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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 13

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical CommentaryAlford's Greek Testament Commentary

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CHAPP. 12 14 .] ON THE ABUSE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS: especially PROPHESYING, and SPEAKING WITH TONGUES. The second particular requiring correction in their assemblies , see ch. 1 Corinthians 11:18 , note. Chrys. well says: τοῦτο ἅπαν τὸ χωρίον σφόδρα ἐστὶν ἀσαφές · τὴν δὲ ἀσάφειαν ἡ τῶν πραγμάτων ἄγνοιά τε καὶ ἔλλειψις ποιεῖ τῶν τότε μὲν συμβαινόντων , νῦν δὲ οὐ γινομένων . Hom. xxix. p. 257.

Verse 1

1. ] ἐὰν λαλῶ supposes a case which never has been exemplified: even if I can speak , or as E. V. though I speak . So Isocr. eop. p. 142, ἀλλ ʼ ἐὰν μὲν κατορθώσωσι περί τινας πράξεις , ἢ διὰ τύχην , ἢ δι ʼ ἀνδρὸς ἀρετήν , μικρὸν διαλιπόντες πάλιν εἰς τὰς αὐτὰς ἀπορίας κατέστησαν . See Matthiæ, § 523. 1.

ταῖς γλώσσαις τ . ἀνθρ . κ . τ . ἀγγ .] ὅρα πόθεν ἄρχεται · πρῶτον ἀπὸ τοῦ θαυμαστοῦ δοκοῦντος εἶναι παρ ʼ αὐτοῖς καὶ μεγάλου , τῶν γλωσσῶν . Chrys. p. 289. It is hardly possible to understand γλῶσσαι here of any thing but articulate forms of speech : i.e. languages . Meyer and De W., who deny that the speaking with tongues was ever in an articulate language, vehemently impugn such a rendering here. But their own rendering is to me undistinguishable from it, as far as the sense is concerned: ‘ tongues speaking in all possible ways ,’ surely, in the common acceptation of words, must mean, tongues speaking all possible languages , and the use of the word indifferently for the tongue and a tongue (a language), when this very gift is spoken of, e.g. Acts 2:4 , compared with 11, and here as compared with ch. 1 Corinthians 12:30 , is one of the strongest proofs that λαλεῖν γλώσσαις is to speak in languages : see note on Acts 2:4 .

Of men (generic) and of angels (generic): i.e. ‘of all men and all angels,’ whatever those tongues may be.

ἀγάπην ] LOVE to all , in its most general sense , as throughout the chapter: no distinction being here drawn between love to man and to God , but the general principle dealt with, from which both spring . The ‘ Caritas ’ of the Latin versions has occasioned the rendering ‘ charity ’ in most modern versions. Of this word Stanley remarks, “the limitation of its meaning on the one hand to mere almsgiving, or on the other to mere toleration, has so much narrowed its sense, that the simpler term ‘Love,’ though too general exactly to meet the case, is now the best equivalent.”

γέγονα ] I am become; the case supposed is regarded as present: ‘if I can speak … I am become .’

χαλκ . ἠχ .] Brass, of any kind, struck and yielding a sound: i.e. ἀναίσθητόν τι κ . ἄψυχον . Chrys, No particular musical instrument seems to be meant.

κύμβαλον ] κύμβαλα ἦν πλατέα κ . μεγάλα χάλκεα , Jos. Antt. vii. 12. 3. The Heb. name is most expressive, צֶלְצְלִים . There appear to have been two sorts, mentioned in Psalms 150:5 , צִלְצִלֵי שֶׁמַע and צ״ תרוּעָה , rendered by the LXX, κυμβάλοις εὐήχοις and κ . ἀλαλαγμοῦ , as here. Winer thinks the former answered to our castagnettes , the latter to our cymbals . The larger kind would be here meant. See Winer, Realw. art. ‘Becken.’

ἀλαλάζον ] see Psalms 150:0 cited above.

Verses 1-13

1 13. ] THE PANEGYRIC OF LOVE; as the principle without which all gifts are worthless (1 3): its attributes (4 7): its eternity (8 12): its superior dignity to the other great Christian graces (13). Meyer quotes from Valcknaer, p. 299: “Sunt figuræ oratoriæ, quæ hoc caput illuminant, omnes sua sponte natæ in animo heroico, flagrante amore Christi et huic amori divino omnia postponente.” “It may,” he adds, “without impropriety be called ‘a Psalm of Love:’ ” the שִׁיר יְדִידֹת of the New Test. (see Psalms 45:0 title). “On each side of this chapter the tumult of argument and remonstrance still rages: but within it, all is calm: the sentences move in almost rhythmical melody: the imagery unfolds itself in almost dramatic propriety: the language arranges itself with almost rhetorical accuracy. We can imagine how the Apostle’s amanuensis must have paused to look up in his master’s face at the sudden change of his style of dictation, and seen his countenance lighted up as it had been the face of an angel, as the sublime vision of divine perfection passed before him.” Stanley.

Verse 2

2. ] τὰ μυστήρ . πάντα are all the secrets of the divine counsel , see Romans 11:25 (note); Romans 16:25 , and reff. The knowledge of these would be the perfection of the gift of prophecy. The verb belongs to both μυστ . and γνῶσιν . The full construction would be εἰδῶ μυστ . and ἔχω γνῶσιν .

πᾶσαν τὴν πίστιν hardly, as Stanley, implies ‘ all the faith in the world ,’ but rather, ‘all the faith required to,’ &c.: or perhaps the art. conveys the allusion to our Lord’s saying, Matthew 17:20 ; Matthew 21:21 ; ‘all that faith,’so as, &c.

Verse 3

3. ] The double accus. after ψωμίζω is found in the reff. to LXX: but here the accus. of the person is omitted, and left to be supplied from the context: If I bestow in food all my substance . See the quotation from Coleridge in Stanley’s note.

παραδ . τὸ σῶμ . μ . ἵνα καυθ .] So ref. Dan., καὶ παρέδωκαν τὰ σώματα αὐτῶν εἰς ἐμπυρισμόν , LXX. Theod.: see also 2Ma 7:37 . He evidently means in self-sacrifice : for country, or friends. Both the deeds mentioned in this verse are such as ordinarily are held to be the fruits of love, but they may be done without it , and if so, are worthless. Stanley prefers καυχήσωμαι and Lachmann has edited it. The objections to it seem to me to be, (1) It leaves παραδῶ standing in a very vague and undefined meaning “deliver, to what ?” (2) It introduces an irrelevant and confusing element, a boastful motive , into a set of hypotheses which put forward merely an act or set of acts on the one side, and the absence of love on the other: and indeed, worse still, (3) it makes an hypothesis which would reduce the self-sacrifice to nothing, and would imply the absence of love; and so would render ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω unnecessary.

Verse 4

4. ] μακροθυμεῖ is the negative side, χρηστεύεται the positive, of a loving temper: the former, the withholding of anger; the latter, the exercise of kindness.

οὐ ζηλοῖ , ‘ knows neither envy nor jealousy :’ both are included under the more general sense of ζῆλος .

περπερεύεται ] The word occurs in Cicero ad Attic. i. 14: ‘Di boni! quomodo ἐπερπερευσάμην novo auditori Pompeio!’ and Marc [59] Antonin. 1 Corinthians 13:5 ; ἀρεσκεύεσθαι , καὶ περπερεύεσθαι , κ . τοσαῦτα ῥιπτάζεσθαι τῇ ψυχῇ . Among the examples in Wetst. of πέρπερος and περπέρεια , is a good definition from Basil: τί ἐστι τὸ περπερεύεσθαι ; πᾶν ὃ μὴ διὰ χρείαν , ἀλλὰ διὰ καλλωπισμὸν περιλαμβάνεται περπερείας ἔχει κατηγορίαν . And the Etymol. Mag., ἀντὶ τοῦ , ματαιοῦται , ἀτακτεῖ , κατεπαίρεται μετὰ βλακείας ἐπαιρόμενος . The nearest English expression would perhaps be displays not itself . See Wetst.

[59] Marcus Monachus, 390

φυσ ., see, for a contrast, ch. 1 Corinthians 8:1 .

Verses 4-7

4 7. ] The blessed attributes of love .

Verse 5

5. ] οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ seems to be general , without particular reference to the disorders in public speaking with tongues. τὰ ἑαυ τῆς Love is so personified, as here to he identified with the man possessing the grace, who does not seek τὰ ἑαυ τοῦ : see ch. 1 Corinthians 10:33 .

οὐ λογίζ . τὸ κακόν ] imputeth not (the) evil: οὐδὲν πονηρὸν οὐ μόνον οὐ κατασκενάζει ἀλλ ʼ οὐδὲ ὑποπτεύει κατὰ τοῦ φιλουμένου , Chrys. Hom. xxxiii. p. 304: and so Theod., Theophyl., Estius, Rückert, Meyer: and this is better and more accordant with the sense of λογίζεται , than the more general rendering ‘ thinketh no evil .’ And we must not overlook the article, which seems here to have the force of implying that the evil actually exists, ‘ the evil ’ which is, but Love does not impute it. So Theodoret, συγγινώσκει τοῖς ἐπταισμένοις , οὐκ ἐπὶ κακῷ σκόπῳ ταῦτα γεγενῆσθαι ὑπολαμβάνων .

Verse 6

6. οὐ χ . ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδ .] rejoices not at (the) iniquity , i.e. at its commission by others, as is the habit of the unloving world.

συγχαίρει τῇ ἀλ . ] Most Commentators, as the E. V., altogether overlook the force of the verb and the altered construction, and render, ‘ rejoiceth in the truth :’ others, who respect the verb, make τῇ ἀληθ . = τοῖς εὐδοκιμοῦσι (Chrys.), those to whom, as in 3 John 1:12 , μεμαρτύρηται ὑπ ʼ αὐτῆς τῆς ἀληθείας . But Meyer’s rendering is the only one which preserves the force of both words: rejoices with the Truth , ἡ ἀλήθ . being personified, and meaning especially the spread among men (as opposed to ἀδικία ) of the Truth of the Gospel , and indeed of the truth in general , in opposition to those who (ref. Rom.) τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἐν ἀδικίᾳ κατέχουσι , who (ref. 2 Tim.) ἀνθίστανται τῇ ἀληθείᾳ .

Verse 7

7. ] πάντα , i.e. all things which can be borne with a good conscience . So Bengel, of all four : ‘videlicet, quæ tegenda vel credenda, quæ speranda et sufferenda sunt.’

στέγει ] bears : see note, ch. 1 Corinthians 9:12 . Hammond, Estius, Bengel (above), ‘ covers :’ but the variation in sense from ch. 9 is needless.

πιστ .] viz. without suspicion of another.

ἐλπίζ .] viz., even against hope hoping what is good of another, even when others have ceased to do so.

ὑπομ .] viz. persecutions and distresses inflicted by others, rather than shew an unloving spirit to them.

Verse 8

8. πίπτει ] The exact word is that of the E. V., faileth: so Theod.: οὐ διασφάλλεται , ἀλλ ʼ ἀεὶ μένει βεβαία κ . ἀσάλευτος κ . ἀκίνητος , ἐς ἀεὶ διαμένουσα . τοῦτο γὰρ διὰ τῶν ἐπαγομένων ἐδίδαξεν . Of the two readings, we may illustrate πίπτει by Plato, Phileb., p. 22 E, ἀλλὰ μήν , ὦ Σώκρατες , ἔμοιγε δοκεῖ νῦν μὲν ἡδονή σοι πεπτωκέναι καθαπερεὶ πληγεῖσα ὑπὸ τῶν νῦν δὴ λόγων : and Polyb. x. 33. 4, κἄν ποτε πέσῃ τὰ ὅλα , “in case the whole plan should fail:” id. i. 35. 5: and ἐκπίπτει by Plato, Gorg. p. 517, εἰ οὗτοι ῥήτορες ἦσαν , οὔτε τῇ ἀληθινῇ ῥητορικῇ ἐχρῶντο ( οὐ γὰρ ἂν ἐξέπεσον ) οὔτε τῇ κολακικῇ : where Heindorf, ‘proprie usurpatur de actoribus, citharœdis, aliisque, qui a spectatoribus exploduntur et exsibilantur:’ and by the celebrated passage in Demosthenes περὶ στεφ . p. 315, ἐτριταγωνίστεις , ἐγὼ δ ʼ ἐθεώρουν . ἐξέπιπτες , ἐγὼ δ ʼ ἐσύριττον : where also, by the way, ἔπιπτες is a various reading.

By εἴπε , εἴτε , εἴτε the general idea, χαρίσματα , is split into its species be there prophesyings, be there (speakings in) tongues, be there knowledge .

Chrys., al., understand the two first futures, καταργ ., παύς . , of the time when, the faith being every where dispersed, these gifts should be no longer needed . But unquestionably the time alluded to is that of the coming of the Lord ; see 1 Corinthians 13:12 , and this applies to all these , not to the last ( γνῶσις ) only. The two first, προφ . and γλῶσσ ., shall be absolutely superseded: γνῶσις , relatively : the imperfect, by the perfect.

Verses 8-12

8 12. ] The eternal abiding of Love, when other graces have passed away .

Verses 9-10

9, 10. ] Reason given ; that our knowledge, and our prophesying (utterance of divine things) are but partial , embracing but a part : but when that which is perfect (entire universal) shall have come, this partial shall be abolished superseded. See Ephesians 4:11-13 , where the same idea is otherwise expressed.

Verse 11

11. ] Analogical illustration of 1 Corinthians 13:10 .

νήπιος and τέλειος are used in contrast ch. 1Co 2:6 to 1Co 3:1 ; 1 Corinthians 14:20 .

ἐλάλουν , ἐφρόνουν , ἐλογιζόμην I spoke, I [ thought ] (felt, was minded), I [ reasoned (or] judged ). There can hardly be an allusion, as Theophyl., Œc [60] , Bengel, Olsh., al., think, to the three gifts , of tongues ( ἐλάλ .), prophecy ( ἐφρόν ., which suits but very lamely), and knowledge ( ἐλογιζ .).

[60] Œcumenius of Tricca in Thrace, Cent y . XI.?

ὅτε γέγ . κ . τ . λ .] Now that I am become a man, I have brought to an end the ways of a child : not, as E. V., ‘ when I became a man, I put away …,’ as if it were done on a set day , and as if γέγ . and κατήργ . were aorists. For this use of ὅτε , cf. Demosth. Olynth. 1, init. ὅτε τοίνυν ταῦθ ʼ οὕτως ἔχει , προσήκει προθύμως ἐθέλειν ἀκούειν : see Kühner, § 813. 2.

Verse 12

12. ] Contrast between our present sight and knowledge, and those in the future perfect state .

γάρ justifies the analogy of the former verse: for it is just so with us .

ἄρτι , in our present condition , until the Lord’s coming.

δι ʼ ἐσόπτρου , through a mirror : i.e. as Billroth, Meyer, and De W. according to the popular illusion , which regards the object, really seen behind the mirror, as seen through it. We must think, not of our mirrors of glass, but of the imperfectly-reflecting metallic mirrors of the ancients. The idea of the lapis specularis , placed in windows, being meant, adopted by Schöttgen from Rabbinical usage (e.g. ‘omnes prophetæ viderunt per specular obscurum, et Moses doctor noster vidit per specular lucidum’(Wetst.): and see numerous examples in his Hor. Hebr. i. 646 ff.), and followed by many Commentators, is inconsistent with the usage of ἕσοπτρον , which (Meyer) is always a MIRROR (Pind. Nem, vii. 20: Anacr. xi. 2; xx. 5. Lucian, Amor. xliv. 48: see also reff.): the window of lapis specularis being δί οπτρα (Strabo, xii. 2, p. 540).

ἐν αἰνίγματι ] There is a reference to ref. Num., στόμα κατὰ στόμα λαλήσω αὐπῷ ἐν εἴδει , καὶ οὐ δι ʼ αἰνιγμάτων . Many take the words adverbially, ‘ enigmatically ’ (so E. V., ‘ darkly ’ [and so we are almost obliged to do in an English version]): but this cannot be [the strict rendering], because αἴνιγμα is objective, not subjective: ‘ a dark hint given by words .’ I agree with Meyer, notwithstanding De Wette’s strong objections, in believing ἐν αἰνίγματι to mean ‘ in a dark discourse ,’ viz. the revealed word , which is dark , by comparison with our future perfect knowledge . So also Luther: in einem bunteln Wort . Thus, as M [61] observes, ἐν will denote, as ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ , Matthew 6:4 , the local department, in which the βλέπειν takes place.

[61]. Marcion, 130; fragments in Epiph. (Mcion-e) and Tert. (Mcion-t)

τότε = ὅταν ἔλθῃ τὸ τέλειον , 1 Corinthians 13:10 ; ‘ at the Lord’s coming, and after .’

πρόσωπ . πρὸς πρόσωπ .] Face towards face , i.e. by immediate intuition: so Heb. in reff.

I shall thoroughly know even as I was (during this life: he places himself in that state , and uses the aor. as of a thing gone by) thoroughly known . In this life we are known by God, rather than know Him: see Galatians 4:9 ; ch. 1 Corinthians 8:3 , note, and cf. Philo de Cherub. 32, vol. i. p. 159, νῦν ὅτε ζῶμεν , κρατούμεθα μᾶλλον ἢ ἄρχομεν , κ . γνωριζόμεθα μᾶλλον ἢ γνωρίζομεν . The sense of this aor. ἐπεγνώσθην must not be forced, as in E. V., to a present, or to a future, as by some Commentators.

Verse 13

13. ] Superiority of Love to the other great Christian graces . Some gifts shall pass away but these three great graces shall remain for ever FAITH, HOPE, LOVE. This is necessarily the meaning , and not that love alone shall abide for ever, and the other two merely during the present state . For (1) νυνὶ δέ is not ‘but now ,’ i.e. in this present state, as opposed to what has just been said 1 Corinthians 13:12 , but ‘ rebus sic stantibus,’ ‘quæ cum ita sint ,’ and the inference from it just the contrary of that implied in the other rendering: viz. that since tongues, prophesyings, knowledge, will all pass away , we have left but THESE THREE. (2) From the position of μένει , it has a strong emphasis , and carries the weight of the clause, as opposed to the previously-mentioned things which καταργηθήσεται . (3) From τὰ τρία ταῦτα , a pre-eminence is obviously pointed out for faith, hope, and love , distinct from aught which has gone before. This being the plain sense of the words, how can faith and hope be said to endure to eternity, when faith will be lost in sight, and hope in fruition? With hope , there is but little difficulty: but one place has inscribed over its portals, “Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’ entrate.” New glories, new treasures of knowledge and of love, will ever raise, and nourish, blessed hopes of yet more and higher, hopes which no disappointment will blight. But how can faith abide, faith, which is the evidence of things not seen, where all things once believed are seen? In the form of holy confidence and trust , faith will abide even there. The stay of all conscious created being, human or angelic, is dependence on God ; and where the faith which comes by hearing is out of the question, the faith which consists in trusting will be the only faith possible. Thus Hope will remain, as anticipation certain to be fulfilled: Faith will remain, as trust, entire and undoubting: the anchor of the soul, even where no tempest comes. See this expanded and further vindicated in my Quebec Chapel Sermons, Vol. i. Serm. viii.

μείζων τ . ] The greater of these , not ‘ greater than these.’ “The greater,” as De Wette beautifully remarks, “because it contains in itself the root of the other two: we believe only one whom we love, we hope only that which we love.” And thus the forms of Faith and Hope which will there for ever subsist, will be sustained in, and overshadowed by, the all-pervading superior element of eternal Love.

Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hac/1-corinthians-13.html. 1863-1878.
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