Greek Study: 1 Cor 6:9-11

Since I’m currently going with 4 verses a day, I actually got through verse 12, but I’ll delay that verse since it starts a new section.

9.) ἧ ουκ οιδατε ὃτι αδικοι θεου βασιλεαν ου κληρονομησουσιν; μη ανασθε, ουτε πορνοι ουτε ειδωλολατραι ουτε μοικοι ουτε μαλακοι ουτε αρσενοκοιται
10.) ουτε κλεπται ουτε πλεονεκται ου μεθευσοι ου λοιδοροι ουκ αρπαγες βασιλεαν θεου κληρονομησουσιν.
11.) και ταυτα τινες ἧτε, αλλα απελουσασθε, αλλα ἣγιασθητε, αλλα εδικαιωθητε εν τῳ οναματι του κυριου Ιεσου Χριστου, και εν τῳ πνευματι του θεου ἡμων.

Now for a rough translation:
9) Or don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived! Neither those who practice sexual immorality, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders,
10) Nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanders, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
11) And you were some of these things, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God!

In verse 9, I’m curious about the significance of the word order for θεου βασιλεαν versus βασιλεαν θεου. Both mean kingdom of God, and word order is much freer in Greek than in English. However, Paul inverts the normal word order with θεου βασιλεαν in verse 9 and then reverts back to the normal order in verse 10. Is Paul bringing special emphasis to God in bringing the word θεου forward in the sentence? I’ve asked the B-Greek mailing list and I’ll update later with some of their thoughts.

In verse 10, I’m puzzled as to why Paul reverts to ου… ου… ουκ for the last few items instead of keeping up the ουτε. Again, no difference in meaning, but it seems peculiar to someone new to Greek.

Verse 11 is my favorite of the group. The verse doesn’t exactly play nice with what I was taught concerning salvation and sanctification. I was always taught that sanctification followed salvation, and was an ongoing process through the believers life. Here, Paul says very clearly “you all were sanctified,” or “You all were made holy.” Sanctification does have an ongoing aspect, but Paul chooses here to focus on sanctification as an act which took place in the past. After all, how can you be a saint (which in the New Testament is synonymous with believer) if you have been made into one (sanctified). Απελουσασθε (you all were washed) probably refers to baptism, and one could argue on the basis of 1 Cor 12 that that is what Paul has in mind here.

The repetition of αλλα is also interesting. I don’t *think* that it’s grammatically necessary for Paul to repeat the αλλα, though I don’t know enough to say for sure. If my hunch is correct, then the repetition of αλλα serves to drive home the correction even harder. From what I’ve read from Steve Runge and Rick Brannan, αλλα is generally used as a corrective ‘but.’ It thus serves to say, it’s not this but that! Here, I think it’s serving to forcefully remind the Corinthians of both their previous way of life, and their baptism, sanctification, and justification, mostly so that they’ll start acting like appropriately. Repeating the ‘but’ would be awkward in English, but you get a similar effect by repeating the “you were,” which could be dropped.

Finally, I’m curious about the  εν τῳ …. εν τῳ … phrase at the end of verse 11. As is usually the case in Greek, εν is a remarkably flexible preposition. It often means ‘in’ with the sense of location. It can also mean ‘by.’ I was surprised to come across two εν’s because I was familiar with the NIV’s “in the name… by the Spirit of …” This verse definitely parallels with 1 Cor 12 where Paul speaks of being baptized “by (εν) one spirit into (εις) one body.” Once Accordance arrives, I’ll look for some more examples where εν and εις are used together to better understand what’s going on there.

Next up, verses 12-16!


Update: My post to the B-Greek board garnered several responses. It was agreed that this was a “marked” word order, which means that since the word order is unusual there’s some meaning to it. What it actually means is not that easy. Another interesting idea mentioned was that θεου modified αδικοι instead of βασιλεαν. This means that instead of:

“Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom?”

it would be translated something like this:

“Don’t you know that the unrighteous with respect to God will not inherit the kingdom?”

It’s a bit awkward to me to see it that way, but I guess it’s grammatically possible. The Greek genitive is extremely flexible in how you interpret it, so there’s probably other ways to understand the construction as well.

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