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Friday, July 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 14

Haydock's Catholic Bible CommentaryHaydock's Catholic Commentary

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Verse 1

But rather that you may prophesy. That is, declare or expound the mysteries of faith. (Challoner) --- To prophesy, in its proper signification, is to foretell things to come: it sometimes is to expound the obscure places in other prophets; and sometimes it is to preach the word of God. Here it is chiefly taken in this last sense. (Witham)

Verse 2

He that speaketh in a tongue, which others at least understand not: nay, which sometimes, perhaps, by the 14th and 15th verse, he himself that spoke tongues, did not understand, can only be said to speak to God. In spirit he speaketh mysteries, edifies himself, because in his spirit he is piously and devoutly affected; but he must endeavour that the Church, or people present, may be also edified. Let him then pray for the other gift of interpreting, what he speaks, or let another interpret. (Witham) --- Not to men. Viz. so as to be heard, that is, so as to be understood by them. (Witham)

Verse 5

St. Paul gives them further instructions how to make a right use of these gifts, of prophesying, of interpreting, and especially of speaking tongues. He is far from condemning the gift of speaking tongues, in proper circumstances, but only the indiscreet use, or the abuse of it. This is evident by the 5th verse, I would have you all to speak with tongues, but rather to prophesy. He blames those assemblies and meetings, (ver. 23.) when all present speak tongues together, by which means, the infidels that came thither, and ought to be instructed, understood nothing. He permits at their meetings two or three (ver. 27.) to speak tongues, provided some other interpret them. He also orders, that only two or three prophets speak at a meeting, and by turns, to avoid confusion, that those present may be edified, exhorted, and instructed. (Witham)

Verse 6

If I come to you, speaking with tongues in this manner, what shall I profit you, unless in revelation, &c. that is, unless I reveal, and expound to you the meaning, by some other gift, as in knowledge, in prophecy, in doctrine? To speak tongues only without interpreting, is no ways instructive. He that speaks to me, what I understand not, is not better than a barbarian to me, (so the Greeks called those that spoke not their language.) He signifies this inconvenience of not being understood, by the example of instruments, pipes, harps, trumpets, which would not move persons to different affections, nor excite them to different actions, unless the sound, and manner they were played upon, were different; seek, then, and endeavour to make use of the gifts of the Spirit, to edification of the Church, or of the hearers. (Witham)

Verse 12

Of spirits. Of spiritual gifts. (Challoner)

Verse 13

Pray that he may interpret. In order that he may be rendered more useful to the Church, as the martyrs, who prayed for those particular gifts they saw would be most useful for themselves, or their neighbours. (Calmet)

Verse 14

If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is without fruit: it may signify without fruit, or profit to others, though some understand, as if by this gift of tongues, they sometimes spoke what they themselves did not understand. (Witham)

Verse 16

How shall he that holdeth the place of the unlearned (literally, an idiot) say Amen to thy blessing? When persons speak, or pray, and the ignorant have had no instruction concerning such prayers, they cannot know when to say Amen: and when infidels come into such meetings, where they hear many persons at once speaking many tongues, which are understood by no body, will they not be apt to say, you are mad? The like in a manner happened on the day of Pentecost, when the disciples having received this gift, and speaking with tongues, the people hearing them, cried out, they were drunk. (Acts ii. 13.) Yet St. John Chrysostom takes notice, that the fault and madness was in the hearers, not in those who spoke tongues. (hom. xxxvi.) (Witham) --- Amen. The unlearned not knowing that you are then blessing, will not be qualified to join with you by saying Amen to your blessing. The use or abuse of strange tongues, of which the apostle here speaks, does not regard the public liturgy of the Church, (in which strange tongues were never used) but certain conferences of the faithful, (ver. 26. &c.) in which, meeting together, the discovered to one another their various miraculous gifts of the Spirit, common in those primitive times; amongst which the apostle prefers that of prophesying before that of speaking strange tongues, because it was more to the public edification. Where also note, that the Latin, used in our Liturgy, is so far from being a strange or unknown tongue, that it is perhaps the best known tongue in the world. (Challoner)

Verse 19

But in the Church. The apostle here condemns the vanity of the Corinthians, who made a parade of their gift of tongues. (Calmet)

Verses 20-22

Tongues are for a sign, not to believers, but to unbelievers, according to what the law (under which he comprehends the prophet Isaias, xxviii. 11.) said: In other tongues, and other lips, I will speak to this people: and neither so will they hear me. St. Paul here gives the sense, rather than the words of the prophet, and expounds them of what happened particularly on the day of Pentecost, when the miraculous gift of tongues was designed to strike the unbelieving people with admiration, and to bring them afterwards to the true faith: but when he adds, that tongues are not for the believers, and that prophecies are not fo the unbelievers, he cannot mean that tongues, used with discretion, may not also be profitable to believers, or that prophecies and instructions may not also be profitable to unbelievers, as well as to the believers; for this would be to contradict what he teaches in this chapter, and particularly (ver. 24.) where he says, that by prophecy the infidel is convinced, &c. St. Paul, whose design in all this chapter is to regulate the meetings, that they may be conducted with greater edification, and for the instruction, both of the Christians and unbelievers, thanks God, that he has the gift of tongues more than they, but says, that in the Church, or at such Church-meetings, he had rather, for the common edification of others, speak five words, &c. than ten thousand words, &c. and so he concludes, (ver. 39.) be zealous to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. (Witham)

Verse 26

When you come together, &c. St. Paul here settles the rules, which they are to observe in their meetings: one hath a psalm, the Spirit inspiring him with some psalm, or spiritual canticle, whereby to praise God: another hath the gift of doctrine, to instruct all there present: another the gift of tongues, which he will not have him to make use of, unless when there is one to interpret, that all things may be done in the most profitable manner unto edification. Two or three at a meeting may speak with tongues, if another interpret. (Witham)

Verses 29-32

Two or three, who have the gift of prophecy, may speak by turns in one of these assemblies, and the rest of the prophet shall judge, whether he be truly inspired, and speak good doctrine. --- If any thing be revealed to another sitting by, let the former, who was standing and speaking, hold his peace, which they can do; for the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, that is, they are not like men possessed with evil spirits, who have not power to desist, or to be silent; but these who are moved by an impulse of the holy Spirit, have it in their power either to speak or to be silent, as they judge convenient; for the true God is not the God of dissension and confusion, but the God of peace and order. (Witham)

Verse 34

Let women be silent, and not speak at all in public Church-meetings: and if they would ask any thing, let them ask it at home. (Witham)

