The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 27, 2016


A Summary of  1 Cor 10:1-13~At the close of the preceding chapter the Apostle had proposed his own austerity of life to the Corinthians as an example which they should imitate. And lest they should think his fear exaggerated and groundless, he now cites a fact of Jewish history, which shows that, though all the Israelites that went out from Egypt received the same typical Baptism and were fed with the same miraculous food, only those few finally entered the promised land who had the spirit of self-denial and sacrifice, all the rest having perished for their sins. Therefore, we have need of watchfulness at all times. And yet there is no reason for discouragement, because God will always do His part, if we do ours.

1. For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea.

The Corinthian faithful must have known the history St. Paul now refers to, and so he proceeds to unfold to them its spiritual meaning.

For (yap) links this chapter, or at least the first thirteen verses of it, very closely with the preceding chapter.

Our fathers, i.e., the Jews of the Exodus, who, like the other ancient Jews, were really the spiritual forefathers of all Christians, whether Jewish or Gentile, because the Church had naturally succeeded the Synagogue, and the faithful were the true heirs and sons of Abraham (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 3:6-9).

Under the cloud is an allusion to the “pillar of cloud” which guided the Israelites in their march out of Egypt, screening them from the Egyptians and protecting them from the sun (Ex 14:19 ff.; Num. 14:14; Ps. 10539; Wis. 10:17; 19:7).

The sea, i.e., the Red Sea (Ex. 13:21; 14:19 ff.). All those Jews of the Exodus received divine favors that were typical of the two greatest Sacraments of the New Law: Baptism, which is the most necessary, and the Blessed Eucharist, which is the most excellent. They all received a typical Baptism and a typical Communion (Cornely, MacR.).

2. And all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in tfie sea:

All in Moses were baptized, i.e., all the Jews of the Exodus
were baptized unto the following of Moses as their leader, whose
Law they were thereafter obliged to observe, just as Christians,
through the Sacrament of Baptism, are enrolled under the leadership of Christ, promising to obey His law.

In the cloud, and in the sea, i.e., the cloud, the sensible sign of the presence of God, was a type of the Holy Ghost who is given in the Sacrament of Baptism ; and the sea, through which the Israelites were delivered from the bondage of Pharaoh, was a type of the waters of Baptism through which we are liberated from the power of sin and the devil.

The Vulgate in Moyse should be in Moysen (εις μωυσην), unto Moses.

3. And did all eat the same spiritual food,

Besides a typical Baptism the Israelites had also a typical Communion; for they all ate the same spiritual food, i.e., the manna (Ex 16:15), which, as being given in a miraculous manner and as typifying the Eucharist, is rightly termed “spiritual food” (John 6:35, 48, 50).

4. And all drank the same spiritual drink; (and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.)

A further great blessing enjoyed by the Jews of the Exodus was that while in the desert they all drank the same spiritual drink, i.e., the water which was miraculously produced from the rock in the desert the second year after leaving Egypt (Ex 17:6), and in the desert of Sinai during the last year of the Israelites’ wanderings (Num. 20:8). This water was a “spiritual drink,” both because of its miraculous origin, and because it was a figure of the blood of Christ given us in the Eucharist.

And they drank of the spiritual rock. Better, “For they drank,” etc. What was this “spiritual rock”? According to St. Chrysostom and the majority of Catholic exegetes it was Christ (Verbum incarnandum), who was spiritually present with the Jews in the desert, and who, on at least two occasions of which we are told (Ex 17:6; Num. 20:8), provided the water in question. It is the opinion of many of the Fathers that the Son of God used to appear at times as an angel or messenger in Old Testament days. And furthermore, there is no objection to Christ being called a rock, because this same term is often applied to God in the Old Testament (Deut. 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31, 37; Isa. 17:10; 21:4; etc.).

In this explanation there is no difficulty in the subsequent words
of the verse, that followed them, etc.

But others believe the “spiritual rock” was an actual material rock, just as the “spiritual food” and the “sea,” spoken of in the verses preceding, were corporal food and actual water respectively. It was called a “spiritual” rock because of the miraculous water that flowed from it and because of the holier reality it typified, namely, the blood of Christ. But how could a material rock be said to follow the Israelites in their wanderings? Some have answered that it rolled with them, as an old Rabbinical fable had it (Bemidbar Rabbah, c. 2), supplying them with water as they needed it. If this were so, how could we explain the distress of Num. 20:1-13? Others hold with greater probability that St. Paul means to say that any rock they met in their wanderings, which Moses was divinely directed to strike, responded with its flow of miraculous water.

And the rock was Christ, i.e., Christ spiritually present, according to the first opinion explained above; or Christ in figure, a type of Christ, according to the second view just explained.

5. But with most of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the desert.

More than 600,000 men of twenty years and upwards went out of Egypt; and although each and all of them partook of the same spiritual favors, they all perished because of their sins, except two, Josue (Joshua) and Caleb, who lived to enter the promised land (Num. 1:46; 14:20; 26:63 ff.).

