Blaine Robison, M.A.
An Exegetical Commentary
Published 16 July 2009; Revised 11 May 2019
Scripture Text: The text of 1 Corinthians 14 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. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. For Scripture quotations from selected versions, 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.
● 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.
In this chapter Paul confronts certain problem areas concerning the expression of spiritual gifts and conduct in worship gatherings.
Instruction in Edification, 14:1-19
Instruction for Worship Gatherings, 14:20-33a
Instruction to Wives, 14:33b-36
Introduction to Chapter 14
Chapter 14 continues a subject that began in chapter twelve concerning employment of spiritual gifts. Indeed chapters twelve and thirteen were deliberately designed to provide the foundation for confrontation of a serious problem at Corinth. Spiritual gifts represent an apportionment of grace given by God to each individual believer (Rom 12:3-6). The purpose of spiritual gifts is to serve the members of the congregation (1Cor 12:7). The gift distribution is sovereignly determined by the Holy Spirit as He wills (1Cor 12:11). The fact that Paul exhorts disciples to pursue the greater gifts does not obviate the fact the Spirit makes the decision. No one can force God to give them any specific gift.
Speaking in different languages (Grk. glōssais, pl. of glōssa) is listed in 1 Corinthians 12 as one of several gifts of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 12:10), although Paul clearly treats it as the least of the gifts (1Cor 12:28; 13:1; 14:1-5). The ability to speak in languages other than one's native language, as well as its interpretation, is vital in communicating the Good News in cross-cultural ministry. Yet, nothing has been more misunderstood or controversial in the history of Bible interpretation than the subject of "tongues" and Paul's treatment of it in this chapter. Some of the members of the congregation in Corinth may have possessed the genuine gift mentioned in chapter twelve, but this chapter does not provide any information on how the genuine gift operated.
In Acts 2:4 glōssais refers to the languages or dialects spoken in different geographical areas. 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). That the plural of glōssa means "languages" is emphasized in these contexts by the presence of prophesying, which everywhere in Scripture is communicating in a known language, whether forth-telling or foretelling. There is no indication in these passages that the speakers could not be understood.
Unlike the experience of the apostles in Acts, the genuine gift of glōssa/glōssais Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12 requires human translation for understanding. Unfortunately, what passed as speaking in other languages, was not a blessing. As Coffman says, "Whatever the genuine gift was at Corinth, there is simply no glimpse whatever of it in this chapter." In fact, worship in Corinth was totally dysfunctional. The problem was likely that some members sought to imitate pagan worship in the manner of praying and prophesying (cf. 1Cor 11:4-5), and especially using an ecstatic form of praying and singing (cf. 1Sam 19:19-24). The modern term for ecstatic tongue-speaking is glossolalia, which is characterized by broken speech not intelligible to bystanders and by continuous repetition of "words" with no discernible structure or grammar.
Not generally considered is that pagan worship in Greece and elsewhere included glossolalia (BAG 161), but the inspiration for the practice was obviously not the Holy Spirit. Yeshua alluded to this practice when he cautioned his disciples, "when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose they will be heard for their many words" (Matt 6:7 NASB). Ecstasy in pagan rites may have been induced by hypnotism, drugs or demonic spirits. Among pagan Corinthians such speaking was considered a sign of intense spirituality and of possession by the god who inspired the utterance. Dr. Kurt E. Koch, a Lutheran minister, has documented many cases of glossolalia in modern times as being the result of demonic influence (see Occult ABC, Kregel Publications, 1986, §58).
Just as the Corinthian congregation was infected with other worldly practices (cf. 1Cor 3:1; 5:1; 6:1, 18; 7:2; 8:1; 10:21), so some members may have seen no problem in amalgamating a pagan form of glossolalia with their worship. It is no accident that instruction concerning this phenomenon occurs only in this letter. Paul’s exhortation to the members of the congregation in Corinth is not only instructional but confrontational. In order to reinstate order in worship Paul mandated two important requirements, interpretation (1Cor 14:5, 13, 27-28) and limitation of speakers (1Cor 14:27). Implementing these rules would effectively eliminate the counterfeit "tongues." Paul issued these two rules with the authority of Yeshua (1Cor 14:37) and to disobey them is to sin. For further information on this subject see my web article Speaking in Tongues.
NOTE: Throughout my translation of chapter 14 I insert the word foreign in front of most occurrences of glōssa/glōssais to emphasize that the term refers to a communication that required translation for the hearers. The KJV inserts "unknown" to the same purpose.
Instruction in Edification, 14:1-19
1— Pursue love but earnestly desire spiritual gifts, and all the more that you may prophesy.
Pursue: Grk. diōkō, pres. imp., to hunt, to chase after, to pursue as in hunting game. love: Grk. agapē, a relatively high level of interest in the well-being of another, affection, esteem, love. Paul no doubt refers back to his treatise on agapē in chapter 13. The noun is one of the four Greek words for "love" and the one that occurs most frequently in the Besekh. In the LXX agapē renders Heb. ahavah (SH-160, BDB 12), which is used of both human and divine love. Ahavah is used of the love of husband toward wife (Gen 29:20; SS 2:4-5; 5:8; 8:6-7), and God's love for His people Israel (Deut 7:8; 2Chr 2:11; Isa 63:9; Jer 31:3; Hos 11:4; Zeph 3:17).
Ahava occurs frequently In the wisdom literature in a more abstract form, such as "love covers all sins (Prov 10:12). The Jewish translators of the LXX apparently coined the noun agapē, since there is no Greek literature earlier than the LXX that uses the noun (DNTT 2:539). Agapē, unlike the verb agapaō, is never used in a negative sense (cf. Luke 6:32). God's nature and actions are the epitome of agapē (John 3:16; 1Jn 4:8) and the preeminent virtue (1Cor 13:1-13). The essential factor in every passage employing the 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.
but: Grk. de, 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" (BAG). In this verse de is used indicate contrast in subject matter. earnestly desire: Grk. zēloō, pres. imp, to desire, to strive for, to exert oneself earnestly for something or to manifest zeal for something. This verb has a much wider meaning than "pursue." Both verbs are present imperative which calls for beginning and continuing habitual action. spiritual gifts: Grk. pneumatikos, transcending physical existence and influence, spiritual. The plural form of the noun with the definite article could be lit. rendered as "the things of the Spirit." The mention of and instructions on employment of spiritual gifts in the congregation occur in various passages (Rom 12:3-8; 1Cor 12:1—14:40; Eph 1:17; 4:11-12; 1Tim 4:14; cf. 1Pet 4:9-11).
Paul says that the Holy Spirit provides a variety of gifts, ministries and effects for the good of the Body of Messiah. These three categories are all manifestations of the Spirit (1Cor 12:7), but a manifestation may qualify as a gift, effect and ministry at the same time. In Romans the manifestations of the Spirit are prophecy, serving, teaching, exhorting, leading, giving, and showing mercy. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul adds the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, the distinguishing of spirits, speaking in different languages, the interpretation of languages, apostleship, helps, administrations. Then in this chapter he adds revelation (verse 6 below) and in Ephesians 4 Paul adds evangelist and pastor. and: Grk. de., conj. used here to continue his thought.
all the more: Grk. mallon, adv., of increase or additive in some aspect of activity, situation or condition; all the more, more, rather, still more. The adverb points here to what Paul considers the most important. that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed; in order that. you may prophesy: Grk. prophēteuō, pres. subj., may mean (1) to proclaim a divine revelation; (2) prophetically reveal what is hidden; or (3) foretell the future, prophesy (BAG). In the LXX prophēteuō generally translates Heb. nava, which means to show, present or express oneself, to speak as a prophet (DNTT 3:77). The Hebrew verb primarily means to speak prophetically, that is "forth-telling," with occasional predictions (foretelling).
Forth-telling predominates in the Tanakh and messages might consist of warning against sinning, announcing divine judgments, encouraging repentance and giving hope of restoration. True prophesying is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21). Prophesying in this context need not be thought of as delivering a sermon, but sharing an exhortation, considering the benefit described in verse 3 below. More likely the prophesying was associated with singing songs of praise (verses 14-17 below). King David established the music program for Israelite worship and appointed worship ensembles whose purpose was to "prophesy with lyres, harps and cymbals" (1Chr 25:1) and they "prophesied in giving thanks and praising ADONAI" (1Chr 25:3). So, too, Paul expected that the congregation would use a variety of music in worship (1Cor 14:26; cf. Eph 5:19; Col 3:16).
Paul emphasizes that prophesying as a gift of the Spirit was not only still active in the body of Messiah (Rom 12:6; 1Cor 12:7-10, 28), but absolutely essential. Paul's desire was that the gift of prophesying would become preeminent in worship. To that end this chapter explains the characteristics and benefits of prophesying that mark it as the superior gift. Paul is not saying that each and every disciple should seek every gift. The verbs are second person plural so he is speaking of the congregation as a corporate entity. The congregation should be characterized by love for one another and manifest zeal for ministering to one another through gifts of the Spirit, especially prophesying.
2— For the one speaking a foreign tongue speaks not to men but to God, for no one understands; but in spirit he speaks mysteries.
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 narratives with preceding statements and is normally translated "for." the one speaking: Grk. laleō, pres. part., may mean (1) to make a sound, such as a trumpet blast or thunder; or (2) to make a statement or to express oneself in words; speak (about), talk (about), tell, say, utter. The verb is frequently found in hortatory or proclamation passages, but is never used in Scripture of a person making merely a sound or noise, nor is it used for babbling in unintelligible gibberish (cf. Matt 6:7).
NOTE: Throughout this section Paul contrasts two significant activities occurring in worship gatherings which he labels with present participle verbs: lalōn glōssa "speaking a foreign tongue" (sometimes plural, lalōn glōssais, speaking foreign tongues") and prophēteuōn, "prophesying." The expression lalōn glōssa is a complete label.
a foreign tongue: Grk. glōssa occurs 50 times in the apostolic writings with, according to Danker, one of three meanings: (1) tongue, as an organ of speech, (Mark 7:33); including the phenomenon of flames at Pentecost likened to "tongues" (Acts 2:3); (2) a distinctive language system (Acts 2:4, 11; 1Cor 13:1; Rev 5:9); and (3) an unusual ecstatic vocal utterance (cf. Mark 16:17; Acts 10:46; 19:6). Danker believes the third meaning dominates Paul's usage of glōssa in 1Corinthians. 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.
The poetic books have much to say about the tongue as a tool of falsehood and evil and God's people are admonished to use their tongues for blessing men and God. Originally there was only one language (Gen 11:1, 6), most likely Hebrew, but God created many diverse languages after the tower of Babel idolatry. Of historical interest is that while many languages were in existence (e.g., Esth 3:12) the Tanakh only mentions Hebrew and Aramaic (1Kgs 18:26; Ezra 4:7; Neh 13:24; Isa 19:18; 36:11; Dan 1:4; 2:4). John's narrative mentions Greek, Hebrew and Latin (John 19:20). Aramaic is not mentioned at all in the apostolic writings.
Some scholars believe Paul uses glōssa/glōssai for the broken speech of persons in religious ecstasy similar to modern "tongues," for which they use the term 'glossolalia' (BAG, Grosheide, Haarbeck, Stern). Bible versions insert a preposition "with" or "in" to denote possession of this supposed gift. If this had been Paul's purpose he surely would have used an appropriate Greek preposition. To say "with" he could have used en, meta, or sun, and to say "in" he would have used en. Other scholars believe these terms refer to speaking in a foreign language as inspired by the Holy Spirit, comparable to what was experienced at Pentecost, and unlike the unintelligible gibberish of modern "tongues" (Barnes, Clarke, Gill, HELPS, Lander, Lightfoot, Mare, Robertson).
The essential meaning of glōssa in this chapter is established in verse 21 with the quotation from Isaiah 28:11-12, i.e., an oral communication foreign to others nearby. The content of such "foreign tongue-speaking" is listed in verses 14-17 as praying, singing, blessing God and giving thanks. These four activities would generally be considered distinct from prophesying, although singing can be included in prophesying (cf. 1Chr 25:1). There are three possible situations that Paul addresses.
● Scenario One: the speaker is engaging in worship while employing the unintelligible gibberish learned in pagan worship.
● Scenario Two: the speaker is engaging in worship while employing a spiritual language known only to God.
● Scenario Three: the speaker is engaging in worship while employing a foreign dialect.
The main point is that the speaker cannot be understood. He may be having a great time in the Lord, but he is not blessing the congregation because the language he is using is unknown to the congregation. Paul could be referring to a visiting foreigner wanting to vocalize his prayer or praise in a dialect of his home that would not be commonly known in the Corinthian congregation, such as those mentioned in John 19:20; Acts 1:19; 2:8-11 and 14:11. In addition to regional languages, Koine Greek was spoken throughout the Roman Empire and was probably used in the Corinthian’s worship, but there were variations of Greek in different regions, just as there are significant differences between British English and American English.
J.B. Lightfoot suggested that glōssa in this chapter refers to Hebrew (IV, 258). Clarke concurs. Hebrew is the language of the Tanakh and prior to the first century Hebrew was apparently the only language God used to speak to His people. Yeshua and the apostles spoke Hebrew as the incidence of the Hebrais word-group in the apostolic writings testifies. The Gentiles and many of the Hellenistic Jews present would be unfamiliar with Hebrew and thereby need translation. Synagogues in the Diaspora often used the LXX for Scripture readings. This interpretation is problematic since Paul could have easily used Hebrais if that was what he meant. The omission does not thereby exclude the possibility. The main issue was that whatever was spoken needed translation for it to be of benefit to the congregation.
