The adjective ‘eilikrinēs’ appears only twice in the NT, and its related noun ‘eilikrineia’ three times; but they are worth studying, both because their etymology is so revealing, and because they introduce us to a network of other words associated with them in meaning. ‘eilikirineia’ is translated ‘sincerity’ by both AV and NIV on all its three appearances; ‘eilikrinēs’ is translated ‘pure’ and ‘wholesome’ by the NIV on the two occasions it is used, and by AV as ‘sincere’ and ‘pure’.


The etymology of these words is, in fact, uncertain. Two rival derivations have been suggested, both of which give us a helpful illustration of what ‘sincerity’ means, though both, of course, cannot be correct. ‘eilikrinēs’ is a compound word, ‘eili-’ + ‘krin-’. There is no dispute about the second of these elements: ‘krin-’ is a common stem in Greek, the verb ‘krinō’ meaning to ‘judge’, whose related noun ‘krites’ gives us ‘critic’. The debate concerns the first half of the word, ‘eili-’; this could derive from ‘hēlios’, meaning ‘sun’, and its cognate noun ‘heile’, ‘sunlight’, or from the verb ‘eilō’, related to ‘’, which means to ‘shake’ or ‘whirl’, which gives us the English words ‘helicopter’ and ‘helix’. The Greeks, too, it seems, could drop their aitches ! Each derivation suggests an interesting and illuminating picture. To be ‘sincere’ is to be ‘judged by the sunlight’, or to be ‘judged by shaking’ or ‘sifting’. The former derivation seems to be more favoured by the commentators, so we will look at the latter first.

[1] 'judged by shaking'
(a) 'threshing' and 'winnowing'
Matt 3.12, Luke 3.17

The idea of being ‘judged by shaking’ may seem strange at first, but is in fact thoroughly scriptural. A keen gardener trying to grow the perfect lawn (at least, so I am told) may sieve the soil, shaking it backwards and forwards to rtemove weeds and stones so that the grass-seed can grow unhindered. This reminds us of the parable of the sower, and the fruitfulness of the seed which ‘fell on good soil’, uncluttered by stones or weeds (Mark 4.9). In fact, a link might be made here with the other possible derivation, since ‘heile’ strictly refers to the heat, not the light,of the sun. So the seed that fell on ‘stony ground’, and sprang up quickly, but had no solid root-growth, was ‘burnt up’ when the sun shone on it, rather than being ripened like the grain growing on the good soil. In this sense, then, someone’s faith is shown to be ‘sincere’, or ‘genuine’, rather than just a fair-weather faith, when it survives opposition or persecution, which is what Jesus said that the heat of the sun represented (4. 17). So much for my own contribution to the debate; now let us return to more solid ground ! For this, we need to move to the conclusion of the agricultural cycle, from the sowing of the seed to the threshing and winnowing of the grain. Both Matthew (3.12) and Luke (3.17) record John the Baptist’s prophetic words about Jesus, using imagery itself derived from the prophets of the OT: “his winnowing-shovel is in his hand to purify his threshing-floor, and to gather together the grain into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire”. The ‘threshing-floor’ was a corner of the cornfield cleared and rolled flat and hard; the reaped corn was spread out here and threshed, either by foot (oxen could be used for this, as Deut. 20.4 makes clear), or by using a flail or sledge. This process would detach the grain from the husks, but not separate them; that required the second stage of the operation, the winnowing. The word I have, on the advice of my lexicon, rather inelegantly translated ‘winnowing-shovel’ was also used in Classical Greek to mean a ‘cradle’, so that neither the AV’s ‘fan’ nor the NIV’s ‘fork’ seems appropriate. It seems to have been the nearest equivalent to our sieve, but worked on the reverse principle: whereas a sieve uses the force of gravity to let the finer particles through the mesh but catch the larger ones, like stones and weeds, this ‘shovel’ or ‘basket’ used wind-power (hence ‘winnow’) to blow away the powdery chaff and leave the grain behind. Both processes require a certain amount of ‘shaking’, or ‘whirling’. The nearest parallel to John’s reference to Jesus, and the clearest picture of the winnowing process, is found in Isaiah 41. 15-16, a passage of prophetic encouragement and promise for the people of Israel: “See, I will make you a threshing-sledge, new and sharp, with many teeth. You will thresh the mountains and crush them, and reduce the hills to chaff. You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up, and a gale will blow them away.” The emphasis here is on the destruction of the chaff rather than the securing of the grain, and this applies also to a similar reference a few chapters earlier in Isaiah (30. 28), where the prophet writes of the Lord: “he shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction”; and Proverbs 20. 26 says that “a wise king winnows out the wicked”. The verb used in the LXX version here meaning ‘winnow’ is ‘likmao’; it is only used once (probably) in the NT, in Luke 20.18, where Jesus, applying Psalm 118. 22 to himself, says “‘the stone which the builders rejected, this has become the capstone’; every one who falls on that stone will be crushed, and any one on whom it falls, it will reduce him to dust”. Because the powdery husks in the winnowing process were blown away like dust, the verb came to mean to ‘pulverise’. Amos 9.9, however, gives us the other side of the picture. After almost 9 verses of dire warnings of judgement on Israel, already scattered in exile, the Lord, through his prophet, says: “Yet I will not totally destroy the house of Israel. For I will give the command, and I will shake the house of Israel among all the nations, as grain is shaken in a sieve.” While “the sinners among my people will die by the sword”, the implication is that a godly remnant, the wheat, would be saved. These prophecies make it clear that it is God who is the great winnower (the “wise king” in Proverbs is God’s regent on earth), so that John’s words show that it is Jesus who is the Messiah, not John himself, as some were speculating (Luke 3. 15). Although John’s prophecy was partly fulfilled during Jesus’ earthly ministry, since he did sharply divide those who heard him into believers and unbelievers, its main purport is clearly eschatological: it will be on Judgement Day that all mankind will be separated into ‘wheat’ and ‘chaff’ - or ‘sheep’ and ‘goats’, as Jesus’ own parable expressed it.

