1 Corinthians


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

vi] Regulation for public worship


Paul now sets out to correct the situation in Corinth with a number of regulations. His purpose is for the strengthening of the church. A maximum of three tongue-speakers is allowed, and only if there is an interpretation. Similarly with prophecy, two or three, with silence and reflection. The other prophets are to listen and critique. An immediate word should have precedence. All should be done "in a fitting and orderly way" for instruction and encouragement. Continuing to address the issue of order in the church, Paul has a word to say to discerning women, v34-36. However we interpret the injunction that "women should remain silent in the churches", it is not a prohibition against women preaching, prophesying, or teaching since Paul has already given directions as to the appropriate attire for women prophets. Finally, in v37-40, Paul calls for the priority of prophecy, while not forbidding tongues; all should be done in order. He concludes with a warning to his readers that they do not think too highly of themselves against others, and in particular, against Paul himself.


i] Context: See 12:-11.


ii] Background: See 7:6-9. The detailed instructions in this passage serve to further illustrate the problems existing in the Corinthian congregation. The implication of the instructions is that there is a predominance of uninterpreted tongue-speaking, with all the speakers speaking at once, along with a mixture of prophecies and possibly some form of questioning ("discerning", Garland) intruded into the mix by female members. Such ecstasy is usually driven by realized eschatology - the end is neigh! Paul will get to the heart of the problem in chapter 15.


iii] Structure: Regulations for public worship:

The proper use of tongue speaking in Christian worship #6:

Proposition, v26:

Let everything be done for the edification of God's people.


Concerning tongue-speaking in church, v27-28;

Concerning prophecy in church, v29-33:

The numbers speaking, v29;

Guidelines for the delivery of a prophetic word, v30-33;

The participation of women, v34-36;

Admonition, v37-38:

A proper recognition of Paul's advice;

Conclusion, v39-40:

Be eager to prophesy, but at the same time

don't forbid speaking in tongues.


iv] Interpretation:

See 14:1-19. Again we face the difficulty of understanding how Paul's words address the situation that existed within the Corinthian congregation. Paul is certainly focusing on some form of disorderly behavior, but as already indicated, the specifics are illusive. It is to this situation that Paul applies his regulations. It is fairly clear how Paul's regulations might apply to tongue-speakers and prophets, but it is not clear how they apply to women.

Paul has already indirectly approved of women prophesying in church (his dress regulations), so his instruction that women "keep silent" obviously doesn't relate to women exercising a Word ministry in church. In the passage before us, Paul again touches on the issue of "submission", v34, which he raised earlier, 11:5, 10. This "sign of authority" (a married women's hairdo, or head covering) relates to propriety in the marital relationship, and, whether cultural or theological, may prompt Paul's injunction "let them be subject"; a rule possibly applied "in all the congregations", cf., 1Pet.3:1. We get the impression that there are a number of groups of church members, all out of control and turning the church meeting into a disordered cacophony of noise, and it may be that one of these groups is made up of discerning women. They could be sitting apart from the men, as is the practice of synagogue worship, even separated by a screen of sorts, and joining in on the cacophony of noise with an all-in-discussion, possibly calling out, asking questions, having their say. Garland suggests that Paul's instructions "are conditioned by the social realities of the age"; this is indicated by his focus on disorder and propriety (married women shaming their head). To this end, Paul asks the women to "remain silent", ie., to not add to the chaos caused by the men. If they want to get into an unruly debate, have it with their husbands at home and not in church.

Talbert has proposed a rather left-of-field interpretation of Paul's instructions to the women; see also Snyder's commentary on first Corinthians, 1992, and Flannagan and Hunter, Did Paul put women down in I Corinthians 14:34-36? BTB 11. The suggestion is that Paul in v34-35 is quoting the enthusiasts in Corinth who take the view that the exercise of spiritual gifts, tongues, prophecy, .... is a male prerogative and that the female members of the congregation should remain silent and subject to the men. So, not only are the enthusiasts out of control, speaking over each other in a disorderly cacophony, they suppress any participation by female members. To this Paul makes the critical comment recorded in v36, addressed to the male members of the congregation - uJmaV monouV (masculine), "you alone"; "Did the Word of God originate with you men? Are you men the only ones it has reached?" The disjunctive h], "or", being used here to introduce a rhetorical question; "And added to the disorder you men have inflected on the congregation do you really want to claim that a prophetic word from God can only be delivered by a man?"

