1 Corinthians


8. Speaking in tongues, 12:1-14:40

iv] Tongues and prophecy compared


Continuing to examine the issue of "other tongues", Paul encourages the use of prophecy rather than tongues, and this because prophecy edifies. Tongues are not easily understood and therefore cannot edify. They are only personally edifying, directed more toward God rather than to the members of the congregation. Prophecy edifies and is therefore a greater gift. Yet, Paul does qualify his point of view by allowing tongues when interpreted. In v6-12 Paul asks a rhetorical question, making the point that a congregation receives no benefit from a message which is not understandable. He illustrates the point from musical instruments and foreign languages, all of which require clarity for communication. Edification is the goal, and tongues do not achieve this end. Paul then, in v13-19, applies these analogies to the worship of the church. If someone is a tongue-speaker they should pray for the gift of interpretation. Then they can both praise God with the "spirit" and with the "mind", and therefore with understanding. As edification of the congregation is the goal, Paul "would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue."


i] Context: See 12:1-11. The movement of thought in chapter 14 is evidenced by the vocative adelfoi, "brothers / brothers and sisters", cf., v6, 20, 26. Verses 1-19 has, as its main focus, intelligibility.


ii] Background: See 7:6-9.


iii] Structure: Tongues and Prophecy compared:

The proper use of tongue speaking in Christian worship #4.

Proposition, v1-5:

Prophecy is superior to tongues because the exercise of love through prophecy builds up - a word ministry is measured by its capacity to edify.

Illustration, v6-12:

Paul presents three examples that argue for intelligibility, so making the point that unintelligible noise is useless - a word ministry is measured by its intelligibility, ie., it communicates a clear message.

Application, v13-19:

In applying the principle to the Christian community, Paul makes the point that when the Christian community gathers, the mind should be in gear and communication should be intelligible. Note the structure of the argument in these verses: do A, because if you don't B and C will follow.


iv] Interpretation:

As with chapter 12, the interpretation of chapter 14 is handled differently by commentators of a Pentecostal / Charismatic ilk, as compared to those of a Evangelical / Conservative ilk. The issue focuses on Paul's argumentative style. He does indeed say "I want you all to speak in tongues", but he adds, "even more to prophecy"; He does say "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you", but he adds, "but in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue."

The force of the adversative mallon de, "BUT MORE SO" / alla, "BUT", should not be underestimated. Paul's argument devalues tongues, affirming the exercise of love in intelligible words, but does so gently. Even today, this form of argumentation is commonly used; "He's a lovely bloke, BUT ......." Basically, everything before the "but" can be ignored. A classic example of this use of the adversative can be found in the Lord's Prayer. "Do not bring us into temptation alla (BUT) ..." = "Do not bring us into temptation, and of course you would never do that so we can ignore such a stupid proposition, BUT RATHER deliver us from the Evil One, and we know that's exactly what you will do for us." So, the weight of Paul's argument follows the adversative.

Paul's argument is simple enough: When the Christian community gathers, the exercise of gifted ministry should be intelligible. To this end, prophecy is superior to tongues because prophecy builds up; it edifies.


Tongues and Prophecy compared: In this passage Paul draws out the advantages of Prophecy over Tongues.

Tongues - ecstatic languages: As already noted, it is likely that glossolalia is an ecstatic version of secondary prophecy which requires interpretation to make intelligible a form of speech with is beyond human expression. The content of this speech, as with prophecy, will entail some kind of secondary revelation, a word of knowledge, or a word of instruction / teaching, cf., v14:6.


Prophecy - The role of the New Testament prophet remains unclear. We know that there were the predictive types in the New Testament, eg., Agabus. There may well have been prophets similar to the Old Testament prophets, functioning alongside the Apostles to address primary revelation. This would imply that they, with the Apostles, were replaced by the New Testament Cannon. Given that Paul seems to compare the ministry of tongue-speaking with prophecy in chapter 14, it most likely that it is a secondary form of prophecy which exercises a word-ministry of edification, exhortation and consolation for the church, 1Cor.14:3. The prophet that Paul speaks of is not like an Old Testament prophet entrusted with primary revelation; Paul's prophet is a minister of the Word. So, those who exercise the ministry of prophet are believers who possess the gifts to enable them to upbuild, encourage and console within the frame of a Biblical Word ministry.


v] Homiletics:

I have never been convinced that modern glossolalia is actually New Testament tongue-speaking, given that there is some evidence of language content in a New Testament tongue, particularly on the day of Pentecost - the tongue provided some sense of its content. This opinion does not devalue modern ecstatic utterance, given that many believers have been emotionally enriched by the experience, as I was on one occasion.

