Tuesday, June 6th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Godet's Commentary on Selected Books Godet on Selected Books
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ gsc/ 1-corinthians-14.html.
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
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III. Practical Rules for the Exercise of Gifts. Chap. 14.
In chapt. 1Co 12:31 Paul had recommended the seeking of spiritual gifts, as the inference from the whole discussion of chap. 12; then he had passed to the cardinal recommendation: in all things walk in charity. Now he comes to the more special practical directions which he has to give in regard to the exercise of gifts, and it is from charity that he draws the general rule whence he makes them all flow.
Vv. 1. “Follow after charity; but desire spiritual gifts, and especially to prophesy.”
The general rule is this: Every one should seek, above all, the gifts most fitted to contribute to the common good. Such is the principle Paul applies first of all to the valuation of the two gifts which seem at that time to have played the most considerable part in the life of the Church of Corinth, glossolalia and prophecy. And as what is intelligible is evidently superior, with a view to edification, to what is not so, he concludes without hesitation for the superiority of prophecy, and even for the exclusion of glossolalia, unless there be some way of rendering it intelligible.
There is a contrast between the terms διώκειν , to follow, and ζηλοῦν , to desire. The former refers to something indispensable, the latter to a faculty which is simply desirable; see on 1 Corinthians 12:31. The evident relation between our verse and that does not allow us to restrict the meaning of πνευματικά (spiritual gifts), as Rückert, Ewald, etc., have done, to glossolalia. Prophecy cannot be put outside of the pneumatica, as if it was to be sought more than they. It is comprehended in this expression, which denotes spiritual gifts in general ( 1Co 12:31 ); the apostle has particularly in view, no doubt, glossolalia, prophecy, and teaching. The word μᾶλλον , rather, does not therefore exclude the pursuit of these two last gifts; on the contrary, it implies it.
Instead of ἵνα , that, Paul might have put simply: “Especially desire prophecy.” But his thought is strictly speaking this: “Seek states of inspiration, and that especially with the view of attaining to the possession of the best of gifts, prophecy.”
Why among these gifts, all desirable, does prophecy occupy the first rank? This is what the following passage explains, in which Paul shows the inferiority of the gift of tongues as compared with prophecy; and that first as to the edification of the Church ( 1Co 14:2-20 ), then as to the conversion of persons outside of the Church ( 1Co 14:21-25 ).
Vv. 2, 3. “For he that speaketh in a tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. 3. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men edification, exhortation, and comfort.”
Paul here describes the mode in which the two gifts act. The glossolalete addresses God, and that in a language which no man understands, so that what he says remains a mystery to all who hear him; speaking in a tongue is a sort of spiritual soliloquy. It is impossible here to apply the meaning given by Meyer, Holsten, etc., to the word tongue, which according to them denotes the material organ of speech. What could the apostle mean by saying that he who speaks by moving the tongue speaks to God? The word denotes the ecstatic language which flourished at Corinth. The singular applies to each particular case; the plural ( γλώσσαις λαλεῖν ) to the gift in general. When a man speaks in ordinary language, his thought is addressed to those around him; but when he speaks in this particular tongue, his thought is turned to God only. And the proof is, that nobody understands this kind of manifestation. Wieseler has taken the word ἀκούειν , hear, in the physical sense, and concluded from the term that the glossolaletes spoke only in a low voice. But, 1 Corinthians 13:1, Paul compares them to sounding brass and the clanging cymbal, and in 1Co 14:8 to the startling sound of the trumpet giving the signal for battle. ᾿Ακούειν , hear, has therefore in this place, as so frequently, the meaning of understand; comp. Genesis 11:7 (LXX.): “That they should not hear each the voice of his neighbour” (Matthew 13:13, etc.).
This passage is equally incompatible with the idea of really existing foreign tongues; for there might easily have been found at Corinth some one who understood the foreign tongue used by a glossolalete.
The δέ , at the end of 1 Corinthians 14:2, is adversative: “ But, far from being understood, he speaks mysteries.” The term mystery is here used in a derivative sense. It usually denotes the Divine plans which remain a secret to men, so long as God does not reveal them; it refers to the secrets of a man in relation to other men. What the speaker in a tongue says remains between God and him, and is a mystery to the hearers.
It is possible to explain the dative πνεύματι in the sense by the spirit, which would then be the Divine Spirit as guiding the man's spirit, or it may be translated: in spirit; then it is the spirit of the glossolalete himself, who is carried away in an ecstasy, and in a manner raised for the time above the exercise of the understanding; comp. Revelation 1:1. This second meaning is the more natural, seeing there is no article nor preposition before the substantive. It is evident that the state of the glossolalete was that of an ineffable conversation with God. Our passage has been justly compared with Romans 8:26-27, where the apostle speaks of the unutterable groanings whereby the Holy Spirit intercedes in the believer's heart; only we may not conclude from this comparison, with Holsten, that glossolalia consisted only of confused groanings. Our whole chapter shows that there was language properly so called.
Vv. 3. It is otherwise with the man who prophesies; he addresses men to communicate to them from God some new grace, light, force. There is not only in him an involuntary expression of a personal state of mind, there is conscious will to act on the hearers by the communication of an immediately revealed Divine thought ( 1Co 14:30 ).
The apostle says, not: the prophet, but: “he that prophesieth,” because he conceives him in full activity in the midst of the assembly. In indicating the contents of his speaking: edification, exhortation, comfort, the apostle identifies the declaration itself with its effect.
There is no reason for subordinating the two last terms, as Meyer does, to the first, or to make the first, as de Wette does, the effect of the two following. They are all three co-ordinate. Edification denotes a new development and a confirmation of faith, by some new view fitted to strengthen the soul. The second term denotes an encouragement addressed to the will, an energetic impulse capable of effecting an awakening or advancement in Christian fidelity. If the first term relates mainly to faith, the second refers rather to love. The third, comfort, points rather to hope; παραμυθεῖν , to soothe the ear with a sweet myth, putting pain to sleep or reviving hope.
In our times the conclusion has often been drawn from this verse, that since to prophesy is to edify, exhort, comfort, whoever edifies, exhorts, comforts, merits, according to Paul, the title prophet. This reasoning is as just as it would be to say: He who runs, moves his legs; therefore whoever moves his legs, runs; or, to take a more nearly related example: He who speaks in a tongue, speaks to God; therefore whoever speaks to God, is a glossolalete. No, certainly; one may edify, comfort, encourage, without deserving the title of prophet or prophetess. The absurd reasoning which I have pointed out has been dictated by the desire of being able to proclaim certain women prophetesses who think themselves called to speak in public, in order to give them the benefit of the implicit authorization contained in 1 Corinthians 11:5. From this contrast in the intrinsic nature of the two gifts, the apostle passes to the difference of results obtained by them.
Vv. 4. “He that speaketh in a tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth, edifieth the Church.”
From his intimate communion with God, the glossolalete derives a blessing which, even though it is not transformed into precise notions by the exercise of the understanding, makes itself felt as a power in the depths of his soul; but the Church has received nothing of the kind, for it has understood nothing of the inward dialogue kept up with God. Prophecy, on the contrary, is like a torrent of living water which overspreads and quickens the whole Church. Hence the conclusion drawn, 1 Corinthians 14:5.
Vv. 5. “Now I would that ye all spake in tongues, and rather that ye prophesied; but greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the Church may receive edifying.”
The following is the result of 1 Corinthians 14:1-4: the gift of tongues is a good thing; but prophecy is superior to it, unless by interpretation the discourse in a tongue be transformed into prophecy. The first δέ is progressive, now: “Now I do not reject glossolalia, I desire that it should abound; but I desire still more earnestly the development of the gift of prophecy.”
The γάρ , for, which, in the Greco-Lat. and Byz. texts, connects the second part of the verse with the first, has been substituted for the much more difficult δέ , which is the reading of the Alex. The δέ is adversative; it is well explained by Holsten: “ But yet there is a case in which the man who speaks in a tongue is as great as the prophet.” The term great is used here from the standpoint of utility. The measure of this greatness is borrowed from the principle of charity.
In the form ἐκτὸς εἰ μή , unless...not, the μή , not, is a pleonasm arising from the mixing of the two following constructions: excepting if ( ἐκτὸς εἰ ), and: if not ( εἰ μή ).
The subject of except he interpret can be no other than the glossolalete himself. No doubt, failing him, some other might do it (comp. 1Co 14:27 ). But, as a rule, Paul expected that he should do it himself (1 Corinthians 14:13; 1Co 14:15 ). There was thus less room left for arbitrariness. By way of analogy, we may imagine a man coming out of a dream and explaining what he has seen and heard, and so giving account of the broken exclamations and words which the bystanders had heard without understanding them.
The διά , in the verb, indicates the detailed, discursive element of the contents of the brief and summary sayings uttered in a tongue.
The complete uselessness of tongues without interpretation is demonstrated in what follows by a series of examples, 1 Corinthians 14:6-12.
Vv. 6. “But now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking in tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either in revelation, or in knowledge, or in prophesying, or in doctrine?”
The first example Paul offers to the Corinthians is that of his own person; they all knew what power his presence in a Church exercised; many of them promised themselves considerable edification from the visit he announced to them. Well! there was a way of making this visit utterly useless: in place of prophesying and teaching, let him set himself to play among them the part of glossolalete; and if this holds in Paul's case, how much more in all others!
The δέ is adversative; it contrasts the glossolalia without translation, which Paul by hypothesis ascribes to himself in 1 Corinthians 14:6, with glossolalia with interpretation in 1 Corinthians 14:5 b.
