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The Argument of 1 Corinthians 12-14

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The Purpose of the Study

The purpose for the following study is to briefly analyze the various divisions in 1 Corinthians 12-14 in an attempt to understand the overall argument of this section.

An Outline of the Study

First, the study will begin with a brief look at the textual problems in this portion of Scripture. Second, a statement of the overall argument of chapters 12-14 will be offered. Third, the overall argument will be developed through an analysis of the various paragraphs that form this section of the book. It must be said at the outset that not every paragraph could be dealt with at the same level of detail. Some portions required more attention than others. This portion of Scripture has generated an enormous amount of literature and no little number of interpretive problems. These problems were dealt with only insofar as they were immediately pertinent to establishing the argument of a particular section.

The Argument of 1 Corinthians 12-14

Textual Issues in 1 Corinthians 12-14

There are over 60 textual variants listed throughout 1 Corinthians 12-14 in the NA26 Bible, but apart from one difficult one, none of them seriously affects the meaning of the passage. Some of the variants include: 1) the omission of a word in certain traditions (14:4 gavr); 2) the replacement of a certain term by another (12:24 uJsterounti for uJsteroumevnw/);1 3) an insertion of a word (13:11 deV); 4) a change in word order (13:13) and 5) replacement of certain words with others.2

The most difficult textual problem in 1 Corinthians 12-14 occurs in 14:34, 35.3 Several Western witnesses including D, F, G, 88* itd, g Ambrosiaster, Sedulius and Scotus place the verses after verse 40. The problem does not arise from the lack of attestation for the verses in early, solid manuscripts, but from internal considerations. As Gordon Fee says: "Although these two verses are found in all known manuscripts, either here or at the end of the chapter, the two text-critical criteria of transcriptional and intrinsic probability combine to cast considerable doubt on their authenticity."4 Fee argues that the verses are spurious for at least three reasons: 1) the verses obscure the sense of Paul's argument concerning tongues and prophecy; 2) the verses contradict Paul's teaching in 11:5 where women are permitted not only to speak, but to prophecy and 3) the usage of certain terms appear foreign to Paul.

There is no easy solution to this problem and Fee is to be commended for his recognition of both the internal tension that these verses place upon the context and the weaknesses inherent in the common replies to the problem.5 All this notwithstanding, one ought to be very cautious, however, when deeming certain texts spurious on the basis of transcriptional probability and internal difficulties when there is no substantial external data to lend support to such an hypothesis. In the end, the verses should be permitted to remain in the text (after verse 33) due to excellent manuscript support.6

A Statement of the Argument of 1 Corinthians 12-14

    The General Structure of 1 Corinthians 12-14

That chapters 12-14 are indeed to be taken as a literary unit seems apparent from three facts: 1) the repetition of the Greek terms periV deV in 12:1 (cf. also 7:1, 25; 8:1; 16:1, 12) indicate a break from the previous discussion regarding the Lord's supper; 2) the material of 12-14 is unified around the idea of spiritual gifts and 3) chapters 15 and 16 concern themselves with matters other than spiritual gifts, i.e., the resurrection body, etc. Having outlined the literary context, it must be said however, that the issue of spiritual gifts is part of an immediate larger historical context, namely, the corporate worship of the church addressed in 11:2-14:40.7

First Corinthians 12-14, then, comprises one section focused on a single theme. The general structure of the literary unit consists in a movement from the general to the particular. It can be outlined as follows: 1) A basic test concerning spiritual realities (12:1-3); 2) the unity and diversity of the body with respect to the operation of various spiritual gifts (12:4-31); 3) the emphasis on love as the vehicle through which gifts can operate beneficially (13:1-13) and 4) the primacy of edification in the exercise of spiritual gifts, with particular reference to tongues and prophecy (14:1-40).8

    The Corinthian Problem in 1 Corinthians 12-14

From the text of 1 Corinthians 12-14 (and certain other passages) we can create with some degree of accuracy, it would appear, the problem in the Corinthian church. Their questions addressed to Paul were not simply about spiritual gifts per se, as if all they needed were more information on the issue. Paul's response reveals that it is a problem with the gift of tongues and the nature of true spirituality. The Corinthians had made the gift of tongues the sign of true spirituality and had urged all to speak in tongues as evidence of such spirituality. Paul's response involves information, but it is primarily corrective. Though he starts out in somewhat general fashion in chapter 12 and 13, he lands squarely on the issue in chapter 14 wherein he provides the remedy for their abuse of the gift and their confused ideas about genuine spirituality. It appears that the Corinthians were more zealous for the "miraculous gifts" insofar as they demonstrated one's superior spirituality (14:12), but they had pursued such a course to the detriment of their fellow brothers and sisters. This penchant for the miraculous may very well reflect an over-realized eschatology that appears in their denial of the body certain sexual needs (7:6) and in their denial of the corporeal aspects of the resurrection body (15:1-58).9

    Paul's Argument in 1 Corinthians 12-14

In response to the Corinthians' abuse of the gift of tongues and their misguided views of true spirituality, Paul argues the following: true spirituality consists in love of the brethern which manifests itself by making all attempts to bring edification and strengthening to the diversified body of Christ. Under this umbrella he argues that uninterpreted tongues are detrimental to the body because no one is edified by a manifestation of the Spirit they cannot understand. Prophecy is to be preferred in this light since it is comprehensible to the body, providing the nourishment it so desperately needs. Also, order is to be maintained in the exercise of the gifts as this promotes edification and reflects a God who produces peace in and between believers (cf. Col 3:15).

The Development of the
Argument through an Analysis of
the Main Divisions in 1 Corinthians 12-14

The Principle in 12:1-3

    The Structure of the Passage

The structure of this passage is fairly straight forward. Verse 1 forms a basic introduction to the paragraph (and indeed the whole literary unit from chapter 12 through chapter 14) indicating the apostle's concern that the Corinthians not be ignorant of certain truths about the things of the Spirit. Verse 2 gives the rationale for the concern, namely, their problems with idols during their pre-Christian lives. In verse 3 Paul provides a corrective to the problem by stating a very simple spiritual rule in regard to who possesses the Spirit and who does not.

    Interpretive Questions and Problems

Before we can make a final summary of the passage and state clearly its contribution to the argument of the larger unit, we must engage some of the interpretive questions and problems this text poses.

First, there is the issue of Paul's somewhat vague language. The first phrase of verse 12:1a reads: PeriV deV tw'n pneumatikw'n and the question arises as to the referent for pneumatikw'n. The noun could be either masculine or neuter. Does it refer to "spiritual men" (masculine) or to "spiritual gifts" (neuter) or simply to "the things of the spirit" (neuter)? F. F. Bruce states that it is preferable to take it as a reference to "spiritual persons" in light of its use in 2:15 and 3:1 (cf. also 14:37). In 2:15 Paul refers to oJ pneumatikov" who can discern all things (2:15) and 3:1 laments the fact that the Corinthians were not very mature spiritually; he could not refer to them as pneumatikoi`".10 The strength of this view is that it would maintain a consistent analysis of the gender and use of the term in 1 Corinthians. The weakness includes the fact that the immediate context of 12:1 does not seem to be primarily referring to persons per se. The emphasis seems to be more on gifts than on those who possess them. With this in mind, William F. Orr and James Arthur Walther, although cognizant of the focus on people and gifts in the following context (i.e., 12-14), argue that the term is neuter and does indeed refer to "spiritual gifts."11 This referent for the term is supported by its use in 14:1. D. A. Carson also argues that the term is neuter, but his reasoning rests in large measure on the conceptual parallel that exists between pneumatikw`n and carivsmata—a term that never refers to persons. According to Carson, the term simply refers to "spirituals" and the vagueness is overcome when we understand that the Corinthians understood the questions they had asked of Paul. In other words, they understood his response, even if we do not.12 Fee, in his excellent commentary on 1 Corinthians, argues that pneumatikw'n emphasizes the Spirit's role whereas carivsmata emphasizes the manifestation, the gift as such. He further adds that the reference, then, is to "the things of the spirit."13 This seems to be Paul's meaning here. His focus on a general concept—"spirituals" or "things of the spirit"—allows him to take the Corinthians back into their pagan past (when they possessed no gift of the Spirit) from which he will demonstrate a major point about spiritual experience— not everything that claims to be inspired utterance is from the Spirit of God. This leads us into verse 2.

