“TRACES OF A GOSPEL WRITING IN 1 CORINTHIANS: REDISCOVERY AND DEVELOPMENT OF ORIGEN’S UNDERSTANDING OF 1 CORINTHIANS 4:6B”
The identity of the document referenced by the saying quoted in 1 Corinthians 4:6, ‘Nothing beyond what stands written’, has been a source of intense scholarly debate over many years. An excerpt from Origen’s commentary on 1 Corinthians, preserved in a Catena, shows he likely understood the writing that ‘stands written’ to be a Gospel, and the saying to be a canon-like rule binding the churches to rely upon it alone as a source of teaching about Christ.
The flow of Paul’s rhetoric in 1 Corinthians 1:10 through 4:6, and especially the parenæsis of the metaphors in 3:5-17 (climaxing in the warning in vv 16-17), to which Paul refers in 4:6a, ‘I have applied these things figuratively to myself and Apollos in order that you may learn to keep the rule’, show Paul to be concerned to protect the gospel foundation of the church from human wisdom being promulgated by the factions (1:10ff). For the warning to protect that foundation to serve effectively to promote keeping of a rule holding the church’s teachers to a document, that document must itself be equivalent to the foundational preaching of the Apostle. Of all of the writings that have been proposed down through the years and are still seriously considered possibilities, only Origen’s apparent exegesis, that ‘what stands written’ was a Gospel, fits the context surrounding 4:6b.
Evidence in 1 Corinthians 5 that Paul presumes the Corinthians already know the Lord’s instructions on church discipline in Matthew 18 and in 1 Corinthians 7 that Paul is correcting the Corinthians’ misconstruction of the Lord’s teaching on divorce and celibacy in Matthew 19:1-12 suggest the most likely identity of the Gospel, ‘what stands written’, is what is now known as the Gospel According to Matthew.