Some textual disruption is evident in v34-35 prompting numerous source theories, eg., the passage is a post-Pauline interpolation, a side note to the letter as whole which was later included in the text, an extract from another lost letter, ....

Text - 14:26

Regulations for public worship in Corinth, v26-40: i] The principle, v26. In the first century, synagogue worship was structured, in much the same way as a liturgical service is today. The Corinthian believers obviously didn't import this structure (were there not many Jewish believers in the congregation?), but went with a free-style service incorporating the elements listed in this verse. The list is not necessarily complete, as prayers and a reading from scripture (OT) would also be expected. Paul's point is, free-style or not, let there be decorum / order for the edification of the congregation.

tiv "what [then shall we say]" - what [then is it brothers]. Interrogative pronoun, nominative subject of the verb to-be, possibly with the sense here "how?" The question is somewhat elliptical, "what then is the upshot of what has just been said", Fee; "How does what I have said apply to the conduct of public worship?"

oJtan subj. "when" - when [you come together and each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation let all things be for edification]. Introducing an indefinite temporal clause, "whenever", although translated definitely, "when".

ekastoV adj. "each of you" - each. The adjective serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "to have"; "each one" = "each person." In free-style fashion individual members contribute to the service with their ministry gifts. For one it is music, a "hymn" or psalm, for another teaching, an "instruction" or lesson, for another a "revelation" or prophetic word, for another a "tongue" with its "interpretation".

proV + acc. "so that [the church may be built up]" - toward / for [edification]. Here expressing purpose / end view. The ministry gifts must not overlap in the service producing disorder, but blend to give order toward / for / to achieve edification, "for the building up and harmony of he community", Fitzmyer.


ii] The regulation of tongue-speaking, v27-28. Two contributions are enough and each must be accompanied with an interpretation.

eite "if" - if [anyone speaks in a tongue]. Introducing an irregular correlative disjunctive construction which serves to introduce the protasis of a first-class conditional clause. It presents as an anacoluthon; Paul loses his way and so retreating, he drops the expected second eite; "whether tongues [or prophecy] then two or at the most three ....." So, the Gk. presents as a third-class conditional clause, followed by a second-class conditional clause; "If, as is the case, someone speaks in a tongue, then two, or at the most three should speak in turn, and let someone interpret, but if, as may be the case, there is no interpreter, then let him be silent in church, let him speak to himself and to God."

kata + acc. "-" - according to [two, or the most three]. Distributive use of the preposition.

ana meroV "one at a time" - in part = in turn, in succession. Distributive.

ei|V adj. "someone [must interpret]" - [and let] one [interpret]. Nominative subject of the verb "to explain, interpret." Is that "let one of the tongue-speakers interpret", or "let someone interpret the tongue-speakers"? Garland argues that the interpretation is most likely offered by a person other than the tongue-speaker (contra Barnett), "nevertheless, we cannot exclude the possibility that the person who speaks in a tongue may also be able to interpret what it means in plain language."


ean "if" - [but/and] if [as may be the case, there is not an interpreter, then let him be silent]. Introducing a 3rd. class conditional clause where the condition has the possibility of coming true.

en "in [the church]" - in [church, assembly, gathering]. The preposition is possibly adverbial, temporal, "while in church"; "when the congregation is assembled", Cassirer.

eJautw/ dat. refl. pro. "to himself" - [let him speak] to himself [and to god]. As with tw/ qew/, "to God", dative of indirect object / direction / interest, advantage. Not in the sense of "for self-affirmation", but "privately"; "Let them speak silently / privately to themselves and to God." The point is that Paul does not permit uninterpreted tongues in a church service.


iii] The regulation of prophecy, v29-33. As with tongue-speakers, prophecies are to be limited in number and their delivery ordered, "weighed" (ie., its veracity tested against scripture, the gospel, tradition, .... so Thiselton), with one person speaking at a time, "so that all may learn and all be encouraged", ESV.

de "-" - but/and [prophets, let them speak, two or three]. Transitional connective, indicating the next step in the argument; "moreover".

diakrinetwsan (diakrinw) pres. imp. "[the others] should weight carefully what is said" - [and] let [the others] discern. The sense is "differentiate / distinguish", BAGD, "weigh", Garland, "evaluate", Fitzmyer.


