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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

1 Corinthians 13



1 Corinthians 13:3. ψωμίσω] Elz. has ψωμίζω, which is condemned by almost all the uncials.

καυθήσωμαι] A B א, 17, Codd(2035) in Jerome, Copt. Aeth. Ephr. Hier. have καυχήσωμαι. But ἵνα καυχήσωμαι (given up again even by Lachm.) is a manifest addition, which was written on the margin to call attention to the loveless motive, and supplanted the similar and difficult ἵνα καυθήσω΄αι (C K, min(2036) vss(2037) Chrys. Theodoret, and Latin writers).

Instead of the subjunctive, Tisch. has the future indicative καυθήσομαι (D E F G I, min(2038) Mac. Max.), which of course could be easily changed by ignorant copyists into the subjunctive, anomalous though it was.—1 Corinthians 13:8. ἐκπίπτει] Lachm. reads πίπτει, following A B C* א*, min(2039) and several Fathers. Rightly; the simple form was defined more precisely by way of gloss. Comp Romans 9:6.

γνῶσις, καταργηθήσεται] A D** F G א, 17, 47, Boern. Ambrosiast. have γνώσεις, καταργηθήσονται. So Rückert (Lachm. on the margin). The plural crept in after the preceding.—1 Corinthians 13:10. τό] Elz. Scholz read τότε τό, against decisive testimony.


The want of love makes even the greatest charismatic endowments to be worthless (1 Corinthians 13:1-3); excellencies of love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7); eternity of love in contrast to the transient nature of the charismata (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).

This praise of love—almost a psalm of love it might be called—is as rich in its contents drawn from deep experience as in rhetorical truth, fulness and power, grace and simplicity. “Sunt figurae oratoriae, quae hoc caput illuminant, omnes sua sponte natae in animo heroico, flagrante amore Christi et huic amori divino omnia postponente,” Valckenaer, p. 299. In no other passage (comp especially, Romans 13:8-10) has Paul spoken so minutely and in such a manner regarding love. It is interesting to compare the eulogy of ἔρως—so different in conception and substance—in Plato, Symp. p. 197 C D E. A Christian eulogy on love, but one far inferior, indeed, to the apostle’s, may be seen in Clement, Cor. I. 49.

Verse 1

1 Corinthians 13:1. ἐάν] is not equivalent to εἰ καί with the optative (Rückert), but it supposes something, the actual existence of which is left dependent on circumstances: assuming it to be the case, that I speak, etc.

ταῖς γλώσσαις τῶν ἀνθρ. κ. τ. ἀγγ.] To say that γλῶσσαι must mean languages here (Rückert, Olshausen, Baur, Rossteuscher), is an arbitrary assertion.(2042) Why may it not be held to mean tongues? The expression is analogous to the well-known Homeric one—only much stronger: εἴ μοι δέκα μὲν γλῶσσαι δέκα δὲ στόματʼ εἶεν, Il. ii. 489. Comp Virgil, Aen. vi. 625; Theophil. a(2044) Autol. ii. 16 : οὐδὲ εἰ ΄υρία στό΄ατα ἔχοι καὶ ΄υρίας γλώσσας. The meaning is: Supposing that I am a speaker with tongues, from whom all possible kinds of articulate tongues might be heard, not simply those of men, but also—far more wonderful and exalted still—those of the angels. Paul thus describes the very loftiest of all conceivable cases of glossolalia. The tongues of angels here spoken of are certainly only an abstract conception, but one in keeping with the poetic character of the passage, as must be admitted also with respect to the old interpretation of angelic languages. Beza says well, that Paul is speaking “ ὑπερβολικῶς ex hypothesi, ut plane inepti sint, qui h. 1. disputant de angelorum linguis.” Comp Chrysostom: οὐχὶ σῶ΄α περιτιθεὶς ἀγγέλοις, ἀλλʼ λέγει τοιοῦτόν ἐστι· κἂν οὓτω φθέγγω΄αι ὡς ἀγγέλοις νό΄ος πρὸς ἀλλήλους διαλέγεσθαι. Others, such as Calovius, Bengel, and several more, have thought of the languages used by the angels in their revelations to men; but these surely took place in the form of human language. The ἄῤῥητα ῥήματα of 2 Corinthians 11 have also been brought in, where, however, there is nothing said of angels.

