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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
1 Corinthians 14

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAPP. 12–14.] ON THE ABUSE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS: especially PROPHESYING, and SPEAKING WITH TONGUES. The second particular requiring correction in their assemblies, see ch. 1 Corinthians 11:18, note. Chrys. well says: τοῦτο ἅπαν τὸ χωρίον σφόδρα ἐστὶν ἀσαφές· τὴν δὲ ἀσάφειαν ἡ τῶν πραγμάτων ἄγνοιά τε καὶ ἔλλειψις ποιεῖ τῶν τότε μὲν συμβαινόντων, νῦν δὲ οὐ γινομένων. Hom. xxix. p. 257.


Verse 1

1.] Transition from the parenthetical matter of the last chapter to the subject about to be resumed. Pursue after Love (let it be your great aim,—important and enduring as that grace has been shewn to be): meantime however (during that pursuit; making that the first thing, take up this as a second) strive for spiritual gifts [see note on ch. 1 Corinthians 12:1], but more (more than πν. in general: i.e. more for this than for others[; chiefly]) that ye may prophesy (sc. ζηλοῦτε, ἵνα … as the aim of your ζῆλος).


Verses 1-25

1–25.] Demonstration of THE SUPERIORITY OF THE GIFT OF PROPHECY OVER THAT OF SPEAKING WITH TONGUES.


Verse 2

2.] For he that speaks in a tongue, speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him (so ἀκούω in reff. and Athen(62) ix. p. 382, ἔλεγεν ῥήματα ἃ οὐδὲ εἷς ἤκουσεν ἄν, i.e. as a general rule, the assembly do not understand him; some, who have the gift of interpretation of tongues, may,—but they are the exception), but (opposed to οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἀκούει) in the spirit (in his spirit, as opposed to in his understanding: his spirit is the organ of the Holy Ghost, but his understanding is unfruitful, see 1 Corinthians 14:14-15) he speaks mysteries (things which are hidden from the hearers, and sometimes also from himself):


Verses 2-20

2–20.] Prophecy edifies the BRETHREN more than speaking with tongues.


Verse 3

3.] but (on the other hand) he who prophesies, speaks to men edification (genus) and (species) exhortation and (species) consolation. See the definition of prophecy given on ch. 1 Corinthians 12:10; and Stanley’s excursus introductory to this chapter.

παραμυθία occurs Plato, Axioch. p. 365,— ἀσθενῆ τὴν ψυχήν, πάνυ ἐνδεᾶ παραμυθίας: and Ælian, V. H. xii. 1, fin., παρεμυθήσατο ἀρταξέρξην, κ. τὸ τῆς λύπης ἰάσατο πάθος, εἴξαντος τοῦ βας. τῇ κηδεμονίᾳ, κ. τῇ παραμυθίᾳ πεισθέντος συνετῶς.


Verse 4

4.] ἑαυτ. οἰκ. does not necessarily involve his understanding what he speaks: the exercise of the gift in accordance with the prompting of the Spirit may be regarded as an οἰκοδομή: the intensity of the feeling of prayer or praise in which he utters the words is edifying to him, though the words themselves are unintelligible. This view is necessary on account of what is said in 1 Corinthians 14:5, that if he can interpret, he can edify not only himself but the church.

ἐκκλησίαν] [i.e. the assembled Christians: see note on ch. 1 Corinthians 11:18] not, as Meyer, a congregation, but = τὴν ἐκκλησίαν: the art. being often omitted when a noun in government has an emphatic place before the verb: accordingly in 1 Corinthians 14:5, it is ἡ ἐκκλ. which is edified.


Verse 5

5.] He shews that it is from no antipathy to or jealousy of the gift of tongues that he thus speaks: but (force of the δέ) that he wished them all to speak with tongues, but rather that they should prophesy. The distinction between the acc. and inf. after θέλω, as the simple direct object of the wish, and ἵνα with the subj., as its higher and ulterior object, has been lost in the E. V. The second δέ is opposed to the subordinate λαλ. γλ., as in 1 Corinthians 14:1 to τὰ πνευματικά.

μείζων δέ] δέ is transitional.

μείζων] see reff.,—superior in usefulness, and therefore in dignity.

ἐκτὸς εἰ μή is a mixture of two constructions, ἐκτὸς εἰ, and εἰ μή. It is not a Hebraism, as Grot, supposes; Wetst. gives examples from Demosth., Aristides, Lucian, Sextus Empiricus: and from Thom. Mag., φαμέν, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ τόδε, καὶ ἐκτὸς εἰ τόδε.

διερμηνεύῃ] viz. ὁ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ, not τις, as suggested by Flatt. On the subj. with εἰ, giving a sense not distinguishable from the ind., see Winer, edn. 6, § 41. b. 2 end, and Herm., on Soph. Ant(63) 706.


Verse 6

6.] Example of the unprofitableness of speaking with tongues without interpreting,—expressed in the first person as of himself.