This rather specific instruction is likely to address the particular situation faced by the Corinthian congregation. A number of commentators suggest that the issue is over long-winded prophetic deliveries, so Barnett. Like prayer, as with sermons, there are those who believe that the length of their delivery equates to its effectiveness. "The requirement seems to be aimed at those who might tend to dominate the meeting", Fee.

ean + subj. "if" - [and] if [as the case may be, it = something is revealed to another sitting, then let the first be silent]. Introducing a 3rd. class conditional clause where the condition has the possibility of coming true.

apokalufqh/ (apokaluptw) aor. pas. subj. "a revelation" - it = something. Short-talk = "If a prophet, who is sitting down, receives a revelation, then the prophet who is speaking must be silent and allow the revelation to be heard."

allw/ dat. adj. "to someone" - to other. The adjective serves as a substantive, "to another person", dative of indirect object / interest, advantage.

kaqhmenw/ (kaqhmai) pres. mid. part. "who is sitting down" - sitting. The participle is adjectival. It is not always clear whether an anarthrous adjectival participle is serving as an attributive, modifying / limiting the substantive, as NIV, or a predicative, asserting a fact about the substantive, as ESV, "If a revelation is made to another sitting there."


"In this way all get the opportunity to give a message with the result that all learn something and all are encouraged."

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why one prophet should not dominate proceedings, "because ...."

profhteuein (profhteuw) pres. inf. "prophesy" - [you are all able] to prophesy. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to be able."

kaq eJna "in turn" - one by one. Distributive; "one at a time."

iJna + subj. "that" - that [all may learn and all may be encouraged]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order that", or a consecutive clause expressing result, "with the result that ..."


Concluding statement. Taking pneumata, "spirits", in the sense of the prophets' spiritual / prophetic powers / utterances, Paul may be saying that those with the ministry gift of prophecy are in the best position to monitor the exercise of the prophetic gift of other prophets, but he is more likely saying that a person with the gift of prophecy is well able to control their own prophetic powers / utterances, ie., they are not puppets in a state of ecstatic mania, they can exercise their gift appropriately for the welfare of all - they can sit down when necessary; they don't have to go on and on, so Barnett, Fee, Thiselton, Garland, Barrett, ...

kai "-" - and. Possibly here with an emphatic edge, given that at this point Paul offers his justification for the proceeding regulations covering tongue-speaking and prophecy, so Fee; "Indeed / These are the facts, a prophet is well able to control their prophetic powers." "And in addition to what has been said", B&L.

pneumata (a toV) "the spirits" - Nominative subject of the verb "to be subject to." "Angel spirits", Ellis, is very unlikely, possibly the impulses of the Spirit at work in the prophet, Godet, but better, the manifestations of the Spirit at work in the prophet, R&P, or simply "spiritual powers", Pfitzner, or more specifically "the spiritual utterances of the prophet", Thiselton.

profhtwn (hV ou) gen. "of prophets" - The genitive is rather difficult to classify, given that the sense is unclear - what "spirits"? If Paul has in mind "spiritual powers", then adjectival, possessive; "the spiritual powers that belong to the prophets." If an active sense is in mind, "spiritual influences", then possibly verbal, subjective, of the the influence exercised by the prophet, and influence which he/she is able to control.

profhtaiV (hV ou) dat. "prophets" - [are subject, submit] to prophets. Dative of direct object after the uJpo prefix verb "to be subject to, under the control of."


gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why prophets are well able to control the delivery of a Word from the Lord, because "God is not a God of disorder, but harmony", Phillips; he is not the God of "mindless babbling and competitive chattering", Pfitzner;

akatastasiaV (a) gen. "of disorder" - [he is not the god] of confusion, unruliness. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / of production, standing in the predicate position, "God does not produce disorder", but possessive is possible, "confusion, topsy-turvy doings, do not belong to God", Lenski.

alla "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "Not (ou) ......, but ...." .

eirhnhV (h) gen. "peace" - of peace. The genitive, as for "of disorder" above; "peace is a product of / belongs to the Divine."

wV "as" - Comparative. The comparison is often take with what follows, but best taken with what precedes, so Fee; The custom in all the congregations of God's people is to conduct a service with with order, and this because God is a God of order.