I have though wondered, while struggling to decipher the message in a diverse platitudinous sermon, whether the preacher was actually speaking in a tongue. If that were the case, then I obviously lacked the gift of interpretation! This was reinforced when, on one occasion, a parishioner told me how wonderful the sermon was. They obviously had the gift of interpretation!

In a recent Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, Australia, there was a move from lay members to legislate the length of a sermon. They proposed twenty minutes maximum. The motion was defeated, and rightly so, because a Word from the Spirit should not be bound. None-the-less, they had made their point! The mystery of verbose oratory ("a tongue"??) is best replaced by a clear prophetic word that builds up God's people rather than leaves them bewildered .

Text - 14:1a

Go after love, v1a. It is not clear whether the imperatival clause "pursue love" concludes chapter 13, or whether it introduces chapter 14. The decision will affect the translation of the postpositive de. If the clause concludes chapter 13, de will serve as a transitional connective introducing the next step in the argument and so left untranslated, but if it introduces chapter 14 then de will be adversative / contrastive, "yet", or possibly coordinative, "and". It seems likely that the clause rounds off Paul's exposition on love and that the second clause introduces his argument on the preeminence of prophecy over tongues in Christian worship.

diwkete (diwkw) pres. imp. "follow the way of [love]" - pursue [love]. "May love be that which you are in pursuit", Cassirer - "that you go after."


Tongues and prophecy, v1b-19: i] Prophecy is superior to tongues because the exercise of love through prophecy builds up - a word ministry is measured by its capacity to edify, v1-5. "Eagerly desire tongue speaking mallon de (BUT MORE SO) that you may prophesy." See "Interpretation" above.

de "and" - but/and. As noted above, here transitional and not translated.

ta pneumatika adj. "spiritual gifts / gifts of the Spirit" - [desire] the spiritual speaking]. The adjective serves as a substantive. As in 12:1, this technical term is unlikely to refer to "spiritual gifts" because the subject Paul is discussing is speaking in tongues, not gifts of the Spirit as such; he is not examining the charismata, but tongue-speaking. So, 12:1 is "Now concerning spiritual speaking = tongue-speaking", and similarly here, "Desire tongue-speaking, BUT MORE SO ...." Sure, be committed to speaking in tongues, but more so ....."

mallon de "especially" - but more so. Adversative.

iJna + subj. "-" - that [you may prophecy]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what one should "desire", namely to prophecy, rather than speak in tongues; "but more so, desire that you may prophecy." "Sure, speak in tongues, but most of all be committed to prophecy."


Glossolalia / ecstatic languages do not edify because the hearer cannot understand them (unless there is interpretation).

gar "for" - introducing a causal clause explaining why prophecy is to be preferred over a tongue.

oJ ... lalwn (lalew) pres. part. "anyone who speaks" - the one speaking. The participle serves as a substantive.

glwssh/ (a) dat. "in a tongue" - The dative is either instrumental, expressing means, "by means of a tongue", or modal, expressing manner, "with a tongue."

anqrwpoiV (oV) dat. "to men / people" - [speaks not] to men, [but to god]. As with qew/, "to God", dative of indirect object / direction.

gar "-" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why a tongue is not addressed to people, because people do not (normally) understand it, although Fee suggests that here it is inferential, "and therefore no one hears / understands."

akouei (akouw) pres. "[no one] understands them" - [no one] hears. "Hears" is usually taken to mean "understands", so Barrett, Barnett, etc., as NIV.

musthria (on) "mysteries" - [but/and he speaks] mysteries. A "mystery" is a divine truth, once secret, but now revealed, although here we have the plural which may imply something like "mysterious things." The problem with tongues is that without an interpretation these things remain secret.

pneumati (a atoV) dat. "by the Spirit" - in spirit. The dative may be adverbial, modal, expressing manner, with the human "spirit" intended. This sense implies the person is articulating a language of the soul (spoken in heaven?? - "the tongues of men and of angels") that "communes with God in adoration and praise", Pfitzner. So, "spiritually, in/with the spirit" as opposed to "with the mind", so Morris. The Dative may also be instrumental, expressing means; "by means of the Spirit" = "by the power of the Spirit", so Fee. Given that Paul is devaluing tongues, a dative of manner seems likely; "and only in his spirit is he speaking spiritual secrets", Phillips.


