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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

1 Corinthians 14



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Verse 1

Follow after love (διωκετε την αγαπηνdiōkete tēn agapēn). As if a veritable chase. Paul comes back to the idea in 1 Corinthians 12:31 (same use of ζηλουτεzēloute) and proves the superiority of prophecy to the other spiritual gifts not counting faith, hope, love of 1 Corinthians 13:13.

But rather that ye may prophesy (μαλλον δε ινα προπητευητεmallon de hina prophēteuēte). Distinct aim in view as in 1 Corinthians 14:5. Old verb from προπητηςprophētēs common in N.T. Present subjunctive, “that ye may keep on prophesying.”

Verse 2

For no man understandeth (ουδεις γαρ ακουειoudeis gar akouei). Literally, hears, gets the sense, understands. Verb ακουωakouō used either of hearing the sound only or getting the idea (cf. Acts 9:7; Acts 22:9).

Mysteries (μυστηριαmustēria). Unexplained mysteries (1 Corinthians 2:7).

Verse 3

Edification (οικοδομηνoikodomēn). Building up.

Comfort (παρακλησινparaklēsin). Encouragement, calling to one‘s side.

Consolation (παραμυτιανparamuthian). Old word (from παρα μυτοσ παραμυτεομαιparaπαραμυτιονmuthosπαρακλησιςparamutheomai 1 Thessalonians 2:12 which see, a stimulating word), nowhere else in N.T., but paramuthion in Philemon 2:1 with paraklēsis as here. Edification, cheer, incentive in these words.

Verse 4

The church (εκκλησιανekklēsian). No article, literally, “a church” (local use). Not η εκκλησιαhē ekklēsia f0).

Verse 5

Except he interpret (εκτος ει μη διερμηνευηιektos ei mē diermēneuēi). Pleonastic combination of εκτοςektos (preposition except) and ει μηei mē (if not, unless) as in 1 Corinthians 15:2; 1 Timothy 5:19. For use of ειei with subjunctive rather than εανean see note on Philemon 3:12 (common enough in the Koiné, Robertson, Grammar, pp. 1017f., condition of third class). On the verb see 1 Corinthians 12:30; Luke 24:27; Acts 9:36.

Receive (λαβηιlabēi). Second aorist (ingressive) active subjunctive of λαμβανωlambanō may get edification.

Verse 6

If I come (εαν ελτωean elthō). Third class condition, supposable case (aorist subjunctive).

What shall I profit you (τι υμας ωπελησωti humas ōphelēsō). Two accusatives with this verb (see note on 1 Corinthians 13:3).

Unless I speak (εαν μη λαλησωean mē lalēsō). Second condition (also third class) with the one conclusion (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5).

Verse 7

Things without life (απσυχαapsucha). Without a soul (αa privative, πσυχηpsuchē) or life. Old word only here in N.T.

Pipe (αυλοςaulos). Old word (from αω αυωaōκιταραauō to blow), only here in N.T.

Harp (εαν διαστολην τοις πτογγοις μη δωιkithara). Old word. Stringed instrument as pipe, a wind instrument.

If they give not a distinction in the sounds (δωιean diastolēn tois phthoggois mē dōi). Third class condition with second aorist active subjunctive διδωμιdōi from διαστελλωdidōmi Common word in late Greek for difference (Πτογγοςdiastellō to send apart). In N.T. only here and Romans 3:22; Romans 10:12. πτεγγομαιPhthoggos old word (from phtheggomai) for musical sounds vocal or instrumental. In N.T. only here and Romans 10:18.

Verse 8

An uncertain voice (αδηλον πωνηνadēlon phōnēn). Old adjective (αa privative, δηλοςdēlos manifest). In N.T. only here and Luke 11:44. Military trumpet (σαλπιγχsalpigx) is louder than pipe or harp.

Shall prepare himself (παρασκευασεταιparaskeuasetai). Direct middle future indicative of παρασκευαζωparaskeuazō old verb, in N.T. only here, 2 Corinthians 9:2.; Acts 10:10. From παρα σκευηparaskeuē (preparation).

Verse 9

Unless ye utter speech easy to be understood (εαν μη ευσημον λογον δωτεean mē eusēmon logon dōte). Condition of third class again (εανean and aorist subjunctive). ΕυσημονEusēmon (ευeu well, σημαsēma sign) is old word, here only in N.T., well-marked, distinct, clear. Good enunciation, a hint for speakers.

Ye will be speaking into the air (εσεστε εις αερα λαλουντεςesesthe eis aera lalountes). Periphrastic future indicative (linear action). Cf. αερα δερωνaera derōn (beating the air) in 1 Corinthians 9:26. Cf. our talking to the wind. This was before the days of radio.

