First Corinthians

Chapter 12

Blaine Robison, M.A.

An Exegetical Commentary

Published 26 December 2015 (in progress)

Chap. 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9  |  10  |  11  |  13  |  14  |  15  |  16 


Scripture Text: The text of 1 Corinthians 12 is prepared by Blaine Robison based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. All other Scripture quotations are from the NASB Updated Edition (1995), unless otherwise indicated. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions.

Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited and resources consulted may be found at the end of the commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Click here for Talmud Abbreviations.

Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use  Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament). The abbreviation LXX stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C.

Grammar: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations.

Please see Paul's Letters to Corinth for background information on the letter.

Overview of Chapter 12

In this chapter Paul describes the various manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Messiah.

1 Now concerning spiritual matters, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be ignorant.

Now: Grk. de, conj., a multi-purpose conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also, moreover" (BAG). In this verse de is used indicate a transition in subject matter. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near, about, or having to do with something; about, concerning. This section presents a new subject and an answer to another question asked by the Corinthian delegation. spiritual matters: pl. of Grk. pneumatikos, transcending physical existence and influence, spiritual. Mounce adds "pertaining to or relating to the influences of the Holy Spirit." The word occurs 26 times in the Besekh, all but one in the letters of Paul. Here the term appears as a category title to introduce various works of the Holy Spirit.

brothers and sisters: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," in secular Greek meant "brother or male sibling." Usage in the apostolic writings is generally literal, but figurative uses also abound indicating affinity in common interests or culture. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites (Matt 4:18; 5:22-24; Mark 3:22; Acts 1:14; 3:22; 7:13; 11:29). Bible commentators generally assume that Paul's use of the plural adelphoi is intended in a strictly figurative, even spiritual sense. After all Yeshua had said, "whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother" (Matt 12:50).

However, given the use of adelphoi in Luke's narrative of Paul's activities among Jewish people (Acts 13:26, 38; 21:17; 22:1; 23:1) and the charter membership in the early congregations, Paul likely has a more ethnic meaning. Yet, the use of adelphoi held a progressive meaning for Paul as a Pharisee. Given that Judean Jews would never call Hellenistic Jews adelphoi Paul's graciousness toward Hellenized and Hellenistic Jews is remarkable. Also, Paul's use of adelphoi toward those whom he had formerly persecuted indicates how far Messianic believers had come in accepting him.

The plural vocative case (direct address) in this verse is translated as "brothers and sisters" given that Paul is addressing the entire congregation. It's inconceivable that the vocative case would not include the women, given the amount of hortatory material that typically follows the occurrence of adelphoi in the letter. Paul uses the plural form of address 18 times in this letter. This is a tactful approach in exercising his apostolic authority as well as expressing his affection for them on the ground of their shared bond in Yeshua.

I do not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used adverbially in denial or negation; not. This particle differs from the other standard negative particle, , in that is subjective and conditional for a supposition, whereas ou is objective and unqualified, a denial of an alleged fact (DM 264f). want: Grk. thelō, pres., to have a desire for something, to wish, to want. you to be ignorant: Grk. agnoeō, pres. inf., to be without knowledge of something. In some passages the verb is used to mean being ignorant or uninformed and therefore sinning without awareness that one has made a mistake (Rom 2:4; Heb 5:2).

2 You know that when you were like the nations, you were led away to those mute idols, however somehow you were being led.

You know: Grk. oida, perf., to have seen or perceived, hence to know. The perfect tense refers to action completed in the past with continuing results in the present. The verb is used primarily of experiential knowledge, such as to know about someone or to be intimately acquainted with someone. The verb may also be used of knowing how to do something, as well as to have discernment about something, thus to understand, be aware or perceive. In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (SH-3045), which in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning (DNTT 2:395). that: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, here introducing a subordinate clause that functions as complementary object of the preceding verb.

when: Grk. hote, adv., a temporal marker linking an event with another event; when. you were: Grk. eimi, impf., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). like the nations: Grk. ethnē, pl. of ethnos, a number of people or animals forming a group, then later strictly of humans as a people group. Mounce gives the root meaning as multitude or company. Ethnos is derived from ethos, custom or habit, so ethnos means a group held together by customs. The ancient Greeks used ethnos to mean foreigners. Most Bible versions translate ethnē as "pagans" (CJB, ESV, HCSB, NASB, NEB, NET, NIV, NLT, NRSV, OJB, TLV, TNIV). A number of versions render the noun as "Gentiles" (ASV, CEB, KJV, MW, NKJV, PNT, REV, RV) or "nations" (LITV, Marshall, YLT). NIRV and ISV have the inaccurate "unbelievers."