Second, why does Paul refer them to their pagan experience which included idol worship (v. 2)?14 This question surfaces a further question concerning the relationship of 12:2 to 12:1 and 12:3. The traditional and predominant understanding is to link v. 2 closely with v. 3 such that together they form the substance about which Paul does not want the Corinthians to be ignorant (v. 1). Along these lines, since 12:2 talks about their pagan background and refers to their worship of dumb idols and 12:3 seems to refer to a test concerning spiritual utterances about Jesus (Lord or cursed; especially the fact that Paul mentions ajnavqema jIhsou`"), many commentators have sought a connection to the ecstatic utterances found in the Mystery religions in which many of the Corinthians were undoubtedly involved at one time.15 This structuring of 12:2 and 12:3 together, has resulted in the idea that the cursing going on in v.3 was somehow in the Corinthians' present experience. But who would do such a thing in the congregation? Numerous solutions have been proposed, none with any degree of satisfaction and many of which ultimately leave 12:1-3 disconnected from what follows concerning the source and diversity of the gifts (vv.4-11).16

There is another way to structure Paul's comments in 12:1-3 that is more sensitive to the grammar and alleviates the problem of trying to find a specific referent or situation for the "cursing." Carson, following, G. de Broglie and Andr Mehat, argues that v.1 and v. 2 belong together and that v. 3 alone provides the content about which Paul does not want the Corinthians to be ignorant.17 There is no o{ti clause in v. 2—which one would expect following Paul's formula ouj qevlw uJma'" ajgnoei'n (see 10:1 and Romans 1:13). There is, however, a o{ti clause in v. 3 after the gnwvrizw which for its part seems to be resumptive of 12:1. Grammatically, then, it seems best to link vv. 1 and 2 together and allow v. 3 to remain relatively separate as the resumption of verse 1.

This being the case, v. 2 simply reinforces Paul's statement that he does not want them to be ignorant about "spirituals." After all, even the Corinthians had to admit their blindness in the past as evidenced by idol worship. The cursing of v.3, then, is not to be seen as something that actually occurred, or a test to establish true spirits from false,18 but only a statement that true spirituality—far from being determined on the basis of spiritual utterances or manifestations—is evidenced when a person personally confesses Jesus as the Lord. It is a test to see who actually had the Holy Spirit in the first place. If anyone can genuinely confess Jesus as Lord, he/she has the Spirit of God. If anyone curses Him, he/she does not. This stands in contrast to the Corinthians who, as further exegesis will show, undoubtedly held to the opinion that those who do not manifest the gift of tongues are without the Spirit, or at least do not possess Him to the degree that others who speak in tongues do. This understanding of the 12:1-3 helps us to better understand how Paul can immediately dive into the "varieties" of the ministries of the Spirit (4-11) as a polemic against this Corinthian reductionism.19

    Summary and Contribution

The test that Paul employs, then, in 1 Corinthians 12:1-3 is not the test of orthodoxy; distinguishing false spirits from true, but a test to see who has the Holy Spirit in the first place. To those who would look for a particular spiritual manifestation (e.g., tongues) as a guarantee of the Spirit's presence Paul says: "you're on the wrong track." If a person in the Corinthian congregation thought that the gift of tongues was the telltale sign of the Spirit (and it appears that many did) they were wrong. The telltale test consists in the idea of whether a person can personally acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Paul's purpose then, in these opening three verses, is to clarify the nature of genuine spirituality—the confession of Jesus as Lord. Anyone who can confess Christ as his/her Lord, is spiritual, gifts notwithstanding. Having said this, Paul is now ready to launch into a further corrective regarding the breadth of the gifts sponsored by the one and same Spirit.

The Principle in 12:4-11

    The Structure of the Passage

The paragraph is joined to that which preceded by the use of dev (12: 4). The first three verses (4-6) emphasize, by means of a parallel structure, the Trinitarian source of the gifts as well as their diversity. Verse 7 states the purpose of the gifts, that is, for the common good. The last four verses (8-11) indicate practical examples of the kinds of gifts the Spirit gives to each person as He so determines.

    Interpretive Questions and Problems

The dev functions in a mildly contrastive way. Paul has just argued that it is the personal confession of Jesus which indicates a person's possession of the Spirit, but that is not to say that that is the only "manifestation" the Spirit produces. Quite the opposite. He also gives gifts to people for the common good of the body (i.e., and not as a sign of Spirit possession).

In verses 4-6 the Apostle lays heavy emphasis on the distributions of gifts, ministries and workings, but that they all come from the same Spirit. The term diairevsei" stands in an emphatic position at the front of its clause in all three verses. It can refer to the idea of an "allotment" or "distribution." Judith 9:4 says: "You gave up their wives for booty and their daughters to captivity, and all their booty to be divided (eij" diaivresin) among your beloved children who burned with zeal for you and abhorred the pollution of their blood and called on you for help—O God, my God, hear me also—a widow." But the term might also indicate a "difference" or "variety" in the allotment.20 With the upcoming display of the variety of gifts (12:8-11), the latter interpretation seems reasonable, but in the end, the fact that: 1) diairevsei" is plural; 2) is in contrast to toV deV aujtoV pneuvma 3) parallels the idea of fanevrwsi" in verse 7 and 4) is paralleled by the verbal form which means "to apportion" in 12:11; seems to emphasize "allotment" rather than "distinction."21 This does not mean that "variety is not implied; it certainly is. But the focus on "distributions" as a verbal noun places the emphasis not on any one gift per se, but on the Giver: the same Spirit, Lord and God, and highlights the fact that becomes explicit in verse 7: each one has a gift.

There is probably not a great deal of distinction to be put upon the successive terms: "gifts," "ministries," and "workings." They may all be subsumed under the idea of "manifestation" in verse 7. Their respective use, however, with each member of the Trinity, is particularly appropriate since it is the Spirit who is associated with carismavta;22 the Lord who is easily connected to the idea of ministry (i.e., diavkono")23 and God (the Father) who is often associated with the idea of ejnergevw (Gal 2:8; Eph 1:11; 3:20; Phil 2:13).24

Four things can be said about verse 7 in terms of Paul's overall argument in this paragraph. First, as indicated above, each person receives a gift. Not just a few special people. Second, the use of the passive divdotai clearly rules out any human effort or excellence that could attain the gifts on its own. Third, the focus again on the Spirit-source for the gifts is a rebuke to Corinthian pride. Fourth, in contrast to Corinthian opinion, wherein the gift of tongues was held to be a sign of true spirituality, Paul says the gifts were given for the common good (sumfeVron).

