May 28, 2021

The Cross and Human Wisdom

I have long appreciated Gordon Fee’s 1 Corinthians commentary. It is highly regarded by many and in preparation for an upcoming talk I revisited his comments on 1:18-25. In two succinct paragraphs he is able to capture the logic. Other commentaries may get there, but the economy and clarity of Fee here is admirable and helpful.

Having set up the contrast in the preceding sentence (v. 17) between the “wisdom of logos” and the preaching of the cross, Paul now moves to a series of arguments that will have this contrast as its point of reference. The Corinthians’ “boasting” in mere humans in the name of wisdom ultimately impacts the nature of the gospel itself. In a series of three paragraphs, therefore, Paul tries to get these believers to see that their own existence as Christians, especially with regard to their Christian beginnings, stands in total contradiction to their present “boasting.”
Each of the paragraphs is predicated on the same reality, namely that the message of the cross is not something to which one may add human wisdom, in any form, and thereby make it superior; rather, the cross stands in absolute, uncompromising contradiction to merely human wisdom. The cross in fact is folly to wisdom humanly conceived; but it is God’s folly, folly that is at the same time God’s wisdom and power.
Thus he says in effect, “So you think the gospel is a form of sophia? How foolish can you get? Look at the message; it is based on the story of a crucified Messiah. Who in the name of wisdom would have dreamed that up? Only God is so wise as to be so “foolish” (1:18–25); “Furthermore, look at its recipients. Yourselves! Who in the name of wisdom would have chosen you to be the new people of God?” (1:26–31); “Finally, remember my own preaching. Who in the name of wisdom would have come in such weakness? Yet look at its results” (2:1–5).
Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, rev. ed., NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans ), 68-70.

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