First Corinthians

Chapter 13

Blaine Robison, M.A.

An Exegetical Commentary

Published 24 February 2017; Revised 19 December 2021 (in progress)

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Scripture Text: The text of 1 Corinthians 13 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. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.

Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include the following:

DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last three centuries BC and the first century AD. Online DSS Bible.

LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C. Online.

Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.

Philo: Citations of Philo of Alexandria, the first century Jewish philosopher (20 B.C.─A.D. 50) are from The Works of Philo Judaeus, compiled by Peter Kirby, found online at Early Jewish Writings.

Talmud: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Click here for Talmud abbreviations.

Targums: The targums are early Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text with commentary: Targum Jerusalem (1st c. AD), Targum Neofiti (1st c. AD), Targum Onkelos (c. 35–120 AD) and Targum Jonathan (2nd c. AD). See an index of targum texts here.

Syntax: 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 and pronunciation of Greek words. Parsing data for Greek words is from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew #) and "SG" (Strong's Greek #). Strong's Online.

Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms ADONAI (for 'LORD' when quoting a Tanakh source), Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).

See Introduction to First Corinthians for background information on the letter.

Chapter Overview

This chapter contains profound truth of a singular nature, as Paul expounds on the more excellent way of life, that of love. His timeless exhortation calls the disciple of Yeshua to truly fulfill the two great commandments of the Torah: love God first and love one's neighbor as oneself.

Chapter Outline

The Lack of Love, 13:1-3

The Nature of Love, 13:4-7

The Endurance of Love, 13:8-10

The Maturity of Love, 13:11-13

The Lack of Love, 13:1-3

Paul begins his treatise on love by considering the negative, what a person is without love.

1 If I should speak the languages of human beings and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass instrument or a clanging cymbal.

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. I should speak: Grk. laleō, pres. subj., is used in the Besekh primarily to mean making an oral statement and to exercise the faculty of speech; assert, proclaim, report, say, speak, talk about, utter. The subjunctive mood represents mild contingency or probability; it looks toward what is conceivable or potential. Thus, the verbs in the first section denote a hypothetical situation.

the languages: pl. of Grk. ho glōssa, tongue, may mean (1) the tongue as an organ of speech (Mark 7:33); or (2) a distinctive language system (Acts 2:4, 11; Rev 5:9); as well as fig. uses, e.g., the phenomenon of flames at Pentecost likened to "tongues" (Acts 2:3). 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. Paul does not refer here to so-called "glossolalia." For more discussion of that subject see my article Speaking in Tongues.

of human beings: pl. Grk. ho anthrōpos, human being, man, or mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos translates three Hebrew words: (1) adam (SH-444; Gen 1:26-27); (2) ish (SH-376; Gen 2:23-24) and (3) enosh (SH-582; Ps 8:4-5), which are generally used for an adult male, husband, or a human in contrast to animals or mankind, and often signifying the aspect of weakness and mortality (DNTT 2:564). The plural noun includes all ethnic groups whose major cultural distinction is language. Wycliffe Bible Translators has identified over 3,000 people groups in the world, and close to 7,000 languages are known to be in use today.

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.

of angels: pl. of Grk. angelos, means one sent, a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In the LXX angelos translates Heb. malak (SH-4397), a messenger, representative, courier or angel (DNTT 1:101f). The decision to translate malak or angelos as angel or messenger (i.e., human) relies primarily on the context. The term is used here to mean a heavenly messenger. Post-Tanakh Judaism developed an elaborate angelology (Stern 824), primarily the Essenes and Pharisees. The Sadducees did not believe in angels (Acts 23:8). Josephus said that the Essenes in particular preserved the names of the angels (Wars II, 8:7).

