1 Corinthians 9:4
Have we not power to eat and to drink?
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(4) Have we not power . . .?—This follows 1 Corinthians 6 after the parenthetical argument contained in 1Corinthians 9:2-3. Having established his right to be called an Apostle by the fact that he had seen the Lord, and had been instrumental in their conversion, he now in the same interrogative style asserts his rights as an Apostle. The use of the plural “we” carries on the thought that he is claiming this right as being one of the Apostles—all of whom have, as Apostles, such a right. The form in which the question is asked implies, Surely we have this right. This verse, taken in connection with 1Corinthians 8:9, where the same word in the Greek, “liberty,” occurs in connection with eating, shows how this line of thought has grown out of the preceding subject. The question there, however, was that of eating meat offered to idols; the question here is the right to eat and drink (i.e., live) at the expense of the Church (Luke 10:7).

9:1-14 It is not new for a minister to meet with unkind returns for good-will to a people, and diligent and successful services among them. To the cavils of some, the apostle answers, so as to set forth himself as an example of self-denial, for the good of others. He had a right to marry as well as other apostles, and to claim what was needful for his wife, and his children if he had any, from the churches, without labouring with his own hands to get it. Those who seek to do our souls good, should have food provided for them. But he renounced his right, rather than hinder his success by claiming it. It is the people's duty to maintain their minister. He may wave his right, as Paul did; but those transgress a precept of Christ, who deny or withhold due support.Have we not power - (ἐξουσίαν exousian) Have we not the "right." The word "power" here is evidently used in the sense of "right" (compare John 1:12, "margin"); and the apostle means to say that though they had not exercised this "right by demanding" a maintenance, yet it was not because they were conscious that they had no such right, but because they chose to forego it for wise and important purposes.

To eat and to drink - To be maintained at the expense of those among whom we labor. Have we not a right to demand that they shall yield us a proper support? By the interrogative form of the statement, Paul intends more strongly to affirm that they had such a right. The interrogative mode is often adopted to express the strongest affirmation. The objection here urged seems to have been this, "You, Paul and Barnabas, labor with your own hands. Acts 18:3. Other religious teachers lay claim to maintenance, and are supported without personal labor. This is the case with pagan and Jewish priests, and with Christian teachers among us. You must be conscious, therefore, that you are not apostles, and that you have no claim or right to support." To this the answer of Paul is, "We admit that we labor with our own hands. But your inference does not follow. It is not because we have not a right to such support, and it is not because we are conscious that we have no such claim, but it is for a higher purpose. It is because it will do good if we should not urge this right, and enforce this claim." That they had such a right, Paul proves at length in the subsequent part of the chapter.

4. Have we not power—Greek, "right," or lawful power, equivalent to "liberty" claimed by the Corinthians (1Co 8:9). The "we" includes with himself his colleagues in the apostleship. The Greek interrogative expresses, "You surely won't say (will you?) that we have not the power or right," &c.

eat and drink—without laboring with our hands (1Co 9:11, 13, 14). Paul's not exercising this right was made a plea by his opponents for insinuating that he was himself conscious he was no true apostle (2Co 12:13-16).

Could I not eat and drink of such things offered to idols as well as you? Have not I as great a knowledge, and as much liberty? Yet, you see, I forbear. But the generality of interpreters rather incline to interpret it by what followeth: then, though it be here shortly expressed, and more fully opened afterward, yet the sense is: Have not I power to ask a maintenance of you, by which I should be enabled to eat and drink?

Have we not power to eat and to drink? Having proved his apostleship, he proceeds to establish his right to a maintenance as a Gospel minister; which he expresses by various phrases, and confirms by divers arguments: by a "power to eat and drink", he does not mean the common power and right of mankind to perform such actions, which everyone has, provided he acts temperately, and to the glory of God; nor a liberty of eating and drinking things indifferent, or which were prohibited under the ceremonial law; but a comfortable livelihood at the public charge, or at the expense of the persons to whom he ministered; and he seems to have in view the words of Christ, Luke 10:7. {4} Have we not power to {d} eat and to drink?