νῦν δέ] ‘quod cum ita sit’—viz. that there is no edification without interpretation.

ἐὰν ἔλθω] Chrys. understands the first person to imply ‘not even I myself should profit you,’ &c. But then αὐτὸς ἐγώ or some expression similarly emphatic would have been used.

The second ἐάν is parallel to the first, not dependent on ὠφελήσω. It is the negative side of the supposition, as ἐὰν ἔλθω κ. τ. λ. was the affirmative. On this double apodosis Hermann remarks, Soph. Aj. 827,—‘Est enim hæc verborum complexio ex eo genere, cujus jam apud Homerum exempla inveniuntur, quod duplicem habet apodosin, alteram præmissam, sequentem alteram: quæ ratio ibi maxime apta est, ubi in magno animi motu, quasi non satis sit id quod præmissum est, aliud infertur secunda apodosi, quod gravius sit et fortius.’

ἢ ἐν ἀποκ …] It seems best here, with Estius, to understand ‘duo juga, ut conjugata sint revelatio et prophetia, ac rursus conjugata scientia et doctrina.’ So also Meyer, who observes that the ground of προφητεία is ἀποκάλυψις, and that of διδαχή, γνῶσις: the former being a direct speaking in the Spirit, and the latter a laying forth by the aid of the Spirit of knowledge acquired. Thus ἐν, as referred to ἀποκ. and γνώς., denotes the internal element:—as referred to προφ. and διδ., the external element, of the spiritual activity.


Verse 7

7.] ὅμως occurs here and in the two other places where it is used in the N. T. (reff.) at the beginning of the sentence, out of its logical order, which would be before ἐὰν διαστολὴν …, thus: Things without life which yield sound, whether flute or harp, yet, if they do not, &c.

The renderings, ‘even things without life’ (E. V.), or ‘things which, though without life, yet give sound’ (Winer, edn. 6, § 61. 5. f.), are inadmissible,—the former because of the usage of ὅμως the latter because no such idea as any surprise at a thing without life yielding sound is here in place.

φων. διδ.] so δίδου φωνάν Pind. Nem. 5:93.

ἐὰν διαστ.] If they (the ἄψυχα φ. δ.) shall not have yielded a distinction (of musical intervals) in their tones, how shall be known that which is being played on the flute or that which is being played on the harp (i.e. what tune is played in either case: the art. being repeated to shew that two distinct instances are contemplated, not necessarily ‘one tune, either piped, or harped’ = τὸ αὐλούμενον ἢ κιθαριζόμενον;)? The observation of Meyer, that this example is decisive against foreign languages being spoken in the exercise of this gift, is shewn to be irrelevant by the next example, from which the contrary might be argued—the ἄδηλος φωνή of the trumpet being exactly analogous to an unknown language, not to an inarticulate sound. But the fact is that all such inferences, from pressing analogies close, are insecure.


Verses 7-11

7–11.] Instances to shew that unintelligible discourse profits nothing. And first,—7–9.] from musical instruments.


Verse 8

8.] ἄδηλον, uncertain, in its meaning: for a particular succession of notes of the trumpet then, as now, gave the signals for attack, and retreat, and the various evolutions of an army. The giving the signal for battle with the trumpet is called by Dio Cassius τὸ πολεμικὰν βοᾷν, by Ælian τὸ παρορμητικὸν ἐμπνεῖν: see Wetst., where many examples are to be found.


Verse 9

9.] Application of these instances.

διὰ τ. γλώσσης is most naturally understood physically, by means of your tongue, as answering to the utterance of the sound by the musical instruments. But the technical rendering, by means of the tongue (in the sense of γλώσσῃ λαλεῖν), is allowable.

ἔσεσθε λαλ.] This periphrasis of the future implies, ye will be, so long as ye speak, speaking, … On εἰς ἀέρα, see ref.: it implies the non-reception by hearers of what is said.


Verse 10

10.] εἰ τύχοι, if it should so happen, i.e. peradventure:—it is commonly found with numerical nouns; but sometimes with hypothetical sentences in general, as in ch. 1 Corinthians 15:37. See reff. and examples in Wetst. It will not bear the rendering ‘for example,’ though in meaning it nearly approaches it. It belongs here to τοσαῦτα, itself representing some fixed number, but not assignable by the information which the writer possesses, or not worth assigning. See similar expressions, Acts 5:8,—and 2 Samuel 12:8 in E. V.

γένη φωνῶν] kinds of languages: the more precise expression would be γένη φωνῆς or φωναί: we can hardly say, with Meyer, that each language is a γένος φωνῶν. The use of φωνῶν, and not γλωσσῶν, is no doubt intentional, to avoid confusion, γλῶσσα being for the most part used in this passage in a peculiar meaning: but no argument can he grounded on it as to the γλῶσσαι being languages or not.

εἰσίν (plur.), because it is wished to distinguish them in their variety.