Verse 10

It may be (ει τυχοιei tuchoi). Condition of fourth class (ειei and aorist optative of τυγχανωtugchanō), if it should happen. Common enough idiom. Cf. τυχονtuchon in 1 Corinthians 16:6.

Without signification (απωνονaphōnon). Old adjective (αa privative and πωνηphōnē). Without the faculty of speech (1 Corinthians 12:2; Acts 8:32; 2 Peter 2:16).

Verse 11

The meaning of the voice (την δυναμιν της πωνηςtēn dunamin tēs phōnēs). The power (force) of the voice.

A barbarian (βαρβαροςbarbaros). Jargon, βαρβαρbaṙbar The Egyptians called all βαρβαρουςbarbarous who did not speak their tongue. The Greeks followed suit for all ignorant of Greek language and culture. They divided mankind into Hellenes and Barbarians.

Unto me (εν εμοιen emoi). In my case, almost like a dative.

Verse 12

Zealous of spiritual gifts (ζηλωται πνευματωνzēlōtai pneumatōn). Zealots for spirits. So it looked.

That ye may abound (ινα περισσευητεhina perisseuēte). Purpose clause with the object by prolepsis stated beforehand “for the edification of the church.”

Verse 13

Let him pray that he may interpret (προσευχεστω ινα διερμηνευηιproseuchesthō hina diermēneuēi). Else he had better cease talking in a tongue.

Verse 14

But my understanding is unfruitful (ο δε νους μου ακαρποςho de nous mou akarpos). My intellect (νουςnous) gets no benefit (ακαρποςakarpos without fruit) from rhapsodical praying that may even move my spirit (πνευμαpneuma).

Verse 15

With the understanding also (και τωι νοkai tōi no). Instrumental case of νουςnous Paul is distinctly in favour of the use of the intellect in prayer. Prayer is an intelligent exercise of the mind.

And I will sing with the understanding also (πσαλω δε και τωι νοpsalō de kai tōi no). There was ecstatic singing like the rhapsody of some prayers without intelligent words. But Paul prefers singing that reaches the intellect as well as stirs the emotions. Solos that people do not understand lose more than half their value in church worship. ΠσαλλωPsallō originally meant to play on strings, then to sing with an accompaniment (Ephesians 5:19), and here apparently to sing without regard to an instrument.

Verse 16

Else if thou bless with the spirit (επει εαν ευλογηις εν πνευματιepei ean eulogēis en pneumati). Third class condition. He means that, if one is praying and praising God (1 Corinthians 10:16) in an ecstatic prayer, the one who does not understand the ecstasy will be at a loss when to say “amen” at the close of the prayer. In the synagogues the Jews used responsive amens at the close of prayers (Nehemiah 5:13; Nehemiah 8:6; 1 Chronicles 16:36; Psalm 106:48).

He that filleth the place of the unlearned (ο αναπληρων τον τοπον του ιδιωτουho anaplērōn ton topon tou idiōtou). Not a special part of the room, but the position of the ιδιωτουidiōtou (from ιδιοςidios one‘s own), common from Herodotus for private person (Acts 4:13), unskilled (2 Corinthians 11:6), uninitiated (unlearned) in the gift of tongues as here and 1 Corinthians 14:23.

At thy giving of thanks (επι τηι σηι ευχαριστιαιepi tēi sēi eucharistiāi). Just the prayer, not the Eucharist or the Lord‘s Supper, as is plain from 1 Corinthians 14:17.

Verse 18

More than you all (παντων υμων μαλλονpantōn humōn mallon). Ablative case after μαλλονmallon Astonishing claim by Paul that doubtless had a fine effect.

Verse 19

Howbeit in church (αλλα εν εκκλησιαιalla en ekklēsiāi). Private ecstasy is one thing (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:1-9) but not in church worship.

That I may instruct (ινα κατηχησωhina katēchēsō). Final clause with ιναhina For the rare verb κατηχεωkatēcheō see note on Luke 1:4 and note on Acts 18:25.

Verse 20

Be not children in mind (μη παιδια γινεστε ταις πρεσινmē paidia ginesthe tais phresin). “Cease becoming children in your intellects,” as some of them evidently were. Cf. Hebrews 5:11-14 for a like complaint of intellectual dulness for being old babies.

In malice be ye babes (τηι κακιαι νηπιαζετεtēi kakiāi nēpiazete).

Be men (τελειοι γινεστεteleioi ginesthe). Keep on becoming adults in your minds. A noble and a needed command, pertinent today.

Verse 21

In the law it is written (εν τωι νομωι γεγραπταιen tōi nomōi gegraptai). Isaiah 28:11. Freely quoted.

