1 Corinthians 12:15
If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) Is it therefore not of the body?—Better, It is not on that account not of the body; and so omit the note of interrogation in the subsequent passages of these verses also. The illustration is almost the same as that contained in Livy, ii. 32, the fable of the revolt of the limbs against the belly. Pope, in his Essay on Man (9), employs the same idea thus:—

“What if the foot, ordain’d the dust to tread,

Or hand, to toil, aspired to be the head?

What if the head, the eye, or ear declined

To serve mere engines to the ruling mind?

Just as absurd for any part to claim

To be another in this general frame:

Just as absurd to mourn the fate or pains

The great directing MIND OF ALL ordains.

All are but parts of one stupendous whole,

Whose body Nature is, and God the soul.”

12:12-26 Christ and his church form one body, as Head and members. Christians become members of this body by baptism. The outward rite is of Divine institution; it is a sign of the new birth, and is called therefore the washing of regeneration, Tit 3:5. But it is by the Spirit, only by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, that we are made members of Christ's body. And by communion with Christ at the Lord's supper, we are strengthened, not by drinking the wine, but by drinking into one Spirit. Each member has its form, place, and use. The meanest makes a part of the body. There must be a distinction of members in the body. So Christ's members have different powers and different places. We should do the duties of our own place, and not murmur, or quarrel with others. All the members of the body are useful and necessary to each other. Nor is there a member of the body of Christ, but may and ought to be useful to fellow-members. As in the natural body of man, the members should be closely united by the strongest bonds of love; the good of the whole should be the object of all. All Christians are dependent one upon another; each is to expect and receive help from the rest. Let us then have more of the spirit of union in our religion.If the foot shall say ... - The same figure and illustration which Paul here uses occurs also in pagan writers. It occurs in the apologue which was used by Menenius Agrippa, as related by Livy (lib. 2: cap. 32), in which he attempted to repress a rebellion which had been excited against the nobles and senators, as useless and cumbersome to the state. Menenius, in order to show the folly of this, represents the different members of the body as conspiring against the stomach, as being inactive, and as refusing to labor, and consuming everything. The consequence of the conspiracy which the feet, and hands, and mouth entered into, was a universal wasting away of the whole frame for lack of the nutriment which would have been supplied from the stomach. Thus, he argued it would be by the conspiracy against the nobles, as being inactive, and as consuming all things. The representation had the desired effect, and quelled the rebellion. The same figure is used also by Aesop. The idea here is, that as the foot and the ear could not pretend that they were not parts of the body, and even not important, because they were not the eye, etc.; that is, were not more honorable parts of the body; so no Christian, however humble his endowments, could pretend that he was useless because he was not more highly gifted and did not occupy a more elevated rank. 15. The humbler members ought not to disparage themselves, or to be disparaged by others more noble (1Co 12:21, 22).

foot … hand—The humble speaks of the more honorable member which most nearly resembles itself: so the "ear" of the "eye" (the nobler and more commanding member, Nu 10:31), (1Co 12:16). As in life each compares himself with those whom he approaches nearest in gifts, not those far superior. The foot and hand represent men of active life; the ear and eye, those of contemplative life.

Ver. 15,16. It should seem by these expressions, that one great cause of those divisions, which the apostle had charged the church of Corinth with, was their difference in gifts, administrations, and operations; which was to that degree, that either those who were higher in gifts and administrations, and more famous for their miraculous operations, despised and vilified those that were inferior to them; or those who were lower in gifts, or in their stations in the church, or their power to work miracles, would not own themselves members of the church at Corinth, because they were in those low and inferior orders and degrees. The apostle argueth the unreasonableness of this, by a further comparing of the natural with the spiritual mystical body, the church, and showeth, it was altogether as unreasonable for men to disclaim the church, and their relation to it, because they had not the most eminent gifts, or were not in the most eminent places and offices, as for the foot to say, it was not of the body, because it was not the hand; or for the ear to say, it was not of the body, because it was not the eye. If the foot shall say,.... The lowest member of the body, which is nearest the earth, treads upon it, sustains the whole weight of the body, and performs the more drudging and fatiguing exercises of standing and walking; and may represent one that is in the lowest station in the church, a doorkeeper in the house of God; one that is really the least of saints, as well as thinks himself so; and has the smallest degree of heavenly affection, and knowledge of spiritual light and understanding;

because I am not the hand; the instrument of communication and of action; and may signify such an one, that liberally imparts to the necessities of others, who has it both in his hand and heart, and is ready to communicate; one that is full of good works, of charity towards men, and piety towards God; who does all things, Christ strengthening him, natural, civil, moral, and evangelical; yea, even miracles and mighty deeds are done by his hand:

I am not of the body; have no part in it, am no member of it, do not belong to it:

is it therefore not of the body? or "it is not therefore not of the body", as the Syriac version renders it; that is, it is not "for this word", as the Arabic, or so saying, as the Ethiopic, not of the body; it nevertheless belongs to it, and is a member of it, nor can it be otherwise: thus the meanest person in the mystical body, the church, though he should say, that because he is not so handy and useful as another, cannot give so largely, nor do so much as another, therefore he is no proper member of the church; it does not follow that so it is, for Christ, the head of the church, regards such as members; he admires the "beauty" of his church's "feet", and has provided for the covering, ornament, and security of them, being himself clothed with "a garment down to the feet", which equally covers and adorns that part of the body as the rest; he does not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, or despise the day of small things; he regards their prayers, and takes notice and accepts of their meanest services; and they are, and should be considered as members of the body, by the rest and by themselves, the mystical body, the church, though he should say, that because he is not so handy and useful as another, cannot give so largely, nor do so much as another, therefore he is no proper member of the church; it does not follow that so it is, for Christ, the head of the church, regards such as members; he admires the "beauty" of his church's "feet", and has provided for the covering, ornament, and security of them, being himself clothed with "a garment down to the feet", which equally covers and adorns that part of the body as the rest; he does not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, or despise the day of small things; he regards their prayers, and takes notice and accepts of their meanest services; and they are, and should be considered as members of the body, by the rest and by themselves.

