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|New American Bible|
2002 11 11
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1 Pursue love, but strive eagerly for the
spiritual gifts, above all that you may prophesy.
2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak
to human beings but to God, for no one listens; he utters mysteries in spirit.
On the other hand, one who prophesies does
speak to human beings, for their building up, 3
encouragement, and solace.
Whoever speaks in a tongue builds himself up,
but whoever prophesies builds up the church.
Now I should like all of you to speak in
tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who
speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be built up.
4 Now, brothers, if I should come to you
speaking in tongues, what good will I do you if I do not speak to you by way of
revelation, or knowledge, or prophecy, or instruction?
Likewise, if inanimate things that produce
sound, such as flute or harp, do not give out the tones distinctly, how will
what is being played on flute or harp be recognized?
And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who
will get ready for battle?
Similarly, if you, because of speaking in
tongues, do not utter intelligible speech, how will anyone know what is being
said? For you will be talking to the air.
It happens that there are many different
languages in the world, and none is meaningless;
but if I do not know the meaning of a language,
I shall be a foreigner to one who speaks it, and one who speaks it a foreigner
So with yourselves: since you strive eagerly
for spirits, seek to have an abundance of them for building up the church.
5 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should
pray to be able to interpret.
(For) if I pray in a tongue, my spirit 6
is at prayer but my mind is unproductive.
So what is to be done? I will pray with the
spirit, but I will also pray with the mind. I will sing praise with the spirit,
but I will also sing praise with the mind.
Otherwise, if you pronounce a blessing (with)
the spirit, how shall one who holds the place of the uninstructed say the
"Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are
For you may be giving thanks very well, but the
other is not built up.
I give thanks to God that I speak in tongues
more than any of you,
but in the church I would rather speak five
words with my mind, so as to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a
7 Brothers, stop being childish in your
thinking. In respect to evil be like infants, but in your thinking be mature.
It is written in the law: "By people
speaking strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners I will speak to this
people, and even so they will not listen to me, says the Lord."
Thus, tongues are a sign not for those who
believe but for unbelievers, whereas prophecy is not for unbelievers but for
those who believe.
8 So if the whole church meets in one place and
everyone speaks in tongues, and then uninstructed people or unbelievers should
come in, will they not say that you are out of your minds?
But if everyone is prophesying, and an
unbeliever or uninstructed person should come in, he will be convinced by
everyone and judged by everyone,
and the secrets of his heart will be disclosed,
and so he will fall down and worship God, declaring, "God is really in
9 So what is to be done, brothers? When you
assemble, one has a psalm, another an instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or
an interpretation. Everything should be done for building up.
If anyone speaks in a tongue, let it be two or
at most three, and each in turn, and one should interpret.
But if there is no interpreter, the person
should keep silent in the church and speak to himself and to God.
Two or three prophets should speak, and the
But if a revelation is given to another person
sitting there, the first one should be silent.
For you can all prophesy one by one, so that
all may learn and all be encouraged.
Indeed, the spirits of prophets are under the
since he is not the God of disorder but of
peace. As in all the churches of the holy ones, 10
women should keep silent in the churches, for
they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says.
But if they want to learn anything, they should
ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the
Did the word of God go forth from you? Or has
it come to you alone?
If anyone thinks that he is a prophet or a
spiritual person, he should recognize that what I am writing to you is a
commandment of the Lord.
If anyone does not acknowledge this, he is not
So, (my) brothers, strive eagerly to prophesy,
and do not forbid speaking in tongues,
but everything must be done properly and in
1 [1-5] ⇒ 1 Cor
14:1b returns to the thought of ⇒ 1 Cor
12:31a and reveals Paul's primary concern. The series of contrasts in
⇒ 1 Cor 14:2-5 discloses the problem at Corinth: a
disproportionate interest in tongues, with a corresponding failure to
appreciate the worth of prophecy. Paul attempts to clarify the relative values
of those gifts by indicating the kind of communication achieved in each and the
kind of effect each produces.
2 [2-3a] They involve two kinds of
communication: tongues, private speech toward God in inarticulate terms that
need interpretation to be intelligible to others (see ⇒ 1
Cor 14:27-28); prophecy, communication with others in the community.