(4) Now concerning the matter itself, he says, seeing that I am free, and truly an apostle, why may not I (I say not, eat of all things offered to idols) be maintained by my labours, indeed and keep my wife also, as the rest of the apostles lawfully do, as by name, John and James, the Lord's cousins, and Peter himself?

(d) Upon the expense of the Church?

1 Corinthians 9:4 f. Returning from the digression in 1 Corinthians 9:2-3, Paul begins a new series of questions, with the view of now making good the prerogative arising out of his apostleship, which in point of fact he declined to exercise.

μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν] i.e. we surely are not destitute of the right to lead, etc.? Comp Romans 10:18; 1 Corinthians 11:22. The plural cannot be restricted in its reference to Paul alone, seeing that it has just been preceded, and is again followed in 1 Corinthians 9:6, by the singular, but must imply that the apostle is thinking both of himself and of whosoever else acts in like manner. More particularly, 1 Corinthians 9:6 shows that he has here in his eye, not his companions in labour generally (Hofmann), but Barnabas in particular besides himself (for see the μόνος in 1 Corinthians 9:6), and him only. It may be added, that Calovius is right in saying, against the abuse of this passage in the interests of monasticism, that Paul is not speaking here of what “semper et ubique vitari oporteat sed de eo tantum quod in casu noxii scandali infirmorum fratrum vitandum est.”

φαγεῖν κ. πιεῖν] i.e. at the cost of the churches. To understand it of non-observance of the Jewish laws about food (Hunnius, Heydenreich, Billroth, comp Olshausen), or of sacrificial flesh and wine (Schrader), is contrary to the context. See 1 Corinthians 9:6 ff. The right of eating and drinking, in the sense in which the reader would naturally understand it as an apostolic prerogative (Luke 10:7), required nothing to be added to define it. The analogy of Matthew 11:19 (Hofmann) has no bearing on the clause before us, the point of view there being that of asceticism.

The infinitives are exegetical, and need no τοῦ (Matthew 9:6; Mark 2:10, al[1410]).

ἈΔΕΛΦῊΝ ΓΥΝ. ΠΕΡΙΆΓ.] to lead about (along with me on my official journeys) a sister (a female believer) as a wife. The view taken by several of the Fathers (see Aug. de op. Monach. iv. 5, Jerome, τινές in Theodoret, Theophylact; comp generally, Suicer, Thes. I. p. 810), that a serviens matrona is meant (so also Erasmus, Cornelius a Lapide, and Estius), is against the plain meaning of the words, without shadow of historical support in the life of the apostle, supposes a somewhat unseemly relation, and is contrary to the example of Peter, Matthew 8:14.[1412] It has, however, been still defended of late by Roman Catholic writers (Maier) on wholly insufficient grounds. On περιάγειν, comp Xen. Cyr. ii. 2. 28; it occurs oftener in the middle, as Xen. Mem. i. 7. 2; Polyb. xx. 5. 8.

ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιπ. ἀπ.] It does not follow from this that all the other apostles were married, but the majority of them must have been so, otherwise the phrase, which must be meant to hold at least a potiori, would be unsuitable.

καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ Κυρίου] Now, the brethren of the Lord are in Acts 1:14 expressly distinguished from the Twelve; further, in Galatians 1:19, James, the Lord’s brother, is equally distinguished from those who were apostles in the narrower and original sense (such as Peter); and further still, we have no trace in any of the lists of the apostles (Matthew 10:2 f.; Mark 3:16 f.; Luke 6:14 f.) that there were “brethren of the Lord” among the Twelve,—a supposition which would also be decidedly at variance with John 7:3; Mark 3:21. The ἈΔΕΛΦΟῚ ΤΟῦ ΚΥΡΊΟΥ, therefore, should not be put on a level with Cephas (Hofmann), and sought within the number of the Twelve, but are the actual brothers of Jesus, not His half-brothers merely (sons of Joseph by a former marriage), but His uterine brothers, later-born sons of Joseph and Mary (Matthew 1:25; Luke 2:7; Matthew 12:46; Matthew 13:55), who had become believers and entered upon apostolic work after the resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:7; Acts 1:14), and among whom James, in particular, as president of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18), had obtained a high apostolic position (Galatians 2:9). see on Acts 12:17; Galatians 1:19. This view (which is held also by de Wette, Billroth, Rückert, Osiander, Neander, and Ewald, among the more recent expositors of the passage before us) runs counter to what was formerly the common view, namely, that of Jerome, which still prevails with Roman Catholics, and is supported by Hengstenberg and others, that the phrase denotes the sons of Christ’s mother’s sister, so that James, the Lord’s brother, would be identical with the son of Alphaeus (but see on John 19:25), and would bear the name of “brother of the Lord” (אָח in the wider sense) as a title of honour from his near relationship to Jesus. Comp on Matthew 12:46. In like manner Lange, in his apost. Zeitalter, p. 189, understands the Alphaeidae to be meant; they were, he holds, the adopted brothers of Jesus, Joseph having adopted as his own the children of Alphaeus, who was his brother, after the latter’s death. All this is nothing but arbitrary imagination, resting simply upon the false assumption that Mary brought forth Jesus, not as her first-born (Matthew 1:25; Luke 2:7), but as her only child. Lange is wrong here in making the καί a proof that the brethren of the Lord were among the Twelve, and are but singled out from their number in this verse for special mention. What Paul says is rather: “as also the other apostles and the brethren of the Lord;” and then, having set before us this august circle formed by the Twelve and those brethren of the Lord closely associated with them since the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 1:14), in which, too, he himself, as an apostle, had an equal place, he singles out in conclusion the most illustrious of them all, one who was looked upon as the head of the whole circle (Galatians 1:18), by adding: “and, i.e. and, to mention him in particular by name, Cephas;” so that it is only the last καί, and not the second as well (as Hofmann, too, maintains), that carries the force of special distinction (Fritzsche, a[1415] Marc. p. 11); comp Mark 16:7.

The design of the whole question, μὴ οὐκ ἔχ. ἐξουσ. ἀδελφ. γ. π., has no bearing upon scruples (of the Christ-party) as to marriage being allowed (Olshausen), but is closely connected with the purport of the first question, as is plain from ΠΕΡΙΆΓΕΙΝ: “Am I denied, then, the right to live at the cost of the churches, and to have, like the other apostles, etc., a consort journeying along with me from place to place?” in which latter case a similar support from the churches is, from the nature of the circumstances, and from the scope of the context (1 Corinthians 9:4; 1 Corinthians 9:6), manifestly assumed as a matter of course.

Peter’s wife is called by tradition sometimes Concordia, sometimes Perpetua. See Grabe, Spicil. Patr. I. p. 330.

[1410] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[1412] Valla perceived rightly “fuisse apostolos suas uxores comitatas,” but thinks that they were called sisters, “quod tanquam non uxores jam erant.” An “elegans argutia” (Calvin)!

