Here I am again. I promised you I would go back to the first chapter of 1 Corinthians and begin making my way through the book explaining the grammar there. Before you read a book of the Bible, it is always good to know a little about it. To begin with, this book is a letter from the apostle Paul written to the church in Corinth, a city in south central Greece that is called Peloponnese today. The letter was written around 55 A. D.
At the time Paul was writing, Corinth was one of the major cities of Greece. There were not only a lot of free people living there, but also slaves. In fact, the slaves outnumbered the free people. Corinth was a place of commerce. There were several good roads going into it as well as a couple of harbours that brought traders. The people of Corinth placed high value on wisdom as did other Greeks. There were 12 pagan temples there. There was prostitution at the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. In fact, there were 1,000 temple prostitutes. The temple of Asclepius, the god of healing was there too as well as the temple of Apollo, the god of the sun. There was also a Jewish temple there. Corinth was full of immorality. In fact, there was so much immorality that the Greek verb that meant to become immoral came from the word “Corinth.” If you became immoral, you were “Corinthianized.”
We first read of Paul in Corinth in Acts 18 on his second missionary journey, a few years before this letter is written. On the occasion of this letter, the church in Corinth had several problems. Paul had heard about immorality in the church as well as people breaking into different groups. He had a lot of problems to fix. The letter was all an attempt to fix the problems taking place. Now, we are ready to begin with the Spanish grammar found in the letter.
1 Corintios 1:1: “Pablo, llamado a ser apostol de Jesucristo por la volundad de Dios, y el hermano Sostenes.”
Pablo = “Paul.” Paul introduces himself first, so they will know who wrote the letter.
llamado a ser apostol de Jesucristo = “called to be apostle from Jesus Christ.” “Llamado” comes from “llamar.” Most people who know any Spanish understand that “llamar” is a reflexive verb. The way you ask someone their name is by saying, “Como se llaman?”” meaning “What do they call you?” However, that can also mean “What do they call him (or her)?” That “se” is a reflexive pronoun often used with “llamar” that is either a formal ‘you,’ him, or her. If you use the form “llaman,” it means “they call.” You could also say “como te llamas?” which is a less formal way of saying the same thing and more direct translating, “What do you call yourself?” “Te” is the reflexive noun here, and it is a less formal “yourself,” and the “llamas” has an “s” on the end which means “you call.” Yes, “como” technically means “how,” but the say “how” here rather than “what.”
“Llamado” is the past participle of “llamar,” “called,” the form often used as an adjective which it is here, describing “Pablo.” “A ser” means “to be.” “Ser” is the “to be” verb used for permanent situations like the fact that Paul is called an apostle. “Apostol,” I am sure you recognize as “apostle” which means “one sent” in the Bible, like a missionary which is what Paul was. “De Jesucristo” means “from Jesus Christ,” a prepositional phrase with “de” as the preposition and “Jesucristo” as the object proper noun of the preposition.
por la volundad de Dios = “by the will of God.” If something is written by someone, in Spanish they will write “por” and then the person’s name like we write “by” and then the person’s name in English. “Por” can actually mean several things in Spanish, but here, it means “by.” “La” is a feminine definite article meaning “the.” A definite article means that the following noun is a particular noun, not just any noun, maybe only one. The noun following “la” is “volundad” which is a feminine noun that matches in gender and number with “la.” “Volundad” means “will” as a noun, not as a time marker for the verb. “De Dios” means “of God” and is a prepositional phrase. “De” is the preposition, and “Dios” is the object proper noun of the preposition, and this prepositional phrase tells about “la volundad” (the will).
y el hermano, Sostenes = “And the brother, Sosthenes.” “Y” means “and” and is pronounced “ee.” “El” doesn’t have an accent mark, so it means “the,” the definite article. “El” is a masculine “the.” Since it is a definite article, it means there is a particular “hermano” (brother). “Hermano” is a masculine noun because of the “o” on the end, and needs to be coupled with a masculine article, and it is, “el.” After that, there is a comma which means the next word will rename “el hermano,” and that word is his name “Sostene” (Sosthenes). “Sostene” (Sosthenese) would have been just as important to these people at Corinth as Paul was, and the grammar shows that he was. What is on one side of “y” (and), is just as important as what is on the other side. We always give credit to Paul for this letter, but he wrote it in conjunction with “Sostenes” (Sosthenes).
Who was Sosthenes? He was the ruler of the Jewish temple in Corinth. In Acts, when Paul was about to be beaten by a mob, Sosthenes recued him. You must realize that when Paul went around preaching to all the different places, he went into the Jewish temples in every city. That is how he initially got people to listen to him. It was one of his missionary methods. It helps to go to a place where people already believe in God to begin your preaching. In mission work, they say if you want to do any good, you need an advocate in the place where you are going for people to listen, and Sosthenes would have been Paul’s advocate. I can attest that it is much better to have someone on your side from the beginning. The people in Corinth listened to Paul because they knew Sosthenes. Paul didn’t just walk into Corinth and snap his fingers, and everyone was listening. There had to be a reason they were listening.
Let’s put this verse all together: “Paul, called to be an apostle by the will of God, and the brother Sosthenes,”
Now, we know who the letter was from. We always think of it as just being from Paul, but it was from Paul and Sosthenes. To the people in Corinth, it was important for it to be from both of them. Paul was not some kind of Pope that ruled the churches. He was a worker, a servant, and he was one of other servants like Sosthenes. He was sent by Jesus because God wanted him to, and God is the ruler of the church. This is the organization of the church. God is the big boss, and Jesus carries out what he wants and gives the orders. The rest of us follow what God says, and that is what Paul was telling us he was doing.
As with Sosthenes, people don’t give him enough credit. He was the man on the ground. Today, lots of churches like to send out temporary mission groups of teachers to other places which is fine, but it doesn’t work without that man on the ground, the man who stays. Sosthenes was the man who lived among the people, the one who was respected because of his life who was the one that caused them to listen to Paul. Sosthenes was a located missionary, the one left behind to prop the church up, keep the teaching going, and strengthen the church. He was not the man traveling around staying in fancy hotels and eating at all the restaurants who came, preached a sermon or a workshop, and left. Paul didn’t even stay at fancy hotels and eat at all the restaurants. They were both extremely dedicated men. Paul made his own way by making tents to sell along the way. They should be our models of Christian missionaries today. Paul learned to speak all the languages of the places he went so he could speak to them. He wasn’t there on a vacation, but to actually communicate with and help the people. Sosthenes spoke the language of the people too. Sosthenes was Jewish, not Greek, but he enabled the church, a gathering of God, to be built in Corinth, and led them, helping Paul teach them about God and also teaching them himself.