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1 To abstain from meats offered to idols. 8, 9 We must not abuse our Christian liberty, to the offence of our Brethren: 11 but must bridle our knowledge with charity.


OW as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.
2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.
3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him.
4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.
5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaved or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)
6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
7 Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to them that are weak.
10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;
11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

Douay Rheims Version

Though an idol be nothing, yet things offered up to idols are not to be eaten, for fear of scandal.


OW concerning those things that are sacrificed to idols: we know we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up: but charity edifieth.
2. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he hath not yet known as he ought to know.
3. But if any man love God, the same is known by him.
4. But as for the meats that are sacrificed to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world and that there is no God but one.
5. For although there be that are called gods, either in heaven or on earth (for there be gods many and lords many):
6. Yet to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him: and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
7. But there is not knowledge in every one. For some until this present, with conscience of the idol, eat as a thing sacrificed to an idol: and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
8. But meat doth not commend us to God. For neither, if we eat, shall we have the more: nor, if we eat not, shall we have the less.
9. But take heed lest perhaps this your liberty become a stumblingblock to the weak.
10. For if a man see him that hath knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not his conscience, being weak, be emboldened to eat those things which are sacrificed to idols?
11. And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ hath died?
12. Now when you sin thus against the brethren and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.
13. Wherefore, if meat scandalize my brother, I will never eat flesh, lest I should scandalize my brother.


In this Chapter he treats of the second general question put before him by the Corinthians. It dealt with things offered to idols, and whether it was lawful to eat of them,

i. He answers that, taken by itself, such eating was not unlawful, since an idol is nothing.

ii. He next says that it is unlawful, if conscience be wounded, or if offence be caused to the weaker brethren. He impresses upon them that this last is by all means to be avoided.

To understand the three following chapters, note that the things spoken of as offered to idols are flesh, bread, wine, &c. It was not sin simply to eat such things, as S. Thomas lays down (i. ii. qu. 103, art. 4, ad. 3). Still it was a sin (1.) if it was out of unbelief, as, e.g., if any idolater ate of such things in honour of the idol, or if it were done out of weakness of faith, as was frequently the case in S. Paul’s time. For many had been but lately converted, and were only half-taught, and so had not wholly cast off their old ideas about idols and idol-offerings, and therefore still regarded them as having something Divine about them. They regarded the food offered to idols as holy and consecrated, although the Christian faith taught them the opposite.

2. It would be sinful if any one who thought it unlawful to eat of such things were to go against his conscience and eat of them, thinking, that is, that so doing was holding communion with the idols and professing idolatry.

3. It would be a sin if any one, knowing that an idol is nothing, should yet eat of things offered to idols in the presence of weak brethren, and to show his knowledge and liberty, and so provoke them (ver. 10) to eat of the same things against their conscience, or to think that he, by eating, was sinning against the faith, or returning to the worship of idols, and dragging others with him.

4. It would be against the Apostolic precept, given in Acts xv. 19, forbidding the eating of things offered to idols.

5. It would be a sin if eaten in such way and under such circumstances, as, e.g., in the idol-temple, when the idolatrous sacrifice is offered, as to cause others to think that it was done in honour of the idol, and in profession of idolatry, in the same way that any one who participates in a Calvinistic supper is looked upon as professing Calvinism. It is of this case that S. Augustine speaks (de Bono Conjug. xvi.) when he says, “It is better to die of hunger than to eat of things offered to idols.”

The Emperor Julian, in order to compel the Catholics of Constantinople to some outward compliance with idolatry, forced them all to eat of things offered to idols. The story is related by Nectarius, Bishop of Constantinople, in a sermon delivered by him at the beginning of Lent. He says: “He defiled all the foods that were exposed for sale in the public markets, with sacrifices offered to the gods, that so all might either be compelled to eat of these sacrificial foods or perish of hunger. The faithful inquired at the oracle of the martyr Theodore how they were to act at this crisis; and they were bidden from heaven to use, instead of bread, boiled corn for food. This the rich generously distributed to their poorer brethren for a week, when the Emperor Julian, despairing of being able to accomplish his purpose, and vanquished by the continence and constancy of the Christians, ordered pure and undefiled food to be again sold in the markets.

1. We should observe here the expression, “vanquished by the continency of the Christians.” Their abstinence was constant and spontaneous. For, though they might have eaten of the foods defiled by Julian’s orders, as though common foods, yet they refused out of abhorrence of Julian and his idols. That they might lawfully have eaten of them appears from the fact that Julian was unable to defile ordinary food by bringing it into contact with things offered to idols, or to make it sacred to devils, in such a way that one who ate of them should be regarded as an idol-worshipper. For though this might have been Julian’s intention, yet he was nut a single individual, and unable to alter the common judgment of men, which regarded this not as idolatrous but as indifferent. Hence, too, the citizens of Antioch, when Julian had on like manner polluted their food and drink, ate and drank of them freely and without scruple, as Theodoret tells us (Hist. lib. i. c. 14).  S. Augustine, too (Ep.154), says that it is lawful to9 eat of vegetables grown in an idol’s garden, and to drink from a pitcher or a well in an idol-temple, or into which something offered to idols has fallen, Cf. notes to x. 21.

2. Notice, again, that there were at Corinth some who knew and felt that this was the case, viz., that idols and the things offered to them had no meaning; and so they ate of such things to the scandal of those who were not so strong and not so well informed, in order to show their knowledge and liberty. But others, less well instructed, either had not quite cast off their old feelings about idols and idol-sacrifices, and hence might easily relapse. This is why the Apostle, fearing danger for such, said, in x. 14, “Flee from idolatry.” It led to the question being put to the Apostle by the Corinthians, whether it was lawful to eat of things offered to idols.

3. The Apostle here only begins his answer to the question, for he clears it up and fully replies in x. 20, 21. Not only does he not allow them, because of the scandal caused, to eat of such things; but even when there is no scandal he forbids them to eat of them is the temples, at the altars, or tables of idols, as their wont was, and in the presence of those who offered them. For this would be to profess idolatry, and to worship the idol in the feast which consummated the sacrifice offered to it; for this banquet was a part of the sacrifice and its completion. In this sense we must understand Rev. ii. 14 and 20, where the angel, i.e., the Bishop of Pergamos and Thyatira, is rebuked for allowing his flock to eat of things offered to idols, as though they were sacred and Divine, and so give honour to idols. For this was the stumbling-block that King Balak, at the instigation of Balaam, put before the children of Israel: by eating of things offered to idols they were enticed into worshipping Baal-Peor. (Num. xxv. 2). For the same reason it was forbidden by the Council of Gangra (cap. ii.) to eat of idol-sacrifices, and also by the Third Council of Orleans (cap. xix.).

5. The Apostle says nothing of the apostolic precept of Acts xv., which forbade absolutely the eating of things offered to idols, because that precept was directed to the men of Antioch and its neighbourhood alone (ver. 23), where were very many Jews who abhorred idols and idol-sacrifices. These had sent with the Gentiles messengers to Jerusalem to the Apostles, that they might decide the question about the observance of the Law. To them the Apostles replied that the ordinances of the Law were not binding, but that, notwithstanding, they must abstain from the eating of things offered to idols, for the sake of concord between the Jews and Gentiles. Afterwards, however, other heathen living far distant from Antioch, of their own free will obeyed the command, through the reverence they felt for the Apostles. Cf. Baronius (A.D. 51, p. 441).

Ver. 1.—Now as touching things offered unto idols we know that we all have knowledge. We all know, though some of you may think differently, that things offered to idols are the same as other food, and have no greater sanctity or power. All of us who are fairly well instructed in the faith of Christ know that they belong to the class of adiaphora.

