Blaine Robison, M.A.
An Exegetical Commentary
Published 7 January 2019
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 Halakhah.com. 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
The Power of the Spirit, 12:1-3
The Gifts of the Spirit, 12:4-11
Analogy of the Human Body, 12:12-26
Appointed Ministries in the Congregation, 12:27-31
The Power of the Spirit, 12:1-3
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, mē, in that mē 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 or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. 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. humeis, pl. 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 it's 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. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. 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 is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. See my note on the significance of conjunctions in the Besekh.
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. mē, 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).
The Gifts of the Spirit, 12:4-11
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. Paul proceeds to define works of the Holy Spirit with three descriptive terms, yet he makes no effort to define the various works by these descriptions. He likely intends that the three descriptions apply to all the manifestations of the Spirit. 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. The first description of the works of the Spirit is that they are gifts.
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 spiritual gifts to individuals, seven described in Romans 12:6-8 and nine in this chapter, only two of which are repeated in Romans 12, making a total of fourteen gifts. Instructions on the use of spiritual gifts in the congregation occur in various passages (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). The gifts are called "gifts" because they are given to disciples, not created by disciples. Even talents and practical skills are a divine endowment (cf. Ex 28:3; 31:3; 35:31).
but: Grk. de, conj. the same: Grk. ho autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. 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 divine source of gifts as well as 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.
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. The second description of the works of the Spirit is that they serve others and as such fulfill the command to love one's neighbor. 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). The third description of the works of the Spirit is that they are effects, which emphasizes the impact or result of the works on others or the congregation as a whole. but: Grk. de, conj. the same: Grk. autos. See verse 4 above. God: Grk. theos. See verse 3 above. Mare comments that in verses 4−6 Paul teaches that the Trinity is involved in administration of these gifts: the Spirit; the Lord; God.
Stern points out that the word "Trinity" is never used in the apostolic writings. Indeed, the apostles make no effort to present a theological argument concerning the triune nature of God. Yet the elements which led theologians to develop such a concept are seen in passages like this one, where "Spirit," "Lord," and "God" are all mentioned and refer respectively to the Holy Spirit, Yeshua the Messiah, and the Father (cf. 1Cor 6:11; 2Cor 13:14; Eph 2:13-18; 4:3-6; 1Pet 1:2).
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. The description of the God of Israel as "the One working" contrasts with pagan deities worshipped in Corinth, which have no actual existence and therefore cannot work on behalf of people.
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. 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 (from phaneroō, to make visible, make known), a state or condition of open disclosure; manifestation. 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 works openly and not secretly.
BAG says that phanerōsis means the same thing as charisma in verse 4 (861), but in the definition of charisma BAG does not say that charisma means the same thing as phanerōsis (887). These two terms are not synonyms. Rather phanerōsis incorporates the three descriptive terms of gifts, services and effects (verses 4−6 above). 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 based on 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:
• Genuine manifestations of the Spirit cannot be created by the individual.
• Different manifestations are given to different people. There is no expectation that everyone should have the same gift, service or effect.
• All the manifestations are for the benefit of the congregation, not for the benefit of the individual.
• 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 indeed to that 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." indeed: Grk. mén, conj., a particle of affirmation or concession; indeed, verily, truly. to that one: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. 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. ho pneuma. 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; BDB 182), which can mean "speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, or matter" (Gen 29:13) (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 begins with an 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, an "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. Stern suggests the gift may be 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 renders Heb. deah (SH-1844), knowledge, specifically possessed by God (1Sam 2:3); but primarily Heb. da'ath (SH-1847), knowledge, which can mean prophetic knowledge (Ps 19:2), knowledge possessed by God (Ps 73:11; 94:10), discernment (Prov 8:9), and knowledge of God (Prov 9:10; 13:16).
A word of knowledge may be supernatural knowledge relevant to understanding a situation (Stern), or it may mean the ability to communicate with knowledge by the Spirit. Gill suggests that the gift may be either knowledge of future events; or knowledge of the teaching of Scripture and thus the will of God. 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. ho pneuma. The mention of "the same Spirit" emphasizes that these manifestations are miraculously bestowed; they cannot be generated by human industry (Clarke). Wisdom and knowledge are often mentioned together, thus illustrating their similarity and relationship (2Chr 1:10-12; Prov 2:10; 9:10; 14:6; Eccl 1:16; 2:26; Isa 33:6; Rom 11:33; Col 3:2). The difference between a "word of wisdom" and a "word of knowledge" may be similar to the distinction between teaching and exhortation in Romans 12.
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. ho 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 translation 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. Mare suggests that the mention of prophecy anticipates the subject in chapter 14, but there Paul primarily employs the verb propheteuō and for a different purpose.
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 (1Cor 13:1; Rev 5:9); and (3) a divinely aided vocal utterance (cf. Mark 16:17; Acts 2:4, 11; 10:46; 19:6). 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 the term for the broken speech of persons in religious ecstasy, but this may be reading a modern practice back into a biblical setting. Noteworthy is that LSJ does not list under glōssa any meaning under the category of ecstatic speech. Rather, the emphasis of the word is "language," "dialect," "foreign" language. Not generally considered is that pagan worship in Greece and elsewhere included ecstatic speech (BAG 161; Harrison), but the inspiration for the practice would obviously not be the Holy Spirit. Ecstasy in pagan rites may have been induced by hypnotism, drugs or demonic spirits. 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).
The gift of languages, as the other gifts, was intended to serve the body of Messiah. The gift was especially vital at Pentecost in proclaiming the good news. 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. We will discover in chapter 14 that the exhibition of languages had become a serious problem and not an asset to the congregation. For more discussion of this subject see my article Speaking in Tongues.
moreover: Grk. de, conj. to another: Grk. allos, adj. translation: 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 the plural noun 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.
