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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 13

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

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Verse 1

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

Though I speak with the tongues — The Corinthians gloried much in this gift of tongues; but this a man may have, and yet perish, as Mithridates, who is said to have spoken two and twenty languages. And Cleopatra was a great linguist, she could give answers to Ethiopian, Hebrew, Arabic, Syrian, Median, and Parthian ambassadors, saith Plutarch; yea, she could turn and tune her tongue as an instrument of many strings to what dialect she pleased, την γλωτταν ωσπερ οργανον τι πολυχορδον ευπετως τρεπουσα ..

And of angels — Not that angels have tongues; as neither have they wings, though they are said to fly, and even unto weariness of fight, Daniel 9:21 . A certain friar undertook to show to the people a feather of the angel Gabriel’s wing, and so verified the old proverb, "a friar, a liar." But the apostle here useth a high kind of expression, such as is used Acts 6:15 ; Psalms 78:25 . Unless, perhaps, saith Chrysostom here, the angels have suo modo sua colloquia. The schoolmen have great disputes about it, and tell us that when an angel hath a conceit in his mind of anything, with a desire that another should understand it, it is enough, it is done immediately. But are not these they that intrude into those things that they have not seen? Colossians 2:18 , understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm, 1 Timothy 1:7 . Like unto these are our new millenaries, that upon a mistake of some high expressions in Scripture, which describe the judgments poured out upon God’s enemies in making a way to the Jews’ conversion by the pattern of the last judgment, think that Jesus Christ shall come from heaven again, and reign here upon earth a thousand years. (See Mr Cotton’s Sixth Vial.)

Or a tinkling cymbal — Sounding only for pleasure, but signifying nothing. Tiberius the emperor was wont to call Apion the grammarian cymbalum orbis, the cymbal of the world, for his much prattle. (Sueton.) And Jerome inveighs against some in his time, qui verbis tinnulis et emendicath utebantur, that used only tinkling and tickling words, without weight or worth.

Verse 2

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And have not charity — If I knew and did all for ostentation, not for edification; as Stephen Gardiner, who blew up his gifts to the view of others, as butchers blow up their flesh. Chrysostom saith that to show mercy is a more glorious work than to raise from the dead. Removing of mountains is instanced, because noted by our Saviour as a master miracle,Matthew 17:20; Matthew 17:20 ; Luke 17:6 . A man may cast out devils, and yet be cast to the devil.

And have not charity, it profiteth me nothing — The same is true of all other parts of obedience, whether active or passive. If we were as constant frequenters of the Church as Anna the prophetess was of the temple, Luke 2:36-38 , si aures nostrae ad portam Ecclesiae fixae essent, saith one, if our ears were nailed to the church doors, if our knees were grown as hard as camel’s knees with much kneeling before the Lord, if our faces were furrowed with continual weeping, as Peter’s is said to have been, yet if we lacked charity, all were nothing.

Verse 3

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor , and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Though I bestow all my goods — Unless I draw out my soul as well as my sheaf to the hungry, Isaiah 58:10 . Many shrink up charity to a handbreadth, to giving of alms.

And though I give my body, … — As Servetus the heretic did at Geneva, A. D. 1555. So Mauzius the Anabaptist gave his body to be drowned at Tigure, A. D. 1527 (Scultet. Annal.); Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, to be beheaded for holding the pope’s supremacy; Friar Forest, to be hanged for the same cause. And how many of our popish martyrs (malefactors or traitors, I should say) have worn the Tyburn tippet, a as Father Latimer phraseth it! And more of them must, for they be some of them knaves all, as the L. Audley, chancellor of England, once said to the thirteen Calais prisoners for religion, whom he discharged; and like bells they will never be well tuned till well hanged. For what reason? they are flabella et flagella Reip., …

a A jocular name for a hangman’s rope: usually Tyburn tippet . ŒD

Verse 4

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

And is kind — χρηστευεται , or, is easy to be made use of, ready to any good office. Charity is no churl.

Vaunteth not itself — With the scorn of others. Arrianus saith, that he is περπερος , that blameth others and is restless in himself. Such a one was Timon of old and Laurentius Valla of late.

Is not puffed up — Hence charity is portrayed as a naked child with a merry countenance, covered in a cloud, with a bloody heart in the right hand, giving honey to a bee without wings.

Verse 5

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Behave itself unseemly — οισχημονει , or, doth not disgrace any one.