Why the apostle begins with the γλώσσ. λαλ., is correctly divined by Theodoret (comp Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact): πρῶτον ἁπάντων τέθεικε τὴν παρεξέτασιν ποιού΄ενος τὸ χάρισ΄α τῶν γλωσσῶν, ἐπειδὴ τοῦτο παρʼ αὐτοῖς ἐδόκει ΄εῖζον εἶναι τῶν ἄλλων. It had become the subject of over-estimation and vanity to the undervaluing of love.

ἀγάπην] i.e. love of one’s neighbour, which seeks not its own good, but the good of others in a self-forgetting way. 1 Corinthians 13:4 ff.

A sounding metal and a shrill-sounding cymbal, i.e. like these, a mere dead instrument of a foreign impulse, without all moral worth, γέγονα have I become (and am so: perfect), namely, in and with the actual realization of the supposed case. See Buttmann, neut. Gramm. p. 172 [E. T. 199]. To interpret χαλκός as a brazen musical instrument (Flatt, Olshausen, with many older commentators), which would otherwise be admissible in itself (comp generally, Dissen, a(2048) Pind. Ol. vii. 83), is wrong here, for the simple reason, that one such is expressly named in addition. The text does not warrant our departing from the general metal; on the contrary, it proceeds from the indefinite to the definite (cymbal), from the crude to the product of art. Comp Plato, Prot. p. 329 A: ὥσπερ τὰ χαλκεῖα πληγέντα μακρὸν ἠχεῖ, Crat. p. 430 A.

κύμβαλον] brazen basins were so called, which were beaten upon, 2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Chronicles 13:8, al(2050); Judith 16:2; 1 Maccabees 4:54; Joseph. Antt. vii. 12. 4; Xenophon, de re eq. i. 3; Pind. Fr. 48; Lucian, Bacch. 4, Alex. 9; Herodian. v. 6. 19.

ἀλαλάζον] screaming, an epithet no doubt purposely chosen, which is manifestly at variance with the theory of the soft and scarcely audible (Wieseler, 1838), nay, noiseless (Jaeger) nature of the glossolalia. The κύμβαλα were ὀξύφθογγα (Anthol. vi. 51). Comp ἀλαλαγ΄ός of cymbals (Psalms 150:5) and other loud-sounding instruments, Eur. Cycl. 65, Hel. 1368.

Verse 2

1 Corinthians 13:2. That Paul adduces only two charismata ( προφητεία and πίστις) in the protasis, and consequently uses καὶ εἰδῶγνῶσιν to mark out the degree of προφητεία, is shown plainly by himself in his repeating the καὶ ἐάν. In the case of these gifts also he is supposing the highest conceivable degree.

τὰ μυστήρια πάντα] the whole of the mysteries, i.e. what remains hidden from human knowledge without revelation, as, in particular, the divine decrees touching redemption and the future relations of the Messianic kingdom, 1 Corinthians 4:1; Matthew 13:11; Romans 16:25, al(2052)

γνῶσιν] profound knowledge of these mysteries, as 1 Corinthians 12:8. The verb connected with it is εἰδῶ, but in such a way that the latter is to be taken here zeugmatically in the sense: I am at home in (Homer, Od. ii. 121; Il. xviii. 363, xv. 412). Observe further, that before it was μυστήρια, but here πᾶσαν, which has the emphasis; translate: “the mysteries one and all, and all knowledge.” To these two departments correspond the λόγος σοφίας and the λόγος γνώσεως in 1 Corinthians 12:8.

πᾶσαν τ. πίστιν κ. τ. λ(2053)] the whole heroism of faith (not specially the faith of miracles, see on 1 Corinthians 12:9), so that I displace mountains.

The latter phrase in a proverbial sense (to realize the seemingly impossible), as Jesus Himself (Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21) had already portrayed the omnipotence of faith. But without love, even in such an instance of the might of faith there would still not be the fides salvifica, Matthew 7:22.

