My Masters Thesis, I Corinthians 1:17-25: Introduction

I am going to start, slowly posting my Masters Thesis (it’s just getting dusty). It was an exegetical thesis paper on I Corinthians 1:17-25 entitled: CHRIST CRUCIFIED, THE WISDOM AND POWER OF GOD: AN EXEGETICAL ANALYSIS OF I CORINTHIANS 1:17-25. I will index it as I go, and hopefully one day I will have it in full here on the blog in bloggy format. It ought to be interesting for you to see how I worked and thought prior to being exposed to Barth and Torrance. I must say that my exegesis somewhat resonates with the way that Torrance does his exegesis (when he does it in his writings). I mean a lot of my work is syntactical and lexically oriented; you’ll see. I am not claiming, of course, that it is at the level of TFT, but maybe in the same kind of orbit or style (even then). I don’t agree with some of my interpretive conclusions, but most of them I do; and I still agree with my conclusion and major premise about what Paul was doing in the first four chapters of I Corinthians. Anyway, here is the first installment; it will be totally arbitrary and ad hoc in regard to how much I post of it at one time. You will also get to see how my writing has matured since then 😉 … hopefully.



A Thesis
Presented to the Faculty of
Multnomah Biblical Seminary
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Arts in Biblical Studies

Robert Allen Grow
May 2003


Purpose of the Study
Parameters of the Study
Methodology of the Study

Background of the Epistle
Occasion of the Epistle
Alternative Perspectives

2. EXEGESIS OF I CORINTHIANS 1:18-25 …………… 27
Exegesis of 1:17 as a Transition
Exegesis of 1:18-21

Exegesis of 1:22-25


Human Wisdom Never Grasps the Power of God
Godly Wisdom is Revealed in Weakness
APPENDIX …………. 96



Purpose of the Study

The proclamation of the cross of Christ is the central message in the New Testament scriptures, which provides the freedom and the knowledge necessary to have a relationship with the God of the Bible. Nevertheless, the centrality of this message seems to have become displaced from the teaching ministries of the American church. The displacement that has occurred seems to be resultant from the integration models that the church has embraced, such as secular marketing schemes, psychology, philosophy, multimedia presentations, etc. The use of these models has caused the displacement of the central message of the Church. The issue is not that these models are inherently evil, but that such methods of communicating and understanding God have been given primacy over the message of the cross. Consequently, the message of the cross has become secondary, and therefore the Church in America does not have a message based on the power of the cross. 1

The Apostle Paul addresses such issues in the first four chapters of the
first epistle to the Corinthians. The church at Corinth was experiencing
factionalism amongst its members, thus Paul confronts the underlying problem


1. See as Guiness, Dining with the Devil The Megachurch Movement Flirts with Modernity (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993) , 9-91. This characterization of the American church is a generalization of the church. It is not intended to imply that there are no good churches in America. But it is to serve as illustrative of the general trajectory of the direction that many churches appear to be taking in the 21st century. And it is not the purpose of this study to prove this statement one way or the other.


causing such schism at Corinth. In confronting the underlying problem, Paul
points out that the Corinthians had embraced a man-centered wisdom that
ultimately was causing the church to view the proclamation of the cross as
secondary, worse yet, as foolishness.

The purpose of this study is to show that the Apostle Paul believed that
the integration of man-centered wisdom with the Christian gospel, results in thedenuding of the power and wisdom found in the simple message of the cross.

Parameters of the Study

The content of the thesis fits nicely into three pericopes found within this
epistle: 1:18-25; 1:26-31; and 2:1-5. I Corinthians 1:26-31 and 2:1-5, deal
respectively with the recipients of the gospel and the results of the gospel.
These notions are valuable components within the larger context of I Corinthians,but it is not necessary to explicate these pericopes to provide the basis for understanding the above mentioned thesis. Neither is it necessary to explicate the broader section of which these pericopes are apart, chapters 1 – 4, nor is it necessary to explore the broadest context of the epistle, chapters 1 – 16, to substantiate the thesis mentioned above.

What is necessary to understand the aforementioned thesis is the
pericope found in 1:18-25, and the occasion of the epistle found in 1:10-16. It iswithin these paragraphs that Paul reveals his understanding of the relationshipbetween man-centered wisdom and God-centered wisdom. This passage is key because it provides the perspective and the content of Paul’s first response to the Corinthians, relative to the factionalism occurring at Corinth.


Therefore this study will provide the necessary introductory context that
served as the occasion for the writing of the epistle. Likewise, this study will
provide in-depth lexical analysis of the key word σοΦια which functions as a
central notion within this pericope. Hence, obtaining adequate understanding of
this word will provide invaluable insight into opening up Paul’s diatribe to the

Accordingly, exegesis will be provided for the key transition verse of 1:17.
This verse provides transition from the description of the problem at Corinth, to
Paul’s prescription (i.e. do not integrate man-centered wisdom with the gospel)
for how the Corinthians ought to deal with their problem. Understanding this
passage is essential, because it is here that the Apostle Paul introduces the
touchstone issues for the rest of the pericope (i.e. σοΦια λογου and Ò λογος ο του σταυρου).

Methodology of the Study

There is a voluminous amount of material related to the study of the
epistle of I Corinthians, thus it was necessary to limit this study to some key
resources. This study will interact with what has been determined to be key commentaries, journal articles, lexicons, and background information. The author of this paper will interact with such resources as the research warrants.