Coffman believes that the genuine gift of "tongues" at Corinth had to be either identical with that of Pentecost, or a far lesser thing given for the encouragement of individuals and to be used privately as described in this verse. Such a manifestation of the Spirit was intended as a vehicle for exalting God in an intense and intimate experience with the Holy Spirit. Attempts to imitate this gift would be a severe offense to God, comparable to idolatry.
speaks: Grk. laleō, pres. not: Grk. ou, 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). to men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man, or mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, SH-444, used for a human male or generically for man and woman and as a contrast to animals (e.g., Gen 1:26, 27; 2:5; 1Sam 15:29); (2) ish, SH-376, adult male or husband (Gen 2:23, 24; Job 1:1) and (3) enosh, SH-582, man or mankind, often signifying the aspect of weakness and mortality (Job 5:17; Ps 8:4-5) (DNTT 2:564). but: Grk. alla, adversative conj. used adverbially to convey strong contrast.
to 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 the tetragrammaton 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.
for: Grk. gar, conj. no one: Grk. oudeis, adv. indicating negation of a person or thing actually existing at a given place or moment, lit. "not even one." understands: Grk. akouō, pres., may mean (1) to hear, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said; (2) hear with comprehension, understand; (3) receive information aurally, hear, hear about; or (4) a legal term of hearing a case. Rienecker suggests that it is possible that Paul could have intended the first meaning. If the person is speaking to God in the manner described as follows, then it's possible that most in the congregation would not even hear the persons words.
but: Grk. de, conj. used for contrast. in spirit: Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruach), wind, breath or spirit as the animating force for bodily movement (Luke 8:55). Pneuma is used for transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Holy Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). Though pneuma in this verse is commonly translated in English versions as "the Spirit" (meaning the Holy Spirit), the absence of the definite article suggests that Paul meant the human spirit (Mare, Grosheide; verses 14-15 below; cf. John 4:24; Acts 18:25; Rom 1:9; 12:11). The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not to speak things people can’t understand, but to convince, convict and to teach (John 14:25; 16:7-14).
he speaks: Grk. laleō, pres. mysteries: pl. of Grk. mustērion, that which awaits divine disclosure or interpretation. In Greek culture mustērion referred to a secret rite or secret teaching. The term occurs 28 times in the apostolic writings, 21 of which are in the writings of Paul. In Scripture a mystery is normally a reality or plan that God kept concealed from his people but finally revealed to his apostles (cf. Eph 3:5). Mare points out that "mysteries" refers to the deep truths of God's salvation (cf. Acts 2:11). Yet, Paul uses "mystery" here as an analogy. In other words, since the message can't be understood by the congregation then it's equivalent to a mystery. If the speaking is not given in the language of the congregation or not translated for the congregation then only God understands, since He knows all languages. The mention of speaking to God indirectly affirms that Paul means a normal language, whether human or heavenly (cf. 1Cor 13:1), not repetition of nonsense syllables that not even God could understand as language.
3— But the one prophesying speaks to men for edification and encouragement and consolation.
But: Grk. de, conj. used for contrast. the one prophesying: Grk. ho prophēteuō, pres. part. See verse 1 above. In context prophesying is offered in the primary language of the congregation, in this case Greek, and does not need to be translated. Since the verb and its definite article are third person singular masculine, some versions translate the verb as "he who prophesies" (ASV, DRV, HNV, KJV, NKJV and RSV). Other versions as the HCSB use gender neutral terminology (BBE, CJB, ESV, NAB, NASB, NET, NIRV, NLT, TLV). A few versions inaccurately translate as third person plural (NCV, NIV, NRSV, and TNIV) and two as second person vocative (CEV, MSG). The differences in translation reflect the debate in the history of Christianity over the place of women in leadership and in worship.
Because the verb is masculine some would restrict the prophesying activity to men. After all, Hebrew prophets were generally men, the first mentioned being Abraham (Gen 20:7). Great prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha, as well as the literary prophets, all men, provided the most significant ministry to Israel. Then after Malachi prophecy ceased for 300 years. The Talmud describes it as "the Holy Spirit [of prophetic inspiration] departed from Israel" (Sanhedrin 11a). Yet, the prophetic voice returned in power with Yochanan the Immerser (Matt 11:13). The apostolic writings mention several other men who served in this role: Zachariah (Luke 1:67); Yeshua (Matt 21:11), Caiaphas (John 11:49-51); Agabus (Acts 11:27-28; 21:10); Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul (Acts 13:1); Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32); and unnamed disciples in Ephesus (Acts 19:6).
However, in Scripture various women served as God’s messengers: Miriam, the sister of Moses (Ex 15:20), Deborah (Judg 4:4), Huldah (2Kgs 22:14), Isaiah’s wife (Isa 8:3), Anna (Luke 2:36), and the four daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9) are all classified as prophetesses. The Talmud counts seven female prophets in the Tanakh: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther (Megillah 14a). In the apostolic narratives we also read of Anna (Luke 2:36) and the four daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9). Therefore, the verb being masculine cannot be absolutely determinative of Paul's intention. God is no respecter of persons and He often chooses to speak through women.
speaks: Grk. laleō, pres. See verse 2 above. to men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos. See the previous verse. The plural form of anthrōpos probably is intended in a corporate sense as encompassing all within hearing of the prophetic message, which would include unbelievers (see verses 24-25 below). Paul goes on to identify three specific benefits of prophesying to the congregation. for edification: Grk. oikodomē, building up, strengthening, fitting together as in construction; encouragement: Grk. paraklêsis, encouragement, challenge, appeal to moral excellence, as well as comfort and consolation. and consolation: Grk. paramuthia, encouragement, comfort, or support. Notice that prophesying does not rebuke. It’s purpose is not to make people feel guilty, but to increase their passion for serving God.
4— The one speaking a foreign tongue edifies himself, but the one prophesying edifies the congregation.
The one speaking: Grk. laleō, pres. part. See verse 2 above. a foreign tongue: Grk. glōssa. See verse 2 above. Most versions insert either "with" or "in" before the noun even though there is no preposition in the Greek text. It's important to note that the emphasis of this side of the contrast is the verb "speaking." not the indirect object glōssa. edifies: Grk. oikodomeō, pres., to erect a structure and used figuratively in an organic sense of referring to a process of spiritual growth and development. Mounce adds to advance one's spiritual condition. Thayer describes edification as promoting growth in wisdom, affection, grace, virtue, holiness, and blessedness.
himself: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun, of himself, herself, itself. The masculine form of the pronoun suggests "himself." Some interpreters consider this a reference to a private prayer language. But, the opening clause implies that the language must be a known human language, because it could only benefit the speaker if he could understand himself. The four activities of prayer, praise, blessing and thanksgiving would all be a personal blessing. but: Grk. de, conj. used for contrast. the one prophesying: Grk. prophēteuō, pres. part. See verse 1 above. The verb is masculine so some versions translate as "he who prophesies." edifies: Grk. oikodomeō, pres.
the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia means assembly, gathering, meeting, or congregation, translated in Christian Bibles as "church." In secular use ekklēsia referred to a political body or a public meeting of citizens (Acts 19:32, 39, 41), but occurs 111 times 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). "Church" is not an accurate translation of ekklēsia, but an invention of Christianity.
The decision to use "church" created a permanent wedge between Christianity and its Jewish roots. The Christian reader of the apostolic writings should be cautious about reading modern church organization into first century settings. In the apostolic writings ekklēsia is never treated as an institution, a building, a specific polity or even a specific size of group as the English word "church" can mean. Everywhere in the apostolic writings ekklēsia refers to either the entire Body of the Messiah, the sum total of the Jewish and Gentile believers in a particular city, or the disciples meeting together in someone's home. Most importantly, the term emphasizes a spiritual bond based on common trust in the God of Israel and his Messiah (Stern 54).
5— Now I wish you all to speak foreign tongues, but all the more that you may prophesy; and greater is the one prophesying than the one speaking foreign tongues, except unless he may interpret so that the congregation may receive.
Now: Grk. de, conj. used to mark a transition. I wish: Grk. thelō, pres., to have a desire for something, to wish, to want. you: pl. of Grk. su, pronoun of the second person, used corporately. all: Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, every part of a totality; all, every. to speak: Grk. laleō, pres. inf. See verse 2 above. The infinitive being a verbal noun could express either purpose or result, in this case probably the latter. It is not a command because it is only something desired. foreign tongues: Grk. glōssais, pl. of glōssa, dative case; lit. "languages." See verse 2 above. Most versions insert either "with" or "in" before the noun even though there is no preposition in the Greek text.
The distinction between the singular and plural forms of glōssa may seem confusing. After all a person can only speak in one language at a time. In Greek the plural form of a noun conveys simple plurality in quantity. Grosheide suggests that the plural form implies that this miraculous language of the Spirit was spoken at intervals (289). However, the Greek of the Besekh is Jewish Greek. David Hill says that "the structure and syntax of New Testament language bear the impress of a special Hebraic influence" (14). In Hebrew the plural form usually expresses plurality or quantity, but can also express abstract ideas or emphatic titles (Ross 72). The plural form of glōssa in the Hebraic sense could indicate multiple ways in which the gift is manifested or the intensity and passion of the gift's expression. Most versions translate glōssais here as "tongues" but a number of versions have "languages" (CEV, ERV, EXB, GW, HCSB, HNV, Lamsa, LITV, NCV, NIRV, NLT, NOG, TLB, VOICE, WE, and WEB).
but: Grk. de, conj. all the more: Grk. mallon, adv. See verse 1 above. that: Grk. hina, conj. See verse 1 above. you may prophesy: Grk. prophēteuō, pres. subj. See verse 1 above. The opening clause may be Paul quoting someone at Corinth and this clause reflects a counter argument as he does on other issues in this letter. If the wish statement belongs to him, then it has the force of "it would be nice if everyone were multi-lingual, but I would really rather that prophesying would dominate." The verb "wish" does not have the strength of the verbs "pursue" and "seek" in verse 1. and: Grk. de, conj. greater: Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive; great. the one prophesying: Grk. prophēteuō, pres. part. than the one speaking: Grk. laleō, pres. part.
foreign tongues: Grk. glōssais. Most versions insert either "with" or "in" before the noun even though there is no preposition in the Greek text. Paul is not trying to encourage inordinate pride in one’s gift, but simply to point out that prophesying is more significant to the congregation than merely being multi-lingual or giving a message in a language that cannot be understood. except: Grk. ektos, adv. suggesting disconnectedness; apart from, except. unless: Grk. ei mē, lit. "if not." he may interpret: Grk. diermēneuō, pres. subj., to make something clear or intelligible, to interpret or explain. so that the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia. See verse 4 above. may receive: Grk. lambanō, aor. subj. The verb marks the transit of something from a position to another person who is the agent with the latter being also the receptor; to take or receive.
edification: Grk. oikodomē. See verse 3 above. The purpose or end result of corporate worship is that the congregation would be strengthened in their relationship with Yeshua and grow in spiritual maturity. The main emphasis in synagogue services was discussion of the Torah. The purpose of coming together was to learn how to apply Scripture to everyday life (2Tim 3:16), so it is appropriate to consider which gifts will facilitate this purpose. A testimony or a sermon given in a foreign language can be edifying if it is translated.
6— But now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you speaking foreign tongues, how will I benefit you unless I should speak to you either with revelation or with knowledge or with prophecy or teaching?
But: Grk. de, conj. See verse 1 above. now: Grk. nun, a term of time in the present, now, sometimes emphatically meaning "just now." 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 could be translated as "brothers and sisters" given that he is addressing the entire congregation (Danker). 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.
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 come: Grk. erchomai, aor. subj., to come or arrive with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place or to go with the focus on the goal for movement; lit. "if I came." This is an allusion to the fact that Paul was not physically in Corinth at the time of this letter, but the verb is used in a rhetorical manner. 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). you: pl. of Grk. su, pronoun of the second person, used here corporately. speaking: Grk. laleō, pres. part. See verse 2 above.
foreign tongues: pl. of Grk. glōssa. See verse 2 above. Most versions insert either "with" or "in" before the noun even though there is no preposition in the Greek text. how will I benefit: Grk. ōpheleō, fut., engage in activity that brings about something good above and beyond that which existed earlier. you: pl. of Grk. su. unless: Grk. ean mē, lit. "if not." I should speak: Grk. laleō, aor. subj. to you: pl. of Grk. su. Paul begins his hortatory comments with a rhetorical question. Paul was an expert in both Greco-Roman rhetoric and rabbinic argumentation and often blends the two together, as he does in his Roman letter. So, Paul sets up the argument to compel agreement with his conclusion that meeting together should be for the practical benefit of the entire congregation and that all communications should be understandable.
either: Grk. ē, conjunction used disjunctively, or, than, either. with: Grk. en, prep. generally functioning to mark position, lit. "within." With the dative case of the pronoun following, the preposition may be translated as 'with' or 'by means of,' to express means (DM 105). The combination of Grk. ē en occurs three more times in the verse. Paul's use of a preposition before each of the following spiritual gifts emphasizes its omission in the label "speaking foreign tongues." revelation: Grk. apokalupsis, an unveiling or disclosing of what was previously hidden. In Greek culture it was an ordinary word for telling someone something they didn’t know, but Jewish rabbis gave it a theological meaning that referred to receiving revelations from God concerning the last days, the coming of the Messiah and the final judgment. The revelation usually came through a vision or visitation by an angel as with Daniel and Ezekiel.