In the LXX ethnos occurs about 1000 times, mostly in the plural, and generally stands for the Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), nation or people. The English word "Gentile" is actually derived from the Latin gens, which was used in the Vulgate to distinguish nations other than the Jewish nation (DNTT 2:790). The plural of ethnos (Heb. goyim) is first used of the seventy nations descended from Noah (Gen 10:5), and later to distinguish non-Israelite peoples, as defined by language and culture. Yet, we also see goyim including descendants of Isaac and Jacob and the nation of Israel (cf. Gen 12:2; 17:4; 18:18; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1; 42:1, 6; Jer 5:15; Ezek 4:13; 36:13-14; Mic 4:2-3).

The term ethnos is used often in the Besekh to mean non-Jews in contradistinction to Jews and Israel (e.g., Matt 5:47; Acts 2:27; 21:21; 26:17; Rom 3:29; 9:24; 11:25; 1Cor 1:23; Gal 2:14-15). However, ethnos is also used of the Samaritan Jews (Acts 8:9) and Israel (Matt 21:43; John 18:35; Acts 24:10, 17; 26:4; 1Cor 10:18). Often ethnos is used in a geographical sense with a diverse population that would include Jews as residents or citizens (Matt 12:21; 24:14; Acts 17:26; Rom 1:5; 16:26; Gal 2:9; 1Tim 3:16). Just as the plural Ioudaioi can mean Jews, Judeans, Judean Jews or Judean authorities (i.e., Sanhedrin), so the context must be examined to determine the meaning of the ethnos.

The charter members of the congregation in Corinth came from Judean Jews and Hellenistic Jews (Acts 18:4) and God-worshipping Gentiles (Acts 18:6-7), thus making a diverse constituency. Paul is not asserting in this verse that the congregation was totally Gentile. (See my article Paul's Community for the distinctions between these groups.) Since Paul is referring to a prior condition then his use of ethnē here must primarily be in reference to Hellenistic Jews, although Gentiles could be included. The force of the noun is "when you were assimilated as part of the nations." Assimilation with Gentile cultures, including intermarriage, has always been viewed as a threat to Jewish identity. In contrast to the Judean Jews and the Hellenized Jews, both strong supporters of Torah and Temple, the Hellenistic Jews lived by values and practices unacceptable to the orthodox Judean Jews.

The differences went deeper than the language they spoke. The Hellenistic Jews thought that that Hellenism brought prosperity and better living conditions, i.e., "civilization" and to become part of the new world civilization required abrogating those parts of the Torah which set the Jews as a people apart, such as circumcision and Sabbath observance (Skarsaune 33f). To Judean Jews Greek ideas were abominations and syncretism in any form was tantamount to treason with the enemy. Hellenistic Jews had a tendency toward universalism and they tolerated religions around them. Many Hellenistic Jews adopted Greek customs, formed trade associations, passed decrees and prepared documents in Greek form, and gave titles and honors to women. Some tolerated mixed marriage, dropped circumcision, and even in some places adopted Greek cults (Tarn & Griffith 223-227).

you were led away: Grk. agō, impf. pass., to cause movement by taking the lead; lead, bring, carry, take. to: Grk. pros, prep. The root meaning is 'near' or 'facing,' but with the accusative case of the pronoun following the meaning is 'to, toward' (DM 110). mute: Grk. aphonos, not make use of vocal chords, or incapable of making any utterance, which applies here. idols: pl. of Grk. eidōlon may mean (1) a representation or symbol of a worshipped entity; cultic image, idol; or (2) something viewed as transcendent entity and identified with its material representation; imaged deity, idol. Paul probably alludes to Psalm 115:

"Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but cannot speak; eyes, but cannot see. 6 They have ears, but cannot hear; noses, but cannot smell. 7 They have hands, but cannot feel; feet, but cannot walk, nor utter a sound with their throat. 8 Those making them will become like them —everyone trusting in them." (Ps 115:4-8 TLV)

however: Grk. hōs, adv. with the primary function of connecting narrative components, here focusing on an aspect of the activity being described. somehow: Grk. an, a disjunctive particle that implies a possibility based on a preexisting condition or stipulation; would, ever, might. The particle is not normally translated. Paul is speaking hypothetically and the syntax implies the incredulity that people that should have known better were led astray. you were being led: Grk. apagō, pres. pass. part., to take or lead away, to divert from the correct way. In other words they were led away from faithful observance of the Torah.

3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Yeshua is accursed," and no one is able to say, "Yeshua is Lord," if not by the Holy Spirit.