11 But the one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing to each individually just as He desires.
But: Grk. de, conj. the one: Grk. heis, adj., a primary number, the numeral one. The adjective also indicates unity, that is, the Spirit works in concert with the Father and the Son. and: Grk. kai, conj. the same: Grk. ho autos, personal pronoun. See verse 4 above. Spirit: Grk. Pneuma. See verse 3 above. produces: Grk. energeō, pres., may mean (1) be vigorous in pursuit of an object; be active, work, operate; or (2) bring about; work, produce, effect. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 6 above. of these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. The Spirit makes these gifts to function once given.
distributing: Grk. diaireō, pres. part., to divide into parts, to distribute, to apportion or assign. to each: Grk. hekastos, adj. See verse 7 above. individually: Grk. idios, adj., belonging to oneself, one's own. just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. He desires: Grk. boulomai, pres., may mean (1) have in one's mind; wish, want, desire; or (2) reach a decision upon deliberation; intend, decide, plan, will. The second meaning applies here. The Spirit is intentional about His gift-giving, knowing which gift is best for each person.
Analogy of the Human Body, 12:12-26
12 For even as the body is one, and has many parts, and all the parts of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Messiah.
For: Grk. gar, conj. even as: Grk. kathaper, adv. with focus on a parallel aspect, as, just as, even as. the body: Grk. sōma, body, a structured physical unit in contrast to its parts, a physical body, normally of a living body in Greek literature. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. one: Grk. heis. See the previous verse. and: Grk. kai, conj. has: Grk. echō, pres., to have, hold or possess; here with the focus on those things which are constituent parts. many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, here indicating a high quantity or a high degree, here the former. parts: pl. of Grk. melos, a member or part of a whole, here in reference to a physical structure. As qualified by "many" the term as applied to the human body is not limited to limbs.
and: Grk. kai. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 6 above. the parts: pl. of Grk. melos. of the body: Grk. sōma. being: Grk. eimi, pres. part. many: pl. of Grk. polus. are: Grk. eimi, pres. one: Grk. heis. body: Grk. sōma. so: Grk. houtōs, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, way or fashion, so. also: Grk. kai. Paul makes the point that just as the parts of the human body operate in unity with its head, so disciples must function in unity with their head. is Messiah: Grk. Christos (from chriō, to anoint), the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah. In Greek culture christos had no religious connotation at all and described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint (DNTT 2:334).
Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to render Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), Anointed One, and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century. Thus, "Messiah" has special meaning as the hope of Israel, whereas the word "Christ" used by Christians has an alien and even negative meaning to Jews (Stern 1-2). For a discussion of Jewish hope and expectation of the Messiah see my article The Messiah.
The phrase "so also is Messiah" affirms two truths. First, as a human being Yeshua had a physical body (cf. Acts 13:23; 2Cor 5:16). Second, the phrase alludes to the congregation of Yeshua's disciples as Paul learned in his life-changing encounter with Yeshua on the King's Highway (Acts 9:4).
13 For also in one Spirit we all were immersed into one body, whether traditional Jews or Hellenistic Jews, whether slaves or free; and all were given to drink of one Spirit.
For: Grk. gar, conj. also: Grk. kai, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. one: Grk. heis. See verse 11 above. Spirit: See verse 3 above. we: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The pronoun means "we Jews." all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 6 above. were immersed: Grk. baptizō (from baptō, "immerse or plunge"), aor. pass., means to dip, soak, or immerse into a liquid. Christian versions translate the verb as "baptized" whereas Messianic Jewish versions render the verb as "immersed." In the LXX baptō is used to translate the Heb. taval (SH-2881, to dip, immerse) 13 times, whereas baptizō occurs only once to render taval (2Kgs 5:14), in reference to the story of Naaman (DNTT 1:144). In Scripture baptizō never means a rite performed by sprinkling or pouring and never of infants. Paul's representation of baptizō as burial and resurrection (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12) is a graphic illustration of the procedure.
The passive voice the verb (which denotes receiving action) does not mean that anyone personally put hands on the immersion candidates and pushed them under the water as occurs in the Christian ritual. Three important elements define Jewish immersion. First, Jewish immersion was (and is) self-immersion, as in the story of Naaman. No one touches the one immersing and no one needs to put the penitent under for it to be valid. Second, Jewish immersion is gender-specific. That is, men are not present when women immerse and vice versa. Third, among Jews ablutions of all kinds are not performed by people under bar/bat mitzvah age when a boy or girl became fully accountable to the Torah. In the apostolic narratives only those who repented, i.e. adults, immersed themselves.
into: Grk. eis, prep. one: Grk. heis. body: Grk. sōma. See the previous verse. Paul uses the noun in a figurative sense of the congregation of Messiah. whether: Grk. eite, conj. used in combination; if, whether, or. traditional Jews: Grk. Ioudaioi, pl. of Ioudaios, Jew, Jewish, Jewess or Judean (BAG). Danker notes that the term may be used as an adjective (Judean, Jewish) or a noun (Jew, Judean). Ioudaios designates a person by belief and practice (cf. John 4:9). In the first century the term had on a particular sectarian meaning to distinguish "devout" (= Hebrew-speaking Torah/tradition-observant) Jews from non-observant Jews (Acts 2:5).
