The First to the Corinthians 1:1-31

1  Paul, called to be an apostle+ of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Sosʹthe·nes our brother,  to the congregation of God that is in Corinth,+ to you who have been sanctified in union with Christ Jesus,+ called to be holy ones,+ together with all those everywhere who are calling on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,+ their Lord and ours:  May you have undeserved kindness and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I always thank my God for you in view of the undeserved kindness of God given to you in Christ Jesus;  because in everything you have been enriched in him, in full ability to speak and in full knowledge,+  just as the witness* about the Christ+ has been made firm among you,  so that you do not lack in any gift at all, while you are eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.+  He will also make you firm to the end so that you may be open to no accusation in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.+  God is faithful,+ by whom you were called into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 10  Now I urge you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you should all speak in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you,+ but that you may be completely united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.+ 11  For some from the house of Chloʹe have informed me regarding you, my brothers, that there are dissensions among you.+ 12  What I mean is this, that each one of you says: “I belong to Paul,” “But I to A·polʹlos,”+ “But I to Ceʹphas,” “But I to Christ.” 13  Is the Christ divided? Paul was not executed on the stake for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14  I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crisʹpus+ and Gaʹius,+ 15  so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16  Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephʹa·nas.+ As for the rest, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else. 17  For Christ sent me, not to baptize, but to declare the good news;+ and not with wisdom of speech,*+ so that the torture stake of the Christ should not be made useless. 18  For the speech about the torture stake is foolishness to those who are perishing,+ but to us who are being saved, it is God’s power.+ 19  For it is written: “I will make the wisdom of the wise men perish, and the intelligence of the intellectuals I will reject.”*+ 20  Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this system of things? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? 21  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not get to know God+ through its wisdom,+ God was pleased through the foolishness+ of what is preached to save those believing. 22  For the Jews ask for signs+ and the Greeks look for wisdom;+ 23  but we preach Christ executed on the stake, to the Jews a cause for stumbling+ but to the nations foolishness.+ 24  However, to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.+ 25  Because a foolish thing of God is wiser than men, and a weak thing of God is stronger than men.+ 26  For you see his calling of you, brothers, that there are not many wise in a fleshly way,+ not many powerful, not many of noble birth,+ 27  but God chose the foolish things of the world to put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world to put the strong things to shame;+ 28  and God chose the insignificant things of the world and the things looked down on, the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,+ 29  so that no one might boast in the sight of God. 30  But it is due to him that you are in union with Christ Jesus, who has become to us wisdom from God, also righteousness+ and sanctification+ and release by ransom,+ 31  so that it may be just as it is written: “The one who boasts, let him boast in Jehovah.”+

Footnotes

Or “the testimony.”
Or “with clever speech.”
Or “shove aside.”

Study Notes

The First to the Corinthians: Titles like this were apparently not part of the original text. Ancient manuscripts show that they were added later, doubtless to make it easier to identify the letters. The papyrus codex known as P46 shows that scribes identified Bible books by titles. That codex is the earliest known collection of Paul’s letters, often dated to about the year 200 C.E. It contains nine of his letters. At the beginning of Paul’s first inspired letter to the Corinthians, this codex has a title that reads Pros Ko·rinʹthi·ous A (“Toward [or, “To”] Corinthians 1”). (See Media Gallery, “Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.”) Other early manuscripts, such as Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus of the fourth century C.E., contain the same title. In these manuscripts, the title appears both at the beginning of the letter and at the end.

Sosthenes our brother: The name Sosthenes was not particularly common. The only other occurrence in the Bible is found at Ac 18:17. Therefore, it is possible that the presiding officer of the synagogue who was beaten by the crowd in Corinth later became the Christian brother mentioned here and associated with Paul in Ephesus. At 1Co 16:21, Paul implies that the bulk of the letter was not written in his own hand, perhaps indicating that Sosthenes was his secretary for this letter.

the congregation of God that is in Corinth: Paul founded the Corinthian congregation about 50 C.E. (Ac 18:1-11) While in Ephesus about 55 C.E., Paul wrote this first inspired letter to the Corinthians. (Compare 1Co 5:9.) The brothers in Corinth had recently written to Paul, asking questions about marriage and the eating of foods offered to idols. (1Co 7:1; 8:1) But Paul was aware of problems that were even more pressing. The congregation was tolerating a case of flagrant immorality. (1Co 5:1-8) And there were also divisions in the congregation. (1Co 1:11-13; 11:18; 15:12-14, 33, 34) There may also have been some uncertainty about the proper handling of the Lord’s Evening Meal. (1Co 11:20-29) Paul provided inspired direction on these matters, placing special emphasis on the importance of showing Christian love.​—1Co 13:1-13.

