How We Know What We Know that Isn’t Known (1 Corinthians 2:9-16)

Translations of this passage wrestle with the fact that Paul is expressing how we know and express unknown and inexpressible things. I have wrestled for a while with my own translation, but keep coming back to the passage because of its sincere grapple with mystery. Adding to the mystery of the passage, the scripture Paul cites here isn’t known. Yet, reading this passage, don’t we know exactly what Paul is talking about? It’s an amazing tour de force in spiritual writing . . .

Scripture says,
‘The eye has not seen,
Nor the ear heard,
Nor the human heart conceived,
What God has prepared
For those who love God’—

God has revealed those thing to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things—even the deep things of God. Humans know human things by the searching of the human spirit. No human knows the things of God, except through the Spirit of God. Now, we have received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit of God, and so we know the things that are freely given to us through God. We speak of these things not through the words that human wisdom teaches, but through the teachings of the Spirit.

The unspiritual do not receive teachings of the Spirit of God, because these things are foolishness to them. Neither do the unspiritual know these things, because these things are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual may judge all things, yet they may not themselves be judged by human standards.

Scripture says,
‘Who has known the mind of the Lord,
To give instructions?’

But we have the mind of Christ.

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