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1 Cor 11:1-5

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapter 11
Previous page: Chapters 8-10                      Next page: Chapters 12-14


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

IV. Regulation of Meetings (Chapter 11)
• Topic 6: "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye ... keep the ordinances as I delivered them unto you ..." (11:2)

• head coverings to be worn by women when praying and prophesying (11:1-16)

• Topic 7: "When ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you ..." (11:18)

• Last Supper is to be partaken worthily and not as a meal (11:17-34)

Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 11: Paul and Women. Some have characterized Paul as a chauvinist or even a misogynist (a hater of women) because of statements he makes in this chapter as well as 1 Cor 14. Here are a few points to keep in mind when seeking to understand these chapters in a broader context.
1. Paul belonged to a culture that was more patriarchal than our own. Although the LDS church also has a hierarchal order within the priesthood, a century and a half of feminist progress has made our current culture far more sensitive to issues of equal rights. Paul on the other hand, had been trained in the Jewish Rabbinical order, which emphasized the submission and inequality of women to men. When Paul speaks of the subservience of women, we must remember the society he lived in.
2. Paul’s writings about women are inconsistent. For example, in verse 5 of this chapter, he speaks of women prophesying. This seems to contradict statements he makes in 1 Cor 14:34 about women keeping silence in the churches.
3. Paul speaks frequently with great love and respect for certain women actively working in the ministry. Women seemed to play a very active role in some of the missionary efforts in which Paul was involved. Romans 16:1-4 mentions three women, Phoebe, Priscilla, and Aquilla, whom he describes as “fellow workers in Christ” and “servants in the church.” This seems to indicate that women had an important role in the early church, both as sister missionaries, and in a ministry perhaps similar to our Relief Society.
  • 1 Cor 11:4-5. It was the practice in Greece (and Corinth) for men to worship God uncovered, whereas Jews, both ancient and modern, cover their head during their worship. Paul’s statements with regards to this practice are purely cultural, and perhaps only applied to customs unique to the Corinthians. Paul understood the importance of regional cultural practices, and advises the Saints to adhere to them, rather than stirring things up in ways that might be offensive to some. It is also interesting to note that most women in the Middle East still veil their heads in the presence of men.
  • 1 Cor 11:8-9. Paul uses an argument from the story of the Garden of Eden in Gen 2:23 to make his point. Eve was taken from Adam's rib, not the other way around. In verse 9, Paul alludes to the LDS idea that the Eve's purpose was to help Adam. Interestingly, this idea is not found in Genesis, neither is it found in Abraham or Moses.
  • 1 Cor 11:11-12. Paul delivers what seems to be a clarification of his previous statements about the place of women in the church. Perhaps Paul understood that his comments might lead to unrightious dominion. Therefore, he reminds the Saints of the equality of men and women before God: "Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman withoug the man...for as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman." Some commentators who wish to emphasize Paul's chauvanistic beliefs cite verses 8 and 9, but leave out Paul's clarifications in verses 11 and 12.
Elsewhere, in Gal 3:28 Paul says "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Paul understood that men and women are equal before God, inspite of the different roles they have been given.
  • 1 Cor 11:16. Scholars disagree on the exact meaning of this scripture. Some believe that Paul is saying "we have no custom to be contentious." Others believe "custom" refers to women veiling their heads and that Paul insists upon this custom even in the face of contention. [1]
However, given the fact that Paul had just addressed the custom of eating of meat offered unto idols in a conciliatory, non-confrontational tone, it is possible Paul was trying to say "we should not enforce our views of this custom upon people who are contentious about it. It is more important to keep peace and harmony in the church, than it is to enforce non-essential customs upon people."
  • 1 Cor 11:17. Paul passes on to a new subject, prefacing it with a strong rebuke. He suggests that their congregational meetings leave them worse off, not better. Unlike his other admonitions which gave due praise for the Corinthian's efforts on a particular issue, with regards to this issue, Paul says "I praise you not."
  • 1 Cor 11:21-22. It was the Corinthian's custom to gather together to eat a meal as part of their sacramental ritual, as Jesus and his apostles did at the feast of the Passover. Most likely members were bringing their own food and eating it in front of others who were poor or had brought none to eat. Perhaps the pot-luck dinner had not yet been invented. Paul sharply condemns their shameless behavior in front of those that "have not" and goes on to remind them of the true spirit of the sacrament.
  • 1 Cor 11:27. It is common to misinterpret "unworthily" in this scripture. When taken out of context, "unworthy" could mean any type of sinful activity, and suggest that being a sinner makes a person unworthy of partaking of the sacrament. However, Paul in this case was referring to the disrespect and irreverence demonstrated by the Corinthians as they partook of the sacrament together. (See verses 21- 22) Paul is admonishing the Saints to administer this ordinance in a reverent and appropriate way, otherwise they are as guilty as those who crucified the Lord.
There are other places in the scriptures, such as 3 Ne 18:29 and Morm 9:28 that suggest that there should be a baseline of "worthiness" in order to partake of the sacrament. Current LDS policy states that members who have committed serious sins, or who are excommunicated or disfellowshiped are unworthy to partake of the sacrament. We also have a famous anecdote about President Kimball forgoing the sacrament after being distracted from reverent contemplation by the singing of the birds outside the window. Some Saints may choose not to partake because they don't feel they have achieved the proper frame of mind. Paul would have agreed on these points, but his actual meaning is different in this particular case.
It is also important to recognize that in a certain sense, we are all unworthy before God, and that partaking of the sacrament is an important part of receiving a remission of our sins and becoming worthy. We need not be perfect in order to partake of the sacrament. We only need be penitent and humble. God promises all those who come unto Him will be forgiven, and we can expect to receive that forgiveness each week at the sacrament table, as we come with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
It is important to meet a "level" of personal righteousness when partaking of the sacrament, but also the importance of HOW we partake of it.
  • 1 Cor 11:28. By "examine" Paul means to enter the proper frame of mind, examine our belief in Christ, engage in self-introspection, and partake in a reverent and contemplative manner.
  • 1 Cor 11:29. The word "damnation" should more accurately be translated "judgement" or "condemnation." This softens the meaning considerably, as the word "damnation" denotes an eternal state of being, and "condemnation" denotes what may only be temporary. The mistranslation of scripture is of particular importance to various Protestant commentators who see the scripture as discouraging members from partaking in weekly communion when they should be.
In the case of the LDS church, those who deem themselves "unworthy" to partake of the sacrament often skip church all together so as not to be embarrassed being seen not partaking. If we notice those among our flock who do not partake of the sacrament, we should be careful not to judge them, but rather embrace them as friends and fellow Saints. Their decision not to partake amounts to a public confession of unworthiness and as such, it requires great courage and desire to change. These Saints should be admired for their integrity and their determination to continue to come to church in spite of not being able to fully participate. There are many others who choose to partake unworthily, rather than risk embarrassment in front of fellow members.
  • 1 Cor 11:31-32. By "judge ourselves" Paul repeats the idea he gave in verse 28 in different words: As we partake of the sacrament, we should judge, or examine ourselves, and if we do, we will escape the judgement of God. However, Paul then says that being judged by God is not necessarily a bad thing (verse 29), for if God judges and chastens us today, we will not be condemned with the world at the last day.
Paul's views on self-judgement here offer a counterpoint to a previous argument he made on the frailty of human judgement in 1 Cor 4:3. The apparent contradiction arises from the fact that in this scripture, Paul speaks of judgement exclusively associated with partaking the sacrament, whereas 1 Cor 4 speaks of judgement we pass on ourselves and others in daily life, which is bound to be faulty, self-serving, or biased. Perhaps the sacrament offers us the best possible circumstances to judge ourselves in righteousness, if we truly understand what the symbols of the sacrament mean.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 11:10: Power on her head. Summarizing M. D. Hooker’s 1964 article in New Testament Studies titled “Authority on Her Head: An Examination of 1 Cor 11:10”, Julie M. Smith suggests on this T&S blog thread that a woman covering her head when praying or prophesying (v. 5) symbolizes suspension of the authority man is given over the woman, signifying the direct access Eve is given to God in these acts (see here for follow-up discussion at the Spinozist Mormon blog):
"When the woman chooses to veil, she is choosing to exercise power or control over her head--physical and metaphorical. In the context of praying or prophesying, a veiled woman is one in a direct relationship with God--man is no longer her head. Further, remember that the veiling is not done all the time, but only while engaging in prayer or prophecy. This is important: it points out that, particularly while in that relationship, the woman has direct access to God and, as her physical head is covered, so her metaphorical head (i.e., man) is covered or denied."
  • 1 Cor 11:31: Judging ourselves. See this post for discussion about God judging us vs. judging ourselves. In particular, note BrianJ's comment #20 which sketches one way to read this verse.

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Chapters 8-10                      Next page: Chapters 12-14

1 Cor 11:6-10

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapter 11
Previous page: Chapters 8-10                      Next page: Chapters 12-14


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

IV. Regulation of Meetings (Chapter 11)
• Topic 6: "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye ... keep the ordinances as I delivered them unto you ..." (11:2)

• head coverings to be worn by women when praying and prophesying (11:1-16)

• Topic 7: "When ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you ..." (11:18)

• Last Supper is to be partaken worthily and not as a meal (11:17-34)

Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 11: Paul and Women. Some have characterized Paul as a chauvinist or even a misogynist (a hater of women) because of statements he makes in this chapter as well as 1 Cor 14. Here are a few points to keep in mind when seeking to understand these chapters in a broader context.
1. Paul belonged to a culture that was more patriarchal than our own. Although the LDS church also has a hierarchal order within the priesthood, a century and a half of feminist progress has made our current culture far more sensitive to issues of equal rights. Paul on the other hand, had been trained in the Jewish Rabbinical order, which emphasized the submission and inequality of women to men. When Paul speaks of the subservience of women, we must remember the society he lived in.
2. Paul’s writings about women are inconsistent. For example, in verse 5 of this chapter, he speaks of women prophesying. This seems to contradict statements he makes in 1 Cor 14:34 about women keeping silence in the churches.
3. Paul speaks frequently with great love and respect for certain women actively working in the ministry. Women seemed to play a very active role in some of the missionary efforts in which Paul was involved. Romans 16:1-4 mentions three women, Phoebe, Priscilla, and Aquilla, whom he describes as “fellow workers in Christ” and “servants in the church.” This seems to indicate that women had an important role in the early church, both as sister missionaries, and in a ministry perhaps similar to our Relief Society.
  • 1 Cor 11:4-5. It was the practice in Greece (and Corinth) for men to worship God uncovered, whereas Jews, both ancient and modern, cover their head during their worship. Paul’s statements with regards to this practice are purely cultural, and perhaps only applied to customs unique to the Corinthians. Paul understood the importance of regional cultural practices, and advises the Saints to adhere to them, rather than stirring things up in ways that might be offensive to some. It is also interesting to note that most women in the Middle East still veil their heads in the presence of men.
  • 1 Cor 11:8-9. Paul uses an argument from the story of the Garden of Eden in Gen 2:23 to make his point. Eve was taken from Adam's rib, not the other way around. In verse 9, Paul alludes to the LDS idea that the Eve's purpose was to help Adam. Interestingly, this idea is not found in Genesis, neither is it found in Abraham or Moses.
  • 1 Cor 11:11-12. Paul delivers what seems to be a clarification of his previous statements about the place of women in the church. Perhaps Paul understood that his comments might lead to unrightious dominion. Therefore, he reminds the Saints of the equality of men and women before God: "Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman withoug the man...for as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman." Some commentators who wish to emphasize Paul's chauvanistic beliefs cite verses 8 and 9, but leave out Paul's clarifications in verses 11 and 12.
Elsewhere, in Gal 3:28 Paul says "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Paul understood that men and women are equal before God, inspite of the different roles they have been given.
  • 1 Cor 11:16. Scholars disagree on the exact meaning of this scripture. Some believe that Paul is saying "we have no custom to be contentious." Others believe "custom" refers to women veiling their heads and that Paul insists upon this custom even in the face of contention. [2]
However, given the fact that Paul had just addressed the custom of eating of meat offered unto idols in a conciliatory, non-confrontational tone, it is possible Paul was trying to say "we should not enforce our views of this custom upon people who are contentious about it. It is more important to keep peace and harmony in the church, than it is to enforce non-essential customs upon people."
  • 1 Cor 11:17. Paul passes on to a new subject, prefacing it with a strong rebuke. He suggests that their congregational meetings leave them worse off, not better. Unlike his other admonitions which gave due praise for the Corinthian's efforts on a particular issue, with regards to this issue, Paul says "I praise you not."
  • 1 Cor 11:21-22. It was the Corinthian's custom to gather together to eat a meal as part of their sacramental ritual, as Jesus and his apostles did at the feast of the Passover. Most likely members were bringing their own food and eating it in front of others who were poor or had brought none to eat. Perhaps the pot-luck dinner had not yet been invented. Paul sharply condemns their shameless behavior in front of those that "have not" and goes on to remind them of the true spirit of the sacrament.
  • 1 Cor 11:27. It is common to misinterpret "unworthily" in this scripture. When taken out of context, "unworthy" could mean any type of sinful activity, and suggest that being a sinner makes a person unworthy of partaking of the sacrament. However, Paul in this case was referring to the disrespect and irreverence demonstrated by the Corinthians as they partook of the sacrament together. (See verses 21- 22) Paul is admonishing the Saints to administer this ordinance in a reverent and appropriate way, otherwise they are as guilty as those who crucified the Lord.
There are other places in the scriptures, such as 3 Ne 18:29 and Morm 9:28 that suggest that there should be a baseline of "worthiness" in order to partake of the sacrament. Current LDS policy states that members who have committed serious sins, or who are excommunicated or disfellowshiped are unworthy to partake of the sacrament. We also have a famous anecdote about President Kimball forgoing the sacrament after being distracted from reverent contemplation by the singing of the birds outside the window. Some Saints may choose not to partake because they don't feel they have achieved the proper frame of mind. Paul would have agreed on these points, but his actual meaning is different in this particular case.
It is also important to recognize that in a certain sense, we are all unworthy before God, and that partaking of the sacrament is an important part of receiving a remission of our sins and becoming worthy. We need not be perfect in order to partake of the sacrament. We only need be penitent and humble. God promises all those who come unto Him will be forgiven, and we can expect to receive that forgiveness each week at the sacrament table, as we come with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
It is important to meet a "level" of personal righteousness when partaking of the sacrament, but also the importance of HOW we partake of it.
  • 1 Cor 11:28. By "examine" Paul means to enter the proper frame of mind, examine our belief in Christ, engage in self-introspection, and partake in a reverent and contemplative manner.
  • 1 Cor 11:29. The word "damnation" should more accurately be translated "judgement" or "condemnation." This softens the meaning considerably, as the word "damnation" denotes an eternal state of being, and "condemnation" denotes what may only be temporary. The mistranslation of scripture is of particular importance to various Protestant commentators who see the scripture as discouraging members from partaking in weekly communion when they should be.
In the case of the LDS church, those who deem themselves "unworthy" to partake of the sacrament often skip church all together so as not to be embarrassed being seen not partaking. If we notice those among our flock who do not partake of the sacrament, we should be careful not to judge them, but rather embrace them as friends and fellow Saints. Their decision not to partake amounts to a public confession of unworthiness and as such, it requires great courage and desire to change. These Saints should be admired for their integrity and their determination to continue to come to church in spite of not being able to fully participate. There are many others who choose to partake unworthily, rather than risk embarrassment in front of fellow members.
  • 1 Cor 11:31-32. By "judge ourselves" Paul repeats the idea he gave in verse 28 in different words: As we partake of the sacrament, we should judge, or examine ourselves, and if we do, we will escape the judgement of God. However, Paul then says that being judged by God is not necessarily a bad thing (verse 29), for if God judges and chastens us today, we will not be condemned with the world at the last day.
Paul's views on self-judgement here offer a counterpoint to a previous argument he made on the frailty of human judgement in 1 Cor 4:3. The apparent contradiction arises from the fact that in this scripture, Paul speaks of judgement exclusively associated with partaking the sacrament, whereas 1 Cor 4 speaks of judgement we pass on ourselves and others in daily life, which is bound to be faulty, self-serving, or biased. Perhaps the sacrament offers us the best possible circumstances to judge ourselves in righteousness, if we truly understand what the symbols of the sacrament mean.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 11:10: Power on her head. Summarizing M. D. Hooker’s 1964 article in New Testament Studies titled “Authority on Her Head: An Examination of 1 Cor 11:10”, Julie M. Smith suggests on this T&S blog thread that a woman covering her head when praying or prophesying (v. 5) symbolizes suspension of the authority man is given over the woman, signifying the direct access Eve is given to God in these acts (see here for follow-up discussion at the Spinozist Mormon blog):
"When the woman chooses to veil, she is choosing to exercise power or control over her head--physical and metaphorical. In the context of praying or prophesying, a veiled woman is one in a direct relationship with God--man is no longer her head. Further, remember that the veiling is not done all the time, but only while engaging in prayer or prophecy. This is important: it points out that, particularly while in that relationship, the woman has direct access to God and, as her physical head is covered, so her metaphorical head (i.e., man) is covered or denied."
  • 1 Cor 11:31: Judging ourselves. See this post for discussion about God judging us vs. judging ourselves. In particular, note BrianJ's comment #20 which sketches one way to read this verse.

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Chapters 8-10                      Next page: Chapters 12-14

1 Cor 11:11-15

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapter 11
Previous page: Chapters 8-10                      Next page: Chapters 12-14


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

IV. Regulation of Meetings (Chapter 11)
• Topic 6: "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye ... keep the ordinances as I delivered them unto you ..." (11:2)

• head coverings to be worn by women when praying and prophesying (11:1-16)

• Topic 7: "When ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you ..." (11:18)

• Last Supper is to be partaken worthily and not as a meal (11:17-34)

Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 11: Paul and Women. Some have characterized Paul as a chauvinist or even a misogynist (a hater of women) because of statements he makes in this chapter as well as 1 Cor 14. Here are a few points to keep in mind when seeking to understand these chapters in a broader context.
1. Paul belonged to a culture that was more patriarchal than our own. Although the LDS church also has a hierarchal order within the priesthood, a century and a half of feminist progress has made our current culture far more sensitive to issues of equal rights. Paul on the other hand, had been trained in the Jewish Rabbinical order, which emphasized the submission and inequality of women to men. When Paul speaks of the subservience of women, we must remember the society he lived in.
2. Paul’s writings about women are inconsistent. For example, in verse 5 of this chapter, he speaks of women prophesying. This seems to contradict statements he makes in 1 Cor 14:34 about women keeping silence in the churches.
3. Paul speaks frequently with great love and respect for certain women actively working in the ministry. Women seemed to play a very active role in some of the missionary efforts in which Paul was involved. Romans 16:1-4 mentions three women, Phoebe, Priscilla, and Aquilla, whom he describes as “fellow workers in Christ” and “servants in the church.” This seems to indicate that women had an important role in the early church, both as sister missionaries, and in a ministry perhaps similar to our Relief Society.
  • 1 Cor 11:4-5. It was the practice in Greece (and Corinth) for men to worship God uncovered, whereas Jews, both ancient and modern, cover their head during their worship. Paul’s statements with regards to this practice are purely cultural, and perhaps only applied to customs unique to the Corinthians. Paul understood the importance of regional cultural practices, and advises the Saints to adhere to them, rather than stirring things up in ways that might be offensive to some. It is also interesting to note that most women in the Middle East still veil their heads in the presence of men.
  • 1 Cor 11:8-9. Paul uses an argument from the story of the Garden of Eden in Gen 2:23 to make his point. Eve was taken from Adam's rib, not the other way around. In verse 9, Paul alludes to the LDS idea that the Eve's purpose was to help Adam. Interestingly, this idea is not found in Genesis, neither is it found in Abraham or Moses.
  • 1 Cor 11:11-12. Paul delivers what seems to be a clarification of his previous statements about the place of women in the church. Perhaps Paul understood that his comments might lead to unrightious dominion. Therefore, he reminds the Saints of the equality of men and women before God: "Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman withoug the man...for as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman." Some commentators who wish to emphasize Paul's chauvanistic beliefs cite verses 8 and 9, but leave out Paul's clarifications in verses 11 and 12.
Elsewhere, in Gal 3:28 Paul says "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Paul understood that men and women are equal before God, inspite of the different roles they have been given.
  • 1 Cor 11:16. Scholars disagree on the exact meaning of this scripture. Some believe that Paul is saying "we have no custom to be contentious." Others believe "custom" refers to women veiling their heads and that Paul insists upon this custom even in the face of contention. [3]
However, given the fact that Paul had just addressed the custom of eating of meat offered unto idols in a conciliatory, non-confrontational tone, it is possible Paul was trying to say "we should not enforce our views of this custom upon people who are contentious about it. It is more important to keep peace and harmony in the church, than it is to enforce non-essential customs upon people."
  • 1 Cor 11:17. Paul passes on to a new subject, prefacing it with a strong rebuke. He suggests that their congregational meetings leave them worse off, not better. Unlike his other admonitions which gave due praise for the Corinthian's efforts on a particular issue, with regards to this issue, Paul says "I praise you not."
  • 1 Cor 11:21-22. It was the Corinthian's custom to gather together to eat a meal as part of their sacramental ritual, as Jesus and his apostles did at the feast of the Passover. Most likely members were bringing their own food and eating it in front of others who were poor or had brought none to eat. Perhaps the pot-luck dinner had not yet been invented. Paul sharply condemns their shameless behavior in front of those that "have not" and goes on to remind them of the true spirit of the sacrament.
  • 1 Cor 11:27. It is common to misinterpret "unworthily" in this scripture. When taken out of context, "unworthy" could mean any type of sinful activity, and suggest that being a sinner makes a person unworthy of partaking of the sacrament. However, Paul in this case was referring to the disrespect and irreverence demonstrated by the Corinthians as they partook of the sacrament together. (See verses 21- 22) Paul is admonishing the Saints to administer this ordinance in a reverent and appropriate way, otherwise they are as guilty as those who crucified the Lord.
There are other places in the scriptures, such as 3 Ne 18:29 and Morm 9:28 that suggest that there should be a baseline of "worthiness" in order to partake of the sacrament. Current LDS policy states that members who have committed serious sins, or who are excommunicated or disfellowshiped are unworthy to partake of the sacrament. We also have a famous anecdote about President Kimball forgoing the sacrament after being distracted from reverent contemplation by the singing of the birds outside the window. Some Saints may choose not to partake because they don't feel they have achieved the proper frame of mind. Paul would have agreed on these points, but his actual meaning is different in this particular case.
It is also important to recognize that in a certain sense, we are all unworthy before God, and that partaking of the sacrament is an important part of receiving a remission of our sins and becoming worthy. We need not be perfect in order to partake of the sacrament. We only need be penitent and humble. God promises all those who come unto Him will be forgiven, and we can expect to receive that forgiveness each week at the sacrament table, as we come with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
It is important to meet a "level" of personal righteousness when partaking of the sacrament, but also the importance of HOW we partake of it.
  • 1 Cor 11:28. By "examine" Paul means to enter the proper frame of mind, examine our belief in Christ, engage in self-introspection, and partake in a reverent and contemplative manner.
  • 1 Cor 11:29. The word "damnation" should more accurately be translated "judgement" or "condemnation." This softens the meaning considerably, as the word "damnation" denotes an eternal state of being, and "condemnation" denotes what may only be temporary. The mistranslation of scripture is of particular importance to various Protestant commentators who see the scripture as discouraging members from partaking in weekly communion when they should be.
In the case of the LDS church, those who deem themselves "unworthy" to partake of the sacrament often skip church all together so as not to be embarrassed being seen not partaking. If we notice those among our flock who do not partake of the sacrament, we should be careful not to judge them, but rather embrace them as friends and fellow Saints. Their decision not to partake amounts to a public confession of unworthiness and as such, it requires great courage and desire to change. These Saints should be admired for their integrity and their determination to continue to come to church in spite of not being able to fully participate. There are many others who choose to partake unworthily, rather than risk embarrassment in front of fellow members.
  • 1 Cor 11:31-32. By "judge ourselves" Paul repeats the idea he gave in verse 28 in different words: As we partake of the sacrament, we should judge, or examine ourselves, and if we do, we will escape the judgement of God. However, Paul then says that being judged by God is not necessarily a bad thing (verse 29), for if God judges and chastens us today, we will not be condemned with the world at the last day.
Paul's views on self-judgement here offer a counterpoint to a previous argument he made on the frailty of human judgement in 1 Cor 4:3. The apparent contradiction arises from the fact that in this scripture, Paul speaks of judgement exclusively associated with partaking the sacrament, whereas 1 Cor 4 speaks of judgement we pass on ourselves and others in daily life, which is bound to be faulty, self-serving, or biased. Perhaps the sacrament offers us the best possible circumstances to judge ourselves in righteousness, if we truly understand what the symbols of the sacrament mean.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 11:10: Power on her head. Summarizing M. D. Hooker’s 1964 article in New Testament Studies titled “Authority on Her Head: An Examination of 1 Cor 11:10”, Julie M. Smith suggests on this T&S blog thread that a woman covering her head when praying or prophesying (v. 5) symbolizes suspension of the authority man is given over the woman, signifying the direct access Eve is given to God in these acts (see here for follow-up discussion at the Spinozist Mormon blog):
"When the woman chooses to veil, she is choosing to exercise power or control over her head--physical and metaphorical. In the context of praying or prophesying, a veiled woman is one in a direct relationship with God--man is no longer her head. Further, remember that the veiling is not done all the time, but only while engaging in prayer or prophecy. This is important: it points out that, particularly while in that relationship, the woman has direct access to God and, as her physical head is covered, so her metaphorical head (i.e., man) is covered or denied."
  • 1 Cor 11:31: Judging ourselves. See this post for discussion about God judging us vs. judging ourselves. In particular, note BrianJ's comment #20 which sketches one way to read this verse.

