1 Corinthians 9
Vincent's Word Studies
Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?
If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.
Seal (σφραγίς)

See on Romans 4:11; see on John 3:33; see on Revelation 22:10.

Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
Answer (ἀπολογία)

See on 1 Peter 3:15.

Examine (ἀνακρίνουσιν)

See on Luke 23:14.

Have we not power to eat and to drink?
Eat - drink

At the expense of the churches. Compare Luke 10:7.

Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
A sister, a wife

Wrong. Sister means a christian woman, a fellow-member of the Church, as Romans 16:1; 1 Corinthians 7:15; James 2:15. It is in apposition with wife: A wife that is a sister or believer. So Rev. Such an one has also the right, like her husband, to be maintained by the Church. Some of the fathers claimed that not a wife was meant, but a female attendant, serviens mantrona, who contributed to the maintenance of the apostles as certain women ministered to Christ. There is no foundation for this. It is contradicted by the example of Peter cited at the end of this verse; compare Matthew 8:14; and besides, the point of the argument is that these companions should be maintained. Such a practice, however, did grow up in the Church, but was abolished by the Council of Nicaea on account of its abuses. Stanley remarks that the fact of these women accompanying their husbands, may be explained by the necessity of females to gain access to and to baptize the female converts in Greece and in oriental countries; the same necessity which gave rise to the order of deaconesses.

Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?

The only mention of Barnabas along with Paul since the quarrel, Acts 15:39.

Forbear working

For their own support. Ἑργάζεσθαι to work, is the regular word for manual labor. See Matthew 21:28; Acts 18:3. See on 3 John 1:5; and see on trade, Revelation 18:17.

Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
Goeth a warfare (στρατεύεται)

The "a" in a warfare is the abbreviated preposition on or in, as a coming, afield, going a pilgrimage. In the Geneva Bible, Deuteronomy 24:5 is rendered, "When a man taketh a newe wife, he shal not go a warfare." So Froissart: "He was not in good poynt to ride a warfare." The phrase, however, is incorrect as a translation, since the Greek word is used not only of war, but of military service in general. Soldiers are called στρατευόμενοι, Luke 3:14. More correctly, who serveth as a soldier? or, as Rev., what soldier serveth? See on Luke 3:14; see on James 4:1.

Charges (ὀψωνίοις)

See on Luke 3:14, and compare Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 11:8.

Feedeth (ποιμαίνει)

See on 1 Peter 5:2. Bengel remarks: "The minister of the gospel is beautifully compared with the soldier, vine-dresser, shepherd." He goes forth to contend with the world, to plant churches, and to exercise pastoral care over them.

Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
As a man (κατὰ ἄνθρωπον)

Rev., after the manner of men. See on Romans 3:5. The formula occurs six times in Paul's epistles. The question introduces another kind of evidence - that from Scripture. I will not confine myself to illustrations from human affairs. I will appeal to Scripture.

For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
Muzzle (φιμώσεις)

See on Matthew 22:12, Matthew 22:34; see on Mark 4:39. Some texts read κημώσεις a muzzle, from κημός a muzzle See Deuteronomy 25:4.

Ox - treadeth

The custom of driving the oxen over the corn strewed on the ground or on a paved area, was an Egyptian one. In later times the Jews used threshing instruments, dragged by the beasts through the grain Herodotus says that pigs were employed for this purpose in Egypt, but the monuments always represent oxen, or, more rarely, asses. In Andalusia the process may still be seen, the animals pulling the drag in a circle through the heap of grain; and in Italy, the method of treading out by horses was in use up to a comparatively recent date.

The verb ἀλοάω to tread, occurring only here, Deuteronomy 25:10, and 1 Timothy 5:18, is etymologically related to ἅλων halon, threshing-floor (see on Matthew 3:12), which also means the disk of the sun or moon, or a halo, thus implying the circular shape of the floor. Dr. Thomson says: "The command of Moses not to muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn is literally obeyed to this day by most farmers, and you often see the oxen eating from the floor as they go round. There are niggardly peasants, however, who do muzzle the ox" ("The Land and the Book"). This custom was in strong contrast with that of Gentile farmers, who treated their laboring animals cruelly, sometimes employing inhuman methods to prevent them from eating while threshing. All students of the Egyptian monuments are familiar with the hieroglyphic inscription in a tomb at Eileithyas, one of the oldest written poems extant:

"Thresh ye for yourselves,

Thresh ye for yourselves,

Thresh ye for yourselves, O oxen.

