Re: 1Cor. 14:14

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Oct 09 1995 - 13:34:02 EDT

At 8:16 PM 10/8/95, Kenneth Litwak wrote:
>I think I would have to take exception to the word "ecstatic". That
>sounds like the "under the influence of foreign substances" Oracle at
>Delphi (to use German word order), not what Paul is talking about.
>Paul makes clear, IMO, that the person speaking in tongues can
>turn it on and shut it off, so to speak, at will, which is not how
>one would normally understand being in an "ecstatic" state.
>Perhaps Stephen and others mean something else by "ecstatic", in whih
>case a little more precision in definition is needed.

I'd have to go along with the interpretation of the phenomenon involved in
1 Cor 14 as glossolalia in the sense of ecstatic utterance, and yes, I
would even say that it is similar to the glossolalia of the Sibyl at
Delphi, which does not, in fact, appear to have been drug-induced at all,
but which does appear to have been ecstatic and to have involved babbling
utterances which the priests of Apollo "interpreted" in Greek verse form to
give to those consulting the oracle. When Paul first takes up this subject
in 1 Cor 12, PERI DE TWN PNEUMATIKWN ..., he says (12:2) OIDATE hOTI hOTE
translate, "You know that when you were Gentiles how you would be drawn,
carried away toward speechless idols." It seems to me that Paul clearly
recognized that there recognized religious experiences--psychic
experiences--were indeed characteristic of pagan religion. In these
chapters 12-14 of 1 Corinthians he's trying to make clear what he
undestands to be the difference between a pagan kind of religious
experience (which he seems to think of in terms of the keyword "GNWSIS"
characterizing Corinthian attitudes elsewhere in the letter) and a
Christian kind of religious experience. He seems to me to be less than keen
on glossolalia but recognizes it as an admissible component of worship;
what bothers him about it is that it's not rational and it doesn't
communicate anything to other worshippers. So he urges that if the
Corinthians are determined to indulge in it, they ought to make sure that
someone is able to make sense of the ecstatic babbling for the sake of the
rest of the congregation. And if there are outsiders there, they would be
wiser not to indulge in it. I think Paul is also relativizing the same
phenomenon and again associating it with ecstatic, irrational utterance in
1 Cor 13:1, "If I speak in languages of human beings and of angels but have
no AGAPH, then I've become clanging bronze or jingling cymbals."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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