Therefore: Grk. dio, inferential conj., therefore, for this reason. I make known: Grk. gnōrizō, pres., to share information about something; make known, inform about. to you: Grk. humin, pl. of su, pronoun of the second person, used here to address the congregation. that: Grk. hoti, conj. no one: Grk. oudeis, a noun marker used to indicate negation of a person or thing as actually existing at a given place or moment; no one, nobody. speaking: Grk. laleō, pres. part., may mean (1) to make a sound, as of a trumpet or thunder; or (2) make an oral statement, to speak or talk about something. The second meaning applies here. by: Grk. en, prep. generally functioning to mark position, lit. "within." With the dative case of the noun "Spirit" following, the preposition may be translated as 'with' or 'by means of,' to express means (DM 105).

the Spirit: Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruach), wind, breath or spirit as the animating force for bodily movement (Luke 8:55). Pneuma is used for the human spirit (Luke 8:55), and transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Holy Spirit as God's self-expression (Rom 8:9; 1Cor 2:11; 2Cor 3:3). Although pneuma is used without the definite article the following noun decides the matter. of God: Grk. theos, God of Israel. In Greece a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24).

In the LXX theos renders names of God: El, Eloah and Elohim, as well as YHVH (DNTT 2:67-70). As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos. The only God in existence is the God who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth (Isa 44:6; 45:5-6, 14, 18, 21; 46:9), making Him the "God of Israel," an expression that occurs frequently in Scripture. The God of the Bible is not a philosophical belief in monotheism, a generic term for the deities worshipped by all people, or a "Christian" god who rejected Israel and hates Jews. All the deities worshipped by all other religions and cults in the world, as well as false concepts people have of God, are the product of Satan-inspired imagination.

The first reference to the Spirit of God (Ruach Elohim) occurs in Genesis 1:2 where He was moving over the Deep, assisting the Word (Logos) in creation. Ruach Elohim occurs a total of 12 times in the Tanakh. A parallel name, Ruach Adonai-YHVH (Spirit of the Lord God) occurs one time (Isa 61:1). One other name is used: Ruach YHVH (Spirit of ADONAI) occurs 23 times. Then, Ruach occurs by itself 23 times in passages where its clear that Ruach is the Spirit of God (e.g. Num 11:17; Isa 48:16; Zech 4:6). All of these passages in the Tanakh indicate that the Spirit is divine, not less or other than God. In the Besekh the Greek form of "Spirit of God" occurs 18 times , 12 of which are in Paul's letters (Rom 8:9, 14; 1Cor 2:11, 12, 14; 3:16; 6:11; 7:40; 12:3; 2Cor 3:3; Eph 4:30; Php 3:3).

The Bible reveals much about the work of the Spirit. The Spirit inspired the Scriptures (Acts 28:25; 1Cor 2:10; 2Peter 1:21), He convicts of sin (John 16:8; Heb 3:7), He enables understanding of Scripture (John 14:26; 16:13), He intercedes in our prayers (Rom 8:26f), He helps disciples to testify for Yeshua (Matt 10:20), He inspires prophesying (John 16:13; Acts 2:18), He gives direction for evangelism (Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12), He speaks to the congregation about its ministry and character (Acts 13:2; 15:28; Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22), He testifies of one’s suffering or death (Luke 2:25-26; Acts 20:23) and He regenerates and sanctifies believers to produce godly character that conforms to the Torah of God (John 6:63; Acts 1:8; Rom 7:6; 8:13f; 1Cor 6:11; Gal 5:22; 2Th 2:13).

says: Grk. legō, pres., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form; say, tell, declare. The Greek verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, and the history of translation of the name see my web article Who is Yeshua?

is accursed: Grk. anathema, that which has been cursed; accursed thing, anathema. In Israelite thought that which is dedicated to God can be subjected either to blessing or curse, with the latter aspect dominating (s. Josh 6:17-18; cf. Lev 27:28-29; Deut 7:26; 13:15-18). Anathema means a thing devoted to God without being redeemed, doomed to destruction. Such blasphemous language was employed against Yeshua by unbelieving Jews (Acts 13:45; 18:6). It is even possible that Paul had once tried to make believers say Anathema Yeshua (Acts 26:11). and: Grk. kai, conj. no one: Grk. oudeis. is able: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid., to be capable of doing or achieving; be able. to say: Grk. legō, aor. inf. Yeshua is Lord: Grk. kurios, generally means the owner of possessions. In the vernacular kurios was used to refer to persons of high or respected position, addressed as "sir," "lord" or "master," but especially as a designation for God. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, principally to translate Heb. words for God. In the overwhelming majority of instances (over 6,000 times), kurios replaces the Heb. YHVH, but also renders adōn 310 times, 190 of which refers to men. In addition, kurios stands in for the titles Adonai, Elohim, El and Eloah (DNTT 2:511f).