Of the four manifestations of the Holy Spirit only revelation was not mentioned in chapter 12, probably because it is not normative. The word "revelation" is used three ways in the apostolic writings, the most occurrences related to the Second Coming of Yeshua (Rom 2:5; 8:19; 1Cor 1:7; 2Th 1:7; 1Pet 1:7, 13; 4:13). The second usage of revelation refers to the general disclosure of truth, particularly the Good News (Luke 2:2; Rom 16:25; Gal 1:12; 2:2; Eph 1:17; 3:3). The third usage of revelation pertains to individuals receiving very personal disclosures from God (2Cor 12:1, 7). or with: Grk. ē en. knowledge: Grk. gnosis, as in chapter 12, may mean supernatural knowledge relevant to understanding a situation. In Jewish Greek gnosis is to be taken as insight or illumination into the knowledge of God's ways and His Word.
or with: Grk. ē en. prophecy: Grk. prophēteia may mean (1) the act of stating or disclosing divine will and purpose; (2) the gift for disclosure of divine will or purpose; or (3) a statement or disclosure made under divine authority or direction. Prophēteia occurs 19 times in the apostolic writings, nine of which are in Paul's writings and seven times in Revelation. In the Tanakh prophecy was conducted by recognized prophets who were inspired by God by various means (Heb 1:1; 2Pet 1:21). Prophecy was primarily "forth-telling," with occasional predictions (foretelling). Forth-telling messages might consist of warning against sinning, announcing divine judgments, encouraging repentance and giving hope of restoration. In verse 3 above Paul identifies the benefits of prophecy as edification, encouragement and consolation.
or: Grk. ē. a teaching: Grk. didachē, derived from the verb didaskō ("teach"), means instruction or doctrine imparted by teaching. Such didachē is often the exposition and application of Torah, which came originally from the Father. In the LXX didachē is found only in the superscription of Psalm 60:1 to render the Piel inf. of Heb. lamad, "to exercise in, to learn" (BDB 540), an action attributed to David (DNTT 3:767). The office of teacher (Heb. moreh) was central in Jewish society and greatly increased in importance as the Sage replaced the prophet. Biblical teaching is grounded on the principle that God’s Word was given in order to teach man to walk in His ways (Ex 4:15; Deut 33:10; Ps 25:12). Scripture is the source of teaching (2Tim 3:16) and Spirit-inspired teaching deepens a believer's knowledge of God’s truth. The way to know God’s will is through interpreting and applying His words and commandments recorded in Scripture.
7— Even lifeless things producing a sound, whether flute or harp, if they do not give a distinction to the sounds, how will it be known what is being piped or being harped?
Even lifeless things: Grk. apsuchos, the state or condition characteristic of inorganic objects in distinction from life-possessing organisms, inanimate, lifeless. Paul mentions three musical instruments used widely in Greek society, as well as Jewish culture, and makes an apt comparison to spiritual gifts. The gifts of the Spirit properly working together produce the equivalent of a symphony of service. producing: Grk. didōmi, pres. part., normally meaning to give, but here "to cause, produce, give forth from oneself" (Thayer). a sound: Grk. phōnē, an auditory impression or the faculty for producing an auditory impression, whether sound, noise or voice.
whether flute: Grk. aulos, which was used for three different kinds of instruments, including a single pipe without a reed, as a modern recorder, a single pipe held horizontally, as the modern flute, but the most common type was usually double-reeded, like an oboe. The aulos became chiefly associated with professional musicians, who were often slaves. The aulos accompanied a wide range of Greek activities. It was present at sacrifices, dramas and even wrestling matches, for the broad jump, the discus throw, and at sailor's dances on ships. or harp: Grk. kithara, a lyre or stringed instrument. The word used here refers to an instrument with seven strings of equal length. The lyre was used widely by Greeks in concerts, choral performances and competitions.
if they do not give: Grk. didōmi, aor. subj. a distinction: Grk. diastole, a drawing apart, a distinction or difference in something. to the sounds: pl. of Grk. phthoggos, expression constituting sound, whether of the human vocal system or a musical instrument. how: Grk. pōs, interrogative adv.; how, in what manner. will it be known: Grk. ginōskō, fut. pass., may mean (1) to receive information, to know; (2) to form a judgment or draw a conclusion; or (3) to have a personal relationship involving recognition of identity or value. The second meaning applies here. what is being piped: Grk. auleō, pres. pass. part., to play the flute. or being harped: Grk. kitharizō, pres. pass. part., to play the harp. Paul's rhetorical question has an obvious conclusion. Musical instruments do not produce just one note on the scale, and a song is recognized by the pattern of notes in the composition. With the analogy of musical instruments, Paul emphasizes again the importance of being able to understand what someone contributes to worship.
8— For indeed, if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for war?
In fact, if the trumpet: Grk. salpigx, a long straight tube made of bronze with a small bell on the end. Salpigx is used in the LXX to translate both Heb. shofar made from a ram’s horn and Heb. hasoserah, a long straight trumpet that God directed Moses to make from beaten silver. The hasoserah was blown mainly for religious purposes, such as when sacrifices were offered (Num 10:10; 2Chr 29:27-28), but also for signaling assembly of the people. In Greek society the salpigx had various uses in games, religion and war. There were even contests held in trumpet blowing. Winning was determined by the one who could blow the loudest, not who had the best musical composition.
makes an uncertain: Grk. adēlos, not being clear to one's senses, unclear, indistinct or uncertain. sound: Grk. phōnē. See the previous verse. who will prepare: Grk. paraskeuazō, fut. mid., to prepare or to be ready. The middle voice emphasizes "to prepare oneself." for war: Grk. polemos, armed conflict, which may refer broadly to a state of hostilities or a particular hostile encounter as part of a war, a fight or battle. Paul's third rhetorical question reinforces the obvious conclusion of the two previous rhetorical questions. Paul alludes to the reliance of ancient armies on the use of trumpets to signal military formations and actions on the battlefield. The trumpet has a piercing sound and can easily be heard above considerable noise.
9— So also, unless you give a clear word by means of the tongue, how will it be known what is being said, for you will be speaking into the air.
So: Grk. houtos, adv., thus, so, in this manner. also: Grk. kai, conj. Paul introduces a comparison that continues the thought of the previous verse. unless: Grk. ean mē, lit. "if not." you: Grk. humeis, pl. personal pronoun of the second person. give: Grk. didōmi, aor. subj. See verse 7 above. a clear: Grk. eusēmos, meaningful, intelligible or clear. word: Grk. logos, a vocalized expression of the mind, word, discourse, statement message or speech. In Greek philosophical writings logos took on the meaning of a common universal law or truth and that which gives order in the universe. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar (SH-1697), which can mean "speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, or matter" (Gen 29:13; BDB 182). Logos is also used for amar (to utter, say, Gen 34:8), imrah ("speech, utterance, word," Gen 4:23), and Aram. millah (word, utterance, matter, Dan 4:31) (DNTT 3:1087).
by means of: Grk. dia, prep., lit. "through." the tongue: Grk. glōssa. See verse 2 above. Here the term is used of the organ. how: Grk. pōs, adv., interrogative particle. will it be known: Grk. ginōskō, fut. pass., to know. See verse 7 above. what: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. is being said: Grk. laleō, pres. pass. part. See verse 2 above. The passive voice emphasizes what is received by the ears in the audience. For: Grk. gar, conj. you will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid., 2p-pl., 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). speaking: Grk. laleō, pres. pass. part.
into: Grk. eis, prep. the air: Grk. aēr, overhead space as opposed to ground level. It is used both of the space surrounding an individual (Acts 23:23) and the higher regions of the sky (cf. Eph 2:2). In ancient science aēr was one of four basic elements, the others being the sun, fire and water. This is an idiom akin to the riddle, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it does it make a sound?" Everything that vibrates the air creates the potential for sound. Without humans to perceive it, the tree falling would make vibrations, but "sound" as we know it couldn't exist, since no conscious being was there to interpret those vibrations.
The same principle holds true for untranslated languages. If no human ear can perceive its meaning then its value is lost. Musical instruments have a purpose as a tool for the musician to create sound with meaning. If we do that with instruments we’ve made, why should the same principle not hold with the instrument God has created, namely the mouth and tongue?
10— If probably there are many kinds of voices in the world, and none without meaning.
If: Grk. ei, conj., conditional particle. probably: Grk. tugchanō, aor. opt., may mean (1) be privileged to receive a benefit, happen upon; or (2) meet up with something in ordinary experience; come upon. Danker says that the use of the verb here leaves the door open for assessment of the data and is appropriately rendered "probably." there are: Grk. eimi, pres. to be. many: Grk. tosoutos, a correlative adjective used to express intensity relative the subject mentioned in the context, "so many" or "so great." kinds: pl. of Grk. genos, may mean (1) line of descent with focus on the role of progenitor, as in the ancestor of something; (2) role of birth in terms of a geographically identified people group; (3) a people group; (4) a group with a distinguishing characteristic.
of voices: pl. of Grk. phōnē, a sound or voice. Many versions translate the noun as "languages," but Paul's choice of words is deliberate. in the world: Grk. kosmos has a variety of uses in the Besekh and other Jewish literature, including (1) the orderly universe; (2) the human race, mankind; (3) the earth as the place of habitation; and especially (4) everything of mankind that opposes God and is depraved of character (BAG). In the LXX kosmos is used to render a variety of words, but only a few times with a meaning similar to the Besekh. Kosmos occurs five times for Heb. tsaba, the "hosts of heaven and earth," i.e., the stars (Gen 2:1; Deut 4:19). The meaning of kosmos as "the world of mankind" is only found in Apocryphal writings (Wis., 2nd Macc., 4th Macc.).
A number of passages in the Besekh use "world" to refer to the nations outside the land of Israel (Matt 24:14; Luke 12:30; John 14:22), as well as the Jewish world (John 3:17; 6:14, 33; 12:19, 47; 14:19; 16:28; 17:6). Here the term refers to the inhabited earth. Paul basically says there are many kinds of voices, referring to the ethnic divisions in the human race, each with its distinctive language. The use of genos alludes to the division of languages at Babel (Gen 11), since there was only one language prior to that time. In Jewish thought genos would reflect the idea of language families. A language family is a group of related languages that developed from a common historic ancestor. Modern ethnological scholars have identified 147 language families, but biblically speaking there are seventy based on the seventy nations listed in Genesis 10.
and none: Grk. oudeis, adj., no one, none. without meaning: Grk. aphōnos, not making use of vocal cords. The phrase is lit. "not one voiceless" (Marshall). The word indicates that languages convey meaning by their systematic distinction of sounds (Mare). The creation of languages at Babel was a miracle on the order of creating the earth. Each and every language that has ever existed was created by God to make it useful. Paul says something very important here. The purpose of language is to enable communication. In the fellowship of believers we must be able to understand one another to benefit from one another's service.
11— So, if I do not know the meaning of their communication, I will be a barbarian to the speaker, and the speaker a barbarian to me.
So: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which may (1) indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding; so, therefore, consequently, then; (2) indicate that one takes account of something in the narrative immediately preceding; then; or (3) simply indicate a stage in the narrative; so, then. The first application fits here. if: Grk. ean, conj. See verse 6 above. I do not know: Grk. oida, perf. subj., 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 for various kinds of knowledge: (1) to know someone or about someone; (2) to be intimately acquainted with or stand in a close relation to someone; (3) to know or understand how to do something, be able; (4) understand, recognize, or come to know by experience; and (5) to remember (BAG).
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). To the Hebrew mind "knowing" is not philosophical or theoretical, but based in reality. the meaning: Grk. dunamis, ability to function effectively, power or might. When used of language dunamis refers to its potential to convey meaning. of their communication: Grk. phōnē, a sound or voice. See verse 7 above. Again Paul uses the idiom of "voice" to refer to language as a communication using the mouth and vocal chords in contrast to something written.
I will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid., to be. a barbarian: Grk. barbaros. To the Greeks anyone who couldn’t speak Greek properly or did not adopt Greek culture was a barbarian, an uncivilized man. To the Greeks the world was divided into two groups of people: the Hellenists and the Barbarians. The Greek word barbaros denotes a man whose language sounds like "bar bar," that is, whose language makes no sense. Actually, there were Greeks who thought the language of the apostolic writings was barbaric, because in reality the Greek of the Greek New Testament manuscripts is Jewish Greek, not pure Koine Greek. In a sense, Paul insults the speaker who engages in a language foreign to the congregation as being no better than a barbarian. (Paul had the ability to insult in any language.)
Paul's speaking of the languages of the world along with his reference to the "barbarian" substantiates the conclusion that in his discussion of "tongues" he has in mind known foreign languages (Mare). to the speaker: Grk. laleō, pres. part., lit. "the one speaking." and the speaker: Grk. laleō, pres. part. a barbarian: Grk. barbaros. to me: the same truth is repeated in reverse. The "speaker," of course, is someone offering a prayer, praise or message in the worship service.
12— So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual things, seek to excel in edification of the congregation.
So: Grk. houtos. See verse 9 above. also you: Grk. humeis, pl. second person pronoun, used here corporately. since: Grk. epei, conj., since, inasmuch. because. you are zealous: pl. of Grk. zēlōtēs, one who is passionately devoted or earnestly committed. Paul uses the term as descriptive of the congregation as a whole. of spiritual things: pl. of Grk. pneuma, wind, breath or spirit. The noun lacks the definite article. Several versions have "of spiritual gifts," but the word for "gifts" does not occur in the verse as it does in verse 1 above. Paul simply says they are "zealous of spirit."
seek: Grk. zētō, pres. imp., be on the search for, to seek or to look for. Paul issues a clear command to start and continue an activity. to excel: Grk. perisseuō, pres. subj., to be above or beyond in number, to abound. in edification: Grk. oikodomē. See verse 3 above. the church: Grk. ekklēsia, congregation. See verse 4 above. Paul employs a bit of sarcasm here. "Since you profess to be so eager for manifestations of the Spirit, then show some sense and seek what will benefit the whole congregation." This sage advice is very pertinent for modern congregational worship.
13— Therefore the one speaking a foreign tongue shall pray that he might interpret.