οὐδέν εἰμι] in an ethical respect, without any significance and value. Comp 2 Corinthians 12:11; Arist. Eccl. 144; Soph. Oed. Rex, 56; Xen. Anab. vi. 2. 10, al(2055); Wisdom of Solomon 3:17; Wisdom of Solomon 9:6; Bornemann, a(2056) Xen. Cyr. vi. 2. 8; Stallbaum, a(2057) Plat. Symp. p. 216 E Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. 430.

Notice further, that Paul only supposes the cases in 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 in a general way; but they must be conceived of as possible; and their possibility arises from the fact that, in the midst of the charismatic phenomena which made their appearance as if by contagion in the church, men might be carried away and rapt into states of exaltation without the presence of the true ground of the new inward life, the new creature, the true καινότης ζωῆς and πνεύματος (Romans 6:4; Romans 7:6).

Verse 3

1 Corinthians 13:3. “And supposing that I do outwardly the very highest works of love, but without really having love as my inward motive, then I have no advantage therefrom, namely, towards attaining the Messianic salvation” (1 John 3:14). Comp Matthew 16:26; Galatians 5:2.

ψωμίζειν τινά τι means properly: to feed any one with something in the way of putting it by morsels into his mouth; then generally, cibare aliquem aliqua re, Romans 12:20. See the LXX. in Schleusner, V. p. 569; Valckenaer, p. 303. Only the thing is mentioned here in connection with the verb, but who the persons (the poor) are, is self-evident, as also the meaning: cibando consumsero. Comp Poll. vi. 33.

καὶ ἐὰν παραδῶ κ. τ. λ(2060)] a yet higher eternal work of love, surrender of the body (Daniel 3:28), self-sacrifice.

ἵνα καυθήσομαι] (see the critical remarks) in order to be burned. The reading καυθήσωμαι would be a future subjunctive, a barbarism, the introduction of which in pre-New Testament Greek is due only to copyists. See Lobeck, a(2061) Phryn. p. 720 f.; Buttmann, neut. Gramm. p. 31 [E. T. 35]. The sense should not be defined more precisely than: in order to die the death by fire. To refer it, with most interpreters since Chrysostom, to the fiery death of the Christian martyrs, is without support from the known history of that period, and without a hint of it in the text. Probably such martyr-scenes as Daniel 3:19 ff., 2 Maccabees 7, hovered before the apostle’s mind. Comp Fritzsche, de conform. Lachm. p. 20.

Verse 4

1 Corinthians 13:4. Love is personified; the living concrete portrait of her character, in which power to edify (1 Corinthians 8:1) reflects itself, is presented as if in sharply drawn outline, with nothing but short, definite, isolated traits, positively, negatively, and then positively again, according to her inexhaustible nature.

μακροθυμεῖ] she is long-suffering; in face of provocations controlling her anger, repressing it, giving it up, and maintaining her own proper character. The general frame of mind for this is χρηστεύεται: she is gracious (comp Tittmann, Synon. p. 140 ff.), Clem. Cor. i. 14. The verb is found, besides, only in the Fathers.

Observe here and in what follows the asyndetic enumeration, and in this “incitatior orationis cursus ardorem et affectum” (Dissen, a(2064) Pind. Exc. II. p. 275). But to write, with Hofmann, following Lachmann, ἀγάπη ΄ακροθυ΄εῖ. χρηστεύεται ἀγάπη, is less, suitable, for this reason, that, according to the traditional division, the long list of negative predicates which follows is very appropriately headed again by the subject.

οὐ ζηλοῖ] negation of all passionate, selfish feelings towards others (envy, jealousy, and such like).

οὐ περπερεύεται] she boasts not, practises no vaunting. See Cicero, a(2065) Att. i. 14; Antonin. v. 5, and Gatak. in loc(2066); also Winer, Beitr. zur Verbess. d. neutest. Lexicogr. p. 5 ff. Comp πέρπερος in Polyb. xxxii. 6. 5, xl. 6. 2; Arrian. Epict. iii. 2. 14.

