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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 13

Bengel's Gnomon of the New TestamentBengel's Gnomon

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Verse 1

1 Corinthians 13:1 . Εὰν , if ) All the gift s [ although they may be, in the highest degree, delightful, extensive, and useful . V. g.] ought to be estimated, exercised, and elevated, according to love and its standard. The apostle introduces into the discussion of the gifts a more efficacious discussion respecting love. So in Disputations, we must always return to those points, which give a higher degree of grace. ταῖς ) all. γλώσσαις , tongues ) A gradation: with the tongues , 1 Corinthians 13:1 : prophecy , 1 Corinthians 13:2 : faith , 1 Corinthians 13:2 : I shall have bestowed , 1 Corinthians 13:3 . λαλῶ , I speak ) The tenor of love causes, that, whereas he just before used the expression, to you , he should now however speak in the first person singular. He does not except even himself in the condition supposed [viz., Though I speak, etc., and have not charity, etc.] καὶ τῶν ἀγγέλων , and of angels ) Angels excel men, and the tongue or tongues of the former excel those of the latter. Moreover, they use their tongues at least to address men: Luke 1:2 ἀγάπην , love ) by which the salvation of our neighbour is sought. μὴ ἔχω , have not ) in the very use of the gifts, and in the rest of the life. Many indeed have prophecy and other gifts, without charity and its fruits, 1 Corinthians 13:4 ; Matthew 7:22 , which are called gifts , not so much in respect of themselves, as of others. γέγονα ) I have become , for want of love. The language becomes severe [obtinet ἀποτομίαν ]. χαλκὸς , rass ) Brass , for example a piece of money of that metal requires less of the skill of the artist, than a cymbal, for instance, of silver. He may be compared to the one who speaks with the tongues of men without love; to the other, who speaks without love with the tongues of angels. ἠχῶν ἀλαλάζον , sounding tinkling ) with any sound whatever, mournful or joyful, without life and feeling. The language varies, I am nothing; it profiteth me nothing , 1 Corinthians 13:2-3 . Without love, tongues are a mere sound: prophecy, knowledge, faith, are not what they are [seem to be]: Matthew 7:22 ; Matthew 7:15 ; 1 Corinthians 8:1-2 ; James 2:14 ; James 2:8 ; every such sacrifice [gift exercised without love] is without [the heavenly] reward , [115] however much such a man may please himself, and think that he is something, and promise to himself a great recompense. With love, the good things which are the antitheses to these defects, are understood.

[115] Comp. Matthew 6:2 . ED.

Verse 2

1 Corinthians 13:2 . Μυστήρια , mysteries ) Romans 11:25 , note. He does not add wisdom , which is nothing without love . καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γνῶσιν , and all knowledge ) This is construed with εἰδῶ , I understand , as being a word of kindred meaning and immediately preceding. Of those gifts, which are enumerated at ch. 12, Paul at ch. 13. selected such as are more remarkable, and to which the peculiar prerogatives of love are fitly opposed. Mysteries relate to things concealed; knowledge comprehends things which are more ready at hand, and more necessary, as Wissenschaften is commonly said of natural things πίστιν , faith ) ch. 1 Corinthians 12:9 , note.

Verse 3

1 Corinthians 13:3 . Καὶ ἐὰν , and if ) This is the utmost that the helps and governments can do, ch. 1 Corinthians 12:28 . ψωμίσω , though I should distribute ) He puts in the highest place, what refers to the human will and seems to be the most closely connected with love, in regard to acting and suffering. He, who delivers up his goods and his body , has much love, 2 Corinthians 12:15 ; but he who delivers them up without love , keeps back his soul to himself: [116] for love is a faculty of the soul; therefore he speaks of profit ( ὠφελοῦμαι ) in the apodosis. On ΨΩΜΊΖΕΙΝ see Romans 12:20 . ΠΑΡΑΔῶ , give up ) for others. ἵνα ) even to such a degree as that I be burnt , Daniel 3:28 ; they gave up their bodies to the fire , παρέδωκαν τὰ σώματα αὐτῶν εἰς πῦρ .

[116] He may give up his body , but he keeps back his soul . ED.