οὐδέν, scil. γένος Bleek renders, ‘no rational animal is without speech;’ and Grot., reading as the rec. αὐτῶν, understands it as referring to men: others supply ἔθνος to οὐδέν. But the common rendering is both simpler, and better sense: none of them is without signification, as E. V.: or, is inarticulate.


Verse 10-11

10, 11.] Another example of the unprofitableness of an utterance not understood.


Verse 11

11.] οὖν, seeing that none is without meaning: for if any were, the imputations following would not be just. We assume that a tongue which we do not understand has a meaning, and that it is the way of expression of some foreign nation.

βάρβαρος,—a foreigner, in the sense of one who is ignorant of the speech and habits of a people. So Ovid, Trist. 1 Corinthians 14:10,—‘Barbarus hic ego sum, quia non intelligor ulli:’ and Herod. ii. 158,— βαρβάρους δὲ πάντας οἱ αἰγύπτιοι καλέουσι τοὺς μή σφισι ὁμογλώσσους. (Wetst.) The appellation always conveyed a certain contempt, and such is evidently intended here. So Ovid, in the next line,—‘Et rident stolidi verba Latina Getæ.’

ἐν ἐμοί, in my estimation: so Eurip. Hippol. 1335, σὺ δʼ ἔν τʼ ἐκείνῳ κἂν ἐμοὶ φαίνῃ κακός,—‘in his judgment and in mine:’ see Kühner, ii. 275.


Verse 12

12.] Application of the analogy, as in 1 Corinthians 14:9. The οὕτως is evidently meant as in 1 Corinthians 14:9, but is rendered somewhat difficult by the change of the construction into a direct exhortation. It is best therefore to suppose an ellipsis; and give to οὕτως the pregnant meaning, after the lesson conveyed by this example. Meyer’s rendering, since in such a manner (i.e. so as to be barbarians to one another) ye also are emulous, &c., is very harsh, besides making the second clause, standing as it does without a μᾶλλον or any disjunctive particle, mean (and I do not see that it will bear any other meaning), seek this βαρβαροφωνία to the edifying of the Church. Thus likewise ye (i.e. after the example of people who would not wish to be barbarians to one another,—avoiding the absurdity just mentioned), emulous as ye are of spiritual gifts (reff.), seek them to the edifying of the church, that ye may abound: or perhaps (but I can find no instance of ζητῶ ἵνα thus used: ch. 1 Corinthians 4:2 is no case in point, see note there) as in E. V. ‘seek that ye may excel (abound in them) to the edifying of the church.’


Verse 13

13.] Hortatory inference from the foregoing examples. There is some difficulty in the construction of this verse. προσευχ. ἵνα διερμ. is rendered by Chrys., Theodoret, Theophyl., Erasm., Beza, Calv., Grot., Estius, Wetst., Bleek, Rückert, Olsh., al., ‘pray that he may interpret.’ But the next verse shews that this is untenable. For the act of προσεύχεσθαι γλώσσῃ is there introduced in strict logical connexion with this verse, so as to shew that the προσευχέσθω here must have the same meaning as there, viz., that of praying in a tongue, openly in the church. Seeing this, Luther, Rosenm., al., render it, ‘let.… so pray, that he may interpret:’ i.e. ‘not pray, unless he can interpret.’ But this rendering of ἵνα is hardly allowable even where οὕτω is expressed, see note on ch. 1 Corinthians 9:24. The knot of the difficulty lies in the relation of ἵνα to verbs of this kind. It may be doubted whether in such expressions as προσεύχεσθαι ἵνα (see reff.), the conj. ever represents the mere purport of the prayer, as in our “to pray, that.” The idea of purpose is inseparably bound up in this particle, and can be traced wherever it is used. Thus προσεύχ. ἵνα seems always to convey the meaning, “to pray, in order that.” At the same time, prayer being a direct seeking of the fulfilment of the purpose on account of which we pray,—not, like many other actions, indirectly connected with it,—the purport and purpose become compounded in the expression. This will be illustrated by γρηγορεῖτε κ. προσεύχεσθε, ἵνα μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς πειρασμόν: where it is plain enough that ἵνα μή represents the ulterior object of γρηγορεῖτε and, now that it is joined with γρηγορεῖτε, of προσεύχεσθε; but had it been merely, προσεύχεσθε ἵνα μὴ κ. τ. λ., the above confusion would have occurred. Now this confusion it is, which makes the words προσευχέσθω ἵνα διερμηνεύῃ so difficult. Obviously, the προσευχέσθω is not merely used to express a seeking by prayer of the gift of interpretation, on account of the sense in the next verse: but as plainly, there is in προσευχέσθω a sense which passes on to ἵνα διερμηνεύῃ. The rendering of Meyer and De Wette, ‘pray, with a view to interpret (what he has spoken in a tongue),’ is unobjectionable, but does not give any reason for the choice of προσευχέσθω, any more than εὐχαριστείτω, or the like. I believe the true rendering to be pointed out by the distinction in the next verse. If a man prays in a tongue, his spirit prays, but his understanding is barren. This prayer of his spirit is, the intense direction of his will and affections to God, accompanied by the utterance of sounds to him unintelligible. ‘Let then him who speaks with a tongue, pray, when he does pray, with an earnest striving (in this prayer of his spirit) after the gift of interpretation.’ The meaning might be more strictly given thus in English: wherefore let him who speaketh with a tongue, in his prayer (or, when praying), strive that he may interpret.