On the other hand, prophecy / proclaiming the truth in everyday speech "strengthens weak knees and jacks up sagging spirits so that one faces the troubles of life with unbending resolve and unending assurance", Garland.

de "but" - Adversative, as NIV. Fee notes that although there is no men in v2, an adversative comparative construction is implied; "but on the other hand ...."

oJ ... profhteuwn (profhteuw) pres. part. "the one who prophesies" - the one prophesying. The participle serves as a substantive.

anqrwpoiV (oV) dat. " to men / people" - [speaks] to men. Dative of indirect object.

oikodomhn (h) "for their strengthening" - building up = edification [and encouragement and consolation]. The three descriptors are coordinate and stand as the direct object of the verb lalei, "speaks", although Conzelmann suggests the second two define the first.


Paul's argumentative style continues with the emphasis falling on what follows the adversative de. Tongues are useful for private devotion; "soul-talk with God may produce an inner peace and joyous certainty of God's grace", Pfitzner, BUT prophecy edifies the whole congregation.

oJ lalwn (lalew) pres. part. "anyone who speaks" - the one speaking. The participle serves as a substantive.

glwssh/ (h) dat. "in a tongue" - in/with/by a tongue [edifies himself]. The dative is instrumental, expressing means, or modal, expressing manner.

de "but" - Adversative, as NIV.

oJ ... profhteuwn (profhteuw) pres. part. "the one who prophesies" - the one prophesying [edifies]. The participle serves as a substantive.

ekklhsian (a) "the church" - an assembly. The gathering, meeting, assembly of God's people.


Paul again reinforces his argument with the strengthened mallon de, "but even more so that you may prophesy." This time with the codicil, "unless he / someone interprets."

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, introducing a step in the argument to a clarification, "now I want you all to speak in tongues", ESV.

lalein (lalew) pres. inf. "to speak" - [i desire you all] to speak [in/with/by tongues]. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul desires. It seems more than likely that Paul's "desire" is nothing more than a "concession in the form of a wish", so Hering.

mallon de "but I would rather" - but more so. Strong adversative; see "Interpretation" above. "Look, I think it would be great if you all spoke in ecstatic languages, but really, I would rather that you proclaimed the truth in everyday speech."

iJna + subj. "have [you prophesy]" - that [you may prophesy]. Here introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul qelw, "wills / would like ... even more so"

meizwn comp. adj. "greater" - [but/and the one prophesying is] greater [than the one speaking in tongues]. Predicate adjective. Greater in the sense that it is more effective in building up the church. As such, it facilitates love / compassion in that it is other-person-centered, rather than self-centered.

ei mh + subj. "unless" - Introducing an exceptive clause expressing a contrast by designating an exception.

diermhneuh/ (diermhneuw) pres. subj. "he / someone interprets" - he interprets. The qualification being interpretation, see v 13, 27, 28. In this context, the word means "to put into articulate intelligible speech what is difficult to express or almost beyond human expression. In other words, glossolalia is transformed into prophecy", Garland, so Thiselton.

iJna + subj. "so that" - that [the church may receive building work = edification, strengthening]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order that", or a consecutive clause expressing result, "with the result that", or hypothetical result, "so that."


ii] Three examples that argue for intelligibility, so making the point that unintelligible noise is useless - a word ministry is measured by its intelligibility, ie., it communicates a clear message, v6-12. First, in v6, Paul sets out his thesis before supporting it with four illustrations; "Faith comes from hearing a clear message with understanding", Pfitzner.

de "-" - but/and [now brothers]. Transitional, introducing the next step in the argument - left untranslated.

ean + subj. "if" - if [as may be the case, i come to you speaking in tongues, then what will i benefit you]. Introducing a 3rd. class conditional clause where the condition has the possibility of coming true.

lalwn (lalew) pres. part. "and speak" - The participle is supplementary, supplementing the thought of the verb "I come"; I come .... speaking."

glwssaiV (iV ewV) dat. "in tongues" - The dative expresses means or manner; "by / with tongues."

ean mh + subj. "unless" - if not = except. Introducing an exceptive clause expressing a contrast by designating an exception, although Fee argues that it stands as a second protasis for the apodosis ti uJmaV wfelhsw, "what will I benefit you?

