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1 Corinthians 13

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Verses 1-99


The thirteenth chapter stands to the whole discussion on Spiritual Gifts in a relation closely similar to that of the digression on self-limitation (ch. 9.) to the discussion of εἰδωλόθυτα. Either chapter raises the whole subject of its main section to the level of a central principle. The principle is in each case the same in hind, namely, that of subordinating (the lower) self to the good of others; but in this chapter the principle itself is raised to its highest power: from forbearance, or mere self-limitation, we ascend to love.

The chapter, although a digression, is yet a step in the treatment of the subject of Spiritual Gifts (12:1-14:40), and forms in itself a complete and beautiful whole. After the promise that he will point out a still more surpassing way, there is, as it were, a moment of suspense; and then jam ardet Paulus et fertur in amorem (Beng.). Stanley imagines “how the Apostle’s amanuensis must have paused to look up in his master’s face at the sudden change in the style of his dictation, and seen his countenance lit up as it had been the face of an angel, as this vision of Divine perfection passed before him” (p. 238). Writer after writer has expatiated upon its literary and rhythmical beauty, which places it among the finest passages in the sacred, or, indeed, in any writings.* We may compare ch. 15, Romans 8:31-39, and—on a much lower plane—the torrent of invective in 2 Corinthians 11:19-29. This chapter is a divine προφητεία, which might have for its title that which distinguishes Ps. 45, —‘A Song of Love’ or ‘of Loves.’ And it is noteworthy that these praises of Love come, not from the Apostle of Love, but from the Apostle of Faith. It is not a fact that the Apostles are one-sided and prejudiced, each seeing only the gift which he specially esteems. Just as it is St John who says, ‘This is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith.’ so it is St Paul who declares that greater than all gifts is Love.

No distinction is drawn between love to God and love to man. Throughout the chapter it is the root-principle that is meant; ἑγάπη in its most perfect and complete sense. But it is specially in reference to its manifestations to men that it is praised, and most of the features selected as characteristic of it are just those in which the Corinthians had proved defective. And this deficiency is fatal. Christian Love is that something without which everything else is nothing, and which would be all-sufficient, even were it alone. It is not merely an attribute of God, it is His very nature, and no other moral term is thus used of Him (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16). See W. E. Chadwick, The Pastoral Teaching of St Paul, ch. 6; Moffatt, Lit. of N.T., PP. 57, 58).

This hymn in praise of love is of importance with regard to the question of St Paul’s personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is too often forgotten that Saul of Tarsus was a contemporary of our Lord, and the tendency of historical criticism at the present time is to place the date of Saul’s conversion not very long after the Ascension. Furrer and Clemen would argue for this. Saul may not have been in Jerusalem at the time of the Crucifixion and Resurrection; but he would have abundant means of getting evidence at first hand about both, after the Appearance on the road to Damascus had made it imperative that he should do so; and some have seen evidence of exact knowledge of the life and character of Jesus of Nazareth in this marvellous analysis of the nature and attributes of Love. We have only, it is said, to substitute Jesus for Love throughout the chapter, and St Paul’s panegyric “becomes a simple and perfect description of the historic Jesus” (The Fifth Gospel, p. 153). Intellect was worshipped in Greece, and power in Rome; but where did St Paul learn the surpassing beauty of love? “It was the life of love which Jesus lived which made the psalm of love which Paul wrote possible” (ibid.). In this chapter, as in Rom_12, “we note that very significant transference of the centre of gravity in morals from justice to the sphere of the affections.” See Inge, in Cambridge Biblical Essays, p. 271.

Most commentators and translators are agreed that here, as in the writings of St John,�

ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, γέγονα κ.τ.λ. ‘And should not have love’ (8:1), or, ‘while I have not love,’ on that assumption ‘I am become (Galatians 4:16) sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.’ The χαλκός probably means something of the nature of a gong rather than a trumpet; and�Joshua 6:20; 1 Samuel 17:52), but sometimes of grief (Jeremiah 4:8; Mark 5:38). Cymbals are often mentioned in the O.T., but nowhere else in the N.T.; and in St Paul’s day they were much used in the worship of Dionysus, Cybele, and the Corybantes. Seeing that he insists so strongly on the unedifying character of the Tongues (14), as being of no service to the congregation without a special interpreter, it is quite possible that he is here comparing unintelligible Tongues in Christian worship with the din of gongs and cymbals in pagan worship. Or he may be pointing out the worthlessness of extravagant manifestations of emotion, which proceed, not from the heart, but from hollowness. Cymbals were hollow, to increase the noise. Or he may be merely saying that Tongues without Christian love are as senseless as the unmusical and distracting noise of a soulless instrument. Δωδωναῖον χαλκεῖον is said to have been a proverbial expression for an empty talker; and it was probably on account of his vainglorious loquacity that Apion the grammarian, against whom Josephus wrote, was called by Tiberius cymbalum mundi: φορτικός τις καὶ ἐπαχθὴς τοῖς πολλοῖς, as Chrysostom paraphrases here.


2. κἄν ἔχω προφητείαν κ.τ.λ. ‘And if I should have the gift of prophesying (preaching with special inspiration), and should know all the mysteries (of God’s counsels and will), and all possible knowledge about them (12:8), and if I should have all possible faith (12:9), so as to remove mountains, while I have no love, I am nothing’—spiritually a cipher. Having said that the ecstatic gifts are worthless without love, he now says that the teaching gifts are equally worthless: and perhaps he is here indicating the three kinds of spiritual instructors (12:8, 10, 28), for τὰ μυστήρια πάντα may refer to the σοφία of the�Romans 11:33, Romans 15:14. By πίστις is meant wonder-working faith, not saving faith, not saving faith; ‘enough to displace mountains’: comp. τὰ ὄρη μεταστήσεσθαι (Isa. liv. 10). It is possible that St Paul is alluding to our Lord’s saying (Mark 11:22; Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21), although of course not to Gospels which were not yet written. But it is quite as probable that both He and the Apostle used a proverbial expression, moving mountains being a common metaphor for a great difficulty. See Abbott, The Son of Man, p. 387. In N.T. the verb is found only in Paul and Luke. Balaam and Samson were instances of persons who had supernatural gifts and yet were morally degraded. For the combination of faith and knowledge, comp. 2 Corinthians 8:7, and for the emphatic repetition of πᾶς, 2 Corinthians 9:8. The abruptness of οὐθέν ἒμι, after the prolonged hypotheses of three clauses, is impressive.

In vv. 2 and 3 the MSS. differ considerably between κἄν and καὶ ἐάν and καὶ ἄν. But it is proboble that κἄν is right throughout, the evidence for it being stronger in v. 3 than in v. 2, but not decisive. For μεθιστάναι (א B D E F G) the external evidence in stronger than for μεθιστάνειν (A C K L Orig. Chrys.); but, jon the other hand, the unusual μεθιστάνειν would be llikely to be altered to the common form. And σὐθέν (א A B C L) is to be preferred to οὐδέν (D* F G K).

3. We now pass on to the administrative gifts,�

κἂν ψωμίσω πάντα τὰ ὑπάρχοντά μου. ‘And if I should give away in doles of food all my possessions.’ There is no need to say anything about the recipients of the bounty, τοὺς πένηρας (Chrys.), pauperum (Vulg.), ‘the poor’ (AV., RV.): it is the giver, not the recipients, that is in question. The verb implies personal distribution to many, and that the act is done once for all: he could not habitually give away all his goods. The ‘all’ continues the emphatic repetition of πᾶς: throughout he makes the supposition as strong as possible. We have ψωμίζω in Romans 12:20 and in the LXX (Numbers 11:4, Numbers 11:18; Deuteronomy 8:3, Deuteronomy 8:16 of the manna; and often). In class. Grk. it is used of feeding children and young animals with ψωμοί, ‘morsels’ (freq. in LXX): ψωμίον, ‘sop,’ John 13:26. Si distribuero in cibos pauperum (Vulg.), insumam in alimoniam (Calv.), insumam alendis egenis (Beza).