Verse 5

1 Corinthians 13:5. οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ] she acts not in an unseemly way. See on 1 Corinthians 7:36. To hold that Paul was thereby alluding to unsuitable attire in the assemblies (Flatt), involves an inappropriate petty limitation, as does also the reference to unseemly conduct on the part of those speaking with tongues (de Wette). He means generally everything that offends against moral seemliness.

τὰ ἑαυτῆς] comp 1 Corinthians 10:33.

οὐ παροξύνεται] does not become embittered, does not get into a rage, as selfishness does when offended. This is the continuance of the μακροθυμία.

οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν] she does not bring the evil, which is done to her, into reckoning (2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 4:6, al(2069); Sirach 29:6; Dem. 658. 20, 572. 1, al(2070)). Comp 1 Peter 4:8. Theodoret puts it happily: συγγινώσκει τοῖς ἐπταισ΄ένοις, οὐκ ἐπὶ κακῷ σκοπῷ ταῦτα γεγενῆσθαι λα΄βάνων. Others render: she thinks not evil (Ewald; Vulgate: “non cogitat malum”). This thought, as being too general in itself, has been more precisely defined, either as: “she seeks not after mischief” (Luther, Flatt, and several others; comp Jeremiah 26:3; Nahum 1:9), which, however, serves so little to describe the character of love, that it may, on the contrary, be said to be a thing self-evident; or as: “she suspects nothing evil” (Chrysostom, Melanchthon, Grotius, Heydenreich, and others; comp also Neander), which special conception, again, would be much too vaguely expressed by λογίζεται.

Verse 6

1 Corinthians 13:6. ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδικίᾳ] over immorality (Romans 1:18; Romans 2:8), when she sees this in others. In view of the contrast, Chrysostom and others, including Hofmann, take this in too narrow a sense: οὐκ ἐφήδεται τοῖς κακῶς πάσχουσιν, understanding it thus of delight in mischief; comp Luther: “sie lachet nicht in die Faust, wenn dem Frommen Gewalt und Unrecht geschieht.” Theodoret puts it rightly, ΄ισεῖ τὰ παράνο΄α. It is just the generality of this thought which specially fits it to form the copestone of all those negative declarations; for in it with its significant contrast they are all summed up.

συγχαίρει δὲ τῇ ἀληθ.] The ἀλήθεια is personified, and denotes the truth κατʼ ἐξοχήν, the divine truth contained in the gospel, Colossians 1:5; Ephesians 1:13; Galatians 5:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:12-13; John 1:17, al(2075) Love rejoices with the truth, has with it one common joy, and this is the most complete contrast to the χαίρειν ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδικίᾳ; for to make morality prevail, is the ethical aim of the ἀλήθεια (2 Thessalonians 2:12; Romans 2:8), whose joy it is, therefore, when she is obeyed in disposition, speech, and action (1 Peter 1:22, ὑπακοὴ τῆς ἀληθείας); and her companion in this joy is love. Usually ἀλήθεια has been understood of moral truth, i.e. morality, as in 1 Corinthians 5:8; either, with Theodoret, Flatt, and most interpreters: she rejoices over what is good,—a rendering, however, from which we are debarred by the compound συγχ.; or, with Chrysostom: συνήδεται τοῖς εὐδοκι΄οῦσι, Billroth: “she rejoices with those who hold to the right,” Rückert: “she rejoices with the man, who is saved to morality,” Osiander: “she rejoices with the heart, which is filled with the truth and with obedience towards it.” Thereby there is made an arbitrary change in the conception, according to which, in conformity with the antithesis, the δικαιοσύνη (the opposite of the ἀδικία) is not the subject, in fellowship with which love rejoices, but the object of this common joy; the subject with which love rejoices is the truth. According to Hofmann, the meaning of the passage is, that love has her joy withal, when the truth comes to its rights in that which befalls any one. But so also there is no sufficient justice done to the compound συγχ., and the more precise definition, “in that which befalls any one,” is imported.