(b) the 'winnowing' of Peter
Luke 22.31-32
epiistrephō, thlipsis, peirasmos

If, then, ‘judged by shaking’ is the correct derivation of ‘eilikrinēs’, it suggests that to be ‘sincere’ is to have a genuine and wholehearted faith in Christ which will withstand the winnowing process of God’s judgement on the last day, not being blown away by the tempest of his wrath, but being ‘gathered together into his granary’ with all the faithful. But such faith is subjected to God’s winnowing process during life as well as after death; there is one more verse we need to look at before we leave the threshing-floor. All four gospels record Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial, but Luke’s version (22. 31-2) is the most intriguing, and the most revealing: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked for you all, to winnow you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail; and you, Simon, when you have come back to God, strengthen your brother disciples”. Translation here is quite a challenge. AV English could differentiate between singular ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ and the plural ‘ye’ and ‘you’, and so make the distinction essential to the understanding of Jesus’ words. The first ‘you’ is plural, addressed to all eleven disciples; then follow four singular ‘you’s’ or ‘your’s’, all referring specifically to Peter. The verb translated ‘asked for’ occurs only this once in the NT, being a compound of the simple verb to ‘ask’, implying that Satan had selected and sought them out. This suggests a scenario similar to that at the beginning of Job (1. 6-12), where God allows Satan to afflict Job within certain limits (--- but on the man himself lay not a finger”). In the light of this, “Satan has asked permission” might be a good translation. I have taken a similar liberty with “when you have come back to God”: this represents a single word in Greek, the aorist participle of the verb ‘return’ (‘epistrepho’). In the gospels, this usually means to ‘turn round’ or ‘go back’, but increasingly in Acts and the epistles it means to ‘return to the Lord’, and is often coupled with ‘repent’. So what Jesus is saying here is that the events of the next 24 hours - his arrest, trials and crucifixion - would be a harrowing experience for all the disciples, a time when Satan seemed to be in control, and when their faith would be tested to its limits. They would all forsake him and flee, and Peter would deny three times that he so much as knew Jesus. But Jesus’ prayer for Peter was effective, and, although his faith wavered, it did not fail completely, and his bitter tears led to repentance and renewed, indeed, strengthened, faith, and to his role as the leader and strengthener of the church. As with Job, Satan had done his worst, but God was in control, and faith held firm. All this suggests that God allows our faith to be tested, or ‘winnowed’, in this life so that it may be strong enough, and ‘sincere’ enough, to withstand the great winnowing of the Last Judgement - just as (to compare great things with small) an ‘A’ level candidate may be subjected by a wise teacher to a series of test-papers to prepare him or her for the real thing. The parable of the sower showed how the seed sown on stony ground failed this test, wilting in the heat of the sun which should have ripened it. Jesus said that the heat of the sun represented ‘tribulation’ (Mark 3. 17, Matt. 13. 21). The Greek word here, ‘thlipsis’, is related to the Latin ‘tribulum’ (‘a crusher’), meaning a ‘threshing-sledge’, so that ‘tribulation’ is also derived from the threshing process. Luke, however, has a slightly different version of Jesus’ explanation of the parable: the heat of the sun represents ‘a time of testing’ (‘peirasmos’ - the word translated ‘temptation’ in most versions of the Lord’s prayer, but in some as ‘the time of trial’). In the last days, the ‘great tribulation’ which Jesus foretold will detach the wheat from the chaff, ready for the final separation (the winnowing) on the Day of Judgement. But even before those days, tribulation of some kind is part of the Christian life, directed at us by Satan, but controlled and constrained by the sovereign hand of God. And just as Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith should not fail, so we may be assured, if we belong to him, that he is interceding for us, too, in our ‘time of trial’, that our faith should pass the test (Heb. 7. 25).

ii. the vocabulary of 'shaking'
Heb 12.26-28, Matt 28.2,4

Having looked at the imagery of ‘shaking’, we turn now to its vocabulary. There are two Greek verbs meaning to ‘shake’, and they are both found in our next passage, Hebrews 12. 25-8. As he reaches the climax of his letter, in which he has methodically demonstrated how much better the New Covenant is than the Old, the writer now contrasts the awesome and terrifying events which marked the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai with the glorious scene of Mount Sion, the heavenly Jerusalem, where all Christians now belong and have their true citizenship (vv. 18-24). He warns his readers not to ‘stop their ears’ at the voice of God as the Israelites, in their terror, had done at Sinai; “God’s voice shook the earth then, but now he has promised ‘yet once more I will shake not only the earth but the heaven’”, quoting a prophecy of Haggai (2.6). The verb used in this prophecy (the LXX version) is the ‘earthquake’ verb, ‘seio’, from which we get ‘seismic’. The noun, ‘seismos’, is used 14 times in the NT, all in the literal sense, 7 of them in Revelation (which, of course, is full of 7’s); but the verb, apart from this instance, is only used by Matthew, once literally of the earthquake that marked the most shattering event in history, the death of Jesus (27. 51), and twice metaphorically, of the ‘shaking’ of Jerusalem at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (21. 10 - “the whole city was abuzz” might be a good translation), and of the guards of the tomb on resurrection morning (28.4), who, after a literal ‘seismos’ in v.2, and the appearance of “the angel of the Lord”, were ‘shaken to the core’ and “became as dead men”.

Acts 4.31, 16.26, Matt 11.7

The other verb meaning to ‘shake’, which Hebrews uses when not quoting Haggai, is ‘saleuo’. This is rather more common than ‘seio’ (used 15 times), and seems to be rather less violent and apocalyptic in its connotations (it is not found in Revelation !). But, like ‘seio’, it is used both literally, of the room where the disciples held their great prayer-meeting in Acts 4. 31, and of the foundations of the prison in Philippi after the earthquake (Acts 16. 26), and metaphorically, of the Jews ‘stirring up’ the crowd against Paul (Acts 17. 13), and by Paul himself in 2. Thessalonians 2.2, where he urges his readers not to be ‘shaken’ from their true understanding of the second coming of Christ by those who said it had already happened. There are also two uses which combine the literal with the figurative: John the Baptist is emphatically not like “a reed shaken by the wind” (Matt. 11.7, Luke 7. 24), and the house built with its foundations on the rock will not be ‘shaken’ by storms or floods (Luke 6. 48). Both these images suggest the idea of faith tested by shaking, as did the imagery of the threshing-floor. Haggai’s prophecy, too, is similar to Amos 9.9, which we looked at earlier. Hebrews quotes verse 6 of this prophecy, which then goes on in v. 7: “I will shake together all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory”. The LXX version here translates “the desired” as ‘eklecta’, the ‘elect’, which is suggestive. In each prophecy, a process of shaking among the nations will ‘sift out’ God’s elect, so that ‘Sion’, whether Jerusalem on earth or God’s heavenly kingdom, may become their home. The writer to the Hebrews then spells out the implications of this prophecy: “The words ‘yet once more’ clearly show that what can be shaken will be removed, that is, the material world of creation, so that what cannot be shaken will endure. We, therefore, are receiving an unshakeable kingdom ---”. So this passage, too, gives us a powerful picture of what it might mean to be ‘sincere’ - if, indeed, ‘eilikrinēs’ is derived from ‘judged by shaking’. It would refer to the sort of faith defined at the beginning of the previous chapter of Hebrews (11. 1) as “being convinced of the reality of things we cannot see”, and thus to the sort of life-style and value-system Jesus enjoined in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on the earth --- but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6. 19-20). All those whose security is rooted in the “material world of creation” will be shaken to pieces in God’s great shake-out at the end of time (after all, every financial crisis reveals the insecurity of ‘securities’!); whereas those whose treasure is in heaven and whose citizenship is in “Jerusalem, the city of the living God”(after all, every financial crisis reveals the insecurity of 'en" 1) as "annot be shaken wi will remain unshaken.