Νυνί , now: “things being so.” Hofmann gives this word the temporal meaning: “If I come now among you;” but this connection of νυνί with ἔλθω is forced.
By the address brethren, he appeals to their good sense. Meyer thinks that the second ἐάν , if [ ἐὰν μή , if not = except ], is subordinate to the first, and that the speaking, referred to at the close of the verse, relates to the interpreting of the discourse in a tongue, so that the meaning of the verse would amount to this: “Wherein shall I be useful to you if I speak to you in a tongue, but without giving an interpretation in the form either of prophecy, or doctrine, of what I at first said in an unintelligible form?” This meaning is inadmissible; for nowhere are prophecy and doctrine represented by Paul as the interpretation of a tongue. The meaning is this: “Wherein should I be useful to you if I figured among you only as one speaking in tongues, and not besides as prophet or teacher?” Of course he speaks of glossolalia in itself and apart from interpretation.
The four terms at the end of the verse evidently form two parallel pairs. On the one hand: revelation and knowledge these are inward Divine gifts; on the other: prophecy and doctrine these are the external manifestations of the twofold Divine communication: revelation expressing itself in prophecy, and knowledge in doctrine. Revelation, which makes the prophet, is a sudden and lively perception, produced by the Spirit's operation, of some aspect of the Divine mystery, the work of salvation; this view, immediately expressed in its first freshness, forms prophecy ( 1Co 14:27 ). Knowledge is the result of an exercise of thought directed by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8: κατά , according to), which leads to the distinct understanding of some element of salvation and of its relation to all the rest; this knowledge is expressed in a doctrinal discourse. In the two first terms, the meaning of the ἐν , in, is therefore this: “a speaking resting on a revelation, on an act of knowledge,” and, in the two last terms: “a speaking taking effect by a prophecy, by a doctrine.” Heinrici's objections to this double correlation of the four terms: revelation, prophecy, knowledge, doctrine, seem to me without force. Modern commentators are unanimous in recognising it.
To this decisive example, the apostle adds others, taken from ordinary life. And first he instances musical instruments:
Vv. 7, 8. “Even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds..., how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 8. For, also, if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”
If the sound of instruments is to furnish to the ear an intelligible and significant melody, it must be subject to the laws of tone and rhythm, to the intervals of scale and measure. The adverb ὅμως , which stands first, should not be confounded with ὁμῶς or ὁμοίως , likewise; it signifies: however; so Galatians 3:15, where it applies to the word ἀνθρώπου , of a man: “The covenant of a being who after all ( however) is only a man.” So here this adverb, as Hofmann well observes, bears on the word ἄψυχα , inanimate: “Instruments, which after all are only inanimate beings, are also subject to this law of being intelligible only by means of the distinction of sounds.” How much more human language, which is the expression of intelligent thought! It is therefore by no means necessary to apply this ὅμως , as Meyer does, to the participle φωνὴν διδόντα : “Though, however, giving a sound.” This meaning does not agree so well with the position of the adverb.
The pipe and the harp represent, the one wind instruments, the other stringed instruments; they were the two principal instruments which the ancients used in worship and in sad or joyful ceremonies.
How shall it be known: “How shall one apprehend the air, and know whether he should weep, dance, etc.?”
Vv. 8. The trumpet itself, whose sounds are yet so powerful, is subject to the same law. Its signals are not understood except on condition of being distinct. This example is added to the foregoing hence the also; and it confirms them hence the for. The word πόλεμος , war, is here taken, as often, in the restricted sense of battle. What follows, 1 Corinthians 14:9, may be regarded either as the application of the examples quoted, to the gift of tongues, or as a new example borrowed from human speech in general. We shall have to decide between these two interpretations.
Vv. 9. “So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue distinct speech, how shall it be known what is spoken, for ye shall speak into the air?”
Those who, like Hofmann, already find in 1Co 14:9 an example taken from human language, may punctuate after καὶ ὑμεῖς , in the sense of: so ye also. “As inanimate instruments must give forth distinct sounds if their music is to be understood, so ye also. As men, you ought to speak distinctly, if you wish to be understood by your fellows.” The words διὰ τῆς γλώσσης , by means of the tongue, may be understood in this case either of the material organ, or of the faculty of language (Hofmann). But if this were the apostle's meaning, he would not say: “Likewise ye also.” For the general truth thus expressed would apply no more to the Corinthians than to other men. Paul would be emphasizing more precisely the contrast between inanimate beings and man, as such. We must therefore regard the passage as the application which Paul makes of the foregoing examples to the Corinthians: “And you also, Corinthians, if in your glossolalia you do not speak a distinct language, it will be like an unintelligible voice lost in the air.” The expression: by the tongue, should be taken, as is natural, in the same sense as throughout the chapter: speaking in an ecstatic tongue. The means of rendering this language distinct is interpretation. The apostle confirms this conclusion in 1 Corinthians 14:10-11, by appealing to the intelligible character of all the languages in use among men.
Vv. 10, 11. “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. 11 Therefore if I know not the force of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.”
The asyndeton here denotes, as it almost always does a strong reaffirmation of the foregoing idea. 1Co 14:10-11 indeed confirm by a new example the proof given in 1 Corinthians 14:7-9. By the expression: kinds of tongues (voices), the apostle certainly does not understand what we call families of human languages; every existing language is in his view a kind. These languages are exceedingly many: τοσαῦτα , so numerous. But the exact number he does not know; the expression εἰ τύχοι , with names of number, has the force of taking away from them all precision. Edwards: “whatever may be their number.”
The pronoun αὐτῶν , of them, is a gloss, but a correct gloss. We must beware of understanding οὐδέν in the sense of no human being (Bleek) or no nation (van Hengel), as if Paul meant: “No man or no people is without language.” This idea would be unconnected with the context. The meaning is: “No language exists without articulate words.” Only the apostle expresses this idea in a striking form, saying, in a manner: “No tongue is not a tongue” (Aucune langue n'est une non-langue). The articulation of words and syllables belongs to the essence of human tongues. The Greeks are found of such paradoxical expressions; comp. βίος ἀβίωτος , a life which is no life; ἄχαρις χάρις , etc. (see Heinrici). The force here denotes the signification of the sounds.
The Greeks and Egyptians called those peoples barbarians who did not speak their language.
The ἐν ἐμοί might certainly signify: in my judgment (Heinrici, Edwards); but according to the context the meaning rather is: in what concerns me; as between this man and me.
The application of this example is given in 1 Corinthians 14:12, in the form of a practical direction:
Vv. 12. “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of inspirations, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the Church.”
Several have made the first three words of the verse a separate proposition: Even so ye; that is to say: “Ye also would be as barbarians to one another, if ye spoke in tongues without interpretation.” But the asyndeton which would follow from this construction, in relation to the following proposition, would be without good reason. The οὕτω indicates the inference to be drawn from what precedes: “ So, since distinct language is necessary to your being understood, take care, in view of the Church's good, to develop the spiritual gifts which you love, so as to make yourselves more and more intelligible.” One cannot help feeling that there is something slightly ironical in the words: forasmuch as ye are zealous...; “since ye are so eager for manifestations of this kind.” There is an allusion here, as Edwards says, to the spirit of ostentation which led them to seek gifts.
The plural πνεύματα , spirits, has given commentators much concern. The word cannot be identified with spiritual gifts, πνευματικά in general; it implies something more special. It must be taken as a strong individualizing of the Holy Spirit, not in the sense of many personalities, as Hilgenfeld thinks, who makes a comparison between spirits thus understood and the evil spirits in cases of possession of which the gospel speaks; but in the sense that the one Divine principle spoken of in chap. 12 manifested itself in transient and very various breathings of inspirations in the assemblies of the Church; comp. 1 Corinthians 14:26-27. This extraordinary form of the Spirit's influence, of which tongues were the most emphatic manifestation, was that in which the Corinthians loved above all to enjoy the presence of this Divine principle. The apostle does not absolutely combat this disposition, but he seeks to guide it: “Well and good! Seek inspirations, but such as will always serve the good of the Church, and not the gratification of the curiosity of some or the vanity of others!” To this end prophecy should have the preponderance, or tongues be accompanied with interpretation.
The regimen: for the edification of the Church, is placed first by inversion; it depends, of course, on the verb περισσεύητε . The apostle is fond of this sort of construction, which sets in relief the regimen containing the principal idea; comp. 1Co 3:5 , 1 Corinthians 7:17, 1 Corinthians 9:15, etc. Meyer and others prefer to connect this regimen directly with ζητεῖτε , seek, for the reason that otherwise the regimen should have been placed after this verb, immediately before ἵνα , that. But this reason is not at all decisive, and the meaning is simpler in the former case: “You seek inspirations; let it only be in the interest of the Church, and not in your own, that you seek to abound in this respect” (see Edwards).
This general conclusion, drawn in 1 Corinthians 14:12, is expressed in 1Co 14:13-15 in a concrete and practical form.
Vv. 13-15. “Wherefore let him that speaketh in a tongue pray that he may interpret. 14. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15. What is it then? I will pray with the Spirit, but I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the Spirit, but I will sing with the understanding also.”
There are two readings: διό , wherefore, and διόπερ , wherefore indeed; the second is perhaps taken from 1Co 8:13 and 1 Corinthians 10:14, where Paul also states the conclusions of a discussion.