Verse 14

14.] This verse has been explained above. It justifies the necessity of thus aiming at the gift of interpretation.

τὸ πν. μου, not as in 1 Corinthians 14:32, and Chrys. (Hom. xxxv. p. 325) τὸ χάρισμα τὸ δοθέν μοι καὶ κινοῦν τὴν γλῶσσαν,—but as in reff., my (own) spirit, taking himself as an example, as above, 1 Corinthians 14:6; a use of the word familiar to our Apostle, and here necessary on account of ὁ νοῦς μου following, ‘When I pray in a tongue, my higher being, my spirit, filled with the Holy Ghost, is inflamed with holy desires, and rapt in prayer: but my intellectual part, having no matter before it on which its powers can be exercised, bears no fruit to the edification of others (nor of myself:’ but this is not expressed in ἄκαρπος; cf. the usage of καρπός by Paul,—Romans 1:13; Romans 6:21-22; Romans 15:28; Galatians 5:22, al.).


Verse 15

15.] What then is (the case) (i.e. as our ‘What then?’ Cf. τί οὖν, Romans 3:9; Romans 6:15. ‘What is my determination thereupon?’) I will pray (on the reading προσεύξωμαι, see note on Romans 5:1) with the (my) spirit: I will pray also with my mind (i.e. will interpret my prayer for the benefit of myself and the church), &c. This resolution, or expression of self-obligation, evidently leads to the inference, by and by clearly expressed, 1 Corinthians 14:28, that if he could not pray τῷ νοΐ, he would keep silence.

ψαλῶ] hence we gather that the two departments in which the gift of tongues was exercised were prayer and praise. On the day of Pentecost it was confined to the latter of these.


Verse 16

16.] The discourse changes from the first person to the second, as De W. observes, because the hypothesis contains an imputation of folly or error.

ἐὰν εὐλ] if thou Shalt have blessed in spirit (no art. now: the dat. is now merely of the manner in which, the element; not of the specific instrument, as in the last verse), how shall he that fills (i.e. is in) the situation of a private man ( ἰδιώτης in speaking of any business or trade, signifies a lay person, i.e. one unacquainted with it as his employment. Thus in state matters, it is one out of office— δημοσθένει ὄντι ἰδιώτῃ, Thuc. iv. 2; in philosophy, one uneducated and rude— ἡμεῖς μὴν οἱ ἰδιῶται οὐ δεδοίκαμεν, ὑμεῖς δὲ οἱ φιλόσοφοι δειλιᾶτε, Diog. Laert. Aristipp. ii. 71, &c. &c. See examples in Wetst. So here it is, one who has not the gift of speaking and interpreting.

The word τόπον is not to be taken literally, as if the ἰδιῶται had any Separate seats in the congregation: the expression, as in ref. is figurative) say the AMEN (the Amen always said: see Deuteronomy 27:15-26 Heb. and E. V. (LXX, γένοιτο); Nehemiah 8:6. From the synagogue,—on which see Wetst., Schöttg. in loc., Winer, Realw., art. Synagogen, and Philo, Fragm. vol. ii. p. 630— συνεδρεύουσιοἱ μὲν πολλοὶ σιωπῇ, πλὴν εἴ τι προσεπιφημίσαι τοῖς ἀναγινωσκομένοις νομίζεται,—it passed into the Christian church; so Justin Mart. Apol. i. 65, p. 82, οὗ (scil. τοῦ προεστῶτος) συντελέσαντος τὰς εὐχὰς καὶ τὴν εὐχαριστίαν, πᾶς ὁ παρὼν λαὸς πανευφημεῖ λέγων, ἀμήν. See Suicer, sub voc. and Stanley’s note here) to (at the end of) thy thanksgiving, since what thou sayest he knows not? This is, as Doddridge has remarked, decisive against the practice of praying and praising in an unknown tongue, as ridiculously practised in the church of Rome.


Verse 17

17.] καλῶς is not ironical, but concessive: it is not the act of thanksgiving in a tongue that the Apostle blames, for that is of itself good, being dictated by the Spirit: but the doing it not to the edification of others.

ὁ ἕτερος, the ἰδιώτης spoken of before.