uJmin dat. pro. "[I bring] you" - [i speak] to you. Dative of indirect object / direction.

h] ... h] ....h] ... h] "some ..... or .... or .... or ..." - either .... or .... or ... or .... A correlative disjunctive construction.

en "-" - in/by/with. Instrumental expressing means, "by means of ....", or modal, expressing manner, "with ....."

apokaluyei (iV ewV) dat. "some revelation" - a revelation / vision [or in a word of knowledge or in a prophecy or in a word of teaching]. Conzelmann may be right when he argues that "revelation" and gnwsiV, "knowledge", are gifts of the Spirit which issue in gifts of ministry, here "prophecy" and "teaching". Irrespective of how Paul sees these qualities interacting with each other, they are all intelligible, and it is that quality which is paramount.


The first illustration; if an instrument isn't played with distinct sounds there is no music.

oJmwV adv. "even in the case of" - likewise / nevertheless / although [lifeless things giving = produce a sound]. The word is not widely used by Paul and so his intended sense is unclear. Accented differences are not helpful as they were not used in the original text. Possibly standing in for the comparative adverb oJmoiwV, "likewise, similarly, in the same way, also"; "Like lifeless things producing a sound, either a flute or lyre, if ....." As it stands, as an adverb, it is often adversative / contrastive, "nevertheless, yet", by displacement from the following clause, although an adversative sense seems unlikely here. It may well take the little used concessive sense, "though, although; "although lifeless things produce a sound, whether a flute or lyre, if ....."

eite .... eite ... "such as [the pipe] or [harp]" - either [flute] or [harp]. A correlative disjunctive construction; "weather / if ... or .... "

pwV "how [will anyone know]" - how [will it be known]. This clause, introduced by the interrogative particle pwV, "how, in what way", establishes Paul's point. How can anyone recognize the tune being played if they can't discern the melody? Those who have served in small rural churches where either the harmonium or the the organist, or sometimes both, are past their prime, can fully appreciate Paul's illustration.

to auloumenon (aulew) pres. mid./pas. part. "what tune is being played" - the thing (=tune) being played (on a flute) or the thing being harped]. As with "the thing (= tune) being harped, the participle serves as a substantive.

ean + subj. "unless" - if [it does not give = produce a distinction]. Introducing a 3rd. class conditional clause where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as the case may be, it does not produce ....... then how will it be known ........"

toiV fqoggoiV (oV) dat. "in the notes" - to/in the sounds = notes. Dative of indirect object / reference, "with respect to the notes". "Do not emit their tones distinctly", Fitzmyer.


The second illustration: If the bugle call is indistinct, who will turn up for the battle?

kai gar "again" - and for. The kai is correlative and gar either expresses reason, introducing a further explanatory illustration, even possibly explaining the previous illustration, "and moreover", or is emphatic, "and in fact, if ....."

ean "if" - if [as may be the case, a trumpet gives an obscure / unclear call, then who will prepare to war = battle]? Introducing a 3rd. class conditional clause where the condition has the possibility of coming true.

paraskeuasetai (paraskeuazw) fut. mid. "[who] will get ready" - prepare. The middle voice gives the sense "who will prepare himself = themselves for battle?"

eiV + acc. "for [battle]" - The preposition here expresses purpose; "in order to prepare for the forthcoming battle."


The first two illustrations are applied: garbled speech communicates nothing.

ouJtwV adv. "so it is with" - so [also you]. A comparative referring back to v6-8, with an adjunctive kai, "also"; "in the same way."

ean mh "unless" - if [as the case may be, you do] not [give = speak an intelligible word = message (a message that signifies something), then how will it be known the thing being said]? Introducing a 3rd. class conditional clause.

dia + gen. "with" - through [the tongue]. Instrumental; "through, by means of." The articular "tongue" refers to the organ of speech and not glossolalia.

pwV "how" - Interrogative particle.

to laloumenon (lalew) pres. mid./pas. part. "what you are saying" - the thing being said. The participle serves as a substantive, object of the verb "to know / recognize."

gar "-" - for. Expressing reason more than cause, offering a clarification and introducing a clause that is somewhat elliptical; "Unless you speak intelligible words you might just as well be addressing an empty church."

esesqe ... lalounteV (lalew) "you will just be speaking" - you will be speaking. This periphrastic future construction probably serves to emphasize durative aspect - now and always, when speaking in tongues, you might as well be speaking to an empty church.

eiV + acc. "into" - into [the air]. Spacial; movement toward. Indicating a futile and pointless exercise.


