Journal for the Study of the New Testament "As babes in Christ" - Some proposals regarding 1 Corinthians 3.1-3
J. Francis Journal for the Study of the New Testament 1980; 2; 41 DOI: 10.1177/0142064X8000200703 The online version of this article can be found at:

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"As babes in Christ" - Some proposals 3.1-3.







Division of Religion and Philosophy, Sunderland Polytechnic,


and Wear

The purpose of this study is to enquire how the image of the child is used at 1 Cor.3.lff in the context of Paul’s That it occurs in a context of criticism is clear, argument. but


examine how it functions within that criticism and Paul’s argument at that point.

Paul in 1 Corinthians is dealing with a arisen in the handing on of the gospel; that






gospel had been preached and had been accepted, and yet in the understanding and assimilation of its meaning the Corinthians
had gone astray. His question at 4.7 is crucial - &dquo;what have And if you have received it you that you have not received? He is vexed at their failure why boast as if you had not?&dquo;

understand and interpret what he had imparted to them, a failure that is amply shown by the way in which their grasp of the gospel is reflected in their lives. Moreover Paul is faced with the problem that some at least within the congregation were

calling in question his authority as an apostle in the first place (1.1, 2.lff, 4.18 cf 2 Cor.10.10, 9.lff.).(It is noteworthy that his concern for the unity of the congregation is such that
he conaemns even those who would support himself in a factional Whatever be the precise nature of way, 1.12ff, 3.4ff, 3.22.) the trouble at Corinth/l/,the Corinthians seem to have gone beyond or over interpreted what Paul had said, allowing such spiritual enthusiasm both to disrupt the congregation and to call in question Paul’s authority as an apostle. Paul for his part it would seem, is wrestling with a paradox that his readers as those who had been baptised and had received the Spirit (1.13ff, 10.2ff cf 2.12) were yet behaving in an unspiritual manner/2/. We may however advance further than this to see that Paul is in fact, especially in chapters one to three, putting forward the nature of life in the Spirit over against a false spirituality, since his opponents would claim to be very much &dquo;in the Spirit&dquo; through their enthusiasm and their exulting in the more
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Paul in contrast rejoices in his lack of rhetorical skill simply because it allows the truth and strength of the gospel to appear the more effective (2. Pythagoras is said to have divided his pupils into two groups. All rights reserved. 2. in their own wisdom they were setting up their own standard of salvation and thus displacing the wisdom of God.5).knowledge&dquo.failure to is accurate. is in Stoic Certainly support for such an interpretation may be found thought/5/.5 cf by Alvaro Pereira on January 23.lff). an essential part of his task.39. progress&dquo. but now they must advance to the mature wisdom that Paul himself knows and which he can only impart to the mature (2. and for not progressing to deeper understanding.6ff).)&dquo.2 cf 1.lff which regards the function of the child image in Paul’s criticism as &dquo. .16. Having been brought into the sphere of faith they have learned the rudiments of the gospel.42 spectacular gifts As of the Spirit (1. Thus it is argued/4/ that Paul here requiring the Corinthians to press on from an initial and elementary grasp of the faith to a more mature knowledge in the deeper things of the gospel (cf Hebrews 5.23 The gospel centred on the Cross provides Paul with the /3/).llff. is clear that Paul with his imagery of babes and the distinction in diet is moving in the same orbit of ideas.4).8). at a fundamental level between God’s means of making a contrast he had wisdom and the foolishness of the Corinthians. chiefly the Word of the Cross. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications. Paul therefore is criticising them not for being babes but for remaining so.17ff. (V°hLoL) general but wheaten cakes are for the mature (TeXeuou5. in rhetorically pleasing and persuasive manner (1. If this brief summary of the situation is accurate. Paul sums up the gospel imparted to them as Christ crucified (1. Epictetus asks &dquo.milk is food for babes De (vnlILOLç) Agric. Discourses ii.9. one wonders whether that interpretation of 3. babes (v4nuou) and mature (TeXcuou). Downloaded from http://jnt.are you like children still unwilling to be weaned from mother’s milk and to reach out for stronger food?&dquo.sagepub. and hence it could be argued that grades It of instruction will correspond to stages of growth and advancement. and Philo remarks that &dquo. 6. The foolishness of the Cross puts an end to all human endeavour at self-made In so far as the Corinthians were boasting ways of salvation. In keeping with such enthusiasm the Corinthians admired those who could proclaim their &dquo. They were in fact boasting in the flesh and setting at naught God’s grace and truth revealed in the Cross.

7. All rights reserved. Thus 1 Cor. we shall argue that Paul they are babes still. the child as an image of insight and understanding seems to occur in two forms. the idea that Paul is urging his readers to press on to deeper knowledge is difficult since they with their enthusiasm and thirst for wisdom He would were no doubt claiming to have done precisely that! scarcely urge them to do what they were so adept at doing. reserved for the mature.43 He therefore chides his readers for not being advanced enough to move on to maturity and to receive higher instruction reserved He himself is their teacher (v 2 &dquo. VnlILWV). as different as the world of the child is from that of the adult.failure to advance&dquo. The point is not the gradual growth Downloaded from http://jnt. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. their father in the fleeting image of gospel ( by Alvaro Pereira on January 23.20 6~6áoHaÀos. As an alternative is rebuking his readers not because In Paul’s writings. if this intepretation is wholly satand if in fact it does justice to the severity of Paul’s argument at this point and to the gravity of the problem In so far as Paul is prepared to agree which he is confronting. isfactory. Would Paul indeed have praised them thus if it was difficult.15 cf Rom. with unfortunate consequences. but rather that the readers as Christians and as recipients of the Spirit should realise the fulness of what they have received and so learn to live mature spiritual lives. and &dquo. &dquo.sagepub. but because they were in fact being The image of childish. that the Corinthians had been enriched in every way. the child points therefore not to an early stage of growth in the faith to be left behind as one progresses to deeper things. their growth. Firstly.babes&dquo.11 describes the contrast between this life and the life of the world to come. however. the 2. but to a state of immaturity incompatible with that of spiritual Paul’s criticism is not about failure of prounderstanding. pupils have become stunted in One wonders.4. over against an initial elementary knowledge.5. Thus the contrast between gression but failure of comprehension. this makes any idea of &dquo. you&dquo. a matter of being stunted in their growth? Again. . is not so much that the readers should press on to a higher understanding. interpretation. lacking in nothing (1. 4.I fed for the TeXcuou (2. and had not progressed further. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications.8).spiritual men&dquo.6).13.19). hinting the nurse at a note of authority through but his cf Gal. a condition contrary to being spiritual. the description of babe (B~TtbOs) is invariably pejorative in tone and thus echoes the prevailing opinion of the Ancient World.

