1 Corinthians 3:2
I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for till now you were not able to bear it, neither yet now are you able.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) Milk . . . meat.—The use of the word “infant” naturally suggests these two images for the higher wisdom and for the simpler truths of the gospel respectively.

Hitherto ye were not able.—Better, for ye were not yet able. Up to this point the Apostle has been speaking of the condition in which he found the Corinthians when he came first to Corinth, and he proceeds from this to rebuke them for continuing in this condition. He does not blame them for having been “babes” at the outset, but he does in the following passage blame them for not having yet grown up out of infancy.

(2, 3) Neither yet now are ye able, for ye are yet carnal.—Better, but not even now are ye able, for ye are still carnal. It is for this absence of growth—for their continuing up to this time in the same condition—that the Apostle reproaches them; and he shows that the fault which they find with him for not having given them more advanced teaching really lies at their own door.

3:1-4 The most simple truths of the gospel, as to man's sinfulness and God's mercy, repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, stated in the plainest language, suit the people better than deeper mysteries. Men may have much doctrinal knowledge, yet be mere beginners in the life of faith and experience. Contentions and quarrels about religion are sad evidences of carnality. True religion makes men peaceable, not contentious. But it is to be lamented, that many who should walk as Christians, live and act too much like other men. Many professors, and preachers also, show themselves to be yet carnal, by vain-glorious strife, eagerness for dispute, and readiness to despise and speak evil of others.I have fed you with milk - Paul here continues the metaphor, which is derived from the custom of feeding infants with the lightest food. Milk here evidently denotes the more simple and elementary doctrines of Christianity - the doctrines of the new birth, of repentance, faith, etc. The same figure occurs in Hebrews 5:11-14; and also in Classical writers. See Wetstein.

And not with meat - "Meat" here denotes the more sublime and mysterious doctrines of religion.

For hitherto - Formerly, when I came among you, and laid the foundations of the church.

Not able to bear it - You were not sufficiently advanced in Christian knowledge to comprehend the higher mysteries of the gospel.

Neither yet now ... - The reason why they were not then able he proceeds immediately to state.

2. (Heb 5:12).

milk—the elementary "principles of the doctrine of Christ."

Milk signifies what the apostle to the Hebrews calls the first principles of the oracles of God, and so is opposed to sublime spiritual doctrines, here set out under the notion of meat; called strong meat, Hebrews 5:14, fit for those of full age: as young children’s stomachs will not endure strong meat, so neither are sublime spiritual mysteries fit for new converts, until they have senses exercised to discern good and evil; and therefore the apostle gives this as a reason, why he had not communicated the deep things of God to them, because as yet they had not been able to bear the notion of them, nor indeed were they yet able: it should seem that there were many in the church of Corinth, who though they were true Christians, yet were not grown and judicious Christians, but had great imperfections, as indeed it will further appear in this Epistle. I have fed you with milk,.... It is usual with the Jews to compare the law to milk, and they say (c), that

"as milk strengthens and nourishes an infant, so the law strengthens and nourishes the soul;''

but the apostle does not here mean , "the milk of the law", as they (d) call it, but the Gospel; comparable to milk, for its purity and wholesomeness, for the nourishing virtue there is in it, and because easy of digestion; for he designs by it, the more plain and easy doctrines of the Gospel, such as babes in Christ were capable of understanding and receiving: and not with meat; the more solid doctrines of the Gospel, and sublime mysteries of grace; the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom; such truths as were attended with difficulties, to which the carnal reason of men made many objections, and so were only fit to be brought before such who are of full age, young men, or rather fathers in Christ; who have had a large experience, and a long time of improvement in spiritual knowledge, and have their senses exercised to distinguish between truth and error. The reason he gives for this his conduct is,

for hitherto ye were not able to bear it; they could not receive, relish, and digest it; it was too strong meat for them, they being weak in faith, and but babes in Christ; wherefore he prudently adapted things to their capacities, and that in perfect consistence with that faithfulness and integrity, for which he was so remarkable: for the Gospel he preached to them, which he calls "milk", was not another Gospel, or contrary to that which goes by the name of "meat": only the one consisted of truths more easily to be understood, and was delivered in a manner more suited to their capacities than the other: he adds,

neither yet now are ye able; which carries in it a charge of dulness and negligence, that they had been so long learning, and were improved no more in the knowledge of the truth; were as yet only in the alphabet of the Gospel, and needed to be afresh instructed in the first principles of the oracles of God; for anything beyond these was too high for them. The apostle seems to allude to the manner and custom of the Jews, in training up their children to learning; as to their age when they admit them scholars, their rule is this (e),

"they introduce children (into the school) to be taught when six or seven years of age, , "according to the child's strength, and the make of his body, and less than six years of age they do not take any in."''

But sooner than this, a father is obliged to teach his child at home, concerning which they say (f),

"from what time is his father obliged to teach him the law? as soon as he begins to speak, he teaches him the law Moses commanded us, and "hear O Israel", and after that he instructs him, , "by little and little, here and there a verse", till he is six or seven years of age, and, , "all this according to the clearness of his understanding";''

i.e. as he is able to take things in; and even till twelve years he was to be used with a great deal of tenderness:

"says R. Isaac (g), at Usha they made an order, that a man should "use his son gently", until he is twelve years of age; the gloss upon it is, if his son refuses to learn, he shall use him , "with mildness and tender language."''