The methodological approach is to provide the proper background
information and occasion to understand the socio/cultural/historical context to


chapter of this study. In order to accomplish this task, the author of this paper willinteract with the commentaries, lexicons, journal articles, and background
information deemed necessary to come to an adequate understanding. Also this
chapter will discuss alternate perspectives on this pericope. This will serve to
survey various understandings of this passage, and in the process provide the
framework from which this study will proceed.

In chapter two, this study will engage the body of the paper, exegesis of I Corinthians 1:17-25. It is here that this study will intimately interact with the
commentaries, Greek grammar, lexical analysis, on a verse by verse analysis.
The study will carefully interweave the relevant material and dialogue between
commentators and the author of this paper, in order to provide substantiation ofthe above mentioned thesis statement, “The Apostle Paul believed that the
integration of man-centered wisdom with the Christian gospel, results in the
denuding of the power and wisdom found in the simple message of the cross.”

Finally, chapter three provides a reflection on the previous study and
points out two major principles that have been produced via the research for thisstudy. The methodology offered here is different than that offered in the previous two chapters. Here the author of this paper will interact with total yielded results of this paper, and not intimately be involved in dialogue with the commentaries used to come to the principles offered in chapter three.

In conclusion, this study finishes with a summary-overview of the entire
paper. Here the finished product is revealed, highlighting the main points of the
study, which are linked with the thesis statement. The linkage provides evidence


for the substantiation of the thesis put forth by this study. Likewise, the alternateperspectives, offered in chapter one, will be addressed. The study shows that the thesis of this paper is substantiated by the exegesis of I Corinthians 1:17-25. It also points out that many of the perspectives provided for this passage do not measure up to the exegesis.

In the last instance an appendix is offered, which will provide an in-depth
analysis of the key word σοΦια. The analysis provided helps give a fuller
understanding of how this word can potentially function, and thus brings added
depth to the comprehension of its usage within the pericope of I Corinthians 1:17-25.


My Master's Thesis

Wow, really cool! I have been in contact with Robert Tren of Theological Research Exchange Network and he just sent me an unsecured Pdf file of my Master’s Thesis; that is way nice of him! I am now going to be able to have my Master’s Thesis available, free of charge, here at the blog — thanks to Robert’s work. I’ll create a “page” for my thesis which will show up at the top of this template, or somewhere on my blog (whatever template I have at the moment); I think this is great, I’ve always, personally, wanted to have a Pdf of my thesis, and here it is:

Christ Crucified the Wisdom and Power of God: An Exegetical Analysis of I Corinthians 1:17-25 (Pdf file, click on title)

Now remember, I wrote this 7 years ago now — which is crazy to me — but I do believe my writing has gotten better; although I’m not sure my Greek has 😉 . Anyway, just also remember that these kinds of things are supposed to be “academic” and such; so that’s what you’re going to get with my thesis. It is something of a “critical” commentary at points, but then I am arguing for a particular point of view. Also, just one more note: when I was defending this (before a panel of 3 “readers” or profs) one of the professors had fun with me on my usage of my thesis statement which was/is: The Apostle Paul believed that the integration of man-centered wisdom with the Christian gospel results in the denuding of the power and wisdom found in the simple message of the cross. He thought the word ‘denuding’ was funny; for some reason he thought I was just enamored with that word, and that’s why I repeated my thesis statement so often throughout the first chapter of my thesis — I actually did it this way for repetition’s sake (pedagogue) — I think this prof’s mind was just in the gutter that day 😉 . I ended up getting an A- on this thesis — by God’s grace — we were were required to get at least a B to pass; which of course made that day all that much more nerve wracking (the day I had to defend it). Anyway, I hope, if you read it, that you find something enlightening in the thesis; also, just one more thought, what actually motivated me to pick this passage was Martin Luther’s Theology of the Cross.


I was just scrolling through my thesis, and I noticed that pg. 33 is missing for some reason. I am going to provide that below (for anyone who might actually read that far 😉 ) :


disappear; and if it is appropriated by another substance, the form will be unnatural, a mere mask that honest men will discard. [19]

Thus, from Lenski’s perspective, it is inevitable that Paul is confronting a wisdom that is radically different than the wisdom of the cross. Essentially, Lenski is saying that if the Corinthians are taken by a smooth orator or the modality of rhetorical categories of philosophy, then the motivation of these devices (i.e. “worldly wisdom”) is inherently tied to them and should be discarded.

C. K. Barrett is in essential agreement with Lenski. The only divergences between the two is that Barrett calls the sofia logou, a “rhetorical device.” [20] He says, “. . . indeed here wisdom as a formal characteristic of skillful speech is not far from describing also the content of a preaching in which the cross may come to look like foolish error.” [21] Thus like Lenski, he sees the substance of the cross as incompatible with the device of rhetoric therefore concluding in an indirect way (i.e. relative to Lenski) that if Paul is confronting the form, then the substance behind the form is also being confronted.

Contrarily, Elizabeth Fiorenza places the emphasis on the rhetoric (i.e. the form) alone. She believes that there were a few people in the Corinthian church who were taken with the eloquence of rhetorical style. Her basis for this understanding is informed by a sociological perspective. This perspective believes that the educated were well versed in rhetoric and therefore more


[19] Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 50.

[20] C. K. Barrett, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Harper’s New Testament Commentaries, ed. Henry Chadwick (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1968), 49.

[21] Ibid, 49.