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First Corinthians 4:6 and Hellenistic Pedagogy

RONALD L. TYLER
Pepperdine University Malibu, CA 90263

PAUL'S INJUNCTION in 1 Corinthians 4:6 not to go beyond what is written is striking for its glimpse into Paul's pedagogy. My goal in this article is to affirm what, I am convinced, is the most plausible interpretation and to give the available supportive material for it.1 The Greek text reads S , literally "the 'not beyond what is written.'"2 There is no main verb, and one's way of dealing with this determines not only the resultant translation but the interpretation. The sense is extremely difficult to grasp, as prevailing translations reveal.3 That
This study was originally presented as a research report at the Annual Meeting of the Catholic Biblical Association of America at the University of Notre Dame in 1990. Just prior to presenting the paper I discovered that Benjamin Fiore and John Fitzgerald, in their doctoral dissertations, had reached the conclusion I had reached. I benefited from speaking with each of them at that meeting. I am glad that their work confirmed my finding, and that mine supported theirs. It is striking that we reached our conclusions from different vantage points. 2 The neuter singular relative pronoun instead of the neuter plural is the only variant. 3 Some translators indicate that Paul is referring to Scripture. In the following examples, I italicize what represents & . The RSV reads, "I have applied all this to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brethren, that you may learn by us to live according to scripture, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another." Others stress Paul's reference to a well-known saying. The NRSV renders v. 6 as "I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters, so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, 'Nothing beyond what is written, ' so that none of you will be puffed up in favor of one against another." Some translations have Paul referring to a rule which his readers would recognize. The NEB has "Into this general picture, my friends, I have brought Apollos and 97
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98 THE CATHOLIC BIBLICAL QUARTERLY I 60, 1998 Paul is quoting something understandable to his hearers is evidenced by his placing the neuter article before the quotation. Also, the general context is clear, the vocative "brothers and sisters" () coupled with the revealing that Paul is coming to a crucial juncture in his argument. Simply put, he says that it is time they learn what he has been saying; then he cites the four-word maxim. In 1 Cor 4:6 Paul begins a new unit in which he applies the theology of the cross, expounded in 1 Cor 1:18-2:6, by calling upon the Corinthians to emulate his lifestyle in Christ, fortified by this theology. In 1 Cor 4:6 he explains that he has used the earlier analogies regarding Apollos and himself for their benefit, to help them. Two purpose clauses then follow, with the first containing the problematic words. As the second purpose clause shows, all that has preceded is meant to urge them not to be puffed up with false pride and wisdom against one another. This is what is addressed in the paragraph whose opening verse is 1 Cor 4:6.4 Careful observation of the context is crucial: Paul is trying to set before his hearers the proper view of God and humankind. Their thinking of God is not high enough, while their view of themselves is too high. This arrogance has resulted in partisan spirit, as the Corinthians' emphasis on one teacher over against another reveals. Therefore, when Paul writes in 4:6, "I have applied all this to myself and Apollos for your benefit," he is referring back to 3:5, "What then is Apollos? What is Paul?" He is trying to get the Corin thians to learn to live "not beyond what is written" (4:6). The intended ethical result of the maxim's application would be a reli gious reorientation in which the proper view of people would replace the Corinthians' mistaken one, a result to be achieved by placing God in his rightful place in the life of the church. Beyond this, the hearers would stop being puffed up in favor of one minister against another, the potential divisions
myself on your account, so that you may take our case as an example, and learn to 'keep within the rules, ' as they say, and may not be inflated with pride as you patronize one and flout the other." Some, the NASB, for example, believe that Paul is referring to something written, "Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.*' The JB represents those who see this as a maxim and translates: "Now in everything I have said here, brothers, I have taken Apollos and myself as an example {remember the maxim: 'Keep to what is written '), it is not for you, so full of your own importance, to go taking sides for one man against another." Moflatt believes it makes no sense whatever and simply omits it, "Now I have applied what has been said above to myself and Apollos, to teach you. . . that you are not to be puffed up with rivalry over one teacher as against another." 4 So Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987) 166.