Indeed the noun Ioudaismos, "Judaism," first appears in the Maccabean writings for a way of life devoted to observance of Torah laws (2Macc 2:21; 8:1; 14:38; 4Macc 4:26), and then used by Saul to describe his religion before his life-changing encounter with Yeshua (Gal 1:13-14) (DNTT 2:310). Moreover, the tenets of their Judaism were governed by the Great Sanhedrin and the Pharisees, whose traditions they followed (cf. Matt 23:2-3; Mark 7:3; Acts 10:28). Traditional Jews revered Moses (John 9:28-29; Acts 6:11) and recognized the authority of the written Torah (John 7:23; Acts 21:20) and the traditions of the Sages (Matt 15:2; Gal 1:14; Col 2:8). For more information on the Ioudaioi see my note on the term in Acts 9:22.
or: Grk. eite. Hellenistic Jews: Grk. Hellēnes, pl. of Hellēn may mean (1) a man of Greek language and culture or (2) in the broader sense, all persons who came under the influence of Greek (i.e., pagan) culture (BAG). In the Besekh Hellēn appears first in John (7:35; 12:20). Danker says that Hellēn is not an ethnic term restricted to Greece as a specific country or people. All the lexicons specifically exclude Jews from this definition, which is strange. After Alexander the Great (356−323 BC) conquered the world he and his successors sought to educate and assimilate people in the Greek way of life. All who adopted the Greek language and culture were counted as Hellēn (DNTT 2:124). The Jewish population in the world was not exempt from this influence and thousands of Jews, especially in the Diaspora, became Hellenistic to some degree. Bible versions could have translated the noun with the neutral "Hellenists" (which would include Jews), but instead chose to use "Gentiles" or "Greeks."
Christian scholars assume that Paul is making a contrast with the Ioudaioi, so that Hellēnes must refer to Gentiles, especially Greeks since he is writing to Corinth. Christian scholarship generally assumes Gentile believers dominated the membership of first century congregations (cf. Acts 21:20), but actually they did not become the majority until the second century. Historical revisionism also took place due to Christian scholars minimizing the Jewishness of the apostolic writings. The context of this verse is clearly Jewish. Paul speaks of being one in Messiah (verse 12), who is only relevant to Jews, and says "we" meaning "we Jews" in this verse. His contrast with Ioudaioi must mean Jews who did not live by the legalistic rules of the Pharisees. For a fuller explanation of the rationale for translating Hellēnes as "Hellenistic Jews" see my article Hellenism and the Jews.
whether: Grk. eite. slaves: pl. of Grk. doulos, slave or servant, generally used of a male slave who is viewed as owned property, totally and unquestioningly at the behest of the owner. The economies of ancient empires were based on slave labor and slavery typically occurred as a result of being captured in war and then sold. Legally a slave had no rights. In the LXX doulos translates the Heb. ebed, which did include the meaning of doulos but with a much broader application. In the Tanakh ebed is especially used of household servants, those who worked for the King and those who served God, especially service in the temple (DNTT 3:593). Hebrew culture was different from pagan nations in that while there were some occasions when defeated enemies were enslaved (Num 31:7-9; Deut 20:10-12), slavery was most often a form of indentured servitude.
Hebrew slaves were either purchased outright (Ex 12:44; 21:2, 7; Lev 19:20; 22:11; 25:44) or acquired as a result of having to pay a debt (Ex 21:7; Lev 25:39, 47; Matt 5:25-26). All slaves were considered property, but Hebrew slaves were treated more as trusted employees (Lev 25:40). The Torah specifically required Israelites to remember how they were treated as slaves in Egypt (Deut 5:15; 15:15) and treat their slaves justly (Deut 5:14; Lev 25:43). Yeshua spoke of slaves in some of his teaching as employees with significant stewardship responsibility (Matt 10:24; 13:27; 18:23; 20:27; 21:34; 22:3; 24:45; 25:14). Paul mentions earlier in this letter that some in the congregation had formerly been slaves and advised them to seek freedom if possible (1Cor 7:21). In other letters he gave instructions to slaves for their service (Eph 6:5-8; Col 3:22-25) and to masters for their treatment of slaves (Eph 6:9; Col 4:1).
or: Grk. eiti. free: Grk. eleutheros, adj., enjoying freedom from constraint, free or independent, non-slave status. The noun was also applied to freed slaves, who then became clients of their former masters. and: Grk. kai. all: pl. of Grk. pas. were given to drink: Grk. potizō, aor. pass., furnish liquid for drinking, often in reference to water; give to drink. of one: Grk. heis. Spirit: The last phrase probably alludes to Yeshua's declaration on the last day of Sukkot, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink! The one believing in me, just as the Scripture said, from within him will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37-38 BR). By "living water" Yeshua meant the Holy Spirit, whom believers were to receive (John 7:39). The Holy Spirit was "poured out" to accomplish purification of the heart (Acts 15:8-9). Thus, Paul depicts the congregation of Messiah as an organic whole being filled, purified and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
14 For also the body is not one part, but many.
For: Grk. gar, conj. also: Grk. kai, conj. the body: Grk. sōma. See verse 12 above. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 1 above. one: Grk. heis. See verse 11 above. part: Grk. melos. See verse 12 above. but: Grk. alla, conj., adversative particle used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, nevertheless, on the other hand, on the contrary, otherwise. many: pl. of Grk. polus. See verse 12 above. Paul restates the universally recognized principle to set up the argument that follows. The human body is characterized by a high degree of differentiation, with cells, tissues, organs and body parts manifesting specialization in function and yet designed to work together in harmony. This section contains considerable redundancy, but Paul is relentless in pressing his point. Learn it. Love it. Live it.
15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," not on account of this, is it not of the body.
If: Grk. ean, conj. that serves as a conditional particle and produces an aspect of tentativeness by introducing a possible circumstance that determines the realization of some other circumstance. the foot: Grk. ho pous, the anatomical limb of the foot. should say: Grk. legō, aor. subj. See verse 3 above. Because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 2 above. Here the conjunction indicates causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. I am: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. a hand: Grk. cheir, the anatomical limb of the hand. I am: Grk. eimi, pres. not: Grk. ou. of: Grk. ek, prep., generally used to denote exit or separation from something with which there has been a close association, lit. "out of, from within" (Thayer). Here the preposition denotes the whole of which anything is a part.
the body: Grk. ho sōma. See verse 12 above. not: Grk. ou. on account of: Grk. para, prep., with the root meaning of beside (DM 108), conveys association between persons, things, or circumstances, which may denote (1) a point of origin, from; (2) a close association or proximity, with, beside, in the presence of; or (3) the reason for something. The third meaning applies here (Thayer). this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 11 above. is it: Grk. eimi, pres. not: Grk. ou. of: Grk. ek. the body: Grk. ho sōma. Paul poses a hypothetical scenario that is obviously silly, but makes an important point.
