“I Partly Believe it” or “I Believe a Certain Report”? – 1 Cor. 11:18 Reconsidered

After reading about Bruce Winter’s book After Paul Left Corinth I decided to buy a copy. I was mostly interested in reading his full treatment of 1 Cor. 12:3 which he thinks should be translated as “Jesus grants a curse.” See here for more. As I perused it I noted an appendix titled “‘I Partly Believe it’ or ‘I Believe a Certain Report’? (11:18).” The passage in question is chapter 11 and verse 18 which reads in the NIV “In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.” It’s the last part of the verse that Winter calls into question. I looked at over 30 English translations and they all had some variation of what we find in the NIV. (See the list below.) The ESV does offer “believe a certain report” in the footnotes. (The New Life Version was most surprising with “I almost believe this is true.” This makes it sound as if Paul didn’t believe any of the report which is clearly not right.) Winter says the traditional translation doesn’t make sense in light of what comes before in 1:10-4:21 and 11:17-34. “There he not only names the source of his information as ‘those of Chloe’s household’ and reports what they have said—‘that there are contentions among you’ (ὅτι ἔριδες ἐν ὑμῖν εἰσιν) (1:11b)—but also indicates why they have said it.” (159)

Winter observes that some commentators take this as evidence of the “fragmentary nature of 1 Corinthians.” In other words 11:2-34 is prior to 1-4. Others believe Paul is distancing himself from the hearsay or is being diplomatic. Winter believes these are all wrong. He states clearly, “Paul, we are arguing, is not at all uncertain about the difficulties, and 11:18 should be read, ‘And I believe a certain report.’” (161) He notes that there are only three places where the Greek words μέρος + τι are linked together (Luke 11:36, Acts 5:2 and here). “[I]t makes no sense to translate either Luke 11:36 or Acts 5:2 adverbially.” (162)

David Garland agrees. “Winter argues convincingly, however, that μέρος carries a wide range of meanings in the NT and in literary and nonliterary sources and that it refers to a ‘matter’ (2 Cor. 9:3) or ‘report’ and should not be translated adverbially (‘partly’).” (1 Corinthians, 537-38)

This alternate translation is not of major consequence but it does seem to make better sense of the passage.

It’s something to think about.

And I partly believe it – 21st century KJV, ASV, CEB, KJV, RSV, World English Bible, Christian Community Bible, Modern New Testament from the Aramaic (Lamsa), Tyndale’s New Testament

And in part I believe it – Amplified, Douay-Rheims, HCSB, Lexham English Bible, NASB, NET, NKJV,

And I’m sure that some of what I have heard is true. – CEV

and I partly give credit [to it]. – Darby

and this is not hard to believe – Easy-to-Read Version,

and I believe it in part – ESV

and I believe some of this – Expanded Bible, New Century Version

and I believe it to be true in some part – 1599 Geneva

and I believe some of what I hear – God’s Word

and this I believe is partly true – Good News Translation

and to some extent I believe it – NIV, NLT, NRSV, New Jerusalem Bible

I almost believe this is true – New Life Version

And partly I believe [it] – Young’s Literal

I believe there is some truth in it – Revised English Bible

And to a degree I believe it – New American Bible

And I half believe it – Jerusalem Bible

 

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About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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