κἄν παραδῶ … ἵνα καυθήσομαι. ‘And (even) if I deliver up myself to be burned.’ Literally, ‘deliver up my body, so that I shall be burned.’ In the N.T. ἵνα is often used where result is prominent and purpose in the background. It expresses a “purposive result,” the subjective intention shading off into the objective effect; and hence the use of the future: 9:18; Galatians 2:4; John 7:3, John 17:2, etc. True love, as he proceeds to show, does not need the supreme crises which call for the sacrifice of all that one possesses or of one’s life,—a sacrifice which might be made without true love: it manifests itself at all times and in all circumstances. Sacrifices made without love may profit other people, but they do not profit the man himself. Non charitas de martyrio, sed martyrium nascitur ex charitate (Primasius). St Paul is not thinking of burning as a punishment, which it was not, nor of the branding of slaves, but of the most painful death which any one can voluntarily suffer. It was from this text that Dr. Richard Smith, Regius Professor of Divinity, preached at Oxford beforethe burning of Ridley and Latimer, 16th October 1555. Comp. παρέδωκαν τὰ σώματα αὐτῶν εἰς πῦρ (Daniel 3:28, Theod. 95), which may be in the Apostle’s mind, and πυρὶ τὸ σῶμα παραδόντες, of the Indians (Joseph. B.J. VII. viii. 7).

In each of the three suppositions we have a different result: ‘I produce nothing of value’ (v. 1); ‘I am of no value’ (v. 2); ‘I gain nothing of value’ (v. 3). The man who possessed all the gifts mentioned might be useful to the Church, but in character he would be worthless, if the one indispensable thing were lacking. The gifts are not valueless, but he is.

It is by no means certain that καυθήσομαι (D E F G L Latt. Syrr. Arm. Aeth. Goth., Method. Bas. Tert.), to which καύθήσωμαι (C K , Chrys.) give additional support, is the right reading. The evidence for καυχήσωμαι (א A B 17, Aegyptt., Orig. Lat. MSS. known to Jer.) is very strong, and WH. (App. p. 117) argue strongly in favour of it. Clement of Rome (Cor. lv.) may be referring to the passage with this reading when he says, “Many gave themselves up (ὲαυτοὺς παρέδωκαν) to slavery, and receiving the price paid for themselves fed (ἐψώμισαν) others.” If καυχὴσωμαι be adopted, it belongs to both clauses, not to the second only; ‘If I should doleaway my goods in alms, and if I should give up my very body, all for the sake of glory, while I have no love, I am not a whit the better.

But, as in the case of μεθιστάνειν (v. 2), we must consider more than the external evidence. Which would the Apostle be more likely to write, and which would be more likely to be changed by a copyist? ‘Surrender my body,’ without saying how or to whom, is and unlikely expression. In the two preceding verses nothing is said about the presence of an unworthy motive, but only the absence of the one indispensable motive. And the introduction of the unworthy motive spoils the all-important ‘and have no love.’ No need to say that, if the motive is self-glorification. If the thought of Dan_3. might have led a copyist to change καυχήσωμαι into καυθήσωμαι, it might equally well have led the Apostle to write καυθήσωμαι or καυθήσωμαι: comp. ἔσβεσαν δύναμιν πυρός (Hebrews 11:34). And if the original reading had been καυνχήσωμαι, would not καυθήσωμαι have been a more common reading than καυθήσομαΐ Cyprian twice quotes, si tradidero corpus meum ut ardeam, caritatem kauten non habeam (Tesi. iii. 31 De cath. eccl. unil. 14), and the author of the tract on Re-baptism (13) has etsi corpus meum tradidero, ita ut exurar igni, dilectionem autem non habeam.

The attractive suggestion of Stanley (p. 231) and of Lightfoot Colossians, p. 156, ed. 1875; p. 394. ed. 1892) that St Paul is thinking of “the Indian’s tomb,” with its boastful inscription, which he may have seen at Athens, confirms the reading κανθ. rather than καυχ., but it suits either. The tomb was still to be seen in Plutarch’s time (Alexander 69), and the inscription ran thus; “Zarmano-chegas, an Indian from Bargosa, according to the traditional customs of Indians, made himself immortal, and lies here” (ἐαυτὸν�

With οὐδὲν (B C D F K L, not οὐθέν, א A) ὠφελοῦμαι, comp. Matthew 6:1, Matthew 6:7:22, Matthew 6:23, Matthew 6:16. Matthew 6:26.

4-7. The Apostle, having shown the moral worthlessness and unproductiveness of the man who has many supernatural gifts and performs seemingly heroic acts without love, now depicts in rapturous praise the character that consists of just this one indispensable virtue. Every one of the moral excellences which he enumerates tells, for they are no mere abstractions, but are based on experience, and are aimed at the special faults exhibited by the Corinthians. And just as he personifies Sin, Death, and the Law in Romans, so here he personifies Love. The rhythm becomes lyrical.