The third illustration: where there is no communication there is no understanding. The point being "the hearer cannot understand the one speaking in tongues any more than he can the one who speaks a foreign language", Fee.

ei + ind. "undoubtedly" - if [as is the case, it may happen that, there are many kinds of speech = languages in the world, then not one is meaningless = without meaning]. A somewhat messy 1st. class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true. In English the presence of "if" always suggests doubt, but in a 1st. class conditional clause there is not doubt, so "There are many languages in the world and none of them are without meaning." The optative of tugcanw, "to happen", adds doubt to the protasis, "even if it happens that", Thiselton, but not to the apodosis, so "There are perhaps many languages in the world, but none are without meaning." Technically, the presence of an optative in the protasis indicates a 4th. class conditional clause, but an optative + an would be found in the apodosis - no such examples exist in the NT. Barrett expresses the doubt nicely with "I don't know how many", so "There are many, I don't know how many, languages in the world, but ....."

qwnwn (h) gen. "[all sorts] of languages" - [kinds] of speech. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

en + dat. "in [the world]" - Local, space; "existing in the world" = "in existence."


ean "if" - if [therefore, as the case may be, i do not know the strength = meaning / significance of the voice = language, then i will be a foreigner to the one speaking]. Introducing a 3rd. class conditional clause where the condition has the possibility of coming true.

oun "then" - therefore. Inferential / drawing a logical conclusion.

dunamin (iV ewV) "the meaning" - the force, strength, power. This is a classical usage, giving the sense "meaning / significance of the language"

thV fwnhV (h) gen. "of what someone is saying" - of the voice. The genitive may be treated as verbal, subjective, "If I am ignorant of what is signified by a language", Cassirer, or ablative source / origin, "the meaning that comes from the voice", B&L. One would expect glwssh, "tongue", to express "language", but the word is used of "the one speaking in/with a tongue" (ie., glossolalia) and so its use would cause confusion. The noun fwnh used for language is classical.

tw/ lalounti (lalew) dat. pres. part. "to the speaker" - [i will be a foreigner / alien] to the one speaking. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of reference / respect, "with respect to the person who addresses me", or ethical / feeling.

kai "and" - and. Introducing a coordinate apodosis to the conditional clause. The two together give the sense "we are as foreigners to one another", Fee.

oJ lalwn (lalew) pres. part. "the speaker" - the one speaking [a foreigner / alien in me]. The participle serves as a substantive.

en emoi dat. "to me" - in me. The preposition en takes an ethical / forensic sense here, "in my estimation", R&P; "I shall be the barbarian from the point of view of the one who is doing the talking, while he will be a barbarian from mine", Cassirer.


The third illustration is applied: "Given that you are so keen to exercise the powers of the Spirit, concentrate / redirect your efforts to building up the church so that you may abound = grow the gifts that edify."

ouJtwV adv. "so it is with with [you]" - so [and = also you]. A comparative referencing what precedes; "in the same way." "It is exactly the same with you", Barclay.

epei "since" - Causal conjunction; "since, because"; "given that you ...."

zhlwtai (hV ou) "[you are] eager" - [you are] zealots, enthusiasts. Predicate nominative. "Since you have a burning concern", Thiselton.

pneumatwn (a atoV) gen. "for gifts of the Spirit" - [you are] of spirits [toward the edification of the church]. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective, as NIV. As noted in 12:1, Paul may be using the word technically such that the manifestations of the spirit that Paul has in mind is speaking in tongues. Most commentators think the sense is more general, namely, "spiritual gifts": "spiritual endowments", Garland; "powers of the Spirit", Thiselton; the phenomena, Cozelmann. Barnett suggests that Paul at this point is using the word in the sense of a "spiritually alive" Christian; "if you are truly spirit filled believers you won't be obsessed with gifts that begin and end with you, as tongue-speaking does. Rather. you will want to exercise those gifts that build up the church, which prophesying does."

iJna + subj. "[try] to [excel]" - [be zealous] that [you may abound]. Most commentators take the hina clause here is standing in for an epexegetic infinitive, specifying the content of the zeal, namely a zeal that abounds proV "toward / for" (expressing end view / purpose) the building up of the church. As Fitzmyer notes, "how can they seek to abound in what is a gift?" The expression is rather puzzling. It is possible that the hina clause is final, expressing purpose; the Corinthians are to be zealous for the building up of the church in order that they may abound. But in what sense will they abound? Possibly in the sense of advantage / benefit, "so that you may have a greater benefit", even in the sense grow, "grow in love / grow in the gifts that edify"????


