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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 14

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

Follow after love (διωκετε την αγαπην). As if a veritable chase. Paul comes back to the idea in 1 Corinthians 12:31 (same use of ζηλουτε) and proves the superiority of prophecy to the other spiritual gifts not counting faith, hope, love of 1 Corinthians 13:13.

But rather that ye may prophesy (μαλλον δε ινα προφητευητε). Distinct aim in view as in verse 1 Corinthians 14:5. Old verb from προφητης, common in N.T. Present subjunctive, "that ye may keep on prophesying."

Verse 2

For no man understandeth (ουδεις γαρ ακουε). Literally, hears, gets the sense, understands. Verb ακουω used either of hearing the sound only or getting the idea (cf. Acts 9:7; Acts 22:9).

Mysteries (μυστηρια). Unexplained mysteries (1 Corinthians 2:7).

Verse 3

Edification (οικοδομην). Building up.

Comfort (παρακλησιν). Encouragement, calling to one's side.

Consolation (παραμυθιαν). Old word (from παρα, μυθοσ, παραμυθεομα 1 Thessalonians 2:12 which see, a stimulating word), nowhere else in N.T., but παραμυθιον in Philippians 2:1 with παρακλησις as here. Edification, cheer, incentive in these words.

Verse 4

The church (εκκλησιαν). No article, literally, "a church" (local use). Not η εκκλησια.

Verse 5

Except he interpret (εκτος ε μη διερμηνευη). Pleonastic combination of εκτος (preposition except) and ε μη (if not, unless) as in 1 Corinthians 15:2; 1 Timothy 5:19. For use of ε with subjunctive rather than εαν see Philippians 3:12 (common enough in the Koine, Robertson, Grammar, pp. 1017f., condition of third class). On the verb see on 1 Corinthians 12:30; Luke 24:27; Acts 9:36.

Receive (λαβη). Second aorist (ingressive) active subjunctive of λαμβανω, may get edification.

Verse 6

If I come (εαν ελθω). Third class condition, supposable case (aorist subjunctive).

What shall I profit you (τ υμας ωφελησω). Two accusatives with this verb (see 1 Corinthians 13:3).

Unless I speak (εαν μη λαλησω). Second condition (also third class) with the one conclusion (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5).

Verse 7

Things without life (αψυχα). Without a soul (α privative, ψυχη) or life. Old word only here in N.T.

Pipe (αυλος). Old word (from αω, αυω, to blow), only here in N.T.

Harp (κιθαρα). Old word. Stringed instrument as pipe, a wind instrument.

If they give not a distinction in the sounds (εαν διαστολην τοις φθογγοις μη δω). Third class condition with second aorist active subjunctive δω from διδωμ. Common word in late Greek for difference (διαστελλω, to send apart). In N.T. only here and Romans 3:22; Romans 10:12. Φθογγος old word (from φθεγγομα) for musical sounds vocal or instrumental. In N.T. only here and Romans 10:18.

Verse 8

An uncertain voice (αδηλον φωνην). Old adjective (α privative, δηλος, manifest). In N.T. only here and Luke 11:44. Military trumpet (σαλπιγξ) is louder than pipe or harp.

Shall prepare himself (παρασκευασετα). Direct middle future indicative of παρασκευαζω, old verb, in N.T. only here, 2 Corinthians 9:2; Acts 10:10. From παρα, σκευη (preparation).

Verse 9

Unless ye utter speech easy to be understood (εαν μη ευσημον λογον δωτε). Condition of third class again (εαν and aorist subjunctive). Ευσημον (ευ, well, σημα, sign) is old word, here only in N.T., well-marked, distinct, clear. Good enunciation, a hint for speakers.

Ye will be speaking into the air (εσεσθε εις αερα λαλουντες). Periphrastic future indicative (linear action). Cf. αερα δερων (beating the air) in 1 Corinthians 9:26. Cf. our talking to the wind. This was before the days of radio.

