1 Corinthians 1:23
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
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(23) But we preach.—The gospel of Christ crucified made its way by those very qualities which they regarded as “weakness and folly,” vindicating itself as “the power of God,” more mighty than any “sign” a Jew might ask for; and “the wisdom of God” surpassing any merely intellectual “wisdom” which a Greek might desire.

1:17-25 Paul had been bred up in Jewish learning; but the plain preaching of a crucified Jesus, was more powerful than all the oratory and philosophy of the heathen world. This is the sum and substance of the gospel. Christ crucified is the foundation of all our hopes, the fountain of all our joys. And by his death we live. The preaching of salvation for lost sinners by the sufferings and death of the Son of God, if explained and faithfully applied, appears foolishness to those in the way to destruction. The sensual, the covetous, the proud, and ambitious, alike see that the gospel opposes their favourite pursuits. But those who receive the gospel, and are enlightened by the Spirit of God, see more of God's wisdom and power in the doctrine of Christ crucified, than in all his other works. God left a great part of the world to follow the dictates of man's boasted reason, and the event has shown that human wisdom is folly, and is unable to find or retain the knowledge of God as the Creator. It pleased him, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. By the foolishness of preaching; not by what could justly be called foolish preaching. But the thing preached was foolishness to wordly-wise men. The gospel ever was, and ever will be, foolishness to all in the road to destruction. The message of Christ, plainly delivered, ever has been a sure touchstone by which men may learn what road they are travelling. But the despised doctrine of salvation by faith in a crucified Saviour, God in human nature, purchasing the church with his own blood, to save multitudes, even all that believe, from ignorance, delusion, and vice, has been blessed in every age. And the weakest instruments God uses, are stronger in their effects, than the strongest men can use. Not that there is foolishness or weakness in God, but what men consider as such, overcomes all their admired wisdom and strength.But we - We who are Christian preachers make Christ crucified the grand subject of our instructions and our aims in contradistinction from the Jew and the Greek. They seek, the one miracles, the other wisdom, we glory only in the cross.

Christ crucified - The word Christ, the anointed, is the same as the Hebrew name Messiah. The emphasis in this expression is on the word "crucified." The Jews would make the Messiah whom they expected no less an object of glorifying than the apostles, but they spurned the doctrine that he was to be crucified. Yet in that the apostles boasted; proclaiming him crucified, or "having been crucified" as the only hope of man. This must mean more than that Christ was distinguished for moral worth, more than that he died as a martyr; because if that were all, no reason could be given why the cross should be made so prominent an object. It must mean that Christ was crucified for the sins of people, as an atoning sacrifice in the place of sinners. "We proclaim a crucified. Messiah as the only redeemer of lost people."

To the Jews a stumbling-block - The word "stumbling-block" (σκάνδαλον skandalon) means properly anything in the way over which one may fall; then anything that gives offence, or that causes one to fall into sin. Here it means that to the Jews, the doctrine that the Messiah was to be crucified gave great offence; excited, irritated, and exasperated them; that they could not endure the doctrine, and treated it with scorn. Compare the Romans 9:33 note; 1 Peter 2:8 note. It is well known that to the Jews no doctrine was more offensive than this, that the Messiah was to be put to death, and that there was to be salvation in no other way. It was so in the times of the apostles, and it has been so since. They have, therefore, usually called the Lord Jesus, by way of derision, "תלוי Tolwiy, the man that was hanged," that is, on a cross; and Christians they have usually denominated, for the same reason, צבדי תלוי 'Abday Tolwiy, servants of the man that was hanged." The reasons of this feeling are obvious:

(1) They had looked for a magnificent temporal prince; but the doctrine that their Messiah was crucified, dashed all their expectations. And they regarded it with contempt and scorn, just in proportion as their hopes had been elevated, and these high expectations cherished.

(2) they had the common feelings of all people, the native feelings of pride, and self-righteousness, by which they rejected the doctrine that we are dependent for salvation on one who was crucified.

(3) they regarded Jesus as one given over by God for an enormous attempt at imposition, as having been justly put to death; and the object of the curse of the Almighty. Isaiah 53:4, "we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God." They endeavored to convince themselves that he was the object of the divine dereliction and abhorrence; and they, therefore, rejected the doctrine of the cross with the deepest feelings of detestation.

To the Greeks - To the Gentiles in general. So the Syriac, the Vulgate, the Arabic, and the Aethiopic versions all read it. The term "Greek" denotes all who were not Jews; thus the phrase, "the Jews and the Greeks" comprehended the whole human family, 1 Corinthians 1:22.