11.) means generally &dquo.4. &dquo.babes&dquo.19. Children (vOxLoL) are those who are fickle and unstable. At Ephes.20 shows Paul’s irony that if the fect and eternal.sagepub.11). 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications.14ff. then it enhances the special care Paul feels for them. and he is here as it were identifying himself with them (cf 1 Cor. (Vt1lILO!.19).13.untutored&dquo. tically such imagery denotes the special care and affection which Paul feels. those in darkness. and occurs only in those letters to churches that he himself had by Alvaro Pereira on January 23. For Paul.2. being a guide to the blind. as v20b &dquo. and in the idea that a teacher may be thought of as a father who begets children through instruction/6/.10). it would seem that the description of &dquo.2. 2 Cor. and here &dquo. If &dquo.20). be the preferred reading.20 of Christ through the knowledge of the truth in love. is read. then it recalls Paul’s first preaching of the gospel to the Thessalonians when they were but babes in their ignorance of the truth of Christ. The description used is that of child (TiaL. The background to such imagery is to be found at least in part in the widespread use of milk as signifying instruction and education..gentle&dquo.2. whereas the mature Christian grows into the fulness Rom.7.unskilled&dquo. All rights reserved.14 there is again a contrast rather than continuity between being as a child and growing to mature manhood in Christ.2ff the babe image is used to depict understanding.2. but the meaning is the same babe&dquo.being a (vnhL6§cTc) true Christian (like Mention of Paul as nurse or father. Phil. Downloaded from http://jnt.7) and father (2. By contrast the the good Stoic) is one who is mature in At Gal. If v4nLoL.7 is uncertain. therefore. just as v9-10 is not the gradual filling out of the partial to the complete but the contrast between what is imperfect and temporal and what is per1 Cor. CharacterisGal. however. and as 1 Thess.14. . is equated with the foolish.teacher of babes&dquo.a.44 from the one to the other but of contrast. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.4. Corinthians insist on being childish then at least let them be so in matters of evil.babe&dquo. The opposite man under bondage to the principalities and powers.2.. the opposite of having mature understanding of the faith. brings us to the other form of the child image used in his Here the word Texvov is invariably used. In here is sonship and freedom through the gift of the Spirit. briefly describes the teacher as &dquo. 1 Thess. and Paul sees himself as his readers’ father in the gospel or as their nurse whom he feeds and nourishes (1 Cor. Christ one is no longer in a state of vnhLdTni (cf Col.4. only here) rather than babe. Phil.4. signifies. easily led astray.22.6.6L’. secondly writings. expressed in the images of the nurse (2.

hat das Bild der Milch hier die Bedeutung der Anfangsdes christlichen Glaubens.1 and the For him the sayings of Jesus about children in the Gospels. but to a different situation and Whereas for Jesus childhood status and represponsibility. die Gefahr der ausbleibenden Reife an. das Wort der Milch vergleicht. Grundmann/7/interprets &dquo.25/Luke 10. of basic instruction for beginners and a more advanced wisdom for mature.21 is due not to a different understanding of the child derived from different sources and influences.18.become stuck& babes in Christ& stage&dquo. denen in der ’Weisheit Gottes grunde im Geheimnis unter den Volkommenen’ die feste Speise gegenubersteht. vrjnt. .1) has been variously understood both in terms of its constituent words and its func- What in fact is the relationship tion in the verse as a whole. Morrison/11/traces a connection between 3. as ~1t£LPOS./9/ Whether 1 Peter is in fact based on a baptismal homily is disputed. &dquo. All rights reserved./10/ nor is it certain that 1 Peter 2. (3.3. and &dquo./8/ With reference to the &dquo. them (v2). Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications. akin to being untutored and ignorant (cf Hebrews 5. between &dquo.14ff.fed&dquo. and he refers to his role as father explicitly at 4.11. How indeed are the Corinthians thought of in terms of their being both &dquo.babes&dquo.oS at least would seem to indicate not so much a &dquo.wahrend 1.. However. & by Alvaro Pereira on January 23.2 must refer to newly baptised Christians.babes&dquo. die den Vollkommenen entsprechend Christ&dquo. Again C.lff .sagepub.45 ~ ’ We shall now in what follows examine the relation between these two forms of the child image in 1 Cor.). W.&dquo..(wS’apT~Y~vvr~Ta Sp~cpn) cription therefore is of Christians who have failed to advance Thus beyond a basic knowledge and have in fact & so far as Paul says that he &dquo. from our survey of the use of v4hLoi in Paul. and how is the description related to the preceding argument through the particle &dquo. here in light of the’hewly beof 1 Peter 2.. as it were of authentic existence.&dquo. difference between &dquo. (WS)? For those who would argue here for a gradation of teaching.babes&dquo. entance are closely related (Matt. from the point of view of the church Christians having repented and become as little Downloaded from http://jnt. Petr.children&dquo. & zeigt die Gefahr des Zuruckbleibens.babes&dquo.babe&dquo. and &dquo.babes in Christ&dquo. but a state incompatible with proper and mature understanding. and the desgotten the babes&dquo. the image of the nurse is here implied. image in Paul refers to the readers as beginners in the faith in the sense of newly baptised Christians.3). die Wachstum schafft. and how is Paul’s authority understood accordingly? The phrase &dquo.13 and the description of VnlILOS. here and Matt.

