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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
1 Corinthians 14



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. διώκετε. Pursue love, as the main object of your lives. Be anxious for other spiritual gifts as desirable, if it be God’s will to grant them. For ζηλοῦτε see 1 Corinthians 12:31. The best gifts (see note there) were those that were within the reach of all. Still there was no reason why a Christian should not seek other special gifts from God by prayer. See 1 Corinthians 14:13, and James 1:5.

ἵνα προφητεύητε. The gift of prophecy, as is abundantly evident from the whole of this section, was not confined to the prediction of future events. As Kingsley remarks, the prophet was ‘not only a fore-teller but a forth-teller,’ one who communicates the moral and spiritual truths which he has received by direct revelation from God. ἴνα cannot be in order that here. It is almost equivalent to the infinitive. ‘Seek that ye may prophesy,’ i.e. make it your main desire to prophesy.

Verses 1-25


Verse 2

2. γλώσσῃ. The context shews the necessity of the ‘unknown’ of the A.V.

οὐκ ἀνθρώποις λαλεῖ. Because the language is not the language of those to whom he is speaking, and therefore what he says is hidden from them.

ἀκούει. Here in the sense of understanding, a sense which is by some suggested as the explanation of the apparent discrepancy between Acts 9:7; Acts 22:9.

πνεύματι δέ. It is a question here whether δέ is simply the introduction of an additional but distinct proposition or whether it is to be taken in the adversative sense. We have instances of δέ in the adversative sense after a negative in Acts 12:9; James 5:12. Romans 3:4, cited by Winer as another instance, is not quite certain, but there, as here, the adversative gives the best sense. It is also a question whether πνεύματι refers [1] to the Holy Spirit, or [2] to the spirit of the man himself. But as λαλεῖ refers to the man in the first part of the sentence, and as he is especially said to be speaking to God, [2] is preferable. For μυστήρια see ch. 1 Corinthians 4:1.

Verse 3

3. οἰκοδομήν. See note on 1 Corinthians 8:1.

παραμυθίαν. There is little distinction between this word and παράκλησις save that the former has more of the idea of comfort, the latter of encouragement. The one gives the idea of a friend beside us speaking soothing words, the other of a comrade cheering us on. Cf. Plat. Phaed. 70 B οὐκ ὀλίγης παραμυθίας δεῖται καὶ πίστεως, where the sense is that the speaker would need much encouragement and faith, to persuade himself of the immortality of the soul. παραμυθέομαι is, however, used in the sense of console in Plato Phaed. 115 D.

Verse 4

4. ἑαυτὸν οἰκοδομεῖ. Not necessarily because he understands what he is saying, but because his spirit, stirred up by the Spirit of God, is led by the experience of the inward emotion to praise God. Estius. See 1 Corinthians 14:14.

ὁ δὲ προφητεύων. The profit of the brethren is ever St Paul’s object. Cf. 1 Corinthians 14:6; 1 Corinthians 14:12; ch. 1 Corinthians 6:12, &c. Prophecy is to be preferred to the gift of tongues because it is more directly useful. See note, ch. 1 Corinthians 12:28.

ἐκκλησίαν. The article is omitted here, just as we say ‘in Parliament,’ ‘at meeting,’ ‘in synod,’ and the like. These, however, are more parallel to ἐκκλησία with a preposition (see 1 Corinthians 14:19; 1 Corinthians 14:35). Our expression ‘dissolve Parliament,’ however, is an instance in point.

Verse 5

5. δέ. The first δέ here is adversative, the second continuatory. The third δέ is also continuatory. The γάρ of the rec. text (see Critical Note) would make much better sense, and was probably introduced as a correction for that purpose (though it might have been an oversight). Yet the text gives a good sense if we interpret thus: ‘I should like you to speak with tongues, and still more that you should prophesy; and he, too, who prophesies, is greater than he who speaks with tongues.’ For μείζων see ch. 1 Corinthians 12:31.

ἵνα προφητεύητε. That ye should prophesy. Here, again, it is impossible to give the telic sense to ἵνα, though with λάβῃ below that sense must be given.

ἐκτὸς εἱ μή. An instance of redundancy. Either ἐκτός or εἰ μὴ would have been sufficient.

