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

From: Frank Gee (frankrgee@outpost.net.au)
Date: Wed Oct 03 2001 - 05:01:06 EDT

On Wednesday, October 03, 2001 12:31 PM, my esteemed mentor Dr Ward Powers
posted two questions about PNEUMATIKOS.
As my first excursion onto the List, after a fair period of "lurking", here
are a couple of small contributions relating to the second question, which

>Are any b-greekers able to point me to any other translations which do NOT
>render PNEUMATIKOS in either 12:1 or 14:1 as "spiritual gifts"?

In his somewhat idiosyncratic translation of the Bible (1903/1938), Ferrar
Fenton has this for I Cor. 14:1:
        "Follow after friendship; but earnestly desire mental powers, and
especially those enabling you to instruct.
        For the speaker in a foreign language does not speak to men, but to
Perhaps this (somewhat minimally) fits the category of what is sought,
albeit via an almost bizarre "secularising" of TA PNEUMATIKA.

Dr Powers and other hELLHNISTAI may be intrigued, incidentally, by Ferrar
Fenton's rendering of verses 4 and 5: "The linguist instructs himself; but
the preacher instructs the assembly. And I wish you were all linguists; but
I would rather that you might all be preachers; for the preacher is greater
than the linguist."

So perhaps I should stick with being a preacher, after all!? :-)

The Indonesian Bible Society's KABAR BAIK UNTUK MASA KINI (their
equivalent of the TEV) renders TA PNEUMATIKA in I Cor 14:1 as
direct equivalent of the New Living Translation's "the special abilities the
Holy Spirit gives".

Now all of the above certainly are different from the phrase "spiritual
gifts", though it seems to me that they are all essentially paraphrases of
the same idea. So I move to two items which I hope more directly fit what
Dr Powers is looking for. They both suggest a wider semantic field than the
English phrase under scrutiny:

1. The first phrase of 1 Cor 12:1 is rendered "Now about THE
by Rev Alfred Marshall in his interlinear translation included in Bagster's

2. Eugene Peterson in THE MESSAGE (Navpress 1993, 1995) renders the
same phrase in the following interesting way:
        "What I want to talk about now is the various ways God's Spirit gets
worked into our lives."

Now although some of Peterson's turns of phrase may fairly be viewed as not
only idiosyncratic but even verging on the wild side, I believe this
intriguing rendering should not be quickly dismissed. An idea or two to
show why I think so:

A. For starters, this translation cannot be simply construed as a
paraphrase for the idea of (Spiritual) GIFTS, as is probably the case for
the first few versions I mentioned above.

B. A text-linguistic approach to this question will encourage us to weigh
the co-text(s) of this phrase, from close at hand to the wider-ranging
co-texts in this epistle. For example:
CO-TEXT 1: Verses 2 and 3.
It seems to me that Peterson's version (together with others suggesting a
wider semantic field for TWN PNEUMATIKWN) provides a smoother transition to
the statements in verses 2 and 3, which otherwise would seem to constitute a
rather jarring interruption to the flow of thought, especially the first
part of verse 3. A "wider" understanding of TA PNEUMATIKA might provide a
referential context able to accommodate the curse-utterance there referred
to, which despite all the ingenuity of commentators I find hard to reconcile
with or conceptualise within the practice of any Christian congregation's
actual exercising of "spiritual gifts".
CO-TEXT 2: Verses 4 to 7.
I haven't had the time to look at commentaries on this, but my tentative
observation goes like this:
Structurally verses 4 to 6 consist of three adversative "sentences"
coordinated by the conjunction KAI. The second clause in each of these both
contrast with the preceding concept of variations and provides the unifying
theme of the working of the (same) Spirit/Lord/God (a great Trinitarian
What is interesting to me is that the surface-structure coordinating of
(the first parts of) these sentences suggests that Paul presents their
subject noun-phrases as disrete entities, rather than variant expressions of
the same concept. I base this on the observation that asyndetic collocation
of noun-phrases (apposition) tends to encode equivalence, whereas a
stringing of noun-phrases with KAI normally indicates composition (ie
different conceptual entities).
What is of interest in this analysis is that the CARISMATA of verse 4
apparently constitute only one of three different groupings of items
means in verse 1, if it is (as I believe) expounded in verses 4 to 7 (and
beyond), it seems unlikely that its reference is exhaused by equation with