/12/ In similar terms but from another perspective and understanding. Robinson hints/13/that the description of &dquo.1 and that of the child and the father at 4. The one perhaps deals. 3.14) both mention ao901 and auvcTol.11). and more particularly acquainted whether such a saying as Matt.15 with reference to the image of begetting through instruction and of imitating it is Texvdv that Paul uses. Moreover.9 (quoting Is. Again. Yet despite the similarities.1) as an image of understanding.M.46 Thus it is argued that &dquo. as we shall see. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications.15) and the image of the child The first need not (V~1tLOS.15. we should distinguish between 3. his readers so that they become babes in Christ whom he feeds on elementary teaching (the Cross) and subsequently when capable on more advanced matters.1 has to do not with being born again at baptism but with the understanding of the gospel as Paul proclaimed it. babes I gave you milk to drink&dquo. 29.11.babes&dquo.I begat you through the In both phrases we are dealing with Paul’s authority. Rather at 4. Jesus offered children as a standard of repentance.15 as parallel. and he correspondingly operates with a different understanding of V~1tLOÇ.&dquo. Paul appears to lament now and again that certain Christians are not yet grown up. concern us here.1. and in any babes in Christ&dquo. J. it would seem that he is not concerned with baptism as such but rather with the understanding of the gospel as reflected in the true baptismal life of the believer (1. but this need not mean that Paul &dquo. as we have 3. in view of 1. and Paul’s idea of God’s wisdom revealed in foolishness is broadly in keeping with the context of the Q saying of the secret of God’s Kingdom revealed to the lowly.while children must now grow and mature.1-2 and 4. with an attack on his Downloaded from http://jnt.begets&dquo. It is in fact preferable to take the image of the child and the nurse at 3. in the Q logion was known to the Corinthians and was being used It is uncertain however.17 would seem to show that the description of the readers as &dquo. Paul’s thought seems to be controlled very much by Stoic categories in the interaction between childhood and by Alvaro Pereira on January 23.25 was known to the Corinthians or to Paul.babes&dquo. and &dquo.. at 3. Paul does not make use of this terminology but prefers the more orthodox rabbinic description of recreation. In taken to . begetting through instruction (4. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. hints at the image of the nurse.1. how well Paul was by them in some way. examining the phrase &dquo. care must be distinguish between baptismal (divine) regeneration.26ff cf 6. Certainly the Q saying and 1 Cor. gospel&dquo. &dquo.sagepub. 1. All rights reserved.14ff. with Jesus’ view of the child.

refer to any tiny elite group of &dquo. in so far as they show themselves to be ’teleioi’.8 Paul is not so much declaring them as their &dquo. as expressing a wish that him.10ff. All rights reserved. that they do not need him any more (indeed he seems to be poking fun at their independent they would come to share.6 cf 2. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.10ff). (even if this term in this verse does echo the language of the ’gnosis’). that at 2./16/ And Weiss remarks &dquo.juvenile&dquo. as we might at first expect. therefore include all Christians and hence the Corinthians also (cf v12) in as much Downloaded from http://jnt. who supports the interpretation of &dquo.6ff (cf 2..1) is not &dquo.e. (oapx~xoS). but having as raised the matter at 1.. .. teaching.10-16 the various mentions of &dquo. Wilckens.babes in Christ&dquo.intra-church&dquo. but U. along preached. agrees that the correlate to T[XcLoi However the widespread contrast is T~EUUOTbMOS (2.we&dquo.1 through the common hahclv.47 authority.TeXEuou sind alle Christen in denen der Geist lebt&dquo. So Schnackenburg says &dquo.13) is linked to 3.. i. then that the mature. in so far as they allow the divine Spirit to operate and become effective in them&dquo. but talk of God’s wisdom for the mature is not the mention of &dquo. but the same Indeed message of the gospel considered under another aspect. Paul has prepared for this other perspective at 1. (TËÀ£LOÇ) and &dquo. be his children or that he ever relinquishes his special care for At 4. related in this way that by being Paul’s true children in the gospel they cease to be babes (vnnLoL) in worldly the other with his There is no hint at all that the readers ever cease to ways. of knowledge in the dietary distinction.father&dquo./15/ The content of 2. in the context of Paul’s argument at 2. It would seem however.mature&dquo. (v4hLoj) is briefly made behind the primary antithesis of &dquo. true understanding of Weiss in his commentary!14/noted that the contrast with (3.sagepub.spiritual&dquo. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications.higher&dquo. between the way of God revealed in the Cross and the way of man who boasts in his own esteem. images are (Texva) Thus the right to assert it..spiritual/fleshly &dquo. prefaces all he wants to say with a general contrast between the gospel and the world. are those who have not the rudiments for Paul to be able to tell them of more advanced insights in the gospel.30. trouble at Corinth.It does not refer to all Christians. between &dquo.24 and 1./17/ In 2. progressed sufficiently beyond Thus &dquo.babes&dquo. that Tit stages flvcupaTLx6 can only be understood by the Christian who has advanced toward maturity. the endeavours) with gospel he had J.6ff.initiates&dquo..6ff Paul is not dealing yet with the & by Alvaro Pereira on January 23. rather it envisages all Christians. This suggests Thus it is Christ Crucified who is God’s wisdom.mature&dquo.