In verses 8-10 Paul brings out the idea of the diversity of the gifts as he lists nine of them. It is not necessary for our purposes to define and explain all the gifts except to make a few comments.25 First, whatever gift is in view at any time, it was given for the common good (v. 7), not for personal status in the community. The "common good" is defined by Paul as the strengthening and edifying of each member of the body (14:3, 12). Second, once again Paul emphasizes that it is one and the same Spirit behind the gifts. Third, verse 11 makes it abundantly clear that the Corinthian reductionism of making the gift of tongues the sine qua non of true spirituality (and obliging others to seek it) is wrong-headed because it is the Spirit who distributes the gifts according to His will, not according to what seems to be of quintessential importance, humanly speaking.26

    Summary and Contribution

Paul has argued that the entire Trinity is involved in the gifting of each member of the body, but that particular emphasis falls on the Spirit's role. The Spirit gives a variety of gifts and does so for the common good of the body and exclusively according to his own will. Paul's comments have the effect of silencing the group in Corinth who taught the supremacy of tongues as a sign of spiritual maturity. "The Corinthian individualism is destroyed."27

The Principle in 12:12-27

    The Structure of the Passage

The passage as a whole functions as an explanation by way of illustration (cf. gavr in 12:12) for Paul's argument that it is one and the same Spirit who sponsors a diversity of gifts (12:4-11).28 The passage constitutes an extended image from 12:12 until 12:27 concerning the human body and Christ's body which is the church. There are two distinct divisions in the text. First, vv. 12-19 focus on the fact that the body of Christ is made up of many parts, not one. Second, vv. 20-27 focus on the fact that while the body has many parts it is still nonetheless only one body. The first three verses (12:12-14) give the theological basis for the body imagery as found throughout the rest of the section.

    Interpretive Questions and Problems

The phrase ou{tw" kai; oJ Cristov" (12:12)29 at first glance seems a bit awkward. If the phrase were simply to stand as is, one might think the Apostle to be comparing the human body with Christ's physical body. That Paul is indeed thinking of the church as Christ's body is clear from: 1) the overall context and focus on the church in these chapters and 2) his reference to the body as the church in 12:28 (see also 12:27). The implication that flows from this is that the church stands in very close relationship to Christ and that any offense committed against the body is seen as being directed against Christ.30

The source of the image has caused some problems for interpreters as well. Bruce, while suggesting that it is not that helpful in trying to determine the source of Paul's body imagery, nonetheless suggests that it might have come from Paul's Jewish heritage and understanding of corporate solidarity, or from his conversion on the Damascus road (Acts 9:4; 22:7; 26:14). Others, like Conzelmann for example, see a connection with political ideas current at the time.31 Fee simply states, on the basis of the commonness of the metaphor, that it is irrelevant to seek a source other than the culture in general.32 He is probably correct in this and attention should be placed on how Paul handles the image.

Another question surrounds the relationship of the image to the church. Is it simply the language of description or is it an ontological category Paul uses here? Fee argues that:

Much of the theological discussion of the metaphor, as to whether Paul is concerned with some mystical truth about the church as a living organism, is quite irrelevant. For Paul it is a metaphor pure and simple, whose point is not the nature of the church per se but the need for it to experience its proper diversity in unity.33

While it does appear to be true that Paul is using the image to encourage diversity in the midst of a church that appears to have been squelching such expression, there is nothing in such a discussion that rules out an ontological idea here. The fact that believers upon conversion are baptized into an existing body seems to argue for a mystical idea here.34 As such it becomes a powerful argument against the idea prevalent in the Corinthian church that only a few, with the same gifts (e.g. tongues), are really needed.35

The baptism spoken of in 12:13 is not water baptism,36 but Spirit baptism insofar as the Spirit is the means by which Christ does the baptizing (cf. Mark 1:8)37 Thus all believers are placed in Christ's body and all drink or receive the sustaining life of God through that one Spirit.38

The argument of 12:12 has been to focus attention on the oneness of the body, but 12:13 focuses attention on the diversity of the body. This is the thought that will occupy the Apostle for the next several verses, until 12:19. The whole section is centered on the rhetorical question, "What would happen if all the parts of the body were one and the same" (cf. 12:17, 19)? Answer: the body would not be a body! A person in the Corinthian congregation who did not possess the more spectacular gifts should not conclude that they do not therefore belong to the body. This is simply not true because, as Paul says in 12:18, God is the One who places each member in the body just as He wants (hjqevlhsen).

In 12:20-27 Paul argues that because there is one body, one member cannot say to another, "I have no need for you." Paul's point is that the body would no longer be a body under such conditions and the common good eclipsed. Thus, even in this second section (12:20-27) the focus is still on the member of the body, of whom, the rest are inclined to think they have no need. In other words, in the last section (12:14-19) the focus was on that same member—only what he thought about whether he should be in the body. In this section, the focus is still on that member, but what the others think about his membership in the body. Paul's response to this latter situation is to remind his readers that: 1) just as a person cares for the unseemly parts of their body, so also the church ought to care for each member (e.g. a weaker member, vv. 22-23) and 2) God has composed the body so that those that lacked honor, He gave greater honor (not greater than others in the body, but greater than they had previously) that there might be no divisions. The result of such equality is that when one person suffers, the others do not gloat over it, but instead they suffer too, and if one part is honored, of course, all rejoice (12:26). Would that we could learn this truth in our churches today!

    Summary and Contribution

The contribution of this section to Paul's argument is to affirm, against the arrogance and self-centeredness of many of the Corinthians, that all members of the body are needed and that despite whether the "weaker" members are convinced of their place, or whether the "stronger" members are not convinced of the weaker person's place in the body, God is the One who has placed all the members in the body and who works with them so that there might be no divisions. The Corinthian tongues speakers ought to remember this point.

The Principle in 12:28-31

    The Structure of the Passage

The structure of this passage is fairly straightforward. In 12:28 Paul focuses our attention back on God as the sovereign One who organizes the gifts and people in the church (12:28). In 12:29-30 he asks several rhetorical questions which demand a "no" answer. In 12:31a he commands them to desire the "greater gifts" with 12:31b providing an excellent transition into chapter 13.

    Interpretive Questions and Problems

Is there a ranking going on in the order of the people and the gifts listed here? This seems inescapable given Paul's language: prw`ton, deuvteron, and trivton in reference to the apostles, prophets, and teachers, respectively. Apostles and prophets are held to be a group in Ephesians 3:5 and play an important role in the foundation of the church (2:20). Insofar as the teacher's function was similar to that of an Apostle or prophet (the exposition of the OT in the light of early Christian paraenetic material),39 he could be grouped with them. He, like they, was responsible for leading the church in sound teaching; the doctrinal and ethical foundation of the church (1 Cor 14:6; cf. also 1 Tim 4:13).