Measures of grain for yourselves,

Measures of grain for your masters."

Doth God take care for oxen?

The A.V. misses the true point of the expression. Paul, of course, assumes that God cares for the brute creation; but he means that this precept of Moses was not primarily for the oxen's sake but for man's sake. He is emphasizing the typical and spiritual meaning of the command. Render, as Rev., Is it for the oxen that God careth?

Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
Altogether (πάντως)

Better, as Rev., in margin, as He doubtless doth, or, as American Rev., assuredly.

In hope (ἐπ' ἐλπίδι)

See on Romans 8:21. Resting on hope. Compare Aeschylus: "When hope has raised me up on strength (ἐπ' ἀλκᾶς); i.e. elated me with confidence" ("Choephoroe," 407).

He that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope

The text is in error here. The true reading is ὁ ἀλοῶν ἐπ' ἐλπίδι τοῦ μετέχειν and; he that thresheth to thresh in hope of partaking.

If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
Power (ἐξουσίας)

Rev., correctly, right. The right to claim maintenance.

Suffer (στέγομεν)

Rev., bear. The primary meaning is to cover. So some render 1 Corinthians 13:7, covereth for beareth. Hence to protect by covering, as with a tight ship or roof. So Aesehylus, of a ship: "The wooden house with sails that keeps out (στέγων) the sea" ("Suppliants," 126). "The tower keeps off (ἀποστέγει) the multitude of the enemy" ("Seven against Thebes," 220). And so, to bear up against, endure. Compare 1 Thessalonians 3:1, 1 Thessalonians 3:5.

Hinder (ἐγκοπὴν δῶμεν)

Lit., give hindrance. Rev., cause hindrance. Ἑγκοπή hindrance, only here in the New Testament. Primarily, an incision, and so used by the physician Galen. Compare the kindred verb ἐγκόπτω to cut into, also occurring in Hippocrates in the surgical sense. In the sense of cutting into one's way, it gets the meaning of hindrance. See Acts 24:4; Romans 15:22; Galatians 5:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 1 Peter 3:7. Compare the Latin intercidere to divide, inter-rupt.

Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
Minister (ἐργαζόμενοι)

Lit, work or perform. Never in classical Greek of being engaged in sacred rites.

Wait (παρεδρεύοντες)

Etymologically akin to πάρεδρος sitting beside. See on 1 Corinthians 7:35. Only here in the New Testament.

Altar (θυσιαστηρίῳ)

See on Acts 17:23.

Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
For if I do this thing willingly, etc.

The exact line of Paul's thought is a matter of much discussion, and must be determined if we are to understand the force of the several words. It appears to be as follows: He has been speaking of the fact that he preaches at his own cost. He so glories in this that he would rather die than surrender this ground of boasting Compare 2 Corinthians 11:7-12; 2 Corinthians 12:13-16. For it is the only ground of boasting that is possible to him. The preaching of the Gospel in itself furnishes no such ground, for one cannot boast of what he needs must do; and the necessity to preach the Gospel is laid on him under penalty of a "woe" if he refuse. He goes on to show, in two propositions, why and how there is no cause for boasting in preaching under necessity. 1. Supposing there were no necessity, but that he preached of free will, like the twelve who freely accepted the apostleship at Christ's call, then he would rightfully have a reward, as a free man entering freely upon service; and so would have some ground of glorying. 2. But supposing I became an apostle under constraint, as was the fact, then I am not in the position of a free man who chooses at will, but of a slave who is made household steward by his master's will, without his own choice, and consequently I have no claim for reward and no ground of boasting. What, then, is my reward? What ground of boasting have I? Only this: to make the Gospel without charge. In this I may glory.

Willingly - against my will (ἑκὼν - ἄκων)

These words are not to be explained of the spirit in which Paul fulfilled his ministry; but of his attitude toward the apostolic charge when it was committed to him. He was seized upon by Christ (Philippians 2:12); constrained by His call on the way to Damascus. Rev., of mine own will - not of mine own will.


Correlative with the second καύχημα something to glory of, in 1 Corinthians 9:16.