of the age (v8) and psychic or natural men (v14) who have no underThis idea of the Spirit indwelling in standing of God’s wisdom. We must now ask (a) how the description of the readers is related to their being called &dquo. . the Christian orientated toward the goal of Christ should allow the word of the Cross to rule within him through the Spirit and so live a mature life./19/and (b) how their childishness is related to their being Ev as VTÍ1tLOL (a) Xpt.. Here Paul takes all that he has said about the contrast between God’s way and the world’s and applies it to the Corinthian situation when first he came to them (3. that the phrase is really a &dquo.mature&dquo. The Corinthians of course claimed to be much very spiritually minded. is of some significance. here Over against 3. But Paul’s lament is not that. It is possible to take the description of babes in Christ as of the censure that Paul could not address them as Thus Prof.18).&dquo. All rights reserved.babes&dquo. at 3. and if they must be childish (and one senses Paul’s irony here) let them be so concerning the ways of worldly thought and conduct (cf 3.1-2 cf 2.1 not with &dquo. but now having listened to and accepted that gospel they had failed to understand by Alvaro Pereira on January 23. given wholly to the pursuit of philosophy and the call to a noble and coherent life/18/. Exulting in spiritual prowess is for Paul a misunderstanding of the Spirit’s power governed as it is by the gospel and the At 14. Correspondingly for Paul. and by adhering still to worldly ways they had not allowed the Spirit to work within them. but is proposing to treat them as those who fully understand the worth of all that he has been saying . The contrast therefore of &dquo. are the rulers given them in the gospel. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications.48 all have received the Spirit and are able to discern what God Opposed to the &dquo.spiritual&dquo. not rehearsing the situation when first he came to them. but for Paul the Cross is the standard of God’s wisdom and signals the end of all boasting in oneself.fleshly&dquo.let them therefore realise what has been given to them and what they now have and so be mature. the person and so making him mature recalls at least in part the as has Stoic view that maturity is a matter of orientation toward the Over against the child who is fickle goal or T£ÀOÇ that is set.1 Paul is brought into direct contrast.lff). Barrett remarks spiritual but only as fleshly people.20 childishness and maturity are message of the call his readers a lessening Downloaded from http://jnt. At that time when first he spoke to them they knew nothing of the gospel or of God’s purpose in Christ. .sagepub. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.qualification&dquo. and unstable is the mature man who is making progress.QT6.we&dquo. but with &dquo.

oap XL HO’L. Preisker aptly remarks lIaL6 GCt ways. then they are making all that had been done amongst and for them of no avail.. mean therefore that Paul is denying the CorinChristian existence and calling them simply pagans? No. Wie unmundige.. and are in grave danger of calling in As Schnackenburg puts question their whole existence in Christ. &dquo. a state ruled by the wisdom of the world and not the wisdom of God revealed in the Cross. it &dquo.. The severity of Paul’s criticism and the dilemma in which he stands is seen in that if the Corinthians persist in their errors. All rights reserved../20/ So also W. just made a beginning in the Christian life&dquo. indeed. his criticism is that the Corinthians still persist in worldly Thus H. but they may be described as babes in Christ: but they have only that is they are not heathen. tadelt sie aber wegen des Fehlens des pneumatischen Wachstums. Does this thians’ then interpret the wS vqhloLj Perhaps one could translate &dquo. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.lff..../23/ Paul however. a paradox we are not allowed to resolve: they are pneumatics and yet they are not. they can and ought to recognise God’s wisdom and yet they grasp it not.teacher of babes&dquo.20 as &dquo. Grundmann remarks &dquo.10) entsprechen einander..49 that they are completely outside the Christis to go too far Mature the Corinthians certainly are not. er spricht ihnen das Christsein nicht ab. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications.vr~nt. for this would be to deny all the work that he had done with Apollos and by Alvaro Pereira on January 23. die ungetauft und darum ohne Pneuma sind&dquo. but Christian: ’fleshly’ is to imply ian way and this .h. 14. for all their immaturity does not deny their Christian status but on the contrary expects them to realise what he is saying and the profound If vnnuous is not a softening of G(XPH~vous importance of it.o~./21/ Paul however is still rehearsing the situation when first he came to Corinth. If we may recall here the image of the teacher at Rom. as Downloaded from http://jnt..5ff).3. and it would be to deny his authority as an apostle having preached the gospel. then to care and look after them.d.&dquo./22/ Childishness is for Paul a state outwith the gospel.sagepub. for the precise reason that they fancy themselves in possession of wisdom and boast of it&dquo. dealing with the state of affairs at that point. . but this is difficult in view of the fact that they have obviously been blessed in Christ (1.babes or &dquo. wie Kinder kommen die Korinther vor.2.immature despite their fellowship in Christ&dquo. and The gravity of his criticism as such does not begin until v2b.that is the paradox of his remarks. (1 Cor. we may suggest that Paul is looking back to the occasion of his first preaching are we (b) how therefore to understand and being ev XPLOTít1? although in Christ&dquo.