FIRST CORINTHIANS 4:6 99 would stop, and God's wisdom would replace human reason. Interpreters have often recognized that the Greek love of reason seems to have influenced God's wisdom revealed in the gospel, or to have taken its place. By considering what Paul has just said about himself and Apollos, the hearers were to cease thinking so highly of ministers and were not to take pride in one against another. This is the thrust of chaps. 1-4. Paul thinks in deeply Hebraic categories; yet he is also a product of his Greek environment, and in order to communicate truths to the Corinthians he has to use imagery which they can understand. It is logical to assume that in 4:6 Paul is citing a popular proverb well known in Corinth. While it is possible that Paul is citing a rabbinic dictum of his own which the Corin thians had learned from him and would recognize, evidence cannot be ad duced for this. It is more likely that S is a maxim which they would have known independently of Paul.5 The following six observa tions demonstrate this. 1. It can be cogently argued that Paul is quoting a popular proverb. The use of the neuter article to introduce a quotation can be amply illustrated.6 Here, the article is the object of the verb , "learn," and it introduces our difficult maxim, deliberately elliptical in form, with no verb expressed after the negating .7 This might be taken as a rejection of the notion that Paul is referring to what he has just written, or to the OT in some sense, but if it be granted that he is quoting a popular proverb which itself refers to the
5 L. L. Welborn ("A Conciliatory Principle in 1 Cor. 4:6," NovT29 [1987] 328) affirms that & is "a proverbial saying which Paul had reason to believe would be known to the Corinthians, whether from the surrounding culture or from their particular milieu." 6 W. Bauer, Griechisch-deutsches Wrterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der frhchristlichen Literatur (6th ed., newly edited by Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1988) 1119. Examples in the NT include Matt 19:18; Luke 22:3; Gal 5:14; Rom 13:9. Examples from the early Greek fathers' quotations from NT writings, the works of Josephus, and classical literature are abundant. Nigel Turner (J. H. Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek 3: Syntax, by Nigel Turner [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1963] 182) correctly states that "as in classical Greek the neuter article may be prefixed to quoted words"; he gives several examples in the NT, including 1 Cor 4:6, of which he writes, "unless we emend, it is best taken as a quotation of a slogan." The neuter singular article's introductory function before a proverb or slogan is also noted by C. Wordsworth, The New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: St. Paul's Epistles (5th ed.; London: Rivingtons, 1868) 93; B. L. Gildersleeve, Syntax of Classical Greek from Homer to Demosthenes (2 vols.; New York: American Book Co., 1900-1911) 1. 265; and Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (4 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1946) 3. 205. C. F. D. Moule (An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959] 110-11) and C. F. G. Heinrici {Der erste Brief an die Korinther [KEK 5; 8th ed.; Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1896] 147) show Paul's use of to introduce quotations citing, among other examples, Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14; 6:9. 7 For examples, see A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (6 vols.; Nash ville: Broadman, 1931) 4. 105. Turner, Grammar of New Testament Greek 3, 182.