3 [3b-5] They produce two kinds of
effect. One who speaks in tongues builds himself up; it is a matter of
individual experience and personal perfection, which inevitably recalls Paul's
previous remarks about being inflated, seeking one's own good, pleasing
oneself. But a prophet builds up the church: the theme of "building
up" or "edifying" others, the main theme of the letter, comes to
clearest expression in this chapter (⇒ 1 Cor 14:3,
⇒ 12, ⇒ 17). It has
been anticipated at ⇒ 1 Cor 8:1 and
⇒ 1 Cor 10:23, and by the related concept of
"the beneficial" in ⇒ 1 Cor 6:12;
⇒ 10:23; ⇒ 12:7; etc.
4 [6-12] Sound, in order to be
useful, must be intelligible. This principle is illustrated by a series of
analogies from music (⇒ 1 Cor 14:7-8) and from
ordinary human speech (⇒ 1 Cor 14:10-11); it is
applied to the case at hand in ⇒ 1 Cor 14:9,
5 [13-19] The charism of
interpretation lifts tongues to the level of intelligibility, enabling them to
produce the same effect as prophecy (cf ⇒ 1 Cor
14:5, ⇒ 26-28).
6 [14-15] My spirit: Paul emphasizes
the exclusively ecstatic, nonrational quality of tongues. The tongues at
Pentecost are also described as an ecstatic experience (⇒ Acts
2:4, ⇒ 12-13), though Luke superimposes
further interpretations of his own. My mind: the ecstatic element, dominant in
earliest Old Testament prophecy as depicted in ⇒ 1 Sam
10:5-13; ⇒ 19:20-24, seems entirely
absent from Paul's notion of prophecy and completely relegated to tongues. He
emphasizes the role of reason when he specifies instruction as a function of
prophecy (⇒ 1 Cor 14:6,
⇒ 19, ⇒ 31). But he
does not exclude intuition and emotion; cf references to encouragement and
consolation (⇒ 1 Cor 14:3,
⇒ 31) and the scene describing the ideal exercise
of prophecy (⇒ 1 Cor 14:24-25).
7 [20-22] The Corinthians pride
themselves on tongues as a sign of God's favor, a means of direct communication
with him (2.28). To challenge them to a more mature appraisal, Paul draws from
scripture a less flattering explanation of what speaking in tongues may
signify. Isaiah threatened the people that if they failed to listen to their
prophets, the Lord would speak to them (in punishment) through the lips of
Assyrian conquerors (⇒ Isaiah 28:11-12). Paul
compresses Isaiah's text and makes God address his people directly. Equating
tongues with foreign languages (cf ⇒ 1 Cor
14:10-11), Paul concludes from Isaiah that tongues are a sign not for
those who believe, i.e., not a mark of God's pleasure for those who listen to
him but a mark of his displeasure with those in the community who are
faithless, who have not heeded the message that he has sent through the
8 [23-25] Paul projects the possible
missionary effect of two hypothetical liturgical experiences, one consisting
wholly of tongues, the other entirely of prophecy. Uninstructed (idiotai): the
term may simply mean people who do not speak or understand tongues, as in
⇒ 1 Cor 14:16, where it seems to designate
Christians. But coupled with the term "unbelievers" it may be another
way of designating those who have not been initiated into the community of
faith; some believe it denotes a special class of non-Christians who are close
to the community, such as catechumens. Unbelievers (apistoi): he has shifted
from the inner-community perspective of ⇒ 1 Cor
14:22; the term here designates non-Christians (cf
⇒ 1 Cor 6:6; ⇒ 7:15;
9 [26-33a] Paul concludes with
specific directives regarding exercise of the gifts in their assemblies. Verse
26 enunciates the basic criterion in the use of any gift: it must contribute to
10 [33b-36] Verse 33b may belong with
what precedes, so that the new paragraph would begin only with
⇒ 1 Cor 14:34. ⇒ 1 Cor 14:34-35
change the subject. These two verses have the theme of submission in common
with ⇒ 1 Cor 14:11 despite differences in
vocabulary, and a concern with what is or is not becoming; but it is difficult
to harmonize the injunction to silence here with 1 Cor 11 which appears to take
it for granted that women do pray and prophesy aloud in the assembly (cf
⇒ 1 Cor 11:5, ⇒ 13).
Hence the verses are often considered an interpolation, reflecting the
discipline of later churches; such an interpolation would have to have
antedated our manuscripts, all of which contain them, though some transpose
them to the very end of the chapter.
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