We have fourteen descriptive statements in pairs. The first pair of characteristics has both members positive. Four pairs of negative characteristics follow, the last member being stated both negatively and positively (v. 6); and then we have two more pairs of positive characteristics (v. 7).


4. μακροθυμεῖ. ‘Is long-suffering, long-tempered,’ longanimis (Erasm.): it is slow to anger, slow to take offence or to inflict punishment.* While ὑπομονή (2 Corinthians 1:6, 2 Corinthians 1:6:4, 2 Corinthians 1:12:12; Luke only in the Gospels, etc.) is endurance of suffering without giving way, μακροθυμία (2 Corinthians 6:6; Romans 2:4, Romans 9:22, etc.; not in the Gospels) is patience of injuries without paying back.It is the opposite of ὀξυθυμία, ‘quick’ or ‘short temper’: comp. James 1:19, and the adaptation of these verses in Clem. Rom. Cor. 49.

χρηστεύεται. ‘Is kind in demeanour,’ ‘plays the gentle part.’ While μακροθ. gives the passive side in reference to injuries received, χρηστ. gives the active side in reference to benefits bestowed. Nowhere else in the Bible is χρηστεύεσθαι found, but χρηστότης and χρηστός are frequent in both the LXX and N.T. See Clem. Rom. Cor. 18.

ἡ�Acts 7:9, Acts 7:17:5; James 4:2). Contrast 12:31, 14:1, 39; 2 Corinthians 11:2. To covet good gifts is right, to envy gifted persons is wrong; for envy and jealousy lead to division and strife (3:1).

οὐ περπερεύεται. ‘Does not play the braggart’ (πέρπερος); late Greek, and not elsewhere in the Bible. Marcus Aurelius couples it with γλισχρεύεσθαι, καὶ κολακεύειν, καὶ�

οὐ φυσιοῦται. ‘Does not puff itself out’ (4:6, 18, 19, 5:2, 8:1; Colossians 2:18; and not elsewhere in the N.T.). “He who subjects himself to his neighbour in love can never be humiliated” (Basil to Atarbius, Ep. 65).

A third ἡ�

5. οὐκ�Deuteronomy 25:3), is the meaning. Love is tactful, and does nothing that would raise a blush: non agit indecenter (Calv.), indecore (Beza), rather than non est ambitiosa (Vulg.), fastidiosa (Erasm.). The verb occurs in LXX, but nowhere else in N.T., excepting 6:36. M. Aurelius (xi. 1) assigns properties to the rational soul (λογικὴ Ψυχή) which remind us of those which the Apostle assigns to�

τὰ ἑαυτῆς. ‘Its own interests’: 10:24, 33. This makes nobler sense than the reading τὸ μὴ ἑαυτῆς (B, Clem-Alex.). That Love does not try to defraud would be bathos here. This statement perhaps looks back to the law-suits in ch. 6.

οὐ παροξύνεται. Not merely ‘does not fly into a rage,’ but ‘does not yield to provocation’: it is not embittered by injuries, whether real or supposed. Elsewhere in N.T. only of St Paul’s spirit being provoked at the numerous idols in Athens (Acts 17:16): in LXX frequent of great anger. The ‘contention’ between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39) was a παροξυσμός. see Westcott on Hebrews 10:24.

οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν. When there is no question that it has received an injury, Love ‘doth not register the evil’; it stores up no resentment, and bears no malice. Comp. τὴν κακίαν τοῦ πλησίου μὴ λογίζεσθε ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν (Zechariah 8:17). For this sense of ‘reckoning’ see 2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 4:8; cf. Philemon 1:18. Neither non cogitat malum (Vulg.) nor non suspicatur malum (Grot.) does justice to either the verb or the article: τὸ κακόν is ‘the evil done to it’.

6. οὐ χαίρει ἐπὶ�Romans 1:32). It cannot sympathize with what is evil. Chrys. misses the point in saying that Love does not rejoice over those who suffer wrong, τοῖς κακῶς πάσχουσι. It is quite true that there is no Schadenfreude in Love, no gloating over the misfortunes of others; but that is not the meaning here. Love cannot share the glee of the successful transgressor.