Verse 22

For a sign (εις σημειονeis sēmeion). Like the Hebrew and occasional Koiné{[28928]}š idiom also.

Verse 23

Will they not say that ye are mad? (ουκ ερουσιν οτι μαινεστεouk erousin hoti mainesthė). These unbelievers unacquainted (ιδιωταιidiōtai) with Christianity will say that the Christians are raving mad (see note on Acts 12:15 and see note on Acts 26:24). They will seem like a congregation of lunatics.

Verse 24

He is reproved by all (ελεγχεται υπο παντωνelegchetai hupo pantōn). Old word for strong proof, is undergoing conviction.

Is judged (ανακρινεταιanakrinetai). Is tested. Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 4:3.

Verse 25

That God is among you indeed (οτι οντως εν υμιν εστινhoti ontōs en humin estin). Recitative οτιhoti and direct quotation from Isaiah 45:15 (Hebrew rather than the lxx). “Really (οντωςontōs Luke 24:34) God is in you.”

Verse 26

When ye come together (οταν συνερχηστεhotan sunerchēsthe). Present middle subjunctive, repetition, whenever ye come together, in contrast with special case (εαν συνελτηιean sunelthēi second aorist subjunctive) in 1 Corinthians 14:23.

Verse 27

By two (κατα δυοkata duo). According to two, ratio.

Or at most (η το πλειστονē to pleiston). Adverbial accusative, “or at the most.”

Three (τρειςtreis). ΚαταKata to be repeated.

And that in turn (και ανα μεροςkai ana meros). One at a time and not over three in all.

Verse 28

But if there be no interpreter (εαν δε μη ηι διερμηνευτηςean de mē ēi diermēneutēs). Third class condition. Earliest known instance and possibly made by Paul from verb in 1 Corinthians 14:27. Reappears in Byzantine grammarians.

Keep silence in church (σιγατω εν εκκλησιαιsigatō en ekklēsiāi). Linear action (present active imperative). He is not even to speak in a tongue once. He can indulge his private ecstasy with God.

Verse 29

By two or three (δυο η τρειςduo ē treis). No καταkata here as in 1 Corinthians 14:27. Let two or three prophets speak.

Let the others discern (οι αλλοι διακρινετωσανhoi alloi diakrinetōsan). Whether what is said is really of the Spirit. Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:10 διακρισεις πνευματωνdiakriseis pneumatōn f0).

Verse 30

Let the first keep silence (ο πρωτος σιγατωho prōtos sigatō). To give the next one a chance.

Verse 31

One by one (κατ εναkath' ena). Regular idiom.

Verse 32

The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets (πνευματα προπητων προπηταις υποτασσεταιpneumata prophētōn prophētais hupotassetai). A principle that some had forgotten.

Verse 33

Not of confusion (ουκαταστασιαςou̇̇katastasias). God is not a God of disorder, but of peace. We need this reminder today.

As in all the churches of the saints (ως εν πασαις ταις εκκλησιαις των αγιωνhōs en pasais tais ekklēsiais tōn hagiōn). Orderly reverence is a mark of the churches. This is a proper conclusion of his argument as in 1 Corinthians 11:16.

Verse 34

Keep silence in the churches (εν ταις εκκλησιαις σιγατωσανen tais ekklēsiais sigatōsan). The same verb used about the disorders caused by speakers in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:28) and prophets (1 Corinthians 14:30). For some reason some of the women were creating disturbance in the public worship by their dress (1 Corinthians 11:2-16) and now by their speech. There is no doubt at all as to Paul‘s meaning here. In church the women are not allowed to speak (λαλεινlalein) nor even to ask questions. They are to do that at home (εν οικωιen oikōi). He calls it a shame (αισχρονaischron) as in 1 Corinthians 11:6 (cf. Ephesians 5:12; Titus 1:11). Certainly women are still in subjection (υποτασσεστωσανhupotassesthōsan) to their husbands (or ought to be). But somehow modern Christians have concluded that Paul‘s commands on this subject, even 1 Timothy 2:12, were meant for specific conditions that do not apply wholly now. Women do most of the teaching in our Sunday schools today. It is not easy to draw the line. The daughters of Philip were prophetesses. It seems clear that we need to be patient with each other as we try to understand Paul‘s real meaning here.

Verse 37

The commandment of the Lord (Κυριου εντοληKuriou entolē). The prophet or the one with the gift of tongues or the disturbing woman would be quick to resent the sharp words of Paul. He claims inspiration for his position.

Verse 40

Decently and in order (ευσχημονως και κατα ταχινeuschēmonōs kai kata taxin). That is surely a good rule for all matters of church life and worship. It applies also to the function of women in church service.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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