if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker used here to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. not: Grk. , a particle of qualified negation involving will and thought; not. by: Grk. en, prep. the Holy: Grk. hagios, adj., set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of God. The Greek text omits the definite article, but in the Hebraic sense the article is not needed since hagios is part of a name, not a title. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (DNTT 2:224; SH-6918), separate, sacred, holy. Qadosh is first used of God in Lev 11:44. In the Besekh hagios is used to define that which is sacred to God: His name (Luke 1:49), His covenant (Luke 1:72), His city Jerusalem (Matt 4:5), His angels (Mark 8:38), His servants (Eph 2:19), the Israelite Prophets (Luke 1:70), the Scriptures (Rom 1:2), the Torah (Rom 7:12), the apostles (Eph 3:5), and those belonging wholly to God (Heb 3:1).

Spirit: Grk. pneuma. In the Tanakh Ruach ha-Kodesh ("the Holy Spirit") occurs only three times (Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10-11). In contrast "Holy Spirit" occurs over 90 times in the Besekh, no doubt because the Holy Spirit was the animating agent to fulfill the prophecy of the New Covenant by writing His Torah on the hearts of His people (Jer 31:33; Ezek 11:19-20; 36:24-27; 2Cor 3:6). Calling the Spirit of God "holy" carries a moral and spiritual meaning. The Spirit is undefiled by sin and cannot tolerate sin. In this verse Paul offers a contrast to mute idols by referring to the Spirit who speaks through human beings in various ways. Saying "Yeshua is Lord" is comparable to giving testimony under oath and reflects authentic trust and belief, which requires the presence of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9). Likewise to curse Yeshua is a sure sign of the absence of the Holy Spirit and the likely presence of some other spirit that opposes God (1Jn 3:24–4:8).

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.

Now: Grk. de, conj. there are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. varieties: pl. of Grk. diairesis, diversity, distinction, difference, derived from diaireō, to divide, to distribute. The word appears only here in the Besekh. of gifts: pl. of Grk. charisma, that which results from the activity of generosity and in the apostolic writings always in connection with divine generosity bestowed on believers. In his Roman letter Paul asserted that the "gifts [charisma] of God…are irrevocable," (Rom 11:29), which include the gifts to the covenant people Israel mentioned at Romans 9:4-5. All disciples share in the covenant gifts, but God also assigns personal gifts as described in Romans 12 and in this chapter.

The word charisma occurs 17 times in the Besekh, all but one (1Pet 4:19) in the letters of Paul. The mention of and instructions on employment of spiritual gifts in the congregation occur in various passages  in addition to this chapter (Rom 12:3-8; 1Cor 14:1-40; Eph 1:17; 4:11-12; 1Tim 4:14; cf. 1Pet 4:9-11). Of interest is that charisma occurs five times in this chapter, three of which refer specifically to gifts of healing (verses 9, 28, and 30 below). but: Grk. de, conj. the same: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, but used here to establish close identification with focus on continuity preceded by the definite article; the same. Spirit: Grk. pneuma. See the previous verse. Saying the Spirit is "the same" emphasizes the unchangeable nature of His character.

5 and there are varieties of services, and the same Lord.

and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) transitional or continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; (3) intensive or emphatic – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The third use applies here. There are twenty-four conjunctions in biblical Greek, with kai by far the most common in the Besekh (DM 209). Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions and beginning verses with a conjunction is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. In contrast to most Bible versions I translate all the instances of kai (and all the other conjunctions) as a reminder of Paul's Hebraic writing style.

there are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. varieties: pl. of Grk. diairesis. See the previous verse. of services: Grk. diakonia, service or ministration, whether in regard to meeting the needs of others or the general maintenance of others. Sometimes the term is used of dedication to a specific divine assignment, such as prayer and teaching. Other examples include special ministrations like that of Martha (Luke 10:40) and the collection for famine relief for needy Jewish believers in Israel (1Cor 16:15; 2Cor 8:4). All of them are to be done without thought of personal gain. and: Grk. kai, conj. the same: Grk. autos. See the previous verse. Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 3 above. The mention of the Lord (i.e., Yeshua) in the context of services is related to the idea in the Olivet Discourse of serving the needs of the "least of these my brethren" (Matt 25:40, 45).