Angels appear frequently in Scripture and are far different from the Hollywood depiction and popular assumptions about angels. Angels are not glorified humans that earn status in heaven by doing good works on earth. All individual angels mentioned in Scripture have masculine names or descriptions, contrary to popular art and media, which sometimes depicts them as female. In addition, only a special group of heavenly beings are mentioned in Scripture as having wings (Ex 37:9; Isa 6:2; Ezek 10:5; Rev 4:8), and these beings may not be angels at all. It seems reasonable that angels would have a distinctive language from humans, but in Scripture they speak Hebrew (or Greek) so as to be understand by the human hearers. For a review of the varieties and classes of angels see my article The Host of Heaven.

but: Grk. de, 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," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The first meaning applies here. have: Grk. echō, pres. subj., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application. not: Grk. , adv., a particle of qualified negation, not. The particle is subjective, involving will and thought. love: Grk. agapē, a relatively high level of interest in the well-being of another, affection, esteem, love. The noun agapē is one of the four Greek words for "love."

In the LXX agapē renders Heb. ahavah (SH-160, BDB 12), which is used of both human and divine love. The Jewish translators of the LXX apparently coined the noun agapē, since there is no Greek literature earlier than the LXX that uses the word (DNTT 2:539). God's nature and actions are the epitome of agapē (1Jn 4:8) and the preeminent virtue, as Paul describes in this chapter. The essential factor in every passage employing agapē is the willingness to sacrifice for an object, which sets it apart from the affection of phileō, the family loyalty of storgē and the passion of eros. Here Paul is talking about love that is a fruit of the Spirit, instilling God's love into His people. The reality is that we cannot possibly fulfill the two great commandments to love without God's help.

I have become: Grk. ginomai, perf., to transfer from one state to another, and here means come to be, become, take place, happen, occur. The perfect tense denotes what a person has become and continues to be (Rienecker). a sounding: Grk. ēcheō, pres. part., make sound that spreads beyond the point of origin, the nature of the sound being dependent on the contextual source; reverberate. brass instrument: Grk. chalkos may mean (1) metal (copper, brass or bronze) as material for a manufactured commodity; metal; or (2) an object made of metal. The second meaning applies here in relation to something that produces a resounding tone; gong.

or: Grk. ē, conj. used to denote an alternative. a clanging: Grk. alalazō, pres. part., make a piercing sound; clash, clang. cymbal: Grk. kumbalon. The noun referred to a hollow basin of brass (Robertson). Cymbals played a part in the Jewish worship service, but even a greater role in the pagan worship of the goddess Cybele and Bacchus.

2 And if I should have prophecy, and understand all the mysteries and all the knowledge; and if I should have all the trust, so as to remove mountains, but not have love, I am nothing.

And: Grk. kai, conj. if: Grk. ean, conj. See the previous verse. I should have: Grk. echō, pres. subj. See the previous verse. 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. In the LXX prophēteia occurs 7 times and translates three terms: (1) Heb. nebuah (SH-5016), prophecy, first in 2Chronicles 15:8 of the prophecy of Oded, as well as in Ezra 5:1; 6:14 of the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah; (2) Heb. chazon (SH-2377), vision, only in 2Chronicles 32:32 in reference to the prophecy of Isaiah; and (3) Heb. nabi (SH-5030), a spokesman, speaker, prophet, only in Daniel 9:24 in regard to the prophecy of the Messiah.

In the Tanakh prophecy was conducted by recognized prophets who were inspired by the Holy Spirit (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. Paul uses the term here of the gift of prophecy, the benefits of which are identified in the next chapter as edification, encouragement and consolation (1Cor 14:3).

and: Grk. kai. understand: Grk. oida, perf. subj., may mean (1) to have information about, in an objective sense to know; (2) to have discernment about; perceive, understand, be aware. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (SH-3045), to know, (e.g., Gen 3:5; 4:1), which in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, primarily by experience but also by learning (DNTT 2:395). all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. the mysteries: pl. of Grk. ho mustērion, n. pl., which in common Greek usage meant a secret rite or secret teaching. Yeshua first used the term "mystery" when he explained why he taught in parables to proclaim the kingdom (Matt 13:11; Mark 4:11), but the concept of God’s secrecy was originally explained to Moses, "the secret things belong to the Lord" (Deut 29:29).