16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," not on account of this, is it not of the body.
Paul restates his rhetorical premise and logical conclusion. And: Grk. kai, conj. if: Grk. ean, conj. See the previous verse. the ear: Grk. ho ous, the organ of hearing, the ear, as well as the faculty of understanding or perception. should say: Grk. legō, aor. subj. See verse 3 above. Because: Grk. hoti, conj., used here to denote inference. See verse 2 above. I am: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. an eye: Grk. ophthalmos, the physical organ of sight; eye. I am: Grk. eimi, pres. not: Grk. ou. of: Grk. ek, prep. See the previous verse. the body: Grk. ho sōma. See verse 12 above. not on account of this, is it not of the body: The final clause repeats the last clause of the previous verse exactly.
17 If the whole body was an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole was hearing, where would be the smelling?
If: Grk. ei, conj. See verse 3 above. the whole: Grk. holos, adj., signifier of a person or thing understood as a complete unit and not necessarily every individual part; all, whole, entire. body: Grk. ho sōma. See verse 12 above. was an eye: Grk. ophthalmos. See the previous verse. where: Grk. pou, interrogative adverb; where, in what place. would be the hearing: Grk. ho akoē may mean (1) hearing as a sensory faculty or (2) that which is heard; fame, report, rumor, message, proclamation. The first meaning applies here. If: Grk. ei. the whole: Grk. holos. was hearing: Grk. ho akoē. where: Grk. pou. would be the smelling: Grk. ho osphrēsis, the ability or sense of smell. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Paul's logic is compelling. The human body was not created with just one sensory capability.
18 But as it is God has arranged the parts, each one of them in the body, just as He desired.
But: Grk. de, conj. as it is: Grk. nuni, adv., a strengthened form of nun, which may be used of (1) time in the present, now; or (2) a logical connection or conclusion reached, as it is. The second usage is intended here. God: See verse 3 above. has arranged: Grk. tithēmi, aor. mid., may mean (1) to arrange for association with a site, place or put; or (2) arrange for creation of role or status, make or appoint. The first meaning applies here. the parts: pl. of Grk. melos. See verse 12 above. each: Grk. hekastos, adj. See verse 7 above. one: Grk. heis, the primary number one. of them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. See verse 4 above. in: Grk. en, prep. the body: Grk. ho sōma. See verse 12 above. just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. See verse 11 above. He desired: Grk. thelō, aor. See verse 1 above.
Since God created the first man and woman, Adam and Chavvah (Gen 1:26-27; 5:1-2; Isa 45:12; 1Tim 2:13), then it is only logical that God formed the bodies with limbs and organs shaped and positioned according to His own design. All of their descendants possess the commonality of physical characteristics, unless an accident, disease or malformation occurs in the process of development in the mother's womb or the birth. The intricate design down to the cellular level and DNA argues against the atheistic (Satanic) theory of evolution.
19 Moreover, if all were one part, where would be the body?
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 6 above. were: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 2 above. one: Grk. heis, the primary number one. part: Grk. melos. See verse 12 above. where: Grk. pou, interrogative adv. See verse 17 above. The adverb probably has the rhetorical meaning of "in what condition." would be the body: Grk. ho sōma. See verse 12 above. Paul condenses the arguments of verses 15-17 above. The question implies the answer. If the body consisted of only one part it would not be a human body, but a freak of nature.
20 And now many indeed are the parts, but one body.
And: Grk. de, conj. now: Grk. nun, adv., adv. of time in the present, 'now' or more emphatically 'right now.' many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj. See verse 12 above. indeed: Grk. mén, particle of affirmation. See verse 8 above. are the parts: pl. of Grk. melos. See verse 12 above. but: Grk. de. one: Grk. heis, the primary number one. body: Grk. ho sōma. See verse 12 above. For all its disparate parts the human body functions as a single unit.
21 Now the eye is not able to say to the hand, "I have not a need of you," or again the head to the feet, "I have not a need of you."
Now: Grk. de, conj. the eye: Grk. ho ophthalmos. See verse 16 above. is not: Grk. ou, adv. of negation. able: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid. See verse 3 above. to say: Grk. legō, aor. inf. See verse 3 above. Paul states a physical impossibility; the eye does not possess the power of speech. to the hand: Grk. ho cheir. See verse 15 above. I have: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 12 above. not: Grk. ou. a need: Grk. chreia, state or experience of necessity, need. of you: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the first person.
or: Grk. ē, conj. used to denote an alternative. again: Grk. palin, adv. that may focus (1) on a repetitive occurrence; once more, again; or (2) reversion; back. The first meaning applies here. The conjunctive phrase indicates "in a similar manner." the head: Grk. ho kephalē, the head as an anatomical term. to the feet: pl. of Grk. ho pous. See verse 15 above. I have: Grk. echō, pres. not: Grk. ou. a need: Grk. chreia. of you: Grk. su. Paul employs the literary device of personification to assert that all parts of the human body depend on the other parts to function properly.
22 On the contrary, much rather, those parts of the body seeming to be weaker are essential.
On the contrary: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 14 above. much: Grk. polus, adj. See verse 12 above. rather: Grk. mallon, comparative adv. of increase or additive to some aspect of activity, situation, or condition; (much) more, rather. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. parts: pl. of Grk. melos. See verse 12 above. of the body: Grk. ho sōma. See verse 12 above. seeming: Grk. dokeō, pres. part., the basic idea of receptivity and hence attractiveness to the intellect appears throughout the verb's usage, which may mean to entertain an idea or form an opinion about something on the basis of what appears to support a specific conclusion; appear, opine, regard, seems to be, think.
to be: huparchō, pres. inf., to function or be in a state as determined by circumstance, here of occupying a position; be. weaker: Grk. asthenēs, adj., may mean (1) weak in body; sick, sickly; or (2) lacking capacity for something, weak, inferior. The second meaning applies here. The adjective sets up a contrast with another adjective, but Paul does not specify which parts of the body might be deemed "weaker." are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. essential: Grk. anagkaios, adj., essential or necessary, whether physically or relationally. From the Creator's point of view every part of the human body is essential to the overall design for optimum functioning.