May you have undeserved kindness and peace: Paul uses this greeting in 11 of his letters. (1Co 1:3; 2Co 1:2; Ga 1:3; Eph 1:2; Php 1:2; Col 1:2; 1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:2; Tit 1:4; Phm 3) He uses a very similar greeting in his letters to Timothy but adds the quality “mercy.” (1Ti 1:2; 2Ti 1:2) Scholars have noted that instead of using the common word for “Greetings!” (khaiʹrein), Paul often uses the similar sounding Greek term (khaʹris), expressing his desire for the congregations to enjoy a full measure of “undeserved kindness.” (See study note on Ac 15:23.) The mention of “peace” reflects the common Hebrew greeting, sha·lohmʹ. (See study note on Mr 5:34.) By using the terms “undeserved kindness and peace,” Paul is apparently highlighting the restored relationship that Christians enjoy with Jehovah God by means of the ransom. When Paul describes where the generous kindness and peace come from, he mentions God our Father separately from the Lord Jesus Christ.

May you have undeserved kindness and peace: See study note on Ro 1:7.

to associating together: Or “to sharing with one another.” The basic meaning of the Greek word koi·no·niʹa is “sharing; fellowship.” Paul used this word several times in his letters. (1Co 1:9; 10:16; 2Co 6:14; 13:14) The context of this passage shows that this fellowship involves close friendship rather than just casual acquaintance.

fellowship: Or “a sharing.” Paul uses the Greek word koi·no·niʹa several times in his letters. (1Co 10:16; 2Co 6:14; 13:14) In this context, this word implies that fellowship with God’s Son involves close friendship and unity.​—See study note on Ac 2:42.

divisions: Or “splits; schisms.” Jesus prayed that his followers would be united (Joh 17:20-23), and Paul was likewise vitally interested in the unity of the Christian congregation. By the time Paul wrote his first inspired letter to the Corinthians (c. 55 C.E.), there were factions in the congregation. Some viewed Apollos as their leader, while others favored Paul or Peter or held only to Christ. (1Co 1:11, 12) Paul counseled against giving undue prominence to men, who were simply ministers serving under God and Christ. (1Co 3:4-9, 21-23; 4:6, 7) He used the Greek word skhiʹsma, here rendered “divisions,” three times in his first letter to the Corinthians.​—1Co 1:10; 11:18; 12:25.

the house of Chloe: In the Bible, this is the only mention of a woman named Chloe. She may have resided in Corinth or in Ephesus, where 1 Corinthians was written. Paul does not specifically state whether she was a Christian who lived in either of these cities. However, since he refers to this household by name, apparently at least some of the household​—either family members or slaves​—were Christians known to the Corinthians.

Apollos: A Jewish Christian who had apparently been raised in the city of Alexandria, the capital of the Roman province of Egypt. Alexandria was a center of higher learning, renowned for its great library. It was the largest city in the Roman Empire after Rome and had a large Jewish population. It was one of the most important centers of culture and learning for both Jews and Greeks. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Septuagint was produced there. This background may help explain why Apollos is described as being well-versed [lit., “powerful”] in the Scriptures, that is, the inspired Hebrew Scriptures.

Now concerning Apollos our brother: It appears that Apollos must have been in or near Ephesus, where Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. Apollos had been preaching in Corinth earlier (Ac 18:24–19:1a), and the Corinthians held Apollos in great esteem. Though Paul urged him to visit the Corinthian congregation, Apollos did not intend to go to Corinth at that time. He may have feared stirring up further division in the congregation (1Co 1:10-12), or he may still have had work to do where he was. At any rate, Paul’s brief statement about “Apollos our brother” shows that these two active missionaries had not allowed the factions in the congregation in Corinth to cause a breach in their own unity, as some Bible commentators have suggested.​—1Co 3:4-9, 21-23; 4:6, 7.