en + dat. "in" - in [all the churches, assemblies]. A local sense is possible, but adverbial, temporal is preferred; "As is the practice when God's people meet, ....."

twn aJgiwn (oV) gen. "of the Lord's people" - of the holy, saints. The adjective serves as a substantive. The genitive is adjectival, possibly possessive, "belonging to", or partitive, or epexegetic, limiting by specifying the assemblies, "the assemblies consisting of / which consist of the saints, of believers."


iv] The regulation of discerning women, v34-36. See "Interpretation" above. Note the similar regulation in 1Tim.2:11-12, cf., 1Pet.3:1-5.

sigatwsan (sigaw) pres. imp. "should remain silent" - let [the women] be silent. As noted above, the sense is unclear; "let them be silent / let them hold their peace / let them stop speaking / let them not interrupt", Thiselton. We could add, "gossiping", "chattering", ....; "all problematic to gender sensitive ears", Garland.

en + dat. "in [the churches]" - in [the assemblies]. As above, temporal; "while attending church."

gar "-" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the women must remain "silent", namely, because they are not allowed to speak, being under submission (to their husbands???), as required by the law. As noted above, this may be the view of the enthusiasts rather than Paul.

autaiV dat. pro. "they" - [to speak is not permitted] to them. Dative of interest.

lalein (lalew) pres. inf. "to speak" - The infinitive serves as the subject of the negated verb "to entrust to / permit", "to speak is not entrusted to them." Again, if "speak" = "utterance", in the sense of a tongue or prophetic word, the instruction derives from the enthusiasts, which, given v36, Paul does not support; "utterance is not permitted to them", Cassirer.

alla "but" - Strong adversative in a counterpoint construction; "not ......, but ....".

uJpotassesqwsan (uJpotassw) pres. pas. imp. "must be in submission" - let them be in submission. Submission to whom / what? Presumably "submissive" to their husband.

kaqwV "as" - just as, insomuch as [and = also the law says]. Normally as a comparative, but here moving toward cause / reason, BDF #236; "they must remain in the subordinate position because the Jewish law requires it."

oJ nomoV (oV) "the law" - Nominative subject of the verb "to say." The Torah is presumably intended, or more specifically the Pentateuch. Many commentators suggest that Genesis 3:16 is in mind, but as Bruce argues, the order of creation is more likely the dominant scripture in support of a woman's subordination - to "keep their ordered place", Thiselton. It is very unusual for Paul to garner the Law in support of an instruction, but it wouldn't hinder the enthusiasts, particularly those with a Jewish background.


Again we must decide whether these words express Paul's opinion, or the opinion of the enthusiasts. However the women are contributing (if they are contributing???) to the disorder in the Corinthian church, it is hard to image that an apostle of Christ would suggest that it is inappropriate for a woman to ask a question in the gathering of God's people, and more, that it is aiscron, "shameful, disgraceful", for them lalein, "to speak.". Such advice would directly contradict Jesus' inclusion of women. Paul has already regulated female prophets, and there is no indication that they are not allowed to speak. Yes, the speaking could be chatter, or gossip, or the like, but then why not call it for what it is?

ei + ind. "if" - [but/and] if [as is the case, they wish to learn a certain thing, then let them ask ones own husband in the home]. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true.

matwin (manqanw) aor. inf. "to inquire" - to learn. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to will, wish."

en + dat. "at [home]" - in. Local, expressing space; "at home."

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why a woman should discuss theological matters with the head of the home rather than ask questions, or discuss the matter, in church, because .....

aiscron "disgraceful" - [it is] a shame. The adjective serves as a substantive, nominative predicate of the verb to-be, emphatic by position. The sense being disgraceful, shameful, ... Such action does not bring honor but humiliation and disgrace.

gunaiki (h) dat. "for a woman" - to a woman. Dative of interest, disadvantage, as NIV.

lalein (lalew) pres. inf. "to speak" - The present tense, being durative, may be emphasizing continued speaking. The infinitive forms a noun clause subject of the verb to-be estin; "for a woman to speak in church is shameful."

en + dat. "in" - in [an assembly, church]. Possibly adverbial, temporal; "when the church meets / during the gathering of believers."


