Re: PNEUMATIKA as used Paul

Stephen C. Carlson (
Wed, 28 Aug 1996 13:29:22 -0400

At 05:01 8/28/96 EDT, KULIKOVSKY, Andrew wrote:
>Thanks for your reply Stephen. 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.

Stephen Carlson

Stephen C. Carlson                   : Poetry speaks of aspirations,              : and songs chant the words. :               -- Shujing 2.35