Is not easily provoked — παροξυνεται , falls not into any sharp fit, as they did, Acts 15:39 , so as that her teeth are set on edge, or that she should show her anger by the trembling of the body.

Thinketh no evil — Is not suspicious, or doth not meditate revenge.

Verse 6

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Rejoiceth with the truthNulla est igitur inter males charitas, sed coniuratio potius, saith a grave expositor. It is not charity, but conspiracy, that is found in wicked men. (Dr Sclater.)

Verse 7

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Beareth all things — στεγει , tegit. Covereth faults with her large mantle, dissembleth injuries, swalloweth down whole many pills that would prove very bitter in the chewing. The Greek word is metaphora a tignis, say some, and signifies, that charity "beareth all things," as the cross main beam in a house supporteth the whole building. (Pareus a Lapide.)

Believeth all things — Is candid and ingenuous, yet not blind and blockish. No man may ravish me out of my wits, saith one; to conclude as Walter Mapes did of his Church of Rome, after he had related the gross simony The act or practice of buying or selling ecclesiastical preferments, benefices, or emoluments; traffic in sacred things. ŒD of the pope, Sit tamen Domina materque nostra Roma baculus in aqua fractus, et absit credere quae vidimus. If a Papist see one of their priests kissing a woman, he is by their canon law bid to believe that the priest is giving her counsel only. Their rule to their novices is, Tu et Asinus unum estote. You and an ass shall be one.

Endureth all things — Love, as it is a passion, so it is tried rather by passions than actions.

Verse 8

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

Prophecies, they shall fail — The archprophet shall teach us immediately, as he had done Moses and Elias, who appearing to Christ in the transfiguration, knew and could say far more to our Saviour for his comfort and confirmation against the bitterness of his death than ever they could while here living upon earth, Luke 9:31 .

Whether there be knowledge — Gotten by study, and communicated to others. For Lilmod lelamreed, say the rabbins, we therefore learn that we may teach.

Verse 9

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

We prophesy in part — We therefore know but imperfectly, because we are taught but imperfectly. My greatest knowledge, said Chytraeus, is to know that I know nothing. (Melch. Adam.) And not only in most other things am I ignorant, said Augustine, Epist. cxix. chapt. xxi. but even in the Scriptures (my chief study and trade of life) multo plura nescio quam scio I am ignorant of more matters than I know. The rabbins in their comments upon Scripture, when they meet with hard knots that they cannot explicate, they solve all with this, Elia cum venerit, solver omnia, Elias, when he comes, shall assoil all our doubts. Erastus at the point of death said, that he therefore held it a happiness to die, because now he should fully understand an answer to all those harder questions wherein here he could have no satisfaction. (Melch. Adam, in Vita Erasti.)

Verse 10

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

Then that which is in part — As the old slough falls off when the new skin comes on. As a man returns no more to the free school that hath proceeded in the university.

Verse 11

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

When I was a child — Adrian VI, before he became pope, taxed the Church of Rome for many errors; but afterwards, being desired to reform them, he wickedly abused these words for an answer, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, …, but now being a man," …

Verse 12

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

In a glass, … — SeeNumbers 12:8; Numbers 12:8 .

But then face to facei.e. Distinctly, Clearly, immediately, beatifically. And surely, if Lipsius thought when he did but read Seneca that he was even upon Olympus’ top, above mortality and human things; what a case shall we be in, when we shall behold Christ in his glory, and consider that every vein in that blessed body bled to bring us to bliss! If the mathematics alone are so delectable, that men think it sweet to live and die in those studies; what shall we think of heaven’s happiness, which we shall one day clearly apprehend, but not fully comprehend?

Now I know in part — The present tense in grammar is accompanied with the imperfect; the perfect with the plusquam perfectum pluperfect. And such is the condition of our present and future happiness.

Even as I am known — We shall know the creatures by knowing God; as God now knows all his works by knowing himself.

Verse 13

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

The greatest of these — Because longest lasting. Gifts that suppose imperfection in us, as faith and hope, or misery in others, as pity, …, shall be put away. Secondly, because it is diffusive of itself to the use of others; whereas faith and hope are private goods; they are confined to the person of the believer. That was a memorable saying of Elizabeth Folks, martyr, at the stake, "Farewell all the world, farewell faith, farewell hope;" and so taking the stake in her hand, she said, "Welcome love."

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/1-corinthians-13.html. 1865-1868.
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