In Scripture a mystery is a reality or plan that God kept concealed from His people but finally revealed to his apostles (cf. Eph 3:5). God had communicated several mysteries to his prophets (cf. Dan 2:28f; Matt 13:11; 1Cor 4:1; 13:2), but the meaning remained obscure, in effect hidden in plain sight. God’s secret counsels were necessary because man cannot really be trusted (John 2:24f) and Satan engages in unceasing warfare against God’s kingdom and would certainly use any intelligence to hinder God’s workings (John 10:10; cf. Eph 6:12; 1Th 2:18; 1Pet 5:8). Paul identifies several mysteries in his letters:

· the mystery of Torahlessness (2Th 2:7)

· the mystery of the Messiah (1Cor 2:7-8; Eph 1:9; 3:4; Col 1:26f; 2:2; 4:3)

· the mystery of the resurrection (1Cor 15:51)

· the mystery of the hardening of Israel (Rom 11:25)

· the mystery of the good news (Rom 16:25; Eph 6:19)

· the mystery of the Body of Messiah (Eph 1:9; 3:3-6; 5:32; Col 1:27)

· the mystery of the faith (1Tim 3:9)

· the mystery of godliness (1Tim 3:16)

and: Grk. kai. all: Grk. pas. the knowledge: Grk. ho gnōsis, knowledge and understanding with special reference to insight relating to matters involving God and spiritual perception. The term is especially used as an attribute of God and in Scripture knowledge of God is always linked with God's acts of self-revelation. In the LXX gnōsis generally renders Heb. da'at (e.g. Josh 23:13; 1Sam 2:3; 1Chr 4:10; Ps 19:2; 73:11; 94:10; 119:66; 139:6; Prov 2:6; 8:9), which may refer to general knowledge received from God or others, knowledge possessed by God, prophetic knowledge or knowledge by man of God (BDB 395). The usage of gnōsis in the LXX clearly demonstrates that Paul did not borrow pagan terminology. Knowledge refers to what has been demonstrated to be true and does not include the mythologies believed in various cultures.

and: Grk. kai. if: Grk. ean. I have: Grk. echō, pres. subj. all: Grk. pas. the trust: Grk. ho pistis incorporates two primary facets of meaning, first that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and second, trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). Pistis is used in the LXX to twice render Heb. emun (SH-529; Deut 32:20; Prov 13:17; 'faithfulness,' BDB 53), but it also renders Heb. emunah (SH-530; 'firmness, steadfastness, fidelity,' BDB 53) over 20 times, mainly of men's faithfulness (1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; Prov 3:3; 12:17, 22; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20; but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4). Pistis also translates Heb. aman (SH-539, to confirm, to support, Jer 15:18), amanah (SH-548, 'fixed support,' Neh 9:38; 11:23; SS 4:8) and emet (SH-571, firmness, faithfulness, truth, Prov 14:22; Jer 28:9; 33:6).

The occurrence of pistis in the LXX 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, constancy and obedience, which includes following God’s direction for life and producing works of righteousness (cf. Eph 2:8-10).

so as: Grk. hōste, conj., may be used to (1) introduce an independent clause that represents a consequence of the statement that precedes; for this reason, therefore, and so; or (2) introduces a dependent clause of an actual result; for the purpose of, with a view to, in order that. The second usage applies here. to remove: Grk. methistēmi, pres. inf., to cause to move from a place, position or situation; remove, transfer. mountains: Grk. oros, n. pl., means "mountain," "hill," or "hill-country." The corresponding Heb. word, har, is given in Scripture to a comparatively large ridge, a collection of small hills and to many hogbacks in Israel. Modern science distinguishes hills from mountains by classifying a hill as being less than 1,000 feet above its surroundings, but the distinction may depend upon local interpretation.

