on MEIZWN, 1 Cor 12:31

Edward Hobbs (EHOBBS@wellesley.edu)
Tue, 07 Jan 1997 16:27:24 -0500 (EST)

On 1 Cor 12:31, a number of you might be interested in the following (which
I sent to Ellen Adams, and she apparently forwarded to Carl Conrad), from
Hans Conzelmann's commentary on 1 Cor. (Hermeneia series)

In stating the usual interpretation of 12:31 (which he seems to accept,
but be very uncomfortable with), he says:

"Up to this point Paul had spoken of the gifts in terms of
criticism and reduction. Certainly, the shift is understandable.
His criticism was directed not at the gifts, but at the
Corinthians' self-understanding. Now he directs their attention
to higher gifts, ones that allow no self-development and no self-
contemplation on the pneumatic's part. All the same, the summons
does not go smoothly with 14:1 either."
Here he has a footnote (one of thousands!), referencing
Gerhard Iber, "Zum Versta"ndnis von I Cor 12,31," ZNW 54 (1963),
pp. 43-52, who "observes that the difficulty disappears if
ZHLOUTE is taken as indicative: 'You are striving for.' The
clause describes the attitude of the community. The 'higher
gifts' are then the ecstatic phenomena. Then the place of chap.
13 is also safeguarded from the literary standpoint; v 31a and b
go together, as the Corinthian position and the Pauline counter-
position. 14a is no counter-argument. For according to chap. 13
Paul can also react positively to their zeal. Moreover, he does
not there speak of 'greater' gifts; this expression contains

Edward Hobbs