(1 Cor. 9:9) Why does Paul cite Deuteronomy 25:4?

CLAIM: Does Paul accurately handle this OT passage, or does he quote it out of context?

RESPONSE: In Deuteronomy 25:4, God prescribes that oxen get to feed while they work. Paul uses this passage to support how we need to pay vocational ministers. But how does he make this connection? We think three options are possible:

OPTION #1: Paul is making an A FORTIORI argument from Deuteronomy 25:4

Under this view, Paul is arguing, “If oxen get fed while working for the people of God, then how much more should Christian leaders?” Blomberg writes, “The logic is ‘from the lesser to the greater.’ If God is concerned with rewarding animals for their work, how much more must he be concerned for workers he has made in his own image?”[1]

OPTION #2: Paul is arguing from the MORAL PRINCIPLE in Deuteronomy 25:4

Under this view, Paul isn’t changing the original meaning of the text, but rather, he is giving a broader application of it. Fee writes, “Paul does not speak to what the law originally meant, which tends to be our concern. He is concerned with what it means, that is, with its application to their present situation. There is a sense in which he clearly keeps the original intent; he simply changes the application.”[2]

OPTION #3: Paul is showing that Deuteronomy 25:4 is to create JUSTICE in humans

Under this view,[3] Paul is very literally arguing that “God is not concerned about oxen.” At least not directly. Instead, in its original context, this law was given to create justice in the hearts of humans—especially in how they deal with the poor (Deut. 24:10-13) and issues of justice (Deut. 24:16-18). This law, therefore, was given to create a basis for justice in humans that would result in fair treatment to others.

[1] Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 146.

[2] Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 408). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3] Walter Kaiser and Frédéric Godet hold this view. See Walter Kaiser, “The Current Crisis in Exegesis and the Apostolic Use of Deuteronomy 25:4 in 1 Corinthians 9:8–10,” JETS 21 (1978), 14. Frédéric Godet, Commentary on St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1898) 2.11-13.