Paul could intend "mountains" in a fig. sense as Yeshua used the term in the parable of the fig tree (Matt 21:21; Mark 11:23). In Scripture "mountain" is used to symbolize a king, royal power or a kingdom (Ps 2:6; 30:7; Jer 51:25; Dan 2:35; Rev 17:9-10). "Mountain" also occurs as a euphemism for the temple, since it sat on a mountain (Ps 3:4; 15:1; 24:3; 99:9; Isa 56:7; Micah 3:2), and is probably the intended meaning in Yeshua's parable. Being thrown into the sea is symbolic of God's judgment (Jon 1:12; 2:3; Luke 17:2; Rev 8:8), just as Egypt's horses and riders were hurled into the sea (Ex 15:1, 21; Neh 9:11). So, Paul imagines a scene in which he might carry out Yeshua's judgment on the very rulers who made his life so difficult (cf. 1Cor 2:6, 8; 2Th 2:14-16).

but: Grk. de, conj. not: Grk. , adv. have: Grk. echō, pres. subj. love: Grk. agapē. See the previous verse. I am: Grk. eimi, pres., to be., a function word used in a wide variety of grammatical constructions, 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). nothing: Grk. outheis, adj., not one, none, nothing. Oudeis categorically excludes, declaring as a fact that no valid example exists (HELPS). Paul's use of the negative term would also include the meaning "of no account," that is, having no value or worth. Paul is not condemning these great gifts. He simply places love above them and essential to them.

3 And if I should dole out all my possessions, and if I should hand over my body so that I may boast, but should not possess love, I am profited nothing.

And: Grk. kai, conj. if: Grk. ean, conj. I should dole out: Grk. psōmizō, aor. subj., may mean (1) cause to eat by doling out; or (2) dole out piecemeal. The verb means to break into crumbs or small morsels as a parent might do to feed a child; divide into small fragments (Grosheide). Paul describes dividing property in such a way as to help as many people as possible. all: Grk. pas, adj., n. pl. See verse 1 above. my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. possessions: Grk. huparchō, pres. part., may mean (1) be present in a functional manner; or (2) to function or be in a state as determined by circumstance. The participial form of the verb denotes property or holdings. Translation choices include "goods," "possessions" and "everything I own." The Torah requires care for the poor:

"If there is a poor man among you—any of your brothers within any of your gates in your land that ADONAI your God is giving you—you are not to harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother." (Deut 15:7; cf. Isa 58:7)

Yeshua encouraged his disciples to sell goods and give to the poor (Luke 12:33) and even directed the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions for the sake of the poor (Matt 19:21). From the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6) it might appear that the principal location for giving alms (charity) in Jerusalem was at the Temple. Within the Court of the Women thirteen chests for charitable contributions were placed (cf. Mark 12:41; John 8:20). However, the alms-boxes at the Temple were intended for gifts to God and the Temple, not for the poor. In reality, the synagogue, with its charity box, served as the principal institution for distributing aid to the poor.

Among Jews charitable giving to the poor was the best good work a person could do. This is the epitome of loving your neighbor and in so doing loving your God. Even loaning money without interest or helping a poor man to some lucrative occupation (Shab. 63a) was considered a form of almsgiving. In apocryphal works, giving alms could gain atonement and forgiveness for past sins (Tobit 12:8-9; Sirach 3:14-15, 30). There was a rabbinic saying: "Charity saves from death" (Baba Bathra 10a).