20 in the The problem of the disdescription of himself as their father.5. All rights reserved.10). 2. when they continue to behave in a fleshly manner despite having received the Spirit. a point that recurs at 4. to may attempt explain it in one of three ways: (a) in terms of an actual distinction in the teaching content (b) in terms of Paul’s own understanding of himself and his teaching (c) in terms of the Corinthians’ understanding of Paul and his teaching. The phrase itself sums up the situation when Paul first came and passes over into paradox and focusses Paul’s criticism when the Corinthians having accepted Christ continue to live (Ls uapxu’vou~ i.1. as if it were a matter of failure to grow from a basic to an advanced level. Downloaded from http://jnt. Col.1. to the particularly close relationship which Paul feels as an apostle toward those whom he has personally evangelised. Col.17. wisdom is essentially the same as the word of the Cross and this is what Paul had given to the Corinthians at the beginning (1.50 and furthermore he may be countering a his own part (1. At that time when first he came amongst them they were but men of the world.nurse&dquo. 1 Cor.7. 2. Happily they had believed his preaching Now he calls them to a fresh realand has accepted the gospel. 2.39 though the phrase there could equally refer to an exhortation to remember the Lord’s will whatever one does). the gospel (1. isation of what they had received so that they might indeed live in in effect as mature men turned towards God’s goal or T~ÀO& Christ.lff cf 2Cor. weakness on charge of We may accordingly follow J.immature from the Christian (EV Xpt.sagepub. as we have argued. Thus the fleeting mention of Paul as &dquo.13.22. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications.16. as we have Christ&dquo.6TC~) point of view&dquo.4) in a way similar to that in which the phrase &dquo. tinction in diet at 3. 20. Gal.3.10 cf 2 Cor.9-10. 16. here not in its deep mystical sense but in a more neutral or loose fashion. nevertheless wisdom is not suitable for In seeking a solution to this dietary distinction we beginners. Weiss/24/and take &dquo.4. as in Paul’s authority and the ability of the Corinthians to accept the implications of what he had already imparted to them.Christian&dquo. Christianly speaking&dquo.immature. (Rom.8. The distinction in diet therefore between milk and solid food should find its context not so much in the readers’ intellectual progress.18.10. whom in the nature of the case he could not call spiritual. refers.3.lff).in the Lord& by Alvaro Pereira on January 23. can be used (Rom.13ff.16. or &dquo. 1 Cor.1). Accordingly it would be possible to translate &dquo. . Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. 11.lff hinges on the fact that if. so to speak.e. Thus the phrase can in places become simply &dquo.

e.sagepub. but rather about an assessment of Paul’s message when first he came to them and about its relevance still for them. All rights reserved.9-15) to which he turns via the image of gardening (3. Barrett remarks that wisdom &dquo. centrality human wisdom in the sense of man-made ways of achieving salvation./27/ The point is not one of growth and development which are both necessary and inevitable but of how such growth is consonant with the foundation that had been laid. This certainly allows one though differently constituted. Prof. to which the former (babes/milk) act as but a foil.mere milk&dquo. and correspondingly in exhortations to live a mature life the diet of milk is not the first step. Essentially it differs in form rather than content. 2) It would seem strange that Paul in trying to demolish factions within the church should himself set up distinctions in Downloaded from http://jnt./26/ to maintain a distinction and yet connection between the elements of the diet and to the way in which the hearing of the gospel is then elaborated and developed in experience. in the sense of its being but the prelude to or contrast with more important matters. This would seem to be confirmed by the image of the building (3. . as we have seen.rests on the word of the Cross but is a development of this. it would seem that the child and mature man are related far more in terms of contrast that of continuity. of such a kind that in it the essential message of the simple preaching of the Cross might be misused or perverted by the inexperienced. a simple comparison may not fit easily into the context of Paul’s argument here: In Stoic thought. Yet one wonders if this does justice to what Paul is saying here. but a foil In view. so to speak. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. for this is precisely what the Corinthians had themselves done. and mature babes the whole emphasis is not so much upon elementary matters as a necessary foundation but on the acquisition of the true virtues. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications. on the road to mature by Alvaro Pereira on January 23. as solid food from milk.51 (a) Certainly in Stoic thought. it would seem very difficult to say that it is &dquo.6-9). having through the elaboration of the first preaching perverted the message of the Cross. However. it would seem that the contrast between 1) is weighted very much toward the latter/25/i. as meat and milk are both food. of the of the Cross for Paul as the end of all however. a distinction may be found between milk as elementary teaching and solid food as weightier matters for the mature. Moreover.&dquo. The argument however would not seem to be how a simple message can be developed in more elaborate understanding. to emphasise the solid nourishment of real knowledge.

albeit one that matched his abilities at that time. regard the Christian who (summed up in the Cross) is ruled by the Spirit is acting by Alvaro Pereira on January 23./28/ On his first visit to Corinth what he had given them had been milk.. capx~vo~s/aapx~xo~ and nvEUuaT~xo~S.20 cfl. Thus there is no higher wisdom than this. (from 1. does not deal with but with the contrast between Cod’s It is not until 3. 4. Arguments that would suggest that of course Paul could not give them higher wisdom because his readers are still obviously immature are not convincing since (14. the gardening and building images show. Knox . an elementary version.1 that Paul returns 4) Paul as an apostle knows of no other teaching than &dquo. (b) Alternatively we may turn to Paul himself and locate the Some time ago.begat&dquo. All rights reserved.14ff cf 11. W. meaning of the dietary distinction here. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications. having outlined as a basis for what he is about to say the contrast between God’s wisdom and the world’s. as we have seen.8ff) he treats his readers as mature and responsible people in his letter. through the gospel 3) The passage in 2. but it does not seem to provide a It is doubtful if this interpresatisfactory solution here.6ff higher teaching for the mature way and that of the world. but all are to be related to and judged by the foundation message.1).Christ crucified&dquo. He is not of course denying progress in the faith. born of greater experience in the niceties of philosophical thought. but for him maturity is matter not of tation in the as a quantitative nor of secret knowledge Spirit toward the goal or Tthoj but of orienIn this of Christ. tation can do justice to the censure of Paul’s words in the distinction between Downloaded from http://jnt. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.sagepub.father&dquo. he urges them to imitate him (4. summing up from the tradition (15.26ff) to face the intra-church situation. The solid food was in fact a better adapted gospel.lff) the way of God’s dealing with men.52 the faith.L. them and in which as their &dquo. and this is both the content of the gospel through which he &dquo.4ff. A full critique of this particular perspective would take us too far afield from our subject.12ff. but applies what they know from their experience as Christians to the present circumstances so that they can see for themselves how the gospel they had received then is valid and relevant for the present. Knox argued in an influential way that Paul’s experience at Athens led him to reassess his gospel in the sense of adapting it more suitably to the subtleties of Greek argument. He does not rehearse what they already know. Certainly he is aware of varieties of teaching in 3.

