Re: 1 Cor. 1:5-7

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Oct 11 1995 - 09:16:51 EDT

At 4:51 AM 10/11/95, wrote:
>Re.: 1 Cor. 1:5-7
>I would like to make another suggestion as regards the content and function
>of this passage.
>In this thanksgiving Paul probably is giving a kind of 'Table of contents' of
>1 Cor. as a whole. In other words: it has a clear rhetorical function of
>preparing the readers of what follows.
>- logos: 1 Cor. 1-4
>- gnosis: 1 Cor. 8
>- charisma 1 Cor. 12-14
>- apokalypsis 1 Cor. 15
>To be saying that this passage has an ironical mood is a bit premature, I
>think. Paul refers here to what he has given the audience during the founding
>[?] visit: true knowledge etc of the true God, mediated by a true apostle (1
>Cor. 1:1). (But: do they still adhere to this true message, do they still
>hold Paul as a true apostle? That remains to be seen...)

I think that this is a very reasonable view of the passage. I must say that
when I said I think that 1 Cor 1:5-7 should be understood as ironic, I had
no idea that anyone had ever suggested it before (although I SHOULD suppose
that all sorts of people have said all sorts of things about Paul!). David
Moore has responded at length to that suggestion and raised a number of
points with which I would not disagree, although I still would not put the
construction upon this statement in 1:5-7 that he has put--that Paul
indicates here by his congratulation of the Corinthians his satisfaction
that their glossolalia is a valid and important spiritual accomplishment
(or rather _endowment_, inasmuch as Paul very clearly says this is
something given rather than achieved). I still am not satisfied that this
is Paul's position. And although I would agree that Paul does NOT tell the
Corinthians that they should not practice glossolalia, I still think that
the tenor of what he says in chapters 12-14 is that the practice needs to
be reined in and subordinated to rational communication in the worship of
the congregation; I still believe also that the opening of chapter 13
relativizes both rhetoric and glossolalia to a low level among XARISMATA.

I think one of the reasons why 1:5-7 seemed ironic to me is that it seems
to be echoed more profoundly in the unquestionably sarcastic language of


Of the commentaries on 1 Cor that I have ready to hand, none suggests that
1:5-7 are intended ironically. Conzelmann, however, (Hermeneia series, tr.
Leitch, Fortress Press) does point to the same sort of cataloging of topics
to be dealt with that Jan has suggested in his post. I'll cite his note on
1:5 in full:

        "5 This verse desxribes the significance of grace. Paul's concern
is not to give an exhaustive definition of the concept, but as the
following verses show, to illustrate it by means of the concrete gifts of
grace which are manifest in the communty. He gives a first pointer here to
the nature and intensity of community life in Corinth, and this pointer is
a clue to the tone and content of the whole letter: EPLOUTISQHTE, 'you have
been made rich.' The addition of EN AUTWi, 'in him,' has the critical
intention of warding off any self-contemplation in the mirror of their own
riches. EN PANTI, 'in everything,' naturally must not be pressed; the
practice of speaking in general terms of this sort is widespread. The
concrete content of such a PAS, 'everything,' is providxed by the context,
in this case by the reference to the XARISMATA, 'gifts of grace' (Phil 4:6,
12; 1 Thess 5:18). Illustrative material is provided above all by chaps
12-14. From the abundance of XARISMATA (12:4ff), two that are especially
significant for the spiritual condition of the Corinthians and are later to
be discussed in critical terms (e.g., 8:1ff) are here singled out: LOGOS,
'eloquence,' and GNWSIS, 'knowledge' (cf. 12:8; 13:1f., 8f.; 2 Cor 8:7;
11:6; in a different sense 4:19f.). The question is of supernatural gifts,
not the superelevation of natural ones."

As I indicated earlier, I don't see much point in continuing this
discussion of glossolalia. It is obvious that perspectives on it and
corresponding interpretations of 1 Cor 12-14 are at a wide variance among
those who have posted on the subject. I really think that positions have
been made clear already, and I also think it is important that we endeavor
to retain and promote mutual respect for the conscientious theological
differences we hold regarding the right interpretation of these texts, at
least insofar as it is a question of what Paul really meant.

On the other hand, I am surprised at Kevin Anderson's assertion that the
glossolalia as a phenomenon of worship must be the same as that described
in Luke's Pentecost narrative in Acts 2. I think that the glossolalia at
issue is the same phenomenon referred to in the longer ending of Mark
known human languages, but Luke in Acts 2 MUST be referring to known human

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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