1 Corinthians Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 13
1. I may speak in the tongues of men, even angels;
but if I lack love, I have become merely
blaring brass or a cymbal clanging.
v. 13:1-14: la This hymn, which can stand alone yet fits its context perfectly, is the great "love chapter," just as Messianic Jews 11 is the great "faith chapter" and Chapter 15 below the great "resurrection chapter." Love is "the best way of all" (12:31) because it "fulfills the entire Torah" (Ro 13:8-10, Ga 5:14; see also Mt 22:34-40, Ya 2:8). The word in Greek for "love" is "agape." defined in the New Testament (by passages such as this chapter, Yo 3:16, 17:23-26 and 1 Yn 2:5-4:21) as giving of and from oneself: love expresses itself in acts of benevolence, kindness and mercy in which heart, mind and will are united because they are motivated and empowered by God. Such love goes beyond what one can generate of oneself, because it has its origin in God. When such love is experienced by one person from another, the experience is of God's love channeled through that other.

Some Christian commentators stress the supposed uniqueness and superiority of agape over the akavah ("love") and chesed ("loving-kindness") of the Tanakh. But this is surely a false distinction, for the love of God is not different now from what it was then; nor is it more available now than before. This false differentiation has opened the way for Jewish critics such as Leo Baeck (in The Essence of Judaism) to present New Testament religion as romantic, based on mere feelings. Rather, the New Testament expositions of agape clarify the nature of the very ahavah and chesed spoken of in the Tanakh. 

2. I may have the gift of prophecy,
I may fathom all mysteries, know all things,
have all faith — enough to move mountains; but if I lack love, I am nothing.
3. I may give away everything that I own,
I may even hand over my body to be burned;
but if I lack love, I gain nothing.
Manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit may have value for others yet be without value for the person manifesting them unless accompanied by love. There is no ground for pride in possessing a gift from the Spirit. I may give away everything I own, and others may gain thereby, but if I lack love, 1 gain nothing. Since such love, as defined above, puts aside all concern with gain, we are faced with the paradox of love: to gain its benefits one must lose all concern for gaining them. Compare Lk 9:24, Yn 12:24-26. My body to be burned {'ma kauthesomai), as found in most modern English translations, or: "my body so that I can glory" (ina kauchesod), as in the UBS Greek New Testament. Both readings have strong and early manuscript evidence. 

4. Love is patient and kind, not jealous, not boastful,
5. not proud, rude or selfish, not easily angered,
and it keeps no record of wrongs.
6. Love does not gloat over other people’s sins
but takes its delight in the truth.
7. Love always bears up, always trusts,
always hopes, always endures.
This description of love is not of its outward manifestations but of its inward properties. Sha'ul does not, however, define love as inward feelings, because love must act (1 Yn 2:5-4:21) — faith works itself out in love (Ga 5:6). It is precisely because love produces deeds that it fulfills the Torah (Ro 13:8-10&N). 

8. Love never ends; but prophecies will pass,
tongues will cease, knowledge will pass.
v. 13:8-14: la Prophecies, tongues, knowledge and the other gifts will pass away when the perfect comes (that is, when Yeshua returns; but see last part of 12:8-10N). There will be no need then for such gifts; they are for this world only, but what lasts on into the next, says Sha'ul, following a common rabbinic pattern of comparing the two worlds, is trust (faith), hope and love. These are all inner spiritual qualities, but because love is an inner state that results in outward action, the greatest of them is love. For this reason, his final advice on the matter is, "Pursue love." 

9. For our knowledge is partial, and our prophecy partial;
10. but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass.
11. When I was a child, I spoke like a child,
thought like a child, argued like a child;
now that I have become a man,
I have finished with childish ways.
12. For now we see obscurely in a mirror,
but then it will be face to face.
Now I know partly; then I will know fully,
just as God has fully known me.
Now we see obscurely in a mirror. Compare the cave allegory in Plato's Republic. In the Talmud appears the following aggadic passage: "Abaye said the world contains 36 righteous men, but Raba said 18,000. No contradiction — the 36 see the Holy One, blessed be he, in a bright mirror, while the 18,000 contemplate him in a dim one." (Sanhedrin 97b, condensed) 

13. But for now, three things last —
trust, hope, love;
and the greatest of these is love.
Three things last: trust, hope, love. The formula of "three great things" is common in Jewish literature. The same three appear in Colossians 1:4-5. Compare Micah 6:8, and this example from the Mishna:

"Rabban Shim'on ben-Gamli'el said, "The world is sustained by three things: judgment, truth and peace, as it is said, "Execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates" (Zechariah 8:l6).""(Avot 1:18)

See also Pirkey-Avot 1:2, quoted in Ro 12:8-21N 

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