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Purpose of the Study

The proclamation of the cross of Christ is the central message in the New Testament scriptures, which provides the freedom and the knowledge necessary to have a relationship with the God of the Bible. Nevertheless, the centrality of this message seems to have become displaced from the teaching ministries of the American church. The displacement that has occurred seems to be resultant from the integration models that the church has embraced; such as secular marketing schemes, psychology, philosophy, multimedia presentations, etc. The use of these models has caused the displacement of the central message of the church. The issue is not that these models are inherently evil, but that such methods of communicating and understanding God have been given primacy over the message of the cross. Consequently, the message of the cross has become secondary, and therefore the church in America does not have a message based on the power of the cross. [1]

The Apostle Paul addresses such issues in the first four chapters of the first epistle to the Corinthians. The church at Corinth was experiencing factionalism amongst its members, thus Paul confronts the underlying problem causing such schism at Corinth. In confronting the underlying problem, Paul points out that the Corinthians had embraced a man-centered wisdom that ultimately was causing the church to view the proclamation of the cross as secondary, worse yet, as foolishness.

Parameters of the Study

The content of the thesis fits nicely into three pericopes found within this epistle: 1:18-25; 1:26-31; and 2:1-5. I Corinthians 1:26-31 and 2:1-5, deal respectively with the recipients of the gospel and the results of the gospel. These notions are valuable components within the larger context of I Corinthians, but it is not necessary to explicate these pericopes to provide the basis for understanding the above mentioned thesis. Neither is it necessary to explicate the broader section of which these pericopes are apart, chapters 1—4; nor is it necessary to explore the broadest context of the epistle, chapters 1—6, to substantiate the thesis of this study.

What is necessary to understand the aforementioned thesis is the pericope found in 1:18-25, and the occasion of the epistle found in 1:10-16. It is within these paragraphs that Paul reveals his understanding of the relationship between man-centered wisdom and God-centered wisdom. This passage is key because it provides the perspective and the content of Paul’s first response to the Corinthians, relative to the factionalism occurring in Corinth.

Therefore this study will provide the necessary introductory context that served as the occasion for the writing of the epistle. Likewise, this study will provide in-depth lexical analysis of the key word sofia, which functions as a central notion within this pericope. Hence, obtaining adequate understanding of this word will provide invaluable insight into opening up Paul’s diatribe to the Corinthians.

Accordingly, exegesis will be provided for the key transition verse of 1:17. This verse provides transition from the description of the problem at Corinth, to Paul’s prescription (i.e. do not integrate man-centered wisdom with the gospel) for how the Corinthians ought to deal with their problem. Understanding this passage is essential, because it is here that the Apostle Paul introduces the touchstone issue for the rest of the pericope (i.e. sofia logou and ‘O logos o tou staupou).

Methodology of the Study

There is voluminous amount of material related to the study of the epistle of I Corinthians, thus it was necessary to limit this study to some key resources.

This study will interact with what has been determined to be key commentaries, journal articles, lexicons, and background information. The author of this paper will interact with such resources as the research warrants.

The methodological approach is to provide the proper background information and occasion to understand the socio/cultural/historico context to which this epistle was addressed. That understanding will be provided in the first chapter of this study. In order to accomplish this task, the author of this paper will interact with the commentaries, lexicons, journal articles, and background information deemed necessary to come to an adequate understanding. Also this chapter will discuss the alternative perspectives on this pericope. This will serve to survey various understanding of this passage, and in the process provide the framework from which this study will proceed.

In chapter two, this study will engage the body of the paper, exegesis of I Corinthians 1:17-25. It is here that this study will intimately interact with the commentaries, Greek grammar, lexical analysis, on a verse-by-verse analysis. The study will carefully interweave the relevant material and dialogue between commentators and the author of this paper, in order to provide substantiation of the above mentioned thesis statement, “The Apostle Paul believed that the integration of man-centered wisdom with the Christian Gospel, results in the denuding of the power and wisdom found in the simple message of the cross.”

Finally, chapter three provides a reflection on the previous study and points out two major principles that have been produced via the research for this study. The methodology offered here is different than that offered in the previous two chapters. Here the author of this paper will interact with total yielded results of this paper, and not intimately be involved in dialogue with the commentaries used to come to the principles offered in chapter three.

In conclusion, this study finishes with a summary-overview of the entire paper. Here the finished product is revealed, highlighting the main points of the study, which are linked with the thesis statement. The linkage provides evidence for the substantiation of the thesis put forth by this study. Likewise, the alternative perspectives, offered in chapter one, will be addressed. The study shows that the thesis of this paper is substantiated by the exegesis of I Corinthians 1:17-25. It also points out that many of the perspectives provided for this passage do not measure up to the exegesis.

In the last instance an appendix is offered, which will provide an in-depth analysis of the key word sofia. The analysis provided helps give a fuller understanding of how this word can potentially function, and thus brings added depth to the comprehension of its usage within the pericope of I Corinthians 1:17-25.


[1] See Os Guiness, Dining with the Devil The Megachurch Movement Flirts with Modernity (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993), 9-91. This characterization of the American church is a generalization of the church. It is not intended to imply that there are no good churches in America. But it is to serve as illustrative of the general trajectory of the direction that many churches appear to be taking in the 21st century. And it is not the purpose of this study to prove this statement one way or the other.