Therefore: Grk. dio, an inferential conjunction; "therefore" or "for this reason." the one speaking: Grk. laleō, pres. part. See verse 2 above. a foreign tongue: Grk. glōssa. See verse 2 above. Most versions insert either "with" or "in" before the noun even though there is no preposition in the Greek text. shall pray: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. imp., the standard word for the act of praying in the apostolic writings, appearing in contexts of worship, personal requests and intercession for others. In the LXX proseuchomai renders Heb. verb palal (DNTT 2:863). Palal lit. means "to intervene or to interpose" and has a wide range of usage in the Tanakh, including to arbitrate, to judge, to intercede or to pray. The context of palal in the Tanakh is pleading before a judge. The implication of this meaning is significant. Biblical prayer requires self-judgment because God will only answer prayers of those who keep His commandments. Another important aspect of this verb is that the present tense implies a persistence in prayer until the matter is answered and the imperative mood means it is a command.
that: Grk. hina, conj. he might interpret: Grk. diermēneuō, pres. subj., to translate, explain or interpret. By apostolic authority Paul imposes his first rule for foreign-tongue-speaking, an interesting requirement. He places the primary responsibility for interpretation on the speaker. He must pray for divine enablement to interpret accurately what he says or is about to say. The command to pray may mean the speaker is a foreign visitor not familiar with the Greek dialect of Achaia. Translating from one language to another is never an exact enterprise of substituting one equivalent word for another, as may be seen by the definitions of Greek words in this commentary. Paul's rule reinforces the fact of an ordinary translatable language. Even if the person is anointed to speak in the "language of angels," the rule still applies, because even in heaven language has syntax. This rule would effectively preclude the "meaningless repetition" of what generally passes for glossolalia.
14— For if I am praying in a foreign tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.
For: Grk. gar, conj. if: Grk. ean, conj. I am praying: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. mid. subj. See the previous verse. in a foreign tongue: Grk. glōssa. See verse 2 above. The expression is lit. "praying a foreign tongue," which may contrast with "speaking a foreign tongue," but more likely a subcategory of the label "speaking." my spirit: Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruakh), lit. "the spirit of me." See verse 2 above. This could be a circumlocution for "I." prays: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. mid. Paul employs idiomatic language that repeats the "I am praying" of the opening phrase. but: Grk. de, conj. my mind: Grk. nous, lit. "the mind of me," may mean (1) the capacity to comprehend or discern, i.e., understanding; (2) the medium for processing information or instruction, i.e., the mind or (3) the result of mental processing, i.e., thought.
In Greek culture nous meant the intellect and reasoning ability. However, Plato treated nous as the highest of the three parts of the soul and considered it the ruling principle in man (DNTT 3:122). In comparison with the central role played by nous in the literature of Greek philosophers, it has little use in the LXX (DNTT 3:124). Nous appears only 12 times in the Greek Tanakh: six times for Heb. leb (SH-3820), inner man, heart, will, mind (Ex 7:23; Josh 14:7; Job 7:17; Isa 10:7, 12; 41:22); one time for Heb. mosar, "instruction" (Job 33:16); one time for Heb. Ruakh, "Spirit" (Isa 40:13) and four times without Heb. equivalent (Job 7:20; 36:19; Prov 29:7; 31:3) (ABP). Paul's contrast of pneuma, reflecting Hebraic culture, and nous, reflecting Hellenistic culture, is deliberate.
is unfruitful: Grk. akarpos, lit. "without fruit," referring to an unproductive plant. Paul applies his logic in regards to the first of three important worship activities. Prayers in public services were typically prayers that everyone said together. Paul employs the rhetorical device of speaking in the first person as a hypothetical scenario about engaging in individual extemporaneous praying. Paul seems to offer an artificial distinction between "spirit" and "mind." In Hebraic thought man is a unity; the soul, spirit and body do not function separately. He uses "spirit' to refer to the human spirit since he says "my spirit." While in Greek the word nous (mind) referred to the intellect or the reasoning ability, in Jewish writings as the LXX nous incorporated the importance of the will. Thus, man is not just an emotional being or a thinking being, but a "will-ing" being.
Paul could be saying, "if I offer a public prayer in an untranslated language, then I am allowing myself to be controlled by my emotions rather than my will and intellect." Paul does not want worship to be reduced to just a feel-good experience. What good is spiritual rhapsody if my knowledge of God and His Word and how to please Him are not enhanced at all or if fellow disciples are not strengthened?
15— What then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the mind. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the mind.
What then? The question reflects a rabbinic formula which raises a "difficulty" (Heb. kushiah) whose resolution is regarded as untenable (Shulam 126). Paul resorts to this technique to rebut a hypothetical objection or misbelief. I will pray: Grk. proseuchomai, fut. mid. See verse 13 above. with the spirit: Grk. pneuma. See verse 2 above. Paul continues the contrast from the previous verse. Many versions translate tō pneumamati as "my spirit" (AMP, CEV, CJB, ERV, ESV, EXB, GW, LEB, MSG, MRINT, NCV, NET, NIRV, NIV, OJB, TEV, TLV). AMP interprets "my spirit" with the note "the Holy Spirit that is within me," but this is by no means Paul's intention. and I will also pray: Grk. proseuchomai, fut. mid.
with the mind: Grk. nous. See the previous verse. Effective prayer involves the total personality. Paul definitely knew how to pray. He makes frequent mention of his own prayers for congregations (2Cor 13:7, 9; Eph 1:16; Phil 1:4; Col 1:3; 1Th 1:2) and exhorts them to pray earnestly (Rom 15:30; Eph 6:18; 1Th 5:17; 1Tim 2:1). However, on the human level far too often we don't know what or how to pray. So the Spirit intercedes in heaven and empowers the prayers of the saints.
I will sing: Grk. psallō, fut., originally meant to play on strings, then to sing with an accompaniment (Eph 5:19), as well as to sing in a celebratory manner without regard to an instrument. The verb may allude to Psalmoi, the Greek name for the book of Psalms in the LXX. with the spirit: Grk. pneuma with the definite article. Singing with the spirit may denote passion and heartfelt devotion. and I will also sing: Grk. psallō, fut. with the mind: Grk. nous. Paul adds the second activity and appeals to the Corinthians to pray and sing with both spirit and mind. It isn’t an either or, but both. True worship is an incarnational experience in which the intellect is fully cognizant of and cooperative with the Spirit's activity.
The use of the tongue in singing is mentioned in the Psalms. "Let my tongue sing of your word" (Ps 119:172). "Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting; then they said among the nations, the LORD has done great things for them" (Ps 126:2 NASB).
16— Otherwise, if you bless in spirit, how will the one filling the place of the outsider say "Amen" at your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?
Otherwise: Grk. epei, conj. See verse 12 above. if: Grk. ean, conj. you bless: Grk. eulogeō, pres. act. subj., to invoke divine favor or express high praise. Paul mentions a third activity, that of offering a blessing (Heb. b’rakhah), a thanksgiving for what God has done or is doing. The corresponding Heb. verb is barakh, which lit. means to kneel or to bless (BDB 138). In the Tanakh barakh is an endowment of favor or beneficial power (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser, either from God to man, from man to man or parent to child (DNTT 1:207). However, the verb often occurs in the context of a man blessing God (e.g., Ps 103:1).
Jews learned to bless God on many occasions for every enjoyable thing in life and synagogue worship involved a variety of prayers that consisted of blessing God for His attributes or His gracious deeds toward Israel. (These may be found in the Talmud tractate Berakoth.) The formula for blessings set forth in the Mishnah consisted of two parts, first the standard invocation, Barukh attah Adonai, ("Blessed are You, O LORD," quoting Psalm 119:12) (Ber. 1:4), followed by the reason for the invocation, "who [action verb]." Christian versions may translate the verb in various passages with "praise" or "give thanks," but these words do not convey the depth of the act of blessing.
To bless God does not mean conveying something to God He doesn’t already have or to change Him in some way. Blessing God is not simply equivalent to praising Him for something received, although that is included in the concept. Blessing God recognizes His sovereign exaltation and his omnipotent power over all natural processes necessary to life, and attributes the honor due Him for His gracious provision. Since the root meaning of barakh is to kneel, it's not hard to see how we can bless God. We can kneel before Him and acknowledge our utter dependence on Him.
in: Grk. en, prep. spirit: Grk. pneuma without the definite article. See verse 2 above. The expressions "blessing in spirit" and "blessing with the spirit," may be a distinction without a difference. Paul may be referring here to a silent expression of blessing. However, the following two verses may imply that the blessing is occurring in a foreign tongue. how: Grk. pōs, interrogative adv. the one filling: Grk. anaplēroō, pres. part., to make full by supplements or additions; fill (up). the place: Grk. topos, a spatial area, here of the site of the congregational gathering.
of the outsider: Grk. idiōtēs, one who lacks the sophistication or credentials of insiders. Danker treats the term as meaning a newcomer. Mounce defines the noun as one devoid of special learning or gifts, a plain person. HELPS says that the term indicates a person who conspicuously lacks education or status. Thayer comments that in Greek culture the term described what may be called a "layman," in contrast to an expert or specialist in any kind. So the idiōtēs was someone who did not belong to these groups. In the context of the Corinthian congregation and given they are distinguished from unbelievers in verse 23, BAG defines those in this group as proselytes or catechumens who have yet to be regarded as committed disciples of Yeshua. say: Grk. eirō, fut., inform through utterance.
Amen: Grk. amēn ("ah-mayn") reflects a strong affirmation, meaning "so let it be" or "truly." Amēn transliterates the Heb. ’amen (ah-mayn, SH-543), which means "it is true, so be it, or may it become true." The Heb. root aman means "to confirm or support." The word amēn reflects an Hebraic conviction that God’s words were to be reverently received. In typical Jewish usage the singular amēn points to something previously said (Stern 26). For example, in the Torah people responded with "amen" for each of the curses as they were pronounced (Deut 27:15 +11t) and other passages illustrate the same use (1Kgs 1:36; 1Chr 16:36; Neh 5:31; Ps 106:48; Jer 11:5; 28:6). Only three times in the Tanakh is amēn self-initiated as part of a benediction (Ps 41:14; 72:19; 89:53; cf. Rom 1:25; 9:25). The fact of the congregation's usage of "amen" in worship indicates the Jewish character of the congregation. Christianity did not invent the use of the term.
at your thanksgiving: Grk. eucharistia may mean (1) a quality indicative of appropriate attitude toward a benefactor, 'gratitude;' or (2) an expression of thankfulness, 'thanksgiving,' especially associated with prayer. By definition the Hebrew and Greek words for prayer do not encompass blessing or praising God or offering thanksgiving, but such expressions are important in recognition of what God has already done. since: Grk. epeidē, conj. with causal emphasis; since, inasmuch as, for. he does not know: Grk. oida, perf. See verse 11 above. what you are saying: Grk. legō, pres., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form; say, tell, declare. In context Paul intends the verbal content of the thanksgiving.
17— For indeed you are giving thanks correctly, but the other is not edified.
For: Grk. gar, conj. indeed: Grk. mén, conj., a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. you are giving thanks: Grk. eucharisteō, pres., to give thanks. The use of the verb in the apostolic writings is almost always in reference to God as the recipient of thanksgiving, either explicitly or implicitly. The verb occurs not at all in the LXX of the Tanakh, but is found six times in the Jewish Apocrypha (DNTT 3:818). correctly: Grk. kalōs, adv., in an effective manner, often with the focus on meeting expectations; well, effectively, accurately, correctly, appropriately. but: Grk. alla, adversative conj. that presents a strong contrast.
the other: Grk. heteros, adj. that may (1) distinguish one item from another in a numerical sense, other, another; or (2) express dissimilarity of one item relative to another, whether generically or qualitatively; other, another or different. The term alludes to the "outsider" in the previous verse. is not edified: Grk. oikodomeō, pres., to erect a structure. See verse 4. Worship is not intended to be a individualistic exercise where each one offers prayer and praise to God without thought or participation with others present. Worship is a corporate activity for the people of God. God intends that we bless each other as we bless Him.
I thank: Grk. eucharisteō, pres. See the previous verse. Paul changes to the first person to express thanksgiving. He is not bragging in the sense of "I can do something you can't do." Paul is not petty. Instead, Paul simply identifies the source of his ability. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 2 above. I speak: Grk. laleō, pres. See verse 2 above. languages: pl. of Grk. glōssa. See verse 2 above. Most versions insert either "with" or "in" before the noun even though there is no preposition in the Greek text. Paul obviously possessed the gift of languages that he described in chapter 12. more than: Grk. mallon, adv. See verse 1 above. Grosheide interprets the adverb to mean "more often" (327), but BAG, Mounce, HELPS and Thayer define mallon as "more than," indicating a greater degree. than all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 5 above. of you: pl. of Grk. su, pronoun of the second person, used in a corporate sense or at least of those causing problems.
Grosheide interprets Paul's usage of glossais here to mean glossolalia, because he could speak Greek at Corinth and then everybody would understand him. Coffman also believes that Paul was testifying of a personal and regular Spirit-induced practice of glossolalia, but if so it was a genuine manifestation of the Spirit and not the sensational counterfeit practiced at Corinth. Barnes, Clarke, Gill and Mare interpret Paul's statement as a claim to greater skill in diverse languages than the Corinthians members. Most Jews spoke enough Greek in order to conduct trade, but it was closer to what might be called "pidgin Greek." Paul, a Roman citizen and native of the Diaspora, was most likely fluent in Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Aramaic, and perhaps some other dialects (cf. Acts 14:11-15). He was the ideal apostle to all the non-Jewish nations.