since it allows the decisiveness of his message to be imparted the more Again. All rights reserved. argues that the ever be the exact influence on Paul of that experience. Paul for his part is glad that the power of the gospel does not depend on the skill of the preacher.6. counter to the way in which the word of the Cross is basic not as a first step in instruction but as the controlling factor in all understanding. Another solution is advanced by A. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. the answer lies As a good teacher he gives a little instruction in Paul himself. since Paul’s gospel and his authority as an apostle are closely fully (1. Robertson/2!Y who argues that while there is indeed a distinction in diet.31. . 4. In so far as the context of 3. Paul at 1. Certainly it would seem that the Corinthians’ love of wisdom operated at the level both of admiration of oratorical skill and of the evaluation of the gospel according to Indeed it was part of Paul’s concern that worldly standards.17 and 2. the crux of the matter in 1 Corinthians would seem to be not a change of perspective in Paul himself so much as the way in which his readers had changed the gospel he had given them through fleshly behaviour. It also runs stages of knowledge and of content of teaching.17.4 seems to be countering a that a he was charge poor orator and that his message was correspondingly by Alvaro Pereira on January 23. the 1.1 with 2. emphasis as if Paul was making a firm reply and to something his opponents were claiming for themselves.53 censure is to be explained in terms of the Corinthians’ pride in their gifts whereas Paul is reminding them that what he had first preached to them had been elementary (as seen through his subsequent fuller understanding of Greek rhetoric). We may however tentatively suggest a third answer to this (c) issue.16b has an Downloaded from http://jnt. of 2.we&dquo.9ff.lff as part of his defence. Yet equally one could argue that his condemnation of wisdom in human terms was a complete reaction against the subtleties of WhatGreek philosophy as a result of the Areopagus experience. a solution will involve something of Paul’s own self understanding but also the Corinthians themselves. and we may therefore take 3.5 cf &dquo. 13.lff deals at least in part with the understanding of Paul’s authority.sagepub.&dquo.. their emphasis on rhetoric showed how much they valued the gospel in a worldly fashion. 2 Cor.11. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications. 2. at a time according to the readers’ abilities .the wise teacher what is proves himself to be such by his ability to impart simple and yet gives insight into the full instruction that is to --- This again however weights the distinction in favour of follow&dquo.3ff).

linking it through the summary of wisdom and folly (vl8ff) to the whole of the pre- relationship ceding discussion. ll. 10. whether it be unfavourable or favourable (1. the mention of the factions twice in Chapter 3. together with the fact that it is the same power of God that is at work through people and therefore they cannot be set at variance with one another.1. The theme of Paul’s authority but an authority which is not self-made continues in the image of the building. with him are really servants.1) and concluding with that of the father (4. and with how that relationship is to be understood. On the one hand he is proud of his having been the one to evangelise them. Here again in this image the emphasis is on the apostle’s having no importance of his own. beginning with the image of the nurse (3.10. These chapters. would refer both to himself and to those who in obedience to him follow or ought to follow him. This would seem to have the force on the one hand of showing that he was in the employ of someone else and consequently his authority is not self derived. Again.4).1).we&dquo.8ff.14ff) deal with the delicate between the gospel and his commission as an by Alvaro Pereira on January 23. The mention of being God’s fellow workers would again further the ideas of being servants together with fellowship and not rivalry in that service (taking v9a as fellow workers in the service of God rather than fellow workers with God). All rights reserved. The thought is then continued through the image of gardening (cf 2 Cor. 3.sagepub. 15ff. Here Paul is certainly the master builder but paradoxically he can lay only the foundation that has been given him to lay. and on the other that he has no independent importance of his own. However that He and those who worked authority had been misunderstood (3. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications. at v4 and v22.4.2).54 (cf 1. the &dquo. 2 Cor.lff). 21). Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. but on the other hand he will not tolerate misunderstanding of that authority by its being reduced to mere human comparison.12ff. The images in these chapters seem to move in a curve. but the fact that he and others are employed (v9) would suggest also that they have a responsibility in the exercise of their duties. and consequently he feels a strong personal care for them (4. The fact that it Downloaded from http://jnt. connected Much of the imagery of chapters three and four are concerned with Paul’s authority as an apostle.seems to bind the imagery of the chapter together.1. .14ff. 2 Cor. Paul’s authority and his special care for the Corinthians is hinted at in the fleeting reference to the nurse (3.15ff) where the power of God working through the person is emphasised.

We may surmise that his approach must have been different certainly between his first coming to Corinth and his subsequent dealings with the Corinthians.lff arising out of a difference in context and circumstance between Paul’s first visit and his present writing to them. clarifying the of and without precedent..2ff) and yet what matters is the the building to the foundation whatever be the As in the note of reward in pattern and texture of its growth. Paul when first he came preached the gospel &dquo. 4. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.14ff Paul mentions the image of the father which again.1014. together with the idea that what matters is one’s relationship to the foundation Hence Paul and rather than to others in the building process. All rights reserved. then we may suggest a solution to 3. empha- ships self satisfied state. former background of the Corinthians (6. together with a criticism of his message and authority on the part of some of the Corinthians which had built up. sises his special authority concern for them and the exercise of his in the work of the gospel. turning to actual criticism in 3.2bff. . back to discuss matters in relation to the warmth of the Christian life that had sprung up as a result of their having believed the Paul of course can remain aware of the gospel he had preached.1.5 (6L~XOVOL changed to unnpETas) in terms of image Paul’s being not man’s but God’s servant and stressing the hard- cussion continues servant endured in that service in contrast to the Corinthians’ Finally at 4. as in the image of the nurse. Thus the diet would refer in reality to the same event but looked at from different perspectives in terms of attitude and approach.1-2a deals with the situation when Paul first came to them.55 was he who laid the foundation remains of cf 1. the situation would have been quite &dquo. on the theme of authority.10 Cor. and it is a common responsibility which makes the setting up of factions From the building image the disnot only irrelevant but false.11) contrasting it with the experience of the Christian life they had received and urging them to live accordingly (cf4. and then through a summary of the contrast between wisdom and foolishness to the further denial that human comIn Chapter four. the gardening image at v9. 11.22). 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications.15. as it Then later he could and did look were. others have a responsibility to God for the by Alvaro Pereira on January 23. the disparison amounts to anything (3.7). When first he novo&dquo. If we are correct in assuming that 3. so here the emphasis would again be on responsibility in the fulfilment of one’s task. cussion then moves to a reminder that as God’s building they are His Temple.sagepub. 2 relationship of importance to him (3. but thereafter could refer to and build upon the experience of the Christian life based upon the Downloaded from http://jnt.