6 and there are varieties of effects, but the same God, the One working all things in everyone.

and: Grk. kai, conj. there are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. varieties: pl. of Grk. diairesis. See verse 4 above. of effects: pl. of Grk. energēma, exhibition of capability or endowment; production. Mounce defines as an effect, a thing effected, activity, operation, working. The noun focuses on the results of God's power in people (HELPS). but: Grk. de, conj. the same: Grk. autos. See verse 4 above. God: Grk. theos. See verse 3 above. the One: Grk ho, demonstrative pronoun and definite article. Almost all versions treat ho as a definite article for the verb following and translate it as "who." However, ho can be translated as "the One," since Jews used "the One" was a circumlocution for God (cf. Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 45:7; 49:7; Amos 9:5-6; John 1:33; 6:46; 7:18; 12:45; 15:21; Acts 10:42; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6).

working: Grk. energeō may mean (1) to be vigorous in pursuit of an objective; be active, work, operate; or (2) to bring about; work, produce, effect. The second meaning applies here. all things: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, every part of a totality; all, every. The adjective is neuter in form and refers back to the "varieties of effects." in: Grk. en, prep. everyone: pl. of Grk. pas. The second use of the adjective is masculine in form. Paul engages in a play on words to make his point. His comment on the nature of God is restated in Philippians 2:13, "for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (NASB).

7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common profiting.

But: Grk. de, conj. to each one: Grk. hekastos, adj. in reference to individual person, each (one), every (one). is given: Grk. didōmi, pres. pass., to give, often with the focus on generosity. In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan, to give, used in one of three settings (1) by men one to another; (2) by men to God; and (3) by God to men (DNTT 2:41). The third circumstance applies here. the manifestation: Grk. phanerōsis, state or condition of open disclosure; manifestation. Mounce defines the word as an outward evidencing of a latent principle, active exhibition. The word occurs not at all in the LXX and occurs only twice in the Besekh (also 2Cor 4:2). Paul's choice of the word seems to emphasize the point that the Spirit now works openly and not secretly.

BAG says that phanerōsis means the same thing as charisma in verse 4 (861), but the term seems to be a category title for the subcategories of gifts, services and effects (verses 4-6). of the Spirit: Grk. pneuma. See verse 3 above. The noun is the genitive case, which may be subjective (Spirit performs the action) or objective (Spirit receives the action). BAG strangely says that the syntax of "manifestation of the Spirit" cannot be determined with accuracy (861), but from Paul's following descriptions the Spirit obviously performs the action. for: Grk. pros, prep. the common profiting: Grk. sumpherō, pres. part., bring together to result in a benefit. Paul's assertion makes these particular points:

(1) Genuine manifestations of the Spirit cannot be manufactured or imitated by the individual.

(2) Different manifestations are given to different people. There is no expectation that everyone should have the same gift.

(3) All the manifestations are for the benefit of the congregation, not for the benefit of the individual.

(4) All the manifestations coordinate together to form a whole just as the varied instruments in an orchestra playing together produce a symphony.

Paul makes the same point in his Roman letter:

"For just as we have many parts in one body—and all the parts do not have the same function— 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Messiah and everyone parts of one another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace that was given to us." (Rom 12:4-6 TLV)

8 For truly to one through the Spirit is given a word of wisdom; moreover to another a word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit;

In verses 8-10 nine supernatural manifestations from the Holy Spirit are mentioned.

For: Grk. gar, conj., is generally accepted as a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that." Gar often functions to connect statements in discourses and narratives with preceding statements and is normally translated "for." truly: Grk. mén, conj., a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. to one: Grk. hos, relative pronoun, this one, that one. through: Grk. dia, prep., by means of, through. With the genitive case of the noun following the meaning is "through" signifying an instrumental function (DM 101). the Spirit: Grk. pneuma with the definite article. See verse 3 above. is given: Grk. didōmi, pres. pass. See the previous verse.

a word: Grk. logos, a vocalized expression of the mind, word, discourse, statement message or speech. In Greek philosophical writings logos took on the meaning of a common universal law or truth and that which gives order in the universe. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar (SH-1697), which can mean "speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, or matter" (Gen 29:13; BDB 182). Logos is also used for amar (to utter, say, Gen 34:8), imrah ("speech, utterance, word," Gen 4:23), and Aram. millah (word, utterance, matter, Dan 4:31) (DNTT 3:1087). The mind being expressed is that of the Holy Spirit. of wisdom: Grk. sophia, exceptional endowment of discernment, understanding and insight; wisdom. In Greek culture sophia referred to practical knowledge, e.g., the sophia of a carpenter, but later incorporated theoretical knowledge (DNTT 3:1027).

