[b-greek] RE: What To Do With PNEUMATIKOS

From: Iver Larsen (iver_larsen@sil.org)
Date: Wed Oct 03 2001 - 04:07:48 EDT

> Fellow b-greekers:
> A couple of questions about what to do with PNEUMATIKOS.
> The adjective PNEUMATIKOS is found in 1 Corinthians 12:1 and 14:1 in the
> plural forms PNEUMATIKWN and PNEUMATIKA respectively, where this
> is almost
> universally rendered, in the different translations, as
> "spiritual gifts".
> Ditto lots of commentaries on this epistle. The first of these forms,
> PNEUMATIKWN, is thus being taken as neuter (the same form is also
> masculine), apparently on the basis that the second use is unambiguously
> neuter. The word also occurs in this epistle unambiguously in the
> masculine, with the meaning "spiritual person" (see 2:15, 14:37);
> and with
> the general meaning "spiritual" (see 10:3-4). See also its wider use in
> (e.g.) Ephesians 6:12.

> The standard lexica give as one of its meanings, "spiritual gift".

I consider this is a misleading statement. It may be a reference to BDAG
which gives "spiritual gift" as the meaning in the context of 1 Cor 12:1 and
14:1. In other contexts a different sense is indicated. One cannot separate
meaning from context.

> Which leads to my first question:
> Is there any use of the word PNEUMATIKOS (of course, outside of 1
> Corinthians 12:1 and 14:1) where it clearly has the meaning "spiritual
> gift"? In this connection one will need to note that when Paul wanted to
> express the meaning "spiritual gift" he explicitly added in the word

IMO, this leading question is asked from the position of faulty

> As noted above, almost all translations give "spiritual gifts" as its
> translation in 1 Corinthians 12:1 and 14:1. Those that insert section
> headings then almost all go further and insert here also
> "Spiritual Gifts"
> as the heading at the top of chapter 12. I am aware of only two
> exceptions to this pattern.
> J B Phillips's version translates in 12:1 as "in spiritual
> matters" (though in 14:1 he has "gifts of the Spirit").
> Richmond Lattimore, the renowned Classical scholar, renders 12:1 thusly:
> "But concerning matters of the spirit, brothers, I would not have you
> ignorant"; and for 14:1: "Pursue love, aspire to things spiritual".

Most translators, especially those who have general linguistic training,
have learned the importance of context.

Apart from context, PNEUMATIKWN can mean either spiritual things or
spiritual people, whereas PNEUMATIKA means spiritual things, again apart
from context. None of these mean "spiritual gifts" in and by themselves.

It is a different question to ask what Paul refers to when he uses the
words, and how they are best translated into another language, say English.

When looking at this question, one also needs to look at the companion word
CARISMA which may also be translated spiritual gifts. The word in itself
means gift whether spiritual or not. It is a gracious or generous gift, and
in the NT God is the giver of these gifts. It is not a material gift. For
material gifts, words like DOSIS, DOMA (from DIDWMI) or DWRON (from
DWREOMAI) are used. DWRON is usually a more formal material gift, often a
sacrifice, given by people to other people or to God. DWRHMA and the more
common DWREA do not refer to material gifts, and God is the giver.

CARISMA is comparable to DWREA. It is only Paul who uses the word CARISMA,
if we accept the usage in 1 Pet 4:10 to be influenced by Pauline usage.
Since Paul uses both DWREA and CARISMA it is interesting to compare his use
of these two. DWREA seems to be a more general word for what God has
presented to mankind, like Christ, the Holy Spirit or justification. CARISMA
has a focus on grace and it usually, and especially in the plural, refers to
something given to an individual in order for that person to be a more
effective servant of Christ. In Danish we use the word "gracegift" here, and
this word will in the context of Rom 12 and 1 Cor 12,14 refer to what you in
English call "spiritual gifts".

PNEUMATIKON in itself does not mean spiritual gift, nor does CARISMA. But
when the two words are combined, we get the meaning "spiritual gift". Paul
makes this combination the first time he uses it in Romans: 1:11 METADW

In 1 Cor 12, Paul starts in verse 1 with an introduction indicating that he
is going to talk about "spiritual things", but already in verse 4 he
specifies what kind of spiritual things he has in mind, namely CARISMATWN
which are given by the Spirit. The context of chapter 12 as well as chapter
14 makes it clear that the topic is spiritual gifts as they are discussed in
these chapters.

From my perspective as a professional Bible translator, a translation that
translates PNEUMATIKWN in v. 1 as "spiritual things" or "spiritual people"
indicates a lack of awareness of the importance of context for meaningful
translation. Or we could say that their goal is not to produce a linguistic,
contextually accurate translation, but a decontextualized lexical
translation. I am hesitant to call this last type of translation an accurate
or faithful translation.

A more accurate and faithful rendering of the intention of Paul is to
translate it already in v. 1 as "spiritual gifts", and most English
translations rightly do so. The same applies to 14:1.

I am not expecting agreement by everyone on these comments, but this is my
perspective, FWIW.

Iver Larsen

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