Word Study: 'Simplicity' in Christ

For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2-3 NKJV)

This verse is often times used to defend and promote an immature intellect when approaching the Scriptures and Doctrines of Christ and His Church, yet, a deep understanding will sharpen the dull man into a weapon for the Gospel.

As we study the word ‘simplicity’, keep in mind that the English language has changed in the past 400 years, and that words have different meanings in different contexts.

Thayer says, concerning the Greek ἁπλότητος,

1) singleness, simplicity, sincerity, mental honesty

1a) the virtue of one who is free from pretense and hypocrisy

2) not self seeking, openness of heart manifesting itself by generosity

Nothing in the meaning of this word can we find a prohibition against ministerial education (whether self or other), no a prohibition against plumbing the depths of God.

Not to delve into textual criticism, less we turn off those that deny such things, Critical Texts add and the purity (καὶ τῆς ἁγνότητοσ) as is found in the NET,

For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy, because I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2-3 NET)

This addition (depending on the way that you look at it) clears the message up, in that it acts as a synonym to the Greek for ἁπλότητος; it shows that our devotion must be singled minded to Christ.

A simple comparison between the two translations (which was recommended by the KJV translators themselves) shows that the Greek ἁπλότης does not have an established meaning in ‘simplicity’. Many modern translations translated ἁπλότητος here as ‘sincere’, following the idea of mental honesty, free of pretense and hypocrisy.

The idea is simply: Eve lost her sight of what God had said, and thus was deceived. Paul is saying that he wants to present the Church as a bride, undeceived, pure in thought and devotion to her Husband. Calvin seems to agree:

Now Paul says that he is concerned, that the minds of the Corinthians may not be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ Paul, it is true, says in Greek εἰς Χριστόν , which Erasmus renders towards Christ, but the Old Interpreter has come nearer, in my opinion, to Paul’s intention, because by the simplicity that is in Christ is meant, that which keeps us in the unadulterated and pure doctrine of the gospel, and admits of no foreign admixtures

Calvin is correct, in that the Greek here means that our devotion to Christ and the Doctrines of the Church must be without man’s thoughts and traditions, yet, no one would go so far as to say that a deep study of the Scriptures would be insincere. The Church at Corinth was under attack by false religions and ways from within the Church – Paul was trying to stop the saints in the body for loosing their devotion to Christ, not limiting their ability to study deep into the Scriptures. Again, Paul is trying to prevent the Church from loosing her focus, as Eve did by listening to the serpent.

Studying to show ourselves approved is not discredited by the Scriptures themselves:

Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.  (Acts 17:10-11 NKJV)

Zophar asks Job,

“Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? (Job 11:7 NKJV)

Job answers,

He uncovers deep things out of darkness, And brings the shadow of death to light. (Job 12:22 NKJV)

Again, we find that there are deep things, depths of God, that He uncovers for us, if our minds are on Him. To say that the Faith is simple (as opposed to a simple faith) is against the Scriptures. We have strong and study, deep and cavernous doctrines in God.

He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him. (Daniel 2:22 NKJV)

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10 NKJV)

Do not fall into the trap where you believe that searching the depths of God is wrong. Granted, searching for a new revelation is, but searching for those things which God has for us, is commanded and commended.

Post By Joel L. Watts (10,172 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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