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Chapters 8-10                      Next page: Chapters 12-14

1 Cor 11:16-20

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapter 11
Previous page: Chapters 8-10                      Next page: Chapters 12-14


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

IV. Regulation of Meetings (Chapter 11)
• Topic 6: "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye ... keep the ordinances as I delivered them unto you ..." (11:2)

• head coverings to be worn by women when praying and prophesying (11:1-16)

• Topic 7: "When ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you ..." (11:18)

• Last Supper is to be partaken worthily and not as a meal (11:17-34)

Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 11: Paul and Women. Some have characterized Paul as a chauvinist or even a misogynist (a hater of women) because of statements he makes in this chapter as well as 1 Cor 14. Here are a few points to keep in mind when seeking to understand these chapters in a broader context.
1. Paul belonged to a culture that was more patriarchal than our own. Although the LDS church also has a hierarchal order within the priesthood, a century and a half of feminist progress has made our current culture far more sensitive to issues of equal rights. Paul on the other hand, had been trained in the Jewish Rabbinical order, which emphasized the submission and inequality of women to men. When Paul speaks of the subservience of women, we must remember the society he lived in.
2. Paul’s writings about women are inconsistent. For example, in verse 5 of this chapter, he speaks of women prophesying. This seems to contradict statements he makes in 1 Cor 14:34 about women keeping silence in the churches.
3. Paul speaks frequently with great love and respect for certain women actively working in the ministry. Women seemed to play a very active role in some of the missionary efforts in which Paul was involved. Romans 16:1-4 mentions three women, Phoebe, Priscilla, and Aquilla, whom he describes as “fellow workers in Christ” and “servants in the church.” This seems to indicate that women had an important role in the early church, both as sister missionaries, and in a ministry perhaps similar to our Relief Society.
  • 1 Cor 11:4-5. It was the practice in Greece (and Corinth) for men to worship God uncovered, whereas Jews, both ancient and modern, cover their head during their worship. Paul’s statements with regards to this practice are purely cultural, and perhaps only applied to customs unique to the Corinthians. Paul understood the importance of regional cultural practices, and advises the Saints to adhere to them, rather than stirring things up in ways that might be offensive to some. It is also interesting to note that most women in the Middle East still veil their heads in the presence of men.
  • 1 Cor 11:8-9. Paul uses an argument from the story of the Garden of Eden in Gen 2:23 to make his point. Eve was taken from Adam's rib, not the other way around. In verse 9, Paul alludes to the LDS idea that the Eve's purpose was to help Adam. Interestingly, this idea is not found in Genesis, neither is it found in Abraham or Moses.
  • 1 Cor 11:11-12. Paul delivers what seems to be a clarification of his previous statements about the place of women in the church. Perhaps Paul understood that his comments might lead to unrightious dominion. Therefore, he reminds the Saints of the equality of men and women before God: "Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman withoug the man...for as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman." Some commentators who wish to emphasize Paul's chauvanistic beliefs cite verses 8 and 9, but leave out Paul's clarifications in verses 11 and 12.
Elsewhere, in Gal 3:28 Paul says "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Paul understood that men and women are equal before God, inspite of the different roles they have been given.
  • 1 Cor 11:16. Scholars disagree on the exact meaning of this scripture. Some believe that Paul is saying "we have no custom to be contentious." Others believe "custom" refers to women veiling their heads and that Paul insists upon this custom even in the face of contention. [4]
However, given the fact that Paul had just addressed the custom of eating of meat offered unto idols in a conciliatory, non-confrontational tone, it is possible Paul was trying to say "we should not enforce our views of this custom upon people who are contentious about it. It is more important to keep peace and harmony in the church, than it is to enforce non-essential customs upon people."
  • 1 Cor 11:17. Paul passes on to a new subject, prefacing it with a strong rebuke. He suggests that their congregational meetings leave them worse off, not better. Unlike his other admonitions which gave due praise for the Corinthian's efforts on a particular issue, with regards to this issue, Paul says "I praise you not."
  • 1 Cor 11:21-22. It was the Corinthian's custom to gather together to eat a meal as part of their sacramental ritual, as Jesus and his apostles did at the feast of the Passover. Most likely members were bringing their own food and eating it in front of others who were poor or had brought none to eat. Perhaps the pot-luck dinner had not yet been invented. Paul sharply condemns their shameless behavior in front of those that "have not" and goes on to remind them of the true spirit of the sacrament.
  • 1 Cor 11:27. It is common to misinterpret "unworthily" in this scripture. When taken out of context, "unworthy" could mean any type of sinful activity, and suggest that being a sinner makes a person unworthy of partaking of the sacrament. However, Paul in this case was referring to the disrespect and irreverence demonstrated by the Corinthians as they partook of the sacrament together. (See verses 21- 22) Paul is admonishing the Saints to administer this ordinance in a reverent and appropriate way, otherwise they are as guilty as those who crucified the Lord.
There are other places in the scriptures, such as 3 Ne 18:29 and Morm 9:28 that suggest that there should be a baseline of "worthiness" in order to partake of the sacrament. Current LDS policy states that members who have committed serious sins, or who are excommunicated or disfellowshiped are unworthy to partake of the sacrament. We also have a famous anecdote about President Kimball forgoing the sacrament after being distracted from reverent contemplation by the singing of the birds outside the window. Some Saints may choose not to partake because they don't feel they have achieved the proper frame of mind. Paul would have agreed on these points, but his actual meaning is different in this particular case.
It is also important to recognize that in a certain sense, we are all unworthy before God, and that partaking of the sacrament is an important part of receiving a remission of our sins and becoming worthy. We need not be perfect in order to partake of the sacrament. We only need be penitent and humble. God promises all those who come unto Him will be forgiven, and we can expect to receive that forgiveness each week at the sacrament table, as we come with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
It is important to meet a "level" of personal righteousness when partaking of the sacrament, but also the importance of HOW we partake of it.
  • 1 Cor 11:28. By "examine" Paul means to enter the proper frame of mind, examine our belief in Christ, engage in self-introspection, and partake in a reverent and contemplative manner.
  • 1 Cor 11:29. The word "damnation" should more accurately be translated "judgement" or "condemnation." This softens the meaning considerably, as the word "damnation" denotes an eternal state of being, and "condemnation" denotes what may only be temporary. The mistranslation of scripture is of particular importance to various Protestant commentators who see the scripture as discouraging members from partaking in weekly communion when they should be.
In the case of the LDS church, those who deem themselves "unworthy" to partake of the sacrament often skip church all together so as not to be embarrassed being seen not partaking. If we notice those among our flock who do not partake of the sacrament, we should be careful not to judge them, but rather embrace them as friends and fellow Saints. Their decision not to partake amounts to a public confession of unworthiness and as such, it requires great courage and desire to change. These Saints should be admired for their integrity and their determination to continue to come to church in spite of not being able to fully participate. There are many others who choose to partake unworthily, rather than risk embarrassment in front of fellow members.
  • 1 Cor 11:31-32. By "judge ourselves" Paul repeats the idea he gave in verse 28 in different words: As we partake of the sacrament, we should judge, or examine ourselves, and if we do, we will escape the judgement of God. However, Paul then says that being judged by God is not necessarily a bad thing (verse 29), for if God judges and chastens us today, we will not be condemned with the world at the last day.
Paul's views on self-judgement here offer a counterpoint to a previous argument he made on the frailty of human judgement in 1 Cor 4:3. The apparent contradiction arises from the fact that in this scripture, Paul speaks of judgement exclusively associated with partaking the sacrament, whereas 1 Cor 4 speaks of judgement we pass on ourselves and others in daily life, which is bound to be faulty, self-serving, or biased. Perhaps the sacrament offers us the best possible circumstances to judge ourselves in righteousness, if we truly understand what the symbols of the sacrament mean.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 11:10: Power on her head. Summarizing M. D. Hooker’s 1964 article in New Testament Studies titled “Authority on Her Head: An Examination of 1 Cor 11:10”, Julie M. Smith suggests on this T&S blog thread that a woman covering her head when praying or prophesying (v. 5) symbolizes suspension of the authority man is given over the woman, signifying the direct access Eve is given to God in these acts (see here for follow-up discussion at the Spinozist Mormon blog):
"When the woman chooses to veil, she is choosing to exercise power or control over her head--physical and metaphorical. In the context of praying or prophesying, a veiled woman is one in a direct relationship with God--man is no longer her head. Further, remember that the veiling is not done all the time, but only while engaging in prayer or prophecy. This is important: it points out that, particularly while in that relationship, the woman has direct access to God and, as her physical head is covered, so her metaphorical head (i.e., man) is covered or denied."
  • 1 Cor 11:31: Judging ourselves. See this post for discussion about God judging us vs. judging ourselves. In particular, note BrianJ's comment #20 which sketches one way to read this verse.

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Chapters 8-10                      Next page: Chapters 12-14

1 Cor 11:21-25

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapter 11
Previous page: Chapters 8-10                      Next page: Chapters 12-14


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

IV. Regulation of Meetings (Chapter 11)
• Topic 6: "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye ... keep the ordinances as I delivered them unto you ..." (11:2)

• head coverings to be worn by women when praying and prophesying (11:1-16)

• Topic 7: "When ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you ..." (11:18)

• Last Supper is to be partaken worthily and not as a meal (11:17-34)

Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 11: Paul and Women. Some have characterized Paul as a chauvinist or even a misogynist (a hater of women) because of statements he makes in this chapter as well as 1 Cor 14. Here are a few points to keep in mind when seeking to understand these chapters in a broader context.
1. Paul belonged to a culture that was more patriarchal than our own. Although the LDS church also has a hierarchal order within the priesthood, a century and a half of feminist progress has made our current culture far more sensitive to issues of equal rights. Paul on the other hand, had been trained in the Jewish Rabbinical order, which emphasized the submission and inequality of women to men. When Paul speaks of the subservience of women, we must remember the society he lived in.
2. Paul’s writings about women are inconsistent. For example, in verse 5 of this chapter, he speaks of women prophesying. This seems to contradict statements he makes in 1 Cor 14:34 about women keeping silence in the churches.
3. Paul speaks frequently with great love and respect for certain women actively working in the ministry. Women seemed to play a very active role in some of the missionary efforts in which Paul was involved. Romans 16:1-4 mentions three women, Phoebe, Priscilla, and Aquilla, whom he describes as “fellow workers in Christ” and “servants in the church.” This seems to indicate that women had an important role in the early church, both as sister missionaries, and in a ministry perhaps similar to our Relief Society.
  • 1 Cor 11:4-5. It was the practice in Greece (and Corinth) for men to worship God uncovered, whereas Jews, both ancient and modern, cover their head during their worship. Paul’s statements with regards to this practice are purely cultural, and perhaps only applied to customs unique to the Corinthians. Paul understood the importance of regional cultural practices, and advises the Saints to adhere to them, rather than stirring things up in ways that might be offensive to some. It is also interesting to note that most women in the Middle East still veil their heads in the presence of men.
  • 1 Cor 11:8-9. Paul uses an argument from the story of the Garden of Eden in Gen 2:23 to make his point. Eve was taken from Adam's rib, not the other way around. In verse 9, Paul alludes to the LDS idea that the Eve's purpose was to help Adam. Interestingly, this idea is not found in Genesis, neither is it found in Abraham or Moses.
  • 1 Cor 11:11-12. Paul delivers what seems to be a clarification of his previous statements about the place of women in the church. Perhaps Paul understood that his comments might lead to unrightious dominion. Therefore, he reminds the Saints of the equality of men and women before God: "Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman withoug the man...for as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman." Some commentators who wish to emphasize Paul's chauvanistic beliefs cite verses 8 and 9, but leave out Paul's clarifications in verses 11 and 12.
Elsewhere, in Gal 3:28 Paul says "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Paul understood that men and women are equal before God, inspite of the different roles they have been given.
  • 1 Cor 11:16. Scholars disagree on the exact meaning of this scripture. Some believe that Paul is saying "we have no custom to be contentious." Others believe "custom" refers to women veiling their heads and that Paul insists upon this custom even in the face of contention. [5]
However, given the fact that Paul had just addressed the custom of eating of meat offered unto idols in a conciliatory, non-confrontational tone, it is possible Paul was trying to say "we should not enforce our views of this custom upon people who are contentious about it. It is more important to keep peace and harmony in the church, than it is to enforce non-essential customs upon people."
  • 1 Cor 11:17. Paul passes on to a new subject, prefacing it with a strong rebuke. He suggests that their congregational meetings leave them worse off, not better. Unlike his other admonitions which gave due praise for the Corinthian's efforts on a particular issue, with regards to this issue, Paul says "I praise you not."
  • 1 Cor 11:21-22. It was the Corinthian's custom to gather together to eat a meal as part of their sacramental ritual, as Jesus and his apostles did at the feast of the Passover. Most likely members were bringing their own food and eating it in front of others who were poor or had brought none to eat. Perhaps the pot-luck dinner had not yet been invented. Paul sharply condemns their shameless behavior in front of those that "have not" and goes on to remind them of the true spirit of the sacrament.
  • 1 Cor 11:27. It is common to misinterpret "unworthily" in this scripture. When taken out of context, "unworthy" could mean any type of sinful activity, and suggest that being a sinner makes a person unworthy of partaking of the sacrament. However, Paul in this case was referring to the disrespect and irreverence demonstrated by the Corinthians as they partook of the sacrament together. (See verses 21- 22) Paul is admonishing the Saints to administer this ordinance in a reverent and appropriate way, otherwise they are as guilty as those who crucified the Lord.
There are other places in the scriptures, such as 3 Ne 18:29 and Morm 9:28 that suggest that there should be a baseline of "worthiness" in order to partake of the sacrament. Current LDS policy states that members who have committed serious sins, or who are excommunicated or disfellowshiped are unworthy to partake of the sacrament. We also have a famous anecdote about President Kimball forgoing the sacrament after being distracted from reverent contemplation by the singing of the birds outside the window. Some Saints may choose not to partake because they don't feel they have achieved the proper frame of mind. Paul would have agreed on these points, but his actual meaning is different in this particular case.
It is also important to recognize that in a certain sense, we are all unworthy before God, and that partaking of the sacrament is an important part of receiving a remission of our sins and becoming worthy. We need not be perfect in order to partake of the sacrament. We only need be penitent and humble. God promises all those who come unto Him will be forgiven, and we can expect to receive that forgiveness each week at the sacrament table, as we come with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
It is important to meet a "level" of personal righteousness when partaking of the sacrament, but also the importance of HOW we partake of it.
  • 1 Cor 11:28. By "examine" Paul means to enter the proper frame of mind, examine our belief in Christ, engage in self-introspection, and partake in a reverent and contemplative manner.
  • 1 Cor 11:29. The word "damnation" should more accurately be translated "judgement" or "condemnation." This softens the meaning considerably, as the word "damnation" denotes an eternal state of being, and "condemnation" denotes what may only be temporary. The mistranslation of scripture is of particular importance to various Protestant commentators who see the scripture as discouraging members from partaking in weekly communion when they should be.
In the case of the LDS church, those who deem themselves "unworthy" to partake of the sacrament often skip church all together so as not to be embarrassed being seen not partaking. If we notice those among our flock who do not partake of the sacrament, we should be careful not to judge them, but rather embrace them as friends and fellow Saints. Their decision not to partake amounts to a public confession of unworthiness and as such, it requires great courage and desire to change. These Saints should be admired for their integrity and their determination to continue to come to church in spite of not being able to fully participate. There are many others who choose to partake unworthily, rather than risk embarrassment in front of fellow members.
  • 1 Cor 11:31-32. By "judge ourselves" Paul repeats the idea he gave in verse 28 in different words: As we partake of the sacrament, we should judge, or examine ourselves, and if we do, we will escape the judgement of God. However, Paul then says that being judged by God is not necessarily a bad thing (verse 29), for if God judges and chastens us today, we will not be condemned with the world at the last day.
Paul's views on self-judgement here offer a counterpoint to a previous argument he made on the frailty of human judgement in 1 Cor 4:3. The apparent contradiction arises from the fact that in this scripture, Paul speaks of judgement exclusively associated with partaking the sacrament, whereas 1 Cor 4 speaks of judgement we pass on ourselves and others in daily life, which is bound to be faulty, self-serving, or biased. Perhaps the sacrament offers us the best possible circumstances to judge ourselves in righteousness, if we truly understand what the symbols of the sacrament mean.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 11:10: Power on her head. Summarizing M. D. Hooker’s 1964 article in New Testament Studies titled “Authority on Her Head: An Examination of 1 Cor 11:10”, Julie M. Smith suggests on this T&S blog thread that a woman covering her head when praying or prophesying (v. 5) symbolizes suspension of the authority man is given over the woman, signifying the direct access Eve is given to God in these acts (see here for follow-up discussion at the Spinozist Mormon blog):
"When the woman chooses to veil, she is choosing to exercise power or control over her head--physical and metaphorical. In the context of praying or prophesying, a veiled woman is one in a direct relationship with God--man is no longer her head. Further, remember that the veiling is not done all the time, but only while engaging in prayer or prophecy. This is important: it points out that, particularly while in that relationship, the woman has direct access to God and, as her physical head is covered, so her metaphorical head (i.e., man) is covered or denied."
  • 1 Cor 11:31: Judging ourselves. See this post for discussion about God judging us vs. judging ourselves. In particular, note BrianJ's comment #20 which sketches one way to read this verse.

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Chapters 8-10                      Next page: Chapters 12-14

1 Cor 11:26-30

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapter 11
Previous page: Chapters 8-10                      Next page: Chapters 12-14


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

IV. Regulation of Meetings (Chapter 11)
• Topic 6: "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye ... keep the ordinances as I delivered them unto you ..." (11:2)

• head coverings to be worn by women when praying and prophesying (11:1-16)

• Topic 7: "When ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you ..." (11:18)

• Last Supper is to be partaken worthily and not as a meal (11:17-34)

Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 11: Paul and Women. Some have characterized Paul as a chauvinist or even a misogynist (a hater of women) because of statements he makes in this chapter as well as 1 Cor 14. Here are a few points to keep in mind when seeking to understand these chapters in a broader context.
1. Paul belonged to a culture that was more patriarchal than our own. Although the LDS church also has a hierarchal order within the priesthood, a century and a half of feminist progress has made our current culture far more sensitive to issues of equal rights. Paul on the other hand, had been trained in the Jewish Rabbinical order, which emphasized the submission and inequality of women to men. When Paul speaks of the subservience of women, we must remember the society he lived in.
2. Paul’s writings about women are inconsistent. For example, in verse 5 of this chapter, he speaks of women prophesying. This seems to contradict statements he makes in 1 Cor 14:34 about women keeping silence in the churches.
3. Paul speaks frequently with great love and respect for certain women actively working in the ministry. Women seemed to play a very active role in some of the missionary efforts in which Paul was involved. Romans 16:1-4 mentions three women, Phoebe, Priscilla, and Aquilla, whom he describes as “fellow workers in Christ” and “servants in the church.” This seems to indicate that women had an important role in the early church, both as sister missionaries, and in a ministry perhaps similar to our Relief Society.
  • 1 Cor 11:4-5. It was the practice in Greece (and Corinth) for men to worship God uncovered, whereas Jews, both ancient and modern, cover their head during their worship. Paul’s statements with regards to this practice are purely cultural, and perhaps only applied to customs unique to the Corinthians. Paul understood the importance of regional cultural practices, and advises the Saints to adhere to them, rather than stirring things up in ways that might be offensive to some. It is also interesting to note that most women in the Middle East still veil their heads in the presence of men.
  • 1 Cor 11:8-9. Paul uses an argument from the story of the Garden of Eden in Gen 2:23 to make his point. Eve was taken from Adam's rib, not the other way around. In verse 9, Paul alludes to the LDS idea that the Eve's purpose was to help Adam. Interestingly, this idea is not found in Genesis, neither is it found in Abraham or Moses.
  • 1 Cor 11:11-12. Paul delivers what seems to be a clarification of his previous statements about the place of women in the church. Perhaps Paul understood that his comments might lead to unrightious dominion. Therefore, he reminds the Saints of the equality of men and women before God: "Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman withoug the man...for as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman." Some commentators who wish to emphasize Paul's chauvanistic beliefs cite verses 8 and 9, but leave out Paul's clarifications in verses 11 and 12.
Elsewhere, in Gal 3:28 Paul says "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Paul understood that men and women are equal before God, inspite of the different roles they have been given.
  • 1 Cor 11:16. Scholars disagree on the exact meaning of this scripture. Some believe that Paul is saying "we have no custom to be contentious." Others believe "custom" refers to women veiling their heads and that Paul insists upon this custom even in the face of contention. [6]
However, given the fact that Paul had just addressed the custom of eating of meat offered unto idols in a conciliatory, non-confrontational tone, it is possible Paul was trying to say "we should not enforce our views of this custom upon people who are contentious about it. It is more important to keep peace and harmony in the church, than it is to enforce non-essential customs upon people."
  • 1 Cor 11:17. Paul passes on to a new subject, prefacing it with a strong rebuke. He suggests that their congregational meetings leave them worse off, not better. Unlike his other admonitions which gave due praise for the Corinthian's efforts on a particular issue, with regards to this issue, Paul says "I praise you not."
  • 1 Cor 11:21-22. It was the Corinthian's custom to gather together to eat a meal as part of their sacramental ritual, as Jesus and his apostles did at the feast of the Passover. Most likely members were bringing their own food and eating it in front of others who were poor or had brought none to eat. Perhaps the pot-luck dinner had not yet been invented. Paul sharply condemns their shameless behavior in front of those that "have not" and goes on to remind them of the true spirit of the sacrament.
  • 1 Cor 11:27. It is common to misinterpret "unworthily" in this scripture. When taken out of context, "unworthy" could mean any type of sinful activity, and suggest that being a sinner makes a person unworthy of partaking of the sacrament. However, Paul in this case was referring to the disrespect and irreverence demonstrated by the Corinthians as they partook of the sacrament together. (See verses 21- 22) Paul is admonishing the Saints to administer this ordinance in a reverent and appropriate way, otherwise they are as guilty as those who crucified the Lord.
There are other places in the scriptures, such as 3 Ne 18:29 and Morm 9:28 that suggest that there should be a baseline of "worthiness" in order to partake of the sacrament. Current LDS policy states that members who have committed serious sins, or who are excommunicated or disfellowshiped are unworthy to partake of the sacrament. We also have a famous anecdote about President Kimball forgoing the sacrament after being distracted from reverent contemplation by the singing of the birds outside the window. Some Saints may choose not to partake because they don't feel they have achieved the proper frame of mind. Paul would have agreed on these points, but his actual meaning is different in this particular case.
It is also important to recognize that in a certain sense, we are all unworthy before God, and that partaking of the sacrament is an important part of receiving a remission of our sins and becoming worthy. We need not be perfect in order to partake of the sacrament. We only need be penitent and humble. God promises all those who come unto Him will be forgiven, and we can expect to receive that forgiveness each week at the sacrament table, as we come with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
It is important to meet a "level" of personal righteousness when partaking of the sacrament, but also the importance of HOW we partake of it.
  • 1 Cor 11:28. By "examine" Paul means to enter the proper frame of mind, examine our belief in Christ, engage in self-introspection, and partake in a reverent and contemplative manner.
  • 1 Cor 11:29. The word "damnation" should more accurately be translated "judgement" or "condemnation." This softens the meaning considerably, as the word "damnation" denotes an eternal state of being, and "condemnation" denotes what may only be temporary. The mistranslation of scripture is of particular importance to various Protestant commentators who see the scripture as discouraging members from partaking in weekly communion when they should be.
In the case of the LDS church, those who deem themselves "unworthy" to partake of the sacrament often skip church all together so as not to be embarrassed being seen not partaking. If we notice those among our flock who do not partake of the sacrament, we should be careful not to judge them, but rather embrace them as friends and fellow Saints. Their decision not to partake amounts to a public confession of unworthiness and as such, it requires great courage and desire to change. These Saints should be admired for their integrity and their determination to continue to come to church in spite of not being able to fully participate. There are many others who choose to partake unworthily, rather than risk embarrassment in front of fellow members.
  • 1 Cor 11:31-32. By "judge ourselves" Paul repeats the idea he gave in verse 28 in different words: As we partake of the sacrament, we should judge, or examine ourselves, and if we do, we will escape the judgement of God. However, Paul then says that being judged by God is not necessarily a bad thing (verse 29), for if God judges and chastens us today, we will not be condemned with the world at the last day.
Paul's views on self-judgement here offer a counterpoint to a previous argument he made on the frailty of human judgement in 1 Cor 4:3. The apparent contradiction arises from the fact that in this scripture, Paul speaks of judgement exclusively associated with partaking the sacrament, whereas 1 Cor 4 speaks of judgement we pass on ourselves and others in daily life, which is bound to be faulty, self-serving, or biased. Perhaps the sacrament offers us the best possible circumstances to judge ourselves in righteousness, if we truly understand what the symbols of the sacrament mean.