The ancient Greek interpreters and many moderns, Erasmus, Calvin, Rückert, Hofmann, etc., make the words: that he may interpret, the logical object of the word: let him pray: “Let him ask of God the power to interpret.” But the terms αἰτεῖν or δεῖσθαι would perhaps suit better a positive position than προσεύχεσθαι , which rather denotes the state of prayer; and the use Paul makes of this same term προσεύχεσθαι in the following verses, specially to denote ecstatic prayer, hardly admits of our taking it in 1Co 14:13 in another sense. The words: let him pray (in tongues) that he may interpret, therefore signify: “In giving himself up to the Spirit who leads him to pray in a tongue, let him do so with the intention and with the settled aim beforehand to reproduce the contents of his prayer afterwards in intelligible language.” So Meyer, Edwards, etc. It does not therefore follow that ἵνα is here taken, as has been thought, in the sense of ita ut, so that. Heinrici rightly observes, that in the exercise of every χάρισμα ( gift) the intention of the will remains in force.
Vv. 14. There is in the state of the glossolalete, who cannot interpret, something incomplete and insufficient.
The expression: my Spirit, is taken, by Heinrici and Holsten, to denote the Spirit of God acting and speaking in me. But the following expression: my understanding, forbids us to think of anything except a faculty belonging to the person of the man himself; comp. 1 Corinthians 2:11; Romans 8:16; and 1 Thessalonians 5:23, passages where it is in vain attempted to set aside the idea of the three fundamental elements of the human person, body, soul, and spirit: the body whereby the soul communicates with the external and material world; the spirit whereby it enters into relation with the higher and Divine world; finally, the soul itself, the free and personal force which acts by means of these two organs, using them to bring down the Divine world into the terrestrial, and thus transforming earth into heaven. But it is self-evident that the human spirit is not considered here in its natural isolation from the Divine Spirit, but in its complete union with Him. When carrying it into the state of ecstasy, the Divine Spirit separates it for the time from the νοῦς , the understanding, which is a faculty of the soul, or rather the soul itself viewed as thinking. Thereby the impressions take the character of pure feeling, ineffable emotion; it is a state of spiritual enjoyment of which sensual intoxication is, so to speak, the gross caricature; comp. Acts 2:13; Ephesians 5:18-20. Such a state manifested itself in extraordinary voices, consisting of prayers ( προσεύχεσθαι , 1Co 14:14 ), praises ( ψάλλειν , 1Co 14:15 ), or thanksgiving ( εὐλογεῖν , εὐχαριστεῖν , 1Co 14:16 ), and expressing the satisfaction and aspirations of the saved soul. Only the understanding was not a partner in this state; it is unfruitful, says the apostle. The word used, ἄκαρπος , is taken by Chrysostom, Calvin, and others in this sense: does not reap fruit for itself. It does not seem to me accurate to allege, as Edwards does, that this meaning is contrary to 1 Corinthians 14:4, where it is said that the glossolalete edifies himself. For the speaker in a tongue must not be confounded with his νοῦς . But the context speaks rather in favour of the active sense: it does not produce fruit. The understanding, not deriving from this state any new idea, produces nothing, that is to say, has nothing to communicate to others. The conclusion is drawn in 1 Corinthians 14:15.
Vv. 15. The question: What is it then? invites the readers to find the conclusion for themselves. What will it be? To exclude ecstasy and speaking in tongues? By no means, but to complete the pneumatic transport by the exercise of the understanding: to pray in the spirit, there is the tongue; to pray in full self - possession, there is the interpretation. The understanding here fills, in a manner, in relation to the tongue, the part of the prophet, when, in the heathen world, he interpreted the mysterious oracles given forth by the Pythia.
The reading προσεύξωμαι , let me pray, would express an encouragement addressed by the apostle to himself; which is wholly out of place. As Edwards says, the best MSS. often confound ο and ω ; and if this were an exhortation, it would require to be in the plural.
We here find two of the principal forms of glossolalia described from the standpoint of their contents: prayer, προσευχή , intense aspiration after the fulness of the blessings assured to faith; and singing, ψαλμός (comp. 1Co 14:26 ), the joyful celebration of all the favours already received. The verb ψάλλειν (from ψάω ) strictly signifies to touch the chord of the instrument, hence to sing with accompaniment. The singing of improvised hymns was therefore one of the principal forms of speaking in tongues. Edwards, agreeably to the strict sense of ψάλλειν , thinks that the singing might be accompanied in public worship with the sound of the harp; comp. Ephesians 5:19, where ψάλλοντες is distinguished from ἄδοντες .
Benediction, εὐλογία , or thanksgiving, εὐχαριστία ( 1Co 14:16 ), is closely related to this form, from which it differs only by the absence of singing. Pliny says of the Christians, in his letter to Trajan, that in their worship they are accustomed Christo quasi deo carmen dicere; but this expression refers to the hymns of the whole Church (Colossians 3:16; Eph 5:18-20 ), and not at all to the singing of the glossolaletes.
From the unfruitfulness of glossolalia, when not followed by interpretation, there arises for the Church a situation, the awkwardness of which the apostle expresses in the words which follow, 1 Corinthians 14:16-19.
Vv. 16, 17. “Since, if thou blessest in spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the stranger say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? 17. For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.”
The ἐπεί , since, relates to this thought understood: “And indeed we must act thus (add interpretation to speaking in a tongue), since if...” Paul here substitutes the second person ( thou) for the first, because in 1Co 14:15 he states what he thinks he ought to do himself, whereas in 1Co 14:16 he supposes an interlocutor acting in an opposite way whom he wishes to convince of his mistake.
It was customary in the synagogue, at the close of a prayer, for all the audience to appropriate the contents of it, solemnly adhering to it by the Amen ( Deu 27:15 seq.; Neh 8:6 ). Justin (1 st Apol.) affirms the continuance of this usage in the Church: “After the president has closed the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying: Amen! Now the Amen in Hebrew signifies: So let it be!” See in Edwards the similar passages from Tertullian, Cyril, Jerome, etc. This form of worship became an empty formality when the congregation had not understood the meaning of the benediction pronounced.
On benediction, as the matter of ecstatic discourses, compare the expressions in the Acts: “speaking the wonderful works of God” ( 1Co 2:11 ); “magnifying God” ( Act 10:46 ).
The expression: he that occupieth the room of, ὁ ἀναπληρῶν τὸν τόπον , must not be referred, as several interpreters have done, to this or that special portion of the audience, whether heathen who had come out of curiosity or from religious interest, or immature Christians, catechumens (Heinrici). Paul thus designates all the members of the Church, because in this situation they play the part of unintelligent hearers in relation to the glossolalete. The word ἰδιωτής strictly designates the purely private individual, in opposition to the man in office; hence, in all domains, the man who is unacquainted with the business on hand, the apprentice, the private soldier, the ignorant man. Heinrici mentions the fact that it was used in the language of the religious corporations of Greece to denote one who was not yet a member of the society. Paul therefore means that the glossolalete who speaks without interpreting, makes the congregation play a part similar to that of the strangers or semi-strangers who were sometimes present at their assemblies, and did not understand the ordinary Christian addresses. Now this, according to him, is to be wanting in courtesy ( ἀσχημονεῖν , 1Co 13:5 ). The word τόπος , room, place, does not point to a fixed place occupied by non-Christians in the assemblies. It is here taken figuratively: to fill the function, to play the part of; comp. Acts 1:25 ( λαβεῖν τὸν τόπον ); and in Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians, c. 63: τὸν ὑπακοὴς τόπον ἀναπληροῦν , to fill a position of dependence (Edwards). Such is also the meaning of the corresponding Hebrew expression ( male mekom). Josephus ( Bell. Jude 1:5; Jude 1:5:2, Jude 1:5) says, in speaking of Titus, who, in a surprise, had required to draw his sword and do the part of a private soldier, that his friends begged him “not στρατιώτου τάξιν ἀποπληροῦν , him, their commander and the lord of the earth.” The military term τάξις , rank, naturally takes the place in this passage of the ordinary word τόπος . The impropriety of which the glossolalete is thus guilty toward the Church ( 1Co 13:5 ) comes out clearly from the question at the close of the verse. The article τό should be remarked before ἀμήν : “ the Amen,” the Amen by which the whole assembly is accustomed to appropriate the prayer of one of its members. If the Church is thus to give its assent to the thanksgiving uttered, it must understand it. The term εὐχαριστία , thanksgiving, is the equivalent of εὐλογία , benediction. If there is a shade of difference in their meaning, it is this, the first refers rather to Divine benefits personally received; the second, to the Divine perfections considered in themselves and celebrated for their own sublimity.
Vv. 17 The σύ , thou, and the καλῶς , well, are slightly ironical. The expression the other denotes all the members of the congregation taken individually.
The apostle, in 1 Corinthians 14:6, put his own case to prove the uselessness of tongues without prophecy; here he alleges it again in proof of the uselessness of tongues unaccompanied with interpretation.
Vv. 18, 19. “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than ye all; 19. yet in the Church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in tongues.”
The apostle means by 1Co 14:18 that he by no means disdains the gift of tongues, so highly prized at Corinth; he even thanks God for having bestowed it on him richly. These words have been understood in two ways; by some: “I give thanks, I bless, I adore, in the form of discoursing in tongues, more than you all.” In this sense, we should have to prefer the reading λαλῶν , speaking, of the T. R. or that of the Alexandrinus, which simply rejects the word λαλῶ or λαλῶν : “I give thanks in tongues, more than you all.” But I think it probable that these two poorly supported readings are corrections whereby it has been sought to give the word εὐχαριστεῖν the same meaning as it had in 1 Corinthians 14:17: to thank God in an ecstatic discourse. The true reading is undoubtedly λαλῶ , I speak. This verb would require in strictness to be connected with the foregoing εὐχαριστῶ , I give thanks, by the conjunction ὅτι , for the fact that (as is the case in the reading of F G); but very often in classical Greek this conjunction is omitted, and the two verbs are simply put in juxtaposition: “ I give thanks, I speak...” for: “I give thanks for the fact that I speak.” This is probably the true reading. Moreover, this meaning might also be that of the reading λαλῶν .