This surmise is strengthened by analysis of what follows these three verses.
Verse 7 acts as a bridge between verses 4 to 6 and what follows. hEKASTWi
functions anaphorically, with reference both to the theme of diffentiation
[DIAIRESEIS] and probably to the persons-as-recipients implicit in EN PASIN.
The singular passive verb DIDOTAI with its subject noun phrase hH FANERWSIS
TOU PNEUMATOU is expounded in its repetitions (mostly elliptical) in the
following verses, which enumerate different spiritual activities manifested
in the congregation. But this is not its only function. It also, as is
shown by its collocation with its own indirect object hEKASTWi, serves to
summarise the three verses which precede it.
For our purposes what is significant about this is that hH FANERWSIS TOU
PNEUMATOU is the summarising re-expression of (the ideas referred to in)
all three noun phrases which are the subjects in the first clauses of verses
4, 5 and 6.

Summary of tentative conclusions:
a. Structurally, the most likely direct equivalent (if any) of TWN
PNEUMATIKWN in verse 1, is hH FANERWSIS TOU PNEUMATOU (found in the
developmental bridge-verse 7);
b. This subject phrase of verse 7 has a wider reference than any of the
individual subject phrases beginning verses 4, 5 and 6.
c. (In other words) the subject phrase of verse 4 [DIAI... CARISMATWN]
is narrower in its reference than the subject of
verse 7.
d. (Therefore) CARISMATWN has a narrower reference than whatever is
meant by TWN PNEUMATIKWN in verse 1.
e. (And so) "spiritual gifts" is not an adequate or appropriate
translation for the phrase TWN PNEUMATIKWN in that verse (1).

This is not to say that I am necessarily endorsing the translation offered
by Eugene Peterson. It's just that his effort seems to be on the right
track, in not making a simple equation between the theme introduced in verse
1 and "spiritual gifts".

I really must now get back to my work, which has to do with the application
of Tagmemics principles to NT exegesis. If anyone is aware of any
accessible books or articles fruitfully applying the Tagmemics approach as
developed by the Pikes and Robert Longacre (or other SIL folk), to
NON-NARRATIVE texts, I'd be grateful to hear from you.


Frank Gee

(Rev.) Frank Gee
Research student
Minister in Charge,
Anglican Parish of Jamberoo,
New South Wales, Australia
email: frankrgee@outpost.net.au

----- Original Message -----
From: B. Ward Powers <bwpowers@optusnet.com.au>
To: Biblical Greek <b-greek@franklin.oit.unc.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2001 12:31 PM
Subject: [b-greek] What To Do With PNEUMATIKOS

> 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". Is this
> a case of circular reasoning? (Thusly: In 1 Corinthians 12:1 and 14:1 the
> word PNEUMATIKOS is being used to mean "spiritual gift". Therefore
> "spiritual gift" is part of its area of meaning. That is how we know it is
> valid to translate it in 12:1 and 14:1 as "spiritual gift".)
> Now a conclusion reached by a circular argument may possibly be correct.
> But it has to be established as correct by something outside of and
> independent of such circular reasoning: the circular reasoning does not
> establish it.
> 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
> 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"
> 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".
> Here then is my second question:
> Are any b-greekers able to point me to any other translations which do NOT
> render PNEUMATIKOS in either 12:1 or 14:1 as "spiritual gifts"?
> I am of course well aware of the exegetical and theological significance
> this question: 12:1 and 14:1 are the only verses in the NT which give
> validation to the concept of "spiritual gifts", with all the connotations
> which have attached to this term. Elsewhere one only has "gift", CARISMA
> DWREA-DWRHMA-DWRON, which do not carry the special meaning "spiritual" but
> can refer to any kind of gifting. But please note: I am not wanting to
> initiate a theological discussion; I only want to raise the question of
> validity of "spiritual gift" as a translation for PNEUMATIKOS.
> Regards,
> Ward
> http://www.netspace.net.au/~bwpowers
> Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-8714-7255
> 259A Trafalgar Street Phone (Australia): (02) 8714-7255
> PETERSHAM NSW 2049 email: bwpowers@optusnet.com.au
> AUSTRALIA. Director, Tyndale College
> ---
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