Foolishness - See the note at 1 Corinthians 1:18. They regarded it as folly:

(1) Because they esteemed the whole account a fable, and an imposition;

(2) It did not accord with their own views of the way of elevating the condition of man;

(3) They saw no efficacy in the doctrine, no tendency in the statement that a man of humble birth was put to death in an ignominious manner in Judea, to make people better, or to receive pardon.

(4) they had the common feelings of unrenewed human nature; blind to the beauty of the character of Christ, and blind to the design of his death; and they therefore regarded the whole statement as folly.

We may remark here, that the feelings of the Jews and of the Greeks on this subject, are the common feelings of people. Everywhere sinners have the same views of the cross; and everywhere the human heart, if left to itself, rejects it, as either a stumbling-block or as folly. But the doctrine should be preached, though it is an offence, and though it appears to be folly. It is the only hope of man; and by the preaching of the cross alone can sinners be saved.

23. we—Paul and Apollos.

Christ crucified—The Greek expresses not the mere fact of His crucifixion, but the permanent character acquired by the transaction, whereby He is now a Saviour (Ga 3:1) crucified was the stone on which the Jews stumbled (Mt 21:44). The opposition of Jew and Gentile alike shows that a religion so seemingly contemptible in its origin could not have succeeded if it had not been divine.

unto the Greeks—the oldest manuscripts read "unto the Gentiles."

But we preach Christ crucified; we that are the ministers of Christ, come and preach to them, that there was one hanged upon a cross at Jerusalem, who is the Saviour of the world, and was not cut off for his own sins, but for the sins of his people.

Unto the Jews a stumblingblock; the Jews are stumbled at this, looking for a Messiah that should be a great temporal Prince; and besides, accounting it an ignominious thing to believe in one as their Saviour whom they had caused to be crucified.

And unto the Greeks foolishness; and the Greeks, the most learned among the Gentiles, look upon it as a foolish, idle story, that one who was and is God blessed for ever, should be crucified.

But we preach Christ crucified,.... Regardless of the sentiments and opinions of Jews and Gentiles, of what the one required and the other sought after; and in opposition to all their senseless and groundless cavils, the apostle and his fellow ministers continued preaching the doctrine of salvation by a crucified Christ, and him only; though it was

unto the Jews a stumblingblock; as was prophesied it should be, and as it came to pass; for they not only stumbled at the meanness of his birth, parentage, and education, at his ministry, miracles, company and audience; but especially at his sufferings and death: it was a stumbling to them that he should die at all, for they understood out of their law, that Christ should abide for ever; and it was more so that he should die the death of the cross, by which, according to their law, he appeared to be accursed; and most of all this was stumbling to them, because they expected a temporal kingdom to be set up by him:

and unto the Greeks foolishness; as that the Son of God should be crucified; that riches should come through his poverty, and men be brought to a kingdom and glory through one so mean and abject; that there should be life for men in his death, and salvation through his crucifixion, or the shameful death of the cross; that blessings should come through his being made a curse; and that his death should be an expiatory sacrifice for the sins of men; and that justification should be by one that was condemned; and peace and pardon should be by his blood; and that he should be raised again from the dead. These things were the subject of their ridicule and banter, and, in their opinion, deserved rather to be laughed at than credited. The Alexandrian copy, and others, and the Vulgate and all the Oriental versions, read, "unto the Gentiles".

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
1 Corinthians 1:23. Instead of working miracles to satisfy the Jews, or propounding a philosophy to entertain the Greeks, “we, on the other hand, proclaim a crucified Christ”—Χριστὸν ἐσταυρωμένον, i.e., Christ as crucified (predicative adjunct), not “Christ the crucified,” nor, strictly, “Christ crucified”; cf., for the construction, 2 Corinthians 4:5, κηρύσσομεν Χ. . κύριον, “We preach (not ourselves but) Christ Jesus as Lord”. Not a warrior Messiah, flashing His signs from the sky, breaking the heathen yoke, but a Messiah dying in impotence and shame (see 2 Corinthians 4:10; 2 Corinthians 13:4 : hattalúy, Deuteronomy 21:23the hangéd—He is styled in the Talmud) is what the app. preach for their good news! “To Jews indeed a σκάνδαλον”: this word (cl[237] σκανδάληθρον) signified first the trap-stick, then any obstacle over which one stumbles to one’s injury, an “offence” (syn[238] with προσκοπή, πρόσκομμα: see 1 Corinthians 8:9; 1 Corinthians 8:13), a moral hindrance presented to the perverse or the weak (see parls.).—τοῖς δὲ ἔθνεσιν μωρίαν: for the “folly” of offering the infelix lignum to cultured Gentiles, see Cicero, Proverbs Rabirio, v.: “Nomen ipsum crucis absit non modo a corpore civium Romanorum, sed etiam a cogitatione, oculis, auribus”; and Lucian, De morte Peregrini, 13, who mocks at those who worship τὸν ἀνεσκολοπισμένον τὸν σοφιστήν,—“that gibbeted sophist!” For reff. in the early Apologists see Justin ., Tryph., lxix., and Apol., i., 13; Tertull., adv. Jud., § 10; Aristo of Pella, in Routh’s Rel. Sacr., i., 95; and the graffito of the gibbeted ass discovered on the wall of the Pædagogium in the Palatine. To Jews the λόγος τοῦ σταύρου announced the shameful reversal of their most cherished hopes; to Greeks and Romans it offered for Saviour and Lord a man branded throughout the Empire as amongst the basest of criminals; it was “outrageous,” and “absurd”.