We must, with the Alex. and Greco-Lats., reject the μου after θεῷ , for which there is no sufficient ground in the context.
There is room for hesitation between the plural ( tongues) and the singular. Both readings are admissible. But what is inconceivable is, how Meyer in such a passage can still apply the term tongue to the material organ: Paul giving thanks to God because he speaks more than all the Corinthians by means of his tongue! And if we read the plural, then this meaning becomes altogether absurd (comp. 1Co 14:5 ).
It should be remarked that he does not say: “Because I speak in more tongues than you all;” as he would require to do if he was thinking of actually existing foreign tongues; but: “Because I speak in tongues more than you all.” It is a mode of speaking in which he surpasses them all.
Vv. 19. After paying this homage to glossolalia, the apostle consigns this gift to its place. This place is the domain of private edification, not public worship. The emphasis is on the word ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ , in the assembly. The contents of the verse are explained by 1 Corinthians 14:4: He that speaks in tongues edifies himself; but he gives nothing to the Church.
In the reading τῷ νοΐ μου , the words denote the mental state of the speaker ( of sober sense). In the received reading ( διὰ τοῦ νοός μου ), the νοῦς , the understanding, comes in as the instrument of assimilation by means of which the intuitions of the prophet and the thoughts suggested to the teacher are conveyed to the Church. The also before ἄλλους signifies: “Not only myself, as would be the case with the gift of tongues, but others also.”
In the form θέλω ἤ , the ἤ , than, depends on the idea of comparison contained in θέλω . Classic Greek thus uses ἤ with θέλω and βούλομαι (see Edwards). The verb κατηχεῖν , to make a sound penetrate to the ears of any one, comes thus to signify to instruct, catechise. The term includes the two gifts of prophecy and teaching. The apostle concludes this whole development with a saying intended to lead the imprudent and frivolous Corinthians to serious reflection.
Vv. 20. “Brethren, become not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, and in understanding be men.” The address brethren, is fitted to bring them back to the feeling of Christian dignity which had been singularly weakened in them. The μὴ γίνεσθε , become not, gives it to be understood that this abandonment to a sort of childishness has already begun among them. It is indeed the characteristic of the child to prefer the amusing to the useful, the brilliant to the solid. And this is what the Corinthians did by their marked taste for glossolalia, and the sort of disdain they testified for prophecy and still more for teaching. The word φρήν , strictly the diaphragm, denotes the physical seat of the action of the νοῦς , the understanding. The νοῦς is the faculty of the soul ( ψυχή ), whereby the latter discerns spiritually as by the eye it discerns physically. The apostle adds, not without an allusion to all those defects in charity with which he has had to charge them in the course of the Epistle: “If you will be children, well and good, provided it be in malice; but as to understanding, advance more and more toward full maturity.” Malice, κακία , has its seat in the heart, not in the understanding.
What an exhortation to people so proud of their wisdom! The words, Romans 16:19, have some resemblance to these, but without offering the humiliating side contained in our passage.
Before going further, let us sum up the course of this discussion: Paul began with proving, that in respect of usefulness, the gift of tongues is inferior to prophecy ( 1Co 14:1-5 ). Then, advancing a step, he showed that without interpretation this gift becomes even entirely useless ( 1Co 14:6-15 ). He went still further; he proved, in the third place, that to exercise it in this way, is to commit a real impropriety against the Church ( 1Co 14:16-19 ); finally, he concluded, 1 Corinthians 14:20, with an appeal to the good sense of his readers.
Throughout this whole exposition, the apostle has considered the exercise of gifts only from the standpoint of their usefulness to the members of the Church; but in their assemblies for worship, there was another element requiring to be taken into account; this was the strangers, not yet gained or only half gained for the faith, and whom it was necessary to avoid alienating by giving them offence. It is with a view to such persons that the apostle treats the question in the sequel. 1Co 14:20 is at once the preface to this new development and the conclusion of the foregoing.
Vv. 21. “In the law it is written: With men of other tongues and lips of strangers will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me.”
The absurdity, the puerility of the preponderating use of tongues in the assemblies is demonstrated from this new point of view. Paul introduces the subject by quoting Isaiah 28:11-12. He calls the book of the prophets the law, as is sometimes done in the New Testament; comp. 1 Corinthians 14:34, and John 10:34. This wide meaning of the word law is due to the feeling that all the other parts of the Old Testament rest on the law, and themselves form law for believers.
This passage from Isaiah seems at the first glance to have no connection with the gift of tongues; for it applies in the prophetic context to foreign nations, particularly the Assyrians, by whose invading forces God will visit His people, after having sought in vain to bring them to Himself by the words of the prophets. It does not take long, however, in the closer study of the parallel, to understand its meaning. As to this rude and unintelligible language which, according to Isaiah, God will hold with His people, by giving them over to strange and cruel nations, it is the unbelief of His people, in the words of the prophets, which will force Him to use it; if the Israelites had listened to the prophets with faith, God would not have required to speak to them in strange tongues. So it is with glossolalia, says the apostle; this speaking in unintelligible tongues, which has suddenly sprung up in this new era of the kingdom of God, is the evidence of a separation on God's part, not certainly from those who speak in tongues, but from those to whom He thus speaks. The fact, indeed, proves that the intelligible revelation of God has not been received as it ought to have been. As is well said by Kling: “When God speaks intelligibly, it is to reveal [open] Himself to His people; when He speaks unintelligibly, it is because He must hide [close] Himself from them.” Pentecost will be cited as an objection, where the gift of tongues appears as a blessing of grace, not as a sign of the Divine displeasure. But, first of all, on that day interpretation accompanied tongues, and transformed them immediately into preaching; but especially speaking in tongues, as it broke forth on that day, had a wholly different signification for believers from that which it had for the mass of the Jewish people. In regard to Israel, which had rejected the preaching in good Hebrew which Jesus had addressed to it for three years, this strange phenomenon was a beginning of rupture, a certification of unbelief. God, while continuing to appeal to it, now addressed Himself to other nations; the people of God was on the eve of its rejection.
The apostle's text differs considerably from the translation of the LXX., which is altogether inaccurate; it also differs from the Hebrew text itself. It is a free reproduction, exactly corresponding, in the first part, to the meaning of the Hebrew, but differing from it sensibly in the last words. The Hebrew says: “And they would not hear;” which applies to the unbelief of the people in regard to the ancient prophetical revelations; while in Paul the words: and yet for all that will they not hear me, apply to the conduct of the unbelieving people in regard to the tongues themselves, as is proved by the: and yet for all that. The idea expressed by Paul is, therefore, that this new means, tongues, will fail as well as the former; in Isaiah, prophetical preaching; in Paul, evangelical preaching. How can we help thinking here of the persevering unbelief of Israel, even after Pentecost, an unbelief of which, after Palestine, the whole world, Greece itself, was at that moment the theatre? Paul does not mean that this plan will absolutely fail, and with all. Otherwise why should God still use it? But the use of such means supposes, not faith, but unbelief in those to whom it is applicable? What folly then, what puerility on the part of the Corinthians, to show a strong predilection for a sign of this kind in the worship of believers! It matters little whether we read ἑτέροις (other lips) with the Greco-Lats. and the Byz., or ἑτέρων (lips of others) with the Alex.
Applying the words of Isaiah, as he does here, Paul is led to the following conclusion:
Vv. 22. “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.”
At the first glance one might be disposed to take the former part of the verse as indicating the salutary effect which glossolalia should produce in those who hitherto had not been able to believe ( ἀπίστοις ), through the wonder and amazement which such a gift will cause them (Chrysostom, Calvin hesitatingly, Grotius, Meyer in his first editions). But this meaning would be contrary to the words: And yet for all that will they not hear; and the example quoted in 1 Corinthians 14:23, instead of justifying, would belie this affirmation. Others, on the contrary, have thought that the language points to a sign announcing to unbelievers their near judgment, irae signum (Beza, Billroth). This is also Edwards' view: “The ecstatic cries in the midst of the assembled Church were intended by God to show unbelievers (the heathen of Corinth) that the day of the Lord was near.” In this sense, the ἄπιστοι are not merely people who have not yet believed; they are confirmed unbelievers. Without saying precisely that judgment is announced, we think that tongues are a testimony of unbelief made to the people to whom God thus speaks. God speaks to them unintelligibly only because they are deaf to His clear revelation. We find an analogous fact, Matthew 13:0, at the date when Jesus adopts speaking in parables as His habitual method of teaching ( 1Co 14:11-12 ). After seeking in vain to awake the conscience of the people by His previous teaching (Sermon on the Mount, for example), when Jesus comes to the time when He must reveal to His own the nature and laws of the kingdom which they are to labour to found, He uses the language of parable, which they alone can understand. It is a sign of His growing breach with the mass of the nation. So it is with tongues. Glossolalia is neither a means of conversion, nor a sign of approaching judgment on unbelievers. It is a demonstration given to their own conscience of the state of unbelief which God sees them to have reached. Would a God of light manifest Himself in the midst of His own by unintelligible sounds? Here there is a sign of severance which is gradually carried out.