The reference to apostles, prophets, and teachers, seems to be a reference to people to whom God had given that particular gift. But the following reference to miracles, gifts of healings, etc. do not seem to come in any particular order and focus on the gift, not a person or office. Having said this, though, the question comes up as to why "tongues" is mentioned last. It appears last in the list in 12:8-10 and last again in 12:29-30 wherein Paul asks a series of rhetorical questions. Some have suggested that this is due to the fact that it is the least of the gifts.40 Fee takes opposition to this reasoning. He argues that the term is listed last because it is at the heart of Paul's argument and the Corinthian problem. He says: "It is listed last not because it is "least," but because it is the problem. He always includes it, but at the end, after the greater concern for diversity has been heard."41 The fact that this is so is further strengthened by the observation that it appears last, as a gift of utterance, after administrations (12:28) and healings (12:30), neither of which have anything to do with a "speaking" gift or ministry. It's place at the end of 12:30 also provides an excellent introduction to the issue of love (13:1-13) and the crux of the problem: uninterpreted tongues (14:1-40). Thus, its position in the list is not determinative for its rank among the other gifts.

    Summary and Contribution

The passage focuses once again on God's sovereign placing of individuals in the body, and the list of gifts followed by the rhetorical questions are meant to underscore, against the Corinthian bias for tongues only, that there are many gifts and God does not want all members to have one gift, but that there be the exercise of many gifts in community (cf. 14:1).

The Principle in 13:1-13

    The Structure of the Passage

The structure of 13:1-13 can be outlined as follows: 1) first it must be noted that 12:31b really stands as an introduction to the chapter: the love spoken of in this chapter is indeed the demonstration of the uJperbolhVn oJdov" of 12:31b; 2) Verses 1-3 argue for the pre-eminent nature of love as compared to even the greatest gifts or sacrificial religious acts; 3) Verses 4-7, in the explanation of no less than 15 beautiful graces, argue for the practical nature of love; 4) Verses 8-13 argue for the permanence of love, enduring beyond spiritual gifts, indeed even beyond such things as faith and hope.42

    Interpretive Questions and Problems

Paul begins this picturesque chapter by making 5 conditional statements using ea[n plus the subjunctive, introducing hypothetical third class conditions in the respective protases.43 That they are certainly only hypothetical (and thus do not describe a real situation) is evidenced by the fact that Paul knows that no one can fathom all mysteries, nor does anyone have all knowledge (v. 2). This means that while Paul spoke in tongues (14:18), he did not speak with the tongues (i.e., languages) of angels. It was common in Judaism to refer to such, and one wonders, with the over-realized eschatology of the Corinthians, if they were not claiming such experiences. As far as Paul was concerned, such claims would have meant very little in a church where love was so clearly absent. This is not to say that love replaces the gifts, even tongues or prophecy, but only that without love they do more harm than good (i.e., when they are used in a carnal way).

Paul mentions several gifts or abilities in the first three verses, but it is clear that his argument centers on the gift of tongues and its detriment to the body when it is practiced without love. The emphatic position of the term glwvssai" in 13:1, as well as the emphasis on ajgaphvn (in each of its three occurrences), and ouqen (den), throughout the section, bear out such an interpretation. Paul says the practice of tongues without love makes a person, a nobody.

There are several other issues that this chapter raises, but we shall deal only with two of them because they have played a major role in both the history of the interpretation of this passage and the present-day applications that are so often drawn from it. The first concerns the meaning of pauvsontai (13:8). The second concerns the meaning of tevleio" (13:10). Obviously these two are related.

Stanley Toussaint argues that based upon 1) the change from katargevw to pauvw in 13:8; 2) the omission of tongues in 13:9, 12; and 3) the change in voice to the middle in pauvw—all point to tongues ceasing before Christ comes.44 The first two points do not really contribute much to the argument that tongues ceases at a time different from prophecy and knowledge, i.e., before Christ comes. The difference in meaning between katargevw and pauvw is immaterial45 and the change can easily be accounted for on stylistic, rhetorical grounds. The argument from 13:9 and 12 is not particularly convincing either.

Many have held the argument from the voice of pauvw to be fallacious as well. They claim that the verb pauvsontai is in the middle voice and as such functions as a deponent verb with active force.46 Thus the subject of the verb (i.e., "tongues") is not acting on itself (i.e., a reflexive idea), but is simply an intransitive, active verb (cf. Luke 8:24). But as D. B. Wallace points out, the argument may contain more merit than is generally afforded it, for the verb may not be a deponent at all, but a middle as Toussaint has argued.47 Even granting this, however, there is nothing in the passage that necessitates a ceasing of the gift during the apostolic age. All one can say for sure is that the terminus ad quem is the coming of the perfect as described in 13:10. The point of the passage seems to be that all three gifts—prophecy, knowledge and tongues—are temporary and not eternal, like love. The Corinthians need to focus on what is eternal.

Another interpretive problem revolves around the meaning of tevleio" in 13:10. Some commentators have argued that since Paul uses the imagery of a child (nhvpio", v. 11) and an adult (i.e., ajnhvr, v. 11) he means by tevleio" a contrast between maturity and immaturity. On the surface of it such an idea is quite possible, but it does encounter several problems upon closer inspection. First, the comparison is between the gifts being partial, not people. This is clearly indicated in 13:9 and its connection to 13:8 through the use of gavr. Second, even personal, spiritual maturity cannot produce the kind of knowing and being fully known to which Paul refers in 13:12. This is clearly an eschatological perfection or completion that Paul has in mind here.48

Others argue that tevleio" refers to the completion of the canon or the completion of Scripture. There are at least two reasons why such an identification is to be rejected. First, neither Paul nor the Corinthians were canon conscious. To attribute such an idea to them, is pure anachronism. Second, if tevleio" refers to the canon, then the assumption is that the canon is a complete, exhaustive revelation, with the result that one can experience a "face to face" revelation of God. Such is simply not true. The Bible is a sufficient revelation for the present age, but it is not an exhaustive one. Concerning the sufficiency of Scripture, the biggest issue is the equivocal use of language and man's fallen condition distorting the reading and apprehension of inscripturated revelation.49 Third, this view ignores the fact that the contrast is with the present time and the eschaton (13:12).

There has also been the idea that tevleio" refers to the death of the believer and his being immediately in the presence of the Lord. While this view recognizes the personal aspect of 13:12, it tends to ignore the corporate context of Paul's discussion of the gifts and emphasis on love in relationships. This interpretation focuses on v. 13, but it takes it out of context. Paul is simply using the illustration of v. 13 to demonstrate the partiality of the present time and the complete nature of the future.

Some commentators take the tevleio" to refer to the "coming of Christ for His church." This is to be preferred over the other interpretations. First, it must be said that such a view does not fall on the use of the gender of tevleio" which is neuter.50 Instead of referring to Christ as a person (masculine), it could simply be referring to the second coming as an event (neuter). The neuter would cover such an idea quite well. Second, the abruptness of o{tan deV e[lqh/ seems to indicate a sudden change. The parousia would fit such an event quite well. Third, the change spoken of in v. 12 (which looks at an event, cf. v. 10) is an eschatological change. Fourth, Paul uses tevleio" to refer to this period (cf. 1 Cor 1:8; 15:24). Perhaps one problem with this view is the fact that the gifts of prophecy and knowledge do seem to continue into the millennium after Christ returns (cf. Isa. 11:9). But, the "partial" is a focus on what the gifts produce, not the gifts themselves. In the Millenium, they probably function in a complete way, not partial, with the result that such an objection poses no real problem.