(c) helissō
rolling up a cloak:
Heb 1.12

To complete our study of the vocabulary of ‘shaking’, we will take a brief look at ‘helissō’, the actual word from which ‘eilikrinēs’ may be derived - it had an older variant ‘heilissō’ which makes its candidacy for this role more plausible. This verb is used twice in the NT, both in apocalyptic contexts. In Classical Greek, its normal meaning is to ‘whirl’, like the rotor of a ‘heli’-copter, as we saw earlier. In its two NT usages, however, it means to ‘roll up’; each use occurs in a simile describing the ‘wrapping up’ of the created world at the end of time. In Hebrews 1.12, the writer, in a string of OT references designed to demonstrate that Jesus is far superior to the angels, quotes from Psalm 102. This shows that he sees the psalm as Messianic: the sufferings described in its first section (1-11) are a poetic and prophetic description of the sufferings of Christ; and the last verses, which he quotes (25-7), are shown to be the words of God addressed to his Son, Christ the Lord and co-creator of the world: “About the Son he says, ‘You, O Lord, are from the beginning; you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands. (11) They will perish, but you will endure; they will all grow old like a robe, (12) and you will roll them up (‘helissō’) like a cloak, like a robe, and they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will not come to an end.’”. Once again, then, we have the distinction between the material world of created things, which will be destroyed, and that which is permanent and will “endure”: Christ himself, and all those who are ‘in Christ’, his ‘elect’.

rolling up a book
Rev 6.12-14

The other simile also describes the ‘rolling up’ of the heavens, and this link between the two uses of ‘helissō’ in the NT reminds us once again how subtly interconnected is the imagery in scripture of the end-times and the last judgement. Revelation chapter 6 describes the opening of six of the seven seals locking the Book of Judgement by the Lamb, Jesus Christ. At the opening of the sixth seal (vv. 12-14), “there was a great earthquake, --- and the stars of heaven fell to earth like figs shed by a fig tree when shaken by a great wind, (14) and the heavens receded like a book being rolled up again ('helissō') into its scroll”. Once again, we have an earthquake (one of the 7 in Revelation), by which “every mountain and island was shaken from its place” (14), fulfilling God’s promise “yet once more will I shake not only the earth but also the heavens” (Heb. 12.26); and once again we have a ‘great wind’, to remind us of the great winnowing which will separate the wheat from the chaff. The simile itself is wonderfully suggestive. The heavens had been like the papyrus of a scroll opened to its full length, stretching from horizon to horizon - the book of human history, perhaps. Now that book is rolled up and put away: human history is at an end. Now the great Book of Judgement is about to be opened, when all its seals have been unlocked. The two related Greek words for book, ‘biblos’ and ‘biblion’, occur 25 times in Revelation, 7 times in chapter 5 (referring to the Book of Judgement), and 7 times in chapter 22 (referring to the book John is writing, the Book of Revelation itself); 6 times it is used to refer to ‘the (Lamb’s) book of life’, in which are written the names of those who have already, in Christ, “passed from death to life”, and will not “come into judgement” (John 5. 24). The (seemingly inevitable!) 7th.instance of this phrase is found in Philippians 4. 3. It is not difficult, then, to see how this simile suggested itself to John - or was suggested to him by the Spirit. And in the same way the use of ‘helissō’ which (in the LXX version) had been used by the psalmist of the ‘rolling up’ of an old cloak, no longer wanted, could be either a deliberate echo by John, or a subconscious prompting by the Spirit.

[2] 'judged by the sun'

If, then, ‘eilikrinēs’ means ‘judged by shaking’, all these images of ‘shaking’ that we have looked at suggest that the emphasis is very much on the ‘judgement’ half of the word. A faith that is ‘genuine’ is one that has been ‘shaken but not stirred’ by all those trials and tests to which Satan, under God’s sovereign control, subjects us; and a character that is ‘sincere’ is one that has been sifted and refined by the winnowing which God allows us to undergo in this life so that we may approach death with the confidence of those who know that for them judgement is already passed, and that their names are “written in the Lamb’s Book of Life”. The other possible derivation is ‘judged by the light of the sun’. While the previous picture was of the external trials and tests which develop a genuine faith and a sincere character, this one suggests rather the inner life of our walk with Christ, and the daily tug-of-war between the flesh and the Spirit (Gal. 5.17). Barclay (op. cit. pp. 67-8) has an imaginative and helpful illustration of how this derivation may have come about. He takes us to an eastern bazaar, with its crowded rows of stalls, each one cramped and dark, but crammed with merchandise. A wise shopper looking to buy a piece of cloth or pottery would take his prospective purchase out of the dim light of the stall into the sunlight outside, where any faults or flaws would be clearly revealed. A modern equivalent, perhaps, would be a shopper (probably a woman !) buying an article of clothing, and taking it over to the window, away from the artificial light of the shop, to make sure that its colour, as seen in true daylight, goes with the rest of her outfit. I once heard a speaker take this idea a stage further. A valuable piece of alabaster pottery, like perhaps the woman’s jar of myrrh mentioned in all three synoptic gospels, if it got chipped, could be patched with wax and painted over to disguise the flaw. But alabaster is translucent, while wax is not; so to test the integrity of the jar it would be held up to the light of the sun, which would instantly show up any wax filling. An alabaster jar ‘without wax’ was genuine and flawless; the Latin for ‘without wax’ is ‘sine cera’ - whence ‘sincere’ (just as a job without hard work, ‘sine cura’, is a ‘sinecure’). This is a lovely illustration of what it means to be ‘sincere’, but it will not itself, alas, stand up to the ‘sunlight’ of serious scholarship, or, at least, of my large Latin dictionary, which records that the adjective ‘sincerus’ is derived from some obscure Sanscrit word, and makes no mention of wax at all. One might say that the ‘mot juste’ for this illustration is ‘ben trovato’, an Italianism which my (English) dictionary defines as ‘apt but untrue’.

(a) light: an image of both holiness and truth
Psalm 36.9, Psalm 139, Heb 4.13

The imagery of light and darkness is, of course, almost ubiquitous in scripture, from Genesis 1. 2-3 onwards: “there was darkness over the deep --- and God said, ‘Let there be light’”. Maybe this is why this second possible derivation of ‘eilikrinēs’ has generally found favour with the commentators. John is, perhaps, echoing Genesis 1 when he writes “God is light: in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1.5) - he is utterly holy. But light is an image not just of holiness but also of truth: Jesus said “I am the light”, and also “I am the truth” (John 8. 12, 14. 10) To be ‘judged by the sun’, then, is a two-way experience: the closer we come to God in Christ, the more vividly we see the light of his awesome holiness, and the more devastatingly the truth of our own sinfulness is shown up. Perhaps this is what the psalmist means when he says “in your light we see light” (36. 9) - we see the truth about ourselves. Psalm 139 is also attributed, rightly or wrongly, to David. This psalm expresses a wonderfully intimate relationship with God, who “created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (v. 13). David recognises that God knows him through and through, and that it is futile to try to hide from him, as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden after their act of disobedience: “If I say, ‘surely the darkness will hide me’, --- even the darkness will not be dark to you, the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” (vv. 11-12). He knows, as the writer to the Hebrews so powerfully puts it, that “there is no creature hidden from God’s sight; everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of the God to whom we must give account” (4. 13). So at the end of the psalm he submits himself to the searchlight of God’s examination: “Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (vv. 23-4, NIV). It is possible that Paul had these verses in mind when, in his instructions to the Corinthians about the Lord’s Supper he says: “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup” (1 Cor. 11. 28 - ‘man’ here is ‘anthrōpos’ in Greek, which includes women!) The Greek word for ‘examine’ here is ‘dokimazō’, the same as that used in the LXX version of the psalm, translated above as ‘search’. To pray the psalmist’s prayer is certainly a good way to obey Paul’s instruction to prepare oneself for a communion service by self-examination. But it is not a prayer to be prayed lightly, since God, through his Holy Spirit, tends to answer it with uncomfortable immediacy.