Knowledge puffeth up. This knowledge of yours, that idols are nothing, and that consequently it is lawful to eat of things offered to idols, which accordingly you do to the great offence of those who know it not, makes you proud towards the ignorant, and makes you look down on them. The word for puffeth up points to a bladder distended with wind. Such, he says, is this windy knowledge.  S. Augustine (Sent. n. 241) says: “It is a virtue of the humble not to boast of their knowledge; because, as all alike share the light, so do they the truth.

But charity edifieth. The weak and ignorant. It brushes aside such things as the eating of idol-sacrifices, which may be stumbling-blocks t them, so as to keep them in the faith of Christ, and help them forward in it. Windy knowledge, therefore, makes a man proud, if it be not tempered with charity, So Anselm.

It plainly appears that this knowledge, which puffeth up, is contrary to charity, for it induces contempt of one’s neighbours, while charity is anxious to edify them.  S. Bernard (Serm. 36 in Cantic.) says appositely: “As food, if not digested, generates unhealthy humours, and harms rather than nourished the body, so if a mass of knowledge be bolted into the mind’s stomach, which is the memory, and be not assimilated by the fire of Christ, and if it be so passed along through the arteries of the soil, viz., the character and acts, will it not be regarded as sin, being food changed into evil and noxious humours?

Ver. 2.—And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. He who is puffed up at the thought that he knows something, knows not yet the end, use and measure of knowledge. Knowledge is given to cause humility, to enable us to benefit all that we can, to stand in the way of no one, to cause offence to no one, that so we may be known and loved by God. He is pointing at those who displayed their knowledge about the nature of idol sacrifices, by eating of them, though it were an offence to the untaught.

S. Bernard, in explaining this passage (Serm. 36 in Cantic.) says beautifully: “You see that he gives no praise to him that knoweth many things, if he is ignorant of the measure of knowing. That measure is to know the order, the zeal, and the end with which we should seek knowledge. The order is to seek that first which is more conducive to salvation. The zeal we should show is in seeking that more eagerly which makes us love more vehemently. The end of knowledge is not for vain glory, curiosity, or any like thing, but only for our own edification of that of our neighbour. For there are some who wish to know only that they may know, and this is vile curiosity. There are some who wish to know that they may be known themselves, and this is contemptible vanity: such do not escape the scoff of the satirist, ‘To know your own is nothing, unless another knows that you know yourself.’ There are some again who wish to know, that they may see their knowledge, and this is despicable chaffering. But there are also some who wish to know that they may edify, and this is charity; and some who with to know that they may be edified, and this is prudence. Of all these the last two only are not found to abuse knowledge, for they wish to gain understanding that they may do good.” Again (de Conscientia, c. ii.) he says: “Many seek for knowledge, few conscience. If as much care and zeal were devoted to conscience as is given to the pursuit of empty and worldly knowledge, it would be laid hold of more quickly and retained to greater advantage.”

Ver. 3.—But if any man love God, the same is known of Him, If any, for God’s sake, love his neighbour, so as not to make him stumble at seeing him eat of idol sacrifices, &c., but seeks instead to edify him, then that man is approved of and beloved by God, and in His knowledge God is well pleased.

Note that he that loves God loves also his neighbour; for the love of God bids us love our neighbour for God’s sake; and the love of God is exhibited and seen in the love of our neighbour (1 S. John iv. 20).

Ver. 4.—We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other than God but One. An idol is not what it is commonly supposed to be, not what it stands for, is not God. It has no Divine power; materially it is of wood, formally it is nothing. It is an image of a falsehood, or of a non-existent God. Consequently that which is offered to idols is as such nothing, has no Divinity or sanctity derived from the idol to which it was offered.

The word “idol” itself is derived from the Greek ειδος, which Tertullian says denotes appearance; and from it the diminutive, εί̉δωλον, was formed (de Idolol. ciii.). An “idol” among the earlier Greek writers denoted any empty and untrustworthy image, such as hollow phantasms, spectres, the shades of the dead, and the like. In the same way Holy Scripture and the Church writers have limited the term idol to an image of God which is evident from this verse. The LXX., too, throughout the Old Testament, apply the same term to the statues and gods of the heathen.

Hence Henry Stephen and John Scapula are deceived and deceive, when they lay down in their lexicons that the term idol is applied by ecclesiastical writers to any image representing some deity to which honour and worship are paid. It is not every statue or image of every god that is an idol, but only the image of a false god. Cf. Cyprian (de Exhort. Mart. c. i.), Tertullian (de Idolol.), Athanasius (contra Idola).

The Protestant fraud, therefore, must be guarded against which confounds idol with image, and concludes that all images are forbidden by those passages of Scripture which condemn idolatry. Cf. Ballarmine (de Imagin. lib. ii. c. 5), who shows unanswerably that an idol is the representation of what is false, an image of what is true.

Ver. 5, 6.—For though there be that are called gods, . . . to us there is but one God, &c. The pagans have gods many and lords many, as the sun, moon, and stars, or terrestrial gods, as Jupiter, Apollo, Hercules; but we have only one God, for whose glory and honour we were created.

Notice also against the Arians that, when S. Paul says One God, he is only excluding false gods, not the Son and the Holy Spirit. When he says One Lord Jesus Christ, he is only excluding false lords, not the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Ver. 7.—Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge. I.e., that an idol and what is offered to it are nothing.

For some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol. They eat what is offered to an idol with reverence, thinking that the idol has something that is Divine, and that the offering was made to the deity lurking behind the idol. So Amselm.

Theophylact explains this verse differently, thus: “Some eat of what has been offered to the idol, under the false supposition that it has been changed by the idol and physically breathed upon by a devil, and so in some way affected by him, or, at all events, morally defiled by him, so as to be regarded to be now his property and food, with power to change and pollute him that eateth of it. In this way they eat of idol sacrifices under the mistaken belief that they are polluted by them.” This sense also is suitable and likely; for there can be no doubt that, among the Corinthians lately converted, were some who were over-scrupulous and some over-superstitious.

And their conscience being weak is defiled. Being not fully instructed in the faith about these matters, they go against their conscience in following the example of others, and eating of idol sacrifices. So Chrysostom.

Libertines do but rave when they lay down from this passage that neither fornication, nor drunkenness, nor anything else is sin, if the conscience has no scruples. This is to advise men to get rid of conscience, so as to sin at pleasure. Libertines therefore have no conscience; and they would appear therefore to have put aside their manhood, their reason, and all virtue. But what folly is it to ascribe such sentiments to the Apostle! For who is there that sees not that the Apostle is here speaking, not of sins or of forbidden things, but of things indifferent, such as the eating of idol offerings?

Ver. 8.—But meat commendeth us not to God. The eating of idol sacrifices or of any other food is in itself no help towards piety, which makes us acceptable to God. Therefore, we that are string ought not, under the pretext of piety, to wish to use all things as alike indifferent. The Apostle here turns to the more advanced, and warns them to avoid giving offence to the weak.

It is foolish, therefore, as well as wrong, for heretics to wrest this passage into as argument against the choice of food and the fasts of the Church. Food, indeed, does not commend us to God, for it is not a virtue; but abstinence from forbidden food is an act of temperance, obedience, and religion, and does therefore commend us to God, as it commended Daniel and his companions, the Rechabites, John Baptist, and others. Cf. notes to Rom. xiv. 17.

For neither if we eat are we the better. If we eat of idol offerings, we do not on that account abound the more in virtue, merit, and grace, which commend us before God, and therefore we ought not to have any desire so to eat. So Chrysostom.

Secondly, it is more simple to take this as a fresh reason to dissuade them from eating idol-sacrifices. Whether we eat of these things, we shall not abound any the more with pleasant food and other good things; or whether we eat not, we shall not be deprived of them, for we may eat of other things. So it is often said that, whether we be invited to a banquet or not, we shall not on that account be full or be hungry, be fatter or leaner, richer or poorer. He is pointing out that food is a thing of little account, and may therefore be put aside if scandal arise, and be subordinated to the edification of our neighbours. So Anselm.