It is wholly otherwise with prophetic exhortations. These are a sign of faith or of the disposition to believe which already exists in those to whom God thus speaks. It should be remarked that in opposition to ἀπίστοις , unbelievers, the apostle does not here say πιστοῖς , believers, as would seem natural, but πιστεύουσιν , those who at this moment are in the act of believing. This present participle denotes equally the state of a man who has just reached faith, and the state of him who already possesses it. Hence the general principle laid down here agrees with the result described in 1 Corinthians 14:24, where an ἄπιστος is brought to faith by prophecy. The man is so called only as not yet believing, and because of his state when he came; he is nevertheless a πιστεύων in respect of what takes place in him, in the course of the meeting.
Critics discuss the question whether the words εἰς σημεῖον , in sign of, used in the former clause, should be understood in the latter. It matters very little for the sense. Grammatically the ellipsis seems natural. But the meaning of the word sign is modified of course in passing from the one clause of the sentence to the other. In the former, the sign is one of displeasure, implying a charge of unbelief; in the latter, it is one of pity, powerfully calling the man to repentance and faith. Such an appeal is not directed to one already confirmed in unbelief (the ἄπιστοι of 1Co 14:22 ); but it is made to men such as the ἄπιστος of 1 Corinthians 14:23. Erasmus and Bleek have tried to resolve the difficulties of this verse by taking οὐ , not, both times in the sense of οὐ μόνον , not only. But why not say οὐ μόνον , if this had been his thought?
The apostle now supposes two cases fitted to impress by way of extreme examples the truth of the law which he has just stated:
Vv. 23. “If therefore the whole Church be come together into one place, and all speak in tongues, and there come in novices, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?”
This is the first case: an assembly in which only glossolaletes speak.
Into one place is related to the whole. These plenary assemblies were held doubtless only at more or less considerable intervals; they attracted more strangers and others out of curiosity than the more private gatherings. Those whom Paul here calls ἄπιστοι , unbelievers, and ἰδιῶται , novices, are people who do not yet belong to the Church. By the second, Meyer and others understand Christians who have neither the gift nor the knowledge of tongues. But how, Rückert rightly asks, could these people be contrasted with the whole Church? Meyer supports his view by the use of ἰδιώτης , 1 Corinthians 14:16, where he holds that this term denotes the members of the Church themselves. But this is a mistake. What is said in 1 Corinthians 14:16, that the glossolalete makes the members of the Church play the part of ἰδιῶται , proves precisely that the ἰδιῶται are not members of the Church. The impropriety consists in giving the members of the Church a part which is not theirs. On the other hand, Hirzel, Rückert, and Holsten thereby understand non-Christians. But how distinguish them in that case from the ἄπιστοι , unbelievers? Hirzel proposes to apply the first term to non-Christians of Jewish origin, the second to those of Gentile origin. But this distinction is unfounded. Starting from the simple meaning of ἰδιώτης ( 1Co 14:16 ), we get at a perfectly natural distinction. The ἄπιστος is an unbeliever whom curiosity has attracted, but who has not yet given any sign of faith; the ἰδιώτης is a novice, an apprentice in the domain of faith, a man who has already received some impression and some instruction, but who is not yet baptized, we should say nowadays: a catechumen. Such people, in the exercise of plain common sense, will ask how, if God dwelt there as a Father in the midst of His children, He could speak to them in an unintelligible language: “You shall appear to them madmen, not subjects of inspiration.”
Edwards, with some ancient commentators, thinks that the πάντες , all, means that the glossolaletes speak all at once, and that the confusion which follows, no less than the unintelligibility of the tongues, is the cause of the impression made on the visitors. But the perfectly analogous expression in regard to prophecy, 1 Corinthians 14:24, proves that it is not necessary to give this so improbable meaning to the πάντες of 1 Corinthians 14:23. Paul wishes to describe an assembly where there is room for nothing except manifestations of glossolalia, succeeding one another without interruption during the whole meeting. Then the opposite example:
Vv. 24, 25. “But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or a novice, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all; 25. the secrets of his heart are made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.”
We have just seen the effect of tongues without prophecy; now, on the contrary, we have what prophecy will do without tongues.
The novice and the unbeliever enter, as in 1 Corinthians 14:23, during the meeting. Paul here uses the singular instead of the plural ( 1Co 14:23 ); no doubt because the fact he is about to describe will have a purely individual character. It may be thought with Hofmann, that if ἄπιστος is here placed first, the effect is: the unbeliever, and à fortiori, the novice. The latter, indeed, was already better prepared to feel the power of prophetic speech, while at 1Co 14:23 it was the reverse: the novice, and à fortiori, the unbeliever. Three effects are ascribed to prophecy: conviction, ἔλεγχος ; examination, ἀνάκρισις ; manifestation, φανέρωσις . The word ἐλέγχειν signifies to convince of error or sin. Every utterance of a prophet is like a flash, lighting up the heart of the hearer and discovering to him in a general way his guilt and defilement.
The word ἀνακρίνεσθαι is not fully rendered by the translation ; is judged; the Greek term rather denotes the detailed inquiry than the sentence pronounced. His whole inner man is searched, so to speak, by the words of the prophets.
Vv. 25. Then a sudden penetrating illumination, spread over his whole life, is produced in him: he sees himself, as a whole and in the particular details of his life, as God sees him. One might apply this description to the revelation of certain particular circumstances of his life, as when Elisha speaks to Gehazi ( 2Ki 5:26 ), or Jesus to Nathanael and to the Samaritan woman (John 1:4). But it is simpler to think here of a moral illumination, similar to that of the judgment, which shows a man his past and present state in its true light. What passes in him at such a moment resembles what passed in Paul on the way to Damascus. Struck by this light, he casts himself in the dust, not before man, but before God, acknowledging that such brightness can only proceed from the Holy of holies and the Searcher of hearts; that consequently it is He who speaks by the mouth of those into the midst of whom He has come.
The participle ἀπαγγέλλων , reporting, may refer only to what passes at the time in the assembly itself; it is a cry escaping from him under the power of overwhelming emotion: “Yes, God is among you of a truth!” But this declaration may be regarded also as extending after his departure from the assembly to those whom he meets.
The ἐν ὑμῖν may signify: among you; but in this context, where inspiration is the matter in question, perhaps it is more natural to explain it: in you. So Meyer, Edwards, etc. By the ὄντως , really, the man recognises that the claim of Christians to Divine inspiration is well-founded. Here is the opposite of the μαίνεσθε , ye are mad ( 1Co 14:23 ). The apostle could not better close the discussion on the relative value of the gifts of tongues and of prophecy than by these two examples; and now he can go on to lay down the practical rules which will secure the salutary use of these gifts.
Vv. 26. “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a revelation, hath a discourse in a tongue, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.”
The meaning of the question: How is it then? is the same as in 1 Corinthians 14:15. The apostle would lead his readers themselves to draw the conclusions which flow from the principles laid down. Fundamental rule: No gift should be set aside. Every manifestation of the Spirit ought to have its place; enough that all turn to edification. The ἕκαστος ἔχει , every one hath, should be understood like the similar phrase 1 Corinthians 1:12; every one has not all, but every one ought or at least may have something. The proposition may be taken interrogatively. But it is better perhaps to understand it in the sense of a tentative affirmation: “If so be.” The repetition of the verb brings out, as Bengel says, the distribution of gifts. The apostle enumerates five of these manifestations. The ψαλμός , psalm, is not here a chant in the form of a tongue, the singing in the spirit, of 1 Corinthians 14:15. For special mention is afterwards made of discoursing in a tongue and of its interpretation. It is therefore a psalm, like those spoken of in Col 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 (psalms, hymns, spiritual songs); a singing ἐν νοΐ , with sober mind ( 1Co 14:15 ), as is suitable to the opening of worship. It seems to me improbable that Paul has in view an Old Testament psalm or an already existing Christian hymn, recited or sung. The word ἔχειν , to have, does not prevent its being an improvisation. For, as is observed by Holsten, the term is afterwards applied to a tongue and its interpretation, which are immediate products of the Spirit's working.
The διδαχή , doctrine, naturally comes after the psalm-singing, being the solid basis of worship. In a religion of light, everything ought to rest on clear and exact instruction. Here is the word of knowledge or wisdom spoken of 1 Corinthians 12:8.
According to the MS. L and the received text, there would now follow discourse in tongues, thanksgiving in the transport of ecstasy; but the Alex. and Greco-Lats. here place the ἀποκάλυψις , the revelation, expressed in a prophecy. In the first reading there would be a contrast: the calmest element, instruction, would be followed by the most emotional, the most excited, discoursing in a tongue. This order is less natural than that of the second reading, according to which doctrine is followed by a revelation, that is to say, a prophecy. The latter is already characterized by an immediate inspiration more pronounced and extraordinary. What further speaks in favour of this last reading, is the fact that it would be unnatural were speaking in tongues to be separated from interpretation by prophecy. The Byz. K, which almost always coincides with L, entirely omits the words γλῶσσαν ἔχει , hath a tongue; it is therefore probable that they were supplied in L, but misplaced by the corrector.
To revelation there is naturally attached speaking in a tongue; it is the highest degree of the ecstatic state, consequently the culminating point of worship; after which interpretation, which follows, closes by leading adoration back to that state of calm reflection in which the worship had begun (the psalm) and ought to finish. Thus it is that feeling rises by steps as to the third heaven, to return at the close to practical life. We have therefore in this series of actions the type of normal worship, in which all the elements of understanding and feeling are united, and in which every believer endowed from above can give free scope to his particular gift. It is a spiritual banquet, so to speak, to which every guest brings his quota, just as in the agapae ( 1Co 11:20 seq.).