6. Now these things were done in a figure of us, that we should not covet evil things as they also coveted.

These things were done in a figure, etc., i.e., the benefits bestowed, and the punishments later inflicted on the Israelites were figures of what has happened and will happen to us if we, like them, are unfaithful. “As you eat the Lord’s body, so did they eat manna; and as you drink His blood, so did they drink water from the rock; and as they were severely punished for their sins, so shall you be punished, if you sin like them” (St. Chrys.).

That we should not covet, etc. Perhaps the reference is not to avoiding sins in general, as St. Chrysostom thinks, but only to the fault of the Corinthians, who should not covet meats offered to idols, for fear of idolatry, as the Jews coveted the fleshpots of Egypt and turned to idolatrous worship.

7. Neither become ye idolaters, as some of them, as it is written: The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

Above all we Christians must avoid all idolatrous practices, such as those of the Jews in the desert (Exod 32:6), who sacrificed and feasted and indulged in idolatrous dances in honor of the golden calf.

8. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed fornication, and there fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

The reference here is to the sins committed by the Hebrews in the desert with the daughters of Moab (Num 25:1) who had invited them to their sacrifices in honor of the idol Beelphegor. The worship of this idol included many impurities. The Corinthians are admonished to be on their guard against taking part in similar licentious sacrifices in worship of Aphrodite, whose temple on the Acrocorinthus contained a thousand prostitutes.

Three and twenty thousand. The account of the same event in Num 25:1-9 gives four and twenty thousand. The difference is doubtless due to a copyist, who wrote three for four in transcribing St. Paul. Or perhaps St. Paul is speaking of the number that fell in one day, whereas Numbers gives all who fell on that occasion. Others say the Apostle is speaking in round numbers.

9. Neither let us tempt Christ: as some of them tempted, and perished by the serpents.

Neither let us tempt Christ, etc. The best MSS. have “the Lord” instead of “Christ,” but the latter is also well supported (by D E F G, Old Lat, Vulg., Peshitto). The Corinthians are warned not to complain of their humble conditions and restrictions as Christians, as the Israelites in the desert murmured against the providence of God and doubted His faithfulness (Num 21:4-6), and in consequence were destroyed by serpents.

10. Neither do you murmur: as some of them murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

The Apostle is warning the Corinthians not to complain of him and their other lawful superiors. Some think the murmuring here referred to was the complaint of the Jews at being deprived of the delights of Egypt, and their demand for meat (Num 11:4 ff.); but it is more probable that the reference is to the occasion mentioned in Num 16:41, where we read that “all the multitude murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, You have slain the people of God.”

The destroyer (ολοθρευτου) spoken of here is doubtless the same as the plague of Num 16, because Wis 18:25, referring to the same event, uses the same word (ὀλοθρευτής) that we have here.

11. Now all these things happened to them in figure: and they are written for our correction, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

The Apostle now tells his readers that the sins and consequent calamities that befell the Jews in the desert were types of what may happen to them, if they be not faithful.

The ends of the world. Better, “The close of the ages,” i.e., the Christian dispensation, “the fulness of time” (Gal 4:4), which is not to be succeeded by any further religious dispensation, but will continue till the Second Coming of Christ. For similar expressions which refer to the Messianic or Christian era, see Eph 1:10; Heb 9:26; 1 Peter 1:15; 1 John 2:18; etc.

The Vulgate in correptionem nostram should be in correptionem nostri.

12. Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall.

The conclusion from the foregoing is that, if what befell the Israelites is a figure of what may happen to us Christians, baptized in Christ and fed on His flesh and blood, we must be ever on our guard against over-confidence, lest, while thinking ourselves secure in God’s favor, we lose His grace and fall away into sin, perhaps losing our souls.

Himself (Vulg., se) is not in the Greek, but is implied in the context.

No one, short of a special divine revelation, can be absolutely certain that he is in the state of grace (Conc. Trid., Sess. VI. De Justificatione, cap. 9, 13).

13. Let no temptation take hold on you, but such as is human. And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it.

Fearing that the faithful at Corinth may be discouraged at the picture just drawn of the calamities that befell the Jews, St. Paul now wishes to console and hearten them, assuring them that in all their temptations and trials God will never fail to give them sufficient help to overcome. In other words, their temptations in the past have been only human, i.e., tolerable; and God will continue to help them in the future.

Let no temptation, etc. Rather, according to nearly all of the Greek MSS., the Fathers, and most of the versions, “No temptation hath come upon you, but such as you could bear,” i.e., the temptations of the Corinthians in the past have been bearable, with God’s grace; and God is faithful, i.e., He can be trusted to continue in the future what He has done so far. By “temptation” is meant all that induces man to moral evil, and that may be the occasion of spiritual death.

But will make also, etc., God will give with the temptation also the way of escape, so that you may be victorious and overcome.

In the Vulgate apprehendat should be apprehendit, to agree with the best Greek MSS. and the best versions.

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