Re: 1Cor13:1 tongues of angels

From: George Athas (
Date: Wed Feb 25 1998 - 16:15:30 EST

Ben Crick wrote:

> Arnold Bittlinger, /Gifts and Graces/, A commentary on 1 Corinthians 12-14
> (Translation from the German by Herbert Klassen, supervised by the Revd
> Michael Harper), Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1967, comments:
> "If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have no love, I am a
> noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." Verse 1.
> "Paul assumes that speaking in tongues means speaking in human or angelic
> languages. According to 2 Corinthians 12:4 and Revelation 14:2f, angelic
> languages are unutterable. Paul means that even if he could speak in
> perfect Greek or Chinese, or could speak an angelic language (which is
> really unutterable), the exercise of this gift without love (i.e., for
> self-glorification) would be as a clanging cymbal (Here he is referring
> to ancient single toned musical instruments which cannot produce a melody).
> Love is choked 'where a few of those who claim to excel in the gifts are
> ostentatious in their prayers and utterances, and spread their wings,
> leaving behind in spiritual isolation all the seekers and the uninitiated.'
> - W Meyer, /Der 1. Brief an die Korinther/, 1945, pp 163f."
> (Op. cit., p 79).
> The "source for the phrase" would appear to be Paul's sanctified
> imagination, directed by the Holy Spirit.

I wonder, was Paul perhaps using hyperbole or exaggeration to get his point
across and not talking about a mysterious angelic language? Remember Paul was in
the Greco-Roman world in which rhetoric and speech delivery was paramount to the
authority of a message. Paul, however, actually divorces the style of delivering
the message from the message itself (II Cor 10), but says that even if he could
speak like an angel it would be useless without love - the point being that how
well one speaks is peripheral to the real issue of love. Was not glossalia the
ability to speak more than one language? Is not that what it was at Pentecost,
and is not this what Paul is addressing (I Cor 14:8-12)? Is not the literal
"language of angels" Hebrew? Did not they pass on the binding Law (Heb 2:2)?

Best regards!
George Athas
 PhD (Cand.), University of Sydney
 Tutor of Hebrew, Moore Theological College
Phone: 0414 839 964 ICQ#: 5866591

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