συνχαὶρει δὲ τῇ�2 Corinthians 13:8; James 3:14; 1 John 5:6. The truth of the Gospel is not meant, but Truth in its widest sense, as opposed to�2 Thessalonians 2:12; Romans 2:8), and therefore equivalent to Goodness. The change of preposition, from ἐπί to συν-, is ignored in the AV. Non gaudet super iniquitatem, congaudet autem veritati (Vulg.). Love sympathizes with all that is really good in others.

The seven negatives would become monotonous if they were continued. By giving an affirmative antithesis to the last of them St Paul prepares the way for a return to positive characteristics.

7. πάντα στέγει. The meaning of the verb is somewhat uncertain. It occurs only Ecclus. 8:17 in LXX, of the fool who will not be able to conceal the matter, λόγον στἐξαι: and only here, 9:12, and 1 Thessalonians 3:1, 1 Thessalonians 3:5 in N.T. ‘Covereth,’ and so ‘excuseth’ would make sense here, but not such good sense as the other meaning of the verb, ‘is proof against,’ and so ‘forbeareth, endureth,’ which seems to be the meaning in all four places in the N.T. The second meaning springs from the first. ‘To cover’ is ‘to protect,’ and ‘to protect’ is ‘to keep off’ rain, foes, troubles, etc., and therefore to be proof against them or endure them. See Lightfoot on 1 Thessalonians 3:1, where the Vulg. has non sustinentes, v. 5, non sustinens, and in 9:12, omnia sustinemus, while here it has omnia suffert. The root is connected with tegere, ‘deck,’ ‘thatch.’

πάντα πιστεύει. This does not mean, as Calvin points out, that a Christian is to allow himself to be fooled by every rogue, or to pretend that he believes that white is black. But in doubtful cases he will prefer being too generous in his conclusions to suspecting another unjustly. While he is patient with (στέλει) the mischief which his neighbour undoubtedly does, he credits him with good intentions, which he perhaps does not possess.

This characteristic, with the next pair, forms a climax. When Love has no evidence, it believes the best. When the evidence is adverse, it hopes for the best. And when hopes are repeatedly disappointed, it still courageously waits. The four form a chiasmus, the second being related to the third as the first to the last. While στέγει refers to present trials, ὑπομένει covers the future also. It is that cheerful and loyal fortitude which, having done all without apparent success, still stands and endures, whether the ingratitude of friends or the persecution of foes. Throughout the Pauline Epistles it is assumed that the Christian is likely to be persecuted; 1 Thessalonians 1:6, 1 Thessalonians 1:3:3, 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:4, 2 Thessalonians 1:6; Romans 5:3, Romans 8:35, Romans 12:12, etc.

One result of all this is closely connected with the subject of the preceding and of the following chapter—the well-being of the Christian body, as a whole consisting of many unequally gifted members: praecipuus scopus est quam sit necessaria caritas ad conservandam ecclesiae unitatem (Calvin).

8-13. Having shown the worthlessness of supernatural gifts, if love is absent, and the supreme excellence of a character in which love is dominant, St Paul now shows that love is superior to all the gifts, because they are for this world only, whereas love is for both time and eternity. “This is the crowning glory of love, that it is imperishable” (Stanley); it abides until and beyond the supreme crisis of the Last Day.

8. Ἡ�Luke 16:17). In class. Grk., οὐδέποτε is stronger than οὔποτε; but in late Grk. strong forms lose their strength and become the common forms: οὐδέποτε occurs fifteen or sixteen times in the N.T., οὐ … πότε only 2 Peter 1:21; comp. Ephesians 5:29; 1 Thessalonians 2:5; 2 Peter 1:10.

From the statement that ‘Love never faileth’ but ‘abideth’ after death, has been inferred the doctrine that the saints at rest pray for those on earth. Calvin vigorously attacks this inference, as if it were harmful to believe in such a result of love. The inference is, no doubt, somewhat remote from the context.

The reading πίπτει (א* A B C* 17, 47, Nyss. Ambrst. Aug.) is to be preferred to ἐκπίπτει (D E F G K L P, Vulg, Tert. Cypr.), which perhaps comes from Romans 9:6. Chrys. reads ἐκπίπτει, and explains that Christians must never hate their persecutors. They hate the evil deeds, which are the devil’s work, but not the doers, for they are the work of God. But οὐδέποτε πίπτει means more than this, as what follows shows.