Verse 4

1 Corinthians 13:4 . Ἡ ἀγάπη , love ) He points out the nature of love. He does not say, love speaks with tongues, prophesies, gives to the poor: but it is long-suffering. This is a metonymy for the man, who has love. But Paul chiefly mentions those fruits of love, necessary in the use of the gifts, which he requires from the Corinthians, and without which there may be prophecies, but there can be no profit. If we take 1 Corinthians 8:1 , we may advantageously compare together the delineation of love which Paul adapted to the Corinthians, and the delineation of wisdom, which James in like manner adapted to [portrayed for] those to whom he wrote, James 3:17 . μακροθυμεῖ , suffers long ) The twelve praises of love are enumerated by three classes, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (if we reckon together one pair at the beginning, and two pairs at the end, as we show in the following notes). The first consists of two members, (1.) it suffers long, is kind: (2.) envies not . We have the same synthesis and antithesis, Galatians 5:22 ; Galatians 5:20 . Long-suffering has respect to evil proceeding from others: kind has respect to the extending of good to others; on the other hand, it does not grieve at another’s good, nor rejoice at another’s calamity. The conjunction is wanting to is kind [Asyndeton].

Verses 4-5

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 . Οὐ περπερεύεται , οὐ φυσιοῦται · οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ , οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς , vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own ) The second class consists of four members: in the first and second, two things in excess, which are generally united, are taken away; in the third and fourth two things in defect, which are likewise united, are also taken away: for ἀσχημονεῖν means the want of attention to that decency, and that civility, which propriety required to be observed: and ζητεῖν τὰ ἑαυτοῦ is connected with the neglect of others, when a man looks merely to himself and leaves others to themselves. Love avoids these two defects , and the third corresponds to the first, for both refer to the desire of approving one’s self to others: the fourth is opposed to the second, for both refer to the necessity of avoiding party feeling. Οὐ περπερεύεται , it does not act insolently , with pride and ostentation; again, οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ , it is not uncourteous , unpolite, rude: [117] see what I have remarked on the verb περπετεύεται ad Gregorii Paneg., p. 141, etc.; Οὐ ΦΥΣΙΟῦΤΑΙ , is not puffed up , with too strong party-zeal for another; comp. 1 Corinthians 4:6 : again οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς [ seeks not its own ], does not show favour to itself , and does not ask others to show it favour. In a way not dissimilar, twice two members have likewise respect to each other mutually (though they are occasionally placed in a different order by chiasmus direct or inverse) at 1 Corinthians 13:7 , and especially at 1 Corinthians 14:6 .

[117] Where love flourishes, there also true modesty prevails, which is termed civility among people of the world (nor yet should familiarity be blamed as insolent): on the other hand, every degree of elegance of manners , even in its highest perfection, shows in men of the world something of an insolent character in it, on account of self-love. Let the world cease to boast of virtues; they apply only to true Christianity. V. g.

Verse 5

1 Corinthians 13:5 . Οὐ παροξύνεται πάντα ὑπομένει , is not provoked beareth all things ) The third class, consisting of six members; of which the third and fourth, and so the second and fifth, the first and sixth agree with one another. For there is a chiasmus, and that too retrograde, and quite agreeing with the double climax by steps negative and affirmative. And of all these our neighbour is the personal object; the real [118] object, as regards the future, is, love is not provoked, it hopeth all things, it endureth all things; as regards the past, the object of the thing is, it thinketh no evil, it covereth [Engl. Vers., beareth ] all things, believeth all things: as regards the present, it rejoiceth not at iniquity, but rejoiceth together with others in the truth; now by thus transposing the members, the elegance of the order, which Paul has adopted, is the more clearly seen; which the following scheme thus represents, and its evident plan shows the thread and connection:

[118] The object of the thing , as contrasted with the object of the person . “reale objectum” “objectum personale.” ED.

Thus the order is mutually consistent with itself; and the reason appears, why these last, hopeth, endureth , are put at the end, because in fact they are to be referred to the future. οὐ παροξύνεται , is not provoked ) although love glows with an eager desire for the Divine glory, yet it is not provoked; comp. Acts 15:39 . οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακὸν , [Engl. Vers. thinketh no evil ]) doth not meditate upon evil inflicted by another, with a desire to avenge it. So the LXX. for חשב רעה often. [It does not think thus, This or that man inflicts upon me this or that wrong; he has either done, or deserved this or that. V. g.]

Verse 6

1 Corinthians 13:6 . Ἀδικίᾳ ἀληθείᾳ , in iniquity in the truth ) On this antithesis see Romans 2:8 . συγχαίρει , rejoiceth with ) congratulates, with joy. All truth cherishes joy .