    Summary and Contribution

There is no doubt that this passage (13:1-13) is a very difficult one. It does, however, yield itself to a general level of meaning though all the particulars are difficult to pin down. The focus in the passage is on love of course, and its permanence in contrast to the temporality of the gifts and the partial nature of what they produce. Paul's overall argument can be summarized as follows: 1) the eschaton is characterized by love; 2) the eschaton has been inaugurated by the coming of Christ and the Spirit (Acts 2:25-36; 1 Cor 3:16; Gal 3:14); 3) therefore, let us focus on love as those who are sharing in the present form of the eschaton and who will certainly participate in the eschaton when Christ returns. To use a contemporary saying: "Let us major on the majors and minor on the minors." There may or may not be an implied distinction between the gift of knowledge and prophecy, on the one hand, and tongues on the other, but such is not explicitly brought out. The only thing that one can say is that the terminus ad quem for the operation of the gifts as they presently operate is the coming of Christ. To move beyond that is to move beyond the passage.

The Principle in 14:1-19

    The Structure of the Passage

After having stressed the preeminence of love, Paul wants those in the church to excel at edifying others with their spiritual gifts, as an application of that love. Prophecy is to be preferred to uninterpreted tongues because in the case of the latter, no one is edified, unless the tongues are interpreted (vv. 1-6). In vv. 7-11 Paul illustrates what he means by uninterpreted tongues through the use of musical instruments and languages unknown to a speaker. Once again in v. 12 he affirms his central thesis that the Corinthians ought to seek to use their gifts for the edification of the church. In vv. 13-19 he stresses the need for the interpretation of tongues in prayer and worship so that the believer who does not have the gift of interpretation (which would be the majority of them) may benefit.

    Interpretive Questions and Problems

The term diwvkete is not to be taken as a command for an individual to pursue the acquisition, somehow, of other gifts. First, 1 Cor 12:11 makes it clear that the Spirit is the One who distributes them according to His will, not a believer's. Second, the focus on diwvkete is against the Corinthian reductionism that maintained that the only true gift was that of tongues. Third, the meaning of diwvkete is further developed in chapter 14 to refer to seeking to use the gifts in the proper way (i.e., through love for edification). The conclusion is that the believers are to allow for the practice of other gifts, besides tongues. But, they are to especially encourage prophecy.51

What is the nature of the gift of tongues Paul speaks about in 14:1-19? First, it must be remembered, that according to 1 Cor 14:1 it is a spiritual gift, given by the Holy Spirit. As such its proper use was to be encouraged in the assembly (14:39-40).

Second there is nothing in this text that demands that tongues be understood as real human languages.52 The reference to various human languages in the world in 14:10-11 is simply to illustrate the fact that if a language is incomprehensible to the listener, the speaker is wasting his time. Paul's point is not to identify the gift of tongues as human languages, but to show that if the gift of tongues is practiced without an interpreter, the tongues speaker is wasting his time. No one else is edified. The point of comparison is the unintelligibility in both cases. The same is true in the case of the quotation from Isaiah (14:21). The fact that Paul had to spell this out to the Corinthians shows their self-centered, selfish ways in the church. Having said this though, if the tongues spoken in Corinth are of the same kind as those spoken in Acts 2, we may say that they are indeed human languages.53 There is nothing in the passage to deny such an interpretation and it is highly unlikely that they were some kind of angelic language.54

Third, the gift of tongues is not some form of direct communication with God, as was undoubtedly thought of by the Corinthians and is often thought of today as well. People today often appeal to 14:2 in support of such a contention. This reading of the passage is fallacious for it is not Paul's point in v. 2 to affirm that the speaker has some mystical direct communion with God. His point is that since the tongues speaker (i.e., without an interpreter) speaks words that no one else can understand, he ends up speaking only to God, that is, only God can understand. To everyone else he speaks mysteries.55 Support for this idea cannot be garnered from 14:4 or 14:14-15 either. In each of these cases, uninterpreted tongues is the issue and only the speaker is edified. He may be encouraged well enough, as is anyone who exercises their gift. He may even be more so since his gift tends toward the spectacular (i.e., the ability to speak a foreign language without having studied it). But, his immaturity has lured him toward a fascination for the miraculous at the expense of the needs of his own brethern. This is carnality, not genuine spirituality (3:1ff).

Fourth, tongues is not an uncontrollable phenomena. With the exhortation in 14:40 and the statement of confusion in 14:33 we may be sure that there was chaos in the Corinthian assemblies in the exercise of the gifts. But Paul says very clearly that a person has the ability to control its (i.e., tongues) expression in their gatherings. They should speak each in his own turn and not at all if there is no interpreter.

Fifth, there were those in Corinth who claimed as many do today that all men should speak in tongues. Appeal is made to 14:5. There Paul says that he wished that all of them spoke in tongues. But, how can he be taken literally, when he has just finished arguing at length in chapter 12 against the Corinthian reductionism that everyone must speak in tongues. No, he boldly proclaimed that the Spirit had given varieties of gifts and that not all had the gift of tongues. If all did have the gift, how could someone fill the spot of the ungifted (i.e., without the gift of tongues), as according to his argument, they did (cf. 14:16)? What then is the need for an interpreter in the assembly? The reason Paul says this is that if all speak in tongues he could be guaranteed, because of their selfish state, that everyone would get edified, the very thing for which he is arguing. In the end though, uniformity is not the design of the Spirit (12:11).

Sixth, there is nothing in the passage that suggests that the gift was soon to cease. There is no hint that the Lord was considering ceasing the gift due to the problems associated with it in Corinth. But, it appears to take on a fairly low rating, even when interpretation is considered (cf. v.19, 27 and the conditional "if"). This may appear to demean a gift of God, but the text (v. 5) appears to clearly relegate it to a subordinate role.

In the final analysis it seems that the gift of tongues was a Spirit-inspired gift that enabled the speaker to speak the praises of God (Acts 2) in human languages previously unknown. This was undoubtedly the reason for the Corinthian fascination with the gift, and as practiced by an individual, would certainly lead to a fascination with the power of God (and an elitist mentality). As such the gift perhaps reveals that God is attempting to undo the results of Babel and bring men back together in Christ. Due to the Corinthian ignorance and arrogance, it had the opposite effect.

    Summary and Contribution

The Corinthians had practiced uninterpreted tongues with the result that nobody but the speaker was edified. Paul says that if a tongues speaker is speaking (2-12) or praying (13-19) such should be done only if an interpreter is present and, since each member should seek to build others up it would be better if they chose to speak or pray in a known language, taught something in a known language and overall sought prophecy more earnestly. In this way they could personally contribute to the exhortation, consolation and edification of others.

The Principle in 14:20-25

    The Structure of the Passage

In 14:20-22 Paul urges the Corinthians to be mature in their thinking (regarding tongues) and quotes from Isaiah to demonstrate the purpose for tongues. In vv. 23-25 he gives the conclusion or results that follow from a wrong perspective on this issue as far as non-Christians were concerned.

    Interpretive Questions and Problems

This particular passage has given rise to many interpretations in the light of the problems involved in Paul's use of the Isaiah passage (Is 28:11, 12) and its relationship to the following verses, and indeed to the situation in Corinth.56 There simply is not space enough here to cite all the various interpretations, but only to surface a few problems and attempt to give what appears to be the best reading of the text.