εἴτε δὲ προφητεῖαι, καταργηθήσονται. St Paul now takes up again the comparison between Love and the special gifts. Tested by the attribute of durability, Love exceeds all these χαρίσματα. And here the AV. improves on the Greek. The varied rendering of καταργεῖσθαι, ‘fail,’ ‘vanish away,’ ‘be done away,’ is more pleasing than the repetition of the same word; and the making the first καταργ. a verbal contradiction of οὐδέποτε πίπτει is effective.

The repeated εἴτε is depreciatory; it suggests indifference as to the existence of gifts of which the use was at best temporary. ‘But as to prophesyings, if there be any, they shall be done away.’ Excepting Luke 13:7 and Hebrews 2:14, καταγεῖν, ‘to put out of action,’ is wholly Pauline in the N.T. It is found in all four groups, but is specially common in this group of the Pauline Epp. In the LXX, only in Ezra. Three prominent χαρίσματα are taken in illustration of the transitory character of the gifts: to have gone through all would have been tedious. And the γλῶσσαι are dropped in v. 9. Obviously, they will be ‘rendered idle.’ Tongues were a rapturous mode of addressing God; and no such rapture would be needed when the spirit was in His immediate presence. But Tongues seem to have ceased first of all the gifts. The plur. προφητεῖαι indicates different kinds of inspired preaching; but γνώσεις (א A, etc.) is a corruption to harmonize with the preceding plurals.

9. Again we have a chiasmus: prophesyings, knowledge (v. 8), know, prophesy (9). Both will be done away, for it is from a part only, and not from the whole, that we get to know anything of the truth, and from a part only that we prophesy. We cannot know, and therefore cannot preach, the whole truth, but only fragments. Knowledge and prophecy are useful as lamps in the darkness, but they will be useless when the eternal Day has dawned; ὁ γὰρ μέλλων βίος τούτων�

11. Illustration suggested by τὸ τέλειον; it is very inadequate, but it will serve. The difference between a νήπιος and a τέλειος is as nothing compared with the difference between the twilight of this world and the brightness of the perfect Day, but it will help us to understand this. In order to confirm vv. 8-10, the Apostle appeals to personal experience. ‘When I was a child, I used to talk, think, and reason as a child: now that I am become a man, I have done away with the child’s ways.’ RV. has ‘felt’ for ἐφρόνουν, which is no improvement on the ‘understood’ of AV. A mental process is meant (Romans 12:3, etc.), of which ἐλογιζόμην, ‘calculated’ (2 Corinthians 5:19, 2 Corinthians 11:5 etc.), is a development. Loquebar, sapiebam, cogitabam (Vulg.); but ratiocinabar (Beza, Beng.) is better than cogitabam. Comp. Numeraannos tuos, et pudebit eadem velle quae volueras puer (Seneca, Ep. 27).

The antithesis between τέλειος (2:6) and νήπιος (3:1) is freq. (14:20; Ephesians 4:13, Ephesians 4:14). The mid. imperf. ἤμην is not found, except as a doubtful reading, in class. Grk., but it is not rare in later writers: Galatians 1:10; Matthew 23:30, Matthew 23:25:35, Matthew 23:36, 43; Acts 27:37, and perhaps 11:11. See Veitch, p. 200. The perf. κατήργηκα indicates a change of state which still continues; the emancipation from childish things took place as a matter of course, ultro, libenter, sine labore (Beng.), and it continues.

In each case ὡς νήπιος follows the verb (א A B 17, Vulg. Aeth.), and the δέ after ὄτε is an interpolation (om. א* A B D*); the contrast is more emphatic without it.

12. βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι διʼ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι. ‘For we see at present by means of a mirror in a riddle.’ The γάρ confirms the preceding illustration; for as childhood to manhood, so this life to the life to come. The argument is a fortiori. If adults have long since abandoned their playthings and primers, how much more will the reflected glimpses of truth be abandoned, when the whole truth is directly seen. Almost certainly, διʼ ἐσόπτρου means ‘by means of a mirror,’ not ‘through a mirror.’ Ancient mirrors were of polished metal, and Corinthian mirrors were famous; but the best of them would give an imperfect and somewhat distorted reflexion, and Corinthian Christians would not possess the best (1:26). To see a friend’s face in a cheap mirror would be very different from looking at the friend. This world reflects God so imperfectly as to perplex us; all that we see is ἐν αἰνίγματι. The word occurs nowhere else in the N.T., but is freq. in the LXX. Probably Numbers 12:8 is in St Paul’s mind: στόμα κατὰ στόμα λαλήσω αὐτῷ, ἐν εἴδει καὶ οὐ διʼ αἰνιγμάτων* Other words for ‘mirror’ are ἔνοπτρον and κάτοπτρον. Comp. 2 Corinthians 3:18. Tertullian wrongly thinks of a window-pane made of horn, which is only semi-transparent; per corneum specular. But a window with horn or lapis specularis would be δίοπτρον, not ἔσοπτρον. See Smith, D. Ant. 1. p. 686. Others explain the διά as meaning that in a mirror one seems to see through the surface to the reflected objects.

τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον. ‘But then (when τὸ τέλειον shall have come) face to face’; πρόσωπον π. πρ being an adverb after βλέπομεν. The expression is Hebraistic; Genesis 32:30: comp. πρ. κατὰ πρ. Deuteronomy 34:10.

Our knowledge of divine things in this life cannot be direct all comes through the distorting medium of human thought and human language, figures, types, symbols, etc. Even those who are illumined by the Spirit can give only a few rays of the truth, and those not direct, but reflected. Even the Gospel is a riddle, compared with the full light of the life to come. Here our knowledge is mediate, the result of inference and instruction; it is partial and confused; a piecemeal succession of broken lights. There it will be immediate, complete, and clear; a connected and simultaneous illumination. The imperfection of our knowledge, even of revealed truth, is not sufficiently recognized; and hence the rejection of Christianity by so many thoughtful people. Christians often claim to know more than it is possible to know. They forget how much of the Bible is symbolical. See Goudge, p. 122.

ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους. In realizing what is true of all of us, St Paul returns to his own personal experience; ‘At present I get to know from a part only, but then I shall know in full even as I was known also in full, once for all,’ by God from all eternity. Or the aorist may refer to Christ’s knowledge of him at his conversion. For ἐπιγινώσκειν, which is very frequent in Luke (1:4, 5:22, etc.) and in St. Paul (Romans 1:32; 2 Corinthians 6:9, etc.), see Lightfoot on Colossians 1:9, and J. A. Robinson on Ephesians 1:17, p. 248. It is difficult to believe that here the compound is not meant to indicate more complete knowledge than the simple verb: but it does not follow from this that the compound always does so. In any case, καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην is a bold way of expressing the completeness of future illumination; human knowledge is to equal (καθώς, ‘exactly as’) divine. Comp. Philo (De Cherub. § 32, p. 159;) νῦν ὅτε ζῶμεν γνωριζόμεθα μᾶλλον ἤ γνωρίζομεν. In this verse we have γίνωσκω in all three voices.

D* F G, Vulg. Arm. Goth., Tert. Cypr. omit. γάρ, but it is well attested (א A B K L P, Copt.).

13. νυνὶ δὲ μένει. ‘So then, when all the other gifts have been reduced to nothing by the glories of the Return, there remain just these three.’ The νυνί is not temporal, but logical, and the δέ expresses the contrast between the transitory gifts just mentioned and those here; ‘But, as you see, there abideth’: comp. 12:18, 20; Hebrews 9:26. The singular μένει is not a slip in grammar: the three virtues are a triplet distinguished by a durability which the brilliant χαρίσματα, so coveted by the Corinthians, do not possess; for the triplet will survive the Second Advent.* In the progress which is possible in the other world there will be room for Faith and Hope, but there will be no room for Tongues, prophesyings, healings, or miracles. The character which is built upon those three survives death and abides in eternity. Goodness is far more enduring, because far more akin to God, than the greatest capacities for usefulness. Even in this world these gifts are not indispensable. One can be a good Christian without Tongues or prophesying; but one cannot be a good Christian without Faith, Hope, and Love.