Verse 18-19

18, 19.] Declaration of his own feeling on the matter, highly endowed as he was with the gift. I thank God, I speak with a tongue (have the gift of speaking with tongues) more than you all. This juxtaposition of two clauses, between which ‘that’ is to be supplied in the sense, is not unusual: βούλει σκοπῶμεν: ‘fac videas,’—Eur. Hippol. 567, ἐπίσχετʼ, αὐδὴν τῶν ἔσωθεν ἐκμάθω. Hom. Od. β. 195, τηλεμάχῳ δʼ ἐν πᾶσιν ἐγὼν ὑποθήσομαι αὐτός, ΄ητέρα ἣν ἐς πατρὸς ἀνωγέτω ἀπονέεσθαι. See Hartung, Partikell. ii. p. 134.


Verse 19

19.] ἐκ ἐκκλησίᾳ, in (the) assembly, ‘in the congregation’ [this is the better rendering here, and wherever there is a chance of the word church being mistaken as meaning a building],—not ‘in an assembly,’ as Meyer. The art. is omitted after a preposition: so Middleton, ch. vi. § 1; the logical account of which is, that the prep. serves to categorize the substantive following it, and so make it general instead of particular.

οέλω …, , as βούλομαι, , 11. α. 117: similarly ἐπιθυμέω, ζητέω,—see Hartung, ii. p. 72.

διὰ τοῦ νοός has probably been a correction, because λαλεῖν τῷ νοΐ was found harsh, the understanding being only the indirect instrument.


Verse 20

20.] With this exhortation he concludes this part of his argument, in which he reproves the folly of displaying and being anxious for a gift in which there was no edification.

ἀδελφοί ‘suavem vim habet,’ Bengel.

ταῖς φρεσίν, in your understandings, as this preference shews you to be.

τῇ κακίᾳ—dat. of reference, as regards vice: see Winer, edn. 6, § 31.6.


Verse 21

21.] έν τῷ νόμῳ, as John 10:34; John 12:34; John 15:25;—where the Psalms are thus quoted. The passage stands in the LXX: διὰ φαυλισμὸν χειλέων, διὰ γλώσσης ἑτέρας ὅτι λαλήσουσι τῷ λαῷ τούταῳκ. οὐκ ἠθέλησαν ἀκούειν. The context is thus: The scoffers in Jerusalem (see 1 Corinthians 14:14) are introduced as scorning the simplicity of the divine commands, which were line upon line, precept upon precept, as if to children (1 Corinthians 14:9-10). Jehovah threatens them that, since they would not hear these simple commands, He would speak to them by men of other tongues, viz. the Assyrians, their captors.

Here as in many other cases, the historical sense is not so much considered, as the aptness of the expressions used for illustrating the matter in hand; viz. that belief would not be produced in the unbelieving by speaking to them in strange tongues. The ὅτι answers in the LXX to כִּי, ‘for;’ or ‘yea verily,’ as Louth. It forms part of the citation, not of the text.

ἐν ἑτερ.] in (in the person of) men of other tongues: Heb. with another tongue;—and it is placed second. The Apostle personifies it and gives it the prominence.

ἐν χ. ἑτ.] in (as speaking in, using as the organ of speech) lips of others (strangers, see reff.): Heb. in (by) stammerers of lip: Louth, with a stammering lip.

τῷ λαῷ τούτῳ] in Isa., the Israelites: here taken generally for the unbelieving world.

οὐδʼ οὕτως εἰσακούσ.] This is the point of the passage for St. Paul’s argument: see 1 Corinthians 14:23 :—“for them, and not for us: but even for them, profitless in the main:”—not even under such circumstances will they listen to me: even this sign will be for them ineffectual.


Verses 21-25

21–25.] By a citation from the O. T. he takes occasion to shew that tongues are a sign to the unbelieving only: and that even for them they are profitless in comparison with prophecy.


Verse 22

22.] ὥστε,—viz. according to the words of the foregoing prophetic passage.

αἱ γλ.] the tongues, in the then acceptation of the term. He is not interpreting the prophecy, nor alluding to the tongues there spoken of, but returns back to the subject in hand—the tongues about which his argument was concerned.

εἰς σημ. εἰσίν] are for a sign: but there is no emphasis on the words,—the meaning being much the same as if εἰς σημεῖον were omitted, and it stood ὥστε αἱ γλ. εἰσὶν οὐ τοῖς π. Not seeing this, Commentators have differed widely about the meaning of σημεῖον. So Chrys. (Hom. xxxvi. p. 335): εἰς σημεῖον, τουτέστιν, εἰς ἔκπληξιν:—Bengel: ‘quo allecti auscultare debebant:’—Calvin: ‘linguæ, quatenus in signum datæ sunt:’ &c. &c. All dwelling on the word σημεῖου would introduce an element foreign to the argument, which is, that tongues are (a sign) for the unbelieving, not for the believing.