(b) running from the light, or walking in the light?
John 3.19-21, 1 John 1.7

In the NT it is John who most clearly expresses the idea of being ‘judged by the light’: “and this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their actions were evil. For every one who does what is wrong hates the light, and does not come to the light, so that his actions may not be shown up for what they are”. When Adam and Eve tried to hide their guilt from God they were indeed the parents of all mankind. “But”, John continues, “he who does the truth comes to the light, so that his actions may be clearly seen to have been done in God” (John 3. 19-21). This verse suggests another translation for ‘eilikrinēs’: a flawless alabaster jar may be translucent, but to be ‘sincere’ is to be ‘transparent’, not only allowing the light of Christ to shine into us to show us our sins, but also allowing his light to shine through us to illuminate the dark world around us. In his first letter (1.7) John develops the idea of ‘coming to the light’ into ‘walking in the light’. To be ‘transparent’ is not just to have an occasional spring-clean, but to walk with Jesus day by day, so that his light becomes part of our lives. “If we walk in the light”, John says, “we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”

[3] 'eilikrineia' and 'eilikrinēs' in context
1 Cor 5.6-8
i. 'zumē': the imagery of leaven
Matt 13.33, 16.5-12, Mark 8.14-21

Each of these two possible derivations, then, is both graphic and scriptural. Let us now move on to look at the 5 uses of these two words in the NT - in fact, in the epistles. The noun, ‘eilikrineia’, is used only by Paul, and only when writing to the Corinthians. In each case, he accompanies it both with an antithesis (“not --- but”) and a synonym, so as to illustrate for his readers, who maybe were not familiar with this unusual word, both what ‘sincerity’ is like, and what it is contrasted with. The first instance is in 1 Corinthians 5. 8. There is a serious scandal in the church at Corinth: a man is having sex with his father’s wife, presumably his step-mother. But the greater scandal is not the sin of the individual but the complacency - amounting to complicity - of the whole church, which is ‘puffed up’ with self-satisfaction rather than in mourning that a member of their body has fallen into such sin. “Your boasting is not good”, he tells them; “don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump ?” Today we would be more likely to talk about rotten apples. Then he urges them to excommunicate the offender (“hand him over to Satan” is the stark and sobering expression he uses) and so to purify themselves by ‘clearing out’ the old leaven. This reference to ‘leaven' is another important and profoundly scriptural image which can help us to understand what it means to be ‘sincere’. In Exodus 12. 14-20 God gives Moses instructions for the inauguration of the ‘feast of unleavened bread’, and in the next chapter, after the exodus from Egypt, Moses passes these instructions on to the people (vv. 5-10). For 7 days, as a lead-up to the Passover, they were to eat unleavened bread: yeast was to be completely banished from their homes and from the entire camp, and any one who ate anything with yeast was to be ‘cut off from Israel’ - i.e. excommunicated, like the incestuous Corinthian. A practical reason is suggested for this ordinance: just as they were told to eat the Passover meal “with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand” (12. 11), prepared for a quick get-away, so they would not have time to bake bread with yeast for their journey, but were to take dough with them unleavened - more easily portable, perhaps, than loaves of normally baked bread - which they later baked when they were safely out of Egypt (12.39). More important, though, was the ritual reason. The Passover was to be the greatest feast in the Jewish calendar, a perpetual memorial (or “lasting ordinance”, 12.14) of God’s miraculous deliverance of his people from slavery in Egypt. The 7-day feast of unleavened bread was a solemn lead-in to this climactic day of deliverance, to ensure that it was, indeed, unforgettable. In the NT, leaven is used by Jesus as a symbol of two totally opposite ideas. In Matthew 16. 5-12 (also Mark 8. 14-21) Jesus tells his disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees", and when they, with (characteristic ?) slow-wittedness assume that this is an oblique rebuke to them for forgetting to bring any bread with them, he patiently explains that he is referring to the legalism of their teaching. More memorably, perhaps, in Matthew 13.33 Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to leaven hidden in a lump of dough until “the whole three measures are fully leavened”. The common link, of course, between these two images is the ability of yeast to reproduce itself and multiply, so that, indeed, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”. It is not clear whether this saying (which sounds proverbial) derived from Jesus’ teaching, or inspired it. The Greek word for yeast, ‘zumē’, gives rise to the English word ‘enzyme’, ‘yeast in’ the cell; these are molecules which catalyze chemical reactions, and so are essential to the body’s metabolism. Jesus’ parable of the leaven ‘hidden’ in a lump of dough follows quite soon after the parable of the sower, and is similar to it in a number of ways: both seed and yeast have life within them; both are ‘hidden’ unobtrusively within the lifeless earth and the lifeless lump of dough; and both grow from something small and apparently insignificant into something great. The ‘kingdom of God’ - or the ‘kingship of God’ - may refer either to the birth and growth of Christian faith and maturity within an individual believer, or to the kingdom of God entering the world as a baby in a manger, and as a gospel entrusted to a bunch of nobodies who within a generation became a church. But evil and falsehood can also take root and grow and multiply, and, apart from this short (1-verse) parable, this is the predominant sense in which yeast is used in scripture, and graphically illustrated in every Jewish household by the annual ‘leaven-hunt’ to ensure that not a particle survived to defile the Passover celebrations.

ii. 'azumos': unleavened bread as a symbol of sincerity
Rom 6.10, Heb 9.12

This, then, is what Paul means when he tells the Corinthians to “clean out the old leaven” - and it is not just the one sinner who needs to be excommunicated: the whole church needs to ‘clean up’ its act by recognising the contagious power of sin rather than conniving at it. If they do this, Paul says (5.7), they will become a “new lump” - NIV’s “new batch” does not sound much more flattering! - “as you are indeed without leaven” or “unleavened”. This is the word (‘azumos’ - ‘zumē’ plus the negative prefix) which is almost a synonym for ‘eilikrinēs’. But why are they already ‘unleavened’ ? “Because”, Paul continues, “our Passover lamb has been sacrificed - Christ”. Now at last it all makes sense. All the elaborate ritual of the Passover finds its fulfilment in Christ and in the memorial service he instituted so that we would remember a much greater deliverance than the Jewish exodus from Egypt, the deliverance of mankind from the slavery to sin. For the Christian, the Passover has morphed (or metabolized !) into the Communion Service, the Lord’s Supper. When Jesus said “Take and eat, this is my body” (Matt. 26.26), it was, presumably, unleavened bread that he was breaking, bread symbolically uncontaminated by the leaven of evil. Maybe that is why many churches use communion wafers rather than ‘real’ bread in the communion service. If we are ‘in Christ’, we share his sinlessness in the sight of God, if not in the eyes of the world, let alone in our own consciences. So, Paul is saying, you are already holy because Jesus has borne your sin by his sacrificial death; now be holy by dealing decisively with the sinner in your midst and the sin in yourselves. Now, at last, we come to our key verse, verse 8; here Paul switches from the second person imperative to the first person plural, from their apostle giving them instructions to their brother in Christ giving them encouragement: “So let us celebrate the feast, not in the old leaven of sin and wickedness, but in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”. This is the only instance in the NT of the verb ‘heortazō’, to ‘celebrate a feast’, but the noun ‘heortē’ from which it is derived is regularly used to refer to the various feasts of the Jewish calendar, in particular the Passover, and it is clearly this feast which Paul has in mind here. But, as we have seen, for the Christian church the Passover has become the Communion Service. Paul knows that, as well as rebuking the Corinthians for tolerating incest in the church, he has also to rebuke them over abuses of the Lord’s Supper, which he does in the latter half of chapter 11. We have already looked at his instruction that “a man should examine himself” before he “eats of the bread and drinks of the wine” (v. 28), and it seems likely that this exhortation to celebrate “in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” is saying much the same thing. But it is possible that he is also saying much more. For the Jew, the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed every year; for the Christian, the sacrifice that delivers us from slavery to sin has been made once for all time (Rom. 6.10, Heb. 9.12), so that it is not just at the communion service that we celebrate our glorious freedom, but in our daily lives - and lifestyles: sincerity is not just for Sundays !