The Mishnah identified four types of persons with respect to almsgiving (Avot 5:13):

1. He who gives but does not care that others should give. The poor are not fully served.

2. He who desires others to give, but does not give himself. His eye is stingy with regards to the use of his own.

3. He who desires to give and that others should give. He is a pious man.

4. He who desires not to give and that others too should not give. He is a wicked man.

Although giving to charity was held in high esteem by the rabbis and thought to gain great merit, rabbis later ruled in the second century that a man should not give away more than a fifth of his entire fortune "lest from independence he may lapse into a state of dependence" (Ket. 50a). As a Pharisee Paul no doubt engaged in almsgiving, but after his encounter with Yeshua he realized that his motivation for good works was defective.

and if: Grk. ean. I should hand over: Grk. paradidōmi, aor. subj., to convey from one position to another, in general "to hand over," whether involuntarily or voluntarily. Paul uses the verb here of a generous giving. my body: Grk. sōma, a structured physical unit in contrast to its parts, body of human or animal, whether living or dead, but normally of a living human body. While Greek dualism distinguished between the soul and the body, in Hebraic thought the body represents the whole man. Paul's expression of "hand over my body" implies "to God," and may anticipate his later exhortation to the Roman congregation: "I exhort you then, brothers and sisters, by the mercy of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, your reasonable service" (Rom 12:1 mine). so that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed, in order that, so that, that.

I may boast: Grk. kauchaomai, fut. pass., have or express pride in being intimately associated or involved with some person, thing, or circumstance, often meaning boast. (See the textual note below.) Giving in order to boast was a particular fault of Pharisees noted by Yeshua (Matt 6:2) and Paul may be implying that he had once been guilty of this failure. but: Grk. de, conj. should not: Grk. , adv. See the previous verse. possess: Grk. echō, pres. subj. love: Grk. agapē. See verse 1 above. I am profited: Grk. ōpheleō, pres. pass., may mean (1) to engage in activity that brings about something good above and beyond that which existed earlier either in the sense of (a) help, assist; (b) cause to benefit, be of advantage to, be of benefit to, or (c) be of value; or (2) be successful in an activity. The first meaning applies here. nothing: Grk. oudeis, adv. See the previous verse on "nothing."

Paul affirms that without love being the motivating factor in the giving of one's self or property, the sacrifice is meaningless and has no value to God.

Textual Note: Most versions translate the second clause to read "if I give my body to be burned," but some have "if I give my body that I may boast," or words to that effect (CEB, HCSB, NAB, NET, NIV, NLT, NRSV, TLV). MSS evidence is divided with some authorities having kauthēsōmai, fut. pass. of kaiō, to burn, and others having kauchēsomai, fut. pass. of kauchaomai, to boast. The reading of kauchēsomai has early support from 4th century MSS Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, 4th century fathers Ephraem and Jerome, 3rd century fathers Clement and Origen, and p46 dated about A.D. 200 (GNT 607). However, the reading of kauthēsomai (to boast) also has early support from the 3rd century fathers Tertullian, Rebaptism, Cyprian, Methodius and Clement, and the majority of later MSS.

Metzger suggests that the variant reading of kauthēsomai would have crept into the text after the church entered the epoch of martyrdom in which death by fire was not rare (498). The UBS/NA28 Committee chose kauchaomai, but gave it a "C" rating, meaning the committee had difficulty in deciding which variant to place in the text. Commentators favoring "burned" see an allusion to the story of Daniel's friends in the fiery furnace (Dan 3:38). Stern notes that Paul could be speaking of voluntary martyrdom, thinking of the worst case scenario. However, Daniel's friends did not volunteer for martyrdom and Paul would certainly not be suggesting voluntary self-burning (i.e., suicide).

13:4-7, The Nature of Love

4 Love is patient, is kind, and is not envious; love is not boastful, is not arrogant,

Divine Love is described in typical Hebrew fashion with ten action verbs (one used twice), eight of which are stated negatively.

Love: Grk. agapē. See verse 1 above. is patient: Grk. makrothumeō, pres., wait patiently for something (BAG). The word is derived from makros ("long, far distance") and thumos ("passion, anger"). Idiomatically the verb means "putting anger far away." is kind: Grk. chrēsteuomai, pres., function in a helpful manner; be useful, be helpful, be kind. and is not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 1 above. envious: Grk. zēloō, pres., may mean (1) to have a passionate interest in something, to be zealous; or (2) to envy, be jealous. The second meaning applies here. There is no jealousy over gifts; people are free to serve without worrying who gets the credit. In the LXX zēloō renders the Heb. qanah (SH-7065), to be jealous or zealous (first in Gen 26:14) and the Heb. noun qinah (SH-7068), ardor, zeal, jealousy (first in Num 25:11).