διερμηνεύῃ. This passage clearly implies that a man might speak in another language without himself knowing what he was saying, see 1 Corinthians 14:14. Some, however, regard the speaking with tongues as ecstatic utterances in no human language, such as took place among the Montanists in ancient, and the Irvingites in modern times. See Stanley’s introduction to this section. Cf. note on ch. 1 Corinthians 12:10.

Verse 6

6. ἐὰν ἔλθω. ‘If I shall have come.’ So ἐὰν μὴ λαλήσω ‘unless I shall have spoken.’ Throughout the chapter the conditional protasis is followed by the apodosis in the fut. indic. See 1 Corinthians 14:8-9; 1 Corinthians 14:11; 1 Corinthians 14:16, &c.

ἐν ἀποκαλύψει. Rather more than ‘by revelation.’ It signifies the spirit in which the Apostle’s instruction is carried on. So in the rest of the sentence.

ἐν γνώσει. See ch. 1 Corinthians 12:8.

ἐν προφητείᾳ. See note on προφητεύητε above, 1 Corinthians 14:1.

ἐν διδαχῇ. Care must be taken not to understand this word, frequently translated doctrine in the A.V., in the technical sense the word has now acquired. The word means no more than teaching. ‘Unless I come with a view of teaching you.’ See the distinction between the prophet and the teacher in ch. 1 Corinthians 12:28.

Verse 7

7. ὅμως. Not, as A.V. ὁμῶς, equally, but notwithstanding. Its place is properly after κιθάρα. ‘In the case of things without life, whether pipe or harp, which give out a sound, yet nevertheless, if there be no distinction in the sounds, &c.’ So Meyer and Winer, Gr. Gram. §§ 45, 61.

αὐλός. Lat. tibia. In English, flute. ‘A hollow cane perforated with holes.’ See Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, s. v. tibia.

κιθάρα. Lat. cithara; German, zither; English, guitar. The peculiarity of the instrument is that the strings are drawn across a sounding-board, but unlike the violin it is played by the hand or with a plectrum.

διαστολὴν τοῖς φθόγγοις. The effect of a melody depends entirely upon the distinction of its musical intervals. The effect of speech in like manner is dependent upon its being the communication of definite ideas. φθόγγοι are clear, resonant sounds. Translate notes.

Verse 8

8. ἄδηλον φωνήν. A sound not distinguishable, that which conveys no clear impression to the mind. The muster, the charge, the rally, the retreat, are each indicated by a definite order of musical intervals upon the trumpet, or they would be useless for the purpose of calling soldiers together. So words are useless to mankind unless they represent things.

Verse 9

9. εὔσημον. Related to σῆμα, σημεῖον. Literally, well marked, i.e. intelligible.

ἔσεσθελαλοῦντες. Not precisely equivalent to λαλήσετε. The condition of the persons rather than the nature of the action is indicated, ‘Ye shall be as men who are speaking into (or unto) the air.’

Verse 10

10. τοσαῦτα. ‘So many,’ i. e. a certain definite number, how much soever it may be, but all that number, however great, has its own proper signification.

ἄφωνον. Literally, without sound, dumb. Cf. Acts 8:32 and ch. 1 Corinthians 12:2.

Verse 11

11. δύναμιν. The force, as we say, of the sound. That is, the impression it was intended to convey.

βάρβαρος. This word is here used in its original signification of one whose speech is unintelligible.

ἐν ἐμοί. In me, i.e. in my estimation.

Verse 12

12. πνευμάτων. Spirits, standing here for the gifts of the Spirit.

ἵνα περισσεύητε. For ἵνα see note on 1 Corinthians 14:1.

Verse 13

13. προσευχέσθω ἵνα διερμηνεύῃ. Cf. 1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Corinthians 14:5. This passage may mean [1] pray that he may receive the faculty of interpretation, or [2] pray in such a language as he has the power of interpreting. Winer would give the telic sense to ἵνα here. But though it is doctrinally unexceptionable, the use of ἵνα in the rest of the passage is strongly against it. The preposition in διερμηνεύῃ indicates that the interpretation is thorough. See also 1 Corinthians 14:27.

Verse 14

14. ὁ δὲ νοῦς μου ἄκαρπός ἐστιν. The afflatus of the Spirit suggests the words of prayer to the possessor of the gift. He is conscious that he is fervently addressing the Giver of all good in a spirit of supplication. But his consciousness goes no further. He does not know what he is saying.