Verse 7

1 Corinthians 13:7. πάντα] popular hyperbole. Grotius aptly says: “Fert, quae ferri ullo modo possunt.”

στέγει] as in 1 Corinthians 9:12 : all things she bears, holds out under them (suffert, Vulgate), without ceasing to love,—all burdens, privation, trouble, hardship, toil occasioned to her by others. Other interpreters (Hammond, Estius, Mosheim, Bengel, al(2076); Rückert hesitatingly) understand: she covers all up, i.e. excuses all wrong. Likewise correct from a linguistic point of view, according to classical usage; but why depart from 1 Corinthians 9:12?

πάντα-g0- πιστ-g0-.] Opposite of a distrustful spirit; bona fides towards one’s neighbour in all points.

πάντα ἐλπίζει] opposite of that temperament, which expects no more good at all from one’s neighbour for the future; good confidence as to the future attainment of her ends.

πάντα ὑπομένει] all things she stands out against—all sufferings, persecutions, provocations, etc., inflicted on her. This is the established conception of ὑπομονή in the N. T. (Matthew 10:22, al(2077); Romans 12:12; 2 Corinthians 1:6, al(2078)), according to which the endurance is conceived of as a holding of one’s ground, the opposite of φεύγειν (Plato, Tim. p. 49 E, Theact. p. 177 B). Comp 2 Timothy 2:10.

Note further how the expressions rise as they follow each other in this verse, which is beautiful in its simplicity: if love encounter from others what may seem too hard to be endured, all things she bears; if she meet what may cause distrust, all things she trusts; if she meet what may destroy hope in one’s neighbour, all things she hopes; if she encounter what may lead to giving way, against all she holds out.

Verse 8

1 Corinthians 13:8. Up to this point the characteristics of love have been given; now on to 1 Corinthians 13:13 her imperishableness is described, in contrast to the purely temporary destination of the gifts of the Spirit.

οὐδέποτε πίπτει] (see the critical remarks) never does she fall, i.e. she never falls into decay, remains always stedfast ( μένει, 1 Corinthians 13:13). The opposite is: καταργηθήσονται, παύσονται. Comp Luke 16:17; Plato, Phil. p. 22 E Soph. Ant. 474; Polyb. x. 33. 4, i. 35. 5; Dem. 210. 15. The Recept(2081) ἐκπίπτει (Romans 9:6) is to be taken in precisely the same way. Theodoret puts it well: οὐ διασφάλλεται, ἀλλʼ ἀεὶ ΄ένει βεβαία κ. ἀκίνητος, ἐς ἀεὶ δια΄ένουσα· τοῦτο γὰρ διὰ τῶν ἐπαγο΄ένων ἐδίδαξεν.

In what follows εἴτε opens out in detail the general conception of χαρίσ΄ατα. Be it again (different kinds of) prophesyings, they shall be done away; be it (speaking) tongues, they shall cease, etc. This mode of division and interpunctuation is demanded by δέ (against Luther and others, including Heydenreich). Prophecy, speaking with tongues, and deep knowledge, are only appointed for the good of the church for the time until the Parousia; afterwards these temporary phenomena fall away. Even the gnosis will do so; for then comes in the perfect knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:12), and that as the common heritage of all, whereby the deep knowledge of gifted individuals, which is still but imperfect, as it occurs before the Parousia, will necessarily cease to subsist.

Verses 9-10

1 Corinthians 13:9-10. Proof of the last and of the first of the three preceding points. The second stood in need of no proof at all. For in part ( ἐκ μέρους; its opposite is ἐκ τοῦ παντός, Lucian, Dem. enc. 21) we know, imperfect is our deep knowledge, and in part we speak prophetically, what we prophetically declare is imperfect. Both contain only fragments of the great whole, which remains hidden from us as such before the Parousia.

ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ κ. τ. λ(2082)] but when that which is perfect shall have appeared (at the Parousia; otherwise, Ephesians 4:13), then will that which is in part (the gnosis and the prophecy therefore also, seeing they belong to the category of the partial) be done away. The appearance of the perfected condition of things necessarily brings with it the abolition of what is only partial. With the advent of the absolute the imperfect finite ceases to exist, as the dawn ceases after the rising of the sun. We are not to supply, with Hofmann, γινώσκειν and προφητεύειν (as substantival infinitives) to τὸ τέλειον and to τὸ ἐκ μέρους, by which unprecedented harshness of construction the sense would be extorted, that only the imperfect γινώσκειν and προφητεύειν will cease to make room for the perfect. But what Paul means and says is that these charismata generally, as being designed only for the aeon of the partial, and not in correspondence with the future aeon of the perfect, will cease to exist at the Parousia; their design, which is merely temporary, is then fulfilled. With the advent of the Parousia the other charismata too (1 Corinthians 13:8 ff.) surely cease altogether: not simply that the imperfection of the way in which they are exercised ceases.

Verse 11

1 Corinthians 13:11. Illustration of what was said in 1 Corinthians 13:10 by an analogy taken from each man’s own personal experience in life, inasmuch, namely, as our present condition, when compared with our condition in the αἰὼν μέλλων, is like that of the child in comparison with that of the man. The man has given up the practices of the child.

ἐφρόνουν refers to the interest and efforts (device and endeavour), ἐλογ. to the judgment (reflective intellectual activity). To make ἐλαλ., however, point back to the glossolalia, ἐφρ. to the prophesying, and ἐλογ. to the gnosis (Oecumenius, Theophylact, Bengel, Valckenaer, Heydenreich, Olshausen, D. Schulz, Ewald; Osiander undecided), is all the less warranted an assumption, seeing that ἐφρ. and ἐλογ. are no specific correlates of the prophecy and gnosis respectively.

Verse 12

1 Corinthians 13:12. Justification of this analogy in so far as it served to illustrate the thought of 1 Corinthians 13:10.

ἄρτι] i.e. before the Parousia. διʼ ἐσόπτρου] through a mirror; popular mode of expression according to the optical appearance, inasmuch, namely, as what is seen in the mirror appears to stand behind it. The meaning is: our knowledge of divine things is, in our present condition, no immediate knowledge, but one coming through an imperfect medium. We must think not only of our glass mirrors, but of the imperfectly reflecting metal mirrors(2083) of the ancients (Hermann, Privatalterth. § 20. 26). τὸ ἔσοπτρον περίστησι τὸ ὁρώμενον ὁπωσδήποτε, Chrysostom. This is enough of itself to enable us to dispense with the far-fetched expedient (Bos, Schoettgen, Wolf, Mosheim, Schulz, Rosenmüller, Stolz, Flatt, Heydenreich, Rückert, and others) that ἔσοπτρον means speculare, a window made of talc (lapis specularis, see Pliny, Nat. Hist. xxxvi. 22). In support of this, such Rabbinical passages are adduced as Jevamm. iv. 13, “Omnes prophetae viderunt per specular ( כאיספקלריא) obscurum, et Moses, doctor noster, vidit per specular lucidum.” See Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 171; Wetstein in loc(2084) But against this whole explanation is the decisive fact that the assumed meaning for ἔσοπτρον is quite undemonstrable, and that no expositor has succeeded in establishing it. It always means mirror, as do also ἔνοπτρον and κάτοπτρον (Pindar, Nem. vii. 20; Anacreon, xi. 2; Plutarch, Praec. conjug. 11; Luc. Amor. 44, 48; Wisd. vii. 26; Sirach 12:11; James 1:23); a talc window is διόπτρα (Strabo, xii. 2, p. 540).

