστατοῦμεν )

From ἄστατος unstablestrolling about. Only here in the New Testament. Compare Matthew 8:20; Matthew 10:23; Hebrews 11:37. Wyc., we ben unstable.

Verse 12

Labor ( κοπιῶμεν )

Rev., toil. Unto weariness. See on Luke 5:5.

Reviled ( λοιδορούμενοι )

See on Acts 23:4.

We bless ( εὐλογοῦμεν )

See on blessed, John 12:13.

We suffer ( ἀνεχόμεθα )

Lit., we hold or bear up.

Verse 13

Defamed ( δυσφημούμενοι )

Publicly slandered; while reviled refers to personal abuse.

Intreat ( παρακαλοῦμεν )

See on consolation, Luke 6:24, and see on comfort, Acts 9:31. The sense is, we strive to appease by entreaty.

Filth - offscouring ( περικαθάρματα - περίψημα )

The former word is from περικαθαίρω tocleanse all round. Hence that which is thrown off in cleansing; refuse. Κάθαρμα therefuse of a sacrifice. So Aeschylus. Electra says: “Should I, like one who has carried away refuse ( καθάρμαθ ) from a purification, after tossing away the urn, go back again with unturned eyes?” (“Choephoroe,” 90). In Proverbs 21:18, Sept., it occurs in the sense of ransom. Some find an allusion here to an ancient Athenian custom of throwing certain worthless persons into the sea in case of plague or famine, saying Be our offscouring! These persons were called περικαθάρματα offscouringsor περιψήματα scrapingsin the belief that they would wipe away the nation's guilt. Ignatius says to the Ephesians, περίψημα ὑμῶν Iam your offscouring. The sense is twofold: I am as the meanest among you; and I devote my life for you. In the middle of the third century, περίψημά σου had become a common expression of formal compliment: your humble servant. See Lightfoot, “Apostolic Fathers,” on Ignatius to the Ephesians, 8. “Compare Lamentations 3:45, and Tobit 5:18. Περίψημα thatwhich is scraped or scoured off. Both words only here in the New Testament.

This tremendous piece of irony justifies the numerous allusions which have been made to Paul's vehemence and severity. Thus Dante, in his vision of the Earthly Paradise, pictures Paul:

“Two old men I beheld, unlike in habit,

But like in gait, each dignified and grave.

One (Luke) showed himself as one of the disciples

Of that supreme Hippocrates whom Nature

Made for the animals she holds most dear,

Contrary care the other (Paul) manifested,

With sword so shining and so sharp, it caused

Terror to me on this side of the river.”

Purgatorio,” xxix., 134-141.

“His words, indeed, seem to be those of a simple, and, as it were, an innocent and rustic man, who knows neither how to frame nor to avoid wiles; but whithersoever you look, there are thunderbolts” (Jerome). “Paul thunders, lightens, utters pure flames” (Erasmus). See a collection of quotations in Farrar's “Life and Work of St. Paul,” i., 619.

Verse 14

To shame ( ἐντρέπων )

Lit., as shaming. See on Matthew 21:37. The verb means to turn about, hence to turn one upon himself; put him to shame. Compare 2 Thessalonians 3:14; Titus 2:8. Also, in the middle voice, in the sense of reverence; to turn one's self toward another. See Mark 12:6; Luke 18:2. The kindred noun ἐντροπή occurs twice: 1 Corinthians 6:5; 1 Corinthians 15:34. Compare Sophocles: “Think you he will have any regard ( ἐντροπὴν ) for the blind man” (“Oedipus at Colonos,” 299).

Verse 15

Tutors ( παιδαγωγοὺς )

From παῖς boyand ἀγωγός leaderThe Paedagogus was a slave to whom boys were entrusted on leaving the care of the females, which was somewhere about their sixteenth year. He was often a foreigner, sometimes educated and refined, but often otherwise; for Plutarch complains that seamen, traders, usurers, and farmers are engaged in this capacity. The office was one of general guardianship, not of instruction, though sometimes the paedagogus acted as teacher. He accompanied the boy to school, carrying his books, etc., and attended him to the gymnasium and elsewhere. See, further, on Galatians 3:24.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology