Re: PNEUMATIKA as used Paul

Carlton L. Winbery (
Wed, 28 Aug 1996 20:26:23 +0400

Stephen Carlson answered Andrew;
>>Andrew said; I am not sure you completely understood
>>my proposed interpretation.
>>>I would suggest that Paul is departing somewhat from his usual
>>>terminology to reflect that of the Corinthians. [...] it would be
>>>reasonable to think that he is echoing the terminology which the
>>>Corinthians used in their letter.
>>No argument from me here. The occasional nature of the letter
>>makes this almost certainly true.
>>Certainly Paul is talking about spiritual gifts in the context, but I
>>believe is actually directly answering their question assuming it is
>>"Which gift is the best?" The bible doesn't indicate any inherent
>>hierarchy or priority of gifts - all gifts are valuable and are given
>>to encourage and build up the church. Therefore he could not directly
>>answer the Corinthians question because he did not agree with
>>their presupposition. This is why he says: "Now about spirituality,
>I think this is a bit of a leap in the logic. All I understand from
>PERI DE TWN PNEUMATIKWN is a reference to a specific query from the
>Corinthians. They were interested in the gifts, and so there is
>no reason not to understand PNEUMATIKWN as referring to that. Your
>first argument that it does not conform to Paul's terminology is as
>we agree somewhat beside the point, because he is using their terms.
>If Paul did not agree with their presupposition that one of the gifts
>is the best, it would seem to make more sense to avoid their words,
>not redefine them. It looks like Paul avoided the word "best/better"
>(except at 12:21 13:13 to explain what he believed what best) but kept
>the reference to PNEUMATIKWN as they understood it. Therefore, I see
>no reason to suspect that the standard translations of PNEUMATIKWN
>are wrong in 1Co12:1.
>> It's a bit like the way Jesus answered loaded questions -
>>He didn't actually answer them but instead destroyed the question
>>by revealing the error in the presuppositions on which the question
>>is based. This is, I believe, what Paul was doing.
>Given the other questions the Corinthians asked, they seem sincere,
>unlike Jesus' opponents. I don't see how using someone's term in
>a different meaning ("spirituality" for PNEUMATIKWN -- why plural?)
>could serve to reveal rather than obscure.
Brother, I am reluctant to jump back into this, but I would agree with
Andrew's translation but not necessarily his reasoning. The plural
PNEUMATIKWN can be a masculine plural and be used to refer to spiritual
persons. I think that this better fits the context of I Cor 12-14. We
really do not know exactly what the question was, but there seems to have
been those who claimed a superior spirituality because they spoke in
tongues. Vs. 2 seems to allude to similar practices of ecstasy when they
were among the gentiles (pagans?). Vs 3 indicates the real proof of
spirituality - confession (submission) to the Lordship of Christ. The
question may well have been how to know a truly spiritual person. Chapter
13 against this background emphasizes that a truly spiritual person loves
like Christ. Chapter 14 emphasizes that a truly spiritual person is more
concerned to build (edify) the church than self edification.

I would guess that the question was put to Paul by other than the tongues
speakers and that it was about who is spiritual. Hence, he did not use the
common word for gifts until vs. 4 and then to place tongues speaking among
all the gifts, even last in the list.

Carlton L. Winbery
Prof. NT & Greek La College