οὐ τ. πιστ.] not to men who believe, but to unbelievers, i.e. ‘men who do not believe:’ not, as Neander, Billroth, Rückert, and in substance De Wette, ‘men who will not believe:’ ἄπιστος must be kept to the same sense through this whole passage, and plainly by 1 Corinthians 14:23 it is not one who will not believe, but an unbeliever open to conviction. The mistake has been occasioned by regarding those to whom the prophecy was directed, and interpreting Paul by Isaiah, instead of by himself.

ἡ δὲ προφ.] scil. ἐστίν, as Meyer, or εἰς σημ. ἐστίν, as De Wette: it seems to me to import little which we supply, seeing that εἰς σημ. is of so very slight weight in the preceding clause. If emphatic meaning had been attached to σημεῖον as belonging to αἱ γλ., we must not have supplied it here: but if it be a mere indifferent word, to be interpreted according to the sense in which αἱ γλ. and ἡ προφ. were σημεῖα, there can be no objection to it here: and the uniformity of construction seems to require it.

Both here and above, τοῖς ἀπίστ. and the other are datives commodifor, not ‘to,’ the unbelieving. ἡ προφητεία was a sign to the unbelieving, see 1 Corinthians 14:24-25.

Prophecy, i.e. inspired and intelligent exposition of the word and doctrine, was eminently for believers, but, as below, would be also profitable to unbelievers, furnishing a token that God was truly among his assembled servants.


Verse 23

23.] οὖν, following up the axiom just laid down, by supposing a case = if then.… The first case put answers to the former half of 1 Corinthians 14:22; the second, to the latter.

The supposition is this: that all the (Corinthian) church is assembled, and all its members speak with tongues (not in a tumultuary manner—that is not part of the present hypothesis, for if it were, it must apply equally to 1 Corinthians 14:24, which it clearly cannot:—but that all have the gift, and are in turn exercising it):—then ἰδιῶται, ‘plain believers,’ persons unacquainted with the gift and its exercise, come in. It is obvious that the hypothesis of all being assembled, and all having the gift, must not be pressed to infer that no such ἰδιώτης could be found: no one hypothesizes thus rigidly. If any will have it so, then, as Meyer, we may suppose the ἰδιῶται to come from another congregation: but the whole difficulty seems to me mere trifling. The ἰδ. plainly cannot be, as De W. maintains, an unbeliever, for his case is separately mentioned. Such plain men, or perhaps a company of unbelievers, have come in:—they have no understanding of what is going on: the γλῶσσαι sound to them an unmeaning jargon; and they come to the conclusion, ‘These men are mad;’ just as men did infer, on the day of Pentecost, that the speakers were drunken.


Verses 23-25

23–25.] Instances given of the operation of both on the ungifted or the unbeliever.


Verse 24

24.] But if all (see above) prophesy (i.e. intelligibly lay forth, in the power of the Spirit, the Christian word and doctrine) and there enter any (singular now, setting forth that this would be the effect in any case: plural before, to shew that however many there might be, not one could appreciate the gift) unbeliever or plain man ( ἄπιστος first now, because the great stress is on the power of prophecy in its greatest achievement, the conversion of the unbeliever; but ἰδιῶται was first before, because the stress there was on the unprofitableness of tongues, not only to the ἄπιστοι, but to the ἰδιῶται), he is convicted by all (the inspired discourse penetrating, as below, into the depths of his heart,—by all, i.e. by each in turn), he is searched into by all (each inspired speaker opening to him his character), the hidden things of his heart become manifest (those things which he had never before seen are revealed,—his whole hitherto unrecognized personal character laid out. Instances of such revelations of a man to himself by powerful preaching have often occurred, even since the cessation of the prophetic gift): and thus (thus convicted, searched, revealed to himself:—in such a state of mind) having fallen on his face, he will worship God, announcing (by that his act, which is a public submission to the divine Power manifest among you: or, but not so well, aloud, by declaration of it in words) that of a truth (implying that previously he had regarded the presence of God among them as an idle tale; or, if a plain Christian, had not sufficiently realized it) God is among you (or in each of you: by His Spirit). In this last description the ἰδιώτης is thrown into the background, and (see above) the greater achievement of prophecy, the conviction and conversion of the ἄπιστος, is chiefly in view. “For a similar effect of the disclosure of a man’s secret self to himself, compare the fascination described as exercised by Socrates over his hearers by the ‘conviction’ and ‘judgment’ of his questions in the Athenian market-place. Grote’s Hist. of Greece, viii. 609–611.” Stanley.


Verse 26

26.] The rule for all, proceeding on the fact of each having his gift to contribute when they come together: viz. that all things must be done with a view to edification.

τί οὖν ἐστιν] See 1 Corinthians 14:15.

ὅτ. συν.] whenever ye happen to be assembling together: the present vividly describes each coming with his gift, eager to exercise it.

ψαλμόν] most probably a hymn of praise to sing in the power of the spirit, as did Miriam, Deborah, Symeon, &c. See 1 Corinthians 14:15.