iii. 'phusiō': an image of pride
1 Sam 16.7, 1 Cor 13.4

This, then, is the first of our three verses in the letters to Corinth which illuminate the meaning of ‘eilikrineia’ with both an antithesis and a synonym: “--- not with the leaven of sin and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”. Sincerity is both purity uncontaminated by the corruption of sin, and also truth uncorrupted by error - just as light, as we saw earlier, is a symbol both of purity and of truth. A loaf baked with yeast looks much more impressive and attractive than unleavened bread, but those who are sincere are more concerned with inner truth and purity than with outward appearance; they know that “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16.7), and this truth about God, revealed in scripture, determines their own priorities. Jesus revealed a similar truth about his heavenly Father: “God is Spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4.24). True worshippers, then, must be obedient enough to accept the truth about God revealed in scripture, and humble enough to accept the truth about themselves revealed by their consciences, activated by self-examination and quickened by the Holy Spirit. So sincerity also involves humility. A loaf swollen by yeast is, perhaps, a symbol of the human heart swollen by pride ( maybe this is part of what Jesus meant by “the leaven of the Pharisees”). It is worth noting, before we finally leave this passage, that Paul has already, in verse 2, accused the Corinthians of being ‘inflated’, or ‘swollen’, or ‘puffed up’ with pride and self-satisfaction. The verb used here is ‘phusiō’, which is derived from the noun meaning ‘bellows’, or, in slightly more contemporary terms, a bicycle-pump. This word is used only by Paul in the NT; of its 7 appearances (7 again !), 6 are in this letter (the 7th. is in Colossians). What is more, this accusation of pride has been made three times already, in chapter 4, twice right at the end (vv. 18 and 19). Clearly this image, and the unusual word he uses to convey it, seemed to Paul to be particularly apt as a description of the Corinthians, or at least some of them. It is, then, just possible that this word, with its image of something steadily swelling and inflating, may have been associated in his mind with the difference in appearance between a leavened loaf and unleavened bread. A rather less speculative point is that the 5 previous uses of ‘phusioo’ (the 5th is in 8.1) as a criticism of the Corinthian church add particular significance to his more famous use of it in 13.4: “Love does not boast, is not puffed up with pride”. Love and sincerity are closely related - first cousins, at least, if not blood-brothers!

iv. leaven as a symbol of false teaching
Gal 5.7-10, Acts 15.1

Before we come to the two remaining mentions of ‘eilikrineia’ in the Corinthian letters, it is worth looking at the other context in which Paul quotes the saying “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”, with which he introduced the Passover imagery in I Corinthians 5. For this, we move from Corinth across the Aegean Sea to the churches of Galatia, and Paul’s letter to them. The two most recurrent theological problems which Paul needs to address in his letters are polar opposites: on the one hand, antinomianism, on the other, legalism. These two heresies could, perhaps be (somewhat simplistically) summed up as follows: the antinomian says, “Sin doesn’t matter; grace is everything”, while the legalist says, “the law is everything; grace - what’s that ?” The attitude of the Corinthian church seems to have been antinomian; they tolerated incest presumably because they thought that it didn’t really matter - God forgives everything. In this context, the ‘leaven’ is the leaven of unchecked and uncondemned immorality, which could spread to infect the whole body. The letter to the Galatians, on the other hand, is largely devoted to attacking the legalism of the ‘circumcision party’, who taught that “if you are not circumcised according to Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15.1). Paul does not know who it was who introduced this teaching in their churches; “You were running a good race. Who was it”, he asks, “who knocked you out of your stride so that you no longer obey the truth ? The one who is troubling you will bear the judgement, whoever it is.” It only takes one to start the rot, for “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Gal. 5. 7-10). At Corinth it was the leaven of sin and immorality that could infect the whole church; here it is the leaven of false teaching, of error: both are offences against the truth.

(b) 2 Peter 3.1: 'eilikrinēs'
'sincere thinking': 'dianoia'
1 Peter 1.13, Matt 22.37

This leads us to our first look at the adjective ‘eilikrinēs’, found in 2 Peter 3.1 - the only non-Pauline usage of either word. This verse, together with the next, is not easy to translate, so I offer a slightly expanded paraphrase: “My beloved brothers and sisters, this is now the second letter I am writing to you; in each of them I am trying, by reminding you of the basic truths of scripture, to stir up your thinking so that it is pure and free from error (‘eilikrinēs’). So remember both the words of the holy prophets of the Old Testament and the commands of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, passed on to you by your apostles, who heard them first-hand.” He goes on to warn them against false teaching (as he had done throughout chapter 2), particularly those who scoffed at the promised second coming of Christ ( the ‘parousia’, v.4). We tend to locate ‘sincerity’ in the heart, but here Peter says that our ‘thinking’ should be ‘sincere’. He has already used ‘thinking’ (‘dianoia’ in Greek - diseased thinking is ‘paranoia’) in his first letter, in a similar context: he tells his readers to “gird up the loins of your thinking”, that is, to prepare for vigorous mental exercise. We might express this as “roll up your sleeves and get down to some serious thinking” (1 Peter 1.13) about the implications of the ‘parousia’ - though here he describes it as the ‘revelation’ (‘apocalupsis’) of Jesus Christ. And, just in case his readers cannot ‘work out’ for themselves these implications, Peter spells it out for them in verse 15: “As he who called you is holy, you too should be holy”. In this context, ‘dianoia’ seems to refer to the process of thinking; by the time we get to 2 Peter 3.1, it refers to the end product of this thinking, which we might translate as the ‘mind-set’. It is in this sense that we are commanded (Matt. 22. 37) to love the Lord our God not only “with all your heart and soul”, but “with all your mind” (‘dianoia’) - that is, our minds should be set on God. It is worth noting that the LXX uses ‘dianoia’ in Deuteronomy 6.7 (the verse Jesus is quoting in answer to the Pharisee’s question), where English translations use ‘heart’. All too often we are caught in a vicious circle, where the thoughts of our heads are influenced less by reason than by the desires of our hearts - and the desires of our hearts are the desires of the flesh. Peter, by contrast, urges us to live in the virtuous circle, where our thinking is shaped by scripture, and shapes our desires: a ‘sincere’ mind-set leads, or should lead, to a holy life, and pure belief, uncorrupted by error or false teaching, should lead to pure behaviour. Mind-set and life-style should walk in step, hand in hand. We saw earlier that sincerity and love are closely related; we can now introduce another member of the family: holiness.