Verse 7

1 Corinthians 13:7 . Πάντα , all things ) all things occurs four times, viz., those things, which are to be covered, or believed; and which are to be hoped for, and endured. These four steps beautifully follow one another. στέγει , covers ) conceals [119] in relation to itself and in relation to others στέγομεν , we cover , ch. 1 Corinthians 9:12 , note. πιστεύει , believes ) as he covers the evil deeds of his neighbour, which are apparent, so he believes the good , which is not apparent. ἐλπίζει , hopes ) See the ground of hope [viz., “ God is able to make him stand;” therefore, “ he shall be holden up ”], Romans 14:4 ; σταθήσεται ; he likewise hope good for the future, and endures evils . ὑπομένει , endures ) until hope at some time springs up, 2 Timothy 2:25 . Thus the praises of love describe as it were a kind of circle, in which the last and first mutually correspond to each other; it is long-suffering, it is kind; it hopeth all things, it endureth all things; and, that which is of far greater importance, it never faileth , pleasantly follows this fourth step.

[119] Bears, without speaking of what it has to bear. ED.

Verse 8

1 Corinthians 13:8 . Οὐδέποτε ἐκπίπτει , never faileth ) is not destroyed, does not cease , it always holds its place; it is never moved from its position; comp. ἐκπίπτοντες , Mark 13:25 , note. εἴτε δὲ προφητεῖαι , but whether prophecies ) viz., there are: so ch. 1 Corinthians 15:11 . Prophecies in the plural, because they are multifarious. καταργηθήσονται , they shall be done away with ) This is the expression in the case of prophecies and knowledge; but regarding tongues, παύσονται , they shall cease . Tongues are a most charming thing, but the least lasting; they were the first gift on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:0 , but they did not continue in the primitive church so long as the other miraculous gifts: nor have they anything analogous in a perfect state, as prophecy and knowledge have, to which they ought therefore to yield; whence presently after, respect is shown to those in preference to tongues, when he is speaking of “that which is perfect.” γλῶσσαι , tongues ) These occupy a middle place, because they are the vehicle and appendage of prophecies; but prophecy and knowledge constitute two different genera, 1 Corinthians 13:9 ; 1 Corinthians 13:12 .

Verse 9

1 Corinthians 13:9 . Ἐκ μέρους , in part ) Not only does the apostle say this, This prophecy and this knowledge, which we have, are imperfect; for the same must be said even of love, we love only in part [not perfectly]; but such is the nature of prophecy itself, with the exception of the one prophet Jesus Christ, and such the nature of knowledge, that they ought to be reckoned among the things, which are in part , [not merely because they are now imperfect , but also] because we use them only in this imperfect life. On the phrase, comp. the note on Romans 15:15 , I have written more boldly .

Verse 10

1 Corinthians 13:10 . Ἔλθῃ , is come ) in its own time, by degrees, not by a sudden bound. In spiritual things, those of weaker age ought not too eagerly to aim at what belongs to those, who have reached greater maturity. That, which is perfect, comes at death; 2 Corinthians 5:7 : and at the last day. τότε , then ) not before. Therefore prophecy and knowledge never entirely pass away in this life.

Verse 11

1 Corinthians 13:11 . Ὄτε , when ) The progress from grace to glory, which awaits individual believers and the whole Church, is compared to the different stages of human life. νήπιος , a child ) Exemplifying the humility of Paul. The natural man does not willingly remember his childhood because he is proud; but the soul, pining away under adversity, confesses the early passages of its early growth, Job 10:10 . ἐλάλουν , I spoke ) There is a reference to tongues. ἐφρόνουν , I understood [ I had the sentiments ]) The reference is to prophecy; for it is something more simple. ἐλογιζόμην , I reasoned as a child ) The reference is to knowledge; for it is more complex. ὅτε δὲ , but when ) He does not say, when I put away childish things, I became a man . Winter does not bring spring; but spring drives away winter; so it is in the soul of man and in the Church. κατήργηκα , I put away ) of my own accord, willingly, without effort. τὰ τοῦ νηπίου , childish things ) childish speaking, childish understanding, childish counsel. τὰ , the Abstract. The humanity is not taken away, but manhood is assumed.