For example, the human appendix, a narrow pouch 8 to 10 cm long, protruding from the cecum and situated in the lower right-hand part of the abdomen, has a notorious reputation for becoming inflamed (appendicitis), often resulting in surgical removal. Although it has long been viewed as a having no useful function, recent scientific research suggests that the appendix may serve as a reservoir for beneficial gut bacteria.
23 And those which we think to be less honorable of the body, these we bestow more abundant honor; and our unpresentable parts have more abundant propriety;
And: Grk. kai, conj. those which: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 8 above. we think: Grk. dokeō, pres. See the previous verse. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 2 above. less honorable: Grk. atimos, adj., held in low esteem, without honor or respect. of the body: Grk. ho sōma. See verse 12 above. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 11 above. we bestow: Grk. peritithēmi, pres., to put or place around or on, fig. bestow, confer. more abundant: Grk. perissos, adj. extraordinary in number, size or quality; extraordinary, in surplus, in abundance. The adjective also makes a comparison indicating the possession of something extra, which equals an advantage. honor: Grk. timē, high level of respect for special merit or quality; honor, esteem, regard, worth.
and: Grk. kai. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. unpresentable parts: pl. of Grk. aschēmōn, adj., without attractive form; uncomely, unseemly, indecent, unpresentable. The adjective occurs only here in the Besekh and alludes to the genitalia, whose exposure would be viewed a violation of good taste and contrary to good public order. have: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 12 above. more abundant: Grk. perissos. propriety: Grk. euschēmosunē, decorum, modesty, special respect. The term occurs only here in the Besekh. In other words, our unpresentable parts (the genitalia) are treated with greater modesty.
Paul employs polite understatement here since exposure of someone's genitalia is a grave offense in the Torah (cf. Gen 3:21; 9:20-25; Ex 20:26; Lev 18:6; Rev 3:18). Moreover, the public display of statutes of naked men and women in Greek and Roman cultures was highly offensive to Jewish values of decency (cf. Deut 4:16; Ezek 16:17; Gal 5:19). In time artistic nudity was accepted in Christianity and even included in the design of cathedrals and other church buildings.
24 Now our presentable parts have no need, but God organized the body, having given more abundant honor to the part lacking it,
Now: Grk. de, conj. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. presentable parts: pl. of Grk. euschēmōn, adj. that focuses on appropriateness as perceived by an onlooker; comely, decorous, presentable, seemly. have: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 12 above. no: Grk. ou, adv. of negation. need: Grk. chreia. See verse 21 above. but: Grk. alla, conj. God: See verse 3 above. organized: Grk. sugkerannumi, aor., cause to fit together; arrange, commingle, mix together, organize, unite. HELPS comments that the verb denotes "a holistic blend" where the parts work together synergistically. the body: Grk. ho sōma. See verse 12 above. Paul offers another assertion of the detailed nature of divine creation of the human body. It is the details, especially the structure of DNA, that testify to the work of a Creator.
having given: Grk. didōmi, aor. part. See verse 7 above. more abundant: Grk. perissos, adj. See the previous verse. honor: Grk. timē. See the previous verse. to the part lacking it: Grk. hustereō, pres. part., to be in a relatively deficient or disadvantaged state or condition; deplete, falling short, giving out, lacking. This may seem like a strange argument. Paul implies that the genitalia is the part of the body lacking honor, because it is kept covered, yet God grants that part great honor because it produces life by the one flesh of male and female.
25 in order that there should be no division in the body, but the parts should have concern, the same on behalf of one another.
in order that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed, in order that, so that, that. there should be: Grk. eimi, pres. subj. See verse 2 above. no: Grk. mē, adv. division: Grk. schisma, cleft, split or division, whether (1) natural (e.g., hooves, vulva); (2) through force (tearing fabric, ploughing land), or (3) social (differing opinions) (LSJ). in: Grk. en, prep. the body: Grk. ho sōma. See verse 12 above. The noun is not found in the LXX, although the verb schizō occurs 11 times in reference to cleaving wood (Gen 22:3), rock (Isa 48:21) or mountain (Zech 14:4) or the dividing of water (Ex 14:21) (DNTT 3:543).
The Creator did not build into the design of the human body any lack of cooperation of the various parts. The unity of function is another fact that argues against development of the body by chance. but: Grk. alla, conj. the parts: pl. of Grk. ho melos. See verse 12 above. should have concern: Grk. merimnaō, pres. subj., being uneasy in mind or spirit, either with (1) the focus on worrying about meeting one's needs, or (2) the focus on the need or interest of another. The second meaning applies here. In context the verb emphasizes the interdependence of the parts, which is especially true of the internal organs.
the same: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. on behalf of: Grk. huper, prep., lit. "over, above," used to express a stance of concern or interest relating to someone or something, here emphasizing a supportive aspect; for, in behalf of, in the interest of. one another: Grk. allēlōn, reciprocal pronoun, each other, one another. All the parts of the body work in the interest of the other parts. Cooperation and functioning for the overall good of the body is the hallmark of the several systems in the human body: circulatory, digestive, endocrine, exocrine, lymphatic, muscular, nervous, renal, reproductive, respiratory, and skeletal. Working together, these systems maintain internal stability and balance.
26 And whether one part suffers, all the parts suffer; whether one part is honored, all the parts rejoice.
And: Grk. kai, conj. whether: Grk. eite, conj. See verse 13 above. one: Grk. heis, adj., the primary number one. part: Grk. melos. See verse 12 above. suffers: Grk. paschō, pres., may mean (1) to experience something, generally positive or neutral; (2) to experience something negative, often in association with physical pain and death or emotional distress from circumstances. The second meaning applies here. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 6 above. the parts: pl. of Grk. melos. suffer: Grk. sumpaschō, pres., may mean (1) to suffer with, (2) to suffer the same thing as or (3) to have sympathy (BAG). In classical Greek literature the verb referred to experiencing pain in the medical sense (Thayer), which fits this context.