19— but in assembly I desire to speak five words with my mind, so that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a foreign tongue.
but: Grk. alla, conj. in: Grk. en, prep., lit. "within." assembly: Grk. ekklēsia. See verse 4 above. Paul no doubt refers to the congregation gathered for worship. I desire: Grk. thelō, pres. See verse 5 above. to speak: Grk. laleō, aor. inf. See verse 2 above. The use of the infinitive emphasizes his personal value system. five: Grk. pente, the cardinal number five, here of a quantity. words: Grk. logos. See verse 9 above. with my: Grk. egō, 1p pronoun. mind: Grk. nous, mind. See the verse 14 above. In combination with "speaking," Paul means that what he understands should be understood by those who hear. It may be that Paul hints at his experience of private intimacy with the Spirit in Romans 8:26 and 2Corinthians 5:2-4; 12:2-4. His point is he could come to Corinth and show off his knowledge of languages (whether human or heavenly), but it would not accomplish a benefit to the congregation.
so that: Grk. hina, conj. I might instruct: Grk. katēcheō, aor. subj., to impart structured information; to instruct, teach. At heart Paul was a teacher, as all his letters testify (1Tim 2:7). others: pl. of Grk. allos, adj., other, another. also: Grk. kai, conj. Paul's ministry was always focused on gaining new disciples for Yeshua and strengthening disciples in the faith. than ten thousand: pl. of Grk. murioi, thus, tens of thousands. words: pl. of Grk. logos. in: Grk. en, prep. a foreign tongue: Grk. glōssa. See verse 2 above. Paul's hyperbole effectively rebuts the notion that the gift of languages or glossolalia is the greatest spiritual gift.
Instruction for Worship Gatherings, 14:20-33
20— Brothers and sisters, be not children in your thoughts, but be infants in evil and mature people in your thoughts.
Brothers and sisters: pl. of Grk. adelphos, vocative case. See verse 6 above. The word is translated as "brothers and sisters" since he is addressing the entire congregation. be: Grk. ginomai, pres. mid. imp., to transfer from one state or condition to another, to be or to become. not: Grk. mē, lit. "not," a particle of qualified negation. It differs from the other standard negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought. With mē the negation concerns a supposition and thus prohibits or forbids (DM 265f). children: pl. of Grk. paidion, which refers to a child with an age span from new born to the time of youth.
in your thoughts: pl. of Grk. phrēn, the faculty of giving thought to matters requiring judgment or deliberation. This term occurs only in this verse in the Besekh. Paul may be alluding to the change that occurs during puberty and the child develops the capacity for abstract thinking. It is at this point that in Jewish tradition a boy at age 13 and a girl at age 12 accept accountability for keeping the Torah. Paul's command is to cease behavior in progress. but: Grk. alla, conj. be: Grk. ginomai, pres. mid. imp. infants: Grk. nēpiazō, pres. imp., be an infant. in evil: Grk. kakia, moral offensiveness, which may be characterized by a disposition toward wickedness or malicious attitudes toward others. and mature people: pl. of Grk. teleios, free from deficiency, omission, or corruption; complete, perfect, often occurring in passages on integrity. in your thoughts: pl. of Grk. phrēn.
This verse is parallel to Paul's proverbial statement in Romans 16:19, "I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil" (NASB). Yeshua also counseled his disciples to be as "harmless as doves" (Matt 10:16). Being an infant or "innocent" of evil does not mean being ignorant of evil in the world, which would require shutting oneself off from the world to avoid being tainted by it. In contrast disciples are to be in the world but not of it (John 17:14, 16). Disciples are to be lights in the world (Phil 2:15), not to be like the world (1Jn 2:15).
21— In the Torah it is written: "by other languages and by other lips I will speak to this people; and not even thus will they listen to Me, says ADONAI."
In: Grk. en, prep. the Torah: Grk. nomos may mean either (1) a principle or standard relating to behavior or (2) codified legislation, i.e. law. The English word "law," which translates the Hebrew word Torah in the Bible, does not convey the breadth of meaning of this important word. In the LXX nomos translates torah (SH-8451), which means "direction," "teaching" or "instruction" (BDB 435f). Torah came to mean law in the sense of commandments, statutes and ordinances decreed by God. In addition, Torah meant instruction of a mother (Prov 1:8) or father (Prov 3:1), and the direction given by duly appointed judges (Deut 17:11) and priests (Deut 24:8; 33:10) to implement God's commandments. Torah sets forth the way a person is meant to live in an ethical and moral way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God.
In normal Jewish usage in the first century Torah could mean (1) the commandments given through Moses to the nation of Israel at Sinai and Moab (e.g., Matt 12:5; Luke 2:22-27; John 1:17; 8:5; Jas 2:11); (2) that plus the entire Pentateuch, especially when used in combination with "the Prophets" (Matt 22:40; John 1:45); (3) that plus any portion of the Prophets and Writings (Matt 5:18; John 10:34; 12:34; 15:25). In this sense "Torah" can be synonym of "Scripture.". In the apostolic writings the context is usually clear as to which of these meanings is intended. Since the quotation that follows comes from Isaiah 28:11-12, then Paul is using Torah in the third sense.
it is written: Grk. graphō, perf. mid., the standard formula in the apostolic writings for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, followed by a quote from the Tanakh. Christian theologies have different theories of biblical inspiration but for Paul the Jew it was a simple matter that God spoke and man wrote (e.g., Ex 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Num 33:2; 36:5; Deut 30:10; 2Pet 1:20-21). Paul uses the formula 8 times in his letter thereby basing his arguments on the inscribed, inspired and infallible Word of God. God's intention from the establishment of his covenant with Israel is that His people would ground their lives in the Scripture received by Moses from God and written down (Ex 24:4-8, 12; Lev 10:11; 26:46; Num 36:13; Deut 17:18-20; 27:2-3, 8, 26), not man's interpretations and rules that often contradict Scripture or substitute for Scripture.
Paul only quotes the first part of Isaiah 28:11 and the last part of verse 12 as suiting his purpose. Of course, in typical Jewish fashion a quotation of Scripture always considers the entire context. A comparison of the translation of the Hebrew text and the LXX indicates that Paul either produced his own translation or quoted from a variant text of the LXX.
TLV: 11 For through stammering lips and a foreign tongue He will speak to this people, 12 To whom He said, "Here is rest, give rest to the weary, here is repose"— but they would not listen."
LXX: 28:11 For they shall speak to this people another tongue, because of disparagement [Grk. phaulismos] of the lips; 28:12 saying to it, This is the rest to the one hungering, and this is the destruction; and they did not want to hear. (ABP) The Greek word rendered "disparagement" means to be insensitive to what is right and proper.
In context Isaiah 28 is a taunt against the "drunkards of Ephraim" (Isa 28:1). There may be a veiled rebuke in Paul's choice of quotation since he had already accused certain members of the Corinthian congregation of drunken behavior in their gatherings for the Lord's Supper (11:20-22). Paul may even be implying that the problems in worship stemmed from too much wine.
by: Grk. en, prep., lit. "within," but with the dative case of the noun following, the preposition expresses instrumentality or means (DM 105). other languages: Grk. heteroglōssos, lit. "other tongues," speaking an alien or foreign language, at least foreign to Israelite ears. and by: Grk. en. the lips: pl. of Grk. cheilos, lips of the mouth. The plural form emphasizes that both upper and lower lips of the mouth make speech possible. of foreigners: Grk. word eteros, lit. "others," though in context it presumptively refers to non-Jews. Paul apparently interprets the quote from Isaiah in the anatomical sense of non-Jewish tongues speaking rather than a different language sense. Paul's use of the Isaiah passage has no bearing on the practice of glossolalia.
Consider the story of Cornelius the Roman centurion, who spoke in glōssais (Acts 10:46). That glōssais means "languages" in that context is emphasized by three specific references. First, Peter "heard" them, which implies that he understood what they were saying. Second, they were praising God, which implies familiarity to Peter. Third, Peter specifically says in verse 47 that this "speaking with languages" was the same as his experience on Shavuot (Pentecost), i.e., speaking in a known language. The chances are that Peter heard Cornelius speaking in Hebrew, perhaps quoting a Psalm of praise. This phenomenon would have amazed Peter.
I will speak: Grk. laleō, fut. act. ind., to express oneself verbally in words. See verse 2 above. to this people: Grk. laos, a group of humans, which may be identified geographically or ethnically or simply as a group gathered together in an area or place. In the context of Isaiah the audience for the speaking was Ephraim. and not even: Grk. oude, conj. used to introduce a statement that is negated factually and deductively. thus: Grk. houtōs, adv., thus, so, in this manner. will they listen: Grk. eisakouō, fut. mid., to pay attention to something expressed orally.
to Me, says ADONAI: 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. In the overwhelming majority of instances (over 6,000 times), kurios replaces the Heb. Sacred Name Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey (as in the Isaiah quote), 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).
22— so as the languages are for a sign, not to the ones believing but to unbelievers, and prophecy is not to unbelievers but to the ones believing.
Paul offers a midrash on the prophecy of Isaiah, who was certainly not talking about glossolalia. Paul’s point here is that God said He would speak through Gentiles, foreigners to Israel. so as: Grk. hoste, conj. the languages: pl. of Grk. ho glōssa. See verse 2 above. This is the only verse in this chapter in which the plural form of glōssa occurs with the definite article, which may indicate that Paul has Pentecost in mind. While God spoke to His people in Hebrew in the past centuries, He desired to be praised in all the languages and dialects of the world. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 9 above. for: Grk. eis, prep.
a sign: Grk. sēmeion means sign, miracle or wonder. Sēmeion is used in the Gospels to attest the authority of Yeshua and validate His divinity (Matt 12:38; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; John 2:11, 18; 4:54; 6:14; 12:18; 20:30f). The corresponding Heb. word oth referred to signs, omens or miracles promised by prophets as pledges of certain predicted events or as pledges or attestations of divine presence and intervention in the affairs of men. Oth has its root in the verb avah, which means to sign, mark or describe with a mark (BDB 16). However, signs can also be used by evil forces to deceive people (Matt 24:24; 2Th 2:9; Rev 13:13, 14; 16:14; 19:20). Here Paul is using sēmeion in its positive sense of something that communicates a Divinely-given message. While some commentators consider Paul to be talking about glossolalia, he really amplifies on the quotation from Isaiah.
not: Grk. ou, adv., negative particle. to the ones believing: Grk. pisteuō, pres. part., to have confidence or trust in, an allusion to those who have put their trust in the God of Israel for salvation. Those who believe in Yeshua do not need signs or miracles, because their relationship to God is based on trust. Some believers unfortunately develop an unhealthy interest in signs, going from one miracle worker to another as if they need reassurance that God cares about them. but: Grk. alla, conj. to unbelievers: pl. of Grk. apistos, without trust in or commitment to Messiah Yeshua. Paul has already said at the beginning of this letter that "traditional Jews ask for signs and Hellenistic Jews search for wisdom (1Cor 1:22 BR). Such an expectation arises from unbelief. Both signs and wisdom would have a supernatural origin, so "unbelievers" would not be limited to Jews.
Given what Paul says in the next verse it is fair to ask what it means for speaking in other languages to be a sign for unbelievers. A sign of what? The only story that provides a clue is the Pentecost narrative and in that situation when the unbelievers challenge Peter to explain the meaning of the Spirit-anointed communication in so many dialects, Peter explains that the portents fulfilled the prophecy of Joel (Acts 2:16). The significance of the Pentecost signs is that whereas God had created languages in order to disperse people over the face of the earth, now God broke down the language barriers in order to create one people in the Messiah. Both were interventions in the natural order by the Creator God. So, Pentecost was the sign to unbelievers, whether Jew or Gentile. After all, there were Gentiles (proselytes) in the Jerusalem crowd that witnessed the event.
and: Grk. de, conj. prophecy: Grk. prophēteia, to foretell, tell forth or prophesy. See verse 6 above. Prophesying is the continuing ministry of God's people. Pentecost cannot be repeated. is not: Grk. ou, adv. to the unbelievers: pl. of Grk. apistos. but: Grk. alla, conj. to the ones believing: pl. of Grk. pisteuō, pres. part. The Tanakh contains a number of prophetic proclamations concerning Gentile nations, but the messages were all given to Israel. In some of these cases the foreign nations would likely have learned of God's pronouncements against them.
23— So if the whole congregation assembles together, and all are speaking foreign tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you rave?
So: Grk. oun, conj. if: Grk. ean, conj. Paul introduces a hypothetical scenario. the whole: Grk. holos, person or thing considered as a complete unit, i.e., the total number of disciples in Corinth. congregation: Grk. ekklēsia, congregation. See verse 4 above. assembles together: Grk. sunerchomai, aor. subj., to come together as a collection of persons. The opening clause alludes to the fact that congregations in the apostolic era met in houses and they did not always have a meeting place large enough to accommodate the entire congregation in the city. Corinth appears to have been an exception. When the congregation formed originally in 50-51 they met in the home of Titius Justus (Acts 18:7), but whether they were still meeting there at the time of this letter (55) is unknown.
When Paul writes his letter to the Roman congregation (57-58) the Corinthian congregation was meeting in the home of Gaius (Rom 16:23), who was immersed under Paul's ministry (1Cor 1:14). The assembly is presumptively a worship service. and: Grk. kai, conj. all: pl. of Grk. pas. See verse 5 above. are speaking: Grk. laleō, pres. subj., to say something. See verse 2 above. foreign tongues: pl. of Grk. glōssa. See verse 2 above. Most versions insert either "with" or "in" before the noun even though there is no preposition in the Greek text. Paul mentions two groups, though he may intend two characteristics of the same outsiders. and: Grk. de, conj. outsiders: pl. of Grk. idiōtēs. See verse 16 above.
or: Grk. hē, conj. unbelievers: pl. of Grk. apistos. The term could refer to Jews or Gentiles. come in: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. subj., to enter an area, such as a city, but often a structure devoted to worship, such as a temple or synagogue. The verb may allude to visitors traveling through the city. With the hypothetical scenario Paul asks a logical question. [will they] not: Grk. ouk, adv. used for strong negation but used here to introduce a direct question expecting an affirmative answer. [they will] say: Grk. legō, fut. See verse 16 above. While the subjunctive mood of the previous verbs affirmed a hypothetical scenario, the indicative mood of this verb declares with certainty what would happen. that: Grk. hoti, conj. you rave: Grk. mainomai, pres. mid., to rave, be delirious, to have no control over oneself. Imagine the scene at Babel when languages were created. No doubt people suddenly unable to communicate thought those around them were insane.
