A curious phrase appears in 1 Corinthians 11. In verse 18 the Apostle Paul states that he has heard that there are divisions in the Corinthian church and then he says he partly believes it.

1Corinthians 11:18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

Really? He PARTLY believed it? It is utterly obvious that he absolutely believed there were divisions among them. Much of this epistle to the Corinthians is dedicated to addressing their divisions and divisive practices. He goes directly from the statement above to again addressing their divisions.

1 Corinthians 11:19 For there must be also heresies [rendered as “factions” or some such in most versions] among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

[By the way, the wording in this verse in the King James Version and every other version I checked indicates that there is a Godly purpose for divisions (or heresies). It is in order that those who are approved (or not) may be made manifest. This is simply not true, and I will address this in a future posting.]

If indeed, the apostle wrote by revelation as he claimed a number of times (and which I believe) then of course he knew what was going on with the Corinthians and EXACTLY what needed to be said to them.

So why did he say he partly believed it? I considered that it could have been sarcasm, but what would have been the profit of such sarcasm here? It would not have helped instruct the Corinthians or more forcefully brought them to facing some realization. There would have been no purpose, just a matter of twisting the proverbial knife, and that is not what Corinthians or any of the rest of God’s Word is about.

Another consideration is that it is a euphemistic, softening, phrase. “I’ve heard that there are divisions among you. I’m not necessarily accepting that this is true, but in case it is, here is what you should do about it.” This explanation is hard to accept because the Apostle Paul doesn’t say all this. He just says, “and I partly believe it,” or does he? Let’s look at another possibility, the translation.

The greek word translated, “partly” is meros, and its basic meaning is, “a part.” Here is the more complete lexicon information:

3313 meros {mer'-os}

Meaning: 1) a part 1a) a part due or assigned to one 1b) lot, destiny 2) one of the constituent parts of a whole 2a) in  part, partly, in a measure, to some degree, as respects a part, severally, individually 2b) any particular, in regard to this,  in this respect

Origin: from an obsolete but more primary form of meiromai (to get as a section or allotment); TDNT - 4:594,585; n n

Usage: AV - part 24, portion 3, coast 3, behalf 2, respect 2, misc 9; 43

A significant detail in the info above is that meros in this verse is a noun, not an adverb. It isn’t describing the verb, “believe.” It stands on its own. So what is the “part” being referred to? Of the various versions I checked, here is one that I think nailed it:

1Corinthians 11:18 For first of all, it has come to my ears that when you come together in the church, there are divisions among you, and I take the statement to be true in part. [BBE: The Bible in Basic English]

The Apostle Paul had heard that there were divisions among the Corinthians. He knew that there were, but that not all the accusations against them were true. He believed only part of these accusations.

OK, I know this isn’t exactly a dramatically significant piece of doctrine, but it is still a matter of the integrity of God’s Word, in seeing how it all fits together. The line, “and I partly believe it,” has been a puzzlement to me for many years, and have only recently come to understand it. I thought that perhaps some of you might appreciate it.

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