(c) Kimchi in Isaiah 55.1. Abarbinel, Mashamia Jeshua, fol. 26. 1.((d) Jarchi in Cant. v. 12. (e) Maimom. Talmud Tora, c. 2. sect. 2.((f) Ib. c. 1. sect. 6. (g) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 50. 1.

I have fed you with milk, and not with {b} meat: for hitherto ye were not {c} able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

(b) Substantial meat, or strong meat.

(c) To be fed by me with substantial meat: therefore as the Corinthians grew up in age, so the apostle nourished them by teaching, first with milk, then with strong meat. The difference was only in the manner of teaching.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 3:2. Keeping to the same figure (comp Hebrews 5:12; Philo, de agric. p. 301), he designates as γάλα: τὴν εἰσαγωγικὴν καὶ ἁπλουστέραν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου διδασκαλίαν (Basil. Hom. I. p. 403, ed. Paris. 1638), see Hebrews 5:12; Hebrews 6:1 f., and as βρῶμα: the further and higher instruction, the σοφία, which, as distinguished from the γνῶσιν τὴν ἐκ κατηχήσεως (Clemens Alexandrinus), is taught among the τέλειοι (1 Corinthians 6:6 ff.). Comp Suicer, Thes. I. p. 721, 717. Wetstein in loc[462]

As regards the zeugma (comp Homer, Il. viii. 546; Odyssey, xx. 312; Hesiod. Theog. 640), see Bremi, a[464] Lys. Exc. III. p. 437 f.; Winer, p. 578 [E. T. 777]; Kühner, a[465] Xen. Anab. iv. 5. 8; also Nägelsbach on the Iliad, p. 179, ed. 3.

ἐδύνασθε] Ye were not yet strong and vigorous. What weakness is meant, the context shows: in the figure, that of the body; in its application, that of the mind and spirit. Comp regarding this absolute use of δύναμαι, δυνατός κ.τ.λ[467] (which makes any supplementing of it by ἘΣΘΊΕΙΝ ΒΡῶΜΑ and the like quite superfluous), Dem. 484, 25, 1187, 8; Aesch. p. 40. 39; Plato, Men. p. 77 B, Prot. p. 326 C; Xen. Anab. iv. 5. 11, vii. 6. 37; 1Ma 5:41; Schaefer, a[468] Bos. Ell. p. 267 ff.

ἈΛΛʼ ΟὐΔῈ ἜΤΙ ΝῦΝ ΔΎΝ.] ἈΛΛʼ ΟὐΔΈ, yea, not even. See Fritzsche, a[469] Marc. p. 157. Herm. a[470] Eurip. Suppl. 121, Add. 975. That Paul, notwithstanding of this remark, does give a section of the higher wisdom in chap. 15, is to be explained from the apologetic destination of that chapter (1 Corinthians 15:12), which did not allow him to treat the subject in an elementary style. There is no self-contradiction here, but an exception demanded by the circumstances. For the profound development of the doctrine of the resurrection in chap. 15 belonged really to the βρῶμα (comp 1 Corinthians 2:9), and rises high above that elementary teaching concerning the resurrection, with which every Jew was acquainted, and which Paul himself so often gave without thereby speaking ἘΝ ΤΕΛΕΊΟΙς, whence also it is rightly placed in Hebrews 6:1 among the first rudiments of Christian doctrine.

[462] n loc. refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[464] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[465] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[467] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[468] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[469] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[470] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.1 Corinthians 3:2. “(Since you were babes), I gave you milk to drink, not meat:” a common figure for the simpler and more solid forms of instruction contrasted (see parls.). The teaching of 1 Thess. (see 1 Corinthians 2:7 f.) is γάλα as compared with the βρῶμα of Rom. or Coloss.; so the Synoptics, in comparison with the Fourth Gospel. The zeugma ἐπότισαβρῶμα is natural in Paul’s conversational style; see 1 Corinthians 9:7, per contra.—οὔπω γὰρ ἐδύνασθε: “for not yet (while I was with you) were you equal to it”. This absolute use of δύναμαι (= δυνατός εἰμι) is cl[461], but h.l[462] for the N.T.; the tense impf[463], of continued state.

[461] classical.

[462].l. hapax legomenon, a solitary expression.

[463]mpf. imperfect tense.1 Corinthians 3:2. Γάλα, milk) He speaks in this way to bring the Corinthians to humility.—οὐ, not) supply, I have fed, or any other word, akin to, I have given you drink. An instructor does not necessarily teach what he himself knows, but what is suitable to his hearers. Scripture is perfect; for, as an example, to the Corinthians milk is supplied; to the Hebrews, solid food.Verse 2. - I fed you with milk. The metaphor is expanded in Hebrews 5:13, "Every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the Word of righteousness; for he is a babe." The same metaphor is found in Philo; and the young pupils of the rabbis were called "sucklings" (תינוקות) and "little ones" (camp. Matthew 10:42). Not with meat; not with solid food, which is for full grown or spiritually perfect men (Hebrews 5:14). For hitherto; rather, for ye were not yet - when I preached to you - able to bear it. The same phrase is used by our Lord in John 16:12, "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now;" and he taught them in parables, "as they were able to bear it" (Mark 4:33). Not even now are ye able. Though you imagine that you have advanced so far beyond my simpler teaching. I fed (ἐπότισα)

Lit., I gave you to drink. An instance of the rhetorical figure zeugma, by which one verb is attached to two nouns, of which it only suits the meaning of one, but suggests a verb suitable for the other. Thus "gave to drink" is applied to meat as well as to milk. For another illustration see hindering (A.V. and Rev., forbidding), 1 Timothy 4:3.

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