Paul presents the common experience that when one system of the body experiences symptomatic problems, such as an infection, other systems are invariably impacted. whether: Grk. eite. one: Grk. heis. part: Grk. melos. is honored: Grk. doxazō, pres. pass., enhance esteem or reputation through word (of praise) or action to honor. In the LXX doxazō renders Heb. navah (SH–5115), to beautify, adorn with praises (Ex 15:2), but principally kabad (SH–3513), to be weighty, to be honored or praised (Lev 10:3; Ps 15:4). The verb is used fig. of a bodily system operating at peak efficiency. The passive voice implies the work of the Creator to maintain His creation (cf. Heb 1:3).
all: pl. of Grk. pas. the parts: pl. of Grk. melos. rejoice: Grk. sugchairō, pres., take part in another's joy, rejoice with. Paul employs poetic language much as is found in the Tanakh, such as the trees will "sing for joy" (1Chr 16:33; Ps 96:12) and "clap their hands" (Isa 55:12). Also, the meadows and pastures "shout for joy" (Ps 65:12-13). In the poetic sense rejoicing depicts bodily systems enjoying the fullness of good health.
Application of the Analogy
Paul does not make a detailed application in his anatomy lesson to the congregation. He may have deemed the point to be self-evident. With a parabolic analogy he has endeavored to show the necessity of having diversity in the congregation for it to operate in unity. Each member must be willing to serve according to the gifting of the Spirit and not seek to function in a role for which the Spirit did not intend. The whole congregation cannot be a single gift, or it would not function properly. Paul brings the believers back to the sovereign purposes of God. It is God who has organized the congregation of Messiah in the way He wants it.
God desires that the congregation function in unity, just as the Father, Son and Spirit work in unity. Paul has emphasized that just as the systems of the human body are interdependent, so there should be mutual dependence and concern among the members of the congregation. Some members are conspicuous by their position and receive attention accordingly. Yet, the inconspicuous members are essential, those who pray, those who work with their hands and those bring their meager financial support. The inconspicuous members, especially the poor, are to be cared for. Members of the household of faith should have the priority of practical care from disciples (cf. Gal 6:10; Eph 4:25). Paul now proceeds to drive home his point about God's sovereign design for the congregation.
Appointed Ministries in the Congregation, 12:27-31
27 Now you are a body of Messiah, and members of a share.
Now: Grk. de, conj. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. The plural pronoun refers to the combined constituency of the congregation in Corinth. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. a body: Grk. sōma, nominative case. See verse 12 above. even though there is no definite article. of Messiah: Grk. Christos, genitive case. The noun also lacks the definite article. See verse 12 above. The figurative descriptive views the disciples of Yeshua as an organic whole. Grosheide favors the translation "a body of Messiah" in reference to the congregation in Corinth, but Mare objects believing the lack of the definite article with both nouns makes the reference specific to the global body of Messiah given that the genitive case of Christos determines the meaning. Most versions have "the body of Messiah (Christ)."
However, the genitive case of Christos gives the noun a descriptive function in relation to sōma to distinguish their identity from the idolatrous community. Also, when Paul wants to say "the body of Messiah" he presents both nouns in the genitive case with the definite article (Rom 7:4; 1Cor 10:16; Eph 4:12). Some versions recognize the adjectival function of Christos and translate the two nouns as "Christ's (Messiah's) body" (AMP, AMPC, DARBY, GNB, GW, MSG, NOG, NABRE, NASB, NEB, NET, NJB, NLT). Paul certainly does not imply that the congregation in Corinth comprises the entirety of the body of Messiah, although he could mean that the congregation represents the body of Messiah to the city of Corinth.
and: Grk. kai, conj. members: pl. of Grk. melos. See verse 12 above. Paul applies the anatomical term in a fig. sense of individuals in the congregation. of: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 15 above. a share: Grk. meros, a piece or segment of a whole; a part, portion or share. Many versions render the noun as an adverb "individually." The point is that each member has a share in the ministry of the congregation to the city. Paul could also be alluding to the global body of Messiah, of which the congregation in Corinth has a share.
28 And God indeed has appointed some in the congregation: firstly apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helping, administrating, and kinds of languages.
And: Grk. kai, conj. God: See verse 3 above. indeed: Grk. mén, particle of affirmation. See verse 8 above. Most versions don't translate the particle. has appointed: Grk. tithēmi, aor. mid. See verse 18 above. Paul asserts that the following offices and manifestations of the Spirit are the result of a divine decree. some: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 8 above. in: Grk. en, prep. the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia, assembly, gathering, meeting, or congregation. This is the fifth use of the term in Acts for the corporate organization of Yeshua's disciples. In Greek culture ekklēsia referred to a political body or a public meeting of citizens (Acts 19:32, 39, 41), but it primarily occurs in the Besekh for a religious body.
In the LXX ekklēsia renders the Heb. qahal (DNTT 1:292-295), which means assembly, convocation, or congregation (BDB 874). In the Tanakh qahal denotes the people of God in a corporate sense, often in the context of being gathered for worship or instruction (Deut 4:10; 31:30; Ps 35:18). Christian Bibles almost unanimously translate ekklēsia in this verse as "church." The word "church" is clearly an ecclesiastical term of Christianity. (See my background note on this subject here.) A few Christian versions opt for a different translation: "assembly" (DARBY, VOICE, WEB, YLT), and "congregation" (JUB, NMB). Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, MW and TLV) have "community."