Points to ponder[edit]

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I have a question[edit]

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Resources[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 11:10: Power on her head. Summarizing M. D. Hooker’s 1964 article in New Testament Studies titled “Authority on Her Head: An Examination of 1 Cor 11:10”, Julie M. Smith suggests on this T&S blog thread that a woman covering her head when praying or prophesying (v. 5) symbolizes suspension of the authority man is given over the woman, signifying the direct access Eve is given to God in these acts (see here for follow-up discussion at the Spinozist Mormon blog):
"When the woman chooses to veil, she is choosing to exercise power or control over her head--physical and metaphorical. In the context of praying or prophesying, a veiled woman is one in a direct relationship with God--man is no longer her head. Further, remember that the veiling is not done all the time, but only while engaging in prayer or prophecy. This is important: it points out that, particularly while in that relationship, the woman has direct access to God and, as her physical head is covered, so her metaphorical head (i.e., man) is covered or denied."
  • 1 Cor 11:31: Judging ourselves. See this post for discussion about God judging us vs. judging ourselves. In particular, note BrianJ's comment #20 which sketches one way to read this verse.

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Chapters 8-10                      Next page: Chapters 12-14

1 Cor 11:31-34

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapter 11
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Summary[edit]

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IV. Regulation of Meetings (Chapter 11)
• Topic 6: "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye ... keep the ordinances as I delivered them unto you ..." (11:2)

• head coverings to be worn by women when praying and prophesying (11:1-16)

• Topic 7: "When ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you ..." (11:18)

• Last Supper is to be partaken worthily and not as a meal (11:17-34)

Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 11: Paul and Women. Some have characterized Paul as a chauvinist or even a misogynist (a hater of women) because of statements he makes in this chapter as well as 1 Cor 14. Here are a few points to keep in mind when seeking to understand these chapters in a broader context.
1. Paul belonged to a culture that was more patriarchal than our own. Although the LDS church also has a hierarchal order within the priesthood, a century and a half of feminist progress has made our current culture far more sensitive to issues of equal rights. Paul on the other hand, had been trained in the Jewish Rabbinical order, which emphasized the submission and inequality of women to men. When Paul speaks of the subservience of women, we must remember the society he lived in.
2. Paul’s writings about women are inconsistent. For example, in verse 5 of this chapter, he speaks of women prophesying. This seems to contradict statements he makes in 1 Cor 14:34 about women keeping silence in the churches.
3. Paul speaks frequently with great love and respect for certain women actively working in the ministry. Women seemed to play a very active role in some of the missionary efforts in which Paul was involved. Romans 16:1-4 mentions three women, Phoebe, Priscilla, and Aquilla, whom he describes as “fellow workers in Christ” and “servants in the church.” This seems to indicate that women had an important role in the early church, both as sister missionaries, and in a ministry perhaps similar to our Relief Society.
  • 1 Cor 11:4-5. It was the practice in Greece (and Corinth) for men to worship God uncovered, whereas Jews, both ancient and modern, cover their head during their worship. Paul’s statements with regards to this practice are purely cultural, and perhaps only applied to customs unique to the Corinthians. Paul understood the importance of regional cultural practices, and advises the Saints to adhere to them, rather than stirring things up in ways that might be offensive to some. It is also interesting to note that most women in the Middle East still veil their heads in the presence of men.
  • 1 Cor 11:8-9. Paul uses an argument from the story of the Garden of Eden in Gen 2:23 to make his point. Eve was taken from Adam's rib, not the other way around. In verse 9, Paul alludes to the LDS idea that the Eve's purpose was to help Adam. Interestingly, this idea is not found in Genesis, neither is it found in Abraham or Moses.
  • 1 Cor 11:11-12. Paul delivers what seems to be a clarification of his previous statements about the place of women in the church. Perhaps Paul understood that his comments might lead to unrightious dominion. Therefore, he reminds the Saints of the equality of men and women before God: "Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman withoug the man...for as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman." Some commentators who wish to emphasize Paul's chauvanistic beliefs cite verses 8 and 9, but leave out Paul's clarifications in verses 11 and 12.
Elsewhere, in Gal 3:28 Paul says "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Paul understood that men and women are equal before God, inspite of the different roles they have been given.
  • 1 Cor 11:16. Scholars disagree on the exact meaning of this scripture. Some believe that Paul is saying "we have no custom to be contentious." Others believe "custom" refers to women veiling their heads and that Paul insists upon this custom even in the face of contention. [7]
However, given the fact that Paul had just addressed the custom of eating of meat offered unto idols in a conciliatory, non-confrontational tone, it is possible Paul was trying to say "we should not enforce our views of this custom upon people who are contentious about it. It is more important to keep peace and harmony in the church, than it is to enforce non-essential customs upon people."
  • 1 Cor 11:17. Paul passes on to a new subject, prefacing it with a strong rebuke. He suggests that their congregational meetings leave them worse off, not better. Unlike his other admonitions which gave due praise for the Corinthian's efforts on a particular issue, with regards to this issue, Paul says "I praise you not."
  • 1 Cor 11:21-22. It was the Corinthian's custom to gather together to eat a meal as part of their sacramental ritual, as Jesus and his apostles did at the feast of the Passover. Most likely members were bringing their own food and eating it in front of others who were poor or had brought none to eat. Perhaps the pot-luck dinner had not yet been invented. Paul sharply condemns their shameless behavior in front of those that "have not" and goes on to remind them of the true spirit of the sacrament.
  • 1 Cor 11:27. It is common to misinterpret "unworthily" in this scripture. When taken out of context, "unworthy" could mean any type of sinful activity, and suggest that being a sinner makes a person unworthy of partaking of the sacrament. However, Paul in this case was referring to the disrespect and irreverence demonstrated by the Corinthians as they partook of the sacrament together. (See verses 21- 22) Paul is admonishing the Saints to administer this ordinance in a reverent and appropriate way, otherwise they are as guilty as those who crucified the Lord.
There are other places in the scriptures, such as 3 Ne 18:29 and Morm 9:28 that suggest that there should be a baseline of "worthiness" in order to partake of the sacrament. Current LDS policy states that members who have committed serious sins, or who are excommunicated or disfellowshiped are unworthy to partake of the sacrament. We also have a famous anecdote about President Kimball forgoing the sacrament after being distracted from reverent contemplation by the singing of the birds outside the window. Some Saints may choose not to partake because they don't feel they have achieved the proper frame of mind. Paul would have agreed on these points, but his actual meaning is different in this particular case.
It is also important to recognize that in a certain sense, we are all unworthy before God, and that partaking of the sacrament is an important part of receiving a remission of our sins and becoming worthy. We need not be perfect in order to partake of the sacrament. We only need be penitent and humble. God promises all those who come unto Him will be forgiven, and we can expect to receive that forgiveness each week at the sacrament table, as we come with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
It is important to meet a "level" of personal righteousness when partaking of the sacrament, but also the importance of HOW we partake of it.
  • 1 Cor 11:28. By "examine" Paul means to enter the proper frame of mind, examine our belief in Christ, engage in self-introspection, and partake in a reverent and contemplative manner.
  • 1 Cor 11:29. The word "damnation" should more accurately be translated "judgement" or "condemnation." This softens the meaning considerably, as the word "damnation" denotes an eternal state of being, and "condemnation" denotes what may only be temporary. The mistranslation of scripture is of particular importance to various Protestant commentators who see the scripture as discouraging members from partaking in weekly communion when they should be.
In the case of the LDS church, those who deem themselves "unworthy" to partake of the sacrament often skip church all together so as not to be embarrassed being seen not partaking. If we notice those among our flock who do not partake of the sacrament, we should be careful not to judge them, but rather embrace them as friends and fellow Saints. Their decision not to partake amounts to a public confession of unworthiness and as such, it requires great courage and desire to change. These Saints should be admired for their integrity and their determination to continue to come to church in spite of not being able to fully participate. There are many others who choose to partake unworthily, rather than risk embarrassment in front of fellow members.
  • 1 Cor 11:31-32. By "judge ourselves" Paul repeats the idea he gave in verse 28 in different words: As we partake of the sacrament, we should judge, or examine ourselves, and if we do, we will escape the judgement of God. However, Paul then says that being judged by God is not necessarily a bad thing (verse 29), for if God judges and chastens us today, we will not be condemned with the world at the last day.
Paul's views on self-judgement here offer a counterpoint to a previous argument he made on the frailty of human judgement in 1 Cor 4:3. The apparent contradiction arises from the fact that in this scripture, Paul speaks of judgement exclusively associated with partaking the sacrament, whereas 1 Cor 4 speaks of judgement we pass on ourselves and others in daily life, which is bound to be faulty, self-serving, or biased. Perhaps the sacrament offers us the best possible circumstances to judge ourselves in righteousness, if we truly understand what the symbols of the sacrament mean.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 11:10: Power on her head. Summarizing M. D. Hooker’s 1964 article in New Testament Studies titled “Authority on Her Head: An Examination of 1 Cor 11:10”, Julie M. Smith suggests on this T&S blog thread that a woman covering her head when praying or prophesying (v. 5) symbolizes suspension of the authority man is given over the woman, signifying the direct access Eve is given to God in these acts (see here for follow-up discussion at the Spinozist Mormon blog):
"When the woman chooses to veil, she is choosing to exercise power or control over her head--physical and metaphorical. In the context of praying or prophesying, a veiled woman is one in a direct relationship with God--man is no longer her head. Further, remember that the veiling is not done all the time, but only while engaging in prayer or prophecy. This is important: it points out that, particularly while in that relationship, the woman has direct access to God and, as her physical head is covered, so her metaphorical head (i.e., man) is covered or denied."
  • 1 Cor 11:31: Judging ourselves. See this post for discussion about God judging us vs. judging ourselves. In particular, note BrianJ's comment #20 which sketches one way to read this verse.

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Chapters 8-10                      Next page: Chapters 12-14

1 Cor 12:1-5

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapters 12-14
Previous page: Chapter 11                      Next page: Chapter 15


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Summary[edit]

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V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [8] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [9]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [10] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [11] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [12]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [13] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [14].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [15]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

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I have a question[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

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  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [16]

Notes[edit]

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1 Cor 12:6-10

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Summary[edit]

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V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

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Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [17] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [18]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [19] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [20] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [21]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [22] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [23].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [24]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

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I have a question[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

Resources[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [25]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




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1 Cor 12:11-15

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Summary[edit]

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V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [26] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [27]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [28] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [29] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [30]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [31] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [32].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [33]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [34]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Chapter 11                      Next page: Chapter 15

1 Cor 12:16-20

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapters 12-14
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Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

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Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [35] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [36]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [37] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [38] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [39]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [40] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [41].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [42]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

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I have a question[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

Resources[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [43]

Notes[edit]

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1 Cor 12:21-25

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Summary[edit]

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V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [44] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [45]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [46] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [47] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [48]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [49] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [50].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [51]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

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  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [52]

Notes[edit]

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1 Cor 12:26-31

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Summary[edit]

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V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

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Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [53] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [54]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [55] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [56] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [57]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [58] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [59].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [60]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

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I have a question[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

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  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [61]

Notes[edit]

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1 Cor 13:1-5

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Summary[edit]

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V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

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Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [62] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [63]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [64] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [65] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [66]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [67] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [68].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [69]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

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I have a question[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

Resources[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [70]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




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1 Cor 13:6-10

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapters 12-14
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Summary[edit]

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V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [71] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [72]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [73] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [74] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [75]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [76] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [77].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [78]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [79]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Chapter 11                      Next page: Chapter 15

1 Cor 13:11-13

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapters 12-14
Previous page: Chapter 11                      Next page: Chapter 15


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [80] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [81]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [82] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [83] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [84]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [85] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [86].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [87]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

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  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [88]

Notes[edit]

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1 Cor 14:1-5

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Summary[edit]

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V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

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Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [89] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [90]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [91] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [92] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [93]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [94] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [95].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [96]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

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  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [97]

Notes[edit]

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1 Cor 14:6-10

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Summary[edit]

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V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

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Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [98] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [99]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [100] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [101] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [102]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [103] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [104].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [105]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

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I have a question[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

Resources[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [106]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




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1 Cor 14:11-15

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Summary[edit]

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V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [107] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [108]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [109] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [110] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [111]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [112] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [113].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [114]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

I have a question[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

Resources[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [115]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




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1 Cor 14:16-20

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapters 12-14
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Summary[edit]

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V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [116] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [117]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [118] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [119] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [120]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [121] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [122].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [123]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [124]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Chapter 11                      Next page: Chapter 15

1 Cor 14:21-25

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapters 12-14
Previous page: Chapter 11                      Next page: Chapter 15


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [125] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [126]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [127] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [128] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [129]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [130] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [131].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [132]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

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  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [133]

Notes[edit]

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1 Cor 14:26-30

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Summary[edit]

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V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

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Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [134] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [135]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [136] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [137] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [138]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [139] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [140].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [141]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

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  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [142]

Notes[edit]

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1 Cor 14:31-35

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Summary[edit]

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V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

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Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [143] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [144]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [145] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [146] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [147]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [148] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [149].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [150]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

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I have a question[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

Resources[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [151]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




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1 Cor 14:36-40

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Summary[edit]

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V. Spiritual Gifts (Chapters 12-14)
• Topic 8: "Now concerning spiritual gifts ..." (12:1)

A. gifts of the Spirit (12:1-30)
B. faith, hope, and charity (12:31-14:1)
A. gifts of tongues and prophecy (14:2-40)


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 12[edit]

  • 1 Cor 12. Paul's initial purpose in speaking of spiritual gifts is to emphasize that they all come from the same divine source. In the first 11 verses of this chapter he uses the words "same or selfsame Spirit", a total of 6 times. He goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, arguing that spiritual gifts are a manifestation of individual parts of a unified body, and that no particular part of that body should be looked down upon or esteemed as less worthy.
It is unclear why Paul is at such pains to emphasize unity in the practice of spiritual gifts. Perhaps the Corinthians doubted whether some spiritual manifestations were indeed from the Spirit. As converts, they came from religious traditions that emphasized a plurality of gods and divine spirits, and perhaps heresies had arisen among them. Or perhaps they simply looked down upon some of the more lowly manifestations of these gifts, and puffed up those with "showy" gifts like prophesy or healing.
  • 1 Cor 12:2. The idea that "no man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost" is interesting. There are many in the world who testify of Christ, but their hearts are far from God. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isa 29:13. Are these people really speaking by the Holy Ghost? Perhaps Paul means to say that those who bear testimony of Christ, and who do so with complete integrity, understanding that this proclamation demands upon them a commitment of service to Him, cannot do so without a manifestation of the Holy Ghost.
But then again, perhaps Paul means exactly what he is saying: Whenever any person, however unworthy, proclaims that Jesus is Lord, this truth will resonate with those who are in tune with the Spirit. In this way, ironically even the evil spirits who called out to Jesus "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God" are in effect speaking by the Holy Ghost. Those who believe what the demons said is true in this particular case, may even be able to feel the Spirit manifest that truth. Matt 8:29
  • 1 Cor 12.5. Differences of administrations means there are different ways of serving God. The Greek word here is diakonia which means "service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others." Also see additional translations.
  • 1 Cor 12.8-10. This list of spiritual gifts should not be considered a complete. There are many other gifts, such as the gift of translation D&C 6:10 that are not mentioned here. In a certain sense, all talents and abilities are gifts of God and can be considered spiritual gifts. Paul's main point in this chapter is to emphasize the common source of these gifts, not to compile an exhaustive list.
  • 1 Cor 12.22-23. What Paul says about spiritual gifts can apply equally to callings in the church. Elder Boyd K. Packer said "There is the natural tendency to look at those who are sustained to presiding positions, to consider them to be higher and of more value in the Church or to their families than an ordinary member. Somehow we feel they are worth more to the Lord than are we. It just does not work that way!" [152] Although it is important to give due respect to the various offices of the priesthood, we should remember that those who advance higher in these offices should not be seen as superior, or necessarily more righteous than those who do not advance. The Lord needs and uses his most faithful members at many different levels and in many different callings. Unlike the business world, there is no "corporate ladder" in the church.
President Gordon B. Hinkely also noted: "Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence." [153]
  • 1 Cor 12.28. It is a peculiarity of the church in our dispensation, as well as in the Old Testament, that the President or Head of the church is called "the prophet." In reality, all of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are ordained as "prophets, seers, and revelators." The official priesthood position of the President of the LDS church is that of Senior Apostle. "Prophet" is not an official office in the Melchezedich Priesthood. However "Apostle" is the highest office within the priesthood, which reflects Paul's statement that "God set...first apostles."
It is however interesting that Paul groups priesthood callings such as "apostles" and "teachers" with gifts of "healing" and "tongues." This is not how the modern LDS church would rank these. Perhaps Paul's grouping, if not a mistranslation, is simply an informal listing of various priesthood callings and gifts, mixed together for the purpose of noting their diversity, rather than their strict order.
  • 1 Cor 12.31: Covet. "Covet" should more accurately be rendered "desire earnestly" since "covet" usually has a negative connotation not present in the original Greek.

Chapter 13[edit]

  • 1 Cor 13.1. "Charity" is the KJV translation of the Greek word "agape."
Ancient Greeks had three words for "love." "Agape" was used to denote love for spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, "philia"—an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection, and "eros", an affection of a sexual nature. "Agape" came to be the preferred word used by Christian writers to denote the highest, purest form of love. "Agape" is the word most commonly used in the New Testament to describe the love of God, and Christian love for fellow men. A few examples are "For God so loved (agape) the world..." John 3:16, and "As I have loved (agape) you, love one another." John 13:34
In most instances in the KJV, "agape" is translated as "love." However, here in Corinthians, KJV translators chose the word "charity" which has the contemporary connotation of giving to the less fortunate. Most contemporary translations of the Bible have translated "agape" as "love" in all cases, including here in Corinthians.
Joseph Smith used "charity" to translate similar passages in the Book of Mormon, with this added explanation, "For charity is the pure love of Christ." Moroni 7:47. Thanks largely to this scripture, LDS culture has adopted the word "charity" as something much more than mere charitable giving.
It may be helpful to those new to LDS culture, or those struggling with the semantics of the word "charity" to substitute the word "love" for "charity" in their personal study. As for use in daily LDS culture, "charity" has become ubiquitous with idea of the love of Christ, and resonates strongly with most LDS in this context.
  • 1 Cor 13.1: Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. In the Greek, "brass" probably refers not to a trumpet, but to a gong or a bronze basin that is struck with a stick. "Sounding" is more often translated as "noisy." "Tinkling" is often translated "clanging." Paul's purpose was to emphasize the harsh, unpleasant nature of these instruments.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor. Paul is not advocating works-based charity in this chapter. Even if we do charitable deeds, they mean nothing unless we have charity in our hearts. We often hear the phrase "Love is a verb." However, Paul is saying "love is a noun." It is something we must posess, not something we must do. As it says in Moro 7:47, "Charity is the pure love of Christ, and whoso is found possessed of it, it shall be well with him." Though works are important, in Paul's view, they should be the fruits of the inner life of the believing Christian.
  • 1 Cor 13.3: Though I give my body to be burned. This phrase alludes to self-sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul's final example, and the strongest one, for to give one's life in martyrdom for the sake of God is the very pinnacle of Christian sainthood. Yet even this means nothing, unless one possesses charity.
  • 1 Cor 13.5: Seeketh not her own. This phrase is often undersood as: "One who has charity does not seek after it's own self-interest." However, the original Greek says "seeketh not herself," or in the words of another translation: "love doesn't look for love." Someone who has charity does not seek reciprocal love from others.
  • 1 Cor 13.1-5: Tongues of men and of angels. Speaking with the tongues of men and of angels seem to be made parallel with having the gift of prophecy (v2), understanding all mysteries (v2), bestowing all my goods to feed the poor (v3). Paul seems to be playing off the idea that whatever it means to speak with the tongues of men and of angels is something which is taken as an outward sign of personal virtue. It seems the only real candidate for what Paul is talking about is glossalia. 1 Cor 12:10 where "diverse kinds of tongues" is specifically mentioned (and mentioned in contrast to the interpretation of tongues). But it is interesting then that this isn't what Nephi seems to mean in 2 Ne 31:13 (and see related commentary). Clearly Nephi seems to be drawing on a different tradition. Maybe this isn't surprising once we think about the fact that Nephi wrote long before Paul. Further, maybe glossalia's impotance as a spiritual gift seems to be somewhat unique to the new testament (and maybe also the early church?) --Matthew Faulconer 10:46, 8 August 2007 (CEST)
  • 1 Cor 13.7. What does it mean to "believe all things?" Does this suggest that charitable persons should be gullible? Shouldn't the phrase be qualified to say "believe all things that are true?"
Joseph Smith thought so highly of this scripture that he included it in the 13th Article of Faith. On the subject of belief, he once said, "I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief." [154] This statement seems to indicate that Joseph Smith thought it best to err on the side of belief. God will not condemn us for believing too much, even if in the end we occasionally believed something untrue. It is better to have a believing heart, than to be filled with skepticism and doubt.
Additionally, the presence of "believe all things" in the Articles of Faith seperates the LDS people from other Christian faiths who limit their spiritual beliefs to things only found in the Bible.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Limitations of other gifts. Here Paul takes a detour from his ode to charity, and begins to talk about the limitations of other gifts of the spirit. The scripture, when read in context with verses 9 and 10, suggests that the gifts of the spirit present an incomplete picture of eternal reality. We only "know in part." We only "prophesy in part."
An example of this might be the prophesies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. These prophesies state that the Messiah will come to deliver His people, which the Jews interpreted as deliverance from the Romans. However, when He finally came, He didn't deliver them from the Romans, but from their sins. The Jews to this day are still waiting for the "real" Messiah. The Jews only understood the prophesy "in part" because the prophesies themselves were not explicitly clear on the matter. In the same way, the many prophesies about the 2nd Coming of Christ are perhaps only "part" of the story of what will eventually happen. When the Millenium finally does come, we may look back on some of our present day interpretations of 2nd Coming prophesy, and laugh at our limited understanding, which comes from only having "part" of the big picture.
  • 1 Cor 13.8: Failing prophecies. Paul tells us here that prophecies fail. What does this mean? One way to read this is that some prophecies from God fail. Such an interpretation may at first seem surprising. Certainly though, there are many examples of prophecies failing in the Old Testament. The book of Jonah is an excellent example. The entire book is related to this question of a failing prophecy. Interestingly, it suggest that charity is the cause of the failure of that prophecy (see most explicitly Jonah 4:2). In Jonah, broadly summarizing, the prophet raises a complaint that his prophecy is doomed to failure (that, in fact, this is the reason he flees at the call) because of the love of God for the people of Ninevah. In other words, the infinitude of God's everlasting love marks the finitude of prophecy (finitude/infinitude arise mutually). Prophecy might be understood to be the corruptible body of the incorruptible love of God. All of this might help to understand what Paul is saying here: it is the incorruptible love of God that marks the corruptibility of prophecy. (The consequences of this point for a book like Revelation are vast.)
Since this verse dwells also on the place of tongues and knowledge, these two are apparently also struck with finitude by the infinite love of God. However, these two are questions of further complexity (or perhaps, further simplicity) in light of Paul's continued discussion of tongues (to which knowledge might broadly be compared existentially: both are relations directly with God that apparently ignore other relations) in 1 Cor 14. Whereas prophecy is explicitly a question of one's charity towards others, tongues and knowledge are a question of one's love (charity) for God directly. This complication does not undo the possibility of reading the finitude of knowledge and tongues, but clarifies how it might be read.
  • 1 Cor 13.9: In part. Paul's phrasing here suggests that knowledge itself is fragmented (although, see 1 Cor 13:12), as is prophecy. This might be read as carefully tied to the discussion to follow beginning with 1 Cor 14:1.
  • 1 Cor 13.11. Paul compares our use of spiritual gifts to childhood. Here on earth, we only understand things as children do: "in part." According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary "Spake" refers to the gift of tongues, "understood" (closer in the Greek to "had the sentiments of") refers to the gift of prophesy, and "thought," refers to the gift of knowledge. [155] One day, when we shall know all things, and be "known even as we are known," we will have no more need for prophesy and tongues.
  • 1 Cor 13.12. "Glass" would have been understood in Greek as "mirror." "Darkly" comes from the Greek ainigma, translated as "riddle," or "enigma." The ancients used polished metals as mirrors, which produced images far less refined than our modern mirrors. Therefore, the meaning could be understood as: the obscure image we see in the mirror is ourselves, but one day, we shall see ourselves face to face, finally knowing ourselves, even as we are known by others, or as God knows us.
  • 1 Cor 13.13. The phrase "now abideth" suggests that faith, hope and charity will survive throughout the eternities, while knowledge, prophesy, and tongues will pass away. The question posed above asks why faith is necessary in the next life. When we know all things, and "know, even as we are known" what need is there of faith?
Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon's Lectures on Faith contain a few possible insights. They reassert Paul's idea the faith is an eternal principle: "Faith is the principle of action in all intelligent beings... it was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and the worlds came into order by reason of the faith there was in Him." According to these lectures, faith is the principle of power that enables perfected beings to see as they are seen and know as they are known. Faith will not become obsolete when we obtain this eternal vision, rather, faith itself will provide the mechanics for our eternal vision.