In the LXX sophia was used to translate the wisdom possessed by a specialist in a particular field (Ex 36:1f), or economic shrewdness (Prov 8:18). Over and above these elements sophia is concerned with the learned and perceptive ability that enables a man to master life (Prov 8:32-36) (DNTT 3:1028). The list of manifestations of the Spirit begin with the most important one. Paul does not explain the mechanics of such inspiration, but only speaks of its nature and its source. Such a "word" may come as a flash of insight, by which one suddenly understands something he did not understand before, what the Gestalt theorists describe as the "ah-hah" moment. A word of wisdom likely means the ability to express the message of God's wisdom in the good news of the Messiah. It may also mean supernatural wisdom about how to solve a practical or spiritual problem through the application of Torah principles.

moreover: Grk. de, conj. to another: Grk. allos, adj., other, another. a word: Grk. logos. of knowledge: Grk. gnōsis, knowledge or understanding with special reference to insight relating to matters involving God and spiritual perception. The term is especially used as an attribute of God and in Scripture knowledge of God is always linked with God's acts of self-revelation. In the LXX gnōsis generally renders Heb. da'at (e.g. Josh 23:13; 1Sam 2:3; 1Chr 4:10; Ps 19:2; 73:11; 94:10; 119:66; 139:6; Prov 2:6; 8:9), which may refer to general knowledge received from God or others, knowledge possessed by God, prophetic knowledge or knowledge by man of God (BDB 395). A word of knowledge may be supernatural knowledge relevant to understanding a situation or it may mean the ability to communicate with knowledge by the Spirit. The usage of gnōsis in the LXX clearly demonstrates that Paul did not borrow from pagan terminology.

according to: Grk. kata, prep. whose root meaning is "down," is used in general expressing measure and the idea of something associated with or lining up with something else. With the accusative case of the noun following the word means "according to," signifying relation (DM 107). the same: Grk. autos, intensive pronoun. Spirit: Grk. pneuma with the definite article. The difference between these two manifestations may be similar to the distinction between teaching and exhortation in Romans 12. The rabbis distinguished Halakhah from Aggadah. Halakhah, lit. "way to walk," defines the rules and rituals that make up Jewish life, all based on interpretation of Torah. Aggadah refers to exposition of a biblical text that offers inspirational thoughts and moral exhortations, kind of like sermons. Within Judaism there has always been a dynamic interaction between these two types of material.

9 to another faithfulness by the same Spirit; moreover to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit;

to another: Grk. heteros, a distributive pronoun that may distinguish one item from another in a numerical or qualitative sense; other, another. faithfulness: Grk. pistis means (1) constancy in awareness of obligation to others, thus faithfulness or fidelity; and (2) belief or confidence evoked by another's reputation for trustworthiness, thus faith, trust or confidence. In the LXX pistis is used to twice translate Heb. emun (Deut 32:20; Prov 13:17; 'faithfulness,' BDB 53), but renders Heb. emunah ('firmness, steadfastness, fidelity,' BDB 53) over 20 times, mainly of men's faithfulness (e.g., Prov 3:3; 12:17, 22), but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4). Pistis also translates Heb. aman (to confirm, to support, Jer 15:18), amanah ('fixed support,' Neh 9:38; 11:23; SS 4:8) and emet (firmness, faithfulness, truth, Prov 14:22; Jer 28:9; 33:6).

The LXX usage emphasizes that the Hebrew meaning of faithfulness is the intended usage of pistis. The apostles build on this meaning and represent pistis as composed of two elements. The first element of faithfulness is confidence or trust: "And without faith[fulness] it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb 11:6; cf. Heb 4:2). True faith leads one to seek God and then trust Him to respond with His good gifts. The second element of faithfulness involves commitment and obedience, which includes following God’s direction for life and producing works of righteousness (cf. Eph 2:8-10).

Paul's mention of pistis seems unusual as a manifestation of the Spirit. This is obviously not the initial trust, a gift of God that must be exercised by every person to be saved (Eph 2:8–9). Pistis here is also not the trusting faithfulness every disciple must exercise in living for God (2Cor 5:7). The Amplified version renders the noun as "wonder working faith," but Mare suggests that pistis here refers to deeper expressions of faith, such as undergoing hardships, martyrdom, etc., and thus can properly be translated as "faithfulness." Job would be a biblical example of such faith. by: Grk. en, prep. the same: Grk. autos. Spirit. Grk. pneuma. See verse 3 above. Again the Holy Spirit is credited as the source.

moreover: Grk. de, conj. to another: Grk. allos, adj. gifts: pl. of Grk. charisma. See verse 4 above. of healings: pl. of Grk. iama, a healing or cure. The word occurs only three times in the Besekh, all in this chapter ands specifically of divine healing. The point Paul makes is that the agent through whom the Spirit works is not the cause of the healing. We may properly say that healing of the body is always a gift of God. Both words are plural here because there are many forms of healing. At the same time we must note that there is no presumption from either Yeshua or the apostles that God will heal every illness. We know Yeshua never denied healing to anyone (except to himself on the cross) and the apostles healed many people, which has led to the conundrum of why some people for whom we pray are not healed. I endeavor to answer this question in my article Divine Healing.

