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Speaking Wisdom to the Perfect

In 1 Corinthians 2:6, Paul writes, “But we speak wisdom among the perfect.” What is this “wisdom” (σοφίαν), and who are “the perfect” (τοῖς τελείοις)?

John Chrysostom thinks that the “wisdom” referred to is nothing other than the Gospel, and that the “perfect” are simply believers in that Gospel. In other words, for Christians there is no disciplina arcani; there is only the saving message of the crucified Christ–“the being saved by the Cross”–apprehended by faith. All “human things” are of no avail to deal with sin and death.

His words then are, Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect: for when I, accounted foolish and a preacher of follies, get the better of the wise, I overcome wisdom, not by foolishness but by a more perfect wisdom; a wisdom, too, so ample and so much greater, that the other appears foolishness. Wherefore having before called it by a name such as they named it at that time, and having both proved his victory from the facts, and shown the extreme foolishness of the other side: he thenceforth bestows upon it its right name, saying, Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect. Wisdom is the name he gives to the Gospel, to the method of salvation, the being saved by the Cross. The perfect, are those who believe. For indeed they are perfect, who know all human things to be utterly helpless, and who overlook them from the conviction that by such they are profited nothing: such were the true believers.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.