1 Corinthians 2:1-5: The Mystery of God Proclaimed by the Power of the Spirit
2 Κἀγὼ ἐλθὼν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἦλθον οὐ καθʼ ὑπεροχὴν λόγου ἢ σοφίας καταγγέλλων ὑμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θεοῦ. 2 οὐ γὰρ ἔκρινά τι εἰδέναι ἐν ὑμῖν εἰ μὴ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν καὶ τοῦτον ἐσταυρωμένον. 3 κἀγὼ ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ καὶ ἐν φόβῳ καὶ ἐν τρόμῳ πολλῷ ἐγενόμην πρὸς ὑμᾶς, 4 καὶ ὁ λόγος μου καὶ τὸ κήρυγμά μου οὐκ ἐν πειθοῖ[ς] σοφίας [λόγοις] ἀλλʼ ἐν ἀποδείξει πνεύματος καὶ δυνάμεως, 5 ἵνα ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν μὴ ᾖ ἐν σοφίᾳ ἀνθρώπων ἀλλʼ ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ.
2 And I, when I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superiority of speech or wisdom, while I was proclaiming to you the mystery of God. 2 For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I, in weakness and in fear and with much trembling came to you, 4 and my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and power, 5 so that your faith may not be in human wisdom but in the power of God.
Text Critical Notes:
The majority of the English translations read “The testimony of God” (τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ θεοῦ). But the critical Greek text (NA27, UBS4) has the reading τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θεοῦ (“The mystery of God”). Which one are we to consider as the original reading?
Both readings are well attested to by a number of mss. The reading μαρτύριον is supported by א2 B D F G and the majority text). The reading μυστήριον is supported by P46vid א* A C and a few ancient translations. The internal evidence is just as strong for both readings.
It is possible that μαρτύριον is an emendation influenced by 1:6: τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ Χριστοῦ. But Fee argues that this is likely not the case, being that the gap between 1:6 and 2:1 is too great to carry such an emendation forward to this point. Further, he notes that because of the familiarity of μυστήριον amongst the scribes, it would be difficult for one to conceive that a scribe would have inserted the far more common μαρτύριον in place of μυστήριον.1
For the reading μυστήριον, is it argued that the context of the passage (particularly the appearance of μυστήριον in 2:7) supports the reading found in the NA27 and UBS4. The earliest witness to the reading μυστήριον is found in P46vid, but the reading there is incomplete, containing only ριον.
Because the context of 1 Cor 1-2 can support either reading, coming to a consensus is unlikely. This lack of agreement is seen most clearly in the printed English Bibles. As mentioned above, one notes that the English translations contain the reading “testimony”; but the margins in many of those same translations contain a note identifying “mystery” as another possible reading. As for me, I lean towards the reading contained in the Greek texts, μυστήριον.
Commentary and Reflection:
There is much that can be discussed exegetically, but time permits me to do so now. So for the sake of trying to finish this section is a reasonable amount of space, I will note a few things and then move along. I may go back and edit this post to include more exegetical material, but that is unlikely the case.
What stands out in this section is the need to proclaim the gospel not with persuasive words or clever wisdom. Sure, these methods can be used in the proclamation of the gospel, but they are not an ends to a means. We note that when Paul came to the Corinthians he came “in fear and much trembling.” This is not to say Paul was a wimp or afraid of people and what they may say or think of him. We have seen in scripture that Paul can hang with the best of them (Acts 23:3). Paul did not rely on his abilities as a rhetorician; he relied and depended on the power of the Spirit of God to move and convince the hearers of the gospel message and its truthfulness.
What I enjoy about this section is that the gospel message is not depending upon the fancy words and cleverness of the preacher. It is the power behind it—the power of God himself—that makes the gospel message true and worthy of acceptance.
Oh that the Lord would raise up preachers of power, not of cleverness! The gospel is powerful, and may it always be heard with such power and boldness.
1 Fee, First Corinthians 88n.1.
2 Those in support of the reading μυστήριον would include Thiselton, First Corinthians 207-8; Metzger, TCGNT 480; Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary 485-86. Comfort notes that in his personal evaluation of P46 he could identify that the letter preceding the final ριον was an eta (η), making the reading of P46 unquestionably μυστήριον (485).