ἐν αἰνίγ΄ατι] which should not be separated from διʼ ἐσόπτρου by a comma, is usually taken adverbially (Bernhardy, p. 211), like αἰνιγ΄ατικῶς, so that the object of vision shows itself to the eye in an enigmatic way. Comp also Hofmann, who holds that what is meant is an expression of anything conveyed in writing or symbol, of such a kind that it offers itself to our apprehension and eludes it in quite equal measure. But αἴνιγ΄α is a dark saying; and the idea of the saying should as little be lost here as in Numbers 12:8. This, too, in opposition to de Wette (comp Osiander), who takes it as the dark reflection in the mirror, which one sees, so that ἐν stands for εἰς in the sense of the sphere of sight. Rückert takes ἐν for εἰς on an exceedingly artificial ground, because the seeing here is a reading, and one cannot read εἰς τὸν λόγον, but only ἐν τῷ λόγῳ. Luther renders rightly: in a dark word; which, however, should be explained more precisely as by means of an enigmatic word, whereby is meant the word of the gospel-revelation, which capacitates for the βλέπειν in question, however imperfect it be, and is its medium to us. It is αἴνιγ΄α, inasmuch as it affords to us, (although certainty, yet) no full clearness of light upon God’s decrees, ways of salvation, etc., but keeps its contents sometimes in a greater, sometimes in a less degree (Romans 11:33 f.; 1 Corinthians 2:9 ff.) concealed, bound up in images, similitudes, types, and the like forms of human limitation and human speech, and consequently is for us of a mysterious and enigmatic nature,(2087) standing in need of the future λύσις, and vouchsafing πίστις, indeed, but not εἶδος (2 Corinthians 5:7); comp Numbers 12:8. To take ἐν in the instrumental sense is simpler, and more in keeping with the conception of the βλέπειν (videre ope aenigmatis) than my former explanation of it as having a local force, as in Matthew 6:4; Sirach 39:3 (in aenigmate versantes).

τότε δέ] ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ τὸ τέλειον, 1 Corinthians 13:10.

πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον] according to the Hebrew פָּנִים אֱל־פָּנִים (Genesis 32:30; comp Numbers 12:8), face to (coram) face, denotes the immediate vision. Grammatically πρόσωπον is to be taken as nominative, in apposition,(2090) namely, to the subject of βλέπομεν, so that πρὸς πρόσωπον applies to the object seen. And it is God who is conceived of as being this object, as is evident from the parallel καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

ἄρτι γινώσκω κ. τ. λ(2091)] consequence of the foregoing spoken asyndetically, and again in the first person with individualizing force, in the victorious certainty of the consummation at hand.

ἐπιγνώσο΄αι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθ.] cannot mean: then shall I know as also I am known, i.e. as God knows me (so most interpreters), but (observe the aorist): as also I was known, which points back to the era of conversion to Christ (for the apostle himself, how great a remembrance!), when the Christian became the object of the divine knowledge (see on 1 Corinthians 8:3) turning to deal with him effectually. The meaning therefore is: “but then will my knowledge of God be so wholly different from a merely partial one, as it is now, that, on the contrary, it will correspond to the divine knowledge, so far as it once at my conversion made me its object, namely (opposite of ἐκ μέρους) by complete knowledge of the divine nature, counsel, will, etc., which present themselves to me now only in part.” Notice further that the stronger term ἐπιγνώσομαι is selected in correspondence with the relation to the preceding simple γινώσκω (Bengel, pernoscam; see Valckenaer, a(2092) Luc. p. 14 f.), and that καί is the ordinary also of equivalence. It may be added, that this likeness of the future knowledge to the divine is, of course, relative; the knowledge is “in suo genere completa, quanta quidem in creaturam rationalem cadere potest,” Calovius.

Verse 13

1 Corinthians 13:13. νυνὶ δέ] nunc autem, and thus, since, according to 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, the present temporary charismata do not continue but cease in the future age, continue (into the everlasting life and onward in it) faith, hope, love. (2093) This explanation of νυνὶ δέ in a conclusive sense, as 1 Corinthians 12:18; 1 Corinthians 12:20, and of ΄ένει as meaning eternal continuance, (2094) has been rightly given by Irenaeus, Haer. ii. p. 47, iv. 25; Tertullian, de pat. 12; Photius in Oecumenius, p. 553; Grotius, Billroth, de Wette, Osiander, Lipsius (Rechtfertigungsl. pp. 98, 210), Ewald, Maier, Hofmann. For, although the majority of interpreters since Chrysostom (including Flatt, Heydenreich, Rückert, David Schulz, Neander) have explained νυνὶ δέ in a temporal sense: “but for the present, so long as that glorious state lies still far off from us” (Rückert), and μένει of continuance in the present age (in the church), this is incorrect for the simple reason, that Paul, according to 1 Corinthians 13:8 ff., expected the charismata to cease only at the Parousia, and consequently could not have described merely the triad of faith, hope, and love as what was now remaining; the γνῶσις also, prophecy, etc., remain till the Parousia. Hence, too, it was an erroneous expedient to take μένει in the sense of the sum total, which remains as the result of a reckoning (Calvin, Bengel, and others).