First, there is the problem of to whom the sign of tongues was given? Hodges argues that it applies only to Jewish unbelievers. He says:

Tongues were given as a sign to the Jewish people only, from which it follows that the average heathen visitor to the Christian assembly (far more likely to be a Gentile than a hostile Jew) would be exposed to a phenomenon never intended for him in the first place. On the other hand, the intelligible use of prophecy for the edification of the assembly, perfectly understandable to a Gentile visitor, would be likely to have powerful side effects, searching him, and begetting within him the fear of God. 57

This cannot be the case for 1) it relies on a direct carry over from the OT quotation, but there was no gift of tongues in the OT; 2) there is no mention of an ethnic concern in the gift in Corinth and 3) since the makeup of the church in Corinth was predominantly Gentile, one would expect them to be included in the illustration. Therefore, it is best to see the sign of tongues as being for all unbelievers.58

Second, the result of taking the Isaiah quotation as applicable to all unbelievers, it is clear that Paul is using the reference in an analogical way "where the example of God judging the nation through the unintelligible tongues of the Assyrians is compared to the judgment of unbelievers by uninterpreted tongues in the first century."59

Carson suggests that some of the Corinthians might have been extolling the gift of tongues before unbelievers as evidence of God's work among them (i.e., the Corinthians).60 To this end, Paul agrees quoting from Isaiah, but it is not the kind of sign believers want to give unbelievers, for it is a sign of God's judgment. The point Paul is making in 14:20-22 is that uninterpreted tongues61 are a sign to unbelievers of God's judgment and prophecy is likewise a sign to believers of God's work among them.

In 14:23-24 Paul gives two hypothetical examples.62 The point of the examples is to show that unbelievers who come into the assembly and see all of the believers speaking in tongues will think that they are demon possessed.63 They will conclude the exact opposite from what they ought to conclude about those who name the name of Christ (cf. John 13:34-35). On the other hand, an unbeliever64 will come to understand his need for the grace of God when he enters into an assembly and hears them prophesying.65 Thus prophecy is superior evangelistically to uninterpreted tongues.

    Summary and Contribution

The point that Paul has made through this brief passage is that once again prophecy, since it edifies all and is even instrumental in the salvation of the unbeliever who hears, is to be preferred in the assembly. It is prophecy that is the sign of God truly working among them, since it is God who wants all to be edified and unbelievers to be saved.

The Principle in 14:26-33

    The Structure of the Passage

These verses form a fitting summary of what Paul has been arguing to this point in chapter14. Everything done in the assembly, whether it be the use of tongues, prophecy, etc., is to be done for the edification of believers (v. 26) and in an orderly way (vv. 27, 31) because God himself is a God of peace not of confusion (v. 33).

    Interpretive Questions and Problems

There are two interpretive problems that I would like to surface in this section. First, there is the meaning of the phrase "let him speak to himself and to God" (v. 28). How is he to speak to himself if he does not understand the meaning of what he is saying? To interpret the dative (ejautw`/) as one of advantage certainly clears up that problem, but it creates another: there does not seem to be any good reason for Paul saying "let him speak for himself to God."66 This appears to be redundant and a use of the dative inconsistent with the rest of its occurrences in the chapter (cf. vv. 2 and 4). The best idea is to read it as a dative, direct object. With this in mind, it seems that Paul is allowing for a private use of the gift, but given the focus on mutual edification in the context, this can hardly be said to be the best course to follow.

Another question that surfaces in the interpretation of this section is, "Who are the "others" (oiJ a[lloi) who pass judgment on the statements of the prophets (v. 29)? Three referents have been suggested. First, some suggest that oiJ a[lloi refers to others in the congregation who have the gift of the discernment of spirits. Second, some argue that other prophets are in view.67 Third, oiJ a[lloi could refer to all the rest of the believers in the assembly exercising a discerning role over what is prophesied.68 Every view has some merit and probably took place in the assembly. The second view takes oiJ a[lloi as connected with profh`tai in the same verse and seems to make good sense. But, the referent may be broader than just the prophets. In 14:37 Paul encourages not only the prophets, but also all who are spiritual to discern what he is saying. We may say then, that it is likely that oiJ a[lloi refers to the rest of the prophets and others in the entire assembly who are spiritual.

    Summary and Contribution

The point Paul has been making all along is that the gifts must operate in love so as to bring edification to believers. In order to promote that thesis, he has argued in this section that all come prepared to contribute during the worship, that tongues must be interpreted (or remain unspoken before others), and that the prophets speak, each in his own turn, and that all things be done in an orderly manner.

The Principle in 14:34-36

    The Structure of the Passage

This next section concerning the role of women in the church has caused no little controversy. The passage seems unconnected to what has come before and many have attempted to dismiss it as an interpolation on such grounds. It appears to be in direct conflict with 11:5 wherein Paul seems to allow the women to speak. It begins with a command for women to remain silent (v. 34) and to learn at home (v. 35). Lest the Corinthians disagree with this application, Paul asks them if they were the originators of the Word of God or its only recipients (v. 36)

    Interpretive Questions and Problems

There have been several different interpretations of these verses.69 Perhaps the best interpretation is the one that sees a direct connection to Paul's previous discussion about prophecy. In this sense women are not to speak in the evaluation of prophecy, though they are allowed to prophesy (11:5). This may seem contradictory at first sight, but giving a prophesy for others to evaluate is less authoritative than standing up and evaluating others'. This would prevent a women from standing in judgment on a man and thus appearing to reverse the order of creation (cf. 11:3).

    Summary and Contribution

The discussion about women not evaluating the prophesy of a man allows Paul to continue his argument for order in the church. Apparently women were somehow disrupting the meetings and so he tells them to bring their questions to their husbands at home. This disruption endangered the strengthening and encouragement of the body.

The Principle in 14:37-40: The Conclusion

In these final verses the apostle warns the Corinthians to recognize that what he is saying is from the Lord Himself. If anyone does not do so, the Lord will disregard him (vv. 37-38).70 In the final two verses the apostle once again tells them to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts of prophesy and tongues, but that order is to be the modus operandi in the assembly—a fitting way to end this section.


Certain influential members of the Corinthian Christians had basically identified the gift of tongues as the sine qua non of genuine spirituality. The result was devastating to the health of the body and so Paul argues the following points to correct the error: 1) the true test of one having the Spirit is not the gift of tongues, but instead one's personal confession of Christ as Lord (12:1-3); 2) the Spirit has indeed sponsored a diversity of gifts and calls all to belong and be unified in the body (12:4-31a); 3) love, as a permanent quality is the only basis for a true exercise of the gifts which are only temporary and not the point of focus (12:31b-13:1-13); 4) all the gifts are to be used for the edification and encouragement of others and therefore tongues is to be interpreted (or not practiced audibly) and prophecy is to be preferred (14:1-38); 5) all things are to be done in an orderly manner as this promotes edification and is consistent with a God of peace (14:39-40).

1 Many of these simply involve spelling changes.

2 For further information on some of the textual problems in 1 Corinthians 12-14, see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1971), 562-67. He deals with 12:9; 13:3, 13; 14:19; 14:26, 34-35, 37-40.

3 The textual problem here concerns the authenticity of the entire two verses, i.e., 34-35. The problem of the term gunai`ke" (as well as other minor problems) is not important for our purpose here and will therefore not be considered.

4 Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 699.