Simon, the one called Peter: Peter is named in five different ways in the Scriptures: (1) the Greek form “Symeon,” which closely reflects the Hebrew form of the name (Simeon); (2) the Greek “Simon” (both Symeon and Simon come from a Hebrew verb meaning “hear; listen”); (3) “Peter” (a Greek name that means “A Piece of Rock” and that he alone bears in the Scriptures); (4) “Cephas,” which is the Semitic equivalent of Peter (perhaps related to the Hebrew ke·phimʹ [rocks] used at Job 30:6; Jer 4:29); and (5) the combination “Simon Peter.”​—Ac 15:14; Joh 1:42; Mt 16:16.

You are Simon: Simon is named in five different ways in the Scriptures. (See study notes on Mt 4:18; 10:2.) On this occasion, Jesus apparently meets Simon for the first time and gives him the Semitic name Cephas (Ke·phasʹ), perhaps related to the Hebrew ke·phimʹ (rocks) used at Job 30:6 and Jer 4:29. Here the Gospel writer John also provides an explanation, which is translated “Peter,” a Greek name that similarly means “A Piece of Rock.” In the Scriptures, Simon alone bears this Semitic name as well as this Greek one. Jesus, who was able to discern that Nathanael was a man “in whom there [was] no deceit” (Joh 1:47; 2:25), could also discern Peter’s makeup. Especially after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter showed rocklike qualities, being a strengthening and stabilizing influence on the congregation.​—Lu 22:32; Ac 1:15, 16; 15:6-11.

Apollos: A Jewish Christian of Alexandria who traveled from Ephesus to Corinth and assisted those who had become believers. (Ac 18:24-28; 19:1; see study note on Ac 18:24.) Apollos “watered” the seeds that Paul had sowed in Corinth.​—1Co 3:5, 6; see study note on 1Co 16:12.

Cephas: One of the names of the apostle Simon Peter. Upon meeting Simon for the first time, Jesus gave him the Semitic name Cephas (in Greek, Ke·phasʹ). The name may be related to the Hebrew noun ke·phimʹ (rocks) used at Job 30:6 and Jer 4:29. At Joh 1:42, John explains that the name “is translated ‘Peter’” (Peʹtros, a Greek name that similarly means “A Piece of Rock”). The name Cephas is used only at Joh 1:42 and in two of Paul’s letters, namely, 1 Corinthians and Galatians.​—1Co 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Ga 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14; see study notes on Mt 10:2; Joh 1:42.

executed on a stake: Or “to be fastened on a stake (pole).” This is the first of over 40 occurrences of the Greek verb stau·roʹo in the Christian Greek Scriptures. This is the verb for the Greek noun stau·rosʹ, rendered “torture stake.” (See study notes on Mt 10:38; 16:24; 27:32 and Glossary, “Stake”; “Torture stake.”) The verb form is used in the Septuagint at Es 7:9, where the order was given to hang Haman on a stake that was over 20 m (65 ft) tall. In classical Greek, it meant “to fence with pales, to form a stockade, or palisade.”

executed on the stake: Or “fastened on a stake (pole).”​—See study note on Mt 20:19 and Glossary, “Stake”; “Torture stake.”

Christ sent me, not to baptize: Paul was authorized to baptize (Mt 28:19) and did so on occasion. However, in this context he shows that performing baptisms was not his primary assignment from Christ. (1Co 1:14, 16) He did not want baptizing to become a source of division, as if baptisms performed by an apostle were more meaningful than those done by others.

the torture stake of the Christ: Here the term “torture stake” (Greek, stau·rosʹ) is used to represent Jesus’ death on the stake. Jesus died in this way so that mankind would no longer be enslaved to sin but could have a good relationship with God.

the torture stake of the Christ: Here the term “torture stake” (Greek, stau·rosʹ) is used to represent Jesus’ death on the stake. Jesus died in this way so that mankind would no longer be enslaved to sin but could have a good relationship with God.

the torture stake: See study note on 1Co 1:17.

the scribe: That is, an expert in the Mosaic Law.

