Sunday Morning Greek Blog

August 28, 2011

A Structured Greeting: “Calling” in 1 Corinthians 1:1–3

Filed under: 1 Corinthians,Ecclesiology,New Testament — Scott Stocking @ 7:52 am

Just a quick entry here while it is fresh in my mind. I started on 1 Corinthians today, and the introduction, which most people may gloss over, has tightly-compacted chiastic structure that focuses on the fact that we are “called” to be God’s holy people as we “call upon the name of the Lord.” Paul develops the concept of “calling” in a little more detail in the first half of Ephesians 4, where he talks about unity. Unity turns out to be a big theme in 1 Corinthians as well, especially in the opening verses. What I take from that is unity in Christ is our main calling, and when we “call upon the Lord,” we do so as part of and for the benefit of the body, not for our own selfish gains. Selfishness and self-promotion seemed to be a big issue in Corinth, so Paul here reminds the Corinthians of their calling by using an intentional structure to make it easy to memorize.

I give the English translation and Greek text below. I have identified the elements of the chiasm in the Greek text, because that is the original word order. Below the Greek text, you will see the chiastic outline that takes shape.

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ [Messiah] Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ [Messiah] Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [Messiah]—their Lord and ours:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ [Messiah] (1 Corinthians 1:1–3; NIV 2011 translation; “Messiah” gloss is mine as a Hebrew term, but both “Messiah” and “Christ” mean “Anointed” in English).

Παῦλος κλητὸς (A) ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ (B) διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ (C) καὶ Σωσθένης ὁ ἀδελφὸς

Paulos klētos apostolos Christou Iēsou dia thelēmatos theou kai Sōsthenēs ho adelphos

τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ (A′) τοῦ θεοῦ (C′) τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ, ἡγιασμένοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (B′), κλητοῖς (A′′) ἁγίοις,

tē ekklēsia tou theou tē ousē en korinthō, hēgiasmenois en Christō Iēsou, klētois hagiois,

σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐπικαλουμένοις (A′′′) τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (B′′) ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ, αὐτῶν καὶ ἡμῶν·

sun pasin tois epikaloumenois to onoma tou kyriou hēmōn Iēsou Christou en panti topō, autōn kai hēmōn

χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ (C′′) πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (B′′′).

charis hymin kai eirēnē apo theou patros hēmōn kai kyriou Iēsou Christou.

Here is the basic pattern without all the fill, so you can easily see the chiastic structure.

A

B

C

A′

C′

B′

A′′

A′′′

B′′

C′′

B′′′

A κλητὸς (klētos) All words labeled “A” in the chiasm have the Greek verb for “call” (καλέω kaleō) as their root word. κλητὸς is an adjective meaning “called.”

B Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ This title/name “Messiah Jesus” is found in the genitive case three times in this passage, dative case once (B′ “in Messiah Jesus”). The first two occurrence inform our identity.

C θεοῦ This is always in the genitive case in this short passage. Here, it is in the phrase “through the will of God.”

A′ ἐκκλησίᾳ “Traditionally “church,” but I prefer “congregation” or “assembly, because those terms focuses on the people and the activity rather than the cultural understanding of “church” as a building. The etymological roots are ἐκ (ek, ‘out of’, ‘from’) and καλέω. Literally, the church comprises those “called out” of the world.

C′ θεοῦ Here, it describes whose church: “The congregation of God.”

B′ ἡγιασμένοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ “Sanctified/made holy in Messiah Jesus.” Note the first word is the verb form of ἁγίος (hagios), which follows.

A′′ κλητοῖς ἁγίοις “Called to be saints/holy people.”

A′′′ τοῖς ἐπικαλουμένοις This is a participle form, so “those who call upon.” The etymological roots are ἐπί (epi, ‘upon’) and καλέω.

B′′ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ The first two times it is “Messiah Jesus”, but these last two times it is “Jesus Messiah,” with “Lord” added onto his title. These last two occurrences describe the Messiah as our source of providence.

C′′ ἀπὸ θεοῦ (C′′) πατρὸς This is simply “from God our Father,” implying the source (along with the Messiah) of grace and peace.

B′′′ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ As in the previous occurrence, this is simply “Jesus Messiah.”

Peace!

Scott Stocking

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