The Hebrew noun and verb are used to distinguish the two opposite attitudes of zeal (generally portrayed positively) and jealousy (portrayed negatively). Qana could be manifested negatively as mild envy to covetousness, resentment or suspicion. Joseph’s brothers were jealous because of the coat and attention Jacob gave him. The Torah provides a test for a man who becomes jealous through being suspicious of his wife being involved with another man (Numbers 5). On the other hand Phinehas showed qana for God by executing idolaters (Num 25:11). Qana is also used of God in the context of the second commandment (Ex 20:5). Using the negative particle Paul means that "love" is not jealous. Conversely, he could have said that love is zealous, especially for God.

love: Grk. agapē. is not: Grk. ou. boastful: Grk. perpereuomai, pres., behave as a windbag; boast, brag. is not: Grk. ou. arrogant: Grk. phusioō, pres., in imagery of a bellows: cause to inflate with a sense of self importance; puff up, make proud, become conceited, put on airs. Stern notes that this description of love is not of its outward manifestations but of its inward properties. Paul does not, however, define love as inward feelings, because love must act (1Jn 2:5—4:21), faith works itself out in love (Gal 5: 6). It is precisely because love produces deeds that it fulfills the Torah (Rom 13:8–10).

5 not behaving dishonorably, not seeking the things of its own, not becoming irritable, not keeping account of wrong,

not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 1 above. behaving dishonorably: Grk. aschēmoneō, pres., behave in a manner that invites disgrace or censure; behave improperly or dishonorably. not: Grk. ou. seeking: Grk. zēteō, pres., may mean (1) be on the search for in order to find someone or something one has difficulty in locating; (2) search for ways to satisfy an interest; (3) have an interest in; or (4) press for. The second meaning has application here. the things: Grk. ho, n. pl., definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. of its own: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person; itself. The phrase "not seeking things of its own" would be equivalent to being unselfish. not: Grk. ou. becoming irritable: Grk. paroxunō, pres. pass., to stimulate affective expression, with the passive voice focusing on reaction to something. The verb refers here to a negative reaction of being provoked to anger.

not: Grk. ou. keeping account: Grk. logizomai, pres. mid., to count or calculate in a numerical sense, but also to infer, conclude, presume, to think upon, or ponder (Mounce). of wrong: Grk. kakos, may mean (1) morally or socially reprehensible; bad, wrong; or (2) causing harm, with focus on personal or physical injury; harmful, bad. Danker says the first meaning applies here, but actually the second meaning could also have application. In the LXX kakos is used to render Heb. ra (SH-7451), which has the same dual meaning (DNTT 1:562). Some versions translate the singular noun as plural to emphasize its comprehensive nature, but this is unnecessary. The point is that agapē cannot abide alongside of resentment and bitterness.

6 rejoices not over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

rejoices: Grk. chairō, pres., has two usages: (1) to be in a state marked by good feeling about an event or circumstance; be happy, glad, delighted, rejoice; and (2) an expression of greeting that is normally tantamount to assuring the other of one's good will, a kind of introductory social ointment; greetings, hail. The first meaning applies here. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 1 above. over: Grk. epi, prep. used primarily as a marker of position or location; 'at, in, on, upon, over.' unrighteousness: Grk. adikia means wrongdoing, unrighteousness, wickedness or injustice. The word group (adikia, the adj. adikos, and the vb. adikeō) pictures the unjust man as opposite of the just man. Adikia covers all that offends against morals, custom or decency, all things that are unseemly, unspeakable or fraudulent and is what harms the order of the world. Adikia is rooted in legal thinking. (DNTT 3:573f).