I prefer to translate ekklēsia with "congregation," since its definition incorporates both organic and organizational characteristics and is more neutral in tone than "church." The opening clause describes the organization of the body of Messiah as it existed when Paul wrote this letter. He is also thinking of the complete Messianic movement and not just the assembly in Corinth. There is no implication that every office and Spirit-manifestation is present in every local assembly of believers. Lastly, Paul does not project this arrangement indefinitely into the future, although Christian commentators are prone to take that view. The order of the gifts is instructive.
firstly: Grk. prōton, adv., having to do with beforeness, with resultant meanings of (1) having a primary position in sequence and (2) standing out in significance or importance. The first meaning has application here. The first three offices are given in the same order as in Ephesians 4:11. apostles: pl. of Grk. apostolos, lit. "one sent," was used in Greek and Roman culture for a delegate, ambassador, envoy, messenger, emissary or official representative. Apostolos occurs one time in the LXX where it translates shaluach, Qal pass. part. of the verb shalach (SH-7971), "sent," in 1Kings 14:6 of Ahijah the prophet. Josephus also uses apostolos one time of a group of Jewish ambassadors sent to Rome to complain about the appointment of Archelaus (Ant. XVII, 11:1). Apostolos appears in no other early Jewish literature.
First century Judaism institutionalized the office of shaliach, who acted as an official messenger or a proxy for and with the full authority of the sender. The Mishnah says, "the agent [Heb. shaliach] is as the one who sends him" (Ber. 5:5). The shaliach’s mission was "limited in scope and duration by definite commission and terminating on its completion" (DNTT 1:128). In the Besekh the term "apostle" is specifically applied to the original Twelve (Matt 10:2), then Mattathias (Acts 1:26), Paul (Acts 14:14), Barnabas (Acts 14:14), and Jacob (aka "James," the brother of Yeshua, Gal 1:19). The apostles of Yeshua were so named because they had "seen the Lord," either during his earthly ministry or after his resurrection (John 20:25; Acts 4:33; 9:27; 1Cor 9:1; 15:5-9; 1Jn 1:1).
An apostle of the King of Israel is no minor office. All the apostles were Jewish and their names are inscribed on the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:14). The apostles had the authority to proclaim the good news, determine orthodox doctrine, impose requirements based on application of Torah ("bind and loose," Matt 16:19; 18:18), and shepherd the congregations they founded (cf. 1Cor 14:37). While the office of being sent to plant new evangelistic works or conduct cross-cultural ministry, continued beyond the first century, the unique authority of the apostolic office ended with the original apostles and the publication of their canonical writings. In my view it is unbiblical to refer to any ministry leader today as "an apostle."
Paul gives the office of apostle first place, because the apostles were authoritative messengers of Yeshua and a faction in Corinth had rejected his authority over them. Many Christians, particularly in modern times, have denied apostolic authority (especially of Paul) by describing their pronouncements as culturally conditioned and therefore inapplicable to contemporary Christian life. Yet, Yeshua had given his apostles authority to provide authoritative instruction. The Jewish term for this instruction is halakhah (lit. "way to walk"). Specifically Yeshua gave his apostles the right to bind and loose (Matt 16:19; 18:18; cf. 1Th 2:6). "Bind" refers to forbidding activities ("bind") and "loose" refers to permitting activities ("loose") (Stern 57). See the article, "Binding and Loosing," in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
What is remarkable is that the Jewish author of this article acknowledges that Yeshua gave his apostles the same authority claimed by the Pharisees, scribes and Sanhedrin. Since Yeshua had made Paul an apostle to Israel and the nations (Acts 9:15; 26:16-18; Rom 1:5, 16), he had the same halachic authority as Peter. Paul's authority came under fire as the congregation in Corinth divided into parties pledging allegiance to various leaders (Messiah, Peter, Apollos and Paul, 1Cor 1:12). Adversaries of Paul slandered his character and deemed him unworthy to tell them what to do. In his first letter he asserted his authority in specific matters of congregational shortcomings (1Cor 5:3-5; 6:5; 7:8; 14:27).
In fact, Paul told them that he had a right to tell them what to do because he was their father in the faith (1Cor 4:15). In his second letter to Corinth Paul warned them that continued insubordination would result in God's judgment (2Cor 13:1-2). Paul had the backing of God. Paul is clear about his personal opinions (e.g., 1Cor 7:25-26, 40; 2Cor 8:10), but when he and the canonical apostles (Eph 2:20) command behavior we should consider it a moral obligation (2Pet 3:2; Jude 1:17).
secondly: Grk. deuteros, adj., second, in the second place, used here in an adverbial sense. prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In ancient Greek culture the word-group always had a religious meaning and referred to one who predicts or tells beforehand (DNTT 3:76). In the LXX prophētēs renders Heb. nabi (SH-5030), spokesman, speaker, or prophet; first in Genesis 20:7. In Scripture a prophet is one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling. Several individuals in the body of Messiah are identified as prophets: Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21:10), Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen (Acts 13:1), and Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32). Also, the four daughters of Phillip were known as prophetesses (Acts 21:9).
thirdly: Grk. tritos, adj., a third part, but used here adverbially to mean in third place, thirdly. teachers: pl. of Grk. didaskalos, teacher or instructor who regularly engaged in the imparting of knowledge or skills, a vocation of special status among the Israelites. The Greek term occurs 59 times in the Besekh, all but 9 in the apostolic narratives. In the LXX didaskalos only occurs twice, first in Esther 6:1 where the meaning is "reader" (participle form of Heb. qara, to call, proclaim, read, BDB 894). The second occurrence of the noun is in 2Maccabees 1:10 to denote Aristobulus, the head of the Egyptian Jewish community, who, having dedicated an exposition of the Pentateuch to King Ptolemy Philometor, is called a teacher clearly for this reason.