Verses 36-38

Did the word of God first come out from you? This he says, to check these new preachers, by putting them in mind, that they are not the first, nor the only Christians, and so must conform themselves to the discipline practised in other Churches, especially since, as their apostle, he hath delivered them the commandments of the Lord. And if any man know not, will not acknowledge, and follow these rules, he shall not be known; God will not know, nor approve his ways. The pretended reformers, from the expressions with which the apostle blames the abuse some new converts made of the gift of tongues, think they have found a plausible argument to reprehend Catholic, for using the same Latin tongue in the Mass, and in the public liturgy. They consider not, whether they have the same reasons to find fault with the present discipline of the Church, as St. Paul then had to blame the Corinthians: whether the circumstances be the same or different: they think it enough that Latin, which is used in the Mass, is a language not understood by a great many ignorant people, and therefore they can say with St. Paul, that an idiot, or an unlearned man, knows not when to say Amen to what he hears. Two things offer themselves here to the consideration of every man, who is disposed to judge impartially. 1. Whether the same reasons and motives now subsist for blaming the Catholics. 2ndly, whether the conveniences and inconveniences, duly examined, it be found more commendable to perform the public liturgy, in those, which are the most general languages, as in Latin or Greek, or to have all liturgies turned into as many tongues, as the ignorant people understand and speak in different places. As to the first, St. Paul does not absolutely forbid the use of this gift of tongues, that were not understood, even by any one (as hath been already observed). All that he blames is, that many, who valued themselves on this gift, spoke at the same time altogether strange tongues, which none understood, but those who had another gift of the Spirit, called the interpretation of speeches, on which account in these meetings there was nothing but confusion, without any profit, edification, or instruction, at a time, and in such circumstances, when instructions were absolutely necessary, both for the new converted Christians, and also for the infidels, who flocked thither as much as the Christians. The case is now quite different, when none but Catholics meet, (especially at the Mass) who have been instructed from their infancy, what they are to believe, as to the mysteries of faith, and what they ought to practise, as to the commandments, the sacraments, prayer, and other points, which they have in their catechisms, or which have been delivered to them by catechetical discourses and instructions. And if they have been happily converted, or are upon their conversion, they are always carefully instructed in the tongue which they understand, as to what they ought to believe, and in the duties of a Christian life. Besides this, all present are frequently instructed by sermons and exhortations, not only on Sundays and holidays, but daily in Advent and Lent, as it is the custom in Catholic countries. I know some of our adversaries have been persuaded, that we preach in Latin to the people; to be convinced of the contrary, let them come and hear us; it is the worst I wish them. As to the sacrifice of the Mass, which none but they who are priests, can offer for the people, of which also a great part, according to the institution of the Church, as the Council of Trent observes, (session 22. cap. 5.) is said with a low voice: it is not performed in Latin in the Western Church, or in Greek in the East, that the meaning of the words may be concealed, since the same Council has laid an express injunction upon all pastors, and upon all that have care of souls, that they frequently, and especially on Sundays, and holidays, expound to the people, what is contained in the Mass, to wit, the parts, and the ceremonies. See 22nd session, cap. 8.) And this command is again repeated, (session 24. cap. 7.) that they instruct the people in their mother tongue concerning the divine mysteries and sacraments. All that can read, may find the Mass translated into their own language, and the most ignorant are taught and instructed, that by the different parts are represented the death and sufferings of our Saviour, Christ: they are taught how to offer up at the same time their intention, their heart, and their prayers: to confess themselves sinners before God, as the priest does, how they ought to endeavour to praise, and adore Christ with the blessed spirits in heaven; how they ought to beg graces of God, by saying the Lord’s prayer; how they ought, at the same time, at least in spirit and desire, to receive the holy sacrament of the eucharist, with a sincere repentance, with humility and devotion. Cannot all things, then, be done to edification, as St. Paul requires, though the words of the Mass, and public liturgy, be in a language which the ignorant do not understand, but which, of all others, is the most general! Now the second thing to be examined is, whether, all things duly considered, it be better to retain the public Church-offices in Latin, and in those ancient dead languages, as they are called, or to turn the liturgy into as many tongues, as are spoken in different places and countries! Our adversaries, by this new alteration which they have made, have good against the judgment of all Christian Churches, both in the West and East, and in all parts of the world. For as Mons. Simon takes notice, in his Critics, all other Churches (the Protestant only excepted) have judged it expedient, to stick to the words and languages of their ancient liturgies, the Grecians to the ancient Greek, which now the ignorant among them do not understand; the like is to be said of the ancient Syriac, Arabic, Coptic, &c. And it is also observed, that the Israelites continued the reading of the law and the prophets, in the ancient Hebrew, which the common people of the Jews did not understand after their return from the Babylonian captivity. It is well known that Latin in this part of the world, is more generally spread and known, than any other language whatsoever. It is taught every where in all public schools. It is learnt, not only by the ministers of the Church, but by almost all gentlemen, and by persons of all conditions, the poorer sort only excepted. There is this great convenience, that the same priest can perform all the public Church-offices, in all places and kingdoms where he travels. All the faithful, whithersoever they have occasion to go, meet with the same Mass, and liturgy in the same words abroad, which they were accustomed to hear at home. The same uniformity is every where preserved without change or confusion. But according to the method introduced by the Protestants, the liturgy must be changed into as many different tongues, as there are countries and places, and in almost every century, as we see by experience, languages are liable and subject to considerable changes and alterations. From hence arises a danger of changes, as to the doctrine and belief of the faithful: errors and heresies are the consequences, that follow such frequent changes, especially, when by another false principle of the said reformers, every private man and woman has a right to expound the hard and obscure place of the holy Scriptures, which make up the chief and greatest part of all public liturgies in all Christian Churches. I might ask of the Protestants, whether the ignorant people at lest, and idiots, as St. Paul calls them, understand the meaning of the Psalms, when they are sung in Hopkins’s rhymes; though they may perhaps know when to say Amen, with the rest. Nor yet does every ignorant man know what the word itself, Amen, signifies, and therefore knows not what he answers. I cannot but here take notice of an unfair way of proceeding, even in the best Protestant translation, by sometimes adding in this chapter the word unknown, and sometimes omitting it. All Catholics are willing to allow, that by the gift of speaking tongues, St. Paul means tongues unknown, though the word unknown is not found so much as once, neither in the Latin, nor even so much as in any one Greek manuscript. The Protestant translators, for tongues, have put unknown tongues, in all the verses, where St. Paul blames the abuse of this gift; to wit, ver. 2. 4. 13. 14. 19. 27. but they make now such addition, where St. Paul either commends, or permits the speaking in tongues not understood, as ver. 5. where he says, I would have you to speak tongues; and ver. 29. where he says, forbid not to speak tongues. It is evident, that there is the very same reason for the addition, or the omission equally in all these verses. Is this to translate faithfully? I would by no means judge rashly, even of any adversary; but it looks as if both the addition and omission was with a design of making this popular objection seem to be of greater force against this point of discipline, and practice of the Catholics, and indeed of all Christian Churches. (Witham)


Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14". "Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hcc/1-corinthians-14.html. 1859.
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