Ver. 10.—Sit at meat in the idol’s temple. Erasmus takes the word which we have idol’s temple to mean idol’s feast. The text, however, gives the better translation. S. Paul speaks of their siting at meat in an idol’s temple, or at a table consecrated to idols. Those who were about to partake of the idol-sacrifices were wont to have tables set out in the temple, as Herodotus says in Clio, and Virgil (Æn. viii. 283), in his description of the sacrifice of Evander and the subsequent feast with the Trojans. So too did the Jews eat of the peace-offerings in the court of the Temple (Deut. xvi. 2).

It hence follows that to eat of things offered to idols in an idol temple is not only an evil because of the scandal it causes, but also is an evil in itself, because it is a profession of idolatry, as will be said at chap. x.

Anselm says tropologically: “The knowledge of idol-offerings is the knowledge of the vanity of heathen philosophy, poetry, and rhetoric. This must be guarded against. Far be it from a Christian mouth to say, ‘By Jove,’ or ‘By Hercules.’ or ‘By Castor,’ or to use other expressions that have more to do with monsters than with Divine beings,”

Emboldened here is either (1.) provoked to eat of things offered to idols, as though they were sacred and the channels of grace, and so he will be led to sacrifice to some deity and return to idolatry; or (2.) he will be provoked to act against his conscience, which tells him that food offered to an idol has been breathed upon by it and polluted, and that therefore he will be polluted if he eat. Cf. note to ver. 7.

Ver. 13.—Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth. S. Chrysostom says: “It is the mark of a good teacher to teach by example as well as precept. The Apostle does not qualify what he says by adding ‘justly’ of ‘unjustly,’ but he says absolutely, ‘If meat make my brother to offend.’ He does not speak of idol-offerings as being prohibited for other reasons, but he says that if what is lawful causes his brother to offend, he will abstain from it, not for one or two days, but for his whole life. Nor does he say, ‘Lest I destroy my brother,’ but ‘Lest I make my brother to offend.’ It would be he height of folly in us to regard those things, which are so dear to Christ that He refused not to die for them, as so worthless that we will not for their sake abstain from certain food.”

On the subject of offence, see S. Basil (Reg. Brevior. 64), where, towards the end, he says that the offence is greater in proportion to the knowledge or rank of him who gives it; and he adds that at his hand God will require the blood of those sinners who follow his bad example.




1 He sheweth his liberty, 7 and that the minister ought to live by the gospel: 15 yet that himself hath of his own accord abstained, 18 to be either chargeable, unto them, 22 or offensive unto any, in matters indifferent. 24 Our life is like unto a race.


M I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?
2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.
3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?
5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?
7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? of who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.
10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaken of his hope.
11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.
16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.


Douay Rheims Version

The apostle did not make use of his power of being maintained at the charges of those to whom he preached, that he might give no hindrance to the gospel. Of running in the race and striving for the mastery.


M not I free? Am not I an apostle? Have not I seen Christ Jesus our Lord? Are not you my work in the Lord?
2. And if unto others I be not an apostle, but yet to you I am. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3. My defence with them that do examine me is this.
4. Have not we power to eat and to drink?
5. Have we not power to carry about a woman, a sister as well as the rest of the apostles and the brethren of the Lord and Cephas?
6. Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to do this?
7. Who serveth as a soldier, at any time, at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Who feedeth the flock and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
8. Speak I these things according to man? Or doth not the law also say; these things?
9. For it is written in the law of Moses: Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
10. Or doth he say this indeed for our sakes? For these things are written for our sakes: that he that plougheth, should plough in hope and he that thrasheth, in hope to receive fruit.
11. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we reap your carnal things?
12. If others be partakers of this power over you, why not we rather? Nevertheless, we have not used this power: but we bear all things, lest we should give any hindrance to the gospel of Christ.
13. Know you not that they who work in the holy place eat the things that are of the holy place; and they that serve the altar partake with the altar?
14. So also the Lord ordained that they who preach the gospel should live by the gospel.
15. But I have used none of these things. Neither have I written these things, that they should be so done unto me: for it is good for me to die rather than that any man should make my glory void.
16. For if I preach the gospel, it is no glory to me: for a necessity lieth upon me. For woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel.
17. For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation is committed to me.
18. What is my reward then? That preaching the gospel, I may deliver the gospel without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
19. For whereas I was free as to all, I made myself the servant of all, that I might gain the more.
20. And I became to the Jews a Jew, that I might gain the Jews:
21. To them that are under the law, as if I were under the law, (whereas myself was not under the law,) that I might gain them that were under the law. To them that were without the law, as if I were without the law, (whereas I was not without the law of God, but was in the law of Christ,) that I might gain them that were without the law.
22. To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all.
23. And I do all things for the gospel's sake, that I may be made partaker thereof.
24. Know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize. So run that you may obtain.
25. And every one that striveth for the mastery refraineth himself from all things. And they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown: but we an incorruptible one.
26. I therefore so run, not as at an uncertainty: I so fight, not as one beating the air.
27. But I chastise my body and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.


i. He proceeds to show by his own example how offences are to be avoided, and he says that he had refused to accept payment, or the maintenance due to a preacher of the Gospel, both to gain greater merit and for the sake of edification.

ii. He then (ver. 7) proves by six arguments (summarised on the notes to ver. 12) that this maintenance is due to himself and other preachers of the Gospel.

iii. He shows (ver, 20) that for the same reason he had become all things to all men, that the Corinthians might learn how each one must care for his own edification and the salvation of his neighbour.

iv. He urges them (ver. 24) to that same edification, pointing out that our life is a race and trial of virtue, and in them we must run and strive after better things, and after the prize, buy abstinence and bodily mortification.

Ver. 1.—Am I not an apostle? am I not free? It may be asked what connection this has with the preceding chapter: it seems to be an abrupt transition to another subject. I reply that Paul had spoken at the end of the last chapter of the necessity of avoiding all that might cause offence. Now, that he may enforce this, he puts himself forward as an example, and points to his having refused to receive any payment for his preaching, and his having earned his bread by his own labours; this cession of his rights he made, both to void causing any to offend, and to give an example of singular virtue. He would so teach the Corinthians not to stand upon their rights, especially in the matter of eating idol-sacrifices, out of regard for their neighbours, if they saw that they were thus made to stumble, or led into sin. Yet at the same time Paul, by implication, guards in this declaration the sincerity and authority of his preaching against the false apostles who impugned them; he points indirectly to his having preached the Gospel without money and without price, while the false apostles made gain out of it. He says therefore: “Am I not an Apostle? am I not free? Am I not within my rights, as the Apostle of Christ, if I demand and receive from you means for my maintenance? Yet this I do not so, because I wish to show you what our neighbour’s salvation demands from us, and how you ought, therefore, to avoid all causes of offence.” Cf. Chrysostom’s homily on this text (No. 20).

Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are not ye my work in the Lord? It is clear that I am an Apostle, for I have seen Christ, and been sent by Him to preach the Gospel. Cf. Acts ix. 5; xxii. 18.

Ye are my work in the Lord, because I begat you by the Gospel in Christ. Your Church was built up by me: ye are my building.

Ver. 2.—For the seal of mine Apostleship are ye in the Lord. A proof of my apostleship may be seen in you, in my preaching, in my miracles, in the toil and the dangers which I have either borne or performed amongst you for your conversion; by such things as by Divine seals have I sealed, confirmed, and proved my apostleship. All these things loudly testify that I am a true Apostle, sent by God to teach and save you.

Ver. 3.—Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, Those who ask about my Apostleship may take what I have said as their answer. So Anselm. But Chrysostom and Ambrose just as suitably refer this to the following verse.

To examine of interrogate in a judicial term, and is purposely used by S. Paul to point to the audacity of those who called in question his jurisdiction.