A dispensation is committed unto me (οἰκονομίαν πεπίστυμαι)

Lit., I am entrusted with a stewardship. For a similar construction see Romans 3:2. Stewards belonged to the class of slaves. See Luke 12:42, Luke 12:43, and note οἰκονόμος steward in Luke 12:42, and δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος that bond-servant in Luke 12:43. Paul is not degrading the gospel ministry to a servile office. He is only using the word to illustrate a single point - the manner of his appointment.

What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
Abuse (καταχρήσασθαι)

See on 1 Corinthians 7:31. Rev., correctly, use to the full.

For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
Made myself servant (ἐδούλωσα)

Rev., brought myself under bondage; better, as bringing out the force of δοῦλος bond-servant, from which the word is derived, and thus according with stewardship, 1 Corinthians 9:17.

Gain (κεδήσω)

Carrying out the thought of servant in 1 Corinthians 9:18. "He refuses payment in money that he may make the greater gain in souls. But the gain is that which a faithful steward makes, not for himself, but for his master" (Edwards). The word is not, as Godet, to be limited to its purely natural meaning, but is used in the sense of Matthew 18:15; 1 Peter 3:1.

And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
Them that are under the law

The distinction between this class and Jews is differently explained. Some, Jews, viewed nationally; under the law, viewed religiously. Others, Jews by origin, and Gentile proselytes. Others understand by those under the law, rigid Jews, Pharisees. The first explanation seems preferable.

To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
Without law (ἄνομος)

As one of the Gentiles. By intercourse with them, relinquishment of Jewish observances, and adapting his teaching to their modes of thought. See Acts 17.

Under law (ἔννομος)

The expression differs from that in 1 Corinthians 9:20, ὑπὸ νόμον under law, though with only a shade of difference in meaning. Ἔννομος means subject to the law, but in the sense of keeping within (ἐν) the law.

To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

In faith and christian discernment. Compare 1 Corinthians 8:7 sqq.; Romans 14:1; Romans 15:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
In a race (ἐν σταδίῳ)

Or, better, in a race-course. From ἵστημι to place or establish. Hence a stated distance; a standard of length. In all other New-Testament passages it is used of a measure of length, and is rendered furlong, representing 606.75 English feet. From the fact that the race-courses were usually of exactly this length, the word was applied to the race-course itself. The position chosen for the stadium was usually on the side of a hill, which would furnish a natural slope for seats; a corresponding elevation on the opposite side, being formed by a mound of earth, and the seats being supported upon arches. The stadium was oblong in shape, and semicircular at one end; though, after the Roman conquest of Greece, both ends were often made semicircular. A straight wall shut in the area at one end, and here were the entrances and the starting-place for the runners. At the other end was the goal, which, like the starting-point, was marked by a square pillar. Half-way between these was a third pillar. On the first pillar was inscribed excel; on the second, hasten; on the third, turn, since the racers turned round the column to go back to the starting-point.

The isthmus of Corinth was the scene of the Isthmian games, one of the four great national festivals of the Greeks. The celebration was a season of great rejoicing and feasting. The contests included horse, foot, and chariot-racing; wrestling, boxing, musical and poetical trials, and later, fights of animals. The victor's prize was a garland of pine leaves, and his victory was generally celebrated in triumphal odes called epinikia, of which specimens remain among the poems of Pindar. At the period of Paul's epistles the games were still celebrated, and the apostle himself may very probably have been present. At the same time, he would have been familiar with similar scenes in Tarsus, in all the great cities of Asia Minor, especially Ephesus, and even in Jerusalem. Metaphors and allusions founded upon such spectacles abound in Paul's writings. Racers, 1 Corinthians 9:24; boxers, 1 Corinthians 9:26, 1 Corinthians 9:27; gladiators fighting with beasts, 1 Corinthians 15:32; the judge awarding the prize, 2 Timothy 4:8; the goal and the prize, 1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:14; the chaplet, 1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:8, the training for the contest, 1 Timothy 4:7, 1 Timothy 4:8; the rules governing it, 2 Timothy 2:5; the chariot-race, Philippians 3:14. These images never occur in the gospels. See on of life, Revelation 2:10.

Prize (βραβεῖον)

Only here and Philippians 3:14. The kindred verb βραβεύω to be umpire, occurs once, Colossians 3:15. See note.

Obtain (καταλάβητε)

Lit., lay hold of. Rev., attain. See on comprehended, John 1:5; see on come upon you, John 12:35; and see on perceived, Acts 4:13. Compare Philippians 3:12.