5 Fee, 1Corinthians, 699-705.

6 See Metzger, Textual Commentary, 565. See also C. K. Barrett, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Harper's New Testament Commentaries (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1968), 332, states concerning the theory of interpolation: "There is much to be said for this view, especially since the language of these verses can be explained as based upon I Tim. ii. 11f., but the textual evidence is not quite strong enough to make it compelling . . . If any significant MS. omitted the verses all together it would probably be right to follow it."

7 This includes three areas: 1) women in the congregation (11:2-16); 2) the Lord's supper (11:17-34) and 3) the use of spiritual gifts (12-14). For further comment on Paul's use of periV dev to mark out a new section of thought see, J. C. Hurd, The Origin of 1 Corinthians (Macon, GA: 1983), 186-95.

8 Cf. also Charles H. Talbert, Reading Corinthians: A Literary and Theological Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (New York: Crossroad, 1987), 81, who argues for a chiastic arrangement of the three chapters: A. Spiritual Gifts (12:4-30); B. Proper motivation in manifesting the gifts (12:31-14:1a); A'. Spiritual Gifts (14:1b-40).

9 Cf. also A. C. Thistleton, "Realized Eschatology at Corinth," NTS 24 (1978): 510-26.

10 F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians, The New Century Bible, ed. Matthew Black (London: marshal, Morgan & Scott, 1971), 116, 17.

11 William F. Orr and James Arthur Walther, 1 Corinthians, The Anchor Bible, ed. Raymond E. Brown (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976), 276, n 1.

12 D. A. Carson, Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987), 22, 23.

13 Fee, 1 Corinthians, 575, 76.

14 Verse two is an incomplete sentence in the Greek text. There have typically been two ways to resolve the issue of how to connect the o{ti with the wJ". Barrett, 1 Corinthians, 278, suggests that the wJ" is a resumption of the o{ti. See also Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, Hermeneia, trans. James W. Leitch, ed. George W. MacRae (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), 204. This solution is problematic for at least two reasons: 1) the o{ti is too near to need resumption and 2) it renders the participle ajpagovmenoi logically and syntactically disconnected from the rest of the sentence. The best solution is to insert h[te for the participle and regard it as the main clause. See D. Bock, "Paul: An Apostle to the Gentiles: Practicum Exegetical Notes on 1 Corinthians" (unpublished class notes in 226 1 Corinthians, Dallas Theological Seminary, n.d.), chapter 12, page. 3; Fee, 1 Corinthians, 576, 77; Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, ed. R. V. G. Tasker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958), 166, 67.

15 For example, see F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians, 117.

16 See Bock, "1 Corinthians," 3, 4 for a list of ten different suggestions and the authors that hold them.

17 See Carson, Showing the Spirit, 26, 27; G. de Broglie, "Le texte fondamentale de Saint Paul contre la foi naturelle," Recherches de Science Religieuse 39 (1951):253-66 and Andr Mehat, "L'Enseignment sur 'les choses de L'Esprit' (1 Corinthiens 12, 1-3)," Revue d'Histoire et de Philosophie Religieuses 63 (1983):395-415.

18 If this were the case, the test would fail, for it is decidedly to broad.

19 That many of the Corinthians were reducing the gifts to one or two (e.g., the gift of tongues) as the only true manifestation of the Spirit is evident from Paul's rhetorical questions in 12:29-30. See also 12:14, 17, 19; 14:18

20 See BAGD, 183 (1).

21 Heinrick Schlier, TDNT, 1:185. See also Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, 208, n 9.

22 At least here in 1 Corinthians 12-14.

23 Paul often refers to his own ministry, the ministry of Timothy, and others as diakoniva (2 Cor 3:7-9; 4:1; 2 Tim 4:5). Luke also uses the term in this way in Acts 6:4. Though the term is never used to describe Jesus' ministry directly, it is not difficult with the "servant language" to see how the early church picked up on it as description of those who claimed to serve Christ and people.

24 The connections of these terms to the respective members of the Trinity may foster the idea of a distinction between: 1) "gifts," as spirit-inspired ability; 2) "ministries," as spheres in which the gifts operate and 3) "workings," as the effects of such gifts in ministry contexts, but such is not the emphasis here. The point is rather to show that the various "allotments" come from one and the same God.

25 In fact it is clearly not Paul's desire to explain what he means by each and every gift listed. They are simply enumerated to show the diversity involved in the Spirit's work.

26 The diversity of the gifts is emphasized in verse 11 in that pavnta deV tau`ta stands first in the clause and the sovereign distribution of the gifts is emphasized by the emphatic position of bouvletai at the end of the sentence.

27 Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, 207, n 9.

28 See Robertson and Plummer, 1 Corinthians, 269.

29 For a discussion of the chiastic structure of 12:12 see Fee, 1 Corinthians, 601. See also Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, 212, n 12 for a brief discussion of the phonics of the chiasm.

30 Bock, 1 Corinthians, 2.

31 Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, 211, n 7 and n 8.

32 Fee, 1 Corinthians, 602, n 1.

33 Fee, 1 Corinthians, 602, n 13.

34 See Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, 212, who states: "Verse 13 does in fact point in the direction of the assumption that we have here not merely a figure, but a "proper" usage. This, to be sure, is not conclusively implied by the expression that we were baptized eij" e{n sw`ma, 'into one body.' But the thought and the sequence of thought certainly do point in this direction. . . Thus the disturbance in the sequence of thought is an indication in favor of the interpretation that the body of Christ is pre-existent in relation to the 'parts.'"

35 But see G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1980), 187, who says, "when Paul says of the church in Corinth, 'You are the body of Christ' (1 Cor. 12:27), there should never have been any doubt that this is a metaphor, since it comes as the climax of fourteen verses of simile."

36 See George R. Beasley-Murray, Baptism in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962), 167-71 (esp. 167-71). Much of Beasley-Murray's argument proceeds by way of comparison with Gal 3:27f. The emphasis in that text, however, has to do with salvation, whereas in 1 Corinthians 12:13 the issue is the church. One wonders how close the analog really is.

37 See Daniel B. Wallace, "Selected Notes on the Syntax of the New Testament," 4th edition (unpublished class notes Advanced Greek Grammar 210, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1981), 62, who says: "By calling the Spirit means here does not deny the personality of the Holy Spirit! mhV gevnoito! Rather, the Holy Spirit is the instrument Christ uses to baptize, even though he is a Person. . . This also renders highly unlikely the common Pentecostal position that there are two Spirit baptisms in the NT, one at salvation and one later."

38 For a brief discussion of the contemporary significance of 12:13 see Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series, ed. Terry Muck (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 252. He rightly points out that Spirit baptism is not to be confused with water baptism and that since all the Corinthian believers (immature and mature without distinction) were so baptized it is impossible to take Spirit-baptism as a reference to any kind of second blessing or subsequent experience of God apart from conversion and the initial arrival of the Spirit in a person's life.

39 Note the reference to oJdov" in 12:31 and its use to represent early Christian and Jewish ethical teaching in Acts 18:25; 19:9; 24:22; 2 Peter 2:2; Apocalypse of Peter 7:22; 13:28 and 1 Enoch 104:13. See especially 1 Cor 4:17.

40 See W. Harold Mare, "I Corinthians," in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelin, vol. 10 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 266, who states that the gift of tongues is mentioned last probably because it is the least of the gifts. Mare also suggests that it might be due to the fact that Paul is going to focus on the issue in chapter 14 (p. 267).