Verse 12

1 Corinthians 13:12 . Βλέπομεν , we see ) This corresponds in the LXX. to the Hebrew words ראה and חזה , 1Sa 9:9 ; 1 Chronicles 29:29 , concerning the Prophets; and this passage has a synecdoche of the nobler species for the whole genus; and along with the verb, we see, supply, and hear, for the prophets both see and hear; and it was usual generally to add words to visions. It will be of importance to read the Paneg. of Gregory, and the remarkable passage of Orige [120] , which has been noticed by me in my observations on that book, pp. 104, 105, 217, 218, 219. But what a mirror is to the eye, that an enigma is to the ear, to which the tongue is subservient. On various grounds, we may compare with this Numbers 12:8 . Moreover he says, we see , in the plurals I know , in the singular; and to see and to know differ in the genus [classification] of spiritual things, as the external sense, and the internal perceptions differ in the genus [under the head] of natural things. Nor does he mention God in this whole verse; but he speaks of Him, as He shall be all in all . τότε , then ) Paul had a great relish for those things, that are future: 2 Corinthians 12:2-3 . πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον , face to face ) פנים אל פנים , with our face, we shall see the face of our Lord. That is more than פה אל פה , στόμα πρὸς στόμα , mouth to mouth . Vision is the most excellent means of enjoyment. The word ΒΛΈΠΟΜΕΝ is elegantly used, and is adapted to both states, but under a different idea. ΓΙΝΏΣΚΩ , ἘΠΙΓΝΏΣΟΜΑΙ ) The compound signifies much more than the simple verb; I know, I shall thoroughly hnow . And so Eustathius interprets the Homeric word ἘΠΙΌΨΟΜΑΙ , ἈΚΡΙΒΈΣΤΑΤΑ ἘΠΙΤΗΡΉΣΩ , I shall observe most accurately; and ἐπίσκοπος , an overseer , ΣΚΟΠΕΥΤῊς ἈΚΡΙΒΉς , an accurate observer; and adds the reason, ὅτι ἡ ἐπιπρόθεσις καὶ ἀκρίβειάν τινα σημαίνει καὶ ἐπίτασιν ἐνεργέιας , that the ἐπὶ prefixed to the simple verb signifies a certain degree of accuracy and additional energy. καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην , as also I am known ) This corresponds to the expression, face to face .

[120] rigen (born about 186 A.D., died 253 A.D., a Greek father: two-thirds of the N. Test. are quoted in his writings). Ed. Vinc. Delarue, Paris. 1733, 1740, 1759.

Verse 13

1 Corinthians 13:13 . Νυνὶ δὲ μένει , but now abideth ) This is not strictly said of duration; for these three things do not meet in it; since faith is terminated in sight , and hope in joy, 2 Corinthians 5:7 ; Romans 8:24 : love alone continues, 1 Corinthians 13:8 : but it refers to their value, in antithesis to prophecy, etc., in this sense: On calculating accounts [on weighing the relative values] these three things are necessary and sufficient; let only these three stand; these exist; these abide, nothing more. A man may be a Christian without prophecy, etc., but not without faith, hope, love. Comp. on the verb, μένω , I abide , Romans 9:11 ; 1Co 3:14 ; 2 Corinthians 3:11 ; Hebrews 13:1 . Faith is directed to God; hope is in our own behalf; love is towards our neighbour. Faith is properly connected with the economy of the Father; Hope with the economy of the Son; Love with the economy of the Holy Ghost, Colossians 2:12 ; Colossians 1:27 ; Colossians 1:8 . And this too is the very reason of the order in which these three things are enumerated. νυνὶ , now , has the effect of an epitasis [121] [and shows what are the especial duties of us travellers on the way to the heavenly city. V. g.] τρία , three ) only. Many are not necessary. Paul often refers to these three graces. Ephesians 1:15 ; Ephesians 1:18 ; Philippians 1:9-10 ; Colossians 1:4-5 ; Colossians 1:22 , note; 1 Thessalonians 1:3 ; 1Th 5:8 ; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 ; Titus 1:1-2 ; Hebrews 6:10 , etc. Sometimes he mentions both faith and love, sometimes faith [by itself] denoting by synecdoche the whole of Christianity, 1 Thessalonians 3:6 ; 1 Thessalonians 3:5 . In a wicked man we find infidelity, hatred, despair. ταῦτα , these ) Heb. הם , i.e. are , viz. greater than prophecies, etc. ΜΕΊΖΩΝ , greater ) the greatest, of these , of the three. He not only prefers love to prophecy, but even to such things as excel prophecy. Love is of more advantage to our neighbour, than faith and hope by themselves: comp. greater , 1 Corinthians 14:5 . And God is not called faith or hope absolutely, whereas He is called love .

[121] An emphatic addition augmenting the force. Append.

Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13". Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jab/1-corinthians-13.html. 1897.
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