Verse 15

15. τί οὖν ἐστίν; προσεύξομαι. ‘What then is my condition if I seek for the gift of interpretation? This, that I shall pray with the spirit and pray also with the understanding.’ The will of the A.V. changes the tense from the simple future to the exercise of the speaker’s volition.

Verse 16

16. ἐπεὶ ἐάν. Not ‘else when,’ as A.V., but ‘since if,’ a further extension of the argument. ‘If what I have urged be carried out, the result will be the edification of those who are uninstructed in Christian doctrine.’

εὐλογῇς. ‘If thou art in the act of blessing.’ This is the force of the present. The rec. ‘when thou shalt bless’ refers to the response at the end of the prayer of blessing.

πνεύματι. Under the spiritual influence, i. e. in an unknown tongue. See 1 Corinthians 14:12, note.

τόπον. The A.V. room here, as in Matthew 23:6; Luke 14:7-8, &c., stands for place. Wiclif renders it here by place. Cf. ‘office and roome,’ Hollinshed’s Scotland.

ἰδιώτου. This word signifies [1] a private person, layman, one who holds no office. Hence [2] it comes to signify a man who has no special or technical knowledge of any particular art or science, as in Acts 4:13; 2 Corinthians 11:6, just as a lawyer calls those laymen who are not versed in law. So Aristotle opposes it (Nic. Eth. III. 8) to ἀθληταί, and Xenophon (Oec. III. 9) uses it of one unskilled in managing horses. Epictetus, Ench. c. 16, opposes it to philosopher, and in ch. 17 to ruler. In his fragments it seems to be opposed to ἀγαθός. Marcus Aurelius (Medit. IV. 3) uses ἰδιωτικώτατος of the extreme of uninstructed folly. τόπος may be used either [1] of place, or [2] of rank or condition. See Clement of Rome to the Corinthians c. 40, καὶ τοῖς ἱερεῦσιν ἴδιος ὁ τόπος προστέτακται, ‘and to the priests their own proper position is ordained.’ He is giving a paraphrase of this passage, and thus fixes the meaning St Paul’s language here conveyed to his mind. ὁ τόπος τοῦ ἰδιώτου here therefore will be best explained of the condition of those who are unacquainted with Christian doctrine and practice.

τὸ ἀμήν. Literally, the Amen, the well-known response, either optative, ‘So be it,’ or affirmative, ‘So it is,’ as common in the synagogue as in the Christian Church at the end of any prayer or thanksgiving. See Nehemiah 5:13; Revelation 5:14. Justin Martyr (circa 150) uses the same language concerning the response to the Eucharistic prayer in his day.

εὐχαριστίᾳ. Thanksgiving. The translation Eucharist, suggested by some, is inadmissible, from the fact that the term Eucharist applies to the whole rite, and not to the Consecration Prayer. And it is a question whether the word εὐχαριστία had as yet acquired its technical theological signification. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 1:10, 1 Corinthians 4:1, 1 Corinthians 11:18-19.

Verse 17

17. καλῶς. Worthily, in a proper spirit. Or it may mean ‘thou doest well to give thanks.’ Some would translate εὐχαριστεῖς, ‘celebratest the Eucharist.’ But see last note and ch. 1 Corinthians 11:24.

ὁ ἕτερος. The ἰδιώτης. See note on 1 Corinthians 14:16.

Verse 18

18. πάντων ὑμῶν μᾶλλον. St Paul, no doubt, had the gift of interpretation. Yet apparently he did not often exercise in public, whatever he may have done in private, the gift of speaking with tongues unknown to his hearers. See next verse.

Verse 19

19. ἀλλὰ ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ. ‘Whatever I may do in private, I should desire my public ministrations to be for the instruction and edification of the flock, and not for my own individual glorification.’ See note on 1 Corinthians 14:4.

κατηχήσω. This word only occurs in two other places in St Paul’s Epistles, Romans 2:18; Galatians 6:6. Nor does any other of the sacred writers use it but his friend and companion St Luke. See Luke 1:4; Acts 18:25; Acts 21:21; Acts 21:24. The meaning is, as the A.V. renders it, to instruct with the voice, to teach in such wise that the learner echoes back the words of the master. From it our word catechize is derived. The importance of sermons and catechetical teaching in public worship is thus indicated, as well as their proper object, the instruction and edification of the flock. See 1 Corinthians 14:24.