In the LXX adikia, occurring about 250 times and rendering 36 different Hebrew words, indicates that sin in ancient Israel was above all an offence against the sacred order of divine justice (1Sam 3:13f). Thus, it affects the community, whose existence is most intimately connected with the preservation of divine justice. Adikia is ultimately sin against God and the community (cf. 1John 5:17). This is an important characteristic that sets the disciple apart from others. The world finds ungodly and unrighteous acts a source of entertainment and even admiration, whereas the disciple knows that those things only bring shame and judgment.

but: Grk. de, conj. rejoices with: Grk. sunchairō, pres., have joy in association with; rejoice with the focus on sharing another's joy. the truth: Grk. alētheia may mean (1) truthfulness, dependability, uprightness in thought and deed, (2) truth as opposed to what is false, or (3) reality as opposed to mere appearance (BAG). The first meaning applies here. In the LXX alētheia regularly translates the Heb. emet ("firmness, faithfulness, truth," BDB 54), although Christian Bibles sometimes render it as "truth" and sometimes as "faithfulness" (DNTT 3:877). Emet is often used for truthfulness in God and piety in man.

7 it bears all things, it believes all things, it hopes all things, it endures all things.

it bears: Grk. stegō, pres., resist taking action, to cover; to hold off, to hold in; hence, to hold out against, to endure patiently (Mounce). Love covers, protects, and forbears. Peter illustrates the principle in his saying, "love covers a multitude of sins" (1Pet 4:8). all things: Grk. pas, n. pl. See verse 2 above. The expression "all things" is probably shorthand for "all kinds of circumstances." it believes: Grk. pisteuō, pres., in general Greek usage means to have confidence or faith in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the LXX pisteuō renders the Heb. 'aman (SH-539), which means to confirm or support, as well as to be true, reliable or faithful, and to stand firm or trust (BDB 52). Paul does not mean that love is gullible. He more likely means that love remains faithful in all circumstances. all things: Grk. pas.

it hopes: Grk. elpizō, pres., to look for; hope, expect. The verb is not used to express mere wishful thinking. Love keeps on hoping. It sees the bright side of things and does not despair. all things: Grk. pas. it endures: Grk. hupomenō, pres., to endure, to patiently and triumphantly endure, to show constancy in the circumstances. Divine love does not allow circumstances to define how it will react. all things: Grk. pas.

The Endurance of Love, 13:8-10

8 Love never fails; but whether prophecies, they will be eliminated; whether languages, they will cease; whether knowledge, it will pass away.

Love: Grk. agapē. See verse 1 above. never: Grk. oudepote, neg. adv., excluding any occurrence of action cited. fails: Grk. piptō, pres., to drop from a relatively high position to a lower position. The verb carries the sense here of moral or spiritual failure. but: Grk. de, conj. Paul changes focus from the present to the future, probably the future age of Messiah's kingdom on earth. This comparative focus of two worlds is typical of rabbinic thinking (Stern). whether: Grk. eite, conj., and if, if also, whether. prophecies: Grk. prophēteia, f. pl. See verse 2 above. they will be eliminated: Grk. katargeō, fut. pass., cause to become idle, ineffective or inoperative. In the age to come prophecy will have no place. All prophecy of Scripture will have been fulfilled.

whether: Grk. eite. languages: Grk. glōssa, f. pl. See verse 1 above. The plural noun probably denotes the diversity of languages in the world. they will cease: Grk. pauō, fut. mid., engage in cessation of an activity or state; stop, cease. The multitude of languages was a curse on mankind because of the sin at Babel. In the age to come God will reverse that curse and his people will speak one language again. whether: Grk. eite. knowledge: Grk. gnōsis. See verse 2 above. it will pass away: Grk. katargeō, fut. pass. In the age to come the pursuit of knowledge will no longer be relevant to life in the Kingdom. Nevertheless, love will continue to exist in the age to come.

Works Cited

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

BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lander: Shira Lander, "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.

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

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

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

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

Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 Vols. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997) Online.

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

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

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

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

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