The apostle now passes to the special rules relating to the exercise of glossolalia.
Vv. 27, 28. “If any man speak in a tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and each in his course; and let one interpret. 28. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the Church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.”
In Greek this verse begins with the word εἴτε , whether, to which there should be a corresponding εἴτε applied to prophecy ( 1Co 14:29 ). This form very pointedly betrays the accidental (by no means indispensable) character of glossolalia in worship.
The apostle gives three rules regarding this gift. The first relative to number: two or at most three; as if two were quite sufficient. The κατά is distributive: two or three each meeting. Edwards thinks that what is referred to here is an antiphony, expressed by ἀνὰ μέρος , in turn, as if a duet of glossolaletes was intended. It was this style of performance, in his view, which gave rise to the later antiphonic chants, such as those of which Pliny speaks in his letter to Trajan. How far will the imagination go! Certainly Paul would never have approved of the simultaneous utterance of several discourses, the one hindering the effect of the other. Besides, ἐν μέρει would have been required to express the sense given by Edwards (see Passow).
The second rule relates to order: ἀνὰ μέρος , each in course, consequently: one at a time. The contrary, no doubt, sometimes happened at Corinth. The form ἀνὰ μέρος signifies, like ἐν τῷ μέρει : in determinate order, in his turn, but not: answering one another.
The third rule fixes the mode; the tongue ought to be followed by an interpretation. The expression εἷς , one, seems to signify that one and the same interpreter ought to act for the two or three discourses in tongues; no doubt to prevent discussions as to the meaning of any one of the discourses. The apostle does not say whether this interpreter is himself one of the glossolaletes, as might be held in accordance with 1Co 14:5 ; 1 Corinthians 14:13, or if he is some other inspired one, as might be supposed from 1Co 14:28 and 1 Corinthians 12:10. Both cases might occur. Holsten alleges that interpretation took place only in the case of one of the three tongues, and by the same man who had spoken in it. But this meaning is contrary to 1 Corinthians 14:5; 1 Corinthians 14:28, which expressly exclude the use of a tongue without interpretation.
Vv. 28. The first words have sometimes been translated: “But if he is not an interpreter.” But it would be impossible to say to which of the two or three glossolaletes the words should be applied, and the position of the verb ᾖ before the predicate shows that it is the idea of being which is emphasized. The simple ᾖ is therefore for παρῇ ; comp. Luke 5:17; and the translation must be: But if there be no interpreter. Holsten objects that it was impossible to know beforehand the absence of all interpreters, because interpretation was not an office invariably attached to this or that person. But, on the contrary, the necessary conclusion from the passage is that the gift was more or less permanent, whether it belonged as a rule to one of the glossolaletes or to some other of the members of the Church. This view is confirmed by 1 Corinthians 12:10.
If every believer known to be endowed with this faculty is absent, and the glossolalete does not himself interpret, he is to keep silence in the congregation. But the apostle would not have him to suppress the moving of the Spirit; for himself he may yield to the impulse to thanksgiving and mental prayer which has taken possession of him and raises him to God.
There follow the rules regarding the exercise of prophecy.
Vv. 29, 30. “As to the prophets, let them speak two or three, and let the others judge. 30. And if anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.”
The εἴτε , whether, which we expect to correspond to the εἴτε of 1 Corinthians 14:27, changes into a simple δέ , but or as to, and that no doubt because, if the presence of glossolaletes is accidental and uncertain, that of prophets is a fact which does not seem doubtful.
Paul again lays down three rules: The first, as to number. By saying simply two or three, suppressing the τὸ πλεῖστον , at most (comp. 1Co 14:27 ), Paul shows that he accepts the number three, in the case of prophets, more easily than in the case of tongues.
The second rule relates to mode; prophecy, like tongues, has its necessary complement: discernment, that judgment by which any impure elements, which might have found their way into it, were to be described as such and removed. It should be borne in mind that as yet there was neither a written Word nor a body of doctrine strictly formulated. All was in course of formation; it belonged to prophecy itself to bring the new elements which were afterwards to be elaborated and ordered by διδασκαλία , teaching. How important, then, was it that no strange mixture should be cast, if one may so speak, into the molten mass! Hence the importance of a διάκρισις , discernment, a trial of the ideas expressed in the prophecies which were addressed to the congregation.
By whom was this judgment exercised? Some have thought that the term οἱ ἄλλοι , the others, could only designate the other prophets; but in that case should we not rather have οἱ λοιποί , the rest of the prophets? Melanchthon thought that the word applied to all the members of the Church, and the view seems to me to be in a certain measure correct. Of course in practice such an office, in which every one had the right to take part, could only be carried out by means of the most capable, especially the teachers. The passage 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, seems to confirm this wider meaning of the word the others. Meyer objects that διάκρισις was a gift ( 1Co 12:10 ), and that consequently every believer did not possess it. It is needless to say that the meaning of the others is limited by the possession of this gift. Only there is nothing to prove that the gift belonged only to the prophets themselves.
What was the standard of this judgment? It is not without reason, certainly, that the apostle began his whole exposition regarding spiritual gifts ( 1Co 12:1-3 ), by indicating the precise character which distinguishes true and false inspirations, mentioning that the first have for their common characteristic and essence the cry of adoration: Jesus Lord! while the others tend to the abasement and rejection of Jesus. It was enough, then, to bring every prophecy into connection with this centre of all Christian revelation, the person of Christ, and to see what was the tendency of the prophecy that had been heard, to disparage or to glorify Him. It is no doubt to this standard that Paul's expression Rom 12:6 applies, the analogy of faith. This judgment must consequently have mainly set aside everything in a prophetic discourse which could compromise the Divine sovereignty of Jesus over the world, the Church, and the individual soul. This is in harmony with the saying of Jesus, John 16:13-14: “When the Spirit is come, He will glorify Me. ”
Vv. 30. The third rule relates to order: If, while a prophet is speaking, another receives a revelation, both should not speak simultaneously; the first should keep silence. But, it will be asked, why should not the second rather wait till the first finished? Assuredly, because the freshest revelation will also produce the purest prophecy. It is by lengthening his discourse that the prophet is in danger of mixing what is his own with the Divine communication. The apostle's injunction is well fitted to set aside empty amplifications and verbiage.
The expression: to another that sitteth by, shows that the prophet speaking was standing, and that he to whom the new revelation is addressed testifies his intention to speak by rising. There is something strange in the impersonal and passive form ἀποκαλυφθῇ , it is revealed to him; it seems as if the cloud of Divine revelation were seen passing from over the one to the other.
It might be thought that the verb σιγᾷν , to keep silence, is used here in the sense of σιωπᾷν , to become silent; but it can have its natural meaning: “Let him from that moment keep silence.”
It might seem presumptuous thus to regulate the manifestations of the prophetic spirit; hence the apostle in the following verses expressly justifies the liberty he takes of fixing a rigorous mode of procedure in such a domain, where everything seems to be given up to the incalculable breathing of the Spirit.
Vers. 31-33a. “For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33a. For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.”
Ver. 31 might be understood in this sense: “Thus it may happen that those who prophesy to-day will in their turn be taught and exhorted to-morrow.” Each member will alternately play an active and a passive part. But in that case Paul would have said: καὶ οὕτω , and so, rather than γάρ , for. The true meaning seems to me to be this: “For you must all have it in your power to fill the prophet's function one after another” (of course: those who have the gift of prophecy); now this is what could not be done except by observing the rule given in 1 Corinthians 14:30. Supposing, indeed, that a prophet had spoken indefinitely, he would have prevented the others from declaring what God revealed to them for the instruction or comfort of the Church. And thus is explained the second part of the verse: many members of the Church would have been deprived of the light and strength God wished to communicate to them by means of those other prophets who had been prevented from uttering their message. But this arrangement, of course, rested on a supposition: to wit, that the prophet was able to exercise the control necessary to restrain, if it was needed, the outburst of the prophetic inspiration which animated him. And this supposition the apostle now lays down as a reality in 1 Corinthians 14:32.
Vv. 32. The καί here signifies: and indeed. The terms: of the prophets and to the prophets, have sometimes been referred to different persons, as if Paul meant that the prophets should be humble enough to subordinate themselves to the other prophets, either by accepting their judgment ( 1Co 14:29 ), or by consenting to give place to them ( 1Co 14:30 ). So Calvin, Bleek, Rückert, etc. But it would be impossible to explain on this view why Paul should say: “ the spirits of the prophets,” rather than the prophets themselves. And instead of are subject or subject themselves, it would require to run: should subject themselves. Hofmann also justly remarks that Paul would have said in this sense simply ἀλλήλοις : “should subject themselves to one another. ” It is not without purpose that he brings the term prophets in the Greek into immediate contact with itself, as if to describe the reaction which every prophet is capable of producing on himself. The fact here enunciated by the apostle is of a psychological nature. He declares that the prophetical breathings or inspirations do not carry the prophet away without his consent or against his will. In chap. 1 Corinthians 12:2, he began by reminding the Corinthians of the state of passivity to which they were formerly accustomed when, in the midst of heathenism, they were carried away blindly by diabolical inspirations. It is not so with the operation of the Divine Spirit; this does not deprive the prophet of his liberty. Consequently he has no right to make inspiration a pretext for refusing to submit to the rules laid down by the apostle. The plural πνεύματα , spirits, here denotes, as in 1 Corinthians 14:12, the particular impulses and revelations granted to the prophets. Heinrici and Holsten contrast the prophet with the glossolalete, who, according to them, did not enjoy the same liberty in regard to his inspirations. This surely is a mistake; for 1Co 14:27-28 would be unintelligible if he did not enjoy his full liberty in relation to the Spirit. Divine inspiration differs from diabolical, in the fact that the latter takes man from himself, it is a possession, whereas the former restores him to himself. The present ὑποτάσσεται signifies, not are subject, but subject themselves, and that at the very moment when the prophet wills it.