, rather than. θέλω ἤ had become a ‘common formula’ in later Greek. So Winer, Gr. Gram. § 35. Cf. Matthew 18:8; Luke 15:7; Luke 17:2.

ἐν γλώσσῃ. There is a difference between this and the simple dative τῷ νοΐ. ἐν here may intimate a degree of inspiration, or it may very possibly be a Hebraism for ‘with.’

Verse 20

20. φρεσίν. Here only in N.T. Originally signifying the diaphragm, this word came to mean the seat, first of the affections and then of the understanding. Arist., De Part. Anim. III. 10, reverses the process: ὅταν γὰρ διὰ τὴν γειτνίασιν ἑλκύσωσιν ὑγρότητα θερμὴν καὶ περιττωματικήν, εὐθὺς ἐπιδήλως ταράττει τὴν διάνοιαν καὶ τὴν αἴσθησιν, διὸ καὶ καλοῦνται φρένες ὡς μετέχουσαί τι τοῦ φρονεῖν. See note on φρόνιμοι, ch. 1 Corinthians 4:10, those who used their φρένες or intellects.

τῇ κακίᾳ νηπιάζετε. This is subjoined lest the Apostle should be charged with contradicting his Master. There is a sense in which all Christians must be children. What it is the Apostle tells us. They were to be children, or rather babes (νηπίοι), in malice, or perhaps vice. Compare on the one hand Matthew 11:25; Matthew 18:3; Matthew 19:14; 1 Peter 2:2; on the other, ch. 1 Corinthians 3:1; Ephesians 4:14; and Hebrews 5:12-13. See also Matthew 10:16. The difference arises from the point of view. Those whom the world calls childish the Gospel calls τέλειοι, and those whom the world calls experienced the Gospel stigmatizes as babes. Note especially the distinction drawn in Romans 16:19.

τέλειοι. Perfect, i.e. of ripe age. Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6; Philippians 3:15; Hebrews 5:14, and note on ch. 1 Corinthians 13:11. The A. and R.V. paraphrase by men.

Verse 21

21. ἐν τῷ νόμῳ. The law here stands for the whole Old Testament, as we might naturally expect from St Paul’s habit of regarding the whole of the Mosaic dispensation as a progressive order of things having its completion in Christ. See Romans 3:19; Galatians 3:23-24; Galatians 4:5. St John uses the word in the same manner; John 10:34, John 12:34, John 15:25. The passage is from Isaiah 28:11-12. It is freely made from the Hebrew.

Verse 22

22. εἰς σημεῖον. The passage here quoted has been regarded as a prophecy either [1] of the Day of Pentecost, or [2] of the Babylonish captivity. The latter is more probable, and in that case it becomes not an argument, but an illustration. The occupation of Judaea by the Assyrian and Babylonian troops had been a sign to God’s people of their unbelief and its punishment, and the unwonted speech they had been doomed to hear was to them a call to repentance, especially when viewed in the light of the prophecy of Moses in Deuteronomy 28:49. In a similar manner the miraculous gift of tongues was still (see next verse), as at the Day of Pentecost, a call to the outside world to examine and inquire into this new thing which had come to pass, to acknowledge in it the finger of God, and to ‘repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.’ Cf. Acts 2:7-12; Acts 2:41.

Verse 23

23. ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό. The usual word for the place of assembly, as in ch. 1 Corinthians 11:20; Acts 2:1. However well calculated the gift of tongues might be to arrest and compel attention when used properly, it is clear, says the Apostle, that its introduction at the public assemblies of the Church was not a proper use of it, unless (1 Corinthians 14:27) it were restricted in its use by wise rules. If not so restricted, so far from its being a sign to unbelievers, it would give them, as well as the great body of the Christian laity, occasion of complaint, and even ridicule.

πάντες. Not necessarily all together, as some have supposed, but that no other means of communication was adopted by any but the unknown tongue. Meyer.

λαλῶσιν. Observe the present. ‘If the Church shall have been gathered together, and (when thus gathered) all are speaking with tongues, and there shall have entered strangers or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?’

Verse 24

24. ἄπιστος ἢ ἰδιώτης. The distinction here is between active unbelief in Christianity and the absence of any information on the subject.