Ver. 4.—Have we not power to eat and to drink? Viz., at your expense. This is the glory and defence of me and my apostleship, that it is gratuitous, unlike that of the false apostles. Notwithstanding I have the same right, the same power to look for means from you for my eating and drinking.

Ver. 5.—Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles? The Greek is ảδελφὴν γυναξκα, which the Latin version turns mulierem sororem; and Beza, Peter Martyr, Vatablus, and Valle render sororem uxorem. They argue from this that Paul was married, urging that, though the Greek word stands both for woman and wife, yet here its meaning is fixed to the latter by the term “lead about.” Men do not, they say, lead about sisters but wives.

They mistake: 1. Christ led about women, not as a husband might a wife, but as a teacher is accompanied by disciples and handmaidens, who see to his necessities. Cf. Luke viii. 3.

2. It would be absurd to call a sister a wife, and the term sister would be superfluous.

3. The definite article is wanting in the Greek, which would be required if a certain woman, as, e.g., a wife, were designated.

4. It is evident from 1 Cor. vii. 8 that Paul was unmarried. This passage is explained at length is the sense I have given by Augustine (de Opere Monach. c. iv.), Jerome (contra Jovin. lib. i.), Chrysostom, Ambrose, Theodoret, Theophylact in their comments on the verse, and by other Fathers generally, except by Clement of Alexandria (Strom, lib. iii.) S. Jerome indeed says that, among the Apostles, Peter was the only one that had a wife, and that only before his conversion. Tertullian’s words (de Monogamia) are: “I find that Peter alone was a husband.”

I say, then, that the phrase here is literally “sister woman,” and denotes a Christian matron who ministered to Paul’s necessities from her means. We have a similar phrase in Acts xiii. 26, “men brethren,” i.e., Christian men. S. Paul says then that he might, if he so saw fit, lead about a matron to support him, as much as Peter; but he does not do so, because it might be a cause of offence to the Gentiles, whose Apostle he was, and might only cause evil surmisings. So Ambrose, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Ścumenius, Anselm.

It may be said that Ignatius, in his letter to the Philadelphians, classes Paul among the married. Baronius (A.D. 57, p. 518) and others well reply that Paul’s name was inserted there by later Greek copyists, to serve as an excuse for themselves being married. The oldest and best copies of the Epistles of S. Ignatius, including that of the Vatican and of Sfort, have not S. Paul’s name.

It may be said again that Clement of Alexandria (Strom. lib. iii.) understands this passage of a wife of Paul. I reply, firstly, that that is true, but that he goes on to say that after he became an Apostle she was to him as a sister, not as a wife, which is against the heretics, and in the second place that all the Fathers are against Clement.

And the Brethren of the Lord. Brethren is a common Hebraism for kinsmen. James, John, and Judas are here meant. So Anselm.

And Cephas. Nay, as well as Peter, the prince of the Apostles and of the Church.

Ver. 7.—Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Just as it is right for soldiers to be paid and to live in their pay; just as it is right for a vine-grower to eat of the fruit of his vine, for a shepherd of the milk of the flock that he feeds, so is it right for the preachers of the Gospel to live of the Gospel, of their vineyard the Church, and of their flock, the members of Christ. The Apostle is beginning here to prove in various ways his right to receive payment for his preaching, that all after him might know that this is owing to preachers of the Word of God, and that he may show how undeniable and how clear is the right that he has freely given up by refusing to receive payment out of regard to the Corinthians. He so acted in order that by this generosity of his he might draw them to Christ and help forward their salvation. I will summarise his reasons at ver. 12.

Ver. 8.—Say I these things as a man? Do I prove or strengthen my arguments by human reasons merely, and by similitudes drawn from the life of the soldier, the vine-grower, the shepherd. By no means. Nay, rather I establish and fortify them from the law of God.

Ver. 9.—For it is written in the law of Moses, &c. Deut. xxv. 4. The reason doubtless was that it was right that the animals who laboured should also eat. Hence God forbade that the mouths of the oxen that trod out the corn should be muzzled, to prevent them from eating of what they trod out. It was the custom in Palestine, as it is now in some places, for the oxen to thresh out the grain by treading the corn-ears with their hoofs. That this is the literal meaning appears from the words in which it is enjoined on the hard-hearted Jews.

It may be objected that the Apostle seems here to exclude this meaning, by saying, “Doth God take care for oxen?” Abulensis, commenting in Deut. xxv., says that the literal sense of the verse is twofold: (1.) It refers to oxen, as has just been said, but not principally; (2.) The sense which is uppermost and chiefly intended by the Holy Spirit is that given by the Apostle here when he speaks of preachers. God, he says, takes care for oxen in the second place, but for teachers in the first; and therefore it is more the literal sense of the injunction that preachers should be maintained than that oxen should. But it is evident that the first only of these two is the literal sense. For the word ox denotes a preacher typically only, and not literally. Otherwise the literal sense would be wholly allegorical, which is absurd. For the literal sense is that which is the first meaning of any sentence; the allegorical or typical is that which is derived from the literal. As then the shadow of a body is not the body itself, so the typical sense cannot be the literal, but is merely shadowed forth by the literal.

The literal meaning therefore if the verse in Deuteronomy is that which I have given, but the mystical is that which is given by the Apostle, that preachers must be maintained, and that they are to live of the Gospel, just as the ox is fed on what he treads out; and since God’s chief care is for the former, the mystical meaning of the text is, as the Apostle says, the one that is uppermost.

Notice that it is a matter of faith that God takes care for oxen: for by His providence He cares for the sparrows (S. Matt. x. 29), and for the young ravens that call upon Him (Ps. cxlvii. 9), and for all animals, as the Psalmist frequently says, and especially throughout Psalm civ. The Apostle means, therefore, that in this precept God’s chief care was not for oxen, but for preachers like S. Paul, who are like oxen in labouring and treading out the corn in the Lord’s field and threshing-floor, and are to be allowed to live of the Gospel.

Ver. 10.—Or saith He it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes no doubt this is written. The argument is here, as so often in S. Paul’s writings, from the mystical, not the literal sense; or rather it is an à fortiori argument from the literal to the mystical sense, thus: If the ox lives of what he treads out, much more may an Apostle live of the Gospel. Cf. Tertullian (contra Marcion, lib. v. c. 7) and Theodoret (qu. xxi. in Deut.). Observe here that, though the literal sense in the first in time, yet the mystical is the first in importance, and the one chiefly intended by the Holy Spirit.

That he that ploweth should plow in hope. Just as those that plough and thresh do so in hope of being partakers of what is reaped and threshed out, so too the preacher may hope for suppoet because of his preaching. If this hope Ovid speaks (Ep. ex Ponto, lib. i. vi. 30): “Hope it is that gives courage to the farmer, and intrusts the seeds to the ploughed-up furrows, to be returned with heavy interest by the kindly earth.”

From this passage we may argue à fortiori that to work is hope of an eternal reward is an act of virtue, and that this act therefore is meritorious. Hence the Sorbonne, as Claudius Guiliandus testifies in his remarks on this passage, has defined as erroneous the proposition the “he that strives for the sake of a reward, and would not strive unless he know that a reward would be given, deprives himself of the reward.” The Council of Trent has the same definition (Sess. vi. can. 31).

Ver. 12.—If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? The Apostle proves by six arguments that that he and other ministers of the Word of God and the Church may receive their expenses from their flocks: (a) By the examples of the other Apostles (ver. 5); (b) by comparisons drawn from the practice of soldiers, shepherds, and agriculturists (ver. 7); (c) from the law of Moses (ver. 9); (d) from the example of the priests and Levites of the Old Testament, who lived on the sacrifices offered on the altar that they served (ver. 13); (e) from the ordinance of God and of Christ (ver. 14); (f) from the very nature of the case, from the positive command of God, as well as from the law of mature, which declared that, as payment is due to a workman, so is support to a minister of the Word, not as the price of sacred things, which would be dishonouring to them and simoniacal, but as what is necessary for them to fitly discharge their sacred functions for the people’s sake. Hence this support is owing to them as a matter of justice. So Chrysostom.

