Mar 29 2009

Bernard de Picquigny: A Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Published by at 1:34 pm under Bible,Notes on 1 Corinthians,Quotes

1:18  For the word of the cross, to those who perish, is indeed folly; but to those who are being saved, that is to us, it is the power of God.
1:19  For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and reprobate the prudence of the prudent.
1:20  Where is the wise?  Where is the Scribe?  Where the inquirer of this world?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
1:21  For because in the wisdom of God the world knew not God through Wisdom, it pleased God to save believers through the folly of preaching.

18.  The word of the cross is folly to those who perish.  What greater folly than to hope for salvation from one who was unable to save himself from a painful and ignominious death?  Yet to us who by faith have entered the way of salvation (the particle is in the present tense, in the Greek) the cross is the power of God, because we know that the death of Christ is effecting our salvation.

19.  See Isaiah 29:14.  Wisdom shall perish from the wise, and the understanding of the prudent shall be hid.  God will demonstrate the folly of human wisdom, by rejecting the aid of the wise and learned of this world in spreading the knowledge of the Gospel and bringing souls to Christ.

20.  See Isaiah 33:18.  Where, among the teachers of the Gospel of Christ, do you find pagan philosophers, Jewish scribes, professors of the physical sciences, who search out the secrets of the physical world?  Truly God has infatuated the wisdom of the world, says Tertullian, since he can make no use of it for the furtherance of his kingdom.  The philosophers have never found out truth for themselves, which is evident from the divergence of their views on every conceivable question: much less can they point it out to others.  The simple preaching of the cross of Christ has established the true faith of God, and rooted it firmly in the belief of mankind, in spite of schools of philosophy and the strength of earthly power and empire.

21.  The Greeks, says Theophylact, had the wisdom of God for their teacher; the wisdom displayed in creation, yet they knew not God.  His wisdom intended they should know Him in His works; the sin of men prevented the realization of this intention.  The mode of salvation is therefore changed; and God now, by the simple preaching of the cross, which to the wisdom of this world appears folly, saves, not speculators, disputants, cavillers, but believers.

22.  Because also the Jews seek for signs, and the Greeks ask for wisdom.
23.  But we preach Christ crucified; to the Jews indeed a scandal, and to the nations folly;
24.  But to those themselves who are called, Jews and Greeks, Christ the virtue of God, and the wisdom of God
25. Because the folly of God is wiser than men: and the weakness of God stronger than men.
26. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many are wise according to the flesh, not many are powerful, not many noble:
27. but the foolish of the world God has chosen to confound the wise: and the weakness of the world God has chosen to confound the strong:
28. and the ignoble things of the world, and contemptible, God has chosen, and the things that are not, to destroy the things that are:
29. that no flesh may boast in His sight.
30. And of Him are you in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and justice, and sanctification, and redemption:
31.  that as it is written: who glories, in the Lord let him glory.

22-31.  This is not what the world expected.  The Jews ask for miracles, the Greeks require a system of philosophy.  The Cross of Christ, which we preach, is to the Jews a scandal, because they do not understand humility; folly to the Gentiles, who are sensible of no greater evils than suffering and death.  But those whom the grace of God calls to faith, can perceive the power of God, greater than miracles, all the wisdom of God, far transcending the limited view of human philosophy, is centered in the Crucified.  The sun itself is darkness to the blind, says Theodoret; but it gives light to those who see.  This, which the Greeks call folly, has done what all their systems of philosophy could never do: it has conquered the minds of men.  That which seemed to them feeble and helpless, has subdued the empires of the world.  Look at those whom God has selected to be the bearers of this message of salvation to mankind.  How few of them are men whom the world regards as wise and eloquent; how few are men of position and influence; how few men of noble or princely birth!  he does not say absolutely none; there were, for instance, St Dionysius the Areopagite, Paulus the governor of Cyprus, Nicodemus, Saint Paul himself, and Apollo.

But these were exceptions.  For the most part, the early preachers of the Gospel of Christ, and their converts, were men whom the world, in its pride and ignorance, regarded as foolish, feeble, contemptible, and ignoble, as nothing.  Yet in the end they put the old systems of philosophy to shame, subdued empires and governments to the faith of Christ, brought to nothing all that the world, before their time, most admired, believed, reverenced, trusted in.  He, who made all things of nothing, has restored all things by those who were as nothing.  The fools have taught the wise men.  The feeble have conquered kings and emperors.  The humble and lowly have brought to the feet of Christ the excellence and grandeur of the world.  Nothing that is in this world can glory before God; its wisdom, its nobility, its power, are nothing in His sight.  We must also learn to despise these things if we would have the regard of God.  Christ has given us wisdom, deeper than the systems of philosophy can teach; justice, or remission of sin, more complete than either Judaic or pagan sacrifices could confer; sanctity, which philosophers talked of, but could never realize; redemption from the miseries of life, in hope complete, in great degree in present realization also, by virtue of that hope.  In this we may glory, but in nothing that is of this world.  Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise glory in his strength, and let not the rich glory in his riches.  But in this, let him glory, who glorieth, that he knows me, because I am the Lord, who shows mercy and judgment and justice in the earth; for these are the things that please me, saith the Lord” (Jer 9:23-24).

Corollary of Piety:

The humblest Christian is wiser than the wisest of the philosophers of ancient times; familiar with the mysteries which baffled the penetration, and eluded the grasp, of the greatest intellects of all time.  All the philosophers of all ages have failed to discover the final cause of man’s existence; what our race is made for.  But the Catechism of the Church reveals to every Christian child this secret, the foundation of all philosophy, so necessary to know, so marvellously concealed from the unassisted intelligence of man.  God made me to know Him, love Him, serve Him, and enjoy Him forever.  Not the foundation of philosophy only, but its completion.  Had philosophy attained this truth, it would have been content and satisfied, and desired to know no more.  He who knows this, knows all; he who knows it not, knows nothing.

The cross, once the emblem of the deepest degradation, the most profound and utter scorn, surmounts the sceptres of kings, is suspended in the courts of judicature, gleams in the decorations of the most renowned orders of chivalry, among all the most civilized nations of the world.  Christ on the cross, in his most absolute destitution and dereliction, has proved to be the conqueror of the world.  he has done what kings and conquerors could never do: subdued the hearts of men.  Few could tell the names of the twelve Caesars; the names of the twelve fishermen of Galilee, who conquered the world, are familiar in every land, and millions of men are called after one or other of them, after eighteen hundred years.  No Roman triumphs were ever so brilliant as those which have been achieved by the bearers of Christ’s message of salvation; and the world has no record of conquest which can be compared to his.

What earthly dignity, what far descended genealogy can compete with the nobility of the inheritors of the glory of the sons of God?

Empires pass away, and are not.  The Church of Christ, once esteemed as nothing, stands from generation and generation, triumphs over the empires, and through the ages.  God has used the ignorant to put wise to shame, made the weak victorious over strength, exalted the lowly above the noblest, chosen the things that are not to bring to nothing the things that were.

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One Response to “Bernard de Picquigny: A Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31”

  1. […] Bernardin de Piconio on Today’s First Reading (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Actually, this post consists of verses 18-31. […]

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