“Who has known the mind of the Lord

so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

– 1 Corinthians 2:16 (NIV)

After talking about the miraculous discernment that we receive from the Holy Spirit, Paul quotes this passage from Isaiah 40:13. It’s a very simple question that Isaiah asks, but it is also a not-so-subtle recognition that God is God and we are not. So, while we can try to understand God’s ways, we can’t and won’t fully understand everything. This is the very same passage that Paul quotes in the book of Romans after 11 chapters of the densest theological content ever written: “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” It’s as if Paul is saying, “I’m doing my best here to understand and explain all this to you, but God is bigger and so far beyond us that no one will ever be able to completely explain God’s mind.”

This is the same force with which Isaiah asks the question in the original context. He is asking a bunch of humbling questions, as if to say, “stop being so arrogant, and just trust Almighty God!” However, in the original Hebrew of Isaiah 40:13, there are some interesting clues as to why Paul would bring this verse up in I Corinthians when talking about the Spirit. The word that Isaiah uses for “mind” is the Hebrew word Ruach, which can also be translated as “spirit” or “wind” or “breath.” Many English versions of the Bible even translate it as “Spirit” with a capital “S” in Isaiah 40:13. This means that the question that Isaiah might have been asking is, “Who has known the Spirit of Yahweh?”

This would explain why Paul goes to this passage here in the context of 1 Corinthians 2. However, when he translates Hebrew into Greek, he doesn’t use the word for “spirit,” which is pneuma, he uses nous, which is the word for “mind” or even better “soul.” Ok, let’s put these all together now. Paul is taking the Hebrew concept of “spirit” and translating it into the Greek concept of “soul.” In other words, Paul is asking the question, “Who has really known the soul (or the essence) of God?”

I think this is a great question in and of itself, but it gets even better! Because Paul doesn’t stop there, he actually answers the question. Notice the last phrase of chapter 2… “But we have the mind (or soul or essence) of CHRIST.” He substitutes “Lord” the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Yahweh” with “Christ.” What?!! There is so much going on here, it is amazing! But for now, I just want to point out that this isn’t like a theological punt, as if Paul is saying, “Who knows?” No! Paul is suggesting that we can finally, for the first time, answer Isaiah’s ancient question in the affirmative! Because we have Jesus we can say, “YES! We know the Spirit of Yahweh!!” And this changes EVERYTHING!

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor

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