iii] The previous examples are applied to the Christian community, making the point that when the Christian community gathers, the mind should be in gear and communication should be intelligible, v13-19. Note the structure of the argument in these verses: do A, because if you don't B and C will follow.

dio "For this reason" - therefore. Inferential / drawing a logical conclusion.

oJ lalwn glwssh/ "the one who speaks in a tongue" - the one speaking in a tongue. See v2 for the syntax.

iJna + subj. "that" - [let him pray] that [he may interpret]. Here introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what he should pray for. A tongue-speaker should pray that they can interpret their unintelligible utterances.


A tongue-speaker is engaged at the level of the inward emotional self, but not the rational self, v14. Paul's advice is that the enthusiasts engage the mind as well, so bringing understanding to their words, v15. This may indicate that the person who speaks in a tongue should be able to interpret their tongue, which then leads to the conclusion that they might as well cut out the tongue and go straight to prophecy.

gar "for" - Causal variant.

ean + subj. "if" - if [as may be the case, i pray in/with a tongue, then the spirit of me prays, but the mind of me is unfruitful]. Introducing a 3rd. class conditional clause where the condition has the possibility of coming true.

glwssh/ (h) dat. "in a tongue" - The dative is adverbial, expressing means, "by a tongue", or manner, "with a tongue."

to pneuma (a atoV) " spirit" - the spirit. Nominative subject of the verb "to pray." One's own "spirit" is indicated, and certainly not the Holy Spirit, an option suggested by Fee. Limited to the "God-breathed self" seems unlikely, but rather the inner self, or more particularly here, a person's emotions; "the inward immaterial faculty of a human being that wills and reacts emotionally to things about them and that is open to the influence of the divine Spirit", Fitzmyer.

de "but" - Here adversative, as NIV.

mou gen. pro. "my [mind]" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

akarpoV adj. "[is] unfruitful" - Predicate adjective. In a tongue, the mind is not engaged and so "fails to be fruitful in any way", Cassirer; "my mind lies fallow and all that intelligence is wasted", Peterson.


oun "So" - therefore [what is (am I to do)]? Inferential / drawing a logical conclusion; "what then is the proper way of proceeding?"

tw/ pneumati (a atoV) dat. "with my spirit" - [i will pray] in/with/by the spirit. The dative is adverbial, probably expressing means, "by means of my spirit", or manner, "with my emotional self / the inward self, fully engaged.

de kai "but [I will] also [pray]" - and also. Adjunctive.

tw/ noi (uV oV) dat. "with my understanding" - [i will pray] in/with/by the mind. The dative is adverbial, expressing means or manner. Congregational prayer is intended; "intelligibly", Zerwick.

yalw (yallw) fut. "I will sing" - i will sing [in/with/by the spirit and] i will sin [in/with/by the mind]. Congregational singing was part of Jewish worship and is obviously carried over into Christian worship. Some of this singing may have been in the form of a solo, but in the presence of the congregation. Paul encourages this singing to be meaningful and thus in a language that people can understand. In the first century, this would be Greek. There is no evidence that what Paul speaks of here aligns with the modern Charismatic / Pentecostal practice of singing in the Spirit.


"Public prayer and praise are corporate acts of worship involving others. But how can others be involved when what is said and sung makes no sense?", Pfitzner, v16-17.

epei "otherwise" - since, because. Causal conjunction, sometimes linked temporally to what follows, as NIV, although the link here is conditional; "I will sing with understanding, because, if you give praise with only your inner being, an ordinary person / seeker is not able to say Amen."

ean + subj. "when" - if [as may be the case, you praise in spirit = inner being, then how will the one occupying the place of the untrained say amen to your giving thanks, since what you say he does not know]? Introducing a 3rd. class conditional clause where the condition has the possibility of coming true.

euloghV (eulogew) pres. subj. "you are praising God" - you praise, bless God. Presumably "bless God", with the sense "praise God" = "worship God", Thiselton; "if you pour out your ecstatic praises to God", Barclay.

