1 Corinthians Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. Pursue love! However, keep on eagerly seeking the things of the Spirit; and especially seek to be able to prophesy.
2. For someone speaking in a tongue is not speaking to people but to God, because no one can understand, since he is uttering mysteries in the power of the Spirit.
3. But someone prophesying is speaking to people, edifying, encouraging and comforting them.
4. A person speaking in a tongue does edify himself, but a person prophesying edifies the congregation.
5. I wish you would all speak in tongues, but even more I wish you would all prophesy. The person who prophesies is greater than the person who speaks in tongues, unless someone gives an interpretation, so that the congregation can be edified.
Given the framework of love (Chapter 13), it is desirable to keep on eagerly seeking the things of the Spirit (12:1 &N), especially... to be able to prophesy, for the gift of prophecy (on what it is, see 12:8-10N, paragraph 6) is greater than the gift of tongues; however, the latter, plus interpretation, equals prophecy (v. 5). Prophecy is greater because it edifies the congregation, whereas speaking in tongues edifies only oneself —i although this is good, not bad ("...if I pray in a tongue, my spirit does pray,1' v. 14), so that Sha'ul can say, I wish you would all speak in tongues; and in this regard, as is so often the case, he himself sets the standard (v. 18). On the word "edify." see 10:1N.
6. Brothers, suppose I come to you now speaking in tongues. How can I be of benefit to you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?
7. Even with lifeless musical instruments, such as a flute or a harp, how will anyone recognize the melody if one note can’t be distinguished from another?
8. And if the bugle gives an unclear sound, who will get ready for battle?
9. It’s the same with you: how will anyone know what you are saying unless you use your tongue to produce intelligible speech? You will be talking to the air!
10. There are undoubtedly all kinds of sounds in the world, and none is altogether meaningless;
11. but if I don’t know what a person’s sounds mean, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker will be a foreigner to me.
12. Likewise with you: since you eagerly seek the things of the Spirit, seek especially what will help in edifying the congregation.
13. Therefore someone who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret.
14. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit does pray, but my mind is unproductive.
15. So, what about it? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.
16. Otherwise, if you are giving thanks with your spirit, how will someone who has not yet received much instruction be able to say, “Amen,” when you have finished giving thanks, since he doesn’t know what you are saying?
Amen. The Jewish influence on Christian worship practice is evident. The word means, "I affirm it. so be it, in truth," and its congregational use is found throughout the Tanakh. Sha'ul assumes the largely Gentile Corinthian church has adopted the practice of using that Hebrew word. Also see Mt 5:18N, Ro 9:5N.
17. For undoubtedly you are giving thanks very nicely, but the other person is not being edified.
18. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you,
19. but in a congregation meeting I would rather say five words with my mind in order to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue!
20. Brothers, don’t be children in your thinking. In evil, be like infants; but in your thinking, be grown-up.
21. In the Torah it is written, "By other tongues, by the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people. But even then they will not listen to me", - says Adonai.
Sha'ul makes a midrash on this text from Isaiah; its p'shat (plain sense in context; see Mt 2:15N) has nothing to do with the gift of tongues. Here the Torah means the whole Tanakh, not just the Five Books of Moses (see Mt 5:17N).
22. Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers.
23. So if the whole congregation comes together with everybody speaking in tongues, and uninstructed people or unbelievers come in, won’t they say you’re crazy?
24. But if you all prophesy, and some unbeliever or uninstructed person enters, he is convicted of sin by all, he is brought under judgment by all,
25. and the secrets of his heart are laid bare; so he falls on his face and worships God, saying, “God is really here among you!”
Won't they say you're crazy? Some Christian groups seem oblivious to the effect their practices have on outsiders. They form a closed circle and encourage one another in a style which, rather than conveying love (Chapter 13) or even judgment to outsiders, conveys only weirdness. Such groups should reevaluate their practices in terms of evangelistic effectiveness: are people who could be won to faith being turned away by the oddness of it all? In this regard, Sha'ul is a sensible man (see also vv. 33,40).
Though the gift of tongues (12:8-10N, paragraph 8) has value, it can be abused in public, so that the congregation is not edified.
26. What is our conclusion, brothers? Whenever you come together, let everyone be ready with a psalm or a teaching or a revelation, or ready to use his gift of tongues or give an interpretation; but let everything be for edification.
27. If the gift of tongues is exercised, let it be by two or at most three, and each in turn; and let someone interpret.
28. And if there is no one present who can interpret, let the people who speak in tongues keep silent when the congregation meets — they can speak to themselves and to God.