{10} If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

(10) Now he builds his doctrine upon the foundations which he has laid: and first of all he continues in his purposed similitude, and afterward he goes to the matter plainly and simply. And first of all he speaks unto those who would have separated themselves from those whom they envied, because they had not such excellent gifts as they. Now this is, he says, as if the foot should say it were not of the body, because it is not the hand, or the ear, because it is not the eye. Therefore all parts ought rather to defend the unity of the body, being coupled together to serve one another.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 12:15-16 represent with lively fancy the foot and ear in turn—organs of activity and intelligence—as disclaiming their part in the body, because they have not the powers of the hand and eye: an image of jealous or discouraged Cor[1884] Christians, emulous of the shining gifts of their fellows. In each case it is the lowlier but kindred organ that desponds, pars de parte quam simillima loquens (Bg[1885]): cf. 1 Corinthians 12:21.—οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ σώματος, “I am not of the body”—not a mere partitive expression; it signifies dependence (pendens ab: cf. Galatians 3:10, Titus 1:10, etc.; Wr[1886], p. 461), hence derived status or character.—Paul contradicts, in identical terms, the self-disparagement of the two chagrined members: οὐ παρὰ τοῦτο κ.τ.λ. must be read as a statement—“it is not therefore not of the body” (R.V., Bg[1887], Mr[1888], Hn[1889], Hf[1890], Ed[1891], El[1892], Bt[1893], Sm[1894]); not a question (A.V., Cv[1895], Bz[1896], Est., D.W[1897], Al[1898], Gd[1899]), which would require μὴ instead of οὐ—“is it for this reason not of the body?” For παρὰ with acc[1900] of reason (along of this), see parls.: “in accordance with this,” viz., the disclaimer just made (so Mr[1901], Hn[1902], Hf[1903], Ev[1904], El[1905], Er[1906]—deplorans sortem suam). The foot or ear does not sever itself from the body by distinguishing itself from hand or eye; its pettish argument (ἐὰν εἴπῃ κ.τ.λ.) leaves it where it was. Gd[1907], Ed[1908], and others, less aptly refer τοῦτο not to the saying of the foot, etc., but to the fact that it is not hand, etc. For double οὐ, cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:9.

[1884] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1885] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

[1886]
Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).

[1887] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

[1888]
Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

[1889] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[1890] J. C. K. von Hofmann’s Die heilige Schrift N.T. untersucht, ii. 2 (2te Auflage, 1874).

[1891] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

[1892] C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

[1893] J. A. Beet’s St. Paul’s Epp. to the Corinthians (1882).

[1894] P. Schmiedel, in Handcommentar zum N.T. (1893).

[1895] Calvin’s In Nov. Testamentum Commentarii.

[1896] Beza’s Nov. Testamentum: Interpretatio et Annotationes (Cantab., 1642).

[1897].W. De Wette’s Handbuch z. N. T.

[1898]
Alford’s Greek Testament.

[1899] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

[1900] accusative case.

[1901] Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

[1902] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[1903] J. C. K. von Hofmann’s Die heilige Schrift N.T. untersucht, ii. 2 (2te Auflage, 1874).

[1904] T. S. Evans in Speaker’s Commentary.

[1905] C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

[1906] Erasmus’ In N.T. Annotationes.

[1907] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

[1908] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.21 Corinthians 12:15. Ἐὰν, if) The more ignoble members ought not to be vilified by themselves, 1 Corinthians 12:15-16, nor can they be neglected by the more noble, 1 Corinthians 12:21-22.—ποὺς, the foot) The foot is elegantly introduced speaking of the hand, the ear, speaking of the eye, the part speaking of the part that most resembles itself. For so among men, every one usually compares himself with those, to whom in gifts he bears the greatest resemblance, rather than with those, who are far superior, or far inferior. Thomas Aquinas says: “Men devoted to active life are distinguished by the members, that serve the purposes of motion; those who are devoted to a contemplative life are distinguished by the members that serve the purposes of the intellectual powers.” He is therefore of opinion, that the feet are kept in subjection; that the hands occupy a more dignified position; that the eyes are the teachers; that the ears are the learners.—οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ, I am not of) supply, therefore, from the following clause.Verse 15. - If the foot shall say, etc. So Seneca says, "What if the hands should wish to injure the feet, or the eyes the hands? As all the members agree together because it is the interest of the whole that each should be kept safe, so men spare their fellow men because we are born for heaven, and society cannot be saved except by the love and protection of its elements" ('De Ira,' 2:31). And Marcus Aurelius: "We have been born for mutual help, like the feet, like the hands, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. To act in opposition to cue another is therefore contrary to nature" ('Enchir.,' 2:1). And Pope —

"What if the foot, ordained the dust to tread,
Or hand, to toil, aspired to be the head?
What if the head, the eye, or ear repined
To serve mere engines to the ruling mind?
Just as absurd for any part to claim
To be another, in this general frame," etc.
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