πίστις] here in the established sense of the fides salvifica. This remains, even in the world to come, the abiding causa apprehendens of blessedness; what keeps the glorified in continued possession of salvation is their abiding trust in the atonement which took place through the death of Christ. Not as if their everlasting glory might be lost by them, but it is their assured possession just through the fact, that to them as συγκληρονομοί of Christ in the very beholding and sharing His glory the faith, through which they become blessed, must remain incapable of being lost. The everlasting fellowship with Christ in the future αἰών is not conceivable at all without the everlasting continuance of the living ground and bond of this fellowship, which is none other than faith.

ἐλπίς] equally in its established N. T. sense, hope of the everlasting glory; Romans 5:1, and frequently. This abides for the glorified, with regard to the everlasting duration and continued development of their glory. How Paul conceived this continued development and that of the Messianic kingdom itself to proceed in detail, cannot indeed be proved. But the idea is not on that account unbiblical, but is necessarily presupposed by the continuance of hope, which is undoubtedly asserted in our text. Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 15:24, steps in the development of the future βασίλεια are manifestly given, as indeed the everlasting δόξα generally, according to its essential character as ζωή, is not conceivable at all without development to ever higher perfection for the individual, and therefore also is not conceivable without the continuance of hope. The conception of this continued development is not excluded by the notion of the τέλειον, 1 Corinthians 13:10, but belongs thereto. (2095) Billroth is wrong in saying “faith and hope remain, in so far as their contents is eternal.” That is to confound the objective and subjective. De Wette (comp. Maier) holds that “faith and hope, which go directly to their object, remain by passing over into sight.” But in that way precisely they would not remain (Romans 8:24; Hebrews 11:1), and only love would remain. For all the three the μένειν must be meant in the same sense. Our interpretation, again, does not run counter either to 2 Corinthians 5:7 (where surely the future seeing of the salvation does not exclude the continuance of the fides salvifica), or to Romans 8:24, Hebrews 11:1, since in our text also the hope meant is hope of something future not yet come to manifestation, while the fides salvifica has to all eternity a suprasensuous (Heb. loc. cit.) object (the atoning power of the sacrifice of Jesus). Hofmann transforms it in his exposition to this, that it is asserted of the Christian who has believed, hoped, and loved that he brings thither with him what he is as such, so that he has an abiding heritage in these three things. But that is not what Paul says, but simply that even in the fixture aeon, into which the charismata will not continue, Christians will not cease to believe, to hope, to love.

τὰ τρία ταῦτα] brings the whole attention, before anything further is said, earnestly to bear upon this triad.

μείζων δὲ τούτων] is not to be taken as μείζων δὲ ταῦτα, for τούτων must apply to the foregoing τὰ τρία ταῦτα, but as: greater however (comp. 1 Corinthians 14:5) among these, i.e. of higher value (than the two others) among these three, is love. Regarding μείζων with the gen. partitivus, comp. Matthew 23:11. Hofmann has no warrant for desiderating the article; comp. Luke 9:46. Why love holds this highest place, has been already explained, 1 Corinthians 13:1-7; (2096) because, namely, in relation to faith love, through which it works (comp. Galatians 5:6), conditions its moral worth (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) and the moral fruitfulness of the life of Christian fellowship (1 Corinthians 13:4-7); consequently without love (which is divine life, 1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16) faith would be something egotistical, and therefore spurious and only apparent, not even existing at all as regards its true ethical nature; (2097) from which it follows at the same time that in relation to hope also love must be the greater, because if love fails, the hope of future glory—seeing that it can only be cherished by the true faith which works by love—cannot with reason exist at all (comp. Matthew 26:35 ff.)

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Bibliographical Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.