The Heb. equivalent is moreh, which is rendered by the participle didaskōn in Proverbs 5:13 and Isaiah 9:15. The word moreh comes from the same root as Torah and means one who throws out, or points out, directs, or instructs (BDB 435). In the Qumran texts Heb. moreh, "teacher," occurs frequently, often with a qualifying phrase like "the righteous one," such as in the Damascus Document (CD 1:11; 20:32) and in the Commentary on Habakkuk (1QpHab 1:13; 2:2; 5:10; 7:4; 8:3; 9:9; 11:5), probably in reference to the founder of the sect (DNTT 3:767). Moreh is derived from the verb yarah, to throw or shoot and thus "one who throws out," "points out," or "instructs," (Prov 5:13; Isa 9:15).
In the Messianic Movement teachers instructed new believers in the Scriptures and New Covenant Torah (cf. Acts 11:26; 2Tim 3:16; Heb 5:12). The title of didaskalos is applied to the men at Antioch identified as prophets (Acts 13:1). Paul identifies himself as a teacher (1Tim 2:7; 2Tim 1:11). In his Ephesian letter Paul names "teachers" as an office provided by Yeshua to assist in building up the body of Messiah (4:11-12). A notable teacher of Scripture who ministered at Corinth was Apollos (Acts 18:24; 19:1) and to whom a group within the congregation expressed loyalty (1Cor 1:12). Paul considered him a fellow servant of Yeshua (1Cor 3:5).
then: Grk. epeita, adv. with the idea of addition as a component; thereupon, then. miracles: pl. of Grk. dunamis. See verse 10 above. The working of miracles was associated with the ministry of the apostles and evangelists, sometimes described as "signs and wonders" (Acts 2:22; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 8:6; 14:3; 15:12; 2Cor 12:12; Heb 2:4). then: Grk. epeita. gifts: pl. of Grk. charisma. See verse 4 above. of healings: pl. of Grk. iama. See verse 9 above. The plural form may imply different kinds of healing, whether emotional, physical or spiritual. helping: Grk. antilēmpsis, taking the part of, lending a hand to, the capacity to help or assist others; help, ministration. The noun describes God's work of bringing His helps of grace and power through someone to meet the need of another (HELPS). The noun occur only here in the Besekh.
administrating: Grk. kubernēsis, properly a helmsman, someone who steers or guides a ship; fig. of the divine empowerment for leadership in the congregation (HELPS). The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. and kinds: pl. of Grk. genos. See verse 10 above. of languages: pl. of Grk. glōssa. See verse 10 above. The phrase "kinds of languages" obviously does not refer to glossolalia (contrary to modern interpretation), but groupings of languages, such as were present at Pentecost (Acts 2:8-13). Linguistic experts identity some 15 families of languages in the world, incorporating over 7,000 dialects. Skill in languages is essential in cross-cultural ministry. Noteworthy is that the gift of "languages" is at the bottom of this list. There is no apostolic expectation that every disciple will manifest this gift.
29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all miracle-workers?
Are: Grk. mē, adv, particle of negation, used here in an interrogative sense. The grammatical construction of the question is Hebraic. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 6 above. Many versions render the question as "Not all … are they?" apostles: pl. of Grk. apostolos. See the previous verse. Are all: Paul repeats the interrogatory construction. prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs. See the previous verse. Are all: Paul repeats the interrogatory construction. teachers: pl. of Grk. didaskalos. See the previous verse. Are all: Paul repeats the interrogatory construction. miracle-workers: pl. of Grk. dunamis. See the previous verse. The logical answer to each of these question is "no."
30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak languages? Do all interpret?
Do: Grk. mē, adv, particle of negation, used here in an interrogative sense. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 6 above. The question implied is "not all … do they?" have: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 12 above. gifts of healings: pl. of Grk. charisma iama. See verse 9 above and the previous verse. Do all: Paul repeats the interrogatory construction. speak: Grk. laleō, pres. See verse 3 above. languages: pl. of Grk. glōssa. See verse 10 above and the previous verse.
Do all: Paul repeats the interrogatory construction. interpret: Grk. diermēneuō, pres., to make something clear or intelligible, to interpret or explain. Paul employs a different verb here than used in verse 10 above. Interpretation goes beyond translation to explain the meaning of a message. This is especially important in cross-cultural settings. Again, the logical answer to each of these question is "no." Moreover, there should be no expectation that the Spirit would endow every disciple with every one of these gifts.
31 But be zealous of the greater gifts. And yet, I show to you according to a surpassing way.
But: Grk. de, conj. be zealous: Grk. zēloō, pres. imp., may mean (1) to have a passionate interest in something, to be zealous; or (2) to envy, be jealous. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX (and in Gen 37:11) zēloō renders Heb. qanah (SH-7065), to be jealous, even to the point of anger, or zealous. The Greek and Hebrew verbs have the unique duality of sometimes being a negative emotion and sometimes a positive emotion. of the greater: pl. of Grk. megas, adj., large or great in extent and used (1) of any extension in space in all directions; or (2) fig. of measure, whether of age, quantity, intensity, importance or social position (BAG). The adjective is used here to emphasize importance.
gifts: pl. of Grk charisma. See verse 4 above. The greater gifts might be the top three in verse 28 by virtue of their status, but the greater gifts might be those that provide the greatest amount of service to the body of Messiah. And: Grk. kai, conj. yet: Grk. eti, adv. expressing addition, yet, still. I show: Grk. deiknumi, pres., may mean to show (1) so as to be observed by another, point out, make known; or (2) or so as to be understood by another, explain, demonstrate. The first usage applies here. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. according to: Grk. kata, prep., down, against or according to. The preposition is used here in reference to agreement or conformity to a standard.
a surpassing: Grk. huperbolē, a state or circumstance beyond a limiting point in degree; excellent, preeminent, surpassing, or superior. way: Grk. hodos (for Heb. derek, SH-1870), with the focus on the concept of going the word typically has the sense of a route for traveling, hence a way, a road or a highway. The term is used here metaphorically of a way of life, an ethical framework. In the next chapter Paul will explain that the way of love is superior to the zeal for gifts.
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.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
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 BibleHub.com)
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.
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.
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.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. 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.
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