100 THE CATHOLIC BIBLICAL QUARTERLY I 60, 1998 OT, too much should not be made of this. Notice that the NIV and the NRSV accept the notion of Paul's quoting a saying well known to his readers. 2. The use of similar constructions in classical literature makes it prob able that the Corinthians would realize that Paul was quoting a proverb. The elliptic omission of the verb after is commonly found in the Greek clas 8 9 sics. There are many ellipses in Paul's letters. Unfortunately, there is a 10 general tendency to smooth them out, as the manuscript tradition testifies. 3. The citation of a popular proverb, a Pauline slogan, or a Corinthian slogan is in keeping with Paul's general approach to the Corinthians. Paul's approach is to use something they knew, something "off the street," as it were, to underscore his point. An example would be 1 Cor 2:7 where Paul contrasts a "secret and hidden" wisdom of God with esoteric and exoteric doctrines taught by philosophers. 4. Citation of a popular proverb is consistent with Paul's frequent use of infant and childhood language in 1 Corinthians. In 1 Cor 3:1-2 Paul responds to the Corinthians' criticism of his failure to give them more advanced teachings by saying that he could not address them save as "babes in Christ" whom he had to feed with milk rather than solid food. In 1 Cor 4:14-15 he informs them that he writes to them as "beloved children," since he is their "father in Christ" through the gospel. In 1 Cor 13:11 he chides them by saying, "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways."11 It is significant that in applying a slogan to members of a church so fond of slogans Paul treats them like children. 5. Paul is using a rhetorical form with which the Corinthians were fami liar. Welborn observes that "it is striking how many of the metaphors and images employed by political orators in depicting factious communities are found in Paul's exhortation" in 1 Corinthians 1-4.12 As examples he indicates
J. A. Hrtung {Lehre von den Partikeln der griechischen Sprache [2 vols.; Erlangen: Palm & Enke, 1832] 2. 153) gives many other examples. H. Alford {The Greek Testament 2: The Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles to the Romans and Corinthians [5th ed.; London: Rivingtons, 1865] 500) seems to be drawing from Hrtung. 9 F. Blass and A. Debrunner {A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961] 253-55) discusses ellipsis, with numerous examples; see especially 480.5, on ellipses of verbs, and 481, on freer ellipses which occur "especially in letters, where the writer can count on the knowledge which the recipient shares with himself and where he imitates ordinary speech." 10 See C. Tischendorf, Novum Testamentum Graece (2 vols.; 8th ed.; Leipzig: Giesecke & Devrient, 1869-72) 2. 475, for a full list of witnesses. 11 I am indebted to Carol Kern Stockhausen of Marquette University for a helpful and supportive discussion of this. 12 Welborn, "Conciliatory Principle," 336.
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FIRST CORINTHIANS 4:6 101 Paul's use of Corinthian slogans, his calling the Corinthians "babies" needing milk, not solid food, his architectural metaphor in 1 Cor 3:9-15, and his reference to himself and Apollos as examples. 6. Commentators' observation that a similar rhetorical form is lacking in later rabbinic literature shows that commentators often repeat one another without adequate documentation from ancient texts or archaeological data. To what is Paul referring? What are the Corinthians probably supposed to recognize? Paul refers to a pedagogical conception which his hearers would recognize from their early education. They would recall their earliest experiences when, as children, they learned to write, and a person who could not write would know the image from the pedagogy of the time.13 The reference is to the instruction given to children learning to write letters of the alphabet. A teacher would carefully write the letter, word, or sentence, and the pupil would then meticulously copy the teacher's model or would trace over the lines lightly drawn by the teacher. A teacher might direct a pupil's fingers tracing over the light outline of letters already drawn. Pupils would go through this rote copying many times before being able to draw the letters for themselves. Throughout the process the pupil had to be careful not to go above the line with some letters or to go below the line with others. One was neither to fall short of the model given nor to go beyond it. Here are three examples in which such pedagogical practice is described. The first, from one of Seneca's epistles to Lucilius, stems from about the same time as 1 Corinthians.14 Boys study according to direction. Theirfingersare held and guided by others so that they may follow the outlines of the letters; next, they are ordered to imitate a copy and base thereon a style of penmanship. Similarly the mind is helped if it is taught according to direction. (Seneca Ep. 94.51)15 The second example is from Plato's Protagoras, The context (Prt. 320-28) is a characteristic speech in which Protagoras illustrates the Platonic doctrine
13 Especially valuable from the studies of ancient education are those of W. Jaeger, Pal deia: The Ideals of Greek Culture (3 vols.; 2d ed.; New York: Oxford University Press, 1945); S. F. Bonner, Education in Ancient Rome, from the Elder Cato to the hunger Pliny (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977); H. I. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity (Mentor Books MQ552; New York: New American Library, 1964); W. V. Harris, Ancient Literacy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989). Since Harris is so conservative in his view of the extent of literacy in antiquity, the series of responses in Mary Beard et al., Literacy in the Roman World (Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series 3; Ann Arbor, MI: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 1991) serve as a balance. 14 Seneca wrote his epistles in his "closing years" (ca. 63-65 CE.). See Gummere's introduction, Seneca: Ad Lucilium Epistulae morales, with an English translation by R. M. Gummere (3 vols.; LCL; London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam's, 1917-25) 1. ix. 15 Gummere's translation, ibid., 3. 45.