the agreement is really devastating criticism since the Corinthians have really passed Downloaded from http://jnt. What Paul had said together with the manner in which he said it and hence his authority as an apostle had all been questioned. in terms of their having believed the gospel and their having entered into proclaiming.1/6~ao9E Consequently the 3. .sagepub. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications. 13.lff would seem to be not a gradation of teaching. Paul’s first preaching was not an elementary instruction but of necessity did not have the warmth of mutual fellowship which could only follow upon believing acceptance of the message he was Paul is not concerned that they have failed to progress in knowledge.12. nor even the gradation of teaching appropriate to different stages of experience.56 In contrast to the first occasion acceptance of his message.34 cf 6. However. that Paul would recall them.4 eTtXouT~o~rjTe/4.3cf 1.2. indeed it would seem that they had gone too far.8 ~RXOUT4cjaTE). Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. 8.1. the issue at 3. knowledge of God. 15. then be an attack not simply on their pride in knowledge but on their enthusiastic experiences attendant upon such knowledge. Christian message as they had come to understand and interpret it informed their appreciation of Paul and his proclamation. since for him the gospel rightly understood is creative of the In so far true experience of fellowship throughout the church. All rights reserved. even though Paul would wish it to be truly realised in their hearts and lives that he might share the gospel in all its fullness with them (~6uvn-8nv by Alvaro Pereira on January 23. interpreting this in an enthusiastic manner to the detriment of the church (1. Throughout the letter experience of fellowship in Christ. dietary distinc- tion does not turn upon a difference in teaching content but a difference in experience between ignorance of the gospel’s exisIn this sense tence and the hearing of it and belief in it. To this extent Paul seems at first to agree with them in that he admits to feeding them milk. saw his gospel as very weak and In this sense also their subsequent experience of the watery.23). as their nurse/father. (milk) there was a warmth and texture (solid food) attaching now to their relationship. but had failed to understand the gospel in relation to their It is to this basic awareness life together within the church.5. That Paul says he could not give them solid food would 10. looking back and relating what Paul had given them to their own thirst for knowledge and enthusiastic experiences. The Corinthians from their point of view. 8. who claimed special those to Paul seems be confronting generally. the there would be a difference in situation between Paul’s first and subsequent dealings with the Corinthians. but of how true understanding of the gospel can be rooted as coming in its intended purpose in the life and experience of the believer.

com by Alvaro Pereira on January 23. and how the content of faith given to him and appreciated by him then can continue to illumine and direct his experience. Iff. fore is at stake is not a failure of progression but a failure of basic comprehension. by his We have suggested that an interpretation along the lines of &dquo. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications. at the heart of the message he had preached to them. So Paul chides his readers not for failure to advance their understanding (some were exceedingly proud of their knowledge).failure to progress&dquo. All rights reserved. Maturity is possible for every Christian who has received the Spirit. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. the Corinthians themselves who were being very immature in in lay It was obvious that they had not adhering to worldly wisdom. 10.mature&dquo.g. Thus the word of the Cross. Downloaded from http://jnt. does not do justice to the situation at Corinth nor to the severity of Paul’s criticism of his readers.17. since in their eyes as in the world’s it was simply foolishness. 2. and &dquo. signifying as it does the end of all boasting in oneself and the preferrment of one another in love.1.57 themselves.babes&dquo. 1. The issue is not whether the Christian develops and progresses from the initial context of faith.23. . grasped the gospel as Paul had intended it. Paul could not. Paul is faced with the paradox that the Corinthians having believed and accepted his gospel yet behave in an unspiritual manner.3. that was for them to discover and enter into on acceptance of his message. Therefore if his gospel seemed weak then the fault 6. in 1 Cor. should continue to inform their Christian experience.12.sagepub. What therecalling in question their very existence in Christ. but for failing to allow what they had known and realised to be true to inform their So great was this failure that it was on-going Christian life. and Paul is urging the Corinthians to grow in the sense of realising afresh what they have received. but of how he does so. Conclusion We have been seeking to understand what Paul means contrast between &dquo. speak evangelised understanding and experience. but that they still see judgement on his message as milk is proof of the wordliness and weakness of That Paul can appear to agree their own spiritual experience. with his opponents’ view only to criticise or qualify it is a technique used at various points in the letter e.when first he came and a prior context of Christian within them.