Chapter 14[edit]

  • 1 Cor 14. 1 Cor 14 contains counsel regarding the use of prophesy and tongues in worship services. Understanding this chapter presents some difficulties because there is much confusion on the exact nature of these spiritual manifestations in ancient times.
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of tongues. Paul spends most of the chapter discussing the problematic elements of the gifts of tongues, and asserting the superiority of prophesy. The main problem with tongues, is that so few can understand it. This is such an obvious problem that it is a wonder why Paul even advocated it's use at all. However, he does clearly say that we should "forbid not to speak with tongues," and suggests that if there is an interpreter present, that speaking in tongues is permissible.
There is also confusion about the nature of speaking in tongues. Is Paul referring to inspired languages not spoken here on earth, but in heaven? (Verse 2: "unto God...in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.") Or is he referring to the Adamic language, made-up languages, or languages from foreign lands? Corinth was a town frequented by merchants from Asia, Europe, and Africa, so very likely, speaking in tongues could sometimes, if not always refer to speaking foreign languages under the spirit as on the day of Pentecost, when "every man heard them speak in his own language." Acts 2:6. Joseph Smith changes the phrase "an unknown tongue" to "another tongue" suggesting as well that perhaps these were foreign tongues. But using the prhase "another tongue" does not necessarily suggest that the gift of tongues only concerns speaking in foreign languages.
The LDS people profess and believe in the gift of tongues, although it's use is generally limited to the mission field, to assist missionaries in preaching and understanding foreign languages. As far as it's use in church meetings, Joseph Smith spoke out against using tongues without an interpreter, and when the speaker did not understand what he himself was saying. "The Devil will no doubt trouble you greatly about the gift of tongues... the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners" he said. However, the History of the Church records a number of divine manifestations of this gift at early Mormon events such as the Kirtland Temple Dedication, which were interpreted as verbal expressions in heavenly tongues, such as the Adamic language. [156]
  • 1 Cor 14: Gift of prophesy. When Paul speaks of prophesy, he is not exclusively speaking about the foretelling of future events, but also of speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, to "edification, exhortation, and comfort." (Verse 3) To the ancient Greeks, the definition for the word "prophemi" was understood to include speaking under inspiration, as both as a prophet, or as a poet. [157] Additionally, the apostle John states in Rev 19:10 that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." Jacob 6:1 also demonstrates how a prophesy can simply be defined as the testimony of another's witness: "Behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake... must surely come to pass."
In this context, members of the LDS church use the gift of prophesy during all church meetings, most especially during fast and testimony meeting, and Paul's admonition to use the gift of prophesy relates directly to the modern church.
  • 1 Cor 14:15: With the spirit, and with understanding also. Joseph Smith spoke to the Kirtland Saints about so-called "spiritual" manifestations including babbling in made-up tongues. He asked them if, during these trances: "Was any intelligence communicated?" [158].
We can ask ourselves this question during any spiritual experience of dubious origin. Is God communicating intelligence to us from heaven, or are we simply feeling an intense emotion? Ultimately, feeling the Spirit is not an end in and of itself. It's purpose is to provide necessary information from heaven: reassurance, edification, council, comfort, or direction. Intense emotional experiences, such as weeping, may have a cathartic benefit to them, but they are not always a manifestation of the Spirit. Joseph Smith described the Spirit as "pure intelligence." When this overwhelming intelligence comes upon us, we may experience various "fruits" of the spirit: love, joy, peace, manifestations of weeping, tongues, etc. Gal 5:22. However, we need not confuse these fruits of the Spirit, with the Spirit itself: pure intelligence. [159]
  • 1 Cor 14:22-24. Verse 22 presents additional evidence that Paul was referring to the gift of tongues as expressions in foreign languages. Tongues would only be considered a "sign" to unbelievers if a foreign Christian began speaking in their own language. Tongues expressed in heavenly or made-up languages would be considered babbling to an unbeliever.
However, in verse 23 and 24, Paul notes that when the whole congregation begins speaking in tongues, that unbelievers will say they are crazy, and that prophesy is still preferable to this.
  • 1 Cor 14:26. The oldest manuscripts use a different order: psalm, doctrine, revelation, tongue, and then interpretation. In this way, "interpretation" directly follows "tongue." "Psalm" refers to a sacred song or hymn.
  • 1 Cor 14:26: Let your women keep silence in the churches. This scripture has been troubling for many Christian churches, including the LDS church, where women take an active role in meetings. Here are a number of points to consider when trying to understand this scripture:
1. Paul could have be refering to something specifically within the church at Corinth that is not completely understood today. In the previous verses, Paul speaks of conducting meetings in an orderly manner, without all speaking at once, and with everyone in their proper place. It could be that there were some women who were usurping authority by speaking out of turn, and driving the meeting to distraction. "They are commanded to be under obedience." Perhaps the motivation for his hardline tone comes from the disobedience of certain Corinthian women. Additionally, the Greek word for "women" and "wives" is the same. Therefore, it is impossible to tell whether Paul was speaking about all women in general, or about certain "wives" within the congregation that were causing trouble.
2. In his other Epistles Paul notes that women play important roles as teachers and ministers: Titus 2:3 says women should be "teachers of good things." In Rom 16:1 Paul recommends to them a woman named Phoebe, whom he refers to as a "servant" in the KJV, but often translated as "minister." This could give evidence that Paul's council only applied to a specific, but misunderstood issue among the Corinthians.
3. Paul's attitudes on this subject were likely cultural rather than spiritual. Even in our recent past, Paul's apparent chauvinism was accepted as natural, and some churches today still do not permit women to speak in church. It could be that Paul was simply reiterating a long established status quo that had been breached in an ineffective or distracting way by some women, seeking to advance a feminist agenda. Perhaps these Corinthian women were largely uneducated and illiterate compared with the men. In those days women were discouraged from pursuing education, therefore Paul might have seen them as unqualified to teach during church meetings, and Paul would not apply such council to our day or to other congregations where the educational levels were more equitable. We should keep in mind that even in our recent past, Paul's attitudes would have been accepted as natural. Throughout human history, women have been routinely treated as second class citizens and have only recently been granted greater equality. To someone reading this scripture in the 19th century, this scripture would not have raised any eyebrows.
4. Joseph Smith changed the word "speak" to "rule." He didn't change the phrase "let them keep silence" but he did effectively challenge Paul's point of view by implying that women can speak in church, even if they do not hold the priesthood. Joseph Smith's attitudes towards women were very progressive for his time. While most other churches in the 19th century accepted Paul's apparently chauvinistic attitudes towards women as natural, Joseph Smith introduced the Relief Society which gave women great authority and responsibility as teachers and ministers among congregations of women. He also gave women prominent officiating roles in temple ceremonies.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 13:8: Knowledge shall vanish away. Why does Paul say that knowledge shall vanish away? Why is knowledge more fleeting than charity?
  • 1 Cor 13:12: Faith abideth. Verse 13:12 tells us that now we see as though we are looking through an obscure mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part but then we shall know even as we are known. The verse suggests a large difference between what we understand now and what we will understand then (presumably after the resurrection). But how do we explain the next verse where it says that faith abideth? In an environment where we know even as we are known, when we will see face to face (compared to looking through an obscure mirror), what room is their for faith?
  • 1 Cor 14:34: Law. What law is Paul referring to in this verse and how does it apply to the situation?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 13: Joni Mitchell sings. Hear Joni Mitchell's beautiful rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 [160]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Chapter 11                      Next page: Chapter 15

1 Cor 15:1-5

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapter 15
Previous page: Chapters 12-14                      Next page: Chapter 16


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Summary[edit]

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VI. The Gospel of the Resurrection (Chapter 15)
• Topic 9: "How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? ..." (15:12)

Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 15:1-2. This verse gives evidence that Paul believed that one could fall from grace. One must keep the gospel in constant remembrance, otherwise, any belief one once had is in vain. This is also part of the LDS sacramental ordinance: "that they may always remember..."
  • 1 Cor 15:5-14. Paul in this chapter makes clear that Jesus' resurrection is an essential doctrine. Beginning in verse 5, he emphasizes that the Resurrection is a historical, actual event: Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples (verse 5), then more than 500 people at one time (verse 6, an event not otherwise recorded in scriptures), James and the apostles (verse 7), and ultimately Paul (verse 8). He notes in verse 6 that most of those who saw the resurrected Jesus are still alive, possibly because he is encouraging anyone skeptical about the resurrection to talk to one of the witnesses. Without the resurrection, Paul says later (verse 14), there is no meaningful substance to the Christian faith.
  • 1 Cor 15:6. Adelphoi, the Greek word translated as "brethren" in verse 6, means both "brothers" and "brothers and sisters."
  • 1 Cor 15:7. In conjunction with verse 5, this passage indicates that the "twelve" and the "apostles" are two different groups. As the earliest Christian author, Paul provides an interesting insight into this division. Luke in Acts is the first to limit the "apostles" to "the twelve".
  • 1 Cor 15:8. The phrase "born out of due time" in verse 8 comes from the Greek word ektroma, which refers to either a miscarriage or a premature birth. This is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used.
Paul's reference in verse 8 to seeing the resurrected Jesus "as of one born out of due time" (or, more literally, as to a child prematurely born or miscarried) probably refers to the nature of Paul's conversion experience. Not only was it sudden and unexpected (as a premature birth or miscarriage would be), but at the time it would have appeared to any objective observer that Paul wasn't a person who was ready to see Jesus.
  • 1 Cor 15:10. This scripture gives additional insight on Paul's "grace vrs. works" paradigm. Paul first says that he was such a wicked man before he was converted that he had to make up for it by "labouring more abundantly" than any of the other apostles after his conversion. Then he corrects himself, lest he be accused of working out his salvation by works: "Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." Paul was not the one who worked, but only God's grace within him. To Paul, works are the fruit of God's grace, not our own personal contribution to the building of the kingdom. None of us can glory in our own works, for God gave us the spirit and the ability to perform them.
Does this make Paul a biological, environmental, or rather spiritual determinist? Does he believe that we are all merely acting out according to the pre-determined or pre-destined will of God? Paul might argue that we do make the first choice to believe, and then we chose to retain that belief in remembrance (verse 2). According to Paul, if we truly believe in an honest and complete way, God's grace will bear the fruit of many good works within us. Therefore, it is in choosing to believe that our free agency is manifest. Other apostles, such as James might disagree, arguing that it is possible to have faith without works, and that accomplishing works requires a diligent, conscious effort that comes from our own personal determination and self-discipline.
While Paul's view that "works are the sole fruit of God's grace" is perhaps a bit idealistic, it is good to keep in remembrance, lest we think too highly of ourselves, and become proud of our accomplishments. We all owe so much to God-given factors beyond our control: parental guidance, a healthy, sound mind and body, educational opportunities, inspiration from the Holy Ghost, and much, much more. Truly we can't take credit for anything we have accomplished, for it all would be impossible without God's grace.
  • 1 Cor 15:12. Paul attempts to defend his teachings concerning the future resurrection of the dead on the basis of Christ’s resurrection. The primary problem in this text is understanding the position of the opponents. Though the text itself offers a quotation from the opponents, “there is no resurrection of the dead,” it is difficult to understand exactly what is meant by this. We have seen Paul quote other slogans of the opponents in this letter (6:12, 13; 8:1, 4) followed by a defense or explanation of his own position. However, these other quotations don’t contribute to our understanding of the text. There are a number of different possibilities that have been suggested.
Perhaps the most prominent position that has been proposed has been that the Corinthians believe in a “realized resurrection,” that they have already been resurrected, perhaps at baptism. This view sees the Corinthian opponents as “Gnostics” or “proto-gnostics”. This reading is frequently supported by 4:8, which mentions that the Corinthians see themselves as partakers “already” in certain aspects of salvation. In this reading, the Corinthians reject a future resurrection, or a resurrection of the dead, in favor or a resurrection of the living.
A second approach has argued that the Corinthians don’t deny a future resurrection, only that they deny a bodily resurrection. In this view, the dispute with the Corinthians centers more on the latter half of chapter 15 in the discussions of the nature of the resurrected body (15:35ff). He focuses on the question that is proposed, “with what kind of body do they come” (15:35).
  • 1 Cor 15:17. One of the difficulties that the text presents is how Paul justifies the argument from Christ’s resurrection to a general resurrection. Paul takes Christ as primary evidence of the possibility of the resurrection. Paul seems to assume that the Corinthians don’t deny Christ’s resurrection, only a more general resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is seen as a miraculous, exceptional event, exactly the way that it has been presented to them, but it doesn’t follow that this is necessarily the fate of all believers. In this reading, the denial of the resurrection in 15:12 and the first question in 15:35, “How are the dead raised?” represent more closely the skeptical position of the Corinthians. We may have another clue in verse 19 that indicates that the Corinthians might have believed that we hope in Christ for our benefit in this life "only". In this view, the question about “what kind of body” can be seen in a larger skeptical view about the possibility of the resurrection and life after death, rather than a debate over its nature per se.
Paul’s claim about Christ’s resurrection seems to rely upon the fact that the Corinthians believe in Christ’s resurrection. His opening rehearsal (15:1-11) of these resurrection accounts is meant more to set up the argument in 12-19 than to prove that Christ was resurrected. In fact, he says that they have accepted Christ’s resurrection in 15:1 (Gr: parelabete) and 11 (Gr: epistevsate). He even suggests that they believe in the salvation from their sins through Christ’s resurrection (17). It may not be possible to discern the precise position of the Corinthians, but this doesn’t preclude a study of the competing notions of the body and afterlife that Paul sees are at stake.
  • 1 Cor 15:32. Paul likely means that he encountered fierce opposition from men at Ephesus, and not that he actually fought with beasts. [161]
  • 1 Cor 15:32-33. Paul believes that a knowledge of the resurrection is a deterrent to bad behavior, or rather, that those who don't believe in the resurrection are more likely to sin in the flesh, as they will never get the chance to be "in the flesh" again. Much is written about Paul's "mortification" of the flesh: his frequent call to live after the spirit and not after the flesh. There is some question as to whether he thought of the "flesh" as evil. Paul spoke pessimistically of marriage and at the same time rails against fornication, indicating that for him, the sexual pleasures of the flesh are a necessary evil. Additionally, Paul speaks frequently about his suffering in the flesh, his "thorn in the flesh" and "dying daily" in verse 31.
Yet Paul's celebration of the Resurrection as a place to experience the "flesh" again, so we don't have to sin in this life, is evidence that he also believed the flesh was a positive aspect of life, that could be looked forward to in the next life as well as this.
  • 1 Cor 15:37. Paul compares death and burial to the sowing of a seed. Just as a farmer plants a seed in the earth that springs forth into various plants and trees, so also a dead body planted in the earth will spring up into a new body at the resurrection. Paul .says, "thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain," This means that the grain does not spring up from the earth in the form of another single piece of grain, just like the seed, but rather into a completely new plant of wheat or some other grain. Paul means to say that in the resurrection, we will have a new body, one far superior to our mortal body, just as a seed differs from the plant it becomes. Later Paul notes, "it is sown in corruption, raised in incorruption, sown in weakness, raised in power.
  • 1 Cor 15:39-40. Doctrine and Covenants 76 is the first recorded instance where the degrees of heaven are specifically named Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial. However, in this verse, Paul notes two types of bodies: "celestial," often translated as heavenly, and "terrestrial" often translated as earthly. Joseph Smith added a third kind of body in the JST: the "telestial." Some contend that Joseph Smith changes Paul's meaning by adding "telestial" when Paul only meant to describe heavenly versus earthly bodies. However, there is bountiful evidence that Paul and other early Christian writers understood that there were multiple degrees of heaven. In 2 Cor 12:2 Paul speaks of being caught up in the "third" heaven. And in this chapter Paul goes to great lengths to give examples of many different kinds of bodies: beasts, fishes, birds, wheat, other grains, celestial, terrestial, sun, moon, and stars. Paul's intent is to compare the diversity of bodies in this world, with the diversity of glory in the resurrection. There will not be a kind of "one-size fits all" resurrection, or a simple return to our mortal state. Rather, like various kinds of seeds planted in the earth, human bodies will spring up into many different types and glories depending on their spiritual nature.
  • 1 Cor 15:44: Natural and spiritual. The word translated here as "natural" can sometimes give the reader a false impression of a physical body as opposed to a non-physical body. However, the Greek word translated "natural" is psychikos, meaning, quite literally translated, "psychical," "according to the mind." Accordingly, the word "spiritual" translates the Greek pneumatikos, "according to the spirit" or even "according to the Spirit." When Paul goes on to say that "there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body," it must be absolutely clear that both bodies are bodies, but that one is "according to the mind," and the other is "according to the spirit." (cf. Matt 10:28 where the same Greek word translated here as "natural" is contrasted to the body). In other words, the body we have here is a body that is dominated by the mind, by our fallen thoughts and our pathetic take on the world. The body to be had in the resurrection is a body that is dominated by the spirit, one that allows for communication with the Spirit.
  • 1 Cor 15:45: Living soul and quickening spirit. The phrase "living soul" is a direct citation of Gen 2:7 where God is forms man by "breath[ing] into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." The phrase translated "quickening" in the KJV in the phrase "quickening spirit" comes from the Greek word zōopoieō which translates, roughly, as "life-giving." The contrast here, then is between the first Adam's "living soul" and the last Adam's "life-giving spirit." The word for "soul" here, psychē, shares the same root as the word "natural" in the previous verse, as noted above. Rhetorically, then, "natural" in v. 44 and "soul" in v. 45 are parallel, as is "spiritual" in v. 44 and "spirit" in v. 45.
  • 1 Cor 15:45/ This verse can be, at first, confusing, but it can quickly be sorted out: though it appears that Paul is quoting some text that compares two Adam's, it is clear that the second half of this verse is Paul himself, adding to the text he quotes. "And so it is written": the reference is Gen 2:7. There one reads "and man [Hebrew: `dm, "Adam"] became a living soul [Hebrew nphsh]." The Septuagint (Greek OT) translates nphsh as psyche, "mind" or (roughly) "soul," which is the word Paul uses here, and of which he uses a cognate in the previous verse (poorly translated as "natural"). It is important to note that the word "first" does not appear in the OT text at all, that Paul himself has added it, as he has everything that follows the semi-colon. It would be better, then, to render this verse: And so it is written: The first man "Adam was made a living soul"; the last Adam a quickening spirit. Rendered thus, it becomes clear that Paul is not attempting here to quote a proof text, but rather to offer an interpretation of a very important text: the creation story as recorded in Genesis. That interpretation is not only vital to his own argument here, it is an incredibly fruitful reading of the Old Testament. It deserves some careful attention.
As is certainly the case in the immediately preceding and also in the immediately following verses, Paul divides the "history" of the world up into two eras, what one might (following the prevalent themes of the chapter) call "the old creation" and "the new creation" (following, perhaps more closely in the end, C. S. Lewis' similar distinction in Miracles). In doubling the verse from Gen 2, Paul relegates the story told in that verse to "the old creation," suggesting that beyond the creation story of Gen 2, there is another creation story, one in which a "last Adam" is made "a quickening [or lifegiving] spirit." In "the new creation" story, the "soul" is foregone in favor of the "spirit," in the same distinction drawn in verse 44: instead of having a body according to mind, as the first Adam did (and following the Hebrew text of Gen 2:7!), the last Adam, the Adam from "the new creation" story is to have a body according to spirit. Most important in all of this is the fact that Paul draws a careful distinction between two creations, or really, between two creation stories. The story as told in the second chapter of Genesis he effectively labels the story of "the old creation." The implication is either that the story of "the new creation" is as yet unwritten, or perhaps that Gen 1 is the story of the new creation. This latter turns out to be Paul's interpretation, as the next verse makes clear.
  • 1 Cor 15:46: Natural. The word for "natural" here is more accurately translated as "psychic," or perhaps "soulish" (Gk: ψυχικος). The same term is used in 1 Cor 2:14. The term may refer to how some of the members of the Corinthian community characterized themselves.
  • 1 Cor 15:46.Paul makes very clear here, following the commentary at verse 45, that he understands Genesis as his primary text. Since Adam became a "living soul" (Gen 2:7) after the "breath" (Greek: πνεη) or "spirit" was given to him, it shows that the first Adam was actually made of earth and then he was given spirit. Paul reads this episode allegorically (verse 47). He argues that the "soulish" ("natural") human is actually the body that we inhabit now. Paul suggests that the soul is no greater than the dust of the earth and that instead we should seek the spiritual. Paul is entering into ancient debates about the anthropology of the body as composed of flesh, soul, and spirit.
If Paul is indeed making this argument, it should be noted that he explicitly offers a counter to prevailing interpretation at the time. The Rabbinical writings, and Philo more explicitly and earlier, make reference to the apparently double creation story of Gen 1-2. The prevailing interpretation is that Adam was creation in Gen 1 as nearly a god, only afterwards to be recreated in the flesh in Gen 2. The idea seems to be that the Fall was a separable event from the creation, and that, as such, the hope of a Messiah was the only hope for overcoming such a horrible event. This reading makes the plan of history a three-fold plan (creation, fall, and atonement--whatever atonement means according to the Rabbis), whereas Paul suggests here rather a two-fold plan (creation/fall and atonement, the old creation and the new creation). In any event, Paul's interpretation is quite fruitful. Paul doesn't read the double-creation story, just Gen 2.
  • 1 Cor 15:50. This text seems problematic for understanding the resurrection of the flesh. This problem may be averted if Paul here is speaking of realms rather than substances. Those who exist within the realm of the flesh may not enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Gal 5). Additionally, some LDS writers have discussed the nature of the resurrected body as being made of "flesh and bone" rather than "flesh and blood", picking up on Luke 24:39. It is suggested that Paul is working with the same distinction.

Points to ponder[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 15:14-19: Importance of the Resurrection. Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Sunday Will Come," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 28–30. Elder Wirthlin reminds us that "the Resurrection is at the core of our beliefs as Christians. Without it, our faith is meaningless." Elder Wirthlin also bears a "solemn testimony that death is not the end of existence."
  • Stendahl article. See "Ancient Sources for Baptism of the Dead" by Krister Stendahl for a summary of some scholarly and historical views on this verse.
  • See this article by Kevin Barney at the BCC blog for a survey of different (mostly non-Mormon) readings of this verse.
  • 1 Cor 15:40-42: Three degrees of glory. See this link for a fascinating discussion of ancient Christian writings that anticipate our modern understanding of the three degrees of glory.
  • 1 Cor 15:51-55: Music inspired by the Resurrection. Several great composers have been inspired by 1 Corinthians 15:51-55. Some of the best settings include:

Notes[edit]

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1 Cor 15:6-10

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Summary[edit]

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VI. The Gospel of the Resurrection (Chapter 15)
• Topic 9: "How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? ..." (15:12)

Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 15:1-2. This verse gives evidence that Paul believed that one could fall from grace. One must keep the gospel in constant remembrance, otherwise, any belief one once had is in vain. This is also part of the LDS sacramental ordinance: "that they may always remember..."
  • 1 Cor 15:5-14. Paul in this chapter makes clear that Jesus' resurrection is an essential doctrine. Beginning in verse 5, he emphasizes that the Resurrection is a historical, actual event: Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples (verse 5), then more than 500 people at one time (verse 6, an event not otherwise recorded in scriptures), James and the apostles (verse 7), and ultimately Paul (verse 8). He notes in verse 6 that most of those who saw the resurrected Jesus are still alive, possibly because he is encouraging anyone skeptical about the resurrection to talk to one of the witnesses. Without the resurrection, Paul says later (verse 14), there is no meaningful substance to the Christian faith.
  • 1 Cor 15:6. Adelphoi, the Greek word translated as "brethren" in verse 6, means both "brothers" and "brothers and sisters."
  • 1 Cor 15:7. In conjunction with verse 5, this passage indicates that the "twelve" and the "apostles" are two different groups. As the earliest Christian author, Paul provides an interesting insight into this division. Luke in Acts is the first to limit the "apostles" to "the twelve".
  • 1 Cor 15:8. The phrase "born out of due time" in verse 8 comes from the Greek word ektroma, which refers to either a miscarriage or a premature birth. This is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used.
Paul's reference in verse 8 to seeing the resurrected Jesus "as of one born out of due time" (or, more literally, as to a child prematurely born or miscarried) probably refers to the nature of Paul's conversion experience. Not only was it sudden and unexpected (as a premature birth or miscarriage would be), but at the time it would have appeared to any objective observer that Paul wasn't a person who was ready to see Jesus.
  • 1 Cor 15:10. This scripture gives additional insight on Paul's "grace vrs. works" paradigm. Paul first says that he was such a wicked man before he was converted that he had to make up for it by "labouring more abundantly" than any of the other apostles after his conversion. Then he corrects himself, lest he be accused of working out his salvation by works: "Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." Paul was not the one who worked, but only God's grace within him. To Paul, works are the fruit of God's grace, not our own personal contribution to the building of the kingdom. None of us can glory in our own works, for God gave us the spirit and the ability to perform them.
Does this make Paul a biological, environmental, or rather spiritual determinist? Does he believe that we are all merely acting out according to the pre-determined or pre-destined will of God? Paul might argue that we do make the first choice to believe, and then we chose to retain that belief in remembrance (verse 2). According to Paul, if we truly believe in an honest and complete way, God's grace will bear the fruit of many good works within us. Therefore, it is in choosing to believe that our free agency is manifest. Other apostles, such as James might disagree, arguing that it is possible to have faith without works, and that accomplishing works requires a diligent, conscious effort that comes from our own personal determination and self-discipline.
While Paul's view that "works are the sole fruit of God's grace" is perhaps a bit idealistic, it is good to keep in remembrance, lest we think too highly of ourselves, and become proud of our accomplishments. We all owe so much to God-given factors beyond our control: parental guidance, a healthy, sound mind and body, educational opportunities, inspiration from the Holy Ghost, and much, much more. Truly we can't take credit for anything we have accomplished, for it all would be impossible without God's grace.
  • 1 Cor 15:12. Paul attempts to defend his teachings concerning the future resurrection of the dead on the basis of Christ’s resurrection. The primary problem in this text is understanding the position of the opponents. Though the text itself offers a quotation from the opponents, “there is no resurrection of the dead,” it is difficult to understand exactly what is meant by this. We have seen Paul quote other slogans of the opponents in this letter (6:12, 13; 8:1, 4) followed by a defense or explanation of his own position. However, these other quotations don’t contribute to our understanding of the text. There are a number of different possibilities that have been suggested.
Perhaps the most prominent position that has been proposed has been that the Corinthians believe in a “realized resurrection,” that they have already been resurrected, perhaps at baptism. This view sees the Corinthian opponents as “Gnostics” or “proto-gnostics”. This reading is frequently supported by 4:8, which mentions that the Corinthians see themselves as partakers “already” in certain aspects of salvation. In this reading, the Corinthians reject a future resurrection, or a resurrection of the dead, in favor or a resurrection of the living.
A second approach has argued that the Corinthians don’t deny a future resurrection, only that they deny a bodily resurrection. In this view, the dispute with the Corinthians centers more on the latter half of chapter 15 in the discussions of the nature of the resurrected body (15:35ff). He focuses on the question that is proposed, “with what kind of body do they come” (15:35).
  • 1 Cor 15:17. One of the difficulties that the text presents is how Paul justifies the argument from Christ’s resurrection to a general resurrection. Paul takes Christ as primary evidence of the possibility of the resurrection. Paul seems to assume that the Corinthians don’t deny Christ’s resurrection, only a more general resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is seen as a miraculous, exceptional event, exactly the way that it has been presented to them, but it doesn’t follow that this is necessarily the fate of all believers. In this reading, the denial of the resurrection in 15:12 and the first question in 15:35, “How are the dead raised?” represent more closely the skeptical position of the Corinthians. We may have another clue in verse 19 that indicates that the Corinthians might have believed that we hope in Christ for our benefit in this life "only". In this view, the question about “what kind of body” can be seen in a larger skeptical view about the possibility of the resurrection and life after death, rather than a debate over its nature per se.
Paul’s claim about Christ’s resurrection seems to rely upon the fact that the Corinthians believe in Christ’s resurrection. His opening rehearsal (15:1-11) of these resurrection accounts is meant more to set up the argument in 12-19 than to prove that Christ was resurrected. In fact, he says that they have accepted Christ’s resurrection in 15:1 (Gr: parelabete) and 11 (Gr: epistevsate). He even suggests that they believe in the salvation from their sins through Christ’s resurrection (17). It may not be possible to discern the precise position of the Corinthians, but this doesn’t preclude a study of the competing notions of the body and afterlife that Paul sees are at stake.
  • 1 Cor 15:32. Paul likely means that he encountered fierce opposition from men at Ephesus, and not that he actually fought with beasts. [162]
  • 1 Cor 15:32-33. Paul believes that a knowledge of the resurrection is a deterrent to bad behavior, or rather, that those who don't believe in the resurrection are more likely to sin in the flesh, as they will never get the chance to be "in the flesh" again. Much is written about Paul's "mortification" of the flesh: his frequent call to live after the spirit and not after the flesh. There is some question as to whether he thought of the "flesh" as evil. Paul spoke pessimistically of marriage and at the same time rails against fornication, indicating that for him, the sexual pleasures of the flesh are a necessary evil. Additionally, Paul speaks frequently about his suffering in the flesh, his "thorn in the flesh" and "dying daily" in verse 31.
Yet Paul's celebration of the Resurrection as a place to experience the "flesh" again, so we don't have to sin in this life, is evidence that he also believed the flesh was a positive aspect of life, that could be looked forward to in the next life as well as this.
  • 1 Cor 15:37. Paul compares death and burial to the sowing of a seed. Just as a farmer plants a seed in the earth that springs forth into various plants and trees, so also a dead body planted in the earth will spring up into a new body at the resurrection. Paul .says, "thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain," This means that the grain does not spring up from the earth in the form of another single piece of grain, just like the seed, but rather into a completely new plant of wheat or some other grain. Paul means to say that in the resurrection, we will have a new body, one far superior to our mortal body, just as a seed differs from the plant it becomes. Later Paul notes, "it is sown in corruption, raised in incorruption, sown in weakness, raised in power.
  • 1 Cor 15:39-40. Doctrine and Covenants 76 is the first recorded instance where the degrees of heaven are specifically named Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial. However, in this verse, Paul notes two types of bodies: "celestial," often translated as heavenly, and "terrestrial" often translated as earthly. Joseph Smith added a third kind of body in the JST: the "telestial." Some contend that Joseph Smith changes Paul's meaning by adding "telestial" when Paul only meant to describe heavenly versus earthly bodies. However, there is bountiful evidence that Paul and other early Christian writers understood that there were multiple degrees of heaven. In 2 Cor 12:2 Paul speaks of being caught up in the "third" heaven. And in this chapter Paul goes to great lengths to give examples of many different kinds of bodies: beasts, fishes, birds, wheat, other grains, celestial, terrestial, sun, moon, and stars. Paul's intent is to compare the diversity of bodies in this world, with the diversity of glory in the resurrection. There will not be a kind of "one-size fits all" resurrection, or a simple return to our mortal state. Rather, like various kinds of seeds planted in the earth, human bodies will spring up into many different types and glories depending on their spiritual nature.
  • 1 Cor 15:44: Natural and spiritual. The word translated here as "natural" can sometimes give the reader a false impression of a physical body as opposed to a non-physical body. However, the Greek word translated "natural" is psychikos, meaning, quite literally translated, "psychical," "according to the mind." Accordingly, the word "spiritual" translates the Greek pneumatikos, "according to the spirit" or even "according to the Spirit." When Paul goes on to say that "there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body," it must be absolutely clear that both bodies are bodies, but that one is "according to the mind," and the other is "according to the spirit." (cf. Matt 10:28 where the same Greek word translated here as "natural" is contrasted to the body). In other words, the body we have here is a body that is dominated by the mind, by our fallen thoughts and our pathetic take on the world. The body to be had in the resurrection is a body that is dominated by the spirit, one that allows for communication with the Spirit.
  • 1 Cor 15:45: Living soul and quickening spirit. The phrase "living soul" is a direct citation of Gen 2:7 where God is forms man by "breath[ing] into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." The phrase translated "quickening" in the KJV in the phrase "quickening spirit" comes from the Greek word zōopoieō which translates, roughly, as "life-giving." The contrast here, then is between the first Adam's "living soul" and the last Adam's "life-giving spirit." The word for "soul" here, psychē, shares the same root as the word "natural" in the previous verse, as noted above. Rhetorically, then, "natural" in v. 44 and "soul" in v. 45 are parallel, as is "spiritual" in v. 44 and "spirit" in v. 45.
  • 1 Cor 15:45/ This verse can be, at first, confusing, but it can quickly be sorted out: though it appears that Paul is quoting some text that compares two Adam's, it is clear that the second half of this verse is Paul himself, adding to the text he quotes. "And so it is written": the reference is Gen 2:7. There one reads "and man [Hebrew: `dm, "Adam"] became a living soul [Hebrew nphsh]." The Septuagint (Greek OT) translates nphsh as psyche, "mind" or (roughly) "soul," which is the word Paul uses here, and of which he uses a cognate in the previous verse (poorly translated as "natural"). It is important to note that the word "first" does not appear in the OT text at all, that Paul himself has added it, as he has everything that follows the semi-colon. It would be better, then, to render this verse: And so it is written: The first man "Adam was made a living soul"; the last Adam a quickening spirit. Rendered thus, it becomes clear that Paul is not attempting here to quote a proof text, but rather to offer an interpretation of a very important text: the creation story as recorded in Genesis. That interpretation is not only vital to his own argument here, it is an incredibly fruitful reading of the Old Testament. It deserves some careful attention.
As is certainly the case in the immediately preceding and also in the immediately following verses, Paul divides the "history" of the world up into two eras, what one might (following the prevalent themes of the chapter) call "the old creation" and "the new creation" (following, perhaps more closely in the end, C. S. Lewis' similar distinction in Miracles). In doubling the verse from Gen 2, Paul relegates the story told in that verse to "the old creation," suggesting that beyond the creation story of Gen 2, there is another creation story, one in which a "last Adam" is made "a quickening [or lifegiving] spirit." In "the new creation" story, the "soul" is foregone in favor of the "spirit," in the same distinction drawn in verse 44: instead of having a body according to mind, as the first Adam did (and following the Hebrew text of Gen 2:7!), the last Adam, the Adam from "the new creation" story is to have a body according to spirit. Most important in all of this is the fact that Paul draws a careful distinction between two creations, or really, between two creation stories. The story as told in the second chapter of Genesis he effectively labels the story of "the old creation." The implication is either that the story of "the new creation" is as yet unwritten, or perhaps that Gen 1 is the story of the new creation. This latter turns out to be Paul's interpretation, as the next verse makes clear.
  • 1 Cor 15:46: Natural. The word for "natural" here is more accurately translated as "psychic," or perhaps "soulish" (Gk: ψυχικος). The same term is used in 1 Cor 2:14. The term may refer to how some of the members of the Corinthian community characterized themselves.
  • 1 Cor 15:46.Paul makes very clear here, following the commentary at verse 45, that he understands Genesis as his primary text. Since Adam became a "living soul" (Gen 2:7) after the "breath" (Greek: πνεη) or "spirit" was given to him, it shows that the first Adam was actually made of earth and then he was given spirit. Paul reads this episode allegorically (verse 47). He argues that the "soulish" ("natural") human is actually the body that we inhabit now. Paul suggests that the soul is no greater than the dust of the earth and that instead we should seek the spiritual. Paul is entering into ancient debates about the anthropology of the body as composed of flesh, soul, and spirit.
If Paul is indeed making this argument, it should be noted that he explicitly offers a counter to prevailing interpretation at the time. The Rabbinical writings, and Philo more explicitly and earlier, make reference to the apparently double creation story of Gen 1-2. The prevailing interpretation is that Adam was creation in Gen 1 as nearly a god, only afterwards to be recreated in the flesh in Gen 2. The idea seems to be that the Fall was a separable event from the creation, and that, as such, the hope of a Messiah was the only hope for overcoming such a horrible event. This reading makes the plan of history a three-fold plan (creation, fall, and atonement--whatever atonement means according to the Rabbis), whereas Paul suggests here rather a two-fold plan (creation/fall and atonement, the old creation and the new creation). In any event, Paul's interpretation is quite fruitful. Paul doesn't read the double-creation story, just Gen 2.
  • 1 Cor 15:50. This text seems problematic for understanding the resurrection of the flesh. This problem may be averted if Paul here is speaking of realms rather than substances. Those who exist within the realm of the flesh may not enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Gal 5). Additionally, some LDS writers have discussed the nature of the resurrected body as being made of "flesh and bone" rather than "flesh and blood", picking up on Luke 24:39. It is suggested that Paul is working with the same distinction.

Points to ponder[edit]

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I have a question[edit]

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Resources[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 15:14-19: Importance of the Resurrection. Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Sunday Will Come," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 28–30. Elder Wirthlin reminds us that "the Resurrection is at the core of our beliefs as Christians. Without it, our faith is meaningless." Elder Wirthlin also bears a "solemn testimony that death is not the end of existence."
  • Stendahl article. See "Ancient Sources for Baptism of the Dead" by Krister Stendahl for a summary of some scholarly and historical views on this verse.
  • See this article by Kevin Barney at the BCC blog for a survey of different (mostly non-Mormon) readings of this verse.
  • 1 Cor 15:40-42: Three degrees of glory. See this link for a fascinating discussion of ancient Christian writings that anticipate our modern understanding of the three degrees of glory.
  • 1 Cor 15:51-55: Music inspired by the Resurrection. Several great composers have been inspired by 1 Corinthians 15:51-55. Some of the best settings include:

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Chapters 12-14                      Next page: Chapter 16

1 Cor 15:11-15

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VI. The Gospel of the Resurrection (Chapter 15)
• Topic 9: "How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? ..." (15:12)

Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 15:1-2. This verse gives evidence that Paul believed that one could fall from grace. One must keep the gospel in constant remembrance, otherwise, any belief one once had is in vain. This is also part of the LDS sacramental ordinance: "that they may always remember..."
  • 1 Cor 15:5-14. Paul in this chapter makes clear that Jesus' resurrection is an essential doctrine. Beginning in verse 5, he emphasizes that the Resurrection is a historical, actual event: Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples (verse 5), then more than 500 people at one time (verse 6, an event not otherwise recorded in scriptures), James and the apostles (verse 7), and ultimately Paul (verse 8). He notes in verse 6 that most of those who saw the resurrected Jesus are still alive, possibly because he is encouraging anyone skeptical about the resurrection to talk to one of the witnesses. Without the resurrection, Paul says later (verse 14), there is no meaningful substance to the Christian faith.
  • 1 Cor 15:6. Adelphoi, the Greek word translated as "brethren" in verse 6, means both "brothers" and "brothers and sisters."
  • 1 Cor 15:7. In conjunction with verse 5, this passage indicates that the "twelve" and the "apostles" are two different groups. As the earliest Christian author, Paul provides an interesting insight into this division. Luke in Acts is the first to limit the "apostles" to "the twelve".
  • 1 Cor 15:8. The phrase "born out of due time" in verse 8 comes from the Greek word ektroma, which refers to either a miscarriage or a premature birth. This is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used.
Paul's reference in verse 8 to seeing the resurrected Jesus "as of one born out of due time" (or, more literally, as to a child prematurely born or miscarried) probably refers to the nature of Paul's conversion experience. Not only was it sudden and unexpected (as a premature birth or miscarriage would be), but at the time it would have appeared to any objective observer that Paul wasn't a person who was ready to see Jesus.
  • 1 Cor 15:10. This scripture gives additional insight on Paul's "grace vrs. works" paradigm. Paul first says that he was such a wicked man before he was converted that he had to make up for it by "labouring more abundantly" than any of the other apostles after his conversion. Then he corrects himself, lest he be accused of working out his salvation by works: "Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." Paul was not the one who worked, but only God's grace within him. To Paul, works are the fruit of God's grace, not our own personal contribution to the building of the kingdom. None of us can glory in our own works, for God gave us the spirit and the ability to perform them.
Does this make Paul a biological, environmental, or rather spiritual determinist? Does he believe that we are all merely acting out according to the pre-determined or pre-destined will of God? Paul might argue that we do make the first choice to believe, and then we chose to retain that belief in remembrance (verse 2). According to Paul, if we truly believe in an honest and complete way, God's grace will bear the fruit of many good works within us. Therefore, it is in choosing to believe that our free agency is manifest. Other apostles, such as James might disagree, arguing that it is possible to have faith without works, and that accomplishing works requires a diligent, conscious effort that comes from our own personal determination and self-discipline.
While Paul's view that "works are the sole fruit of God's grace" is perhaps a bit idealistic, it is good to keep in remembrance, lest we think too highly of ourselves, and become proud of our accomplishments. We all owe so much to God-given factors beyond our control: parental guidance, a healthy, sound mind and body, educational opportunities, inspiration from the Holy Ghost, and much, much more. Truly we can't take credit for anything we have accomplished, for it all would be impossible without God's grace.
  • 1 Cor 15:12. Paul attempts to defend his teachings concerning the future resurrection of the dead on the basis of Christ’s resurrection. The primary problem in this text is understanding the position of the opponents. Though the text itself offers a quotation from the opponents, “there is no resurrection of the dead,” it is difficult to understand exactly what is meant by this. We have seen Paul quote other slogans of the opponents in this letter (6:12, 13; 8:1, 4) followed by a defense or explanation of his own position. However, these other quotations don’t contribute to our understanding of the text. There are a number of different possibilities that have been suggested.
Perhaps the most prominent position that has been proposed has been that the Corinthians believe in a “realized resurrection,” that they have already been resurrected, perhaps at baptism. This view sees the Corinthian opponents as “Gnostics” or “proto-gnostics”. This reading is frequently supported by 4:8, which mentions that the Corinthians see themselves as partakers “already” in certain aspects of salvation. In this reading, the Corinthians reject a future resurrection, or a resurrection of the dead, in favor or a resurrection of the living.
A second approach has argued that the Corinthians don’t deny a future resurrection, only that they deny a bodily resurrection. In this view, the dispute with the Corinthians centers more on the latter half of chapter 15 in the discussions of the nature of the resurrected body (15:35ff). He focuses on the question that is proposed, “with what kind of body do they come” (15:35).
  • 1 Cor 15:17. One of the difficulties that the text presents is how Paul justifies the argument from Christ’s resurrection to a general resurrection. Paul takes Christ as primary evidence of the possibility of the resurrection. Paul seems to assume that the Corinthians don’t deny Christ’s resurrection, only a more general resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is seen as a miraculous, exceptional event, exactly the way that it has been presented to them, but it doesn’t follow that this is necessarily the fate of all believers. In this reading, the denial of the resurrection in 15:12 and the first question in 15:35, “How are the dead raised?” represent more closely the skeptical position of the Corinthians. We may have another clue in verse 19 that indicates that the Corinthians might have believed that we hope in Christ for our benefit in this life "only". In this view, the question about “what kind of body” can be seen in a larger skeptical view about the possibility of the resurrection and life after death, rather than a debate over its nature per se.
Paul’s claim about Christ’s resurrection seems to rely upon the fact that the Corinthians believe in Christ’s resurrection. His opening rehearsal (15:1-11) of these resurrection accounts is meant more to set up the argument in 12-19 than to prove that Christ was resurrected. In fact, he says that they have accepted Christ’s resurrection in 15:1 (Gr: parelabete) and 11 (Gr: epistevsate). He even suggests that they believe in the salvation from their sins through Christ’s resurrection (17). It may not be possible to discern the precise position of the Corinthians, but this doesn’t preclude a study of the competing notions of the body and afterlife that Paul sees are at stake.
  • 1 Cor 15:32. Paul likely means that he encountered fierce opposition from men at Ephesus, and not that he actually fought with beasts. [163]
  • 1 Cor 15:32-33. Paul believes that a knowledge of the resurrection is a deterrent to bad behavior, or rather, that those who don't believe in the resurrection are more likely to sin in the flesh, as they will never get the chance to be "in the flesh" again. Much is written about Paul's "mortification" of the flesh: his frequent call to live after the spirit and not after the flesh. There is some question as to whether he thought of the "flesh" as evil. Paul spoke pessimistically of marriage and at the same time rails against fornication, indicating that for him, the sexual pleasures of the flesh are a necessary evil. Additionally, Paul speaks frequently about his suffering in the flesh, his "thorn in the flesh" and "dying daily" in verse 31.
Yet Paul's celebration of the Resurrection as a place to experience the "flesh" again, so we don't have to sin in this life, is evidence that he also believed the flesh was a positive aspect of life, that could be looked forward to in the next life as well as this.
  • 1 Cor 15:37. Paul compares death and burial to the sowing of a seed. Just as a farmer plants a seed in the earth that springs forth into various plants and trees, so also a dead body planted in the earth will spring up into a new body at the resurrection. Paul .says, "thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain," This means that the grain does not spring up from the earth in the form of another single piece of grain, just like the seed, but rather into a completely new plant of wheat or some other grain. Paul means to say that in the resurrection, we will have a new body, one far superior to our mortal body, just as a seed differs from the plant it becomes. Later Paul notes, "it is sown in corruption, raised in incorruption, sown in weakness, raised in power.
  • 1 Cor 15:39-40. Doctrine and Covenants 76 is the first recorded instance where the degrees of heaven are specifically named Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial. However, in this verse, Paul notes two types of bodies: "celestial," often translated as heavenly, and "terrestrial" often translated as earthly. Joseph Smith added a third kind of body in the JST: the "telestial." Some contend that Joseph Smith changes Paul's meaning by adding "telestial" when Paul only meant to describe heavenly versus earthly bodies. However, there is bountiful evidence that Paul and other early Christian writers understood that there were multiple degrees of heaven. In 2 Cor 12:2 Paul speaks of being caught up in the "third" heaven. And in this chapter Paul goes to great lengths to give examples of many different kinds of bodies: beasts, fishes, birds, wheat, other grains, celestial, terrestial, sun, moon, and stars. Paul's intent is to compare the diversity of bodies in this world, with the diversity of glory in the resurrection. There will not be a kind of "one-size fits all" resurrection, or a simple return to our mortal state. Rather, like various kinds of seeds planted in the earth, human bodies will spring up into many different types and glories depending on their spiritual nature.
  • 1 Cor 15:44: Natural and spiritual. The word translated here as "natural" can sometimes give the reader a false impression of a physical body as opposed to a non-physical body. However, the Greek word translated "natural" is psychikos, meaning, quite literally translated, "psychical," "according to the mind." Accordingly, the word "spiritual" translates the Greek pneumatikos, "according to the spirit" or even "according to the Spirit." When Paul goes on to say that "there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body," it must be absolutely clear that both bodies are bodies, but that one is "according to the mind," and the other is "according to the spirit." (cf. Matt 10:28 where the same Greek word translated here as "natural" is contrasted to the body). In other words, the body we have here is a body that is dominated by the mind, by our fallen thoughts and our pathetic take on the world. The body to be had in the resurrection is a body that is dominated by the spirit, one that allows for communication with the Spirit.
  • 1 Cor 15:45: Living soul and quickening spirit. The phrase "living soul" is a direct citation of Gen 2:7 where God is forms man by "breath[ing] into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." The phrase translated "quickening" in the KJV in the phrase "quickening spirit" comes from the Greek word zōopoieō which translates, roughly, as "life-giving." The contrast here, then is between the first Adam's "living soul" and the last Adam's "life-giving spirit." The word for "soul" here, psychē, shares the same root as the word "natural" in the previous verse, as noted above. Rhetorically, then, "natural" in v. 44 and "soul" in v. 45 are parallel, as is "spiritual" in v. 44 and "spirit" in v. 45.
  • 1 Cor 15:45/ This verse can be, at first, confusing, but it can quickly be sorted out: though it appears that Paul is quoting some text that compares two Adam's, it is clear that the second half of this verse is Paul himself, adding to the text he quotes. "And so it is written": the reference is Gen 2:7. There one reads "and man [Hebrew: `dm, "Adam"] became a living soul [Hebrew nphsh]." The Septuagint (Greek OT) translates nphsh as psyche, "mind" or (roughly) "soul," which is the word Paul uses here, and of which he uses a cognate in the previous verse (poorly translated as "natural"). It is important to note that the word "first" does not appear in the OT text at all, that Paul himself has added it, as he has everything that follows the semi-colon. It would be better, then, to render this verse: And so it is written: The first man "Adam was made a living soul"; the last Adam a quickening spirit. Rendered thus, it becomes clear that Paul is not attempting here to quote a proof text, but rather to offer an interpretation of a very important text: the creation story as recorded in Genesis. That interpretation is not only vital to his own argument here, it is an incredibly fruitful reading of the Old Testament. It deserves some careful attention.
As is certainly the case in the immediately preceding and also in the immediately following verses, Paul divides the "history" of the world up into two eras, what one might (following the prevalent themes of the chapter) call "the old creation" and "the new creation" (following, perhaps more closely in the end, C. S. Lewis' similar distinction in Miracles). In doubling the verse from Gen 2, Paul relegates the story told in that verse to "the old creation," suggesting that beyond the creation story of Gen 2, there is another creation story, one in which a "last Adam" is made "a quickening [or lifegiving] spirit." In "the new creation" story, the "soul" is foregone in favor of the "spirit," in the same distinction drawn in verse 44: instead of having a body according to mind, as the first Adam did (and following the Hebrew text of Gen 2:7!), the last Adam, the Adam from "the new creation" story is to have a body according to spirit. Most important in all of this is the fact that Paul draws a careful distinction between two creations, or really, between two creation stories. The story as told in the second chapter of Genesis he effectively labels the story of "the old creation." The implication is either that the story of "the new creation" is as yet unwritten, or perhaps that Gen 1 is the story of the new creation. This latter turns out to be Paul's interpretation, as the next verse makes clear.
  • 1 Cor 15:46: Natural. The word for "natural" here is more accurately translated as "psychic," or perhaps "soulish" (Gk: ψυχικος). The same term is used in 1 Cor 2:14. The term may refer to how some of the members of the Corinthian community characterized themselves.
  • 1 Cor 15:46.Paul makes very clear here, following the commentary at verse 45, that he understands Genesis as his primary text. Since Adam became a "living soul" (Gen 2:7) after the "breath" (Greek: πνεη) or "spirit" was given to him, it shows that the first Adam was actually made of earth and then he was given spirit. Paul reads this episode allegorically (verse 47). He argues that the "soulish" ("natural") human is actually the body that we inhabit now. Paul suggests that the soul is no greater than the dust of the earth and that instead we should seek the spiritual. Paul is entering into ancient debates about the anthropology of the body as composed of flesh, soul, and spirit.
If Paul is indeed making this argument, it should be noted that he explicitly offers a counter to prevailing interpretation at the time. The Rabbinical writings, and Philo more explicitly and earlier, make reference to the apparently double creation story of Gen 1-2. The prevailing interpretation is that Adam was creation in Gen 1 as nearly a god, only afterwards to be recreated in the flesh in Gen 2. The idea seems to be that the Fall was a separable event from the creation, and that, as such, the hope of a Messiah was the only hope for overcoming such a horrible event. This reading makes the plan of history a three-fold plan (creation, fall, and atonement--whatever atonement means according to the Rabbis), whereas Paul suggests here rather a two-fold plan (creation/fall and atonement, the old creation and the new creation). In any event, Paul's interpretation is quite fruitful. Paul doesn't read the double-creation story, just Gen 2.
  • 1 Cor 15:50. This text seems problematic for understanding the resurrection of the flesh. This problem may be averted if Paul here is speaking of realms rather than substances. Those who exist within the realm of the flesh may not enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Gal 5). Additionally, some LDS writers have discussed the nature of the resurrected body as being made of "flesh and bone" rather than "flesh and blood", picking up on Luke 24:39. It is suggested that Paul is working with the same distinction.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 15:14-19: Importance of the Resurrection. Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Sunday Will Come," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 28–30. Elder Wirthlin reminds us that "the Resurrection is at the core of our beliefs as Christians. Without it, our faith is meaningless." Elder Wirthlin also bears a "solemn testimony that death is not the end of existence."
  • Stendahl article. See "Ancient Sources for Baptism of the Dead" by Krister Stendahl for a summary of some scholarly and historical views on this verse.
  • See this article by Kevin Barney at the BCC blog for a survey of different (mostly non-Mormon) readings of this verse.
  • 1 Cor 15:40-42: Three degrees of glory. See this link for a fascinating discussion of ancient Christian writings that anticipate our modern understanding of the three degrees of glory.
  • 1 Cor 15:51-55: Music inspired by the Resurrection. Several great composers have been inspired by 1 Corinthians 15:51-55. Some of the best settings include:

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Chapters 12-14                      Next page: Chapter 16

1 Cor 15:16-20

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapter 15
Previous page: Chapters 12-14                      Next page: Chapter 16


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

VI. The Gospel of the Resurrection (Chapter 15)
• Topic 9: "How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? ..." (15:12)

Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 15:1-2. This verse gives evidence that Paul believed that one could fall from grace. One must keep the gospel in constant remembrance, otherwise, any belief one once had is in vain. This is also part of the LDS sacramental ordinance: "that they may always remember..."
  • 1 Cor 15:5-14. Paul in this chapter makes clear that Jesus' resurrection is an essential doctrine. Beginning in verse 5, he emphasizes that the Resurrection is a historical, actual event: Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples (verse 5), then more than 500 people at one time (verse 6, an event not otherwise recorded in scriptures), James and the apostles (verse 7), and ultimately Paul (verse 8). He notes in verse 6 that most of those who saw the resurrected Jesus are still alive, possibly because he is encouraging anyone skeptical about the resurrection to talk to one of the witnesses. Without the resurrection, Paul says later (verse 14), there is no meaningful substance to the Christian faith.
  • 1 Cor 15:6. Adelphoi, the Greek word translated as "brethren" in verse 6, means both "brothers" and "brothers and sisters."
  • 1 Cor 15:7. In conjunction with verse 5, this passage indicates that the "twelve" and the "apostles" are two different groups. As the earliest Christian author, Paul provides an interesting insight into this division. Luke in Acts is the first to limit the "apostles" to "the twelve".
  • 1 Cor 15:8. The phrase "born out of due time" in verse 8 comes from the Greek word ektroma, which refers to either a miscarriage or a premature birth. This is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used.
Paul's reference in verse 8 to seeing the resurrected Jesus "as of one born out of due time" (or, more literally, as to a child prematurely born or miscarried) probably refers to the nature of Paul's conversion experience. Not only was it sudden and unexpected (as a premature birth or miscarriage would be), but at the time it would have appeared to any objective observer that Paul wasn't a person who was ready to see Jesus.
  • 1 Cor 15:10. This scripture gives additional insight on Paul's "grace vrs. works" paradigm. Paul first says that he was such a wicked man before he was converted that he had to make up for it by "labouring more abundantly" than any of the other apostles after his conversion. Then he corrects himself, lest he be accused of working out his salvation by works: "Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." Paul was not the one who worked, but only God's grace within him. To Paul, works are the fruit of God's grace, not our own personal contribution to the building of the kingdom. None of us can glory in our own works, for God gave us the spirit and the ability to perform them.
Does this make Paul a biological, environmental, or rather spiritual determinist? Does he believe that we are all merely acting out according to the pre-determined or pre-destined will of God? Paul might argue that we do make the first choice to believe, and then we chose to retain that belief in remembrance (verse 2). According to Paul, if we truly believe in an honest and complete way, God's grace will bear the fruit of many good works within us. Therefore, it is in choosing to believe that our free agency is manifest. Other apostles, such as James might disagree, arguing that it is possible to have faith without works, and that accomplishing works requires a diligent, conscious effort that comes from our own personal determination and self-discipline.
While Paul's view that "works are the sole fruit of God's grace" is perhaps a bit idealistic, it is good to keep in remembrance, lest we think too highly of ourselves, and become proud of our accomplishments. We all owe so much to God-given factors beyond our control: parental guidance, a healthy, sound mind and body, educational opportunities, inspiration from the Holy Ghost, and much, much more. Truly we can't take credit for anything we have accomplished, for it all would be impossible without God's grace.
  • 1 Cor 15:12. Paul attempts to defend his teachings concerning the future resurrection of the dead on the basis of Christ’s resurrection. The primary problem in this text is understanding the position of the opponents. Though the text itself offers a quotation from the opponents, “there is no resurrection of the dead,” it is difficult to understand exactly what is meant by this. We have seen Paul quote other slogans of the opponents in this letter (6:12, 13; 8:1, 4) followed by a defense or explanation of his own position. However, these other quotations don’t contribute to our understanding of the text. There are a number of different possibilities that have been suggested.
Perhaps the most prominent position that has been proposed has been that the Corinthians believe in a “realized resurrection,” that they have already been resurrected, perhaps at baptism. This view sees the Corinthian opponents as “Gnostics” or “proto-gnostics”. This reading is frequently supported by 4:8, which mentions that the Corinthians see themselves as partakers “already” in certain aspects of salvation. In this reading, the Corinthians reject a future resurrection, or a resurrection of the dead, in favor or a resurrection of the living.
A second approach has argued that the Corinthians don’t deny a future resurrection, only that they deny a bodily resurrection. In this view, the dispute with the Corinthians centers more on the latter half of chapter 15 in the discussions of the nature of the resurrected body (15:35ff). He focuses on the question that is proposed, “with what kind of body do they come” (15:35).
  • 1 Cor 15:17. One of the difficulties that the text presents is how Paul justifies the argument from Christ’s resurrection to a general resurrection. Paul takes Christ as primary evidence of the possibility of the resurrection. Paul seems to assume that the Corinthians don’t deny Christ’s resurrection, only a more general resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is seen as a miraculous, exceptional event, exactly the way that it has been presented to them, but it doesn’t follow that this is necessarily the fate of all believers. In this reading, the denial of the resurrection in 15:12 and the first question in 15:35, “How are the dead raised?” represent more closely the skeptical position of the Corinthians. We may have another clue in verse 19 that indicates that the Corinthians might have believed that we hope in Christ for our benefit in this life "only". In this view, the question about “what kind of body” can be seen in a larger skeptical view about the possibility of the resurrection and life after death, rather than a debate over its nature per se.
Paul’s claim about Christ’s resurrection seems to rely upon the fact that the Corinthians believe in Christ’s resurrection. His opening rehearsal (15:1-11) of these resurrection accounts is meant more to set up the argument in 12-19 than to prove that Christ was resurrected. In fact, he says that they have accepted Christ’s resurrection in 15:1 (Gr: parelabete) and 11 (Gr: epistevsate). He even suggests that they believe in the salvation from their sins through Christ’s resurrection (17). It may not be possible to discern the precise position of the Corinthians, but this doesn’t preclude a study of the competing notions of the body and afterlife that Paul sees are at stake.
  • 1 Cor 15:32. Paul likely means that he encountered fierce opposition from men at Ephesus, and not that he actually fought with beasts. [164]
  • 1 Cor 15:32-33. Paul believes that a knowledge of the resurrection is a deterrent to bad behavior, or rather, that those who don't believe in the resurrection are more likely to sin in the flesh, as they will never get the chance to be "in the flesh" again. Much is written about Paul's "mortification" of the flesh: his frequent call to live after the spirit and not after the flesh. There is some question as to whether he thought of the "flesh" as evil. Paul spoke pessimistically of marriage and at the same time rails against fornication, indicating that for him, the sexual pleasures of the flesh are a necessary evil. Additionally, Paul speaks frequently about his suffering in the flesh, his "thorn in the flesh" and "dying daily" in verse 31.
Yet Paul's celebration of the Resurrection as a place to experience the "flesh" again, so we don't have to sin in this life, is evidence that he also believed the flesh was a positive aspect of life, that could be looked forward to in the next life as well as this.
  • 1 Cor 15:37. Paul compares death and burial to the sowing of a seed. Just as a farmer plants a seed in the earth that springs forth into various plants and trees, so also a dead body planted in the earth will spring up into a new body at the resurrection. Paul .says, "thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain," This means that the grain does not spring up from the earth in the form of another single piece of grain, just like the seed, but rather into a completely new plant of wheat or some other grain. Paul means to say that in the resurrection, we will have a new body, one far superior to our mortal body, just as a seed differs from the plant it becomes. Later Paul notes, "it is sown in corruption, raised in incorruption, sown in weakness, raised in power.
  • 1 Cor 15:39-40. Doctrine and Covenants 76 is the first recorded instance where the degrees of heaven are specifically named Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial. However, in this verse, Paul notes two types of bodies: "celestial," often translated as heavenly, and "terrestrial" often translated as earthly. Joseph Smith added a third kind of body in the JST: the "telestial." Some contend that Joseph Smith changes Paul's meaning by adding "telestial" when Paul only meant to describe heavenly versus earthly bodies. However, there is bountiful evidence that Paul and other early Christian writers understood that there were multiple degrees of heaven. In 2 Cor 12:2 Paul speaks of being caught up in the "third" heaven. And in this chapter Paul goes to great lengths to give examples of many different kinds of bodies: beasts, fishes, birds, wheat, other grains, celestial, terrestial, sun, moon, and stars. Paul's intent is to compare the diversity of bodies in this world, with the diversity of glory in the resurrection. There will not be a kind of "one-size fits all" resurrection, or a simple return to our mortal state. Rather, like various kinds of seeds planted in the earth, human bodies will spring up into many different types and glories depending on their spiritual nature.
  • 1 Cor 15:44: Natural and spiritual. The word translated here as "natural" can sometimes give the reader a false impression of a physical body as opposed to a non-physical body. However, the Greek word translated "natural" is psychikos, meaning, quite literally translated, "psychical," "according to the mind." Accordingly, the word "spiritual" translates the Greek pneumatikos, "according to the spirit" or even "according to the Spirit." When Paul goes on to say that "there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body," it must be absolutely clear that both bodies are bodies, but that one is "according to the mind," and the other is "according to the spirit." (cf. Matt 10:28 where the same Greek word translated here as "natural" is contrasted to the body). In other words, the body we have here is a body that is dominated by the mind, by our fallen thoughts and our pathetic take on the world. The body to be had in the resurrection is a body that is dominated by the spirit, one that allows for communication with the Spirit.
  • 1 Cor 15:45: Living soul and quickening spirit. The phrase "living soul" is a direct citation of Gen 2:7 where God is forms man by "breath[ing] into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." The phrase translated "quickening" in the KJV in the phrase "quickening spirit" comes from the Greek word zōopoieō which translates, roughly, as "life-giving." The contrast here, then is between the first Adam's "living soul" and the last Adam's "life-giving spirit." The word for "soul" here, psychē, shares the same root as the word "natural" in the previous verse, as noted above. Rhetorically, then, "natural" in v. 44 and "soul" in v. 45 are parallel, as is "spiritual" in v. 44 and "spirit" in v. 45.
  • 1 Cor 15:45/ This verse can be, at first, confusing, but it can quickly be sorted out: though it appears that Paul is quoting some text that compares two Adam's, it is clear that the second half of this verse is Paul himself, adding to the text he quotes. "And so it is written": the reference is Gen 2:7. There one reads "and man [Hebrew: `dm, "Adam"] became a living soul [Hebrew nphsh]." The Septuagint (Greek OT) translates nphsh as psyche, "mind" or (roughly) "soul," which is the word Paul uses here, and of which he uses a cognate in the previous verse (poorly translated as "natural"). It is important to note that the word "first" does not appear in the OT text at all, that Paul himself has added it, as he has everything that follows the semi-colon. It would be better, then, to render this verse: And so it is written: The first man "Adam was made a living soul"; the last Adam a quickening spirit. Rendered thus, it becomes clear that Paul is not attempting here to quote a proof text, but rather to offer an interpretation of a very important text: the creation story as recorded in Genesis. That interpretation is not only vital to his own argument here, it is an incredibly fruitful reading of the Old Testament. It deserves some careful attention.
As is certainly the case in the immediately preceding and also in the immediately following verses, Paul divides the "history" of the world up into two eras, what one might (following the prevalent themes of the chapter) call "the old creation" and "the new creation" (following, perhaps more closely in the end, C. S. Lewis' similar distinction in Miracles). In doubling the verse from Gen 2, Paul relegates the story told in that verse to "the old creation," suggesting that beyond the creation story of Gen 2, there is another creation story, one in which a "last Adam" is made "a quickening [or lifegiving] spirit." In "the new creation" story, the "soul" is foregone in favor of the "spirit," in the same distinction drawn in verse 44: instead of having a body according to mind, as the first Adam did (and following the Hebrew text of Gen 2:7!), the last Adam, the Adam from "the new creation" story is to have a body according to spirit. Most important in all of this is the fact that Paul draws a careful distinction between two creations, or really, between two creation stories. The story as told in the second chapter of Genesis he effectively labels the story of "the old creation." The implication is either that the story of "the new creation" is as yet unwritten, or perhaps that Gen 1 is the story of the new creation. This latter turns out to be Paul's interpretation, as the next verse makes clear.
  • 1 Cor 15:46: Natural. The word for "natural" here is more accurately translated as "psychic," or perhaps "soulish" (Gk: ψυχικος). The same term is used in 1 Cor 2:14. The term may refer to how some of the members of the Corinthian community characterized themselves.
  • 1 Cor 15:46.Paul makes very clear here, following the commentary at verse 45, that he understands Genesis as his primary text. Since Adam became a "living soul" (Gen 2:7) after the "breath" (Greek: πνεη) or "spirit" was given to him, it shows that the first Adam was actually made of earth and then he was given spirit. Paul reads this episode allegorically (verse 47). He argues that the "soulish" ("natural") human is actually the body that we inhabit now. Paul suggests that the soul is no greater than the dust of the earth and that instead we should seek the spiritual. Paul is entering into ancient debates about the anthropology of the body as composed of flesh, soul, and spirit.
If Paul is indeed making this argument, it should be noted that he explicitly offers a counter to prevailing interpretation at the time. The Rabbinical writings, and Philo more explicitly and earlier, make reference to the apparently double creation story of Gen 1-2. The prevailing interpretation is that Adam was creation in Gen 1 as nearly a god, only afterwards to be recreated in the flesh in Gen 2. The idea seems to be that the Fall was a separable event from the creation, and that, as such, the hope of a Messiah was the only hope for overcoming such a horrible event. This reading makes the plan of history a three-fold plan (creation, fall, and atonement--whatever atonement means according to the Rabbis), whereas Paul suggests here rather a two-fold plan (creation/fall and atonement, the old creation and the new creation). In any event, Paul's interpretation is quite fruitful. Paul doesn't read the double-creation story, just Gen 2.
  • 1 Cor 15:50. This text seems problematic for understanding the resurrection of the flesh. This problem may be averted if Paul here is speaking of realms rather than substances. Those who exist within the realm of the flesh may not enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Gal 5). Additionally, some LDS writers have discussed the nature of the resurrected body as being made of "flesh and bone" rather than "flesh and blood", picking up on Luke 24:39. It is suggested that Paul is working with the same distinction.

Points to ponder[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 15:14-19: Importance of the Resurrection. Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Sunday Will Come," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 28–30. Elder Wirthlin reminds us that "the Resurrection is at the core of our beliefs as Christians. Without it, our faith is meaningless." Elder Wirthlin also bears a "solemn testimony that death is not the end of existence."
  • Stendahl article. See "Ancient Sources for Baptism of the Dead" by Krister Stendahl for a summary of some scholarly and historical views on this verse.
  • See this article by Kevin Barney at the BCC blog for a survey of different (mostly non-Mormon) readings of this verse.
  • 1 Cor 15:40-42: Three degrees of glory. See this link for a fascinating discussion of ancient Christian writings that anticipate our modern understanding of the three degrees of glory.
  • 1 Cor 15:51-55: Music inspired by the Resurrection. Several great composers have been inspired by 1 Corinthians 15:51-55. Some of the best settings include:

Notes[edit]

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1 Cor 15:21-25

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VI. The Gospel of the Resurrection (Chapter 15)
• Topic 9: "How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? ..." (15:12)

Discussion[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 15:1-2. This verse gives evidence that Paul believed that one could fall from grace. One must keep the gospel in constant remembrance, otherwise, any belief one once had is in vain. This is also part of the LDS sacramental ordinance: "that they may always remember..."
  • 1 Cor 15:5-14. Paul in this chapter makes clear that Jesus' resurrection is an essential doctrine. Beginning in verse 5, he emphasizes that the Resurrection is a historical, actual event: Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples (verse 5), then more than 500 people at one time (verse 6, an event not otherwise recorded in scriptures), James and the apostles (verse 7), and ultimately Paul (verse 8). He notes in verse 6 that most of those who saw the resurrected Jesus are still alive, possibly because he is encouraging anyone skeptical about the resurrection to talk to one of the witnesses. Without the resurrection, Paul says later (verse 14), there is no meaningful substance to the Christian faith.
  • 1 Cor 15:6. Adelphoi, the Greek word translated as "brethren" in verse 6, means both "brothers" and "brothers and sisters."
  • 1 Cor 15:7. In conjunction with verse 5, this passage indicates that the "twelve" and the "apostles" are two different groups. As the earliest Christian author, Paul provides an interesting insight into this division. Luke in Acts is the first to limit the "apostles" to "the twelve".
  • 1 Cor 15:8. The phrase "born out of due time" in verse 8 comes from the Greek word ektroma, which refers to either a miscarriage or a premature birth. This is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used.
Paul's reference in verse 8 to seeing the resurrected Jesus "as of one born out of due time" (or, more literally, as to a child prematurely born or miscarried) probably refers to the nature of Paul's conversion experience. Not only was it sudden and unexpected (as a premature birth or miscarriage would be), but at the time it would have appeared to any objective observer that Paul wasn't a person who was ready to see Jesus.
  • 1 Cor 15:10. This scripture gives additional insight on Paul's "grace vrs. works" paradigm. Paul first says that he was such a wicked man before he was converted that he had to make up for it by "labouring more abundantly" than any of the other apostles after his conversion. Then he corrects himself, lest he be accused of working out his salvation by works: "Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." Paul was not the one who worked, but only God's grace within him. To Paul, works are the fruit of God's grace, not our own personal contribution to the building of the kingdom. None of us can glory in our own works, for God gave us the spirit and the ability to perform them.
Does this make Paul a biological, environmental, or rather spiritual determinist? Does he believe that we are all merely acting out according to the pre-determined or pre-destined will of God? Paul might argue that we do make the first choice to believe, and then we chose to retain that belief in remembrance (verse 2). According to Paul, if we truly believe in an honest and complete way, God's grace will bear the fruit of many good works within us. Therefore, it is in choosing to believe that our free agency is manifest. Other apostles, such as James might disagree, arguing that it is possible to have faith without works, and that accomplishing works requires a diligent, conscious effort that comes from our own personal determination and self-discipline.
While Paul's view that "works are the sole fruit of God's grace" is perhaps a bit idealistic, it is good to keep in remembrance, lest we think too highly of ourselves, and become proud of our accomplishments. We all owe so much to God-given factors beyond our control: parental guidance, a healthy, sound mind and body, educational opportunities, inspiration from the Holy Ghost, and much, much more. Truly we can't take credit for anything we have accomplished, for it all would be impossible without God's grace.
  • 1 Cor 15:12. Paul attempts to defend his teachings concerning the future resurrection of the dead on the basis of Christ’s resurrection. The primary problem in this text is understanding the position of the opponents. Though the text itself offers a quotation from the opponents, “there is no resurrection of the dead,” it is difficult to understand exactly what is meant by this. We have seen Paul quote other slogans of the opponents in this letter (6:12, 13; 8:1, 4) followed by a defense or explanation of his own position. However, these other quotations don’t contribute to our understanding of the text. There are a number of different possibilities that have been suggested.
Perhaps the most prominent position that has been proposed has been that the Corinthians believe in a “realized resurrection,” that they have already been resurrected, perhaps at baptism. This view sees the Corinthian opponents as “Gnostics” or “proto-gnostics”. This reading is frequently supported by 4:8, which mentions that the Corinthians see themselves as partakers “already” in certain aspects of salvation. In this reading, the Corinthians reject a future resurrection, or a resurrection of the dead, in favor or a resurrection of the living.
A second approach has argued that the Corinthians don’t deny a future resurrection, only that they deny a bodily resurrection. In this view, the dispute with the Corinthians centers more on the latter half of chapter 15 in the discussions of the nature of the resurrected body (15:35ff). He focuses on the question that is proposed, “with what kind of body do they come” (15:35).
  • 1 Cor 15:17. One of the difficulties that the text presents is how Paul justifies the argument from Christ’s resurrection to a general resurrection. Paul takes Christ as primary evidence of the possibility of the resurrection. Paul seems to assume that the Corinthians don’t deny Christ’s resurrection, only a more general resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is seen as a miraculous, exceptional event, exactly the way that it has been presented to them, but it doesn’t follow that this is necessarily the fate of all believers. In this reading, the denial of the resurrection in 15:12 and the first question in 15:35, “How are the dead raised?” represent more closely the skeptical position of the Corinthians. We may have another clue in verse 19 that indicates that the Corinthians might have believed that we hope in Christ for our benefit in this life "only". In this view, the question about “what kind of body” can be seen in a larger skeptical view about the possibility of the resurrection and life after death, rather than a debate over its nature per se.
Paul’s claim about Christ’s resurrection seems to rely upon the fact that the Corinthians believe in Christ’s resurrection. His opening rehearsal (15:1-11) of these resurrection accounts is meant more to set up the argument in 12-19 than to prove that Christ was resurrected. In fact, he says that they have accepted Christ’s resurrection in 15:1 (Gr: parelabete) and 11 (Gr: epistevsate). He even suggests that they believe in the salvation from their sins through Christ’s resurrection (17). It may not be possible to discern the precise position of the Corinthians, but this doesn’t preclude a study of the competing notions of the body and afterlife that Paul sees are at stake.
  • 1 Cor 15:32. Paul likely means that he encountered fierce opposition from men at Ephesus, and not that he actually fought with beasts. [165]
  • 1 Cor 15:32-33. Paul believes that a knowledge of the resurrection is a deterrent to bad behavior, or rather, that those who don't believe in the resurrection are more likely to sin in the flesh, as they will never get the chance to be "in the flesh" again. Much is written about Paul's "mortification" of the flesh: his frequent call to live after the spirit and not after the flesh. There is some question as to whether he thought of the "flesh" as evil. Paul spoke pessimistically of marriage and at the same time rails against fornication, indicating that for him, the sexual pleasures of the flesh are a necessary evil. Additionally, Paul speaks frequently about his suffering in the flesh, his "thorn in the flesh" and "dying daily" in verse 31.
Yet Paul's celebration of the Resurrection as a place to experience the "flesh" again, so we don't have to sin in this life, is evidence that he also believed the flesh was a positive aspect of life, that could be looked forward to in the next life as well as this.
  • 1 Cor 15:37. Paul compares death and burial to the sowing of a seed. Just as a farmer plants a seed in the earth that springs forth into various plants and trees, so also a dead body planted in the earth will spring up into a new body at the resurrection. Paul .says, "thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain," This means that the grain does not spring up from the earth in the form of another single piece of grain, just like the seed, but rather into a completely new plant of wheat or some other grain. Paul means to say that in the resurrection, we will have a new body, one far superior to our mortal body, just as a seed differs from the plant it becomes. Later Paul notes, "it is sown in corruption, raised in incorruption, sown in weakness, raised in power.
  • 1 Cor 15:39-40. Doctrine and Covenants 76 is the first recorded instance where the degrees of heaven are specifically named Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial. However, in this verse, Paul notes two types of bodies: "celestial," often translated as heavenly, and "terrestrial" often translated as earthly. Joseph Smith added a third kind of body in the JST: the "telestial." Some contend that Joseph Smith changes Paul's meaning by adding "telestial" when Paul only meant to describe heavenly versus earthly bodies. However, there is bountiful evidence that Paul and other early Christian writers understood that there were multiple degrees of heaven. In 2 Cor 12:2 Paul speaks of being caught up in the "third" heaven. And in this chapter Paul goes to great lengths to give examples of many different kinds of bodies: beasts, fishes, birds, wheat, other grains, celestial, terrestial, sun, moon, and stars. Paul's intent is to compare the diversity of bodies in this world, with the diversity of glory in the resurrection. There will not be a kind of "one-size fits all" resurrection, or a simple return to our mortal state. Rather, like various kinds of seeds planted in the earth, human bodies will spring up into many different types and glories depending on their spiritual nature.
  • 1 Cor 15:44: Natural and spiritual. The word translated here as "natural" can sometimes give the reader a false impression of a physical body as opposed to a non-physical body. However, the Greek word translated "natural" is psychikos, meaning, quite literally translated, "psychical," "according to the mind." Accordingly, the word "spiritual" translates the Greek pneumatikos, "according to the spirit" or even "according to the Spirit." When Paul goes on to say that "there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body," it must be absolutely clear that both bodies are bodies, but that one is "according to the mind," and the other is "according to the spirit." (cf. Matt 10:28 where the same Greek word translated here as "natural" is contrasted to the body). In other words, the body we have here is a body that is dominated by the mind, by our fallen thoughts and our pathetic take on the world. The body to be had in the resurrection is a body that is dominated by the spirit, one that allows for communication with the Spirit.
  • 1 Cor 15:45: Living soul and quickening spirit. The phrase "living soul" is a direct citation of Gen 2:7 where God is forms man by "breath[ing] into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." The phrase translated "quickening" in the KJV in the phrase "quickening spirit" comes from the Greek word zōopoieō which translates, roughly, as "life-giving." The contrast here, then is between the first Adam's "living soul" and the last Adam's "life-giving spirit." The word for "soul" here, psychē, shares the same root as the word "natural" in the previous verse, as noted above. Rhetorically, then, "natural" in v. 44 and "soul" in v. 45 are parallel, as is "spiritual" in v. 44 and "spirit" in v. 45.
  • 1 Cor 15:45/ This verse can be, at first, confusing, but it can quickly be sorted out: though it appears that Paul is quoting some text that compares two Adam's, it is clear that the second half of this verse is Paul himself, adding to the text he quotes. "And so it is written": the reference is Gen 2:7. There one reads "and man [Hebrew: `dm, "Adam"] became a living soul [Hebrew nphsh]." The Septuagint (Greek OT) translates nphsh as psyche, "mind" or (roughly) "soul," which is the word Paul uses here, and of which he uses a cognate in the previous verse (poorly translated as "natural"). It is important to note that the word "first" does not appear in the OT text at all, that Paul himself has added it, as he has everything that follows the semi-colon. It would be better, then, to render this verse: And so it is written: The first man "Adam was made a living soul"; the last Adam a quickening spirit. Rendered thus, it becomes clear that Paul is not attempting here to quote a proof text, but rather to offer an interpretation of a very important text: the creation story as recorded in Genesis. That interpretation is not only vital to his own argument here, it is an incredibly fruitful reading of the Old Testament. It deserves some careful attention.
As is certainly the case in the immediately preceding and also in the immediately following verses, Paul divides the "history" of the world up into two eras, what one might (following the prevalent themes of the chapter) call "the old creation" and "the new creation" (following, perhaps more closely in the end, C. S. Lewis' similar distinction in Miracles). In doubling the verse from Gen 2, Paul relegates the story told in that verse to "the old creation," suggesting that beyond the creation story of Gen 2, there is another creation story, one in which a "last Adam" is made "a quickening [or lifegiving] spirit." In "the new creation" story, the "soul" is foregone in favor of the "spirit," in the same distinction drawn in verse 44: instead of having a body according to mind, as the first Adam did (and following the Hebrew text of Gen 2:7!), the last Adam, the Adam from "the new creation" story is to have a body according to spirit. Most important in all of this is the fact that Paul draws a careful distinction between two creations, or really, between two creation stories. The story as told in the second chapter of Genesis he effectively labels the story of "the old creation." The implication is either that the story of "the new creation" is as yet unwritten, or perhaps that Gen 1 is the story of the new creation. This latter turns out to be Paul's interpretation, as the next verse makes clear.
  • 1 Cor 15:46: Natural. The word for "natural" here is more accurately translated as "psychic," or perhaps "soulish" (Gk: ψυχικος). The same term is used in 1 Cor 2:14. The term may refer to how some of the members of the Corinthian community characterized themselves.
  • 1 Cor 15:46.Paul makes very clear here, following the commentary at verse 45, that he understands Genesis as his primary text. Since Adam became a "living soul" (Gen 2:7) after the "breath" (Greek: πνεη) or "spirit" was given to him, it shows that the first Adam was actually made of earth and then he was given spirit. Paul reads this episode allegorically (verse 47). He argues that the "soulish" ("natural") human is actually the body that we inhabit now. Paul suggests that the soul is no greater than the dust of the earth and that instead we should seek the spiritual. Paul is entering into ancient debates about the anthropology of the body as composed of flesh, soul, and spirit.
If Paul is indeed making this argument, it should be noted that he explicitly offers a counter to prevailing interpretation at the time. The Rabbinical writings, and Philo more explicitly and earlier, make reference to the apparently double creation story of Gen 1-2. The prevailing interpretation is that Adam was creation in Gen 1 as nearly a god, only afterwards to be recreated in the flesh in Gen 2. The idea seems to be that the Fall was a separable event from the creation, and that, as such, the hope of a Messiah was the only hope for overcoming such a horrible event. This reading makes the plan of history a three-fold plan (creation, fall, and atonement--whatever atonement means according to the Rabbis), whereas Paul suggests here rather a two-fold plan (creation/fall and atonement, the old creation and the new creation). In any event, Paul's interpretation is quite fruitful. Paul doesn't read the double-creation story, just Gen 2.
  • 1 Cor 15:50. This text seems problematic for understanding the resurrection of the flesh. This problem may be averted if Paul here is speaking of realms rather than substances. Those who exist within the realm of the flesh may not enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Gal 5). Additionally, some LDS writers have discussed the nature of the resurrected body as being made of "flesh and bone" rather than "flesh and blood", picking up on Luke 24:39. It is suggested that Paul is working with the same distinction.