Nevertheless we have not used this power, but suffer all things. We have not claimed out right to maintenance, but endure the utmost poverty, and undertake every kind of evil to relieve that poverty by working with our hands.

Lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. He would not receive money for his support, lest he should give occasion to covetous or injudicious men to hinder the Gospel and bring obloquy upon it. That there was no cause of offence given here by the Apostle, but that it was received from others, and that it was in him a work of supererogation to refuse to receive payment, appears from what has gone before, and from ver. 15, where he says, “It were better for me to die than that any man should make my glorying void.”

Ver. 13.—Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? The priests and Levites partake of the victims offered, and the tithes and firstfruits. The Greek for “minister” is “labour.” The office of the priest was to labour at killing, cutting up, skinning, boiling, and burning the victims, all of which are laborious, and under other circumstances would be the work of butchers.

And they which wait at the altar. He does not say, says S. Chrysostom, the priests, but they which wait at the altar, that we may see that constant attendance of sacred things is required from the ministers of the temple of Christ, who partake of the good things of the Temple. On the other hand, now-a-days, none are less often at the altar than some who derive the greatest profit from the altar and from tithes. These are condemned by the Council of Trent.

Ver. 14.—Even so hath the Lord ordained. S. Luke x. 7; S. Matt. x. 10, 11, and 14.

Ver. 15.—For it were better for me to die than that any man should make my glorying void. His glorying has for its subject the preaching of the Gospel without charge, or his work of liberality, free grace, and supererogation, as is evident from ver. 18. It appears from this that it is an Evangelical counsel to preach the Gospel without charge, as is now done by some apostolic and religious men. So Theophylact, Theodoret, and Anselm. Cf. also Chrysostom and Anselm.

Observe that S. Paul does not speak of his glory but his glorying, viz., that which he could make before God and before men, especially before the false apostles, who were held of great account and sumptuously maintained by the Corinthians. Cf. 2 Cor. xi. 7, for similar “glorying.”

Ver. 16.—Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel. It appears from this that strict injunctions were given to the Apostles (S. Matt. xxviii. 19) to preach the Gospel and teach all nations, insomuch that, if they had neglected to do so, they would have sinned mortally. For on those that neglect this their duty he pronounces the woe of the wrath of God and of hell. By the same injunctions all pasters, Bishops, and Archbishops are now bound. Cf. chap. i. 17.

Ver. 17.—For if I do this thing willingly I have a reward. That is, as Chrysostom, Theophylact, Ścumenius, and Anselm say, if I freely preach without charge, I have not merely the reward given to a work that has been enjoined on me, as other Apostles have, but the exceeding reward of abounding glory given to a work not enjoined, but heroically undertaken by a soul that is of its own accord generous towards God.

But if against my will. Compelled by a command of God, or under fear of punishment. Willingly here denotes the doing a thing of one’s own motion, one’s own accord, and free will; unwillingly, the doing it under order, being moved and forced by the will of another.

A dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. I shall not have that supreme glory I spoke of, but neither shall I sin, because I fulfil my duty, and do what I am ordered. For this commission of preaching the Gospel was intrusted to me. But though I do not sin, yet I act as a slave, or as a steward in matters intrusted to his care, not of his own accord, but merely doing what he ought to do, because compelled to it by his Lord’s command. Cf. S. Luke xvii. 8. So the Fathers cited understand this passage, and that this is the meaning appears also from the context.

Some explain it differently in this way: If I preach the Gospel willingly I have merit and reward, because of my own free will I fulfil the command of Christ; but if I do it unwillingly, I fail to attain merit and reward, because I act under compulsion. A dispensation of the Gospel is committed unto me, and so by me, though unwilling, Christ’s Gospel is propagated, and others profit, though I do not. This seems to be the simple meaning of the words by themselves. This explanation is favoured by S. Thomas, Lyranus, and the Ambrosian commentary; but the context requires the former sense.

Ver. 18.—What is my reward then? That glorious and supreme reward spoken of.

Observe that reward is put by metonymy for merit, or for a heroic and meritorious work, that calls for a great reward. This work, he goes of to say, is to preach the Gospel without charge.

From these words it is evident that not all good works are matters of precept, but that some are works of counsel and supererogation, and that such merit with God an illustrious crown of glory. So S. Chrysostom, Ambrose, S. Augustine (de Opere Monach. c. 5), and Bellarmine (de Monach. lib. ii. c. 9).

The other Apostles, being full of zeal for God, would as well as Paul have preached the Gospel freely, if they might thence have hoped for a greater harvest of souls, and greater glory before God. But this they might not hope for, for the faithful were generous to them, and the Jews devoted to them, and of their own accord they supplied their needs. Cf. Acts iv. 34. But Paul, as one outside the order and number of the twelve apostles, called to the apostolate after the death of Christ, had to gain a recognition of his authority, and he judged it useful to that end that he should preach the Gospel without charge. Moreover, the Corinthians, though rich, were covetous; and, therefore, Paul preached freely to prevent them from supposing that he sought their goods instead of themselves; but from the more generous Thessalonians and Philippians he accepted support. In short, Paul wished by this course of action to shut the mouth of the Jews, who hated him, and of the false Apostles. He says this indeed in 2 Cor. xi. 12.

That I abuse not my power in the Gospel. That I may not use my undoubted right and liberty to the detriment of the Gospel. Not that it really is an abuse to receive money for preaching he Gospel, but that it is the employment of a lesser good. Abuse is used here for use to the full, as it is in chap. vii. 31. Cf. a similar use of the word in S. Paulinus (Ep. ii.).

It may be said that Ambrose here understands the word to mean literal abuse, which is sin, when he says: “They who use their right, when it is inexpedient to do so, or when another suffers loss, are guilty, and therefore sin.” I reply that this is true when they can easily give up their right, and when others suffer great loss by their not yielding; for charity then bids us give way. These conditions, the Ambrosian commentary seems to think, existed with Paul and the Corinthians.

But the opposite is far more true. It was a very difficult matter for the Apostle to yield his right of maintenance at the hands of the Corinthians, because by so yielding he has to spend nights without sleep, while he laboured with his hands to procure food for himself and his companions; while the Corinthians, who were numerous and rich, might easily have maintained him. Nor ought they to have taken offence at this, for the other Apostles were maintained by their flocks, and all law and reason say that he who labours for another should be maintained by him. The Apostle, therefore, wished to set a noble example of poverty, sincerity, and zeal, for the greater commendation and spread of the faith among those who were young in it, and the avaricious rich. But such a heroic work as this is not a precept, but a counsel of charity. Therefore, on the next verse, he says that in such matters he is free.

Ver. 19.—For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all. I humbled myself to all things, even to want and hunger; I accommodated myself to the weaknesses of all, insomuch that, when I saw the Corinthians slow and niggardly in their support of the Apostles, I refused to accept any payment from them, that I might gain all by condescending to their infirmity.

Ver. 20.—To them that are under the law, as under the law. To the Jews I became as one under the Mosaic law. This took place, e.g., says Ścumenius, when he circumcised Timothy, when, after purifying himself, he went to the Temple, because he had a vow (Acts xxi. 26).

Ver. 21.—To them that are without law, as without law. To the Gentiles I became as though I followed nature only as my light and leader, as the Gentiles do. So Ścumenius, Theophylact, and Chrysostom.

Ver. 22.—I am made all things to all men. Not by acting deceitfully or sinfully, but through sympathy and compassion, which made me suit myself to the dispositions of all men, so, as far as honesty and God’s law allow, that I might be able to heal the indispositions of all. Cf. S. Augustine (Epp. 9 and 19): “Not by lying, but by sympathy; not by cunning craftiness, but by large-hearted compassion was Paul made all things to all men.”