[1415] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

1 Corinthians 9:4-6. The rights P. vindicates for himself and his fellow-labourers in the Gospel, are (a) the right to maintenance; (b) to marriage; (c) to release from manual labour.—(a) μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν; “Is it that we have not?”—ironical question, as in 1 Corinthians 11:22—“Of course we have”. P. writes in pl[1282] collegas includens (Bg[1283]), the ἀποστολὴ suggesting οἱ λοιποὶ mentioned in the next ver.—ἐξουσίαν φαγεῖν καὶ πεῖν (later Gr[1284] for πιεῖν), “right to eat and drink,”—sc. as guests of the Church: see Mark 6:10, Luke 10:7; Luke 22:30. The added καὶ πεῖν, and the illustrations of 1 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Corinthians 9:13, show that the obj[1285] of the two vbs. is not the idolothyta, but the material provision for Christ’s apostles, supplied by those they serve (1 Corinthians 9:11); this ἐξουσία is analogous to, not parl[1286] with, that of 1 Corinthians 8:9, belonging not to the ἐλεύθερος as such, but to the ἀπόστολος; cf. the Didaché, 13, “Every true prophet is worthy of his food”. George Fox characteristically notes the moderation of the demand: “The Ap. said ‘Have I not power to eat and to drink?’ But he did not say, ‘to take tithes, Easter reckonings, Midsummer dues, augmentations, and great sums of money’.” ἐξουσίαν, as a verbal noun, governs the bare inf[1287], like ἔξεστιν.—(b) Paul claims, in order to renounce, the ἐξουσίαν ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα περιάγειν—the “right to take about (with us) a sister as wife”—i.e., a Christian wife: brachyology for “to have a Christian sister to wife, and take her about with us”.—ἀδελφὴν is obj[1288], γυναῖκα objective complement to περιάγειν, on which the stress lies; “non ex habendo, sed ex circumducendo sumtus afferebatur ecclesiis” (Bg[1289]). The Clementine Vg[1290] rendering, mulierem sororem circumducendi (as though from γυν. ἀδελφ.), gives a sense at variance both with grammar and decorum, not to be justified by Luke 8:2 f. This misinterpreted text was used in defence of the scandalous practice of priests and monks keeping as “sisters” γυναῖκες συνεισακτοί, which was condemned by the Nicene Council, and often subsequently; so Jerome (Ep. 23, ad Eustoch.), “Agapetarum pestis … sine nuptiis aliud nomen uxorum … novum concubinarum genus” (see Suicer’s Thesaurus, s. vv. Ἀγαπητή, Ἀδελφή).—From the ὡς καὶ clause it appears that “the rest of the App.,” generally speaking, were married, and their wives often travelled with them; the “forsaking” of Luke 18:28-30 was not final (in the parl[1291] Matthew 19:28 f., Mark 10:28 ff., γυνὴ does not appear); according to tradition, John however was celibate. “The brothers of the Lord” were also orthodox Jews in this respect (on their relationship to Jesus, see Lt[1292], Essay in Comm[1293] on Galatians); indeed, they came near to founding a kind of Christian dynasty in Jerus. “And Cephas,” separately mentioned as the most eminent instance of the married Christian missionary. The association of the ἀδελφοὶ τ. Κυρ. with the ἀπόστολοι does not prove that they were counted amongst these, or bore this title of office: while distinguished from the latter by their specific name (cf. Galatians 1:19), they are linked with them as persons of like eminence; see the position of James in Acts.—(c) The third ἐξουσία, μὴ ἐργάζεσθαι, Paul and his old comrade Barnabas had laid aside. Barn. had stripped himself of property at Jerus. in the early days (Acts 4:36 f.); and he and P. together, in the pioneer mission of Acts 13 f., worked their way as handicraftsmen. Now separated, they both continued this practice, which was exceptional—μόνος ἐγὼ κ. Βαρνάβας. The allusion implies wide-spread knowledge of the career of Barn., which ends for us at Acts 15:39. Notwithstanding the παροξυσμὸς in which they parted, the two great missionaries remained in friendly alliance; cf. Paul’s reff. to Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, in Colossians 4:10, 2 Timothy 4:11. For ἐργάζομαι, as denoting manual labour, see parls.; a cl[1294] usage, like that of Eng. workmen. This third ἐξουσία was the negative side of the first (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:9, also 2 Corinthians 11:9, and ἀδάπανον θήσω of 18 below).—The three rights in fact amount to the one which Paul argues for in the sequel: he might justly have imposed his personal support, and that in the more expensive character of a married man, upon the Christian communities for which he laboured, thus sparing himself the disadvantages and hardships of manual toil.

[1282] plural.

[1283] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

grammatical object.

[1286] parallel.

[1287] infinitive mood.

[1288] grammatical object.

[1289] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

Latin Vulgate Translation.

[1291] parallel.

[1292] J. B. Lightfoot’s (posthumous) Notes on Epp. of St. Paul (1895).

[1293] commentary, commentator.

[1294] classical.

4. Have we not power to eat and to drink?] i.e. at the expense of the Church, cf. St Luke 10:7. This privilege, said St Paul’s opponents, was confined to the original twelve Apostles of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 9:4. [72] ΜῊ ΟὐΚ ἜΧΟΜΕΝ; have we not?) He comes from the singular to the plural, including his colleagues [in the apostleship].—φαγεῖν καὶ πιεῖν, to eat and to drink) without labouring with his hands.

[72] Αὕτη ἐστὶ, is this) namely, that you are the seal of my office.—V.g.

Verse 4. - To eat and to drink. To be supported by those to whom we preach (Luke 10:7). 1 Corinthians 9:4Eat - drink

At the expense of the churches. Compare Luke 10:7.

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