41 Fee, 1 Corinthians, 572.

42 This outline is reflected by many commentators. The fact that verse 8 does indeed begin a new subsection within the paragraph, and does not go strictly speaking with 4-7, is indicated by the repetition of hJ ajgavph (cf. hJ ajgavph in verse 4).

43 See BDF, 373 (3).

44 Stanley D. Toussaint, "First Corinthians Thirteen and the Tongues Question," BibSac 120 (1963), 311-316.

45 As far as a support for the time when tongues will cease is concerned. The timing is picked up in 13:10 with o{tan deV e[lqh toV tevleion. Therefore, the answer to the question as to when the cessation of tongues will occur is bound up with the referent for tevleio".

46 BAGD, 638. See also Bock, "1 Corinthians," 3.

47 See Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 422, 23. See also John F. MacArthur, 1 Corinthians, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 359, who says: "Unlike katargeo, this verb is here used in the Greek middle voice, which when used of persons, indicates intentional, voluntary action upon oneself. Used of inanimate objects it indicates reflexive, self-causing action."

48 To allow the child-adult imagery to overrule the whole text is to give more weight to an analogy than to Paul's explicit language.

49 An appeal to 1 Cor 2:14-16 as a defense for a clear understanding of Scripture is misguided. Paul's point here is to talk about the reception (cf. devcetai in v. 14) of spiritual truth, i.e., the gospel, not the understanding of it per se. He presupposes that they reject it because they do understand.

50 Contra MacArthur, 1 Corinthians, 365.

51 The use of the I{na clause in 14:1 seems to be imperatival since a I{na of purpose would indicate that all the gifts are for a prophetic end. There is no indication in the passage that such would be true or even possible.

52 Harold W. Hoehner, "The Purpose of Tongues in 1 Corinthians 14:20-25," in Walvoord: A Tribute, ed. Donald K. Campbell (Chicago: Moody Press, 1982), 55, argues that since: 1) the term glwvssa usually refers to a known language; 2) tongues need to be interpreted; 3) Isaiah refers to real human languages of the Assyrians and 4) Acts 2:4 appears to be real languages; 5) Luke and Paul seem to indicate by their writings that both the phenomena in Acts and 1 Corinthians is the same; 6) Paul told the Corinthians to control their use of the gift it could not be ecstatic utterance—the interpretation of glwvssa is real human languages. The fact that glwvssa is normally used to refer to human languages, that tongues need to be interpreted and that Isaiah refers to human languages is no argument against these languages being something other than mere human languages. The most decisive element in Hoehner's argument is the strength of the parallel with the phenomena in Acts. On this basis it is likely that here we have human languages. The other arguments then simply corroborate such a conclusion. On the use of the term diermhveuevtw to mean "interpret" as opposed to "translate" see William Richardson, "Liturgical Order and Glossolalia in 1 Corinthians 14.26c-33a," New Testament Studies 32 (1986): 150, 51. Finally, it must be pointed out that the reference in 13:1 to the "tongues of men and angels" does not demand that Paul was equating the gift of tongues with languages spoken by men or angels. The statement is hypothetical and may reflect a Corinthian slogan among the pneumatikon. If this is true, it is simply a descriptive statement indicative of the Corinthian situation, not an evaluation, prescriptive statement of the gift of tongues.

53 Cf. Acts 2:4 and v.6. We can be sure that the men proclaimed the wonders of God in the languages of the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, etc. See I. Howard Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, ed. R. V. G. Tasker, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 69, 70.

54 As I commented above, 13:1 does not refer to an angelic language. It is hypothetical language; the language of hyperbole, in order to demonstrate the surpassing greatness of love as compared to what would seem to the Corinthians to be the greatest of spiritual gifts—"the tongues of angels."

55 The "mysteries" he speaks do not concern spiritual mysteries or something previously hidden, but now revealed to the speaker. This would certainly fit Paul's use of musthvrion in other places (cf. Rom 16:25; Eph 3:3-5). But, the immediate context here indicates that the mysteries are simply ideas and words that are incomprehensible to the listener. For that reason, Paul calls them mysteries.

56 For a survey of some of the interpretations of this passage, see Carson, Showing the Spirit, 108-17.

57 Zane C. Hodges, "A Symposium on the Tongues Movement. Part One: The Purpose of Tongues," BibSac 120 (1963): 231.

58 So Hoehner, "1 Corinthians," 60, 61.

59 Bock, "1 Corinthians," 15.

60 Carson, Showing the Spirit, 114.

61 The idea of uninterpreted or unintelligible tongues (both accomplish the same purpose) is clear from the reference in Isaiah to eJteroglwvssoi" where the emphasis falls on the idea of e{tero" as different and therefore unknown. This was all in accordance with Deuteronomy 28:49.

62 Cf. the use of ea[n to communicate a third class hypothetical situation. Again, the hypothetical nature of the statement in v. 23 makes it highly unlikely that Paul envisioned all of them being able to speak in tongues. He is speaking in hyperbolically.

63 The meaning of the term maivnesqe seems to entail the idea of possession and relationships with demons. Cf. also Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, 243, n 26, who understands it more as a reference to the ecstatic part of pagan worship.

64 There is much discussion around the use of the terms ijdiw`tai and a[pistoi. It seems that both of them refer to unbelievers, but perhaps the former refers to the one who has no real experience with Christianity and the latter a person who has already chosen not to believe. See Barrett, 1 Corinthians, 324, 25.

65 See Wayne Grudem, "1 Corinthians 14.20-25: Prophecy and Tongues as Signs of God's Attitude," WTJ 41 (1978, 79): 394, 95.

66 Barrett, 1 Corinthians, 328, suggests a dative of advantage; "Let him speak for himself."

67 See G. Friedrich, "profhvth" k.t.l." TDNT, 6:855, 56, who says, "In 1 C. 14:37 Paul expects that the prophets in Corinth will agree with his presentation. Only prophets can see to it that human opinion is not proclaimed as God's Word in the congregation." For further discussion of Corinthian and 1st century prophecy, see also Terrance Callan, "Prophecy and Ecstacy in Greco-Roman religion and in 1 Corinthians," Novum Testamentum 27 (1985): 125-40.

68 Fee, 1 Corinthians, 694, 95

69 Some of the more common interpretations include: 1) Paul contradicts himself outright; 2) the verses are an interpolation; 3) taking verse 35 as the key, some argue that Paul is responding to a particular problem in Corinth wherein women were attempting to secure positions of equality in the church as demonstrated by throwing off head-coverings in chapter 11; 4) Paul is talking to married women only; 5) women are being prohibited by the apostle from speaking in ecstatic speech; 6) some argue that two services are in view here. In 11:5 the focus is on house churches and therefore women are allowed to speak, but in 14:34, 35 the focus is on corporate worship and in this context women are forbidden to speak; 7) Calvin et al. have argued that 11:5 is only hypothetical and Paul later condemns the whole idea of women talking in 14:34, 35; 8) other commentators argue that Paul is here dealing with a Corinthian slogan which Paul ultimately rejects; 9) Paul is here only referring to authoritative teaching in the church which does not include the idea of prophesying in 11:5. For a fuller discussion of the views see Bock, "1 Corinthians," 18. See also J.W. MacGorman, "Glossolalic Error and Its Correction: 1 Corinthians 12-14," RevExp 80 (1993): 399.

70 It does not matter what his experience is, if he does not conform to apostolic doctrine, he will disregarded by the Lord.

Related Topics: Spiritual Gifts, Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, Resurrection

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