Re: 1 Cor. 2:13

From: Ben Crick (
Date: Fri Oct 09 1998 - 18:58:29 EDT

On Thu 8 Oct 98 (23:42:43), wrote:
> question is, to what does this refer? Can this be determined from the
> grammar?
> I have been unable to arrive at any adequate conclusions. I would
> appreciate any help from those more adept than I regarding this clause.

 Dear Stephen

 This is a well known puzzle. It depends (1) how you translate SUGKRINONTES;
 and (2) what gender you ascribe to PNEUMATIKOIS.

 SUGKRINW can mean to compare; to interpret; to ascribe; to combine.

 The Vulgate renders it /conparantes/, comparing; and takes PNEUMATIKOIS as
 neuter; hence "comparing spiritual things with spiritual things". Spiritual
 conclusions flow from spiritual premisses.

 Calvin, Beza et al translate SUGK. /accommodantes, aptantes/ and PN. as
 neuter; thus "adapting spiritual words to spiritual things".

 Bengel et al render SUGK. as /interpretantes/ and PN. as masculine; thus
 "interpreting spiritual things to spiritual people". But SUGKRINW usually
 only means "interpret" in respect of dreams and visions (e.g. Genesis 40:8
 LXX), and the "things of God" are not the stuff of dreams and visions,
 nor are they mystic allegories to which only the Illuminati have the key.
 And "the spiritual man" (hO DE PNEUMATIKOS) is not mentioned until 2:15.
 The anarthrous use of PNEUMATIKOI does not connect with hOI PNEUMATIKOI;
 rather it refers back to LOGOIS and DIDAKTOIS in verse 13a.

 Other early writers (Theodore of Mopsuestia, Chrysostom, etc) suggest
 "proving the truth of spiritual things by the demonstration of the Spirit".
 But SUGK. does not mean "prove" anywhere else. But compare verse 4,
 "... not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the
 Spirit and of power".

 Parry, Goodspeed and Lightfoot et al render "combining spiritual things
 with spiritual words"; "giving spiritual truth a spiritual form". This
 seems to summarise very pithily the substance of the preceding verse (12).

 My gut feeling is that the KJV provides as good a rendition as any:
 "comparing spiritual things with spiritual" - i.e. "like with like".
 This retains the epigrammatical force of the original.
 The NIV is in two minds: "expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words"
 (text) and "interpreting spiritual truths to spiritual men" (margin).

 The NRSV is in three minds (!): "interpreting spiritual things to those
 who are spiritual" (text); or "interpreting spiritual things in spiritual
 language", or "comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (margin).

 Principal TC Edwards in his comm. on 1 Corinthians adds "The higher
 Christian training resembles Plato's criterion of dialectical power,
 the faculty to see the relation of the sciences to one another and to
 true being (cf Rep.VII p.547). With SUGKRINONTES compare Plato's
 SUNOPTIKOS. The words are a clear statement of the necessity for an
 objective teaching, and its spirit is opposed to the theory of the
 Clementine Homilies (xiii.6) that men require only an inward revelation.
 It is this objectiveness of the revelation that saves the Apostle's
 conception of the province of the spiritual man from the Gnostic
 intellectualism, which deprived Christianity of its foundation in
 historical fact and reduced it to a philosophical speculation"
 (TC Edwards, op.cit., London, 1885, pp 62f). Read the whole of Principal
 Edwards' comment if you have access to it.

 Sorry to be so long.


 Revd Ben Crick, BA CF
 232 Canterbury Road, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9TD (UK)

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