(c) Philippians 1.9-10
i. 'sincere and ---'

We now return to Paul, and to Corinth, via Philippi. In his lovely prayer for the Philippians (1. 9-10), he prays that “your love may abound more and more in knowledge and every kind of discernment --". Then comes verse 10, which presents the translator with a notorious crux, a double ‘double entendre’s shaped by scripture, and shapes our desires: a 'er, by contrast, urges us to live in the virtuous, as it were, for it contains two words each of which can have two different meanings. The first is ‘dokimazō’, which we have already encountered in Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians that “a man should examine himself” before partaking of the Lord’s supper. But its other meaning is the next stage in the process, to ‘approve’ that which passes the exam; so the verb can refer either to ‘setting the exam’ or ‘issuing the certificate’. The other verb is ‘diapherō’, used here as a participle in the neuter plural, so meaning ‘things which --- ” - what ? The first answer is easy: ‘diapherō’ leads, via its Latin equivalent, to the English ‘differ’. Its second meaning, like that of ‘dokimazō’, is positive rather than negative: just as ‘dokimazō’ does not mean to ‘fail’ what does not pass the test, so ‘diapherō’ means to ‘be different’ by ‘being excellent’ - not by being execrable ! I believe that Paul was fully aware of this double meaning, and meant both of them, so that a full translation of verse 10 would be: “--- so that you may carefully examine all the different teachings you hear, and approve those which are the best”. The context of “knowledge” and “discernment” (“insight”, NIV, which uses “discernment” in v. 10) suggests that Paul is thinking of all the different ideas and -isms and ideologies the Philippians, in their pluralist society, would be subjected to, as we are today in ours. Only those which were in line with the teachings of scripture and the gospel which Paul had preached to them would be “excellent”. Such an attitude of “knowledge and discernment” based on the canon (a Greek word which means ‘measuring rod’, or ‘guide-line’) of scripture is surely just what Peter meant by “a sincere mind-set”, and Paul goes on to say the same thing: “ --- so that you may be sincere and faultless (NIV ‘pure and blameless’) until the day when Christ returns” - the parousia again. As with his three uses of the noun, Paul here provides the adjective ‘eilikrinēs’ with a partner (“ --- and faultless”), which we will look at in a moment. But here he clarifies the meaning of ‘sincerity’ not by contrasting it with its opposite but by tracing the process through which it is developed. Once again, we see heart and mind working together. We have already seen that sincerity is related to love; now we see that the sort of love that leads to sincerity is not a generalised, undiscriminating benevolence, but a love which is both inspired by the love of God and shaped and directed by the truth of God. This means that sincerity is not the wide-eyed innocence of the ingénu(e), but the hard-won maturity of Christians who have thought through their faith and now live it out - who “do the truth”, in John’s striking phrase (3. 31).

ii. '---faultless'
'aproskopos', 'proskoptō'
Psalm 91.11-12, John 11.9-10, Rom 9.32, Rom 14.21

“Sincere and faultless”: the two words are clearly similar in meaning, if not exactly synonymous. The Greek word is ‘aproskopos’, derived from the verb ‘proskoptō’, plus the negative prefix. The adjective is only used on two other occasions in the NT, both by Paul, and, once again, it has two possible meanings. The verb ‘proskoptō’ means to ‘trip up’, which, in both English and Greek, can be either transitive, when you trip someone else up, or intransitive, when you yourself trip up. The literal meaning is to ‘hit against’, and is used in the Psalm (91 11-12) quoted by Satan as he tries to tempt Jesus to jump off the temple roof: “God will give his angels instructions concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands so that you do not strike your foot against a stone” (Matt. 4.6, Luke 4.11). It is also used of the wind ‘beating against’ the house built on sand in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 7. 24. This literal sense shades into the metaphorical in Jesus’ two uses in John 11. 9 and 10: “If someone walks in the daytime, he does not trip over, --- but if he walks at night, he trips over, because the light is not in him”. Clearly ‘tripping up’ here is an image of falling into sin or error, and it is in this latter sense that both Paul (Romans 9. 32) and Peter (1 Peter 2.8) use it to distinguish between believers in Christ, for whom he is the ‘corner-stone’ or ‘foundation-stone’, and unbelievers, for whom he is a ‘stumbling-block’ which they ‘trip over’. The final occurrence of this verb is in Romans, where it concludes Paul’s long discussion of the issue of eating meat and drinking wine. He makes it clear that being a Christian does not necessarily entail being either a vegetarian or a teetotaller, but that, in the company of Christians who are, “it is better not to eat meat or drink wine, or do anything which may cause your brother to trip up”, that is, to fall into what, for him, would be sin. It is in this sense, and in a very similar context (though the dietary dilemma here is whether to eat meat offered to idols) that Paul tells the Corinthians (1 Cor. 10 32) to be ‘aproskopoi’ (plural ending) to their brother Christians, whether they are from Jewish or Greek backgrounds. This clearly means “do not trip up” their tender consciences by flaunting before them your own more mature understanding of Christian freedom. Paul’s other use of this word, as reported by Luke in Acts 24. 16, is also connected with the conscience. In his apologia before the Roman governor Felix he says “I strive to keep my conscience ‘aproskopos’”, which here must mean ‘spotless’, unstained by any sense of guilt. As a companion for ‘sincere’, then, ‘aproskopos’ could mean either ‘not falling into sin’, ‘blameless’, or ‘not leading others into sin’, either by precept (false teaching) or by example. Once again, I believe Paul intended both these meanings to apply. To be ‘sincere’ is to be equally concerned for one’s own spiritual state and for that of one’s Christian brethren. Love that is informed by knowledge based on scripture and discernment prompted by the Spirit lead to a wholehearted desire to do what is pleasing to God, and to encourage others to do the same. Such spirituality is closely related to sincerity - another member of the family.

(d) 2 Corinthians 1.12
i. 'as God is my witness'
Phil 1.8, Rom 1.9, 2 Cor 1.23 1 Thess 2.5,10