Verse 10

It may be (ε τυχο). Condition of fourth class (ε and aorist optative of τυγχανω), if it should happen. Common enough idiom. Cf. τυχον in 1 Corinthians 16:6.

Without signification (αφωνον). Old adjective (α privative and φωνη). Without the faculty of speech (1 Corinthians 12:2; Acts 8:32; 2 Peter 2:16).

Verse 11

The meaning of the voice (την δυναμιν της φωνης). The power (force) of the voice.

A barbarian (βαρβαρος). Jargon, βαρ-βαρ. The Egyptians called all βαρβαρους who did not speak their tongue. The Greeks followed suit for all ignorant of Greek language and culture. They divided mankind into Hellenes and Barbarians.

Unto me (εν εμο). In my case, almost like a dative.

Verse 12

Zealous of spiritual gifts (ζηλωτα πνευματων). Zealots for spirits. So it looked.

That ye may abound (ινα περισσευητε). Purpose clause with the object by prolepsis stated beforehand "for the edification of the church."

Verse 13

Let him pray that he may interpret (προσευχεσθω ινα διερμηνευη). Else he had better cease talking in a tongue.

Verse 14

But my understanding is unfruitful (ο δε νους μου ακαρπος). My intellect (νους) gets no benefit (ακαρπος, without fruit) from rhapsodical praying that may even move my spirit (πνευμα).

Verse 15

With the understanding also (κα τω νο). Instrumental case of νους. Paul is distinctly in favour of the use of the intellect in prayer. Prayer is an intelligent exercise of the mind.

And I will sing with the understanding also (ψαλω δε κα τω νο). There was ecstatic singing like the rhapsody of some prayers without intelligent words. But Paul prefers singing that reaches the intellect as well as stirs the emotions. Solos that people do not understand lose more than half their value in church worship. Ψαλλω originally meant to play on strings, then to sing with an accompaniment (Ephesians 5:19), and here apparently to sing without regard to an instrument.

Verse 16

Else if thou bless with the spirit (επε εαν ευλογηις εν πνευματ). Third class condition. He means that, if one is praying and praising God (1 Corinthians 10:16) in an ecstatic prayer, the one who does not understand the ecstasy will be at a loss when to say "amen" at the close of the prayer. In the synagogues the Jews used responsive amens at the close of prayers (Nehemiah 5:13; Nehemiah 8:6; 1 Chronicles 16:36; Psalms 106:48).

He that filleth the place of the unlearned (ο αναπληρων τον τοπον του ιδιωτου). Not a special part of the room, but the position of the ιδιωτου (from ιδιος, one's own), common from Herodotus for private person (Acts 4:13), unskilled (2 Corinthians 11:6), uninitiated (unlearned) in the gift of tongues as here and verses 1 Corinthians 14:23.

At thy giving of thanks (επ τη ση ευχαριστια). Just the prayer, not the Eucharist or the Lord's Supper, as is plain from verse 1 Corinthians 14:17.

Verse 18

More than you all (παντων υμων μαλλον). Ablative case after μαλλον. Astonishing claim by Paul that doubtless had a fine effect.

Verse 19

Howbeit in church (αλλα εν εκκλησια). Private ecstasy is one thing (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:1-9) but not in church worship.

That I may instruct (ινα κατηχησω). Final clause with ινα. For the rare verb κατηχεω see on Luke 1:4; Acts 18:25.

Verse 20

Be not children in mind (μη παιδια γινεσθε ταις φρεσιν). "Cease becoming children in your intellects," as some of them evidently were. Cf. Hebrews 5:11-14 for a like complaint of intellectual dulness for being old babies.

In malice be ye babes (τη κακια νηπιαζετε).

Be men (τελειο γινεσθε). Keep on becoming adults in your minds. A noble and a needed command, pertinent today.

Verse 21

In the law it is written (εν τω νομω γεγραπτα). Isaiah 28:11. Freely quoted.

