Re: PNEUMATIKA as used Paul

28 Aug 96 17:01:43 EDT

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. This letter was
>written to respond to a series of questions asked by the Corinthians.
>We can generally see where Paul answers a specific question by the
>phrase PERI DE (7:1 25 8:1 12:1 16:1 12). One of those places is
>12:1 (PERI DE TWN PNEUMATIKWN, ADELFOI, ...). Since Paul seems to
>be directly responding to a specific question here, 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. The question is, What is the question?
What did the Corinthian church ask Paul? I would suggest they
probably asked him "which gift is the best (or greatest)?"

>The meaning of "spiritual gifts" in 12:1 seems to be confirmed by the
>context. Paul immediately discusses glossolalia (vv2-3), and then all
>the various kinds of gifts (vv4-11). Furthermore, the rest of the
>questions the Corinthians posed seem to be quite practical: marriage
>(7:1), virgins (7:25), food sacrificed to idols (8:1), the collection
>for the saints in Jerusalem (16:1), and about Apollos (16:12). Thus,
>I doubt that they would be asking about such an open-ended topic as
>spirituality but rather something more concrete like the flashier gifts.

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,
brothers....." 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.

He starts off in Ch 12 by arguing for unity. All spiritual gifts are
useful and important and are all given by God. There is no inherrent
order. In 12:31 I would take ZHLOUTE as an indicative rather than
an imperative - the context makes this clear. Why would Paul
command them to seek the "greater" gifts ("greater" referring to the
Corinthian's concept of the best gifts) when he has just argued
that all gifts are equally important. And then the next verse, 13:1
says "But now I will show you the most excellent way" Why would
Paul command them to do something and then immediately say
"but here is the best way"?

In ch 13 he argues that gifts are of no value at all if they are not
used or expressed with love.

In ch 14 he argues that gifts are given to build up the church not
the individual.

So in this discourse, Paul answers the question: "What is the best gift?"
by saying: ch 12 All gifts are equally important and are essential
for the unity of the church.
ch 13 Gifts are useless if they are not expressed with
ch 14 Gifts were given to build up the church not the



| Andrew S. Kulikovsky B.App.Sc(Hons) MACS
| Software Engineer
| British Aerospace Australia
| Technology Park, Adelaide
| ph: +618 343 8211
| email:
| What's the point of gaining everything this world has
| to offer, when you lose your own life in the end?
| ...Look to Jesus Christ