29. Let two or three prophets speak, while the others weigh what is said.
30. And if something is revealed to a prophet who is sitting down, let the first one be silent.
31. For you can all prophesy one by one, with the result that all will learn something and all will be encouraged.
32. Also, the prophets’ spirits are under the prophets’ control;
33. for God is not a God of unruliness but of shalom. As in all the congregations of God’s people,
The prophets' spirits are under the prophets' control. This can mean either that each individual prophet ought not to let himself be carried away into unseemly behavior, or that the prophets as a group can exercise control as needed over individuals among their number. But clearly uncontrolled ecstatic utterance has no place in Messianic worship practice, for God is not a God of unruliness but of shalom (peace, wholeness, health, integrity).
34. let the wives remain silent when the congregation meets; they are certainly not permitted to speak out. Rather, let them remain subordinate, as also the Torah says;
35. and if there is something they want to know, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for a woman to speak out in a congregational meeting.
Wives... speak out. Or, "women... speak," which could imply that Sha'ul is prohibiting women from prophesying, preaching, teaching or praying (or possibly, given the context, from speaking in tongues) in a congregational meeting. But we know that there were women prophets (Ac 21:9), that in this very letter Sha'ul permits women to pray and prophesy in public meetings (11:5), and, of course, that not all women have husbands whom they can ask at home. The last point is decisive and shows that Sha'ul is answering a question (7:1) the Corinthians asked about wives' discussing with their husbands what is being said while it is being said. This would disturb decorum even if the wife were sitting next to her husband; but if the universal Jewish practice of the time (and of Orthodox congregations today) was followed, wherein women and men are seated separately in the synagogue, it would obviously be intolerable to have wives and husbands yelling at each other across the m'chitzah (dividing wall). Sha'ul places his instruction precisely here in the letter because it is here that he is dealing with matters of decorum and public order in congregational meetings; his advice seems curt and abrupt only if one ignores that he has already discussed the applicable general principles and that (by my assumption) his questioners are already familiar with the context of the problem, since they brought it up in the first place. If we could not supply such a framework for these verses, we might have to conclude, as some do, that Sha'ul demeans women (seell:3-15&NN).
As the Torah also says. See v. 21N, Ro 3:19N and Mt 5:17&N. If Sha'ul means the Five Books of Moses, he may be thinking of Genesis 3:16 (compare Ep 5:22, 1 Ti 2:8-15). If he is thinking of the Tanakh as a whole, there are a number of places where a subordinate role for women is assumed or prescribed, although other places envision an equal or superior role; see the article on "Woman" in the Encyclopedia Judaica for references. The Talmud reports that Rabbi El'azar ben-'Azaryah (early 2nd century) gave a homily on the verse, "Assemble the people, the men and the women and the little ones" (Deuteronomy 31:10), in which he said, "If the men came to learn, the women came to hear" (Chagigah 3a). To "learn" in Judaism is to study by discussing and thus to understand fully, because one's questions get answered; whereas to "hear" is to listen to the interchange but not participate in it.
36. Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?
37. If anyone thinks he is a prophet or is endowed with the Spirit, let him acknowledge that what I am writing you is a command of the Lord.
38. But if someone doesn’t recognize this, then let him remain unrecognized.
Did the word of God originate with you Gentiles? No, it originated with the Jewish people. This may be an additional reason for following Jewish worship practices as outlined in the preceding note. But the main point of these three verses is that the Corinthians have not arrived at a superior spiritual state giving them the right to invent practices inconsistent with genuine spirituality or with the praxis of other believers (compare 3:1-3,4:7-8, 8: lb-3, 11:16). On "command of the Lord." see 7:6N.
39. So, my brothers, eagerly seek to prophesy; and do not forbid speaking in tongues;
40. but let all things be done in a proper and orderly way.
Sha'ul gives more specific guidelines like those of 7:10-15; 10:25-28; 11:6,28,33-34; and vv. 26-35 of this chapter. Then he adds "rules of order" such as may be needed to assure that all things be done in a proper and orderly way. All these contribute content to what I, for one, am willing to call the Oral Torah of the Messianic Community (see Ac 21:2IN for more on this idea). Actually it is Written Torah, since it is written here in the New Testament.
Only after teaching broadly and presenting general principles in 12:1-14:25 does Sha'ul give specific rules for the use of the verbal spiritual gifts (prophecy, tongues and interpretation) in congregational meetings. In so doing he follows his pattern at 8:1-11:1; there too the instructions came at the end of the discussion.
- chapter 1
- chapter 2
- chapter 3
- chapter 4
- chapter 5
- chapter 6
- chapter 7
- chapter 8
- chapter 9
- chapter 10
- chapter 11
- chapter 12
- chapter 13
- chapter 14
- chapter 15
- chapter 16