ἐλέγχεται ὑπὸ πάντων. He is convicted in his own conscience by all of the speakers. The word ἐλέγχω signifies [1] to prove by argument, and comes therefore to be used [2] of the conviction produced by argument. Cf. John 16:8, where the word however is rendered reprove.

ἀνακρίνεται ὑπὸ πάντων. He is examined by all. The exhortations of the preachers place him, as it were, upon his trial. For the word here used see ch. 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, 1 Corinthians 4:3-4, 1 Corinthians 9:3, 1 Corinthians 10:25; 1 Corinthians 10:27, and notes.

Verse 25

25. τὰ κρυπτὰ τῆς καρδίας. The nature of Christian prophecy is here plainly shewn. See note on 1 Corinthians 14:1.

ἐπὶ πρόσωπον. See note on 1 Corinthians 14:4, and Luke 5:12; Luke 17:16.

ὄντως ὁ θεὸς ἐν ὑμῖν. Literally, that God is really in you (or among you). This description of the effect of prophecy upon the unbeliever is in no way contrary to the assertion in 1 Corinthians 14:22. There the Apostle is speaking of a sign to attract the attention of the unbeliever; here his attention is already attracted. He has come to the Christian assembly, and is listening to the words spoken there in the name of Jesus Christ. Unless his conscience is ‘seared with a hot iron’ there will be no further need of signs to induce him to give his attention to what is spoken.

Verse 26

26. τί οὖν ἐστίν; Not ‘how is it,’ as A.V., but (see 1 Corinthians 14:15 and note) what is it? what then is the state of the case? i.e. to what condition has your self-seeking brought you?

ψαλμὸν ἔχει. The Apostle here reproves another fault. Not only are the Corinthians ambitious rather of the gifts which attract attention than of those which do good to others, but in the exercise of those gifts the same spirit of self-assertion creeps in to the utter destruction of all Church order. Each member of the teaching body (ch. 1 Corinthians 12:29 forbids us to include the whole Church) had his own special subject to bring before the Church; some hymn of praise, unpremeditated or otherwise, some point of Christian doctrine to enforce, some hidden mystery to reveal, some utterance in a foreign tongue, or some interpretation peculiar to himself of such utterance. This he desired to deliver just when the impulse seized him to do so, and all with a view of claiming prominence for himself, rather than of promoting the common welfare. The consequence was an amount of disorder which prevented the striking picture of the true effects of Christian prophecy in the last verse from being realized. For the various gifts mentioned in this verse see 1 Corinthians 14:2; 1 Corinthians 14:6; 1 Corinthians 14:13, and notes. The word psalm must be understood of a song of praise addressed to God, such as the Psalms of David, though it is by no means to be confined to them. Cf. Ephesians 5:19.

πρὸς οἰκοδομήν. See ch. 1 Corinthians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 8:1, 1 Corinthians 10:23, 1 Corinthians 12:7; 2 Corinthians 12:19; 2 Corinthians 13:10. The Apostle corrects two errors in this section: [1] the disorderly manner in which the services of the Church were carried on; [2] the practice of women speaking in the public assembly.

Verses 26-40


Verse 27

27. κατὰ δύο. There must not be more than two, or at the utmost three discourses, because the long utterance in an unknown tongue would weary the Church without a sufficient corresponding benefit.

ὀνὰ μέρος. Literally, in turn.

εἷς διερμηνευέτω. Let there be one, and only one, interpreter of each speech; for if the second interpretation were the same as the first it were unnecessary; if different, it would be perplexing.

Verse 28

28. ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ. These words imply that the utterance was to be reserved until the speaker found himself in private, since in the Church it could only serve for an opportunity of useless display. See note on 1 Corinthians 14:18.

Verse 29

29. προφῆται δὲ δύο ἢ τρεῖς. The same rule was to hold good of preaching. Those who felt that they had something to communicate must notwithstanding be governed by the desire to edify their brethren. The Church was not to be wearied out by an endless succession of discourses, good indeed in themselves, but addressed to men who were not in a condition to profit by them. It would seem that two or three discourses, either in the vernacular, or if there were any one present who could interpret, in some foreign tongue, took the place in Apostolic times of the modern sermon. ‘Let the presbyters one by one, not all together, exhort the people, and the Bishop last of all, as the commander.’ Apostolical Constitutions (circ. A.D. 250), II. 57.

καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι διακρινέτωσαν. See 1 Corinthians 11:29; 1 Corinthians 11:31, notes. Either [1] the other prophets, or [2] the whole congregation. If the former be the correct interpretation, it refers to the gifts of discerning of spirits (ch. 1 Corinthians 12:10). The latter may be defended on the ground that St Paul constantly (ch. 1 Corinthians 10:15, 1 Corinthians 11:13) appeals to the judgment of his disciples, and that he considered (ch. 1 Corinthians 12:1-3, cf. 1 John 2:21-27) that all the people of God had the faculty of discerning the spiritual value to themselves of what they heard in the congregation. But 1 Corinthians 14:30 supports [1], as does also the fact that ἄλλος and not ἕτερος is used. See 1 Corinthians 14:18.

Verse 30

30. ἐὰν δὲἀποκαλυφθῇ. If it should appear that some special message from God had been sent to one of the prophets during the discourse of another, the first was to bring his discourse to an end as soon as might be, in an orderly manner, so as to give the other an opportunity of saying what had occurred to him.

Verse 31

31. καθ' ἕνα. Not necessarily at the same meeting of the Church, which would be in contradiction to what has just been said (1 Corinthians 14:29), nor that the permission was extended to the whole Christian body. All were not prophets, the Apostle tells us (ch. 1 Corinthians 12:29), and it is clear that none but prophets could prophesy, since prophecy (ch. 1 Corinthians 12:28, 1 Corinthians 13:2, 1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Corinthians 14:5; 1 Corinthians 14:22) was a special gift of the Spirit.

παρακαλῶνται. This word, which signifies literally to call to one’s side, has the sense of comfort and exhortation combined, and is most nearly equivalent to our encourage or cheer. See 2 Corinthians 1, where the word and the verb from which it is derived are translated indifferently comfort and consolation. In ch. 1 Corinthians 4:16 of this Epistle it is rendered beseech. In a great many passages, as for instance in Acts 2:40, it is rendered exhort. From this word is derived the title Paraclete, rendered Comforter in John 14, 15, , 16, and Advocate in 1 John 2:1. See note on 1 Corinthians 14:3.

Verse 32

32. καὶ πνεύματα προφητῶν προφήταις ὑποτάσσεται. The possession of a special gift from on high has, from Montanus in the second century down to our own times, been supposed to confer on its possessor an immunity from all control, whether exercised by himself or others, and to entitle him to immediate attention to the exclusion of every other consideration whatsoever. St Paul, on the contrary, lays down the rule that spiritual, like all other gifts, are to be under the dominion of the reason, and may, like all other gifts, be easily misused. A holy self-restraint, even in the use of the highest gifts, must characterize the Christian. If a man comes into the assembly inspired to speak in an unknown tongue, the impulse is to be steadily repressed, unless there is a certainty that what is said can be interpreted, so that those present may understand it. If he comes into the assembly possessed with some overmastering idea, he must keep it resolutely back until such time as he can give it vent without prejudice to Christian order, without injury to that which must be absolutely the first consideration in all public addresses—the edification of the flock. Estius justly remarks that the difference between God’s prophets and those inspired by evil spirits is to be found in the fact that the latter are rapt by madness beyond their own control, and are unable to be silent if they will. And Robertson illustrates by a reference to modern forms of fanaticism the truth that ‘uncontrolled religious feeling’ is apt to ‘overpower both reason and sense.’

Verse 33

33. οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀκαταστασίας ὁ θεός. Literally, for God is not (a God) of unsettlement. Cf. James 3:16. Also Luke 21:9, where ἀκαταστασία is rendered commotion. As in the natural, so in the moral and spiritual world, God is a God of order. The forces of nature operate by laws which are implicitly obeyed. If it be otherwise in the moral and spiritual world, God is not the author of the confusion, but man, who has opposed himself to His Will.

ὡς ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῶν ἁγίων. It is a question whether these words belong to what goes before or what follows. If to what goes before, it would seem as though a hint was intended that these disorders were peculiar to the Corinthian Church. If to what follows, it is a repetition of the argument in ch. 1 Corinthians 7:17, 1 Corinthians 11:16, and it would then appear that the Apostle had especial reason to fear insubordination on the question of the position of woman in the Christian assembly, and that he therefore fortifies his own authority by an appeal to the universal custom of the Church of Christ. The analogy of 1 Corinthians 11:16 is strongly in favour of the punctuation in the text.