Verse 22

For a sign (εις σημειον). Like the Hebrew and occasional Koine idiom also.

Verse 23

Will they not say that ye are mad? (ουκ ερουσιν οτ μαινεσθε?). These unbelievers unacquainted (ιδιωτα) with Christianity will say that the Christians are raving mad (see on Acts 12:15; Acts 26:24). They will seem like a congregation of lunatics.

Verse 24

He is reproved by all (ελεγχετα υπο παντων). Old word for strong proof, is undergoing conviction.

Is judged (ανακρινετα). Is tested. Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 4:3.

Verse 25

That God is among you indeed (οτ οντως εν υμιν εστιν). Recitative οτ and direct quotation from Isaiah 45:15 (Hebrew rather than the LXX). "Really (οντως Luke 24:34) God is in you."

Verse 26

When ye come together (οταν συνερχησθε). Present middle subjunctive, repetition, whenever ye come together, in contrast with special case (εαν συνελθη, second aorist subjunctive) in verse 1 Corinthians 14:23.

Verse 27

By two (κατα δυο). According to two, ratio.

Or at most (η το πλειστον). Adverbial accusative, "or at the most."

Three (τρεις). Κατα to be repeated.

And that in turn (κα ανα μερος). One at a time and not over three in all.

Verse 28

But if there be no interpreter (εαν δε μη η διερμηνευτης). Third class condition. Earliest known instance and possibly made by Paul from verb in verse 1 Corinthians 14:27. Reappears in Byzantine grammarians.

Keep silence in church (σιγατω εν εκκλησια). Linear action (present active imperative). He is not even to speak in a tongue once. He can indulge his private ecstasy with God.

Verse 29

By two or three (δυο η τρεις). No κατα here as in verse 1 Corinthians 14:27. Let two or three prophets speak.

Let the others discern (ο αλλο διακρινετωσαν). Whether what is said is really of the Spirit. Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:10 διακρισεις πνευματων.

Verse 30

Let the first keep silence (ο πρωτος σιγατω). To give the next one a chance.

Verse 31

One by one (καθ' ενα). Regular idiom.

Verse 32

The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets (πνευματα προφητων προφηταις υποτασσετα). A principle that some had forgotten.

Verse 33

Not of confusion (ου--καταστασιας). God is not a God of disorder, but of peace. We need this reminder today.

As in all the churches of the saints (ως εν πασαις ταις εκκλησιαις των αγιων). Orderly reverence is a mark of the churches. This is a proper conclusion of his argument as in 1 Corinthians 11:16.

Verse 34

Keep silence in the churches (εν ταις εκκλησιαις σιγατωσαν). The same verb used about the disorders caused by speakers in tongues (verse 1 Corinthians 14:28) and prophets (1 Corinthians 14:30). For some reason some of the women were creating disturbance in the public worship by their dress (1 Corinthians 11:2-16) and now by their speech. There is no doubt at all as to Paul's meaning here. In church the women are not allowed to speak (λαλειν) nor even to ask questions. They are to do that

at home (εν οικω). He calls it a shame (αισχρον) as in 1 Corinthians 11:6 (cf. Ephesians 5:12; Titus 1:11). Certainly women are still in subjection (υποτασσεσθωσαν) to their husbands (or ought to be). But somehow modern Christians have concluded that Paul's commands on this subject, even 1 Timothy 2:12, were meant for specific conditions that do not apply wholly now. Women do most of the teaching in our Sunday schools today. It is not easy to draw the line. The daughters of Philip were prophetesses. It seems clear that we need to be patient with each other as we try to understand Paul's real meaning here.

Verse 37

The commandment of the Lord (Κυριου εντολη). The prophet or the one with the gift of tongues or the disturbing woman would be quick to resent the sharp words of Paul. He claims inspiration for his position.

Verse 40

Decently and in order (ευσχημονως κα κατα ταξιν). That is surely a good rule for all matters of church life and worship. It applies also to the function of women in church service.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/1-corinthians-14.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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