1 Cor 12-14

Andrew Kulikovsky (killer@cobweb.com.au)
Wed, 08 Jan 1997 18:35:41 +0900

Following is a message I sent to Ellen off list a couple of days ago.
Here it is for the benefit of the list...


Hi Ellen!

Concerning your question on B-GREEK regarding 1 Cor 12:31, it is important to note that ch. 12, 13 and 14 form one big argument or response by Paul to the Corinthian church. Understanding the literary and historical context is vitally important here. Paul is responding to a question or comment they made in their letter to him (which we don't have) Note that Ch 12 begins: PERI DE TWN PNEUMATIKWN (Now about spiritual gifts) - this is what Paul is talking about in these chapters. You should note the meaning of PNEUMATIKWN (nom. PNEUMATIKOS). This is generally used by Paul simply as 'spiritual'. Where it is used as 'spiritual gift' the word XARISMA (gift) is present. The only places PNEUMATIKOS is rendered as spiritual gift is 1 Cor 12:31 and 14:1 and 14:37 - all in this passage! Therefore I do not believe this is a good rendering. Better is "Now about spiritual matters" or "Now about spiritual manifestations". Avoid using 'gift' because it just causes confusion.

Now with the basic theme sorted out, I think 12:31 makes much more sense. You said your friend believes the gifts are ranked but looking at the immediate context of 12:31 this is not possible. The questions from v. 29-30 begin with MH which means they are to be answered in the negative - Are all apostles? No! etc.

ZHLOUTE could be an imperative or an indicative. If its an imperative (a command) then it would go against everything Paul has just said. In the previous few paragraphs he uses the body analogy to show that every person and every gift is important! There is no hierarchy. Paul has just stated that not everyone is an apostle, not everyone is a prophet, not everyone is a teacher - so why would he go and tell them to desire these gifts - there is nothing wrong with the gift they have. Every gift is important.

Remember that Paul is responding to a question or comment so I think he is using their terminology - "But you are desiring (indicative) the greater gifts" - greater in their eyes, but not in God's.

The last verse in ch 12 seals it: And now I will show you the most excellent way. Why would Paul *command* them to do something and then say "Oh but here is the best way..." - that doesn't make sense!

There seems to be a problem in Cor church with misusing or abusing gifts. People *were* ranking gifts and pushing themselves. This is what Paul is trying to correct hence Ch 13 - a lesson on love.

For 14:1, try this translation: "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spirituality (or 'spiritual manifestations'), especially that you may prophesy."

I think this is much clearer, is true to the Greek and fits nicely into Pauls overall argument.

Same with 14:37: "If anyone thinks he is a prophet or a spiritual man, let him acknowledge...."

Sorry for going on, but I hope this helps.

cheers, Andrew

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