10 moreover to another workings of miracles; moreover to another prophecy; moreover to another discernment of spirits; to another kinds of languages; moreover to another interpretation of languages.

moreover: Grk. de, conj. to another: Grk. allos, adj. workings: pl. of Grk. energēma. See verse 6 above. of miracles: pl. of Grk. dunamis, having ability to perform something, used to mean either (1) ability to function effectively; power, might; or (2) exhibition of singular capability; powerful or wondrous deed, miracle. Either usage could apply here. Miracles are normally defined as extraordinary acts beyond human ability. The creation scientist, Dr. Henry Morris, offers the helpful distinction between creation miracles, which he calls Grade A miracles, that require setting aside the laws of science, and providential miracles, or Grade B, that intervene in and manipulate existing natural processes (BBMS 81f). By definition only God can perform creation miracles. Dr. Morris classifies most of the healing miracles of Yeshua as Grade B, because the normal process of healing was greatly accelerated. Only a small number of his healing miracles could be considered Grade A, such as the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:43f).

We should also consider that in Paul's choice of words he refers not only to "unusual" acts of God, but the effect of God working through a person's life. God may choose to bless a person's ministry with his grace so as to produce the great harvest of fruit depicted in the parable of the sower (Matt 13:23).

moreover: Grk. de, conj. to another: Grk. allos, adj. prophecy: Grk. prophēteia may mean (1) the act of stating or disclosing divine will and purpose; (2) the gift for disclosure of divine will or purpose; or (3) a statement or disclosure made under divine authority or direction. Prophēteia occurs 19 times in the apostolic writings, nine of which are in Paul's writings and seven times in Revelation.

In the Tanakh prophecy was conducted by recognized prophets who were inspired by God by various means (Heb 1:1; 2Pet 1:21). Prophecy was primarily "forth-telling," with occasional predictions (foretelling). Forth-telling messages might consist of warning against sinning, announcing divine judgments, encouraging repentance and giving hope of restoration. In 1Corinthians 14:3 Paul identifies the benefits of prophecy as edification, encouragement and consolation.

moreover: Grk. de, conj. to another: Grk. allos, adj. discernment: Grk. diakrisis may mean (1) distinction, discrimination; or (2) dispute. Mounce adds the act of discerning. of spirits: pl. of Grk. pneuma. See verse 3 above. The gift of discerning of spirits might involve testing the genuineness of someone's commitment or faithfulness to God or determining the possibility of demonic activity or occult influence in a situation. Paul may be indicating a distinct ability beyond that which the apostle John calls on believers in general to exercise (1Jn 4:1). This particular gift is often needed in order to discern whether healings, miracles and prophecies are truly from God; it is also an indispensable part of the spiritual equipment of anyone who undertakes to expel demons.

to another: Grk. heteros, adj. See the previous verse. kinds: pl. of genos, a group with a distinguishing characteristic; kind, class, sort. of languages: pl. of Grk. glōssa occurs 50 times in the apostolic writings with, according to Danker, one of three meanings: (1) tongue, as an organ of speech, (Mark 7:33); including the phenomenon of flames at Pentecost likened to "tongues" (Acts 2:3); (2) a distinctive language system (Acts 2:4, 11; 1Cor 13:1; Rev 5:9); and (3) an unusual ecstatic vocal utterance (cf. Mark 16:17; Acts 10:46; 19:6). Danker believes the third meaning dominates Paul's usage of glōssa in 1 Corinthians. In the LXX glōssa primarily translates Heb. lashōn (SH-3956), the organ of the tongue and human language, first occurring in Genesis 10:5 for the languages of different nations (DNTT 3:1078f). Glōssa also translates Heb. saphah (SH-8193), lip, speech or language, first occurring in Genesis 11:7 of the one language of the earth.

Some scholars believe Paul uses glōssa/glōssai for the broken speech of persons in religious ecstasy similar to modern "tongues," for which they use the term 'glossolalia' (BAG, Grosheide, Haarbeck, Stern). Bible versions insert a preposition "with" or "in" to denote possession of this supposed gift. If this had been Paul's purpose he surely would have used an appropriate Greek preposition. To say "with" he could have used en, meta, or sun, and to say "in" he would have used en. Other scholars believe these terms refer to speaking in a foreign language as inspired by the Holy Spirit, comparable to what was experienced at Pentecost, and unlike the gibberish of modern "tongues" (Barnes, Clarke, Gill, HELPS, Lander, Lightfoot, Mare, Robertson). For more discussion of this subject see my article Speaking in Tongues.