Vv. 33a. The general maxim stated in this verse is the foundation of all the preceding injunctions. The term ἀκαταστασία denotes the disorder of a whole whose parts are at strife with one another, and εἰρήνη , peace, harmony of a whole, all whose parts act in concert. God dwells only in a whole of this second kind. The axiom justifies the rules which Paul has been giving, for without them the Church could only present a spectacle of complete disorder, which would banish God out of it.
There remains a last injunction, also essential, in the apostle's view, to the good order of the Church, that regarding the speaking of women in the assemblies. Paul has purposely reserved this point for the last. For it was not till after imposing silence conditionally on the prophets that he could think of imposing it on women.
Vers. 33b-35. “As in all the Churches of the saints, 34. let your women keep silence in the Churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35. If they will learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the Church.”
The last words of 1Co 14:33 are joined, by many commentators, to what precedes. But how could Paul say: “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace, as in all the Churches of the saints”? He would have required to say: “God is among you a God...,” or: “God is a God...as is seen in all the Churches...” As they stand, the words: as in all the Churches..., cannot evidently depend on the preceding clause, which is a general maxim regarding the character of God. Besides, this clause is in close logical relation to the argument of 1 Corinthians 14:36: “Did the Word go forth from you, or did it come to you only?” And it is this very thing, probably, which has led several Latin copyists to transpose 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, putting them after 1 Corinthians 14:40, in order thus to connect more directly the last words of 1Co 14:33 with 1 Corinthians 14:36. The addition of the verb διατάσσομαι , I ordain, to the end of 1 Corinthians 14:33, in two of the Greco-Lat. MSS. which have made this transposition, is due to the same cause. From this point of view the clause was read as follows: “So I ordain in all the Churches of the saints;” then the text continued with 1 Corinthians 14:36: “Or did the Word of God come out from you...?” In other terms: Do you think you have the right to put yourselves above the rules followed by all the other Churches? Thus the words of 1 Corinthians 14:33 b and of 1Co 14:36 were put as referring to all the rules given in this chapter regarding the use of glossolalia and prophecy; and as the injunction relative to women broke this connection, some Greco-Lat. documents were led to transpose 1Co 14:33-34 after 1 Corinthians 14:40. But it is to be remarked that no document rejects these verses, which guarantees their authenticity, wrongly suspected by Heinrici and positively attacked by Holsten. Moreover, the latter himself recognises the impossibility of connecting the last words of 1Co 14:33 with the preceding context. Only he does not find the connection with the sequel much more tenable: because, says he, the word Churches in 1Co 14:33 denotes the communities of believers, whereas in 1Co 14:34 it can only designate their assemblies for worship. But these two meanings are so closely connected with one another, that they may perfectly well be used here side by side. “All the assemblies (groups of believers) have their customs; and to these customs belong the silence of women in the assemblies (meetings for worship).” This meaning is perfectly suitable. Holsten again asks why, if these words are really Paul's, we have here: “the Churches of the saints,” and not, as in 1 Corinthians 11:16: “the Churches of God. ” The answer is easy: The saints, distributed in Churches, locally speaking, yet form only one great spiritual whole; the Corinthians should not isolate themselves from this community of saints by adopting customs rejected by all the rest of the body, such as the speaking of women in the assemblies. The term ἅγιοι , saints, expresses the venerable character which belongs to such customs.
Vv. 34. Here we have the principal proposition, on which depends the ὡς ..., as..., of 1 Corinthians 14:33 b. The pronoun ὑμῶν , of you (if it is authentic), must form an antithesis to τῶν ἁγίων , of the saints. It may be made dependent on the ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις , in the assemblies, which follows; in this sense: “Your assemblies should resemble those of the other saints.” But it is more natural, seeing the position of the pronoun, to connect it with αἱ γυναῖκες , women. “Let your women behave like those of the saints in all the Churches.” The authenticity of the word appears to me guaranteed by the combined authority of two of the three families of MSS., and by the support of the Peschito. Not being necessary to the clause, it was easily omitted.
There is a touch of irony in the following clause, if, with the T. R., we read the infinitive, ὑποτάσσεσθαι , to be subject: “It is not allowed to them to speak, but to be subject.” This irony is in keeping with the context. It disappears if, with the Alex., we read the imperative: ὑποτασσέσθωσαν , let them be subject!
The words. as saith the law, refer to Genesis 3:16: “Thy husband shall rule over thee.” It is obvious that the apostle regards speaking in public as an act of authority exercised over the congregation which listens; comp. 1 Timothy 2:12. And as the attitude of authority over the man is contrary to that of obedience which was imposed on the woman during the present economy, he draws the conclusion that the speaking of the woman in public is in contradiction to the position assigned to her by the Divine will expressed in the law. It is easy to see why the apostle substitutes the general idea: to be subject, which relates to the whole life of women, for that of not speaking in the assemblies; it is because the silence of women in worship is only an application of the general condition of subordination which is imposed on them in relation to man. Of course the law contained nothing regarding the part of women in the assemblies; but, by determining the character of their life in general, it had, according to Paul's view, indirectly settled the question. Comp. Colossians 3:18; Ephesians 5:22. The καί , also, puts on the same level the apostle's precept (1 Corinthians 14:34 a) and God's declaration in Genesis, so certain is Paul that he speaks as he does in virtue of the will of the Lord ( 1Co 14:37 ).
Here, as tacitly in 1 Corinthians 14:19, the ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ , in Church, is opposed to ἐν οἰκῷ , at home, in private. The word αἰσχρόν , shameful, misbecoming, seems very strong. Paul sees in the public speaking of woman a mode of acting contrary to the attitude enjoined on her both by nature and the command of the Creator; comp. 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. He does not say criminal, immoral; it is a question of propriety or modesty.
Vv. 35. Several commentators, Heinrici for example, draw from this verse the conclusion that the speaking forbidden to women, 1 Corinthians 14:34, is neither teaching, nor prophecy, nor discoursing in tongues, but solely the mania of raising questions in the assembly, and so posing as teachers under pretence of asking explanations. If they have questions to put, they should reserve them for the house, and address them to their husbands. But, even in this sense, the right to teach in the Church would be none the less denied to them by the apostle. For if women cannot put questions without going out of their sphere and shocking decorum, much less can they teach without committing an impropriety. But more than this: the meaning thus sought to be given to 1 Corinthians 14:35, by restricting it by 1 Corinthians 14:36, is contrary to the true relation between the two verses. The particle εἰ δέ , and moreover if, which begins 1 Corinthians 14:35, introduces, not a simple explanation, but a gradation: “And even if they would learn something, they ought to abstain from asking in the congregation; they should reserve their questions to be submitted to their husbands in private.” The form εἰ δέ , and if, is therefore founded on the fact that questioning was the case of least gravity, the one which seemed most naturally to admit of exception. But this very exception Paul rejects; for he knows how easily, under pretext of putting questions, women could elude the prohibition which forbade their public speaking. Woman belongs to the domestic hearth, so that a simple public question on her part would alone be an impropriety; for by putting her on a public stage, as it were, such an act would go contrary to the modesty of her destined sphere. To be remarked is the adjective ἰδίους , their own husbands; they ought to do nothing to affect the bond of dependence which unites each of them to her husband. Holsten asks how this applies to those who have husbands insufficiently instructed, or to those who have husbands yet heathen (chap. 7), we may add: or to those who have no husband at all. But these last are regarded as living in the house of their parents, to whom they can naturally turn; and as to the others, they are special cases which will find their solution in practice, without Paul's needing to point it out. It is enough for him to settle in a summary way woman's moral position and duty.
Conclusion as to the preaching of women.
In chap. 11 we have already treated of the relation of this prohibition to the authorisation granted to women to prophesy or pray, implicitly contained in 1Co 14:5 of this chapter. Our study of chap. 14 confirms the idea that the word λαλεῖν , to speak, in this chapter, cannot apply merely to simple questions, or vain gossiping, in which women might indulge with one another during worship. The term speaking in the Church, especially in a chapter where it is applied throughout to the glossolaletes and prophets, can only designate a public speaking, which has for its end to teach and edify. Thus, then, while referring to the observations presented on the subject in chapter xi., we think we shall not be far from the apostle's view if we thus state the result of the two passages taken together: “As to women, if, under the influence of a sudden inspiration or revelation, they wish to take the word in the assembly to give utterance to a prayer or prophecy, I do not object; only let them not do so without having the face veiled. But in general, let women keep silence. For it is improper on their part to speak in church.”
Vv. 36-38. “Or, indeed, came the Word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? 37. If any man think himself to be a prophet, or inspired, let him acknowledge that what I write unto you is from the Lord. 38. But if any man be ignorant of it, let him be ignorant.”