Verse 34

34. αἱ γυναῖκες. The position of women in Christian assemblies is now decided on the principles laid down in ch. 1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 11:7-9.

ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 11:18, a point particularly to be noted here.

ὑποτασσέσθωσαν. The rec. ὑποτάσσεσθαι would involve an irregular construction, which is not, however, uncommon.

ὁ νόμος. In Genesis 3:16.

Verse 35

35. θέλουσιν. The ‘will’ of the A.V. is here not the sign of the simple future. ‘If they want to learn anything, let them &c.’

τοὺς ἰδίους ἄνδρας. Their own husbands. The women were not only not permitted to teach (see 1 Timothy 2:11-14) but even to ask questions in Church, a privilege, says Grotius, permitted to men, but denied to women, among the Jews. It seems to be assumed that the unmarried ones would not think of doing so. This rule applies in its strictness only to the East, where women were kept in strict seclusion, and only permitted to converse with their male relatives. Calvin remarks, ‘When he says husbands, he does not prohibit them, in case of need, from consulting the prophets themselves; for all husbands are not qualified to give information on such subjects.’ Estius defends the right of women to consult pious and prudent men, so long as it be done without giving occasion of scandal.

αἰσχρόν. Disgraceful.

Verse 36

36. ἢ ἀφ' ὑμῶν ὁ λόγος. The emphasis is upon ἀφ' ὑμῶν. ‘Was it from you that the Word of God originally came,’ that you take upon yourselves the task of setting an example to other Churches?

ἢ εἰς ὑμᾶς μόνους κατήντησεν; Or did it reach you alone? so that you have no concern with what is the custom elsewhere. It is not to be supposed that in minor matters Christian communities had not the right of ordering their own rites as seemed to them best. As a matter of fact they soon began to do so, as the number and variety of ancient Liturgies fully prove. But there are certain matters of principle which must be laid down as fundamental. And this is one of them.

Verse 37

37. εἴ τις δοκεῖ προφήτης εἶναι. Not, as A.V., ‘if any man,’ but ‘if any one.’ See note on 1 Corinthians 11:16. Women (see 1 Corinthians 11:5) laid claim to the prophetic gift and even possessed it. There were many appointed teachers (see ch. 1 Corinthians 12:28-29) who were not prophets, and therefore the test of the prophetic character was not ordination, but the possession of the prophetic gift. If any one fancied he possessed that gift, he was required to submit himself to the test of his willingness to obey God’s appointed founder and ruler of the Church.

πνευματικός, i.e. possessed of any special spiritual gift. Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:15, 1 Corinthians 3:1; Galatians 6:1.

κυρίουἐντολή, i.e. Christ. See ch. 1 Corinthians 7:10; 1 Corinthians 7:12, 1 Corinthians 9:2.

Verse 38

38. ἀγνοείτω. The explanation of this passage is to be sought in Galatians 4:9. If any man does not recognize St Paul’s mission from the Lord, it is a clear proof that God knows nothing of him. The text is a correction owing to the corrector having failed to grasp the Apostle’s meaning, but it gives a poor and frigid sense beside that which ἀγνοεῖται gives. So Origen explains, οὔκουν ὁ ἁμαρτωλὸς ἀγνοεῖται ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ; (Hom. I. in Jeremiam). The whole character of St Paul’s remarks from 1 Corinthians 14:34 onward shews that St Paul has reason to apprehend special difficulties on this point. See note on 1 Corinthians 6:16.

Verse 39

39. ὥστε, ἀδελφοί. The Apostle, as is his wont, sums up the whole section in a few concluding words. Prophecy is a gift to be earnestly sought (see for ζηλοῦτε the note on ch. 1 Corinthians 12:31). Speaking with tongues is a gift not to be discouraged. But the chief point is to secure edification.

Verse 40

40. πάντα δὲ εὐσχημόνως καὶ κατὰ τάξιν. ‘Only let,’ &c. For εὐσχημόνως, see notes on 1 Corinthians 7:35-36. For κατὰ τάξιν, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:33. The Christian assembly should be a reflection of the universe, where form and order reign supreme.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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