Not generally considered is that pagan worship in Greece and elsewhere included glossolalia (BAG 161), but the inspiration for the practice would obviously not be the Holy Spirit. Yeshua alluded to this practice when he cautioned his disciples, "when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose they will be heard for their many words" (Matt 6:7 NASB). Ecstasy in pagan rites may have been induced by hypnotism, drugs or demonic spirits. Among pagan Corinthians such speaking was considered a sign of intense spirituality and of possession by the god who inspired the utterance. Dr. Kurt E. Koch, a Lutheran minister, has documented many cases of glossolalia in modern times as being the result of demonic influence (see Occult ABC, Kregel Publications, 1986, §58).

The ability to speak in languages other than one's native language is vital in communicating the Good News in cross-cultural ministry. Yet, nothing has been more misunderstood or controversial in the history of Bible interpretation than the subject of "tongues" and Paul's treatment of it in this letter. Some of the members of the congregation in Corinth may have possessed the genuine gift mentioned here, but Paul offers no information on how the genuine gift operated.

moreover: Grk. de, conj. to another: Grk. allos, adj. the interpretation: Grk. hermēneia, may mean (1) a translation, as a capability, or (2) the product of the ability to translate. The first usage applies here, but the second usage is possible also. of languages: pl. of Grk. glōssa. In Acts 2:4 glōssais refers to the languages or dialects of different people groups. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the ability to speak with other languages, previously unlearned, and translation was unnecessary (Acts 2:6-11). The Pentecost phenomenon was clearly a creation miracle (cf. Gen 11:7-9). Luke's report of the Caesarean Pentecost at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:46) followed the same pattern as Acts 2 (cf. Acts 10:47; 11:15). The same phenomenon also occurred at the Ephesian Pentecost (Acts 19:6).

Unlike the experience of the apostles in Acts, the gift of languages Paul describes in this chapter requires human translation for understanding. This gift is the ability to give the meaning in ordinary language of what is spoken by the "gift of languages" in a public venue. Jews and Gentiles in the first century were multi-lingual. Aramaic was the language of the East, Hebrew was the language of the Jews (especially in Judea and Galilee), Greek was spoken throughout the world for trade and Latin was the official language of the Roman government. There were also local variations of all these languages. Remember that the sign over the cross was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek.

The first century synagogue had a number of people that assisted in conducting the Sabbath services. One of the positions was that of an interpreter, known as the meturgan. This person was skilled in languages, who stood by the one reading the Law or teaching in a Bet Midrash (a house of study) to interpret into other languages the Hebrew that was being spoken. The use of an interpreter goes back to the time of Ezra (Neh 8:8), when the interpreter was said to have added to the meaning. It is from this concept that we understand Jesus’ words, "What you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops (Matt 10:27 NKJV). This phrase was easily understood by those who were familiar with the system of study in the synagogue, where the teacher would literally speak the message in the interpreter’s ear, who would then shout it out to others, both inside the room and out.

Works Cited

BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.

Clarke: Adam Clarke (1762-1832), Commentary on the Holy Bible. 6 vols. Online.

Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.

DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.

DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.

ISBE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Ed. James Orr. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939. Website HTML, 2011. Online.

Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.

GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966.

Grosheide: F.W. Grosheide, The First Epistle to the Corinthians. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1953. (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)

HELPS: The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. eds. Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at

JANT: Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Lander: Shira Lander, annotations, "The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians," Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Liddell-Scott: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott. An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon. Clarendon Press, 1889. Online.

Lightfoot: John Lightfoot (1602-1675), A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (1859 ed.), 4 Vols. Hendrickson Pub., 1989. Online.

LSJ: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon. Revised and augmented by Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online.

Maimonides: Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), The Code of Maimonides: Book Four, The Book of Women. Trans. Isaac Klein. Yale University Press, 1972.

Mare: W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians. Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 vol. Zondervan Electronic Edition, 1998.

Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.

Metzger: Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. German Bible Society, 1994.

Moseley: Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.

Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.

MW-Notes: Daniel Gruber, The Messianic Writings. Elijah Publishing, 2011. Annotations by the author.

Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. 2 Vols. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.

Santala: Risto Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings. Trans. William Kinnaird. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1992. Online.

Skarsaune: Oskar Skarsaune, In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity. InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.

TDSS: The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. Rev. ed. Trans. Michael Wise, Martin Abegg Jr. and Edward Cook. HarperOne, 2005.

TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 vols. R. Laird Harris, ed. Moody Press, 1980.

Copyright © 2015 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.