διδαχήν] an exposition of doctrine or moral teaching: belonging to the gift of prophecy, as indeed do also ψαλμ. and ἀποκάλ., the latter being something revealed to him, to be prophetically uttered.

γλῶσσαν] a tongue, i.e. an act of speaking in tongues: see 1 Corinthians 14:18; 1 Corinthians 14:22.

ἑρμηνείαν] See below, and 1 Corinthians 14:5.

πάντ. πρ. οἰκ. γιν.] THE GENERAL RULE, afterwards applied to the several gifts: and


Verses 26-35

26–35.] Regulations respecting the exercise of spiritual gifts in the assemblies.


Verse 27

27.] κατὰ δύο (scil. let it take place), by two (at each time, i.e. in one assembly: not more than two or three might speak with tongues at each meeting) or at the most three, and by turn (one after another, not together): and let one (some one who has the gift,—and not more than one) interpret (what is said in the tongue).


Verse 27-28

27, 28.] to the speaking with tongues. εἴτε begins the construction, but is not carried on, 1 Corinthians 14:29, where προφῆται δέ answers to it.


Verse 28

28.] But if there be not an interpreter (Wieseler, in the Stud. und Krit. for 1838, p. 720, would render it, ‘if he be not an interpreter,’ viz. himself. But this would exclude the possibility of others interpreting, which we know from ch. 1 Corinthians 12:10 might be the case. And thus the preceding εἷς could hardly bear its proper meaning. Wieseler tries to make it mean ‘one at a time.’ Besides, the emphatic position of seems to require more stress than this sense would give, which would be better expressed by ἐὰν δὲ διερμηνευτὴς μὴ ᾖ), let him (the speaker in a tongue, see reff.) be silent in the church: but (as if σιγάτω had been μὴ λαλείτω) let him speak for himself and for God: i.e. in private, with only himself and God to witness it. Chrys. καθʼ ἑαυτὸν φθεγγέσθω: which Theophyl. enlarges to τουτέστιν ἀψοφητὶ καὶ ἠρέμα καθʼ ἑαυτόν: which does not seem to agree with λαλείτω, the speaking being essential to the exercise of the gift.


Verse 29

29.] δέ, transitional.

δύο ἢ τρεῖς, viz. at one assemblings;—not together; this is plainly prohibited, 1 Corinthians 14:30. There is no τὸ πλεῖστον as in the other case, because he does not wish to seem as if he were limiting this most edifying of the gifts.

οἱ ἄλλοι, scil. προφῆται,—or perhaps, any person possessing the gift of διακρίσεις πνευμάτων, mentioned ch. 1 Corinthians 12:10 in immediate connexion with προφητεία. Such would exercise that gift, to determine whether the spirit was of God: see ch. 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 John 4:1-3.


Verses 29-33

29–33.] Similar regulations for PROPHECY.


Verse 30

30.] But if a revelation shall have been made to another (prophet) while sitting by, let the first (who was prophesying) hold his peace (give place to the other: but clearly, not as ejected by the second in any disorderly manner: probably, by being made aware of it and ceasing his discourse). The rendering of Grot., al., ‘let him (the second) wait till the first has done speaking,’ q. d., ‘let the first have left off,’ is ungrammatical. See also 1 Corinthians 14:28; 1 Corinthians 14:34.


Verse 31-32

31, 32.] He shews that the ὁ πρῶτος σιγάτω is no impossibility, but in their power to put into effect. For ye have the power (the primary emphasis of the sentence is on δύνασθε, which is not merely permissive, as E. V., ‘ye may,’ but asserts the possession of the power;—the secondary on καθʼ ἕνα) one by one all to prophesy (i.e. you have power to bring about this result—you can be silent if you please), in order that all may learn and all may be exhorted (or, comforted):


Verse 32

32.] and (not, for: but a parallel assertion to the last, ‘ye have power, &c. and’) spirits of prophets (i.e. their own spirits, filled with the Holy Spirit: so Meyer, and rightly: not, as De Wette, the Spirit of God within each: and so 1 Corinthians 14:12; the inspired spirit being regarded as a πνεῦμα in a peculiar sense—from God, or otherwise. See the distinction plainly made 1 John 4:2; ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκετε τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ. πᾶν πνεῦμα κ. τ. λ. The omission of the art. generalizes the assertion, making it applicable to all genuine Christian prophets) are subject to prophets (i.e. to the men whose spirits they are. But very many Commentators, e.g. Theophyl. (alt.), Calvin, Estius, and more recently Bleek and Rückert, take προφήταις to signify other prophetsτὸ ἔν σοι χάρισμα, καὶ ἡ ἐνέργεια τοῦ ἔν σοι πνεύματος, ὑποτάσσεται τῷ χαρίσματι τοῦ ἑτέρου τοῦ κινηθέντος εἰς τὸ προφητεύειν (Theophyl.). But the command ὁ πρῶτος σιγάτω would be superfluous, if his gift was in subjection to another).