this system of things: The basic meaning of the Greek word ai·onʹ is “age.” It can refer to a state of affairs or to features that distinguish a certain period of time, epoch, or age. (See Glossary, “System(s) of things.”) Here the term refers to what 2Ti 4:10 calls “the present system of things,” that is, the prevailing state of affairs in the world in general.

the Greeks: In the first century C.E., the Greek word Helʹlen, used here, did not necessarily refer only to natives of Greece or to people of Greek origin. In this context, the term is used in parallel with “the nations” (1Co 1:23) and refers to “the Greeks” as representative of all non-Jewish peoples (Ro 1:16; 2:9, 10; 3:9; 10:12; 1Co 10:32; 12:13). This was no doubt due to the prominence of the Greek language and culture throughout the Roman Empire.​—See study note on Ro 1:16.

the foolishness of what is preached: Paul described the preaching about Christ as “foolishness” because to the nations, that is what the message appeared to be. The Greeks could not understand why a Jew had to die as a despised criminal to save them. (1Co 1:18, 25; see study note on 1Co 1:22.) The Jews expected to be saved by works of law, by the giving of alms, and by the merit of their ancestors, especially Abraham. They did not want a messiah whom they saw as being weak, a man who allowed himself to be nailed to a stake.​—1Co 1:23.

the Greek: In the first century C.E., the Greek word Helʹlen (meaning “Greek”) did not necessarily refer only to natives of Greece or people of Greek origin. When Paul here talks about everyone having faith and mentions “the Greek” together with “the Jew,” he is apparently using the term “Greek” in a broader sense to represent all non-Jewish peoples. (Ro 2:9, 10; 3:9; 10:12; 1Co 10:32; 12:13) This was doubtless due to the prominence and preeminence of the Greek language and culture throughout the Roman Empire.

the Greeks: In the first century C.E., the Greek word Helʹlen, used here, did not necessarily refer only to natives of Greece or to people of Greek origin. In this context, the term is used in parallel with “the nations” (1Co 1:23) and refers to “the Greeks” as representative of all non-Jewish peoples (Ro 1:16; 2:9, 10; 3:9; 10:12; 1Co 10:32; 12:13). This was no doubt due to the prominence of the Greek language and culture throughout the Roman Empire.​—See study note on Ro 1:16.

to the Jews a cause for stumbling: The Law stated that a man hung on a stake was “accursed of God.” (De 21:22, 23; Ga 3:13) So the Jews viewed Jesus’ manner of death as shameful, not fit for the Messiah. It therefore became to them “a cause for stumbling.”

in a fleshly way: Or “by human standards.” Lit., “according to the flesh.”

of noble birth: Or “from important families.” Some scholars believe that the Greek word referred to the descendants of the city’s more prominent older families. In the Greco-Roman world, those who had such a “noble birth” were part of the elite. The use of this term here indicates that a few Corinthian Christians may have been from the upper class of society and were socially privileged.

all flesh: Or “all mankind; all people.” This expression is also found at Lu 3:6, which is a quote from Isa 40:5, where a Hebrew term with the same meaning is used.​—Compare study note on Joh 1:14.

one: Lit., “flesh.” The Greek word sarx is here used in the sense of a human, a being of flesh and blood.​—See study notes on Joh 3:6; 17:2.

in a fleshly way: Or “by human standards.” Lit., “according to the flesh.”

one: Lit., “flesh.” The Greek word sarx is here used in the sense of a human, a being of flesh and blood.​—See study notes on Joh 17:2; Ro 3:20; 1Co 1:26.

Jehovah: In this quote from Jer 9:24, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text of Jeremiah.​—See App. C1 and C2.

Media

Video Introduction to the Book of 1 Corinthians
Video Introduction to the Book of 1 Corinthians
Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians

Shown here is a page from a papyrus codex referred to as P46. Parts of it (Papyrus Chester Beatty 2) are housed in Dublin, Ireland, and parts of it (Papyrus Michigan Inv. 6238), in Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A. This leaf is kept at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. The codex is believed to date from about the year 200 C.E. It consists of 86 somewhat damaged leaves from a codex that originally may have had 104 leaves. It contains nine of Paul’s inspired letters. Highlighted is the title, which reads “Toward [or, “To”] Corinthians 1.” This papyrus collection provides evidence that from an early date, scribes identified Bible books by titles.