In 1 Corinthians 4:14, the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

I do not write these things to shame you, but I warn [you] as my beloved children.
Οὐκ ἐντρέπων ὑμᾶς γράφω ταῦτα ἀλλ᾽ ὡς τέκνα μου ἀγαπητὰ νουθετῶ

Yet, in 1 Corinthians 6:5, he wrote,

I speak to your shame. Is it so, there is not a wise man among you—not even one who will be able to judge between his brothers?
πρὸς ἐντροπὴν ὑμῖν λέγω οὕτως οὐκ ἐστὶν ἐν ὑμῖν σοφὸς οὐδὲ εἷς, ὃς δυνήσεται διακρῖναι ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ;

And again, in 1 Corinthians 15:34, he wrote,

Be righteously sober, and do not sin, for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak to your shame.
ἐκνήψατε δικαίως καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε ἀγνωσίαν γὰρ θεοῦ τινες ἔχουσιν πρὸς ἐντροπὴν ὑμῖν λέγω

How does one reconcile the apostle Paul’s statement that he did not write to shame the Corinthians, and yet, he admits to speaking to their shame?

2 Answers 2


The idea of "shame" is something of theme of Paul's. I note the following:

  • The noun ἐντροπή occurs twice in the NT - both by Paul in 1 Cor 6:5 & 15:34
  • The verb ἐντρέπω occurs 9 times in the NT; but of these the meaning "shame" is used entirely by Paul in 1 Cor 4:14, 2 Thess 3:14 & Titus 2:8.
  • The verb καταισχύνω occurs 13 times in the NT and 10 times in the writings of Paul and 5 times just in 1 Corinthians.

Now back to the OP's question. The three verses in 1 Cor 4:14, 6:5 & 15:34 are discussing different situations:

  • 1 Cor 4:14 - Paul is discussing (V1-13) his life as an apostle which he describes as difficult, being "dishonored. "To this very hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed, we are brutally treated, we are homeless." (V10, 11). He concludes (V13), "Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world." His next statement that he (Paul) is telling them this not to shame them presumably because the Corinthians have not treated him badly at all but welcomed him; Paul boasts about them (1 Cor 15:31). Paul wanted to warn them about life as an apostle and its difficulties.
  • 1 Cor 6:5 - This time Paul is discussing some their bad, reprehensible behavior about squabbles among the church members! Then they go further by appearing before secular judges to settle matters that should be easily settle between themselves. Paul describes these deplorable fights "to your shame". That is, they should be ashamed of their behavior.; or, they should not "air dirty washing in public" to coin a more modern phrase.
  • 1 Cor 15:34 - This time Paul is discussing the Corinthian way of life (notorious in most circles at the time anyway!!). In V33 & 34 we have: Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Sober up as you ought, and stop sinning; for some of you are ignorant of God. I say this to your shame." Thus, Paul is rebuking them for unchristian behavior and way of life; their ignorance of God.

Thus, Paul's three uses of the idea of shame (ἐντροπή & ἐντρέπω) is entirely understandable in the context in which he was admonishing the Corinthian members.

  • By your statement “The three verses in 1 Cor 4:14, 6:5 & 15:34 are discussing different situations,” it seems to me you are saying that since he is discussing different things in 1 Cor. 4:14, 6:5, and 15:34, then his statement that “I do not write these things to shame you” only applies to the immediate context of 1 Cor. 4:4. Did I understand you correctly? Jul 13, 2020 at 14:47
  • @DerÜbermensch - that is what I tried to explain (perhaps not too well??) The three verses are discussing different situations.
    – Dottard
    Jul 13, 2020 at 21:28
  • If you feel that there are 3 "different situations" for Paul's use of the word "shame" (though the latter 2 seem identical about unattractive behavior), why do you quote the 3rd situation (1 Cor 15:31) to characterize the 1st? In any case, if in "situation 1" the saints treated Paul well, who would think he's shaming them? Do you feel they couldn't distinguish between boasting and shaming? Or that some may have felt Paul was falsely accusing them? Is it unapparent that Paul was lovingly critiquing them in 1 Cor 3:1-4, 18; 4:3, 6-8, 10, 14, 18-21; indeed in the majority of his epistle?
    – Walter S
    Jul 14, 2020 at 20:57
  • @WalterSmetana - I am not suggesting the situation #2 and #3 are the same. They are not. In situation #3 he uses his boast about some their behavior to contrast they bad lifestyle. I agree the purpose of all the pastoral epistles is the lovingly critique.
    – Dottard
    Jul 14, 2020 at 21:01
  • Yes, thank you. I am the one suggesting that 2 and 3 are the same. Not the identical problem, but the not unrelated shame for all their 9 or so practical problems addressed by Paul in his first letter to them. Not that I, as a member among many, am any better. No...I am worse. Normally I too emphasize immediate context first, to decipher meaning. But here it appears the entire letter addresses their shame. Not for shame's sake, but for love's sake. To lovingly admonish them (1 Cor 4:14), as the nature of the whole book; and to answer the OP's question.
    – Walter S
    Jul 14, 2020 at 23:23

Good question.

1 Corinthians 4:14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.

Here "shame" is a verb that parallels the action to "warn". Paul's purpose is to warn, not to shame, though the boundary between the two is somewhat a matter of lexical semantics.

1 Corinthians 6:5 I say this of your shame.

of your ὑμῖν (hymin)
Personal / Possessive Pronoun - Dative 2nd Person Plural

ἐντροπὴν (entropēn)
Noun - Accusative Feminine Singular

There is no preposition in 1 Corinthians 6:5. Paul actually speak of (dative) not to (preposition) their shame. The word "shame" here is not a verb but a noun representing a fact. So Paul was just stating a shameful fact that 'belongs' to the Corinthians.

By 1 Corinthians 15:34, the tone is a bit stronger.

I say this by (πρὸς) your shame.

Here we do have a preposition πρὸς followed by a dative which can be translated "by the side of" something.

In the original Greek, Paul never said "to your shame". Fundamentally, Paul wanted to warn the Corinthians of their shameful acts. From the lexical semantics point of view, there is no formal disagreement in Paul's words ἐντροπὴν and ἐντρέπων.

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