What does 1 Corinthians 1:20 mean?
ESV: Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
NIV: Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
NASB: Where is the wise person? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world?
CSB: Where is the one who is wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn't God made the world's wisdom foolish?
NLT: So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.
KJV: Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
Verse Commentary:
The Corinthian Christians lived in a culture which placed enormous value on human wisdom, philosophy, and expertise. The Jewish culture, as well, under the law of Moses, elevated study and scholarship to a place of high status (John 7:49; Mark 1:22; Philippians 3:4–8).

Paul now makes the point that despite high-powered human knowledge and wisdom, these self-appointed gurus had all missed the simple power of Christ, the Son of God, crucified to pay for human sinfulness.

Poetically, and somewhat sarcastically, Paul asks where the wise man is. Where is the Jewish scribe, with all his study? Where is the great debater or philosopher of this era, the ones viewed with such great respect? Why, with all their skill and hard work, have they decided that the cross of Christ is foolishness? Why didn't their study and carefully worded arguments bring them to the truth?
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 1:18–31 describes the foolishness of the gospel in the world's eyes. Both Jews and Greeks rejected the idea of Christ crucified. Any god who would die on a Roman cross, especially as a sacrifice for human sinfulness, would be seen by worldly eyes as a weak and foolish deity. God, though, will shame the wise and strong by giving the ability to believe in the cross of Christ mostly to the weak and foolish of the world, in human terms. In the end, nobody will boast before him of their own strength and wisdom.
Chapter Summary:
Paul's letter to the Christians in Corinth begins with thanks for the great and powerful gifts God has given to them by His grace and through their faith in Christ. They will stand blameless before God in the end. Right now, though, they must stop dividing themselves according to which Christian teacher they follow and become unified in and around Christ. The gospel message of Christ's death on the cross is weak and foolish to the world, but God has given faith in Christ to those who believe it and find God's power and wisdom.
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 1 begins Paul's letter to the Christians in Corinth, a big, bustling city on a major trade route. Paul knows them well, having spent a year and a half leading people to Christ and establishing the church there. He writes from Ephesus to correct some of their wrong attitudes and behaviors and to answer some of their questions. First, though, he thanks God for His grace to the Corinthians, knowing they will stand blameless before Him on the day of the Lord. Still, they must stop being divided and unite in and around Christ.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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