Stern observes that some Christian groups seem oblivious to the effect their practices have on outsiders. They form a closed circle and encourage one another in a style which, rather than conveying love (Chapter 13) or even judgment to outsiders, conveys only weirdness. Such groups should reevaluate their practices in terms of evangelistic effectiveness: are people who could be won to faith being turned away by the oddness of it all? In this regard, Paul is a sensible man (see also verses 33, 40).
24— But if all are prophesying, and some unbeliever or outsider comes in, he is convicted by all and is judged by all.
But: Grk. de, conj. if: Grk. ean, conj. all: pl. of Grk. pas, all or every. are prophesying: Grk. prophēteuō, pres. subj.. See verse 1 above. Paul restates his hypothetical scenario of the previous verse with prophesying as the activity and the predictable results. and some unbeliever: Grk. apistos. See verse 22 above. or outsider: Grk. idiōtēs. See verse 16 above. comes in: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. subj. See the previous verse. he is convicted: Grk. elegchō, pres. pass., to bring to light, to expose, to refute or to convict. The verb describes evaluation of improper behavior, whether by an individual of himself or by someone else. The passive mood of the verb here points to the work of the Holy Spirit to convict (John 16:8). by all and is judged: Grk. anakrinō, pres. pass., to engage in careful inquiry, make a close study of, ask questions about, to examine or investigate. by all: Paul is not describing a situation of members pointing fingers of accusation at visitors. Rather, God uses the words of His witnesses to stimulate thirst for spiritual life in the hearts of unbelievers. Both the conviction and the judgment come from God.
25— The secrets of his heart become revealed, and thus having fallen down on his face he will worship God, proclaiming that really God is among you.
The secrets: pl. of Grk. kruptos, not open to or recognizable by the public, the hidden things. of his heart: Grk. kardia, lit. "heart," figurative of the personality, the sum total of character, cognition, emotion and volition. become: Grk. ginomai, pres. pass. See verse 20 above. revealed: pl. of Grk. phaneros, state or condition that makes observation possible, something publicly known, out in the open, apparent. and thus: Grk. houtōs, adv. having fallen down: Grk. piptō, aor. part., to drop from a relatively high position to a lower position. on his face: Grk. prosōpon, the frontal part of the head. The falling is not the same thing as accidentally falling with a resulting injury. The description may be literal in terms of a person physically lowering himself to a prostrate position (cf. Rev 7:1) or idiomatic of repentance.
he will worship: Grk. proskuneō, fut., means to bow down, to worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to or welcome respectfully. BAG notes that the Greek word was often used in secular literature to designate the ancient custom of prostrating oneself before a person, such as a king, and kissing his feet, the hem of his garment, the ground, etc. In the LXX proskuneō translates two different words, both with the basic meaning to bend down, stoop or bow. In the Tanakh the physical action of bending represented bowing to the will of the exalted One (cf. Ex 12:27f) (DNTT 2:876f). In the apostolic writings proskuneō directed to God continues the Hebrew meaning with a greater emphasis on obeisance linked with prayers for divine help. True worship for an unbeliever can only follow repentance.
God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 2 above. proclaiming: Grk. apangellō, pres. part., to relate as the result of personal experience, observation or other source of information; relate, report, declare, announce, proclaim. that: Grk. hoti, conj. really: Grk. ontōs, adv., in every sense of the word; unquestionably, really, actually. God: Grk. theos. is: Grk. eimi, pres. among: Grk. en, prep. you: Grk. humeis, 2p-pl. pronoun, here used in a corporate sense. Paul returns briefly to the benefit of prophesying. Prophesying will serve to convict both groups. Conviction will lead to confession, confession to repentance and repentance to worship. The impact of experiencing the presence of God is indeed powerful.
26— What then is it, brothers and sisters? Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a foreign tongue, or has an interpretation. All things shall be done for edification.
What: Grk. tis, interrogative pronoun; who, which, what. then: Grk. oun, conj. is it: Grk. eimi, pres. brothers and sisters: pl. of Grk. adelphos, vocative case. See verse 6 above.Paul asks another rhetorical question. In other words, what is it that I've heard goes on in your worship services? Paul may be alluding to a report from Chloe's people (cf. 1Cor 1:11). Whenever: Grk. otan, conj. that indicates either in a general or specific sense when an event is anticipated or occurring. In this context otan refers to the occasion for congregational worship. you come together: Grk. sunerchomai, pres. mid. subj., to come together as a collection of persons. See verse 23 above. The present tense points to a reoccurring action. Since the subjunctive mood looks toward what is conceivable or potential, the following words may indicate Paul's suggestion for a structure of worship that provides variety.
Nothing is known with certainty of the frequency of congregational gatherings in the apostolic era, although presumptively they met on the Sabbath and the first day of the week. The apostles and Jewish disciples, as observant Jews, as well as proselytes, worshipped on the Sabbath (Acts 13:14, 42; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4; Col 2:16; Heb 10:25; Jas 2:2), but when worshipping on the first day of the week began for early believers is unknown. It could have started shortly after the Ascension, not only in celebration of the resurrection but also in memory of Yeshua’s appearance to the disciples on the first day of the week (John 20:19).
The resurrection remembrance service probably followed at the conclusion of Sabbath observance at sundown, as in Acts 20:7 where Paul’s teaching until midnight is spoken of as taking place on the first day of the week. Paul gives instruction to the Corinthian congregation to collect an offering for the saints on the first day of the week (1Cor 16:2) and only a gathering for worship would explain such specific directions. Stern (491) points out that Jewish believers would not have called the first day of the week Shabbat, because Judaism forbids handling money on the Sabbath and, therefore, Paul would not have directed the congregation to take up a collection on a day deemed to be the Sabbath.
At the beginning of the second century Ignatius (d. 107) references the dual observance of the Sabbath and the first day of the week when he said,
"But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner…. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days. Looking forward to this, the prophet declared, ‘To the end, for the eighth day,’ on which our life both sprang up again, and the victory over death was obtained in Christ." (Epistle to the Magnesians IX)
The shift away from observing the seventh-day Sabbath by Christians occurred later in the second century and may have been furthered by Roman edicts against the Jews. Caesar Hadrian (117-138 A.D.) outlawed the practice of the Jewish religion and particularly the observance of the Sabbath. The action of the church of Rome to eliminate Sabbath observance and only worship on the first day of the week may have been an effort to avoid the discrimination being meted out to the Jews. However, the change didn’t save Christians from persecution. (See my article Remember the Sabbath.)
each one: Grk. ekastos, an adj. denoting individual persons with the thrust of "every single one." has: Grk. echō, pres., to possess, with the implication of the object being under one's control or at one's disposal. The verb actually occurs five times in the verse and is repeated with each listed gift expression. The indicative mood, which makes a simple assertion, may suggest Paul's analysis of an existing structure of worship, but this seems less likely with the repeated criticism in this chapter of how untranslated languages were employed. Paul does not mean that every person shares all these ministries, but that each person has one thing that will contribute to the whole. In Paul's suggested model of worship each of the verbal gifts has an opportunity for expression. This is a highly participatory, even democratic, kind of service. It sounds as if some planning must occur, probably by the pastor, to arrange for such participation.
a psalm: Grk. psalmos, a celebratory poem, from psallō, "to pluck a stringed instrument." In the LXX psalmos renders Heb. mizmor (SH-4210), a melody, which is used in the headings to 49 Psalms (DNTT 3:671). Psalmos also translates Heb. zamir (SH-2158), song (2Sam 23:1; Ps 95:2); zimrah (SH-2172), a melody or song in praise of Yah (Ps 81:2; 98:5; Amos 5:23) and neginath (SH-5058), music, song (Lam 3:14). Singing psalms in worship likely began with the appointment of psalm-singers (LXX psaltōdos; pl. psaltōdoi, 1Chr 9:33; 15:16) by King David. Psalmoi is the name given to the book of Psalms, (Heb. Tehillim) which among Jews of that day had canonical status (cf. Luke 20:42; 24:44; John 10:34; Acts 1:20; 13:33). Paul no doubt means that someone would share one of the 150 psalms, a rich source for praise and prophesying (cf. Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). Grosheide suggests that the mention of "psalm" might indicate that the singer may have composed the song or sung a familiar hymn.
has: Grk. echō, pres. a teaching: Grk. didachē, derived from the verb didaskō ("teach"), means instruction or doctrine imparted by teaching. The term occurs 30 times in the Besekh, usually in the sense of the content of teaching by Yeshua and the apostles. Such didachē is often the exposition and application of Torah, which came originally from the Father. In the LXX didachē is found only in the superscription of Psalm 60:1 to render the Piel inf. of Heb. lamad, "to exercise in, to learn" (BDB 540), an action attributed to David (DNTT 3:767). According to Klaus Wegenast the Hebrew equivalent of didachē would be talmud (which is derived from lamad), as found in Avot 6:2, "you find no free man but he that occupies himself with the study of Torah" (DNTT 3:769).
has: Grk. echō, pres. a revelation: Grk. apokalupsis, making fully known, uncovering, disclosure. See verse 6 above. Within this context Paul probably intended sharing a portion from the Prophets in the Tanakh. He certainly does not promote any kind of soothsaying of telling individual fortunes. Thus, a psalm, representing the Ketuvim (Writings), a teaching, representing the Torah (Pentateuch), and a revelation, representing the Neviim (Prophets) would be in accord with his principle that "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness" (2Tim 3:16).
has: Grk. echō, pres. a foreign tongue: Grk. glōssa, a language. See verse 2 above. In this verse glōssa would not be sharing a portion of Scripture, but offering a prayer or praise, or maybe giving a testimony in another language. has: Grk. echō, pres. an interpretation: Grk. hermēneia, a translation, as a capability (1Cor 12:10), or the product of the ability to translate, as here. This is the first hint that someone other than the speaker would translate the content of a foreign tongue. Paul required that the foreign tongue and interpretation go together.
All things: pl. of Grk. pas, all or every. shall be done: Grk. ginomai, pres. mid. imp., to become or come into being, to produce. Paul issues an apostolic command that pertains to all these elements of worship. for: Grk. pros, prep. edification: Grk. oikodomē, building up, strengthening. See verse 3 above. Paul's primary concern is that whatever happens in worship will strengthen the unity of the body and thereby its impact as a witness in the community. Strangely missing from this list is preaching (kērussō or euaggelizō), but Paul is identifying the contribution of members to the worship in contrast to the pastoral leadership.
27— And if anyone speaks a foreign tongue, it shall be by two, or the most three, and in turn, and one must interpret.
And if: Grk. eite, conj., and if, if also, whether. anyone: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun; someone, anyone. speaks: Grk. laleō, pres., to express oneself in words. See verse 2 above. a foreign tongue: Grk. glōssa. See verse 2 above. Most versions insert either "with" or "in" before the noun even though there is no preposition in the Greek text. This "speaking" could be a prayer or a song or a blessing to God as mentioned in verses 14-16. it shall be by: Grk. kata, prep. used in general expressing measure and the idea of something associated with or lining up with something else. two: Grk. duo, two. or the most: Grk. pleistos, adj. a superlative meaning much, many or most. The adj. is used here as a numerical limit.
three: Grk. treis, three. Paul imposes his second rule (see verse 13 above) for speaking a foreign tongue. The limit of "two or three" is probably based on the Torah principle of two or three to establish the truth of a matter or decide a matter. (This rule is repeated in Matthew 18:16 and 1 Timothy 5:19.) From a modern perspective it might appear as if Paul is trying to stifle the anointing of the Holy Spirit, but Paul applies the same rule to prophesying. He is not only concerned about edification, but also order and full expression of all the verbal gifts. Paul’s instructions could imply planning, or if extemporaneous someone would be controlling the service to regulate the number who publicly exercise this gift.
and: Grk. kai, conj. in: Grk. ana, prep. used here in a distributive sense, one's position in an order; in, by. turn: Grk. meros, a part, portion, share. In other words the speakers are to take turns, not all speak at once. Paul gives a third rule to restrict all speaking at the same time. In the Jewish synagogue service there were at least seven readers of Scripture, who read at least three verses in turn (Rienecker). and one: Grk. heis, one. This "one" could be one of the two or three or someone else. must interpret: Grk. diermēneuō, pres. imp., to make something clear or intelligible, to translate, interpret or explain. Paul imposes his fourth rule on speaking a foreign tongue, a variation of the first rule. See the previous verse. This rule indicates that the language is a translatable language, not a mystery "tongue" unknown to everyone including the speaker.
28— But if there is not an interpreter, he must keep silent in the assembly; moreover he shall speak to himself and to God.
But: Grk. de, conj. if: Grk. ean, conj. Paul offers a sharp contrast to the conditions described in the previous verse. there is: Grk. eimi, pres. subj., to be. not: Grk. mē, negative particle. an interpreter: Grk. diermēneutēs, an interpreter or translator. The term occurs only here in the Besekh and is not known in any other Jewish literature, so it may have been coined by Paul. The first century synagogue had a number of people that assisted in conducting the Sabbath services, one of whom was an interpreter, known as the meturgan (Moseley 11). This person was skilled in languages, who stood by the one reading the Torah to translate into other languages the Hebrew that was being spoken. In the synagogue school the teacher would literally speak the message in the interpreter’s ear, who would then shout it out to others, both inside the classroom and out (cf. Matt 10:27).
he must keep silent: Grk. sigaō, pres. imp., may mean (1) refrain from speaking or (2) refrain for a time from revealing something publicly. The first meaning applies here. Thayer defines the verb as to keep silence or to hold one's peace. The present tense indicates that he is not even to speak in a foreign tongue once (Robertson). Paul's instruction is a command, not a suggestion, and indicates that the person could control the use of the gift. in: Grk. en, prep. the assembly: Grk. ekklēsia, congregation. See verse 4 above. moreover: Grk. de. he shall speak: Grk. laleō, pres. imp. See verse 2 above. to himself: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun; of himself, of herself. The fact of being masculine in form does not exclude women from consideration.
and: Grk. kai, conj. to God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 18 above. Paul imposes his fifth rule on speaking in another language. He commands that if no meturgan is present (or someone who can interpret), then the speaker must keep silent. The Holy Spirit would not sanction disobedience of apostolic commands. Paul does allow that without a meturgan, the speaker may still offer his prayer, song or blessing to God silently. God hears and accepts the worship of our hearts.