And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
Striveth for the mastery (ἀγωνιζόμενος)

Better, Rev., striveth in the games, thus preserving the metaphor. The word was the regular term for contending in the arena or on the stage.

Is temperate (ἐγκρατεύεται)

Only here and 1 Corinthians 7:9. The candidate for the races was required to be ten months in training, and to practice in the gymnasium immediately before the games, under the direction of judges who had themselves been instructed for ten months in the details of the games. The training was largely dietary. Epictetus says: "Thou must be orderly, living on spare food; abstain from confections; make a point of exercising at the appointed time, in heat and in cold; nor drink cold water nor wine at hazard." Horace says: "The youth who would win in the race hath borne and done much; he hath sweat and been cold; he hath abstained from love and wine" ("Ars Poetica," 412). Tertullian, commending the example of the athletes to persecuted Christians, says: "Coguntur, cruciantur, fatigantur." "They are constrained, harassed, wearied" ("Ad Martyres," 3). Compare 2 Timothy 2:5.

Crown (στέφανον)

Chaplet of pine-leaves. See on Revelation 4:4.

I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
Uncertainly (ἀδήλως)

Only here in the New Testament. The kindred adjective ἄδηλος not manifest, occurs Luke 11:44 (see note) and 1 Corinthians 14:8. Compare also ἀδηλότης uncertainty, 1 Timothy 6:17. He runs with a clear perception of his object, and of the true manner and result of his striving.

Fight I((πυκτεύω)

Only here in the New Testament. Distinctively of fighting with the fists, and evidently in allusion to the boxing-match. Rev., in margin, box. Etymologically akin to πυγμή the fist; see on oft, Mark 7:3.

Beateth the air

A boxer might be said to beat the air when practicing without an adversary. This was called σκιαμαχία shadow-fighting. Or he might purposely strike into the air in order to spare his adversary; or the adversary might evade his blow, and thus cause him to spend his strength on the air. The two latter may well be combined in Paul's metaphor. He strikes straight and does not spare. Compare Virgil, in the description of a boxing-match:

"Entellus, rising to the work, his right hand now doth show

Upreared, but he, the nimble one, foresaw the falling blow

Above him, and his body swift writhed skew-wise from the fall.

Entellus spends his stroke on air."

"Aeneid," v., 443. Morris' Translation.

But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
I keep under (ὑπωπιάζω)

A feeble translation, and missing the metaphor. The word means to strike under the eye; to give one a black eye. It occurs elsewhere in the New Testament but once, Luke 18:5 (see note). Rev., I buffet. The blow of the trained boxer was the more formidable from the use of the cestus, consisting of ox-hide bands covered with knots and nails, and loaded with lead and iron. So Entellus throws his boxing-gloves into the ring, formed of seven bulls' hides with lead and iron sewed into them (Virgil, "Aeneid," v., 405). They were sometimes called γυιοτόροι limb-breakers. A most interesting account is given by Rodolfo Lanziani, "Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Discoveries," of the exhuming at the foundation of the Temple of the Sun, erected by Aurelian, of a sitting bronze statue of a boxer. The accompanying photograph shows the construction of the fur-lined boxing-gloves secured by thongs wound round the forearm half-way to the elbow. The gloves cover the thumb and the hand to the first finger-joints. The writer says; "The nose is swollen from the effects of the last blow received; the ears resemble a flat and shapeless piece of leather; the neck, the shoulders, the breast, are seamed with scars.... The details of the fur-lined boxing-gloves are also interesting, and one wonders how any human being, no matter how strong and powerful, could stand the blows from such weapons as these gloves, made of four or five thicknesses of leather, and fortified with brass knuckles."

Bring it into subjection (δουλαγωγῶ)

Rev., bring in into bondage. Metaphor of captives after battle. Not of leading the vanquished round the arena (so Godet), a custom of which there is no trace, and which, in most cases, the condition of the vanquished would render impossible. It is rather one of those sudden changes and mixtures of metaphor so frequent in Paul's writings. See, for instance, 2 Corinthians 5:1, 2 Corinthians 5:2.

Having preached (κηρύξας)

See on 2 Peter 2:5. Some find in the word an allusion to the herald (κῆρυξ) who summoned the contestants and proclaimed the prizes.

Castaway (ἀδόκιμος)

See on Romans 1:28. Better, as Rev., rejected, as unworthy of the prize.

Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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