It is unclear whether this clause is linked to what precedes, or what follows. Commentators and translations are divided. If linked with what follows, it is a critical word directed to the enthusiasts who think that their gifts give them independence from their founding apostle. To this Paul reasserts his authority in v37. If linked to what precedes, it may be a critical comment directed to the discerning women, although somewhat illogical, or better, where v34-35 states the opinion of the enthusiasts, it is critical of their assumption that God's word is only revealed to men, and not women.

h] "or" - or [from you]. Both uses of the particle here are probably not disjunctive, "or", but rather used to introduce a rhetorical question and so not translated.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[word] of God" - [the word] of god [went forth]. The genitive could be taken as adjectival, possessive, "God's word", or ablative, source / origin, "from God."

apo + gen. "originate with" - from. Expressing source / origin.

uJmwn gen. pro. "you" - Emphatic by position; "Do you suppose that it is from you yourselves that God's message emanates?"

monouV adj. "the only people" - [or to you] alone [did it came]? Here the masculine plural may serve as a substantive, as NIV, inclusive of the women, so "the only people", or as an adjective limiting "you", ie., "you men only"; "that to you men only God's message came?"


v] Admonition for a proper recognition of Paul's advice, v37-38.

ei + ind. "if" - if [as is the case, anyone thinks to be a prophet or spiritual (tongue-speaker) then let him know]. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true.

einai "they are" - to be. The infinitive introduces a dependent statement of perception expressing what the person may think, namely, "that they are a prophet ...."

pneumatikoV "gifted by the Spirit" - spiritual. Predicate nominative of the verb to-be. As already indicated, this term is best taken as a technical descriptor for tongue-speaking; "if anyone considers themselves to be a prophet or tongue-speaker."

epiginwsketw (epiginwskw) pres. imp. "let them acknowledge" - let them know. The epi intensifies, "let them fully know = fully acknowledge"; "pay close attention to what I have written", Peterson.

oJti "that" - [the things i write to you] that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they should know, namely, that Paul's instructions regarding order in the church (+ the exclusion / participation of women in worship) is the Lord's word to the community.

a} acc. pro. "what [I am writing]" - Plural substantive = "the things; the accusative of reference / respect; "let them know with respect to the things I am writing to you that ...."

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - Dative of indirect object.

kuriou (oV) gen. "the Lord's [command]" - [they are a commandment] of lord. The genitive is best taken as ablative, source / origin, "is a commandment from the Lord"; "This is the way the Maser wants it", Peterson.


It is likely that Paul is making the point that if any of the enthusiasts, the prophets or tongue-speakers, ignore Paul's instructions, then the church (better than God) should ignore them - if they don't recognize Paul's authority, they shouldn't be recognized.

de "but" - but/and. Possibly adversative, as NIV, or as a transitional connective, indicating a further point in the argument, in which case it would not be translated, as ESV.

ei "[but] if" - if [as is the case, a certain person is ignorant = fails to understand this, then he is ignored]. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true. "He is himself not to be recognized", Barclay.


vi] Conclusion, v39-40. This and the next verse summarize Paul's argument covering chapters 12-14. The Corinthians are "to divert their energies away from tongues-speaking to prophesying", Barnett, conducting their meetings in a fit and orderly manner.

wJste "Therefore" - therefore [brothers of me]. Here inferential, introducing a logical conclusion, "so then", possibly consecutive, "as a result."

to profhteuein (prohteuw) pres. inf. " to prophesy" - [be zealous, desire, set your heart on] to prophesy. The articular infinitive stands as the object of the imperative verb "to desire" / introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what should be desired, namely, to prophecy.

to lalein (lalew) pres. inf. "speaking" - [and do not forbid] to speak. The articular infinitive forms an object clause standing as the direct object of the imperative verb "to forbid, prevent, hinder" / introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what should not be forbidden, namely tongue-speaking.

glwssaiV (iV ewV) dat. "in tongues" - The dative is adverbial, expressing means or manner; "by means of / with tongues / ecstatic languages."


kata + acc. "orderly way" - [but/and let be done all things decently and] according to, in accordance with [right / good order]. The preposition here is adverbial, modal, expressing manner, "orderly", and with the adverb euschmonwV, "honestly, properly, fittingly, decently, presentably", modifies the imperative verb ginesqw, "let be" = "let be done."


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