pneumati (a atoV) dat. "in the Spirit" - in spirit. Variant en, "in", or the dative article tw/. The dative is adverbial expressing means or manner; "by/with the S/spirit." "Spirit" here in the sense of the inner being, the emotional self, rather than the "Holy Spirit", and this done without understanding, ie., "ecstatic", Barclay. "Holy Spirit", Fee; "spirit", Fitzmyer, Thiselton, Bruce, ..

pwV "how [can ..... say]" - how [will say]. Interrogative particle.

oJ anaplhrwn (anaplhrow) pres. part. "one who finds himself /someone else" - the one filling up = occupying. The participle serves as a substantive.

tou idiwtou (hV ou) gen. "who do not understand] / [the position] of an inquirer" - [the position] of an untrained / inquirer [amen]. If to topon, "the place", identifies an actual position, or status in the church, then the participle oJ anaplhrwn denotes those who fill that position. The genitive tou idiwtou, "of the untrained", if adjectival, attributive, or idiomatic / content, "the one filling the role of the untrained", B&L, limiting ton topon, "the place." Commentators and translations provide numerous suggestions, eg., "prospects for membership", BAGD; "the uninitiated person", NRSV; "the ordinary man", Barclay. Thiselton is worth considering, arguing that the phrase is technical, defining a layperson, or better a proselyte or catechumen.

epi + dat. "to" - at, because of [your giving thanks]. Causal; "on the basis of / because of." The word "thanksgiving" is interchangeable with "praise", both serving to describe "worship" A seeker is not able to respond appropriately to the act of worship by an enthusiast who doesn't engage the mind.

epeidh "since" - because [what you say he does not know]. Causal conjunction, emphatic due to dh, introducing a causal clause explaining why the seeker doesn't respond with Amen, namely, because they don't understand what is being said.


su pro. "you" - Emphatic by use and position.

gar "-" - for. More reason than cause, further explaining v16. Left untranslated.

men .... all "..... but ..." - An adversative comparative construction; "on the one hand ...... but on the other ....." The use of the adversative alla, rather than de, serves to emphasize the contrast; "You do indeed properly give thanks, BUT ....." Again, although specifying an element in worship, Paul most likely has worship as a whole in mind.

kalwV adv. "well enough" - [you give thanks] well = properly, [but the other one is not built up = edified]. Adverb of manner; "beautifully".


Paul concludes his argument with a zinger (a succinct gotcha argument), v18-19. Again, using his yes-BUT formula, Paul points out to the Corinthian enthusiasts that when it comes to tongue-speaking he is the master of the gift, BUT he would rather communicate an intelligible truth rather than endless babble.

tw/ qew/ (oV) dat. "God" - [i thank] god. Dative of direct object after the verb "to give thanks."

"that" - A dependent statement of indirect speech is implied although not indicated by the syntax, expressing Paul's thanksgiving, namely, that he speaks in ecstatic languages more than any of the Corinthians.

mallon adv. "more" - [i speak i speak in tongues] more. Possibly temporal; "more often."

pantwn gen. adj. "than all" - of all. The genitive is ablative, of comparison; "more than all of you."

uJmwn gen. pro. "of you" - of you. The genitive is adjectival, partitive / wholative.


alla "but" - but. Strong adversative.

en + dat. "in [the church]" - in [an assembly]. Possibly adverbial, temporal; "when I am gathered together with my fellow believers ...."

qelw pres. "I would rather" - i will, wish more. The clause is somewhat elliptical and so is in need of the comparative mallon, "more"; "I wish more to speak .... h] (than) ...... " The context of itself gives the verb the sense "I prefer."

lalhsai (lalew) aor. inf. "speak" - to speak. The infinitive is usually classified as complementary, completing the sense of the verb "I wish", but it can also be classified as introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what is willed / wished / wanted = preferred.

tw/ noi (uV oV) dat. "intelligible words" - [five words] with/by the mind [of me]. The dative is instrumental, expressing means, "by means of my intellect / understanding", as opposed to en glwssh/, "in a tongue" = "with/by a tongue" = "by means of a tongue." Possibly modal, expressing manner; "speak in a way that involves my understanding", B&L.

iJna + subj. "to" - that [and = also others]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose; "in order that ...."

kathchsw (kathcew) aor. subj. "instruct" - i may instruct [rather or = than speak ten thousand words in a tongue]. A word used to indicate oral instruction. It is not often used in the NT, there are some references to Jesus instructing others and it is used by Paul in Gal.6:6 of teaching the Word of God.


1 Corinthians Introduction


[Pumpkin Cottage]