The Apostle does not sanction what men of the world wish for and do, viz., the accommodating ourselves through right and wrong to all men, feigning to be heretics with heretics, Turks with Turks, pure with the pure, and unclean with those that are unclean. This he condemns (Gal. ii. 11 et seq.). The advice of S. Ephrem (Attende tibi, c. 10) is sound: “Have charity with all and abstain from all;” and again the apophthegm of S. Bernard, which embraces every virtue: “Live so as to be prudent for yourself, useful to others, pleasing to God.” S. Jordan, S. Dominic’s successor in the Generalship of the Order, used to say, as his life related: “If I had devoted myself as closely to any branch of learning as I have to that sentence of S. Paul’s, ‘I am made all things to all men,’ I should be mist learned and eminent in it. Throughout the whole of my life I have studied to accommodate myself to every one: to the soldier I was a soldier, to the nobleman as a nobleman, to the plebeian as a plebeian; and thus I always endeavoured to do them good in this way, while on the watch that I did not lose or hurt my soul while benefitting them.”

Ver. 23.—And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you. That I may with other preachers receive, in fu time, fruit of the Gospel that I have preached. The Greek denotes a partaker with others. Hence in the second place Chrysostom understands “partaker thereof” to mean a fellow-sharer of the faithful in the Gospel, i.e., of the crowns laid up for the faithful. And Chrysostom rightly points to the wonderful humility of Paul, in putting himself on a level with even ordinary Christians, when he had surpassed not only the faithful, but all the other Apostles in his labours for the Gospel. Cf. 1 Cor. xv 10.

Ver. 24.—Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? For this I preach the Gospel without charge, for this I am made all things to all men; for this I labour, that I may obtain that best prize of all, given to those who run in this race.

As it is in a race, so is it in the Christian course: it is not all that run that receive the prize, but those only that run well and duly reach the appointed goal. I say duly, or according to the laws of the course which Christ the Judge has laid down for those that run, and according to which he has promised the prize to those that tun well. When, therefore, one is mentioned, more are not excluded, for the Apostle does not mean to say, as Chrysostom well remarks, that only one Christian surpasses the rest, and is more zealous of good works, and will receive the prize; for a similitude does not hold good in all points, but only in that one which is expressed. The comparison here is that, as in a race he who runs well receives the prize, so in Christianity he who runs well will receive a crown of glory. And this is evident from what is added, “So run that ye may obtain,i.e., not one, but each one. Moreover, in a race it is often not only the first, not the second, third, or fourth who also receives a prize.

Still the Apostle says one, not three or four, because he is chiefly looking at that glory and superexcellent reward given, not to all the elect, but to those few heroic souls that follow, not only the precepts, but also the counsels of Christ. For he is looking to the prize which he is expecting for himself, in having been the only Apostle to preach the Gospel without charge, in having surpassed all the other Apostles in the greatness of his labour and his charity, in having become all things to all men. He says in effect: O Christians, do not merely run duly, that ye may obtain, but run most well and most swiftly, that you may carry off the first and most splendid prize of glory. It is a sluggish soul that says, “It is enough for me to be saved and reach heaven.” for each one, says Chrysostom, ought to strive to be first in heaven, and receive the first prize there.

Some understand this passage to refer to the mansions or crowns and prizes prepared for each of the elect, and would read it, “Let each so run that he may obtain his prize.” But this explanation is more acute than simple.

Anselm again takes it a little differently. Heathens, heretics, reprobates, he says, run, but the one people of elect Christians receives the prize. But the apostle is speaking to Christians only as running, and he urges them to so run that they may obtain the prize to which they are called by the Gospel of Christ.

So run that ye may obtain. I.e., obtain the crown of glory and the prize of victory. The allusion is to those that ran in the public games for a crown as the prize, with which they were crowned when victorious. Cf. notes to Rev. iii. 2. The word so denotes the rectitude, the diligence, the swiftness, and the perseverance especially required on order to win the prize. The course of Christ was marked by these qualities, that course which all ought to put before themselves for imitation. S. Bernard (Ep. 254) says: “The Creator Himself of man and of the world, did he, while he dwelt here below with men, stand still? Nay, as the Scripture testifies, ‘He want about doing good and healing all.’ He went through the world not unfruitfully, carelessly, lazily, or with laggers step, but so as it was written of Him, ‘He rejoiced as a giant to run his course.’ No one catches the runner but he that runs equally fast; and what avails it to stretch out after Christ if you do not lay hold of Him? Therefore is it that Paul said, ‘So run that ye may obtain.’ There, O Christian, set the goal of your course and your journeying where Christ placed His. ‘He was made obedient unto death,’ However long then you may have run, you will not obtain the prize if you do not persevere even unto death. The prize is Christ.” He then goes on to point out that in the race of virtue not to run, to stand still, is to fail and go back, “But if while He runs you stand still, you come no nearer to Christ, nay, you recede from Him, and should fear for yourself what David said, ‘Lo, they that are far from Thee shall perish.’ Therefore, if to go forward is to run, when you cease to go forward you cease to run: when you are not running you begin to go back. Hence we may plainly see that not to wish to go forward is nothing but to go back. Jacob saw a ladder, and on the ladder angels, where none was sitting down, none standing still; but all seemed to be either ascending or descending, that w might be plainly given to understand that in this mortal course no mean is to be found between going forward and going back, but that in the same way as our bodies are known to be continuously either increasing or decreasing, so must our spirit be always either going forward or going back.”

Ver. 25.—And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in al things. Every wrestler, &c., refrains from everything that may 212 endanger his success. 1. The allusion is t the Isthmian games, celebrated at Corinth in honour of Neptune and Palæmon, in which the victor was crowned with a pine-wreath. Of these games the poet Archias this sings:—

“Four Argive towns the sacred contests see,
 And two to men, and two to gods belong;
 Jove gives the olive, Phśbus sunny fruit,
 Palæmon poppy, and Archemorus the pine.”

2. There is consequently an allusion also to the athletes, the wrestlers, and boxers, who fought with their fists; to the runners, who strine for the prize for speed; to all who contested, whether with hand, or foot, or the whole body, for the prize.

3. All these abstained from luxurious living, and only lived of the necessities of life. This is what the Apostle alludes to when he says, is temperate in all things. Clement of Alexandria (Strom. lib. iii.), following Plato (de Leg. lib. viii.), adds that they also refrained from all sexual intercourse. For as lust weakens, enervates, and exhausts the body, so do continence and chastity strengthen the body, and much more the mind,  S. Ephrem, too, in his tractate on the words, “It is better to marry than to burn,” explains this abstinence from all things spoken of here to be abstinence from all lust.

4. The course is this present life, of each one’s state in the Church, and especially that of an evangelist; the runner or wrestler is each Christian. Hence, S. Dioysius (de Eccles. Hierarch. cvii.) says that those who are baptized are anointed to be Christ’s athletes, and are consequently called to fight a holy fight for faith and godliness. He adds that it is the practice, too, to anoint them when dead, as athletes perfected by death. He says: “The first anointing called him to a holy fight; the second shows that he has finished his course and been perfected by death.”

5. In this course and contest the antagonist is the world, the flesh, and the devil; the athlete’s diet is moderate food tempered with fasting; the fight consists in the castigation of the body, and all the arduous offices of virtue, which are accomplished with a conflict, whether external or internal;—especially is the preaching and spreading of the Gospel such a fight; and from such arises the victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil. The prize is the incorruptible crown of eternal glory for which Paul expresses his longing in 2 Tim. iv. 8. The punishment inflicted on the conquered is rejection and eternal confusion (ver. 27). As the athlete, by abstinence, exercise, and toil, subdues and exercises his body, and prepares it for the race-course or the contest, that he may conquer by lawful and generous effort, and may obtain a corruptible crown, so much more to obtain the eternal crown do we Christians, and especially I, your Apostle, keep under and exercise my body by fasting, labour, and weariness, and so much more severely do I, as an athlete in the Divine contest, exact from myself all the offices of those that fight. I do this, lest my body lose the strength derived from continency and a hard life by luxurious living, and then dwindle down into the helplessness of a self-indulgent life. But as I have to fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil, let me rather imitate the athletes, and so conquer and be crowned. Come, then, O Corinthians, run with me in this course; abstain not only from things offered to idols, because of scandal, but also from luxuries—from wine and lust—that you may gain the victory and carry off the prize. This exhortation to abstinence was occasioned by the question of idol—sacrifices, as I sain at the beginning of chapter viii.