[237] classical.

[238] synonym, synonymous.

23. but we preach Christ crucified] The Christian doctrine was the very reverse of what Jews and Greeks demanded. Instead of Messiah upon an earthly throne, triumphant over his enemies, instead of a skilful and original disputant, the Christian preachers speak of a condemned criminal. As a temporal Prince He had no pretensions to notice. To the title of philosopher, at least in the Corinthian sense of the term, He had no claim. His one argument was His Life and Death. What wonder if this doctrine were to the Jews an offence, and sheer nonsense in the ears of the inquisitive and argumentative Greek?

a stumblingblock] The expression used here is the same as in the Septuagint version of Isaiah 8:14.

1 Corinthians 1:23. Ἡμεῖς, we) Paul, Apollos.—κηρύσσομεν, we preach) rather historically, than philosophically.—Χριστὸν ἐσταυρωμένον, Christ crucified) without the article. The cross is not mentioned in the following verse. The discourse begins with the cross of Christ, 1 Corinthians 2:2; those who thus receive it are made acquainted with all connected with Christ and His glory, those who do not receive it, fall short of the whole, Acts 25:19; Acts 17:32.—σκάνδαλον, a stumbling-block) As folly and wisdom, so a stumbling-block and a sign are opposed to each other, for a sign is an attractive work of Omnipotence, as a sign and power are often synonymous, but a stumbling-block, properly applied to a snare or trap, is a very weak thing. [So things extremely worthless in the present day come under the name of trifles. Germ. Schwachherten.—V. g.] To such a degree do the Jews and Greeks[11] dread the cross of Christ, that along with it they reject even a sign and wisdom.

[11] The Germ. Ver. prefers the reading of ἔθνεσι, equal, according to the margin of both editions, to Ἕλλησι, which is doubtless more passable with German readers.—E. B.ABC corrected later, D corr. l. Gfg Vulg. Orig. Cypr. Hilary have ἔθνεσιν. Rec Text, with Orig. 1, 331e, reads Ἕλλησι.—ED.

Verse 23. - Christ crucified; rather perhaps, a crucified Messiah. It was only by slow degrees that the title "the Christ," i.e. the Anointed, the Messiah, passed into the name Christ. A stumbling block. They had for centuries been looking for a regal and victorious Messiah, who should exalt their special privileges. The notion of a suffering and humiliated Messiah, who reduced them to the level of all God's other children, was to them "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence" (Romans 9:33; comp. Isaiah 8:14). These two verses, translated into Syriac, furnish a marked play on words (miscol, stumbling block; mashcal, folly; seed, cross); and some have seen in this a sign that St. Paul thought in Syriac. Unto the Greeks; rather, unto Gentiles; א, A, B, C, I). Unto the Jews... unto the Greeks. Both alike had failed. The Jew had not attained ease of conscience or moral perfectness; the Greek had. not unriddled the secret of philosophy; yet both alike rejected the peace and the enlightenment which they had professed to seek. Foolishness. The accent of profound contempt is discernible in all the early allusions of Greeks and Romans to Christianity. The only epithets which they could find for it were "execrable," "malefic," "depraved," "damnable" (Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny, etc.). The milder term is "excessive superstition." The heroic constancy of martyrs appeared even to M. Aurelius only under the aspect of a "bare obstinacy." The word used to express the scorn of the Athenian philosophers for St. Paul's "strange doctrine" is one of the coarsest disdain (ἐχλεύαζον), and they called him "a seed pecker" (Acts 17:18, 32), i.e. a mere picker up of "learning's crumbs." 1 Corinthians 1:23
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