Re: 1Cor13:1 tongues of angels

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Feb 25 1998 - 06:38:36 EST

At 5:58 PM -0600 2/24/98, Steven Cox wrote:
> BAGD offers nothing for GLWSSAI TWN AGGELWN
> Likewise nothing I can see in LXX. Is there
> a source for this phrase?

I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for, but I'll venture my
opinion--and this is ONLY my opinion--that this phrase is Paul's own
coinage as a rhetorical counterpart to GLWSSAI TWN ANQRWPWN just preceding
it. Although Romans is itself charged with powerful rhetoric, it has always
seemed to me that 1 Corinthians is, as a whole and from its opening verses,
an extraordinarily powerful rhetorical appeal to a congregation that has
come to celebrate its spiritual knowledge (GNWSIS) and religious/spiritual
accomplishments (what Paul calls CARISMATA). This latter theme dominates
chapters 12-13 and, while it mentions several different CARISMATA,
nevertheless remains particularly focused upon GLWSSAI and the particular
valuation apparently placed by the Corinthian congregation on what we have
come to call "glossolalia" as a mark of personal (rather than communal)
religious accomplishment. And as, in these chapters, Paul by no means
directly DISPARAGES glossolalia, he both RELATIVIZES its importance in
relationship to other CARISMATA and insists that its function in worship
and religious experience be directed toward enhancement of the corporate
experience of "being in Christ" rather than toward centrifugal enhancement
of private religious experience and pride in spiritual accomplishment. Back
in chapters 1-4 he had employed a wealth of imagery, sarcasm, and
syllogistic argumentation to contrast the paradoxical superiority of divine
wisdom over human wisdom and of the power of the gospel working in ordinary
human language over the appeal of high-powered classical rhetoric. And so I
think that in the opening verse of chapter 13 the parallel/antithesis of
"tongues of men" and "tongues of angels" over against AGAPH brings to a
climax these themes of the letter as a whole: human rhetoric and
glossolalia (which is what I take it he really means by GLWSSAI TWN
ANGGELWN), however much one might value them both, have value only in
relationship to the far more important possession/accomplishment of AGAPH.

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