sagepub. p.S. pp163-164.T.201. 180At Qumran we find the image 190 . 1QH 7.D. Dahl "Paul the 4. 243-54. of nurse and father combined where the Teacher (presumably) regards himself as father and nurse and the community as his children.&lambda. Martin "The Composition of 1 Peter in recent study" Vox Evangelica 1962.L.N. Paul and the Church of the Gentiles Cambridge 1939 p. Quintillian Institutio Oratoria Book 2 ix. p. 5 (1958-59).&a cgr.S. 19b. See particularly R. B.B.A. Weiss Erster Korintherbrief Gottingen 1925.iff. 188-205. cf J.N. p. Elliott "The Rehabilitation of an Exegetical Step child: 1 Peter in recent research" J.166. p." (Schlier).T. A. p. p. cf 99b.161-179. See also W.20-21. NH&Pi. 354-370. 3. For the use of the imagery in Philo see R. Sanh. For examples see J. by Alvaro Pereira on January 23. Bornkamm "On and the Church at Corinth" p. cf Odes of Solomon xix. 24 (1977-78). See also generally T. So R. 29-42. Understanding of Christian Worship" in Early Christian Experience London 1969. Dupont Gnosis Louvain 1949 pp.A.646 "&gam a. W. All rights reserved.&alpha. esp.646ff.IOI" "Die NH&Pi. 1 p.xviiiff.111. 151-152. Horsley "How can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? Spiritual elitism at Corinth" Novum Testamentum volxx fasc.202ff.T. 5. "Die NH&Pi. T. 510-526. esp. (1976). 10. Grundmann "Die So many commentators ad loc.D. Montefiore and H.IOI" p.191. Schnackenburg "Christian Adulthood according 25 (1963).1-4" 2. Dahl "Paul and the Church at Corinth in Christian History and Interpretation Studies for J.332.Q.IOI" p. . Thiseleton "Realised Eschatology at Corinth" N.IOI in der urchristlichen Par&auml. N.313-335.L. 6. to Paul" G.3.T. J.P. C.58 1. "Die NH&Pi.190. 1 p. Also W. Cambridge 1967.359. Knox St.72ff. For a discussion see according to 1 Cor. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. pp.nese" N. Loewe A Rabbinic Anthology London 1938. C. Knox. 8. 9.B. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications. Downloaded from http://jnt.lff. Kummel Introduction to the New Testament London 1966.H. pp. 203-231.

15.&nu.72.34.&rho. 18. Erster Korintherbrief p. see also H. Thus Paul in moving from his description at the time of evangelisation refers to the current situation in v3ff and hence &sigma.&alpha.184. ii. "Christian Adulthood" p. "Die NH&Pi. Korintherbrief p.sagepub.&rho. It is doubtful if a firm distinction can be maintained here between &sigma.358.o&iota.191. du Plessis Teleios Kampen 1959. pp. Contrast J. p.. p.59 11. First Corinthians p. p. The History of Primitive Christianity London 1937.&alpha. Erster Korintherbrief p. esp. 17 (1963). also P.&sfgr. but as we have argued the concept and context of "child" here differs from that of Downloaded from http://jnt.J.357.&alpha.IOI" p. 13.&nu. 20.&nu.&alpha. "Paulinische Probleme ii" T.&alpha. p.&alpha. p. Conzelmann Erster Korintherbrief Gottingen 1969. Erster Korintherbrief See J.o&iota.o&sfgr.&alpha.40.&alpha.356ff. Sevenster Paul and Seneca Leiden 1961.71 p.89-90. is a heightening of & by Alvaro Pereira on January 23. .o&iota. Das Ethos des Urchristentums Gutersloh 1949.79.144ff. (vl) and See C. 17.K. 14.o&iacgr.&rho. Lightfoot remarks that "&sigma. "Christian Adulthood" p. 387-401.&alpha. see 16. 22. Equally at 4.K. All rights reserved. p.&alpha. J.B.&iota. of St.&sfgr.&iota.396.&iota. implies more of a rebuke Notes on the Epistles though the less strong word in itself".17 "in the Lord" with reference to Timothy as Paul’s child could also be used in "non mystical" fashion. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.&iota.&rho. 12.&alpha. 468-469. p.&rho. 2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications. First Corinthians (2nd edition) London 1971.89. "Baptism "Baptism and and Maturity" Interpretation Maturity" p. H. &sigma.185.8990. 24.&alpha. Paul London 1895.132. Trajectories through Early Christianity Philadelphia 1971.S. Conzelmann Erster 21. pp. 19.&iota. 23.N. Weiss Erster Korintherbrief p.74 See Schnackenburg "Christian Adulthood" p. 69 (1896) 7-33. Barrett (v3).14-15.

2008 © 1980 SAGE Publications.sagepub.D.81.o&sfgr. Downloaded from http://jnt. "babe".N. T. Evang. cf Epictetus Discourses II xvi. more attractive studies.5). I would urge teachers too like nurses to be careful to provide softer food for still undeveloped minds and to suffer them to take their fill of the milk of Book 2." Institutio Oratoria iv.M. . St.M. iv "&lambda."Nay. 1 to be unmusical in things musical. esp. ff. See on "beget"/"build" is common in Jewish literature. to be unlettered in things literary. p. A.&thetav. Paul and the Church of the Gentiles Cambridge 1939. 25 "Children indeed when they cry a little because their nurse has left forget their troubWould you have us reles as soon as they get a biscuit. FirstCorinthians 27. All rights reserved. to be uneducated in life. Ford "Thou art ’Abraham’ and upon this Rock ---" Heythrop Journal 6 (1965) 289-301.296ff. J. 4. Discourses III xix. 180-186. Derret "The stone the builders rejected" by Alvaro Pereira on January 23. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.T." (Jeremias). p. p. J. p. Play 28.52ff.60 24.D.270. contd. I claim we should be semble children? For heaven! No. by influenced in this way not by a biscuit but by true judgeFor it is being a child ments" . of the necessity of a sound education criticises any tendency to "wean" a pupil too early . 25.111 29. Robertson and A.&iacgr. p. Plummer First Epistle to the Corinthians Quintilian in keeping with his view Edinburgh 1911." " --- 26.

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