29— And two or three prophets shall speak, and the others shall judge.
And: Grk. de, conj. two: Grk. duo, two. or: Grk. hē, conj. three: Grk. treis, three. prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs. See verse 1 above. shall speak: Grk. laleō, pres. imp. See verse 2 above. and the others: pl. of Grk. allos, adj., another, one distinguished from others. shall judge: Grk. diakrinō, pres. imp., to judge, to make careful discernment, to evaluate. Paul gives no favoritism to the gift of prophesying and his first rule for prophesying imposes the same restriction on the number of participants as for the speaking in foreign tongues. He then gives a second rule for prophesying to emphasize accountability, first to other disciples who have a duty to "test the spirits" (1Jn 4:1), and then in verse 32 to other prophets.
Paul is not suggesting the congregation vote thumbs up or down on whether they approve of the message, but to exercise individual scrutiny of the message according to the truth of Scripture. The rules are founded on Torah instruction:
"'But if a prophet presumptuously speaks a word in my name which I didn't order him to say, or if he speaks in the name of other gods, then that prophet must die. 21 You may be wondering, 'How are we to know if a word has not been spoken by ADONAI? 22 When a prophet speaks in the name of ADONAI, and the prediction does not come true -that is, the word is not fulfilled -then ADONAI did not speak that word. The prophet who said it spoke presumptuously; you have nothing to fear from him." (Deut 18:20–22 CJB)
Disciples have a duty to evaluate whether any sermon or prophetic word is consistent with Scripture. This is following the practice of the Berean Jews: "Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11 NASB).
30— But if something has been revealed to another sitting, the first shall be silent.
But: Grk. de, conj. if: Grk. ean, conj. something has been revealed: Grk. apokaluptō, aor. pass. subj., to cause to be fully known, to disclose, or to reveal. The passive voice emphasizes that the insight has been received from God and the subjunctive mood points to a hypothetical situation. to another: Grk. allos, adj. used to distinguish from one or more other entities; other, another. sitting: Grk. kathemai, pres. mid. part., be at rest on the haunches, to sit down or take a seat. The mention of the posture alludes to the practice of being seated during teaching. the first: Grk. prōtos, having the primary position in sequence, first, earlier or earliest. shall be silent: Grk. sigaō, pres. imp. See verse 28 above.
Paul’s third rule for prophesying is to be willing to yield the floor and not drone on and on. If God has spoken to someone on a different subject, then he should be allowed to speak. In addition, the silence rule would mean that the first speaker is not allowed to interrupt the second speaker to argue. The apostolic command promotes freedom of speech. Synagogue discussions accepted disagreement as a natural part of learning, but opposing points of view should be expressed in a respectful manner.
31— For you all are able to prophesy: one by one so that all might learn and all might be exhorted.
For: Grk. gar, conj. all: pl. of Grk. pas. See verse 5 above. Paul probably does not intend every single member of the congregation, but all manifesting the spiritual gift. are able: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid., be capable for doing or achieving something. to prophesy: Grk. prophēteuō, pres. inf.. See verse 1 above. one by: Grk. kata, prep. used in a distributive sense. one: Grk. heis, one or singly. so that: Grk. hina, conj. all: Grk. pas. might learn: Grk. manthanō, pres. subj., to acquire knowledge, to learn through instruction.
and: Grk. kai, conj. all: pl. of Grk. pas. might be exhorted: Grk. parakaleō, pres. pass. subj., call to be at one's side, to comfort, console, exhort or encourage. Prophesying, as stated in the previous verse, is to be done one at a time. Paul clarifies the outcome that should be expected from prophesying. He is not likely using the verb in the sense of foretelling. Rather, forth-telling should add to one's knowledge of how to be a better disciple and to lift up those who may be anxious or defeated spiritually. It's worthy of note that Paul's view of worship does not limit speaking for God to the pastor or priest as in Christian churches.
32— And spirits of prophets are subject to prophets,
And: Grk. kai, conj. spirits: pl. of Grk. pneuma. See verse 2 above. of prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs. See verse 29 above. Paul uses "spirits of prophets" in an idiomatic sense of prophets serving in a spiritual fashion in worship. Since God is Spirit, then Yeshua's disciples must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). are subject: Grk. hupotassō, pres. pass., to be in compliance with requirements of order; to subordinate oneself to higher authority; to be in subjection to. Hupotassō, from tassō, originated as a military term where a rank structure is clearly defined (DNTT 1:476). Biblical submission does not denote slavery, subservience or inferiority. Submission pertains to recognizing the positions and function of authority God has ordained and voluntarily subordinating oneself to those who hold such positions.
to prophets: The noun does not possess the definite article, so Paul does not have a particular hierarchy of prophets in mind. Paul’s fourth rule of prophesying is a reminder that each individual who thinks he speaks for God is accountable to others, as mentioned in verse 29. A congregational leader who thinks he can never be wrong is self-deceived. Paul may mean that the prophets as a group can exercise control as needed over individuals among their number or he could mean that prophets in the congregation are subject to the literary prophets of Israel, i.e., Scripture (Eph 2:20).
33— for He is not the God of disorder but of peace. Just as in all the congregations of the holy ones,
for: Grk. gar, conj. He is: Grk. eimi, pres. not: Grk. ou, adv. the God: Grk. theos with the definite article, the God of Israel. See verse 18 above. of disorder: Grk. akatastasia, disorder or instability that threatens civic stability, turmoil or disturbance. but: Grk. alla, conj. of peace: Grk. eirēnē, state of harmony, peace, (1) as a result from cessation of hostilities, whether in political or personal relationships; or (2) a state of well-being, used Hebraically as a greeting or as characteristic of the Messianic age and divine favor. The Greek word corresponds to Heb. shalom (SH-7965), which means completeness, soundness, welfare, or peace (BDB 1022). In Jewish culture shalom is never peace in the negative sense, the absence of conflict, but the possession of everything that makes for man’s highest good.
The biblical word for "peace" is principally a relational word, not necessarily a statement of an emotional state of being. God wants unity among His people and is opposed to human-initiated strife. The ministry of each gift should not cause such controversy as to disrupt the integrity of the congregation as a witness in the community. Remember his earlier rule in this letter about pleasing others,
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Be without offenses toward both Judean Jews and Hellenistic Jews, and to the congregation of God 33 just as I also please all in all things, not seeking profit for myself, but that of the many, so that they might be saved." (1Cor 10:31-33 mine)
Instruction to Wives, 14:33b-36
The last clause of this verse should not be associated with the preceding statement, but with the verse that follows (Grosheide). Just as: Grk. hōs, adv. with the primary function of connecting narrative components; used to introduce an answer to an unexpressed question. in: Grk. en, prep. all: pl. of Grk. pas. the congregations: pl. of Grk. ekklēsia. See verse 4 above. Paul makes a number references in his letters to the other congregations in existence at the time (Rom 16:4, 16; 1Cor 7:17; 11:16; 14:33; 16:1, 19; 2Cor 8:1, 18-19, 23; 11:8, 28; 12:13; Gal 1:2, 22; 1Th 2:14; 2Th 1:4).
of the holy ones: pl. of Grk. hagios, set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of God. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadōsh (SH-6918) "sacred, holy," which means to be separated from what is common, unclean or contrary to God’s holiness (DNTT 2:224). Qadosh is a common term used in the Tanakh for the people of God (Deut 7:6; 1Sam 2:9; Ps 16:3; 34:9; 97:10; 135:4; Dan 7:18, 21-22, 25, 27; 8:24). The appellation originated when God called Israel to be a people consecrated to worship and obey Him. The term succeeds in having a corporate meaning as well as an individual meaning. Paul addressed virtually all his epistles to the "holy ones," but he did not use the term in any elitist sense. Paul no doubt uses the term in a very deliberate fashion alluding to other congregations, since he has already likened the Corinthian congregation as fleshly (1Cor 3:1).
Many Christian versions translate hagios here as "saints." The historical restriction in Christianity to designate as saints only the apostles and later Christian leaders acclaimed for their ministry and miracles is unfortunate and unnecessary. The true "saints" are those who have accepted the truth of the Good News of the Messiah, repented of their sins, put their trust in the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua for their sins and separated themselves to be faithful to their Lord. Faithful believers pray, witness and serve God without being heralded. The holy ones are those who are wholly His and who seek to live by His standards.
34— the wives shall be silent in the assemblies, for they are not permitted to them to speak, but shall be submissive, as also the Torah says.
This verse continues the thought from the previous verse and alludes to widespread custom. the wives: pl. of Grk. gunē, a woman in various occupations and social roles. The term is used in the Besekh of an adult female person and as a wife. In the LXX gunē renders the Heb. ishshah ("woman"). The first usage of ishshah is of the woman given to Adam as a wife (Gen 2:22). This instruction is directed to married women as the next verse confirms. shall be silent: Grk. sigaō, pres. imp. See verse 28 above. Some version attempts to soften the apostolic command with "should," but the verb is a command, not a suggestion. However, taking the rule literalistically would require women to be mute in worship, but this view hardly fits the situation or the whole tenor of Scripture.
in: Grk. en, prep. the assemblies: pl. of Grk. ekklēsia, assembly, congregation. See verse 4 above. Paul's command applies to all congregations in the Body of Messiah and not just the congregation in Corinth. The focus of the plural noun is when the congregation is gathered for worship. for: Grk. gar, conj. they are not: Grk. ou, adv. of strong negation. permitted: Grk. epitrepō, pres. pass., to grant opportunity for an activity, to permit or to allow. to them: pl. of Grk. autais, pl. fem. form of autos. to speak: Grk. laleō, pres. inf. See verse 2 above. A few versions qualify the verb as "speak out" (CJB, ERV, TLV). MW renders the verb as "to converse." Some commentators have concluded that Paul is prohibiting women from prophesying, teaching or even praying (or possibly, given the context, from speaking in a foreign tongue) in a congregational meeting. In Jewish synagogues of the time women had a more passive role in Torah studies.
The Talmud reports that one Sage, Rabbi El‘azar ben-‘Azaryah (early 2nd cent.), gave a homily on the verse, "Assemble the people, the men and the women and the little ones" [Deut 31:10], in which he said, "If the men came to learn, the women came to hear" (Hagigah 3a). Stern comments that to "learn" in Judaism is to study by discussing and thus to understand fully, because one’s questions get answered; whereas to "hear" is to listen to the interchange but not participate in it. In any event, God's instruction in the Torah expects that women will learn and obey His commandments and they gathered with the men in order to hear the Torah read (Deut 31:12; Josh 8:35; Neh 8:3).
However, no woman could teach men in a synagogue nor disciple a man as a rabbi did, which seems to be the point of the parallel instruction to Timothy.
"Let a wife learn in quietness with all subjection. But I do not permit a wife to teach, nor to exercise authority over a husband, but to be in quietness." (1Tim 2:11-12 mine)
but: Grk. alla, conj. shall be submissive: Grk. hupotassō, pres. pass. imp. See verse 32 above. This term has particular application to settings with recognized authority, including marital relations. as: Grk. kathōs, conj. used adverbially to emphasize similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. also: Grk. kai, conj. the Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 21 above. says: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 16 above. There is no Torah commandment for women to keep silent in worship, so the biblical allusion is probably to God's words to Adam's wife, Chavvah, "your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you (Gen 3:16 NASB). Thus, the submission here would be by wives to their husbands (cf. Eph 5:22-24) and the banned speech would be of a nature that undermines the authority of the husband.
Of all the apostolic commands to subject oneself to another the most are directed to wives (also Eph 5:22, 24; Col 3:18; 1Tim 2:11-12; Titus 3:5; 1Pet 3:1-6). The wife respects her husband (lit. "fears," Eph 5:33), not because she is afraid of him but because she knows God will hold both her and her husband accountable for their responsibilities (cf. Matt 12:36; Rom 14:12; 2Cor 5:10; Heb 13:17; 1Pet 3:7). The fact that the husband has real authority to make decisions also means wife owes respect for his decisions (cf. Gen 30:1-2; Num 5:19-29; Job 2:9-10; 2Sam 6:20-23). The only biblical exception that may be cited to justify a woman's lack of submission is a concern for safety, as in the case of Abigail who took steps to save her household without her husband's knowledge (1Sam 25:9-19).
In Christian circles the egalitarian model of marriage (50-50 partnership) is generally held up as the ideal with its emphasis on "mutual submission." Such a model foments strife because the perception of what constitutes 50% is not the same to husbands and wives. Scripture is abundantly clear on the subject even if modern Christians won’t accept straightforward instruction. Yes, a husband must sacrificially love his wife according to the model of Yeshua and make it a priority to give happiness to his wife and seek to please her (Deut 24:5; 1Cor 7:34). Similarly, a believing wife must be willing to honor her husband in his role as head of the household. See my article Marriage By Design.
35— And if they want to learn something, they shall ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a wife to speak in assembly.