Verse 33

33.] Reason of the above regulations. The premiss, that the church is God’s church, is suppressed. He is the God of peace, not confusion: therefore those assemblies which are His must be peacefully and orderly conducted. And this character of God is not one dependent for its truth on preconceived views of Him:—we have a proof of it wherever a church of the saints has been gathered together. ‘In all the churches of the saints, God is a God of peace: let Him not among you be supposed to be a God of confusion.’

I am compelled to depart from the majority of modern critics of note, e.g. Lachmann, Tischendorf (ed. 7 [and 8]), Billroth, Meyer, De Wette, and to adhere to the common arrangement of this latter clause. My reason is, that taken as beginning the next paragraph, it is harsh beyond example, and superfluous, as anticipating the reason about to be given οὐ γὰρ κ. τ. λ. Besides which, it is more in accordance with St. Paul’s style, to place the main subject of a new sentence first, see 1 Timothy 3:8; 1 Timothy 3:11-12; and we have an example of reference to general usage coming in last, in aid of other considerations, ch. 1 Corinthians 11:16; but it seems unnatural that it should be placed first in the very forefront of a matter on which he has so much to say.


Verse 34

34.] ἀλλὰ ὑποτάσσεσθαι, scil. κελεύεται αὐταῖς. The same construction where a second verb must be supplied from the context, occurs 1 Timothy 4:3. So Soph. Œd. Tyr. 236, τὸν ἄνδρʼ ἀπαυδῶ τοῦτονμήτʼ εἰσδέχεσθαι μήτε προσφωνεῖν τινα, ὠθεῖν δʼ ἀπʼ οἴκων πάντας: Lucian, χάρων ἢ ἐπισκοποῦντες, line 49 from beg(64),— σὲ δὲ καὶ αὐτὸν κωλύσει ἐνεργεῖν τὰ τοῦ θανάτου ἔργα, καὶ τὴν πλούτωνος ἀρχὴν ζημιοῦν. See other examples in Kühner, § 852 K.

ὁ νόμος—ref. Their speaking in public would be of itself an act of independence; of teaching the assembly, and among others their own husbands.


Verse 34-35

34, 35.] Regulatian prohibiting women to speak publicly in the church, and its grounds. If ὡς ἁγίων be placed at the beginning of this sentence, we must not, as Lachm. absurdly does, put a comma before τῶν ἁγίων, which would throw the emphasis on it and disturb the sense: and which besides would then be expressed ἁγίων γυναῖκες, or even ἁγίων αἱ γυναῖκες, but certainly not τῶν ἁγίων αἱ γυναῖκες.


Verse 35

35.] This prohibits another kindred irregularity—their asking questions publicly. They might say in answer to the former σιγάτωσαν, ‘But if we do not understand any thing, are we not to ask?’ The stress is on μαθεῖν.

ἰδίους, confining them to their own husbands, to the exclusion of other men.

αἰσχρόν] See ref.: indecent, bringing deserved reproach.


Verse 36

36.] I cannot agree with Meyer in referring this only to the regulation concerning women which has preceded. It rather seems to refer to all the points of church custom which he has been noticing, and to be inseparably connected with what follows,—the recognition of his apostolic orders, as those of God.


Verses 36-40

36–40.] GENERAL CONCLUSION: the unseemliness and absurdity of their pretending to originate customs unknown to other churches, as if the word of God first went forth from them: and the enforcement of his apostolic authority. Then, a summary in a few words of the purport of what he has said on the spiritual gifts, and a repetition, in another form, of the fundamental precept, 1 Corinthians 14:26.


Verse 37

37.] πνευματικός, one spiritually endowed: not quite as in ch. 1 Corinthians 2:15.

ἃ γράφω] the things which I am writing, viz. ‘these regulations which I am now making.’

κυρίου, emphatic: the Lord’s (commandment): carrying His authority. No more direct assertion of inspiration can be uttered than this. “Paul stamps here the seal of apostolic authority: and on that seal is necessarily Christ.” Meyer.


Verse 38

38. ἀγνοείτω] implying both the hopelessness of reclaiming such an one, and the little concern which his opposition gave the Apostle. The other reading, ἀγνοεῖται, gives a passable sense—‘he is ignored,’ scil. by God: cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 8:2-3; 1 Corinthians 13:12; Galatians 4:9.


Verse 39

39.] ζηλοῦτε and μὴ κωλύετε express the different estimations in which he held the two gifts.


Verse 40

40.] δέ, only provided, that.…

κατὰ τάξιν] i.e. in right time, and due proportion.—Meyer compares Jos. B. J. ii. 8. 5, of the Essenes: οὔτε κραυγή ποτε τὸν οἶκον οὔτε θόρυβος μολύνει, τὰς δὲ λαλιὰς ἐν τάξει παραχωροῦσιν ἀλλήλοις. See Stanley, edn. 2, pp. 293 f.

 


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/1-corinthians-14.html. 1863-1878.

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Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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