Epaminondas, leader of the Thebans, having fought most bravely in battle, and being wounded, even to death, asked, as he was dying, whether his shield were safe and the enemy slain; and when they answered “Yes” to both questions, he said: “Now is the end of my life; but a better and higher beginning is as hand: now is Epaminondas being born in so dying.” So Valerius Maximus relates. If Epaminondas so strove for a temporal victory, for praise and glory that are evanescent, and died so joyfully and gloriously, what shall the soldier of Christ do for the crown that fadeth not 214 away, for the glory that knows no ending? Tertullian (ad Martyred, c. iv.) says excellently: “If earthly glories can so overcome bodily and mental delights as to throw contempt on the sword, fire, crucifixion, wild beasts, and torments, in order to obtain the reward of human praise, I may well say that these sufferings are but little to undergo to obtain the glories of heaven, Is glass worth as much as true pearls? Who therefore would not most joyfully suffer for the true glory as much as others suffer for the false.”

Virgil says of Junius Brutus, who ordered his sons to be put to death for conspiring against the Romans with the Tarquins—

“The love of Rome him mastered with boundless thirst for praise;”

so we may say of the Christian—

“The love of Christ will conquer, and heaven’s unquenchable thirst,”

Listen to what S. Chrysostom says (de Martyr. vol. iii.): “You are but a feather-bed soldier if you think that you can conquer without a fight, triumph without a battle. Exert your strength, fight strenuously, strive to the death in this battle. Look at the covenant, attend to the conditions, know the warfare—the covenant that you have entered into, the conditions on which you have enrolled yourself, the warfare into which you have thrown youself.

It is clear from this, says S. Chrysostom, that faith alone is not sufficient for salvation, but that works also are requisite, and heroic efforts, and especially no small abstinence from all the allurements of the world. For, as S. Jerome says (Ep. 34 ad Julian): “It is difficult, nay, it is impossible for any one to enjoy both the present and the future, to fill here his belly and there his soul, to pass from one delight to the other, to show himself glorious both in heaven and in earth.

S. Augustine piously consoles and animates Christ’s athletes by reminding them of the help that God gives (Serm, 105). He says: “he who ordered the strife helps them that strive. God does not look upon you in your contest as the spectators do on the athlete: for the populace warms him by shouts, but cannot lend him any help. He who arranged the contest can provide the crown, but cannot lend strength; buy God, when He sees His servants striving, helps them when they call upon Him. For it is the voice of the combatant himself in Psalm xciv. 18, who says, ‘When I said, my foot slippeth, Thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.’” S. Dionysius too (de Eccl. Hier. cii.) says: “To them that strive the Lord promises crowns as God. He has laid down the rules of the contest by His wisdom. He has appointed rewards most fair and beautiful for the conquerors; and, what is surely more Divine, He Himself, as supreme living-kindness and goodness, conquers in His warriors; and while He indwells within them, He fights for their safety and victory against the forces of death and corruption.

Ver. 26.—So fight I, not as one that beateth the air. The comparison is still maintained. I fight as an athlete, but I do not spend my toil for nought, but I wound my enemy, i.e., I subdue my body and my flesh; and when I have subdued this foe, the remaining two, the world and the devil, are easily overcome. For the world and the devil cannot kill us, wound us, strike us, tempt us, approach us, except through the body and its organs, the eyes and ears and tongue and other members.

Ver. 27.—But I keep under my body and bring it into subjection. I keep under means, says S. Ambrose, “I repress it by fastings;” “I wound it with stripes,” says S. Basil (de Virginitate); “I starve it,” says Origen. S. Augustine (de Utilit. Jejun.) says: “The devil often takes it upon him to protect the flesh against the soul, and to say, ‘Why do you thus fast?—you are laying up punishment in store for yourself, you are your own torturer and murderer.’ Answer him, ‘I keep it under, lest this beast of burden throw me headlong.’” For our flesh is the devil’s instrument; it is, says S. Bernard, “the snare of the devil” (Serm. 8 in Ps. xci.). Erasmus, following Theophylact and Paulinus (Ep. 58 ad. Aug.), renders the Greek verb, “I make it black and blue,” or “I make the eyes of a black and bloody colour.” This last is, as Hesychius and Suidas say, the literal rendering of the word. But all others in general take the word to mean subdue, coerce, bruise. Castigate in the Latin, or “keep under,” as the text, suits both renderings, but the second is better, as being at once plainer and more near to the Greek—taking ύπωπιάξω to be synonymous the ύποπιέξω.

This keeping under or castigation of the body is effected by fastings, hair-shirts, humiliations, scourgings, and other mortifications of the flesh. Hence some think that Paul was in the habit of scourging his body. This is certainly the literal meaning of the Greek, which is rendered by Beza, Melancthon, Castalion, and Henry Stephen “bruise.” but a bruise is not caused except by a blow, whether from a stick, or a scourge, or some other instrument. Moreover, fasting (which some, as, e.g., Ambrose, Gregory, and Chrysostom, think was Paul’s discipline) is not so much a strife and contest as a preparation for them; for of it he has already said, “Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.” Cf. also Jacob Gretser (de Discipl. lib. i. c. 4).

Moreover, as Anselm remarks, as well as Gregory, in a passage to be quoted directly, the Apostle, while he keeps under and scourges his body, at the same time scourges and wounds the devil, his antagonist, who is in alliance with our carnal concupiscence, and lies in hiding within the foul jungle of the flesh, and through it tempts and attacks us.

Lest I myself should be a castaway. Lest I be a reprobate from God and excluded from heaven, Maldonatus (Notæ Manusc.) learnedly says that, as the comparison is still with the arena, a castaway here is one who is conquered in the fight; and that S. Paul’s meaning is, “Lest while I teach others to conquer I myself be conquered.” The Apostle is speaking not of eternal reprobation, which is in the mind of God, but of that temporal reprobation which is the execution of the eternal. He is referring to Jer. vi. 30: “Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them.”

1. Hence it is clear that the Apostle is not speaking (as in 2 Cor. xiii, 7), as some think, of the reprobation of men, as if his meaning were, “What I preach that I practise: I do not fare sumptuously, but I keep under my body, lest I be a cast away and reprobate of men, and regarded as one not doing what he teaches.” For Jeremiah clearly speaks of God’s rejection, not men’s; and reprobation and reprobate always refer to this when they are spoken of absolutely, and not restricted to men, as they are restricted in 2 Cor. xiii. 7. Hence appears the uncertainty to us of grace and predestination. Paul feared being condemned, and will you believe that your faith cannot but save you?

2. It also follows that Paul had no revelation of his salvation. Cf. S. Gregory (lib. vi. Ep. 22, ad Gregoriam).

3. And that he was not so strong in grace not that he might fall from it.

From this passage, it is evident that the Christian’s fight consists especially in bringing the body into subjection. For this foe is an inward foe, and one most hard to withstand, and therefore the snares of the flesh are to be dreaded more than all others. We ought also to get ourselves ready for this fight by the athlete’s training, that is, by temperance, and in this temperance we should begin the fight, and in it daily increase, grow strong, and cone to perfection. The Christian, therefore, must begin with conquering gluttony. When that is done, it will be easier for him to conquer other vices, as Cassianus and others say. Hence it appears that the Christian fighter must keep under his body, lest its lusts make him a castaway; and that, therefore, bodily mortification, by watchings, fastings, and other afflictions, is the right way to salvation, and is the most suitable instrument for perfecting virtue, and for the complete subdual of vices, if it be done with discretion, and in proportion to one’s strength and health. Cf. S. Thomas (ii. ii. qu. 188, art. 7).