We can now return to Corinth - as Paul had promised to do, but had not yet done by the time he wrote 2 Corinthians. This exposed him to criticism by some in Corinth that he was inconsistent and unreliable, and that his plans and decisions were made for worldly reasons rather than in accordance with the leading of the Spirit. Paul therefore finds it necessary to justify himself to them, to prove his ‘sincerity’. Thus these two instances of ‘eilikrineia’ in the opening 2 chapters of the letter are different from the three examples of ‘sincere’ and ‘sincerity’ we have already looked at. In 1 Corinthians, he urges the church to be ‘sincere’ by driving out the corrupting yeast of immorality, and he prays that the Philippians may be ‘sincere’ in their faith by developing spiritual discernment; and Peter exhorts his readers to have a ‘sincere mind-set’ regarding the second coming of Christ by believing the scriptures rather than the scoffers. In 2 Corinthians, however, Paul is protesting his own sincerity rather than encouraging that of his readers. It is in these two instances that the possible derivation ‘judged by the light of the sun’ seems particularly appropriate, since he calls upon God himself to witness the truth of what he is saying. It is worth noting that he does just this immediately before his prayer for the Philippians that we looked at before, though the tone here is not defensive, as in 2 Corinthians, but rather expansive: “God is my witness how much I long for you all with the compassion of Christ” (1.8). There is a close parallel to this in Romans 1.9, where, again, Paul claims that “God is my witness how ceaselessly I make mention of you ---in my prayers”. Obviously, God alone can bear witness to the genuineness of our prayer-life. The other thing to which God alone can bear witness is the genuineness of our motives, the innermost secret of our hearts, a secret which we often do not know ourselves. It is in this context that Paul’s other three appeals to God as his witness are made, one of them in 2 Corinthians 1, and the other two in 1 Thessalonians 2. 5 and 10. This latter passage is noteworthy because it re-introduces us to the verb ‘dokimazō’: “The appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you” (v.3, NIV - there is no word for ‘motives’ in the Greek, simply the noun ‘impurity’, but this translation expresses the meaning well); “but as we have been ‘tested-and-found-fit’ (the secondary meaning of ‘dokimazō’ we saw in Phil. 1.10) by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak not to please men but to please God who tests (‘dokimazō’) our hearts. God is our witness, and you yourselves know, that we never used flattering words, nor were we using a mask of piety to conceal a desire for personal gain.” And in verse 10 he again calls on God to witness to the integrity of his ministry among them. It is the integrity and sincerity of his motives which are being questioned by the Corinthians, and he defends himself by this same appeal to God as his witness in 1.23, a verse which is not easy to translate convincingly. NIV renders it: “I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth”. This dissolves the difficulty by omitting it. AV gives us the more literal, but hardly convincing “I call God for a record upon my soul”; these last three words translate the phrase which NIV omits: “to my ‘psuche’”, the Greek word for ‘soul’, or ‘innermost being’, that part of us where our secret motives are hidden. So perhaps a full translation might be: “I call upon God to bear witness to my integrity by searching the innermost secrets of my heart”.

ii. a clear conscience
Rom 2.15

This leads us back to verse 12, where ‘eilikrineia’ actually occurs! “For this is my confident claim, and to this my conscience bears witness, that my life-style in the world, and particularly towards you, was one of godly straightforwardness and sincerity, not controlled by the scheming of my selfish desires, but by the grace of God.” The evidence which our conscience can give when God searches our hearts, as Paul himself said of the gentiles who have no divine law to guide them, may be either for the prosecution, or “even” (for this is rather less common !) for the defence (Romans 2. 15). But in this case Paul’s conscience does acquit him, so that his appeal to it is parallel to his appeal (in verse 23) to God to bear witness to his integrity. ‘eilikrineia’, therefore, is that quality which, when God shines his searchlight into the secret places of our heart and activates our conscience, passes the test, so that our conscience, with humble confidence, acquits us of dishonesty or duplicity: we are ‘sincere’, or ‘genuine’. Here, too, we see Paul using both antithesis and synonym to help us to understand ‘sincerity’. It is contrasted with ‘fleshly wisdom’, which I translated above as ‘the scheming of selfish desires’, those all-too-plausible arguments by which we persuade ourselves that it is right to do what is comfortable and convenient, rather than what God is calling us to do. So here Paul is claiming that his only motive in postponing his promised visit to Corinth was for their sake, not for his convenience: his conscience is clear; he was led by “the grace of God”, not by “the wisdom of the flesh”.

iii. 'haplotēs' or 'hagiotēs'?
James 1.5, Rom 12.8, Col 3.22, 2 Cor 11.3

The word which Paul uses here as a partner for ‘eilikrineia’ is a matter of dispute. There are two candidates, very similar to each other both in form and meaning, making miscopying in the MS tradition a likely possibility, and so making it difficult to know what Paul actually wrote. The two words which appear in the MSS are ‘haplotēs’, which means ‘simplicity’, or ‘straightforwardness’, and ‘hagiotes’, meaning ‘holiness’. AV reads ‘simplicity’, NIV ‘holiness’. I am not qualified to judge the relative reliability of the different MSS - that requires half a lifetime of scholarly study - but in this particular context ‘haplotēs’ seems to me to be preferable. At first sight this may seem inconsistent, since we have already seen how closely related sincerity is to holiness. But in this context Paul is defending himself against an accusation of deviousness and duplicity, of making his plans “ in a worldly manner, so that in the same breath I say ‘yes, yes’ and ‘no, no’” (NIV’s excellent translation of v. 17); ‘straightforwardness’, or ‘simplicity’, are more appropriate denials of this charge. The noun ‘haplotēs’ occurs 8 times in the NT, and is used exclusively by Paul; 5 of these 8 occur in this one letter. The related adverb, ‘haplōs’, is used once, by James (1.5), who encourages any one who lacks wisdom to ask for it from “the God who gives ‘haplōs’ to everyone, and does not find fault”. The simplest translation here is ‘generously’ (NIV - AV has ‘liberally’), but the idea behind the word seems to be that God gives ‘unconditionally’ or ‘straightforwardly’. Of Paul’s 8 uses of the noun, ‘generosity’ is clearly the right translation in 4 of them, especially the 3 in this letter, where he uses the Macedonian churches as a shining example of Christian giving (8. 2, 9. 11 and 13). The other such use, in Romans 12.8, is part of a list of Christian gifts (giving is a gift!), with an instruction attached to each as to how it should be exercised: “Let the one who gives away a share of his wealth do so with ‘haplotēs’”; ‘generosity’ fits well enough here, but seems redundant. The core meaning, ‘simplicity’ (AV’s translation) seems more pointed: giving should be ‘unconditional’, like God’s giving to us, and ‘uncalculating’, with no mixed motives. Two of the remaining usages also refer to mixed motives; they occur in parallel passages (Eph. 6.5 and Col. 3.22) of Paul’s instructions to slaves: they are to serve their earthly masters “not with eyeservice as menpleasers" (AV’s memorably literal translation of the latter verse), but “in simplicity from the heart”, as though they were serving Christ himself. For all Christians, and not just slaves, the main aim and motive of the Christian life is ‘simple’ - though far from easy: to serve Christ and please him. The final usage is in 2 Corinthians 11.3, and brings us round full circle. Paul is warning the Corinthians against the false apostles who preach “another Jesus --- another Spirit --- another gospel”; he is afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve, so their “minds may be corrupted from your simplicity and holiness towards Christ”. This time, ‘haplotēs’ and ‘hagiotes’ are partners, not rivals! But in fact, the words “and holiness” are not found in the majority of MSS (and so not translated in AV). These are the only two instances of ‘hagiotes’ in the NT (the corresponding adjective ‘hagios’, ‘holy’, is, of course, ubiquitous), so that the dubiousness of each makes the other even more dubious. Paul here seems to be saying that, as there is only one Jesus, one Spirit and one gospel, true faith is ‘one-fold’, the literal derivation of ‘simple’. If, then, ‘simplicity’ is the correct reading in 1.12, and so the right partner for ‘sincerity’, it reinforces the idea that to be sincere is not to be half-hearted or double-minded (James 1.8), but to be single-minded in one’s faith in Jesus as the only one who can save us, and wholehearted in our love for him and service for him.