The ἤ , or ( 1Co 14:36 ), signifies, as usual with Paul at the beginning of a question: “Or, indeed, if you will not admit what I say.” For the two following questions, the apostle returns to the idea with which he had introduced the subject of the speaking of women: As in all the Churches...(1 Corinthians 14:33 b). “Or are you the mother Church in which the preaching of the gospel took its rise, and from which it spread through the world?” In that case one could understand how the Corinthians could affect complete independence. “Or are you the only Church among the Gentiles to which it has come?” In that case the claim to follow a course alone, and at their own pleasure, would also be intelligible. These two questions are somewhat sarcastic, as happens when one wishes to bring down presumption. The same is the case with the following verses. The apostle knows that there are leaders on the spot, who, in rivalry with him, claim to derive authority only from the Lord and from the immediate inspiration of the Spirit. Hence 1 Corinthians 14:37.
Vv. 37. The term δοκεῖ εἶναι , thinks himself to be, denotes a claim true or false.
We must not give to the word πνευματικός , spiritual, hence inspired, too restricted a sense, according to which it would denote a class different from the prophets, as is done by the commentators who regard this term as designating only the glossolaletes (Baur, Heinrici). It is more natural to understand the ἤ , or, in the sense: or in general, as 1 Corinthians 4:3, so that the term spiritual comprehends the prophets also. The best way for these organs of the Spirit to prove the reality of their inspiration will be, the apostle declares, their perceiving his superior wisdom and apostolic authority, not criticising his ordinances, but rendering practical homage to their excellence by conforming to them: the Spirit should acknowledge the Spirit.
The ἃ γράφω , the things that I write, is at once the object of ἐπιγινωσκέτω , let him acknowledge, and the subject of the following proposition: “Let him acknowledge the things that I write as being ”...etc.
The three families of MSS. have each their own reading in the following clause. The shortest and most sober is that of the Greco-Lats.: “That the things which I write are the Lord's. ” The Alex. add the idea of commandment: “are a commandment of the Lord.” So also the Byz., but putting the word commandment in the plural. One would naturally be inclined to give the preference to the first reading. But is it not possible that the word commandment, in the singular or plural, was rejected because it was taken in the meaning attached to it in 1 Corinthians 7:10, to denote a precept uttered on the earth by the Lord Jesus, and because no such saying was found in the Gospels? If the term ἐντολή , commandment, is authentic, it is hard to know whether to prefer the singular or the plural. The singular may have been substituted for the plural from regard to the Divine precept quoted 1 Corinthians 14:34. But the plural may also have been introduced in order better to bring under this term all the many preceding ordinances.
However that may be, the apostle here expresses the intimate consciousness he has of not having directed the Church, while settling these delicate questions, in ways of his own choice, but of having been guided by the light which is assured to him as an apostle charged with founding and governing the Church of the Gentiles; comp. Romans 12:3. It is with this elevated conviction of his apostolic inspiration that he adds the following words, 1 Corinthians 14:38.
Vv. 38. There is more than indifference, there are severity and threatening in these words; they are addressed to the persons whose folly was characterized by the word δοκεῖ in the previous verse. “If there are among you people who reckon their ideas superior to mine, let them follow them!” Of course such speaking is not addressed to people with whom one is on good terms. We have to bear in mind the first chapters of the Epistle, where the apostle once and again alluded to the disrespectful sentiments of a party in the Church toward him; comp. also 1 Corinthians 7:40.
The reading ἀγνοείτω , let him be ignorant, is the only admissible one. After all he has said, the apostle no longer seeks to convince those who think themselves wiser than he is; he abandons them at once to their inexperience and their responsibility. The reading ἀγνοεῖται , he is ignored, preferred by some commentators, and again recently by Heinrici, would signify: “Willing to be ignorant of God, he is ignored (rejected) by Him.” Edwards regards ἀγνοεῖται as a future indicative middle: “he will be ignored (at the judgment).” Comp. 1 Corinthians 8:3. It is difficult to explain the origin of this variant (see Meyer's attempt). But the threat of perdition for refusal to accept directions so external in their nature as those which precede would be rather severe. The reading ἀγνοείτω : “Let him be ignorant at his risk and peril!” is the only one worthy of the apostle, and really natural.
Paul closes with a very precise statement of his conclusion:
Vv. 39, 40. “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak in tongues. 40. But let all things be done decently and in order.”
We have already seen again and again in this Epistle that after a searching discussion, going to the very heart of his subject, Paul likes to conclude with a brief practical direction, in which the different sides of the question are reflected; so 1 Corinthians 7:38; 1 Corinthians 11:33-34. It is the same here. The preference given to prophecy over tongues is expressed by the antithesis of the two verbs: covet and forbid not. The latter expression reminds us of the two sayings 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20: “Quench not the Spirit,” and: “Despise not prophesyings.” It appears from these two warnings that the general tendency at Thessalonica was to disdain and disparage the extraordinary manifestations of the Spirit, whereas at Corinth they were exalted, especially in the instance of tongues. The apostle takes care to guard each Church, on right or left, according to its wants.
Vv. 40. If 1Co 14:39 is the summing up of the dissertation on gifts, contained in chaps. 12-14, 1Co 14:40 is the close of the whole section which refers to questions of worship, chaps. 11-14. The word εὐσχημόνως , with seemliness, refers particularly to the demeanour of women and to the celebration of the Supper; the κατὰ τάξιν , in order, rather alludes to the recommendations given in regard to the exercise of gifts, chap. 14.
Conclusion regarding the gift of tongues.
The detailed study of this chapter has, I think, confirmed the previous result, to which we were led, chap. 1 Corinthians 12:10, regarding the nature of glossolalia. Most certainly the tongues spoken at Corinth could not be really existing foreign tongues. The glossolalete did not evangelize, did not preach; he praised and gave thanks. To express such feelings would an existing tongue be chosen which had never been learned?
The same objection may be made to the Bleek-Heinrici explanation. What purpose would it serve to go in quest of old unused expressions, or to create extraordinary combinations of words to give utterance to the impressions of joy and adoration with which the possession of salvation filled the heart? Such a course would rather betray the labour of reflection than emotion or ecstasy. In any case, it is far from probable that there would be at Corinth many believers having at command the archaic forms of the learned tongue.
The explanation held in our day by many commentators, that the tongues consisted only of inarticulate groanings and a babbling of confused sounds, which had no meaning, is not less incompatible with our chapter. How would the apostle have attached to this gift such value as to give thanks for the rich command he had of it himself? The apostle, as chap. 14 itself shows, was too sound-minded to give himself up to a religious exercise so puerile as is thus supposed, and to allow it a regular place in Church worship. Finally, it is impossible not to connect the gift which was developed at Corinth with that which was manifested on the day of Pentecost at Jerusalem, and which is again mentioned on several subsequent occasions in the book of the Acts 10:46: “They heard them speak in tongues” (at the house of the Gentile Cornelius); Acts 19:6: “The Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” (the twelve disciples of John the Baptist instructed by Paul). The term being the same in the Acts and in our Epistle, it ought to denote a kind of language radically homogeneous. Now how is it possible to suppose that on Pentecost the speaking in tongues could have consisted of unintelligible utterances which had really no meaning? Could the multitudes have exclaimed: “We hear them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God ” ( Act 2:11 ).
I can only therefore regard the gift of tongues as the expression, in a language spontaneously created by the Holy Spirit, of the new views and of the profound and lively emotions of the human soul set free for the first time from the feeling of condemnation, and enjoying the ineffable sweetness of the relation of sonship to God. And as the influence of the Holy Spirit takes possession of the whole soul and every one of its natural powers, to make it its organ, it also took possession of the gift of speech, transfiguring it, so to speak, to give utterance to emotions which no natural tongue could express. It was, doubtless, a something intermediate between singing and speech, analogous to what we call a recitative, and the meaning of which was more or less immediately comprehensible like that of music. On Pentecost, when this language was manifested in its most distinct form, every well-disposed hearer understood it at once, in a way analogous to that which produced interpreters at Corinth, and could translate it immediately, so that he thought himself listening to his own tongue: “How hear we every man in our own tongue wherein we were born?” It must be borne in mind that human language is not an accidental, arbitrary creation, nor the work of the understanding only, but that it is the spontaneous product of the entire human soul. There is at the root of all existing languages, an essential, unique language; no doubt, if it existed as such, it would be composed of onomatopoeiae. This is what Plato expressed, after his own fashion, in a passage of the Cratylus, quoted by Heinrici: “It is manifest that the gods at least call things truly ( πρὸς ὀρθότητα ), and theirs are the natural names ( φύσει ὀνόματα ).” This necessary language of the human spirit could be drawn forth at this decisive point of history by the Divine Spirit from the depths of the soul, and made more or less imperfectly the organ of His first communications.
I have quoted various witnesses, in the two notes pp. 278, 286, as to the manifestations which signalized the first serious religious awakening that led to the founding of the Irvingite Church. It seems to me impossible to regard these phenomena as purely artificial imitations of those described by the New Testament in the first times of the Churches of Judea and Greece. At the beginning especially, these manifestations were remarkable for unaffected sincerity. Later, love of the extraordinary and desire to shine undeniably introduced an impure alloy, as was the case at Corinth itself. Such manifestations therefore give evidence of a real faculty latent in the depths of the human soul, which a profound religious awakening may call into exercise at any time under fixed conditions, and the creative action of which may yet in our day produce effects similar to those of the first days of the Church. We were not wrong, therefore, in maintaining the possibility of the reappearance of gifts during the whole course of the present economy (see on 1Co 13:8 ), while concluding from the apostle's words in this same chapter that the normal progress of the Church tends rather to the diminution of such phenomena, as a transition to their complete disappearance in the perfect state.