Points to ponder[edit]

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Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 15:14-19: Importance of the Resurrection. Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Sunday Will Come," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 28–30. Elder Wirthlin reminds us that "the Resurrection is at the core of our beliefs as Christians. Without it, our faith is meaningless." Elder Wirthlin also bears a "solemn testimony that death is not the end of existence."
  • Stendahl article. See "Ancient Sources for Baptism of the Dead" by Krister Stendahl for a summary of some scholarly and historical views on this verse.
  • See this article by Kevin Barney at the BCC blog for a survey of different (mostly non-Mormon) readings of this verse.
  • 1 Cor 15:40-42: Three degrees of glory. See this link for a fascinating discussion of ancient Christian writings that anticipate our modern understanding of the three degrees of glory.
  • 1 Cor 15:51-55: Music inspired by the Resurrection. Several great composers have been inspired by 1 Corinthians 15:51-55. Some of the best settings include:

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Chapters 12-14                      Next page: Chapter 16

1 Cor 15:26-30

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapter 15
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Summary[edit]

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VI. The Gospel of the Resurrection (Chapter 15)
• Topic 9: "How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? ..." (15:12)

Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 15:1-2. This verse gives evidence that Paul believed that one could fall from grace. One must keep the gospel in constant remembrance, otherwise, any belief one once had is in vain. This is also part of the LDS sacramental ordinance: "that they may always remember..."
  • 1 Cor 15:5-14. Paul in this chapter makes clear that Jesus' resurrection is an essential doctrine. Beginning in verse 5, he emphasizes that the Resurrection is a historical, actual event: Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples (verse 5), then more than 500 people at one time (verse 6, an event not otherwise recorded in scriptures), James and the apostles (verse 7), and ultimately Paul (verse 8). He notes in verse 6 that most of those who saw the resurrected Jesus are still alive, possibly because he is encouraging anyone skeptical about the resurrection to talk to one of the witnesses. Without the resurrection, Paul says later (verse 14), there is no meaningful substance to the Christian faith.
  • 1 Cor 15:6. Adelphoi, the Greek word translated as "brethren" in verse 6, means both "brothers" and "brothers and sisters."
  • 1 Cor 15:7. In conjunction with verse 5, this passage indicates that the "twelve" and the "apostles" are two different groups. As the earliest Christian author, Paul provides an interesting insight into this division. Luke in Acts is the first to limit the "apostles" to "the twelve".
  • 1 Cor 15:8. The phrase "born out of due time" in verse 8 comes from the Greek word ektroma, which refers to either a miscarriage or a premature birth. This is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used.
Paul's reference in verse 8 to seeing the resurrected Jesus "as of one born out of due time" (or, more literally, as to a child prematurely born or miscarried) probably refers to the nature of Paul's conversion experience. Not only was it sudden and unexpected (as a premature birth or miscarriage would be), but at the time it would have appeared to any objective observer that Paul wasn't a person who was ready to see Jesus.
  • 1 Cor 15:10. This scripture gives additional insight on Paul's "grace vrs. works" paradigm. Paul first says that he was such a wicked man before he was converted that he had to make up for it by "labouring more abundantly" than any of the other apostles after his conversion. Then he corrects himself, lest he be accused of working out his salvation by works: "Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." Paul was not the one who worked, but only God's grace within him. To Paul, works are the fruit of God's grace, not our own personal contribution to the building of the kingdom. None of us can glory in our own works, for God gave us the spirit and the ability to perform them.
Does this make Paul a biological, environmental, or rather spiritual determinist? Does he believe that we are all merely acting out according to the pre-determined or pre-destined will of God? Paul might argue that we do make the first choice to believe, and then we chose to retain that belief in remembrance (verse 2). According to Paul, if we truly believe in an honest and complete way, God's grace will bear the fruit of many good works within us. Therefore, it is in choosing to believe that our free agency is manifest. Other apostles, such as James might disagree, arguing that it is possible to have faith without works, and that accomplishing works requires a diligent, conscious effort that comes from our own personal determination and self-discipline.
While Paul's view that "works are the sole fruit of God's grace" is perhaps a bit idealistic, it is good to keep in remembrance, lest we think too highly of ourselves, and become proud of our accomplishments. We all owe so much to God-given factors beyond our control: parental guidance, a healthy, sound mind and body, educational opportunities, inspiration from the Holy Ghost, and much, much more. Truly we can't take credit for anything we have accomplished, for it all would be impossible without God's grace.
  • 1 Cor 15:12. Paul attempts to defend his teachings concerning the future resurrection of the dead on the basis of Christ’s resurrection. The primary problem in this text is understanding the position of the opponents. Though the text itself offers a quotation from the opponents, “there is no resurrection of the dead,” it is difficult to understand exactly what is meant by this. We have seen Paul quote other slogans of the opponents in this letter (6:12, 13; 8:1, 4) followed by a defense or explanation of his own position. However, these other quotations don’t contribute to our understanding of the text. There are a number of different possibilities that have been suggested.
Perhaps the most prominent position that has been proposed has been that the Corinthians believe in a “realized resurrection,” that they have already been resurrected, perhaps at baptism. This view sees the Corinthian opponents as “Gnostics” or “proto-gnostics”. This reading is frequently supported by 4:8, which mentions that the Corinthians see themselves as partakers “already” in certain aspects of salvation. In this reading, the Corinthians reject a future resurrection, or a resurrection of the dead, in favor or a resurrection of the living.
A second approach has argued that the Corinthians don’t deny a future resurrection, only that they deny a bodily resurrection. In this view, the dispute with the Corinthians centers more on the latter half of chapter 15 in the discussions of the nature of the resurrected body (15:35ff). He focuses on the question that is proposed, “with what kind of body do they come” (15:35).
  • 1 Cor 15:17. One of the difficulties that the text presents is how Paul justifies the argument from Christ’s resurrection to a general resurrection. Paul takes Christ as primary evidence of the possibility of the resurrection. Paul seems to assume that the Corinthians don’t deny Christ’s resurrection, only a more general resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is seen as a miraculous, exceptional event, exactly the way that it has been presented to them, but it doesn’t follow that this is necessarily the fate of all believers. In this reading, the denial of the resurrection in 15:12 and the first question in 15:35, “How are the dead raised?” represent more closely the skeptical position of the Corinthians. We may have another clue in verse 19 that indicates that the Corinthians might have believed that we hope in Christ for our benefit in this life "only". In this view, the question about “what kind of body” can be seen in a larger skeptical view about the possibility of the resurrection and life after death, rather than a debate over its nature per se.
Paul’s claim about Christ’s resurrection seems to rely upon the fact that the Corinthians believe in Christ’s resurrection. His opening rehearsal (15:1-11) of these resurrection accounts is meant more to set up the argument in 12-19 than to prove that Christ was resurrected. In fact, he says that they have accepted Christ’s resurrection in 15:1 (Gr: parelabete) and 11 (Gr: epistevsate). He even suggests that they believe in the salvation from their sins through Christ’s resurrection (17). It may not be possible to discern the precise position of the Corinthians, but this doesn’t preclude a study of the competing notions of the body and afterlife that Paul sees are at stake.
  • 1 Cor 15:32. Paul likely means that he encountered fierce opposition from men at Ephesus, and not that he actually fought with beasts. [166]
  • 1 Cor 15:32-33. Paul believes that a knowledge of the resurrection is a deterrent to bad behavior, or rather, that those who don't believe in the resurrection are more likely to sin in the flesh, as they will never get the chance to be "in the flesh" again. Much is written about Paul's "mortification" of the flesh: his frequent call to live after the spirit and not after the flesh. There is some question as to whether he thought of the "flesh" as evil. Paul spoke pessimistically of marriage and at the same time rails against fornication, indicating that for him, the sexual pleasures of the flesh are a necessary evil. Additionally, Paul speaks frequently about his suffering in the flesh, his "thorn in the flesh" and "dying daily" in verse 31.
Yet Paul's celebration of the Resurrection as a place to experience the "flesh" again, so we don't have to sin in this life, is evidence that he also believed the flesh was a positive aspect of life, that could be looked forward to in the next life as well as this.
  • 1 Cor 15:37. Paul compares death and burial to the sowing of a seed. Just as a farmer plants a seed in the earth that springs forth into various plants and trees, so also a dead body planted in the earth will spring up into a new body at the resurrection. Paul .says, "thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain," This means that the grain does not spring up from the earth in the form of another single piece of grain, just like the seed, but rather into a completely new plant of wheat or some other grain. Paul means to say that in the resurrection, we will have a new body, one far superior to our mortal body, just as a seed differs from the plant it becomes. Later Paul notes, "it is sown in corruption, raised in incorruption, sown in weakness, raised in power.
  • 1 Cor 15:39-40. Doctrine and Covenants 76 is the first recorded instance where the degrees of heaven are specifically named Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial. However, in this verse, Paul notes two types of bodies: "celestial," often translated as heavenly, and "terrestrial" often translated as earthly. Joseph Smith added a third kind of body in the JST: the "telestial." Some contend that Joseph Smith changes Paul's meaning by adding "telestial" when Paul only meant to describe heavenly versus earthly bodies. However, there is bountiful evidence that Paul and other early Christian writers understood that there were multiple degrees of heaven. In 2 Cor 12:2 Paul speaks of being caught up in the "third" heaven. And in this chapter Paul goes to great lengths to give examples of many different kinds of bodies: beasts, fishes, birds, wheat, other grains, celestial, terrestial, sun, moon, and stars. Paul's intent is to compare the diversity of bodies in this world, with the diversity of glory in the resurrection. There will not be a kind of "one-size fits all" resurrection, or a simple return to our mortal state. Rather, like various kinds of seeds planted in the earth, human bodies will spring up into many different types and glories depending on their spiritual nature.
  • 1 Cor 15:44: Natural and spiritual. The word translated here as "natural" can sometimes give the reader a false impression of a physical body as opposed to a non-physical body. However, the Greek word translated "natural" is psychikos, meaning, quite literally translated, "psychical," "according to the mind." Accordingly, the word "spiritual" translates the Greek pneumatikos, "according to the spirit" or even "according to the Spirit." When Paul goes on to say that "there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body," it must be absolutely clear that both bodies are bodies, but that one is "according to the mind," and the other is "according to the spirit." (cf. Matt 10:28 where the same Greek word translated here as "natural" is contrasted to the body). In other words, the body we have here is a body that is dominated by the mind, by our fallen thoughts and our pathetic take on the world. The body to be had in the resurrection is a body that is dominated by the spirit, one that allows for communication with the Spirit.
  • 1 Cor 15:45: Living soul and quickening spirit. The phrase "living soul" is a direct citation of Gen 2:7 where God is forms man by "breath[ing] into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." The phrase translated "quickening" in the KJV in the phrase "quickening spirit" comes from the Greek word zōopoieō which translates, roughly, as "life-giving." The contrast here, then is between the first Adam's "living soul" and the last Adam's "life-giving spirit." The word for "soul" here, psychē, shares the same root as the word "natural" in the previous verse, as noted above. Rhetorically, then, "natural" in v. 44 and "soul" in v. 45 are parallel, as is "spiritual" in v. 44 and "spirit" in v. 45.
  • 1 Cor 15:45/ This verse can be, at first, confusing, but it can quickly be sorted out: though it appears that Paul is quoting some text that compares two Adam's, it is clear that the second half of this verse is Paul himself, adding to the text he quotes. "And so it is written": the reference is Gen 2:7. There one reads "and man [Hebrew: `dm, "Adam"] became a living soul [Hebrew nphsh]." The Septuagint (Greek OT) translates nphsh as psyche, "mind" or (roughly) "soul," which is the word Paul uses here, and of which he uses a cognate in the previous verse (poorly translated as "natural"). It is important to note that the word "first" does not appear in the OT text at all, that Paul himself has added it, as he has everything that follows the semi-colon. It would be better, then, to render this verse: And so it is written: The first man "Adam was made a living soul"; the last Adam a quickening spirit. Rendered thus, it becomes clear that Paul is not attempting here to quote a proof text, but rather to offer an interpretation of a very important text: the creation story as recorded in Genesis. That interpretation is not only vital to his own argument here, it is an incredibly fruitful reading of the Old Testament. It deserves some careful attention.
As is certainly the case in the immediately preceding and also in the immediately following verses, Paul divides the "history" of the world up into two eras, what one might (following the prevalent themes of the chapter) call "the old creation" and "the new creation" (following, perhaps more closely in the end, C. S. Lewis' similar distinction in Miracles). In doubling the verse from Gen 2, Paul relegates the story told in that verse to "the old creation," suggesting that beyond the creation story of Gen 2, there is another creation story, one in which a "last Adam" is made "a quickening [or lifegiving] spirit." In "the new creation" story, the "soul" is foregone in favor of the "spirit," in the same distinction drawn in verse 44: instead of having a body according to mind, as the first Adam did (and following the Hebrew text of Gen 2:7!), the last Adam, the Adam from "the new creation" story is to have a body according to spirit. Most important in all of this is the fact that Paul draws a careful distinction between two creations, or really, between two creation stories. The story as told in the second chapter of Genesis he effectively labels the story of "the old creation." The implication is either that the story of "the new creation" is as yet unwritten, or perhaps that Gen 1 is the story of the new creation. This latter turns out to be Paul's interpretation, as the next verse makes clear.
  • 1 Cor 15:46: Natural. The word for "natural" here is more accurately translated as "psychic," or perhaps "soulish" (Gk: ψυχικος). The same term is used in 1 Cor 2:14. The term may refer to how some of the members of the Corinthian community characterized themselves.
  • 1 Cor 15:46.Paul makes very clear here, following the commentary at verse 45, that he understands Genesis as his primary text. Since Adam became a "living soul" (Gen 2:7) after the "breath" (Greek: πνεη) or "spirit" was given to him, it shows that the first Adam was actually made of earth and then he was given spirit. Paul reads this episode allegorically (verse 47). He argues that the "soulish" ("natural") human is actually the body that we inhabit now. Paul suggests that the soul is no greater than the dust of the earth and that instead we should seek the spiritual. Paul is entering into ancient debates about the anthropology of the body as composed of flesh, soul, and spirit.
If Paul is indeed making this argument, it should be noted that he explicitly offers a counter to prevailing interpretation at the time. The Rabbinical writings, and Philo more explicitly and earlier, make reference to the apparently double creation story of Gen 1-2. The prevailing interpretation is that Adam was creation in Gen 1 as nearly a god, only afterwards to be recreated in the flesh in Gen 2. The idea seems to be that the Fall was a separable event from the creation, and that, as such, the hope of a Messiah was the only hope for overcoming such a horrible event. This reading makes the plan of history a three-fold plan (creation, fall, and atonement--whatever atonement means according to the Rabbis), whereas Paul suggests here rather a two-fold plan (creation/fall and atonement, the old creation and the new creation). In any event, Paul's interpretation is quite fruitful. Paul doesn't read the double-creation story, just Gen 2.
  • 1 Cor 15:50. This text seems problematic for understanding the resurrection of the flesh. This problem may be averted if Paul here is speaking of realms rather than substances. Those who exist within the realm of the flesh may not enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Gal 5). Additionally, some LDS writers have discussed the nature of the resurrected body as being made of "flesh and bone" rather than "flesh and blood", picking up on Luke 24:39. It is suggested that Paul is working with the same distinction.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 15:14-19: Importance of the Resurrection. Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Sunday Will Come," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 28–30. Elder Wirthlin reminds us that "the Resurrection is at the core of our beliefs as Christians. Without it, our faith is meaningless." Elder Wirthlin also bears a "solemn testimony that death is not the end of existence."
  • Stendahl article. See "Ancient Sources for Baptism of the Dead" by Krister Stendahl for a summary of some scholarly and historical views on this verse.
  • See this article by Kevin Barney at the BCC blog for a survey of different (mostly non-Mormon) readings of this verse.
  • 1 Cor 15:40-42: Three degrees of glory. See this link for a fascinating discussion of ancient Christian writings that anticipate our modern understanding of the three degrees of glory.
  • 1 Cor 15:51-55: Music inspired by the Resurrection. Several great composers have been inspired by 1 Corinthians 15:51-55. Some of the best settings include:

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




Previous page: Chapters 12-14                      Next page: Chapter 16

1 Cor 15:31-35

Home > The New Testament > First Corinthians > Chapter 15
Previous page: Chapters 12-14                      Next page: Chapter 16


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

VI. The Gospel of the Resurrection (Chapter 15)
• Topic 9: "How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? ..." (15:12)

Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 15:1-2. This verse gives evidence that Paul believed that one could fall from grace. One must keep the gospel in constant remembrance, otherwise, any belief one once had is in vain. This is also part of the LDS sacramental ordinance: "that they may always remember..."
  • 1 Cor 15:5-14. Paul in this chapter makes clear that Jesus' resurrection is an essential doctrine. Beginning in verse 5, he emphasizes that the Resurrection is a historical, actual event: Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples (verse 5), then more than 500 people at one time (verse 6, an event not otherwise recorded in scriptures), James and the apostles (verse 7), and ultimately Paul (verse 8). He notes in verse 6 that most of those who saw the resurrected Jesus are still alive, possibly because he is encouraging anyone skeptical about the resurrection to talk to one of the witnesses. Without the resurrection, Paul says later (verse 14), there is no meaningful substance to the Christian faith.
  • 1 Cor 15:6. Adelphoi, the Greek word translated as "brethren" in verse 6, means both "brothers" and "brothers and sisters."
  • 1 Cor 15:7. In conjunction with verse 5, this passage indicates that the "twelve" and the "apostles" are two different groups. As the earliest Christian author, Paul provides an interesting insight into this division. Luke in Acts is the first to limit the "apostles" to "the twelve".
  • 1 Cor 15:8. The phrase "born out of due time" in verse 8 comes from the Greek word ektroma, which refers to either a miscarriage or a premature birth. This is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used.
Paul's reference in verse 8 to seeing the resurrected Jesus "as of one born out of due time" (or, more literally, as to a child prematurely born or miscarried) probably refers to the nature of Paul's conversion experience. Not only was it sudden and unexpected (as a premature birth or miscarriage would be), but at the time it would have appeared to any objective observer that Paul wasn't a person who was ready to see Jesus.
  • 1 Cor 15:10. This scripture gives additional insight on Paul's "grace vrs. works" paradigm. Paul first says that he was such a wicked man before he was converted that he had to make up for it by "labouring more abundantly" than any of the other apostles after his conversion. Then he corrects himself, lest he be accused of working out his salvation by works: "Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." Paul was not the one who worked, but only God's grace within him. To Paul, works are the fruit of God's grace, not our own personal contribution to the building of the kingdom. None of us can glory in our own works, for God gave us the spirit and the ability to perform them.
Does this make Paul a biological, environmental, or rather spiritual determinist? Does he believe that we are all merely acting out according to the pre-determined or pre-destined will of God? Paul might argue that we do make the first choice to believe, and then we chose to retain that belief in remembrance (verse 2). According to Paul, if we truly believe in an honest and complete way, God's grace will bear the fruit of many good works within us. Therefore, it is in choosing to believe that our free agency is manifest. Other apostles, such as James might disagree, arguing that it is possible to have faith without works, and that accomplishing works requires a diligent, conscious effort that comes from our own personal determination and self-discipline.
While Paul's view that "works are the sole fruit of God's grace" is perhaps a bit idealistic, it is good to keep in remembrance, lest we think too highly of ourselves, and become proud of our accomplishments. We all owe so much to God-given factors beyond our control: parental guidance, a healthy, sound mind and body, educational opportunities, inspiration from the Holy Ghost, and much, much more. Truly we can't take credit for anything we have accomplished, for it all would be impossible without God's grace.
  • 1 Cor 15:12. Paul attempts to defend his teachings concerning the future resurrection of the dead on the basis of Christ’s resurrection. The primary problem in this text is understanding the position of the opponents. Though the text itself offers a quotation from the opponents, “there is no resurrection of the dead,” it is difficult to understand exactly what is meant by this. We have seen Paul quote other slogans of the opponents in this letter (6:12, 13; 8:1, 4) followed by a defense or explanation of his own position. However, these other quotations don’t contribute to our understanding of the text. There are a number of different possibilities that have been suggested.
Perhaps the most prominent position that has been proposed has been that the Corinthians believe in a “realized resurrection,” that they have already been resurrected, perhaps at baptism. This view sees the Corinthian opponents as “Gnostics” or “proto-gnostics”. This reading is frequently supported by 4:8, which mentions that the Corinthians see themselves as partakers “already” in certain aspects of salvation. In this reading, the Corinthians reject a future resurrection, or a resurrection of the dead, in favor or a resurrection of the living.
A second approach has argued that the Corinthians don’t deny a future resurrection, only that they deny a bodily resurrection. In this view, the dispute with the Corinthians centers more on the latter half of chapter 15 in the discussions of the nature of the resurrected body (15:35ff). He focuses on the question that is proposed, “with what kind of body do they come” (15:35).
  • 1 Cor 15:17. One of the difficulties that the text presents is how Paul justifies the argument from Christ’s resurrection to a general resurrection. Paul takes Christ as primary evidence of the possibility of the resurrection. Paul seems to assume that the Corinthians don’t deny Christ’s resurrection, only a more general resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is seen as a miraculous, exceptional event, exactly the way that it has been presented to them, but it doesn’t follow that this is necessarily the fate of all believers. In this reading, the denial of the resurrection in 15:12 and the first question in 15:35, “How are the dead raised?” represent more closely the skeptical position of the Corinthians. We may have another clue in verse 19 that indicates that the Corinthians might have believed that we hope in Christ for our benefit in this life "only". In this view, the question about “what kind of body” can be seen in a larger skeptical view about the possibility of the resurrection and life after death, rather than a debate over its nature per se.
Paul’s claim about Christ’s resurrection seems to rely upon the fact that the Corinthians believe in Christ’s resurrection. His opening rehearsal (15:1-11) of these resurrection accounts is meant more to set up the argument in 12-19 than to prove that Christ was resurrected. In fact, he says that they have accepted Christ’s resurrection in 15:1 (Gr: parelabete) and 11 (Gr: epistevsate). He even suggests that they believe in the salvation from their sins through Christ’s resurrection (17). It may not be possible to discern the precise position of the Corinthians, but this doesn’t preclude a study of the competing notions of the body and afterlife that Paul sees are at stake.
  • 1 Cor 15:32. Paul likely means that he encountered fierce opposition from men at Ephesus, and not that he actually fought with beasts. [167]
  • 1 Cor 15:32-33. Paul believes that a knowledge of the resurrection is a deterrent to bad behavior, or rather, that those who don't believe in the resurrection are more likely to sin in the flesh, as they will never get the chance to be "in the flesh" again. Much is written about Paul's "mortification" of the flesh: his frequent call to live after the spirit and not after the flesh. There is some question as to whether he thought of the "flesh" as evil. Paul spoke pessimistically of marriage and at the same time rails against fornication, indicating that for him, the sexual pleasures of the flesh are a necessary evil. Additionally, Paul speaks frequently about his suffering in the flesh, his "thorn in the flesh" and "dying daily" in verse 31.
Yet Paul's celebration of the Resurrection as a place to experience the "flesh" again, so we don't have to sin in this life, is evidence that he also believed the flesh was a positive aspect of life, that could be looked forward to in the next life as well as this.
  • 1 Cor 15:37. Paul compares death and burial to the sowing of a seed. Just as a farmer plants a seed in the earth that springs forth into various plants and trees, so also a dead body planted in the earth will spring up into a new body at the resurrection. Paul .says, "thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain," This means that the grain does not spring up from the earth in the form of another single piece of grain, just like the seed, but rather into a completely new plant of wheat or some other grain. Paul means to say that in the resurrection, we will have a new body, one far superior to our mortal body, just as a seed differs from the plant it becomes. Later Paul notes, "it is sown in corruption, raised in incorruption, sown in weakness, raised in power.
  • 1 Cor 15:39-40. Doctrine and Covenants 76 is the first recorded instance where the degrees of heaven are specifically named Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial. However, in this verse, Paul notes two types of bodies: "celestial," often translated as heavenly, and "terrestrial" often translated as earthly. Joseph Smith added a third kind of body in the JST: the "telestial." Some contend that Joseph Smith changes Paul's meaning by adding "telestial" when Paul only meant to describe heavenly versus earthly bodies. However, there is bountiful evidence that Paul and other early Christian writers understood that there were multiple degrees of heaven. In 2 Cor 12:2 Paul speaks of being caught up in the "third" heaven. And in this chapter Paul goes to great lengths to give examples of many different kinds of bodies: beasts, fishes, birds, wheat, other grains, celestial, terrestial, sun, moon, and stars. Paul's intent is to compare the diversity of bodies in this world, with the diversity of glory in the resurrection. There will not be a kind of "one-size fits all" resurrection, or a simple return to our mortal state. Rather, like various kinds of seeds planted in the earth, human bodies will spring up into many different types and glories depending on their spiritual nature.
  • 1 Cor 15:44: Natural and spiritual. The word translated here as "natural" can sometimes give the reader a false impression of a physical body as opposed to a non-physical body. However, the Greek word translated "natural" is psychikos, meaning, quite literally translated, "psychical," "according to the mind." Accordingly, the word "spiritual" translates the Greek pneumatikos, "according to the spirit" or even "according to the Spirit." When Paul goes on to say that "there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body," it must be absolutely clear that both bodies are bodies, but that one is "according to the mind," and the other is "according to the spirit." (cf. Matt 10:28 where the same Greek word translated here as "natural" is contrasted to the body). In other words, the body we have here is a body that is dominated by the mind, by our fallen thoughts and our pathetic take on the world. The body to be had in the resurrection is a body that is dominated by the spirit, one that allows for communication with the Spirit.
  • 1 Cor 15:45: Living soul and quickening spirit. The phrase "living soul" is a direct citation of Gen 2:7 where God is forms man by "breath[ing] into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." The phrase translated "quickening" in the KJV in the phrase "quickening spirit" comes from the Greek word zōopoieō which translates, roughly, as "life-giving." The contrast here, then is between the first Adam's "living soul" and the last Adam's "life-giving spirit." The word for "soul" here, psychē, shares the same root as the word "natural" in the previous verse, as noted above. Rhetorically, then, "natural" in v. 44 and "soul" in v. 45 are parallel, as is "spiritual" in v. 44 and "spirit" in v. 45.
  • 1 Cor 15:45/ This verse can be, at first, confusing, but it can quickly be sorted out: though it appears that Paul is quoting some text that compares two Adam's, it is clear that the second half of this verse is Paul himself, adding to the text he quotes. "And so it is written": the reference is Gen 2:7. There one reads "and man [Hebrew: `dm, "Adam"] became a living soul [Hebrew nphsh]." The Septuagint (Greek OT) translates nphsh as psyche, "mind" or (roughly) "soul," which is the word Paul uses here, and of which he uses a cognate in the previous verse (poorly translated as "natural"). It is important to note that the word "first" does not appear in the OT text at all, that Paul himself has added it, as he has everything that follows the semi-colon. It would be better, then, to render this verse: And so it is written: The first man "Adam was made a living soul"; the last Adam a quickening spirit. Rendered thus, it becomes clear that Paul is not attempting here to quote a proof text, but rather to offer an interpretation of a very important text: the creation story as recorded in Genesis. That interpretation is not only vital to his own argument here, it is an incredibly fruitful reading of the Old Testament. It deserves some careful attention.
As is certainly the case in the immediately preceding and also in the immediately following verses, Paul divides the "history" of the world up into two eras, what one might (following the prevalent themes of the chapter) call "the old creation" and "the new creation" (following, perhaps more closely in the end, C. S. Lewis' similar distinction in Miracles). In doubling the verse from Gen 2, Paul relegates the story told in that verse to "the old creation," suggesting that beyond the creation story of Gen 2, there is another creation story, one in which a "last Adam" is made "a quickening [or lifegiving] spirit." In "the new creation" story, the "soul" is foregone in favor of the "spirit," in the same distinction drawn in verse 44: instead of having a body according to mind, as the first Adam did (and following the Hebrew text of Gen 2:7!), the last Adam, the Adam from "the new creation" story is to have a body according to spirit. Most important in all of this is the fact that Paul draws a careful distinction between two creations, or really, between two creation stories. The story as told in the second chapter of Genesis he effectively labels the story of "the old creation." The implication is either that the story of "the new creation" is as yet unwritten, or perhaps that Gen 1 is the story of the new creation. This latter turns out to be Paul's interpretation, as the next verse makes clear.
  • 1 Cor 15:46: Natural. The word for "natural" here is more accurately translated as "psychic," or perhaps "soulish" (Gk: ψυχικος). The same term is used in 1 Cor 2:14. The term may refer to how some of the members of the Corinthian community characterized themselves.
  • 1 Cor 15:46.Paul makes very clear here, following the commentary at verse 45, that he understands Genesis as his primary text. Since Adam became a "living soul" (Gen 2:7) after the "breath" (Greek: πνεη) or "spirit" was given to him, it shows that the first Adam was actually made of earth and then he was given spirit. Paul reads this episode allegorically (verse 47). He argues that the "soulish" ("natural") human is actually the body that we inhabit now. Paul suggests that the soul is no greater than the dust of the earth and that instead we should seek the spiritual. Paul is entering into ancient debates about the anthropology of the body as composed of flesh, soul, and spirit.
If Paul is indeed making this argument, it should be noted that he explicitly offers a counter to prevailing interpretation at the time. The Rabbinical writings, and Philo more explicitly and earlier, make reference to the apparently double creation story of Gen 1-2. The prevailing interpretation is that Adam was creation in Gen 1 as nearly a god, only afterwards to be recreated in the flesh in Gen 2. The idea seems to be that the Fall was a separable event from the creation, and that, as such, the hope of a Messiah was the only hope for overcoming such a horrible event. This reading makes the plan of history a three-fold plan (creation, fall, and atonement--whatever atonement means according to the Rabbis), whereas Paul suggests here rather a two-fold plan (creation/fall and atonement, the old creation and the new creation). In any event, Paul's interpretation is quite fruitful. Paul doesn't read the double-creation story, just Gen 2.
  • 1 Cor 15:50. This text seems problematic for understanding the resurrection of the flesh. This problem may be averted if Paul here is speaking of realms rather than substances. Those who exist within the realm of the flesh may not enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Gal 5). Additionally, some LDS writers have discussed the nature of the resurrected body as being made of "flesh and bone" rather than "flesh and blood", picking up on Luke 24:39. It is suggested that Paul is working with the same distinction.

Points to ponder[edit]

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Resources[edit]

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  • 1 Cor 15:14-19: Importance of the Resurrection. Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Sunday Will Come," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 28–30. Elder Wirthlin reminds us that "the Resurrection is at the core of our beliefs as Christians. Without it, our faith is meaningless." Elder Wirthlin also bears a "solemn testimony that death is not the end of existence."
  • Stendahl article. See "Ancient Sources for Baptism of the Dead" by Krister Stendahl for a summary of some scholarly and historical views on this verse.
  • See this article by Kevin Barney at the BCC blog for a survey of different (mostly non-Mormon) readings of this verse.
  • 1 Cor 15:40-42: Three degrees of glory. See this link for a fascinating discussion of ancient Christian writings that anticipate our modern understanding of the three degrees of glory.
  • 1 Cor 15:51-55: Music inspired by the Resurrection. Several great composers have been inspired by 1 Corinthians 15:51-55. Some of the best settings include:

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.




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1 Cor 15:36-40

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Summary[edit]

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VI. The Gospel of the Resurrection (Chapter 15)
• Topic 9: "How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? ..." (15:12)

Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 15:1-2. This verse gives evidence that Paul believed that one could fall from grace. One must keep the gospel in constant remembrance, otherwise, any belief one once had is in vain. This is also part of the LDS sacramental ordinance: "that they may always remember..."
  • 1 Cor 15:5-14. Paul in this chapter makes clear that Jesus' resurrection is an essential doctrine. Beginning in verse 5, he emphasizes that the Resurrection is a historical, actual event: Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples (verse 5), then more than 500 people at one time (verse 6, an event not otherwise recorded in scriptures), James and the apostles (verse 7), and ultimately Paul (verse 8). He notes in verse 6 that most of those who saw the resurrected Jesus are still alive, possibly because he is encouraging anyone skeptical about the resurrection to talk to one of the witnesses. Without the resurrection, Paul says later (verse 14), there is no meaningful substance to the Christian faith.
  • 1 Cor 15:6. Adelphoi, the Greek word translated as "brethren" in verse 6, means both "brothers" and "brothers and sisters."
  • 1 Cor 15:7. In conjunction with verse 5, this passage indicates that the "twelve" and the "apostles" are two different groups. As the earliest Christian author, Paul provides an interesting insight into this division. Luke in Acts is the first to limit the "apostles" to "the twelve".
  • 1 Cor 15:8. The phrase "born out of due time" in verse 8 comes from the Greek word ektroma, which refers to either a miscarriage or a premature birth. This is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used.
Paul's reference in verse 8 to seeing the resurrected Jesus "as of one born out of due time" (or, more literally, as to a child prematurely born or miscarried) probably refers to the nature of Paul's conversion experience. Not only was it sudden and unexpected (as a premature birth or miscarriage would be), but at the time it would have appeared to any objective observer that Paul wasn't a person who was ready to see Jesus.
  • 1 Cor 15:10. This scripture gives additional insight on Paul's "grace vrs. works" paradigm. Paul first says that he was such a wicked man before he was converted that he had to make up for it by "labouring more abundantly" than any of the other apostles after his conversion. Then he corrects himself, lest he be accused of working out his salvation by works: "Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." Paul was not the one who worked, but only God's grace within him. To Paul, works are the fruit of God's grace, not our own personal contribution to the building of the kingdom. None of us can glory in our own works, for God gave us the spirit and the ability to perform them.
Does this make Paul a biological, environmental, or rather spiritual determinist? Does he believe that we are all merely acting out according to the pre-determined or pre-destined will of God? Paul might argue that we do make the first choice to believe, and then we chose to retain that belief in remembrance (verse 2). According to Paul, if we truly believe in an honest and complete way, God's grace will bear the fruit of many good works within us. Therefore, it is in choosing to believe that our free agency is manifest. Other apostles, such as James might disagree, arguing that it is possible to have faith without works, and that accomplishing works requires a diligent, conscious effort that comes from our own personal determination and self-discipline.
While Paul's view that "works are the sole fruit of God's grace" is perhaps a bit idealistic, it is good to keep in remembrance, lest we think too highly of ourselves, and become proud of our accomplishments. We all owe so much to God-given factors beyond our control: parental guidance, a healthy, sound mind and body, educational opportunities, inspiration from the Holy Ghost, and much, much more. Truly we can't take credit for anything we have accomplished, for it all would be impossible without God's grace.
  • 1 Cor 15:12. Paul attempts to defend his teachings concerning the future resurrection of the dead on the basis of Christ’s resurrection. The primary problem in this text is understanding the position of the opponents. Though the text itself offers a quotation from the opponents, “there is no resurrection of the dead,” it is difficult to understand exactly what is meant by this. We have seen Paul quote other slogans of the opponents in this letter (6:12, 13; 8:1, 4) followed by a defense or explanation of his own position. However, these other quotations don’t contribute to our understanding of the text. There are a number of different possibilities that have been suggested.
Perhaps the most prominent position that has been proposed has been that the Corinthians believe in a “realized resurrection,” that they have already been resurrected, perhaps at baptism. This view sees the Corinthian opponents as “Gnostics” or “proto-gnostics”. This reading is frequently supported by 4:8, which mentions that the Corinthians see themselves as partakers “already” in certain aspects of salvation. In this reading, the Corinthians reject a future resurrection, or a resurrection of the dead, in favor or a resurrection of the living.
A second approach has argued that the Corinthians don’t deny a future resurrection, only that they deny a bodily resurrection. In this view, the dispute with the Corinthians centers more on the latter half of chapter 15 in the discussions of the nature of the resurrected body (15:35ff). He focuses on the question that is proposed, “with what kind of body do they come” (15:35).
  • 1 Cor 15:17. One of the difficulties that the text presents is how Paul justifies the argument from Christ’s resurrection to a general resurrection. Paul takes Christ as primary evidence of the possibility of the resurrection. Paul seems to assume that the Corinthians don’t deny Christ’s resurrection, only a more general resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is seen as a miraculous, exceptional event, exactly the way that it has been presented to them, but it doesn’t follow that this is necessarily the fate of all believers. In this reading, the denial of the resurrection in 15:12 and the first question in 15:35, “How are the dead raised?” represent more closely the skeptical position of the Corinthians. We may have another clue in verse 19 that indicates that the Corinthians might have believed that we hope in Christ for our benefit in this life "only". In this view, the question about “what kind of body” can be seen in a larger skeptical view about the possibility of the resurrection and life after death, rather than a debate over its nature per se.
Paul’s claim about Christ’s resurrection seems to rely upon the fact that the Corinthians believe in Christ’s resurrection. His opening rehearsal (15:1-11) of these resurrection accounts is meant more to set up the argument in 12-19 than to prove that Christ was resurrected. In fact, he says that they have accepted Christ’s resurrection in 15:1 (Gr: parelabete) and 11 (Gr: epistevsate). He even suggests that they believe in the salvation from their sins through Christ’s resurrection (17). It may not be possible to discern the precise position of the Corinthians, but this doesn’t preclude a study of the competing notions of the body and afterlife that Paul sees are at stake.
  • 1 Cor 15:32. Paul likely means that he encountered fierce opposition from men at Ephesus, and not that he actually fought with beasts. [168]
  • 1 Cor 15:32-33. Paul believes that a knowledge of the resurrection is a deterrent to bad behavior, or rather, that those who don't believe in the resurrection are more likely to sin in the flesh, as they will never get the chance to be "in the flesh" again. Much is written about Paul's "mortification" of the flesh: his frequent call to live after the spirit and not after the flesh. There is some question as to whether he thought of the "flesh" as evil. Paul spoke pessimistically of marriage and at the same time rails against fornication, indicating that for him, the sexual pleasures of the flesh are a necessary evil. Additionally, Paul speaks frequently about his suffering in the flesh, his "thorn in the flesh" and "dying daily" in verse 31.
Yet Paul's celebration of the Resurrection as a place to experience the "flesh" again, so we don't have to sin in this life, is evidence that he also believed the flesh was a positive aspect of life, that could be looked forward to in the next life as well as this.
  • 1 Cor 15:37. Paul compares death and burial to the sowing of a seed. Just as a farmer plants a seed in the earth that springs forth into various plants and trees, so also a dead body planted in the earth will spring up into a new body at the resurrection. Paul .says, "thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain," This means that the grain does not spring up from the earth in the form of another single piece of grain, just like the seed, but rather into a completely new plant of wheat or some other grain. Paul means to say that in the resurrection, we will have a new body, one far superior to our mortal body, just as a seed differs from the plant it becomes. Later Paul notes, "it is sown in corruption, raised in incorruption, sown in weakness, raised in power.
  • 1 Cor 15:39-40. Doctrine and Covenants 76 is the first recorded instance where the degrees of heaven are specifically named Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial. However, in this verse, Paul notes two types of bodies: "celestial," often translated as heavenly, and "terrestrial" often translated as earthly. Joseph Smith added a third kind of body in the JST: the "telestial." Some contend that Joseph Smith changes Paul's meaning by adding "telestial" when Paul only meant to describe heavenly versus earthly bodies. However, there is bountiful evidence that Paul and other early Christian writers understood that there were multiple degrees of heaven. In 2 Cor 12:2 Paul speaks of being caught up in the "third" heaven. And in this chapter Paul goes to great lengths to give examples of many different kinds of bodies: beasts, fishes, birds, wheat, other grains, celestial, terrestial, sun, moon, and stars. Paul's intent is to compare the diversity of bodies in this world, with the diversity of glory in the resurrection. There will not be a kind of "one-size fits all" resurrection, or a simple return to our mortal state. Rather, like various kinds of seeds planted in the earth, human bodies will spring up into many different types and glories depending on their spiritual nature.
  • 1 Cor 15:44: Natural and spiritual. The word translated here as "natural" can sometimes give the reader a false impression of a physical body as opposed to a non-physical body. However, the Greek word translated "natural" is psychikos, meaning, quite literally translated, "psychical," "according to the mind." Accordingly, the word "spiritual" translates the Greek pneumatikos, "according to the spirit" or even "according to the Spirit." When Paul goes on to say that "there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body," it must be absolutely clear that both bodies are bodies, but that one is "according to the mind," and the other is "according to the spirit." (cf. Matt 10:28 where the same Greek word translated here as "natural" is contrasted to the body). In other words, the body we have here is a body that is dominated by the mind, by our fallen thoughts and our pathetic take on the world. The body to be had in the resurrection is a body that is dominated by the spirit, one that allows for communication with the Spirit.
  • 1 Cor 15:45: Living soul and quickening spirit. The phrase "living soul" is a direct citation of Gen 2:7 where God is forms man by "breath[ing] into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." The phrase translated "quickening" in the KJV in the phrase "quickening spirit" comes from the Greek word zōopoieō which translates, roughly, as "life-giving." The contrast here, then is between the first Adam's "living soul" and the last Adam's "life-giving spirit." The word for "soul" here, psychē, shares the same root as the word "natural" in the previous verse, as noted above. Rhetorically, then, "natural" in v. 44 and "soul" in v. 45 are parallel, as is "spiritual" in v. 44 and "spirit" in v. 45.
  • 1 Cor 15:45/ This verse can be, at first, confusing, but it can quickly be sorted out: though it appears that Paul is quoting some text that compares two Adam's, it is clear that the second half of this verse is Paul himself, adding to the text he quotes. "And so it is written": the reference is Gen 2:7. There one reads "and man [Hebrew: `dm, "Adam"] became a living soul [Hebrew nphsh]." The Septuagint (Greek OT) translates nphsh as psyche, "mind" or (roughly) "soul," which is the word Paul uses here, and of which he uses a cognate in the previous verse (poorly translated as "natural"). It is important to note that the word "first" does not appear in the OT text at all, that Paul himself has added it, as he has everything that follows the semi-colon. It would be better, then, to render this verse: And so it is written: The first man "Adam was made a living soul"; the last Adam a quickening spirit. Rendered thus, it becomes clear that Paul is not attempting here to quote a proof text, but rather to offer an interpretation of a very important text: the creation story as recorded in Genesis. That interpretation is not only vital to his own argument here, it is an incredibly fruitful reading of the Old Testament. It deserves some careful attention.
As is certainly the case in the immediately preceding and also in the immediately following verses, Paul divides the "history" of the world up into two eras, what one might (following the prevalent themes of the chapter) call "the old creation" and "the new creation" (following, perhaps more closely in the end, C. S. Lewis' similar distinction in Miracles). In doubling the verse from Gen 2, Paul relegates the story told in that verse to "the old creation," suggesting that beyond the creation story of Gen 2, there is another creation story, one in which a "last Adam" is made "a quickening [or lifegiving] spirit." In "the new creation" story, the "soul" is foregone in favor of the "spirit," in the same distinction drawn in verse 44: instead of having a body according to mind, as the first Adam did (and following the Hebrew text of Gen 2:7!), the last Adam, the Adam from "the new creation" story is to have a body according to spirit. Most important in all of this is the fact that Paul draws a careful distinction between two creations, or really, between two creation stories. The story as told in the second chapter of Genesis he effectively labels the story of "the old creation." The implication is either that the story of "the new creation" is as yet unwritten, or perhaps that Gen 1 is the story of the new creation. This latter turns out to be Paul's interpretation, as the next verse makes clear.
  • 1 Cor 15:46: Natural. The word for "natural" here is more accurately translated as "psychic," or perhaps "soulish" (Gk: ψυχικος). The same term is used in 1 Cor 2:14. The term may refer to how some of the members of the Corinthian community characterized themselves.
  • 1 Cor 15:46.Paul makes very clear here, following the commentary at verse 45, that he understands Genesis as his primary text. Since Adam became a "living soul" (Gen 2:7) after the "breath" (Greek: πνεη) or "spirit" was given to him, it shows that the first Adam was actually made of earth and then he was given spirit. Paul reads this episode allegorically (verse 47). He argues that the "soulish" ("natural") human is actually the body that we inhabit now. Paul suggests that the soul is no greater than the dust of the earth and that instead we should seek the spiritual. Paul is entering into ancient debates about the anthropology of the body as composed of flesh, soul, and spirit.
If Paul is indeed making this argument, it should be noted that he explicitly offers a counter to prevailing interpretation at the time. The Rabbinical writings, and Philo more explicitly and earlier, make reference to the apparently double creation story of Gen 1-2. The prevailing interpretation is that Adam was creation in Gen 1 as nearly a god, only afterwards to be recreated in the flesh in Gen 2. The idea seems to be that the Fall was a separable event from the creation, and that, as such, the hope of a Messiah was the only hope for overcoming such a horrible event. This reading makes the plan of history a three-fold plan (creation, fall, and atonement--whatever atonement means according to the Rabbis), whereas Paul suggests here rather a two-fold plan (creation/fall and atonement, the old creation and the new creation). In any event, Paul's interpretation is quite fruitful. Paul doesn't read the double-creation story, just Gen 2.
  • 1 Cor 15:50. This text seems problematic for understanding the resurrection of the flesh. This problem may be averted if Paul here is speaking of realms rather than substances. Those who exist within the realm of the flesh may not enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Gal 5). Additionally, some LDS writers have discussed the nature of the resurrected body as being made of "flesh and bone" rather than "flesh and blood", picking up on Luke 24:39. It is suggested that Paul is working with the same distinction.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Cor 15:14-19: Importance of the Resurrection. Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Sunday Will Come," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 28–30. Elder Wirthlin reminds us that "the Resurrection is at the core of our beliefs as Christians. Without it, our faith is meaningless." Elder Wirthlin also bears a "solemn testimony that death is not the end of existence."
  • Stendahl article. See "Ancient Sources for Baptism of the Dead" by Krister Stendahl for a summary of some scholarly and historical views on this verse.
  • See this article by Kevin Barney at the BCC blog for a survey of different (mostly non-Mormon) readings of this verse.
  • 1 Cor 15:40-42: Three degrees of glory. See this link for a fascinating discussion of ancient Christian writings that anticipate our modern understanding of the three degrees of glory.
  • 1 Cor 15:51-55: Music inspired by the Resurrection. Several great composers have been inspired by 1 Corinthians 15:51-55. Some of the best settings include:

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.