μείζων δὲ τούτων ἡ�Matthew 23:11), and the simplest explanation is that μέγιστος had become almost obsolete (J. H. Moulton, Gr. 1. p. 78), there is no doubt about the meaning; Love is superior to the other two. Why is it superior, seeing that all three are eternal? Not perhaps because Faith and Hope concern the individual, while Love embraces the whole Christian society: sua enim cuique fides ac spes prodest; caritas ad alios diffunditur (Calv.). Rather, Love is the root of the other two; ‘Love believeth all things, hopeth all things.’ We trust those whom we love, and we hope for what we love. Again, Faith and Hope are purely human; or, at most, angelic; the virtues of creatures. Love is Divine. Deus non dicitur fides aut sees absolute, amor dicitur (Beng.).

For the triplet comp. 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 1:5:8; Galatians 5:5, Galatians 5:6; Colossians 1:4, Colossians 1:5; Hebrews 6:10-12; Resch, Agrapha, pp. 155 f. Comp. also St John’s triplet, Light, Life, and Love.


“The greatest, strongest, deepest thing Paul ever wrote” (Harnack).

“I never read 1Co_13. without thinking of the description of the virtues in the Nicomchean Ethics. St Paul’s ethical teaching has quite an Hellenic ring. It is philosophical, as resting on a definite principle, viz, our new life in Christ; and it is logical, as classifying virtues and duties according to some intelligible principle” (E. L. Hicks, Studia Biblica, 4. p. 9.

אԠא (Fourth century.) The Sinaitic MS., now at St Petersburg, the only MS. containing the whole N.T.

B B (Fourth century.) The Vatican MS.

D D (Sixth century.) Codex Clarmontanus; now at Paris. A Graeco-Latin MS. 14:13 διο͂ ὁ λαλῶν-22 σημεῖον ἐστίν is supplied by a later but ancient hand. Many subsequent hands (sixth to ninth centuries) have corrected the MS. (See Gregory, Prolegomena , pp. 418-422).

E E (Ninth century). At Petrograd. A copy of D, and unimportant

F F (Late ninth century). Codex Augiensis (from Reichenau); now at Trin. Coll. Cambr. Probably a copy of G in any case, secondary to G, from which it very rarely varies (see Gregory, p. 429).

G G (Late ninth century). Codex Boernerianus; at Dresden. Interlined with the Latin (in minluscules). Lacks 1 Corinthians 3:8-16, 1 Corinthians 6:7-14 (F).

A A (Fifth century.) The Codex Alexandrinus; now at the British Museum.

C C (Fifth century). The Codex Ephraem, a Palimpsest; now at Paris. Lacks 7:18 ἐν�Act_13. Ninth century.) At Paris (Nat. Gr. 14). See Westcott and Hort., Introd. §§ 211, 212.

* Quod si te illud movet, quod solemus eam quam Graeci μακροθυμίαν vocant, longanimitatem interpretari, animadvertere licet a corpore ad animum multa verba transferri, sicut ab animo ad corpus (Aug. De quantitate animae xvii.30)

47 47. Bodleian. Roe 16. (Eleventh century.)

P P (Ninth century). Porfirianus Chiovensis. A palimpsest acquired in the East by Porphyrius Bishop of Kiew. Lacks 7:15 ὑμᾶς ὁ θεός-17 περιπάτει: 12:23 τοῦ σώματος-13:5 οὐ λογί-: 14:23 τὸ λαλεῖν μή. A good type of text in St Paul’s Epistles.

* Ἐκ μέρους is fairly common in both LXX and N.T. Other adverbial expressions are�2 Corinthians 1:14, 2 Corinthians 2:5),�Hebrews 9:5).

* This passage led to the Rabbinical tradition that Moses had seen God through a clean window, but the Prophets through a dirty one (Bachmann, ad loc. p. 409 n.). There are two metaphors in Numbers 12:8, which St Paul mixes: βλέπειν ἐν αἰνίγματι is is somewhat incongruous. But to condemn ἐν αίν. as a gloss is a violent expedient. A gloss would have been more harmonious with the text.

* But “when a verb occurs in the 3rd person in an introductory manner it is often used in the singular number, though the subject may be in the plural.” Thus “what cares these roarers for the name of king”? Yet, even without this inversion, two or more kindred subjects may have a singular verb (Mark 4:41; Matthew 5:18, Matthew 6:19). J. H. Moulton, Gr. 1. p. 58; Blass, § 11.3, § 44.3.

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/1-corinthians-13.html. 1896-1924.
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