And: Grk. de, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj. they want: Grk. thelō, pres. See verse 5 above. The present tense emphasizes the earnestness of the desire. to learn: Grk. manthanō, aor. inf., to acquire knowledge, to learn through instruction. Women in first century Jewish society were never discouraged from learning, as the example of Miriam of Bethany, who sat at the feet of Yeshua, illustrates (Luke 10:39). something: Grk. tis. they shall ask: Grk. eperōtaō, pres. imp., may mean either to ask a question or to ask for something. Jewish education employed asking questions to stimulate one's analytical powers with give and take between teacher and student, often involving a serious exchange that involved answering a question with a question (cf. Matt 19:3-5; Mark 2:18-19; Luke 2:46; 18:18-19; 20:1-8). The purpose of questions in Torah study is to advance knowledge and insight, but questions can also be used negatively to oppose, as Yeshua experienced at times.
their own: pl. of Grk. idios, belonging to an individual, especially in contrast to what is public property or belongs to another. husbands: pl. of Grk. anēr, an adult male or man in contrast to a woman. When the word is used in passages relating to marriage then anēr is translated as "husband." Paul presents an interesting contrast when he first uses the expression "own (idios) husband" in this letter (1Cor 7:2). There Paul uses a different pronoun for the reference of "his own (heautou) wife." Heautou is a reflexive pronoun denoting possession by the husband (also in Eph 5:28, 33). In the context of marriage idios is a relational term that means "the husband to whom the wife belongs" (also in Eph 5:22; Titus 2:5; 1Pet 3:1, 5). When God created marriage Chavvah belonged to Adam when she was presented to him. Thus, in biblical marriage narratives a woman never takes a husband, but a man takes a wife (e.g., Gen 4:19; 6:2; 11:29; 1Sam 25:39; Hos 1:2).
at: Grk. en, prep. home: Grk. oikos, a structure for habitation, a house. Paul assumes first that the wife must be willing to receive instruction from her husband (cf. 1 Tim 2:11) and secondly that the husbands will be able and willing to answer their wives' questions. Paul essentially echoes the Torah commandment that assigns to heads of households the primary teaching responsibility of their families, "when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up" (Deut 6:7). This rule benefits married men in that other men, including pastors and evangelists, have no biblical authority to usurp a husband's role as head of his home.
for: Grk. gar, conj. it is: Grk. eimi, pres. shameful: Grk. aischros refers to an action that is shameful or disgraceful, even dishonest. The peoples represented in the apostolic writings lived in an honor-shame culture. The circumstances of a person's social, marital, economic and educational status created a level of honor for that person. For that reason social pressure via law and custom was exerted to preempt any action or reaction that would bring shame to a person. Social contact and expression of women in public was especially restricted to avoid bringing shame to their husbands. The qualities most desired in a Jewish wife were meekness and modesty. Among Jews a wife might walk beside or behind her husband, but never in front of him, and this value permeated all social situations.
In Jewish law causing shame to a husband was grounds for divorce (cf. Gittin 9:10; Ketuboth 5:5; 7:3). The thrust of the command in this verse, then, seems to narrow the scope of the required silence to avoiding offensive speaking that would cause shame for the husband. for a wife: Grk. gunē. See the previous verse. to speak: Grk. laleō, pres. inf. See verse 2 above. in: Grk. en, prep. assembly: Grk. ekklēsia, assembly. See verse 4 above. A variety of explanations of Paul's intention have been offered by interpreters. First, wives were talking to their husbands during worship about the content of someone’s prophetic message and thus distracting others. Such might be the case if wives were violating the "no interruptions" rule to disagree with a speaker.
Second, other Christian interpreters have suggested that the problem was women interrupting prophets to ask questions about childlessness and fertility, much as Greek women did at the Delphi oracle in Corinth. Against this suggestion is the insistence in verse 35 that a wife ask her husband at home about the matter. A husband would not likely be able to have a good answer to questions of fertility. Third, many interpreters, including Stern, have assumed the interruptions were compounded by the women being seated in a separate area, because Jewish synagogues of the time supposedly separated the women from the men in their assemblies by a physical barrier as in modern Orthodox Jewish synagogues.
However, Jewish scholars have rebutted this claim for over a century as resting on the flimsiest evidence (Safrai). According to Acts 18:7 the Corinthian congregation met in the home of a Gentile named Titius Justus (cf. Rom 16:23) and there is no evidence that he erected a barrier to separate the men and women. Indeed, there is no evidence that any of the early congregations did so. Against the interpretation by a few that Paul is issuing a blanket prohibition of a woman from the exercise of any of the verbal spiritual gifts in a congregational meeting is the testimony of Scripture. Miriam, alongside her brothers Moses and Aaron, is reckoned as one of the three liberators from Egypt (Mic 6:4) and she led Israel in its first corporate worship (Ex 15:20).
In his Pentecost sermon Peter repeated the prophecy of Joel that God's Spirit would be poured out on sons and daughters, enabling both to prophesy (Acts 2:17-18). Paul alludes to unnamed women with the gift of prophecy in Corinth (1Cor 11:5). Other women are also named who helped in various aspects of apostolic ministry (Acts 18:26; Rom 16:1-4; 1Cor 16:19; Php 4:2-3). At the end of this letter Paul brings greetings from a congregation in Asia that met in the home of Aquila and Priscilla (16:4). (Interestingly, in four out of the six verses that mention Priscilla her name appears before that of her husband.)
Just as Paul addressed shameful conduct in Chapter 11, so his instruction here represents prohibition of shameful speech, such as destructive criticism of a husband directed to a messenger and masked in a question. ("Don't you think my husband should …") There is no evidence that Paul was trying to devalue a woman's use of spiritual gifts in congregational assemblies, but rather he is attempting to restore order in a dysfunctional congregation. Unchecked the situation in Corinth could deteriorate into the sorry state that occurred later in Thyatira (Rev 2:18-20).
36— or has the word of God gone out from you, or did it only come to you?
or: Grk. hē, conj. has the word: Grk. logos. See verse 9 above of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 2 above. The expression "word of God" occurs many times in Scripture and may refer to some portion of the Tanakh (Matt 15:3; John 10:35; Acts 18:11) or a message given by God to a prophet or messenger (1Kgs 12:22; 1Chr 17:3; Luke 3:2), and in this instance the latter concerning the Good News. gone out: Grk. exerchomai, aor., to move away from a place or position; to go, to come out. from: Grk. apo, prep. that variously signifies departure; forth, from, away from. you: pl. of Grk. su, second person pronoun, "you." The plural pronoun could be taken in a collective sense of the whole congregation or more selectively of a particular minority.
or: Grk. hē, conj. did it only: Grk. monos, signifying the exclusion of any other entity, alone, only. come: Grk. katantanō, aor., of coming to a destination, to come to, to arrive at or to reach a place. to: Grk. eis, prep. you: The plural pronoun is repeated. If we take verses 34 & 35 as forbidding shameful speech, then Paul would be directing this rhetorical question to some unnamed offensive women. Another possibility is that his question relates to the entire content of this chapter and he is addressing the factionalism and arrogance that threatened to destroy the unity of the congregation. In any event Paul rebuts the offenders' importance in the grand plan of God. Paul in effect reminds them that the word of God did not originally go forth from Corinth (or Rome, or any other city), but from Jerusalem, the center of God's redemptive work in the world. Moreover, the Good News came to Corinth because Paul brought it to them.
37— If anyone considers himself to be a prophet or spiritual, he shall recognize that what I write to you is the instruction of the Lord.
If: Grk. ei, conj. anyone: Grk. tis, personal pronoun. thinks: Grk. dokeō, pres., to entertain an idea or form an opinion about something on the basis of what appears to support a specific conclusion. himself to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. to be. a prophet: Grk. prophētēs, one who speaks for God. See verses 1 and 29 above. Paul sets up a test for someone who claims to be a prophet (cf. Deut 13:1-5), so that failure to pass the test automatically disqualifies the claim. or: Grk. hē, conj. spiritual: Grk. pneumatikos. See verse 1 above. This is a dangerous claim to make because the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) are well known and disciples have a responsibility to examine the fruit of those who claim to speak for God (Matt 7:15-20). Paul probably engages in sarcasm here since he has already given a verdict on the spirituality of the congregation (1Cor 3:1).
he shall recognize: Grk. epiginōskō, pres. imp., familiarity with something through observation, experience or receipt of information, to know or to recognize. that: Grk. hoti, conj. what: pl. of Grk. hos, which, what. I write: Grk. grapō, pres., to write or inscribe something with the focus on the physical act of writing. Its usage in the apostolic writings generally denotes producing a document with authority and occurs most frequently in relation to the inspired apostolic letters to individuals and congregations. Paul's letters were regarded as holy Scripture (2Pet 3:16). to you: pl. pronoun. is: Grk. eimi, pres.
the instruction: Grk. entolē, a directive for action, a commandment, order or instruction. In the LXX entolē generally renders Heb. mitsvah (SH-4687), e.g., Ex 20:6; Ps 119:6 (DNTT 1:331). A mitsvah is divine instruction intended for obedience and often associated with a good deed or charitable works with the promise of blessing for obedience. Violation produces guilt and need for atonement. of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 21 above. Next to Christos, Kurios is the principal title used for Yeshua throughout the apostolic writings. However, Paul probably uses kurios as equivalent to the Heb. adōn ("Lord" in the sense of "ruler"). While Christians interpret "Lord" in Scripture only in the sense of deity, Jewish disciples would call Yeshua adōn because as Messiah he will rule over Israel. Lordship implies all kinds of divine expectations of disciples that should be considered (Matt 7:21-23).
Paul declares that the rules he has issued in this chapter, indeed in the entire letter, have the same authority as the Torah commandments God issued at Mt. Sinai. These guidelines could be considered Yeshua's commandment because Paul is simply passing along instruction received from Yeshua by direct revelation. Alternatively, the apostolic commands could be the Lord’s commandment because Paul was given authority as the rest of the apostles to "bind and loose" (Matt 16:19; 18:18). In rabbinic language "bind" means to prohibit and "loose" means to permit. The rebellious members at Corinth might believe themselves spokesmen for God's will, but Paul makes it clear that his authority given directly by the Messiah himself cannot be overruled or gainsaid. Simply put, anyone who disobeys the apostolic commands in this chapter sins.
38— But if anyone disregards this instruction, he will be disregarded.
But: Grk. de, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj. anyone: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. disregards: Grk. agnoeō, pres., 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). Here the verb indicates a willful, and therefore culpable ignorance. After all, Paul has explained Yeshua's expectations. he will be disregarded: Grk. agnoeō, pres. pass. The passive voice indicates something received and in context may refer to other disciples or God, more likely the latter. God stands behind apostolic authority and those disrupting the congregation will risk divine displeasure by disregarding Paul's instruction.
39— So, my brothers and sisters, earnestly desire to prophesy, and forbid not to speak foreign tongues.
So: Grk. hōste, conj. my brothers and sisters: pl. of Grk. adelphos, voc. See verse 6 above. earnestly desire: Grk. zēloō, pres. imp. See verse 1 above. to prophesy: Grk. prophēteuō, pres. inf. See verse 1 above. The first half of this verse returns to the exhortation that began the chapter. and: Grk. kai, conj. forbid: Grk. kōluō, pres. act. imp., stop someone from doing something; forbid, hinder, prevent. not: Grk. ou, adv., negative particle. to speak: Grk. laleō, pres. inf. See verse 2 above. foreign tongues: pl. of Grk. glōssa. See verse 2 above. In other words, do not by policy unilaterally forbid someone speaking in a language, whether human or heavenly, that is unfamiliar to the congregation.
Paul categorically prohibits any further restriction of worship. The rules Paul has articulated are sufficient guidelines for Spirit-anointed worship. The power of this rule is in the facilitation of cross-cultural worship. Congregations tend to be homogenous, because people are most comfortable worshipping with people like themselves and in the manner relative to the culture or country. Multi-ethnic congregations are a rarity, but worshipping cross-culturally is possible in the Spirit.
40— But all things must be done properly and with orderliness.
But: Grk. de, conj. all things: pl. of Grk. pas; all, every. Paul alludes to all the manifestations, gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit. must be done: Grk. ginomai, pres. mid. imp. See verse 20 above. The present tense emphasizes every time a worship service is conducted. properly: Grk. euschēmonōs, an adverb meaning in conformity with expectations for appropriate conduct, with propriety. Mounce adds in a becoming manner, decently, gracefully. and: Grk. kai, conj. with: Grk. kata, prep. orderliness: Grk. taxis may mean (1) a position or turn in an orderly sequence of activity (Luke 1:8); (2) an arrangement for activity, order (Heb 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11, 17); or (3) the condition of being orderly. Danker thinks third usage primarily applies here, but the other two usages could also be pertinent.
Rienecker notes that that Josephus also used taxis to indicate that the Essenes only spoke "in turn:"
"Nor is there ever any clamor or disturbance to pollute their house, but they give every one leave to speak in their turn; which silence thus kept in their house appears to foreigners like some tremendous mystery; the cause of which is that perpetual sobriety they exercise, and the same settled measure of meat and drink that is allotted them, and that such as is abundantly sufficient for them." (Wars II, 8:5)
The use of taxis here is certainly comparable to the use of meros in verse 27 above, but also pertains to how the entire Messianic worship service should be conducted, as well as how the congregation functions together as a unity. Paul appeals to a creation principle again, because God is not a God of disorder (verse 32 above). Orderliness will facilitate edification.
ABP: The Apostolic Bible Polyglot, trans. Charles Van Der Pool. The Apostolic Press, 2006. LXX-English Interlinear.
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.
Barnes: Albert Barnes, Notes on the Whole Bible. Baker Book House, 1949. Online.
Clarke: Adam Clarke (1762-1832), Commentary on the Holy Bible. 6 vols. Online.
Coffman: James Burton Coffman (1905-2006), Commentaries on the Bible. Online. [A leading authority in the Church of Christ.]
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
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)
Haarbeck: Hermann Haarbeck, "Glōssa," Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975; 3:1078-1081.
HELPS: The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. eds. Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
Josephus: Flavius Josephus (Yosef ben Matityahu; c. 75-99 A.D.), Wars of the Jews. trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
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.
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 Corporation, 1986.
Moseley: Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson (1863-1934), Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 Vols. Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997) Online.
Safrai: Shmuel Safrai, Were Women Segregated in the Ancient Synagogue, Jerusalem Perspective Online, 1997, 2004. [accessed 16 July 2009.]
Shulam: Joseph Shulam, A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Romans. Lederer Books, 1997.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
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