Re: 1 Cor. 1:5-7

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Oct 11 1995 - 15:34:01 EDT

At 12:19 PM 10/11/95, David Moore wrote:
> I put my recent post on 1Cor. 1:5-7 through a search engine to see
>if it contained a mention of tongues but couldn't find the word; GLOSS*
>turned up empty as well. Part of the problem in dealing with the biblical
>data on spiritual gifts is that some of the gifts elicit emotional
>reactions which can disrupt real dialogue.
> My comments on this passage reflect (I think) my belief that Paul
>sees the spiritual gifts as ideally functioning in harmonious concert for
>the purpose of edifying the body of Christ. Although they were not so
>functioning in Corinth when Paul wrote 1Corinthians, he appears to take as
>a hopeful sign that they were at least functioning in some capacity.

David, my sincere apologies if I misled anyone in focusing my response to
your post on 1 Cor 1:5-7 on glossolalia, although my intent was to say that
it did seem to me that this passage right at the outset seems to refer to
so many of the problems that the letter involves it with so much. I think
that I was still responding at that point to your earlier post, with the
subject-head still indicating 1 Cor 14:14, in which you wrote:

        "Notwithstanding Paul's open attitude toward the functioning of the
gifts, his admonitions in this passage call his readers to a balanced
attitude. Tongues are not to be employed in a disorderly or scandalous
manner, but neither are they to be forbidden. All the gifts are to
function for the edification of the body and not the agrandizement of the
one who exercises the gift. And above all the love of Christ is to reign
in every action and in every heart.
        "This seems to me a vision worth pursuing."

On re-reading this paragraph (+ verselet) I have to say that I think it is
a fine recapitulation of 1 Cor 12-14. If there's any point at all I'm
skeptical about (and I say skeptical, not absolute settled on the matter)
is whether Paul really envisions a significant role for tongues to play (in
1 Cor 13 he certainly says that if they play a role now, they will cease to
do so). It seems to be the accepted view of the majority that Paul does not
forbid tongues, nor can I find any statement whatsoever indicating that he
forbids them. The question about which I am less than certain is whether he
really is promoting them at all. In my opinion he is very clearly
discouraging any use of them wherein what is said in ecstatic tongues is
not reformulated into rationally communicable form so that it can indeed
"edify the body." And I also think that the danger he sees is in an orgy (a
word I use not disparagingly; it was originally a regular word for
religious rites in pagan Greek) of private ecstasy that serves the
community in no way at all. I hope that this will clarify the point on
which I am still not in full agreement with you. But let me repeat, I think
the statement above is really excellent.

> Unmentioned, but, IMHO, present in most open discussions of the
>topic of the gifts of the Spirit is the fairly-widely-held cessationist
>position which posits that legitimate charismatic gifts ceased to function
>at the end of the apostolic period. I've traced the idea back as far as
>Calvin (although Eusebius and some others might have expressed at least a
>similar attitude) who had been negatively impressed by some of the
>doctrines and practices of the Montanists, although they predate him by
>several centuries. Sometimes, IMO, those who hold a cessationist position
>find it difficult to see in the biblical data on gifts of the Spirit,
>information that might tend to confirm contemporary charismatic practice.
>I really don't know that anyone on the list specifically holds this
>position, but felt that it should be mentioned relating to the open
>discussion we've had on this topic, since it may be present here as an

I frankly don't understand this at all; it seems downright stupid or silly
to me that what was once legitimate worship practice within Christendom
should at a given point in history cease to have validity. Notwithstanding,
I would hope that nobody looks in the NT for a justification for animal
sacrifices such as continued to be offered in the Jerusalem Temple until
its destruction. But that's pretty far afield, isn't it? Nor have I been
able to understand the notion that miracles took place in the apostolic era
but don't any more. Of course the real miracle of the gospel is that human
beings are transformed into new creatures, and I don't think there's any
rationalist explanation for that in terms of physics or chemistry or
psychiatry. Now, I hope that I have gone as far as I will go in stating a
faith-proposition online. Back to Greek.

> Relative to Johan D.F. (Erik) van Halsema's suggestion that 1Cor.
>1:5-7 constitutes a "Table of contents," it seems unwarranted to put such
>a formal name on Paul's words here. Erik is observant in noting that Paul
>mentions themes that he later touches on and develops in the rest of the
>letter, but there is no formal statement included in 1:5-7 and context
>that he intends to so do. One would expect this latter to be present here
>if really were presenting this passage as a "table of contents."

I don't think the term "table of contents" was meant in any literal sense,
but it doesn't seem unreasonable that Paul might highlight themes that are
very much on his mind as he begins this letter, and that's why I thought
the proposition was a reasonable one.

> Congratulations on your (was it) 61 years and to Edward Hobbs on
>his 70; you're both considerably ahead of me since I only turn 51 later
>this month.

Edward was 69 yesterday rather than 70, I think. As for myself, I do more
or less plan to retire in four years, but I hope to be articulate on and
offline (God willing) longer than that; you have many more years ahead,
David, to be articulate on and offline, and I'm sure you will be. Best

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

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:37:30 EDT