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Using the NAB for Studying 1 Cor. 2:1-5

Submitted by on Monday, 30 August 2010One Comment

The following article illustrates how the help apparatus of the New American Bible helps in understanding 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. The reader will however have to invest some time to reading the text with the use of a sentence flow. The sentence flow will find its confirmation in an outline that is created as a result. In the case of 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, it is obvious that with the repetition of the phrase “I came”, the main controlling idea is Paul’s remembrance of the way he first came among the Corinthians. The explanatory notes deepen the reader’s understanding of the language of Paul; the textual parallels add more precision to the understanding of particular words and phrases. But we have here are notes; it is up to the reader to summarize his findings by retelling — using his own words — Paul’s testimony of faith.

Sentence Flow

Sentence Flow

1When I came to you, brothers and sisters1,

proclaiming the mystery2 of God,
I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom.

2For I resolved

to know nothing while I was with you
except Jesus Christ,
and him crucified.

3I came to you

in weakness
and fear
and much trembling,

4and my message
and my proclamation

were not with persuasive words of wisdom,
but with a demonstration of spirit and power,

5so that your faith might rest

not on human wisdom
but on the power of God.

Observations and Outline

  1. There are contrasts in “When I came (1)… I did not come (2)”;”persuasive words of wisdom … demonstration of spirit and power” (4); “human wisdom”… “power of God” (5)
  2. the condition of Paul when he came is that of weakness, similar to the Christ he proclaimed, “him crucified” (vv. 2-3)

An outline of this brief section can be presented thus…

  • Paul remembers the way he came to the Corinthians
    1. not with sublime words (1)
    2. resolving to know nothing else but Christ crucified (2)
    3. he came in fear and trembling (3)
    4. his message was a demonstration of power and spirit (4)
    5. his intention was so that the faith of the Corinthians may rest on the power of God, not on human wisdom (5)

Explanatory Notes of the NAB

The NAB gives comments on the words “mystery of God” (1), “him crucified” (2), and the reading for verse 4, “persuasion of wisdom” or “persuasive words of wisdom”.

“Mystery of God” is God’s secret, “known only to himself, and is his intention for salvation. This “secret” involves Jesus, see 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:2.8-10.


The weakness of Christ crucified is similar to the condition of Paul when he first came to the Corinthians. Paul’s “fear and trembling” before the transcendence of God is compared to the “fear and trembling” that should characterize the Philippians’ response to their own call to salvation (Philippians 2:12).

Whatever the reading is preferred — “persuasion of wisdom” or “persuasive words of wisdom” — this is contrasted with the power of the cross.

Textual Parallels



v. 1 “words of wisdom” …
1 Corinthians 1:17
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.

The parallel recalls the preceding section, 1 Corinthians 1:17.18-25 (see also following note on v. 2), where Paul stresses that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, the power of God” (v. 18)

v. 2 “and him crucified” …
1 Corinthians 1:23
but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

Galatians 6:14
But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

v.4 “demonstration of spirit and power” …
1 Corinthians 4:20
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

Romans 15:19
by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit (of God), so that from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum I have finished preaching the gospel of Christ.

1 Thessalonians 1:5
For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the holy Spirit and (with) much conviction. You know what sort of people we were (among) you for your sake.

The passages recalled here show that “power” refers to the power of the Holy Spirit who accompanied the apostles wherever the gospel was preached.

v. 5 “power of God” …
2 Corinthians 4:7
But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.

The reference to 2 Corinthians 4:7 should be read within the context of 2 Corinthians 4:1-18 where Paul talks about his integrity as an apostle, bearing witness to the truth of the gospel with the signs of the “death of Christ” in his body, cf. vv. 8-11.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
1And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not in loftiness of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of Christ.
2For I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4And my speech and my preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in shewing of the Spirit and power;
5That your faith might not stand on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
1And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not in loftiness of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of Christ.
2For I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4And my speech and my preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in shewing of the Spirit and power;
5That your faith might not stand on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:2
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
118For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness; but to them that are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God.
19For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the prudence of the prudent I will reject.
20Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world, by wisdom, knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of our preaching, to save them that believe.
22For both the Jews require signs, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
23But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumblingblock, and unto the Gentiles foolishness:
24But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
25For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
22For I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Philippians 2:12
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
12Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but much more now in my absence,) with fear and trembling work out your salvation.
1 Corinthians 1:17
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
17For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made void.
1 Corinthians 1:17
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
17For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made void.
1 Corinthians 1:23
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
23But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumblingblock, and unto the Gentiles foolishness:
Galatians 6:14
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
14But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.
1 Corinthians 4:20
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
20For the kingdom of God is not in speech, but in power.
Romans 15:19
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
19By the virtue of signs and wonders, in the power of the Holy Ghost, so that from Jerusalem round about as far as unto Illyricum, I have replenished the gospel of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:5
View in: NAB NIV KJV Vulg Greek
5For our gospel hath not been unto you in word only, but in power also, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much fulness, as you know what manner of men we have been among you for your sakes.
2 Corinthians 4:7
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God, and not of us.
2 Corinthians 4:7
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God, and not of us.
2 Corinthians 4:1-18
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
1Therefore, seeing we have this ministration, according as we have obtained mercy, we faint not;
2But we renounce the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor adulterating the word of God; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience, in the sight of God.
3And if our gospel be also hid, it is hid to them that are lost,
4In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of unbelievers, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine unto them.
5For we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ our Lord; and ourselves your servants through Jesus.
6For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Christ Jesus.
7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God, and not of us.
8In all things we suffer tribulation, but are not distressed; we are straitened, but are not destitute;
9We suffer persecution, but are not forsaken; we are cast down, but we perish not:
10Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies.
11For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake; that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
12So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
13But having the same spirit of faith, as it is written: I believed, for which cause I have spoken; we also believe, for which cause we speak also:
14Knowing that he who raised up Jesus, will raise us up also with Jesus, and place us with you.
15For all things are for your sakes; that the grace abounding through many, may abound in thanksgiving unto the glory of God.
16For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man is corrupted, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
17For that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.
18While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen, are temporal; but the things which are not seen, are eternal.

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  1. The Greek only has “adelphoi”, and — like its equivalent in Latin, “fratres” — it was sufficient to express the idea “brothers and sisters” when the addressees are mixed. In English, this is explicitated for reasons required by “inclusive language”. []
  2. Some manuscripts have “witness”, martyrion. The reading here follows the witness of earlier manuscripts. The choice is dictated by the fact that “martyrion” coming as it does from later mss., may have been due to a scribal mistake. Martyrion and mysterion look almost alike in Greek. []

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