(e) 2 Corinthians 2.17
i. "not ---"
'kapēlos', 'adokimos', 'panourgia'
Is 1.32, 2 Cor 11.3

For our final reference we need only move forward to the end of the next chapter (2. 17). Once again, we find that Paul sheds light on ‘eilikrineia’ both by antithesis (“not --- but”) and with an explanatory phrase; and once again we are confronted by a problem of translation. The contrast is with “the many” (‘hoi polloi’), the group of false apostles we met in the previous paragraph (referring to 11.3), but who are here mentioned explicitly by Paul for the first time in the letter. They are accused of “peddling” the word of God; this Greek verb (‘kapeleuō’) is found only here in the NT. It is derived from a noun, ‘kapēlos’, which is common in Classical Greek, meaning ‘a small trader’, or ‘peddler’, someone, therefore, who sells something for a profit. Paul could, then, be accusing these false apostles of having mercenary motives in coming to Corinth with their false gospel. This interpretation, found in NIV’s ‘peddle --- for profit’ is perfectly consistent with Paul’s insistence in 12. 14-16 that when he makes his third visit to Corinth he will do so entirely at his own expense, just as his previous visits have cost them nothing (11. 8-10). More generally, too, it is consistent with his line of self-defence against his critics in this letter: the motives of the false apostles are mixed - adulterated by pride and greed - while his own are pure, which is the essential meaning of ‘sincerity’. But there is another interpretation, equally consistent with the context, and equally compelling. In later Greek, ‘kapēlos’ came to acquire a pejorative sense, moving downhill (as so many words do) from ‘a small trader trading for a profit’ to ‘a trader making a dishonest profit by adulterating his wine’. It is in this sense that it is found in the LXX, in Isaiah 1.22, where the prophet laments how “the faithful city of Sion” has gone downhill (“become a harlot”): “Your silver has lost its hallmark, your traders mix their wine with water”. I have translated the first half of the verse rather freely in an attempt to do justice to the word ‘adokimon’; we have already come across ‘dokimazō’ several times (Phil. 1.10, 1 Cor. 11.28), meaning to ‘test’, and then to ‘approve’ what passes the test. This is the adjective derived from the verb, with the negative prefix, and so means ‘failing the test’, or ‘missing the (hall)mark’. ‘adokimos’ is used 8 times in the NT, 7 of them by Paul, and 3 of them in the final chapter of this letter (13. 3-7), where he also uses 3 other related words. It is, then, possible that Paul, in his strictures on the Corinthian church, has somewhere in the back of his mind Isaiah’s strictures on Jerusalem, and that this is the source of the unique word ‘kapeleuo’ which he uses in our verse here, and of the repeated use of ‘adokimos’ in chapter 13. This would suggest that Paul is accusing the false apostles of adulterating the gospel, turning wine into water in a blasphemous inversion of Jesus’ first miracle. Whether or not Paul is indebted to Isaiah for his choice of imagery is, of course, a matter of speculation; but in any case the sense of ‘adulterate’ or ‘water down’ is entirely appropriate to this context, and to the meaning of ‘eilikrineia’. As we saw in Peter’s use of the adjective, not only does an apostle’s heart need to be pure in its motives, but his mind-set, and so his message, needs to be purified by God’s truth as revealed in scripture. More evidence in favour of this interpretation comes in chapter 4, where again, by implication, Paul is contrasting the integrity of his ministry with the dishonesty of the false apostles: “We have rejected all that is secret and shameful, we do not practise deception, we do not distort (literally, perhaps, ‘play tricks with’) the word of God”. The word here for ‘deception’, ‘panourgia’, is the same one that Paul used in 11.3 of Satan’s deception of Eve, the verse that also contains an example of ‘haplotēs’ (‘simplicity’). It seems, then, that the phrase ‘distort the word of God’ is a close parallel with ‘corrupt the word of God’ (AV) in 2.17 - doing Satan’s work for him: he first questioned (Gen. 3.1) and then corrupted (vv.4-5) God’s first commandment to mankind, and has been doing the same ever since. Both interpretations of ‘kapeleuō’ are therefore appropriate to the context, and I suspect that Paul was well aware of both meanings when he chose the word, and would have given his imprimatur both to AV’s ‘corrupt’ and to NIV’s ‘peddle for profit’ - but best of all would have liked to see both translations combined !

ii. " ---but"
2 Cor 5.17, Col 3.3
After the ‘not’ comes the ‘but’: Paul doe not preach with mixed motives, nor does he preach an adulterated message. “But we speak in Christ as from ‘eilikrineia’, but as from God in the presence of God” - a literal translation of the second half of verse 17. He even repeats the ‘but’ to make the contrast clear. The phrase ‘in Christ’ is one of Paul’s favourite expressions, occurring most memorably, perhaps, in this letter (5. 17): “If any one in Christ, new creation!” This great truth does not even need verbs to express it; the verse sounds more like a telegram than a letter! The same truth is expressed even more powerfully in Colossians 3.3: “You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”. Sincerity means belonging wholly to Christ, and we are ‘sincere’ when we think and feel and pray and act wholly in accordance with this life-transforming relationship. One might say that ‘holiness’ is ‘wholly-ness’. Paul also claims to speak ‘from God’, a claim both to prophetic status (“thus says the Lord” being the call-sign of the true prophet) and to his apostolic calling: he speaks God’s truth, unadulterated. Once again, we see that sincerity is about both the heart and the mind; to mean well is not enough: right motives must be matched by right thinking. The third of these phrases is our final reminder of the (possible) derivation of ‘eilikrinēs’ as ‘judged by the light of the sun’: if I act and speak in the full knowledge that ‘God is my witness’, surely I can be nothing but sincere, since to God I am ‘transparent’. The word Paul uses here for ‘in the presence of’ is ‘katenanti’, and he uses it again in an almost exact repeat of this part of the verse in 12.19: “We speak in Christ in the presence of God”. Apart from one occurrence in Romans, the other 6 usages of this word are in the gospels. In all 3 synoptic gospels the two disciples appointed by Jesus to fetch the donkey for his entry into Jerusalem are told to “go into the village (you can see) right in front of you” (Matt. 21. 2); in Mark 12. 41, Jesus sits “right in front of the offertory box” in the temple, and in the next chapter (v.3) sits on the Mount of Olives “overlooking the temple opposite him”. But perhaps the most relevant usage is Pilate’s behaviour at Jesus’ public trial: “he washed his hands right in front of the crowd”, calling on them as witnesses to his (supposed) innocence of “this man’s blood” (Matt. 27.24). In the same way, in both these verses Paul is calling on God to witness to the sincerity and integrity of his ministry among the Corinthians. He is no itinerant peddler hawking shoddy goods for a quick profit; he is God’s chosen apostle entrusted with the saving truth of the gospel of Christ.


In terms of the frequency of their usage, ‘eilkrines’ and eilikrineia’ may be poor relations when compared with some of the great bible words; but they are well connected, belonging to a rich family of spiritual qualities that combine to form the truly Christ-like character of one who “walks in the light” and “does the truth”. Such character is sifted and refined by the knocks and shakes it suffers in those times of trial God, in his wisdom, allows us to undergo, and humbly submits its innermost motives to the searching examination of the Holy Spirit. Such people are truly “in Christ”, and can with bold humility call upon God to bear witness to the genuineness of their faith and the sincerity of their commitment. Such people can await with quiet confidence the day when God closes the book of human history, and Christ comes again. They will see him “face to face” (1 Cor. 13.12), and not be ashamed. Such people are, indeed, ‘sincere’.