What I find interesting/disturbing about Paul's use of Torah in this passage is that he doesn't seem to be satisfied with Sensus Plenior, he seems to discount the literal reading as absurdly pedantic, much as Jesus expresses dismay at Nicodemus' failure to properly understand being born from above:

[1 Corinthians 9:8-10 NASB20] (8) I am not [just] asserting these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does the Law not say these things as well? (9) For it is written in the Law of Moses: "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE IT IS THRESHING." God is not concerned about oxen, is He? (10) Or is He speaking entirely for our sake? Yes, it was written for our sake, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher [to thresh] in hope of sharing [in the crops.]

Now, I don't think we see that explicitly expressed in the Tanach, and not even in Philo, who, while going on about the real point of the particulars of Torah being to point to universals, he still seems to have embraced the particulars as necessary.

So where is Paul (at least in 1 Corinthians) deriving such a radical rejection of Jewish particularism? How might one summarize this hermeneutic and does it appear in the gospels or non-Pauline scriptures? Is he consistent about this, or is this a fluke? Am I misunderstanding this as a departure from and radicalization of Philo's Platonism?


1 Cor 9:8-10 is a perfect example of arguing from the lesser to the greater - Paul uses the same argument in V7. There are many examples of this type of hermeneutic in the both the OT and the NT.

  • Matt 7:11 - So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
  • Matt 12:12 - How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
  • Luke 11:13 - So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
  • Luke 12:28 - If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!
  • 1 Cor 6:3 - Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!
  • Heb 9:13, 14 - For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that their bodies are clean, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, purify our consciences from works of death, so that we may serve the living God!

In the OT we have examples such as:

  • Deut 31:27 - For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you are already rebelling against the LORD while I am still alive, how much more will you rebel after my death!
  • Prov 19:7 - All the brothers of a poor man hate him—how much more do his friends avoid him! He may pursue them with pleading, but they are nowhere to be found.
  • Prov 11:31 - If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!
  • Prov 21:27 - The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable—how much more so when brought with ill intent!
  • 1 Sam 21:5 - David answered, “Women have indeed been kept from us, as is usual when I set out. And the equipment of the young men is holy, as it is even on common missions, and all the more at this time.”
  • 1 Sam 23:3 - But David’s men said to him, “Look, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?”
  • 2 Sam 4:11 - How much more, when wicked men kill a righteous man in his own house and on his own bed, shall I not now require his blood from your hands and remove you from the earth!”

There are many more. Thus, this kind of Hebrew "logic" is very common in the Scripture.

In 1 Cor 9:1-16, Paul argues that an apostle has a series of "rights" - one of which is to be supported by the church (which Paul does NOT claim). As evidence for this he quotes Deut 25:4, "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Paul also uses the same argument in 1 Tim 5:17, 18, about which Ellicott observes:

Deuteronomy 25:4. When he treadeth out the corn — Which they did in those parts, either immediately by their hoofs, or by drawing carts or other instruments over the corn. Hereby God taught them humanity, even to their beasts that served them, and much more to their servants, or other men who laboured for them, especially to their ministers, 1 Corinthians 9:9.

The Pulpit commentary also observes:

Deut 25:4. - The leaving the ox unmuzzled when treading out the corn was in order that the animal might be free to eat of the grains which its labor severed from the husks. This prohibition, therefore, was dictated by a regard to the rights and claims of animals employed in labor; but there is involved in it the general principle that all labor is to be duly requited, and hence it seems to have passed into a proverb, and was applied to men as well as the lower animals (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18).


קַל וָחֹמֶר (qal vahome) (from lesser to greater) argument: Jesus used it

9:8–10. Deuteronomy 25:4 was intended as a principle to teach that the laborer should be fed; here Paul may argue in the sense of the common Jewish qal vahomer argument: if for an ox, how much more for a person. Some Jewish teachers felt that God’s teachings about animals were only to teach people principles. -- Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (1 Cor. 9:8–10). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. (Matt 12:11–14, ESV)



I limited this to interpreting the Torah. Jesus and others had many life examples going from lesser to greater.

  • In Latin this is called an argument: a minore ad maius May 26 at 14:47

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