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1 Corinthians 9:3-18

Context
9:3 This is my defense to those who examine me. 9:4 Do we not have the right to financial support? 1  9:5 Do we not have the right to the company of a believing wife, like the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? 9:6 Or do only Barnabas and I lack the right not to work? 9:7 Who ever serves in the army at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Who tends a flock and does not consume its milk? 9:8 Am I saying these things only on the basis of common sense, 2  or does the law not say this as well? 9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” 3  God is not concerned here about oxen, is he? 9:10 Or is he not surely speaking for our benefit? It was written for us, because the one plowing and threshing ought to work in hope of enjoying the harvest. 9:11 If we sowed spiritual blessings among you, is it too much to reap material things from you? 9:12 If others receive this right from you, are we not more deserving?

But we have not made use of this right. Instead we endure everything so that we may not be a hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 9:13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple 4  eat food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar receive a part of the offerings? 9:14 In the same way the Lord commanded those who proclaim the gospel to receive their living by the gospel. 9:15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing these things so that something will be done for me. 5  In fact, it would be better for me to die than – no one will deprive me of my reason for boasting! 6  9:16 For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason for boasting, because I am compelled to do this. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 9:17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward. But if I do it unwillingly, I am entrusted with a responsibility. 9:18 What then is my reward? That when I preach the gospel I may offer the gospel free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights in the gospel.

1 tn Grk “the right to eat and drink.” In the context this is a figurative reference to financial support.

2 tn Or “only according to human authority”; Grk “saying these things according to men.”

3 sn A quotation from Deut 25:4.

4 tn Grk “working the sacred things.”

5 tn Grk “so that it will happen in this way in my case.”

6 tc The reading τὸ καύχημά μου οὐδεὶς κενώσει (hto kauchma mou oudei" kenwsei, “than – no one will deprive me of my reason for boasting!”) is syntactically abrupt, but fully in keeping with Pauline style. It is supported by Ì46 א* B D*,c 33 1739 1881 as well as early patristic authors. Most witnesses, especially the later ones (א2 C D2 Ψ Ï lat), have a significantly smoother reading than this: τὸ καύχημά μου ἵνα τις κενώσῃ (or κενώσει); h to kauchma mou {ina ti" kenwsh (or kenwsei), “than that anyone should deprive me of my boasting.” The simple replacement of οὐδείς with ἵνα essentially accomplishes the smoothing out of the text, and as such the ἵνα reading is suspect. Not only is the harder reading in keeping with Pauline style, but it is also found in the earlier and better witnesses.

sn Paul breaks off his thought at mid-sentence (indicated by the dash in the translation) and it is somewhat difficult to determine his reason for boasting. Most likely Paul would rather die than be deprived of the boast that he had offered the gospel free of charge even though as an apostle he had the right to such support (9:14). Did he say this as a way of criticizing his opponents? Perhaps only indirectly. His focus has more to do with not hindering the gospel than what his opponents were doing (9:12).



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