But let us hear what the ancient doctors of the Church have to say on this head. Ambrose (Ep. ad Eccl. Vercell.) says: “I hear that there are men who say that there is no merit in fasting, and who scoff at those who mortify their flesh, that they nay subdue it to the mind. This S. Paul would never have done or said if he had thought it folly” (let our Protestant friends observe this); “for he says, as though boasting, ‘I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.’ Therefore, those who do not mortify their body, and who wish to preach to others, are themselves regarded as reprobates, What new school has sent forth these Epicureans to preach pleasure and advise luxury? The Lord Jesus, wishing to strengthen us against the temptations of the devil, fasted before He strove with him, that we might know that we cannot in any other way overcome the blandishments of the evil one. Let these men say why Christ fasted if it were not to give us an example to do likewise,

S. Gregory (Morals, lib. xxx. c. 26) says: “Nebuzaradan, the chief of the cooks, destroyed the walls of Jerusalem as he destroys the virtues of the soul when the belly is not kept in check. Hence it is that Paul took away his power from the chief of the cooks, i.e., the belly, in its assault on the walls of Jerusalem, when he said, ‘I keep under my body and bring it into subjection.’ Hence it is that he had said just before, ‘So fight I, not as one that beateth the air.’ When we retrain the flesh, it is not the air but the unclean spirits that we wound with the blows of our abstinence; and in subduing what is within we deal blows to the foes without, Hence is it that, when the King of Babylon orders the furnace to be heated, he has a heap of tow and pitch thrown into it, but nevertheless the fire has no power over the children of abstinence; for though our old enemy put before our eyes a countless number of delicacies t increase the fire of our lust, yet the grace of the Spirit from on high whispers to us, bidding us stand our ground, untouched by the burning lusts of the flesh.”

S. Basil (Hom. de Legend. Gentil. Libris) says: “The body must be mortified and kept in check like a wild beast, and the passions that take their rise from it to the soul’s hurt must be kept in order by the scourge reason, lest by giving free rein to pleasure the mind become like a drover of restive and unbroken horses, and be run away with and list. Amongst other sayings there is one of Pythagoras which deserves to be remembered. When he saw a certain man looking after himself with great care, and fattening himself by sumptuous living and exercise, he said: ‘Unhappy man! you are ever engaged in building for yourself a worse and worse prison!’ It is said too of Plato, that owing to his vivid realisation of the harm that arises from the body, he fixed his Academy at Athens in an unhealthy spot, that he might reduce the excessive prosperity of the body, as a gardener prunes a vine whose boughs stretch too far. I too have often heard physicians say that extremely good health is fallacious. Since, therefore, care for the body seems to be harmful to body and soul alike, to hug this burden and to be a slave to it is evident proof of madness. But if we study to despise it, we shall not easily lose ourselves in admiration of anything human.” S. Basil again (in Reg. Fusius Disp. Reg. 17) says: “As a muscular build and good complexion put a stamp of superiority on the athlete, so is the Christian distinguished from others by bodily emaciation and pallid complexion, which are ever the companions of abstinence. He is thereby proved to be a wrestler indeed, following the commands of Christ, and in weakness of body he lays his adversary low on the ground, and shows how powerful he is in the contests of godliness according to the words, ‘When I am weak, than am I strong!’”

S. Chrysostom says here: “‘I mortify my body’ means that I undergo much labour to live temperately. Although desire is intractable, the belly clamorous, yet I rein them in, and do not surrender myself to my passion, but repress them, and with wearisome effort bring under nature herself. I say this that no one may lose heart in his struggle for virtue, for it is an arduous fight. Wherefore he says, ‘I keep under my body and bring it into subjection.’ He did not say, ‘I destroy and punish it,’ for the flesh is not an enemy, but ‘I keep it under and bring it into subjection,’ because it is the property of my Lord, not of an enemy; of a trainer, not a foe; ‘lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway,’ If Paul feared this, being such a teacher as he was; if he has any dread, after having preached to the whole world, what are we to say?

S. Jerome, writing against Jovinian, a heretic, an opponent of fasting, of chastity, and asceticism, ably defends these duties, and about the end of lib. ii. he says: “The fact that many agree with your opinions is a mark of luxuriousness; and you think it adds to your reputation for wisdom to have more pigs running after you to be fed with the food or the flames of hell. Basilides, a teacher of luxury and filthy practices, has after these many years now been transformed into Jovinian, as into Euphorbus, that the Latin race might know his heresy, It was the banner of the Cross and the severity of preaching” (let the Protestants mark this) “which destroyed the idol-temples. Impurity, gluttony, and drunkenness are endeavouring to overthrow the fortitude taught by the Cross. False prophets always promise pleasant things, but they give not much satisfaction. Truth is bitter, and those who preach it are filled with bitterness.”

Cassianus (de Instit. Renunt. lib. v. c. xvii. et seq.) says: “Do you want to listen to the true athlete of Christ striving according to the lawful rules of the contest? He says, ‘I therefore so run not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air, but I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others I myself should be a castaway.’ Seest thou how he has placed in himself, that is in his flesh, the hottest part of the battle, and has thus put it on a firm base, and how he has made the fight consist in simple bodily mortification and in the subjection of his flesh?” And then a little afterwards he repeats these words of the Apostle, and adds: “This properly has to do with the sufferings of continence, and bodily fasting, and mortification of the flesh. He describes himself as a strenuous combatant of the flesh, and points out that the blows of abstinence that he directs against it are not in vain, but that he has gained a triumph by mortifying his body. That body, having been punished by the blows of continence and wounded by the bruises of fastings, has given to the victorious spirit the crown of immortality and the palm that never fadeth. . . . So fights he by fastings and affliction of the flesh, not as one that beateth the air, i.e., that deals in vain the blows of continence; but he wounds the spirits who dwell in the air, by mortifying his body. For he that says, ‘not as one that beateth the air,’ declares that he strikes some one that is in the air.

Further, not only for the sake of lust, but to subdue pride and break down all vices, and to cultivate every virtue, the body must be mortified, as S. Jerome says (Ep. 14 ad Celantiam): “They who are taught by experience and knowledge to hold fast the virtue of abstinence mortify their flesh to break the soul’s pride, in order that so they may descent from the pinnacle of their haughty arrogance to fulfil the will of God, which is most perfectly fulfilled in humility. Therefore so they withdraw their mind from hankering after variety of foods, that they may devote all their strength to the pursuit of virtue, By degrees the flesh feels less and less the burden of fastings, as the soul more hungers after righteousness. For that chosen vessel, Paul, in mortifying his body and bringing it into subjection, was not seeking after chastity alone, as some ignorant persons suppose: for fasting helps not only this virtue but every virtue.”

Lastly, the holy hermits of old, in their zeal after perfection, mortified their bodies to a degree that seems incredible. And that this was pleasing to God is seen from the holiness, the happiness, and the length of their lives. We may read for this Jerome, in his life of S. Hilarion, S. Paul, S. Malchus; Athanasius in his life of S. Antony; Theodoret in his life of S. Simeon Stylites, who for eighty years stood under the open sky night and day, hardly taking food or sleep. sagacious men have observed in their lives of the Saints that scarcely any Saints have been illustrious for their miracles and for their actions but such as were eminent for their fastings and asceticism, or who afflicted their bodies, or were afflicted by God with diseases, or by enemies and tyrants with tortures and troubles; that other Saints, who led an ordinary life, were of great benefit to the Church, but seldom if ever performed any miracles.