102 THE CATHOLIC BIBLICAL QUARTERLY I 60, 1998 that virtue can be taught, both by individuals and by the state. In the course of his speech he says of the sons of the rich that when they are released from their schooling, the city next compels them to learn the laws and to live according to them as after a pattern, that their conduct may not be swayed by their own light fancies, but just as writing-masters first draw letters in faint outline with the pen for their less advanced pupils, and then give them the copy-book and make them write according to the guidance of their lines, so the city sketches out for them the laws devised by good lawgivers of yore, and constrains them to govern and be governed according to these. (Plato Prt. 326D)16 In the third example, Quintilian, prior to 96 C E . , is talking about a child learning the alphabet. As soon as the child has begun to know the shapes of the various letters, it will be no bad thing to have them cut as accurately as possible upon a board, su that the pen may be guided along the grooves. Thus mistakes such as occur with wax tablets will be rendered impossible; for the pen will be confined between the edges of the letters and will be prevented from going astray. Further by increasing the frequency and speed with which they follow these fixed outlines we shall give steadiness to the fingers, and there will be no need to guide the child's hand with our own. The art of writing well and quickly is not unimportant for our purpose, though it is generally disregarded by persons of quality. Writing is of the utmost importance in the study which we have under consideration and by its means alone can true and deeply rooted proficiency be obtained. But a sluggish pen delays our thoughts, while an uninformed and illiterate hand cannot be deciphered, a circumstance which necessitates another wearisome task, namely, the dictation of what we have written to a copyist. We shall therefore at all times and in all places, and above all when we are writing private letters to our friends, find a gratification in the thought that we have not neglected even this accomplishment. (Quintilian Inst. 1.1.27-29)17 Using such imagery, immediately recognizable to the Corinthians, Paul is telling the Corinthians to follow Apollos and himself as models: "Copy us, imitate us, being careful, just as you were as children learning to write letters, not to write above or below the lines."18 While Paul stresses a parity between
16 The translation is taken from Plato: Laches; Protagoras; Meno; Euthydemus, with an English translation by W. R. M. Lamb (LCL; London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam's, 1924) 145. 17 The translation is taken from The Institutio Oratoria of Quintilian, with an English translation by H. E. Butler (4 vols.; LCL; London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam's, 1921-22) 1. 33-35. 18 Compare Boykin Sanders, "Imitating Paul: 1 Cor 4:16," HTR 74 (1981) 353-63. Benjamin Fiore ("'Covert Allusion' in 1 Corinthians 1-4," CBQ 47 [1985] 85-102) studies the various places in 1 Corinthians 1-4 where Paul refers to Apollos and himself as examples to be followed.

FIRST CORINTHIANS 4:6 103 Apollos and himself, he makes it clear that he is their one and only father and that his work is earlier than that of Apollos ("I planted, Apollos watered") and thus, is greater in importance. The Corinthians translate this into life by recalling the religious ABCs which they learned from Paul and Apollos. Those teachings provide a theocentric emphasis which should correct the Corinthians' anthropocentric view of Christianity. They should cease to be puffed in favor of one missionary over another, and divisions in the church should not occur.19 This interpretation of 1 Cor 4:6 fits the context and the moment of the relationship between teacher and student just as it does in the passages quoted from Seneca, Plato, and Quintilian. The familiar image of not going above or below the line when writing was available to them. It fits the theological, ethical, and rhetorical context in which Paul develops his argument within the total context of childhood language in 1 Corinthians. Finally, this interpretation satisfies.
19 Fiore (" 'Covert Allusion,'" 174 n. 24) affirms that "the advantage of seeing the phrase in 1 Cor 4:6 in terms of a school exercise is that this preserves the rhetorical harmony of the context and provides a parallel in usage as far as character imitation goes."

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