# Sunday, July 31, 2005

As everyone should do time to time, I've been thinking about 1Co 13. I'm in the process of reading through the Pauline epistles in larger chunks (a couple of chapters at a time, though I repeat sections frequently) and this past week I was in the middle of First Corinthians. On Thursday, I found myself in chapter 13, and I just had to camp out there for awhile.

The first thing I learned is that one really needs to read chapters 12 and 13 together. The end of chapter 12 leads right into chapter 13. And when you hit chapter 13, here's what you find in the first three verses in the ESV:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels
but have not love
I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal

And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and knowledge
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains
but have not love
I am nothing

If I give away all I have
and if I deliver my body up to be burned
but have not love
I gain nothing

Now that's poetry. Let's check it out in the Greek (UBS4), and work with that:

Ἐὰν ταῖς γλώσσαις τῶν ἀνθρώπων λαλῶ καὶ τῶν ἀγγέλων,
ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω,
γέγονα χαλκὸς ἠχῶν ἢ κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον.

καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω προφητείαν καὶ εἰδῶ τὰ μυστήρια πάντα καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γνῶσιν
καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω πᾶσαν τὴν πίστιν ὥστε ὄρη μεθιστάναι,
ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω,
οὐθέν εἰμι.

κἂν ψωμίσω πάντα τὰ ὑπάρχοντά μου
καὶ ἐὰν παραδῶ τὸ σῶμά μου ἵνα καυχήσωμαι,
ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω,
οὐδὲν ὠφελοῦμαι.

You can start to see the structure a bit better now. Each verse (or 'stanza', that they match the NT versification is a happy coincidence) has three elements: The "If ... ", the "but ... " and the result. I'm sure that English Lit majors and poetry buffs have the terminology for such things down, but I really don't. I can spot it when it is obvious (like here, at least to me), but my terminology is surely incorrect. That's why I use the simple labels of "If ... ", "but ... " and result -- because even I can understand them.

The first verse only has one "If", regarding the use of the gift of tongues. In the other verses, the pattern is more evident: Two "ifs", one "but" and the result. The effect of all three verses is to consider one's actions and motives to arrive at a result. The pattern is basically:

If I do stuff
but have not love
I am [negative result]

In Greek, the pattern could be:

Ἐὰν / καὶ ἐὰν / κἂν [do stuff]
ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω,
[negative result]

[For a few text-critical questions on this structure, see below]

What is the overall theme of 1Co 13.1-3? If my actions aren't fueled by love, then I am doing nothing. My actions have no effect and are useless.

And "love" here isn't some soft, touchy-feely warmness or goodwill that we feel toward others. It isn't the quality that situation ethicists proclaim to have as a motive when they're really justifying sin. It isn't love like that old Coca-Cola commercial, you know, where the "whole world" is singing in perfect harmony, running around on a grassy hill on a perfectly sunny day, with everyone all smiles and happy.

This love is the love of Christ and it is defined in 1Co 13.4-7. We are to practice the love that Jesus practiced when he offered himself up for us -- Sovereign God for sinful man. Paul is saying that we are to do the same here. He's just finished talking about the Lord's Supper (1Co 11.17-34), how we have fellowship with the body of Christ. He's just finished talking about spiritual gifts and how the church is like a body, a single unit, that works together with each part exercising different gifts in obedience and to the glory of God. 

Paul's point? I think it has something to do with keeping our focus on God. When we exercise the gifts we have been given (and we all have gifts so we need to exercise them regularly and frequently, cf. Ro 12 and 1Co 12) we must do so with our focus off of ourselves. For me, that means when I teach, or when I write, I can't be thinking or focusing on the benefits I receive from the preparation or the teaching. I need to focus on acting with the love of Christ to glorify God. God will use it for his purposes, not mine. And I need to be about his purposes, not mine.


Now, a few observations that didn't fit up above. These are questions I don't really have answers to, if you have thoughts please feel free to email me,  or comment on your own blog (with a trackback or notify me so I can add a link) or simply comment on this thread. Note that NA27 has no variants listed in either instance mentioned below. Where Tischendorf has variants, I've listed them below.

1. Why does the text have κἂν (crasis for καὶ ἐὰν) in the first line of the third verse? I understand that these are equivalent in meaning, but what would be the reason for having the crasis only once and the expanded form elsewhere? Wouldn't καὶ ἐὰν make more sense? Tischendorf (if I'm reading it correctly) notes that uncials A B and C each support the crasis, but Sinaiticus along with D E F G K and L (and some citations from the Fathers) support καὶ ἐὰν. Tischendorf actually goes with Sinaiticus, so he is at variance with UBS/NA. I'll grant that agreement between A and B is meaningful, but the variant doesn't make sense to me. It may be insightful to see where the word occurs on the line in each of the MSS -- could the MSS that support the crasis have had a scribe who used the crasis because the line was running short? Any thoughts?

2. Why does the text have οὐθέν εἰμι at the end of v. 2, but οὐδὲν ὠφελοῦμαι at the end of v. 3? Again, I understand that these are equivalent, but is there a good reason for the different orthography? Does it have to do with the verbs the word occurs with? The two letters in question (theta and delta) sound very much alike and I'd think they could be easily confused, either in a scribe's head as he was copying the exemplar, or mis-heard if a text was copied based on an oral reading. Any ideas? FWIW, Tischendorf cites D* F G and Ksem as supporting οὐδὲν in v. 2. Sinaticus, along with A B C Dc and L support the NA27 reading; I can see why on uncial evidence one would agree with the NA/UBS reading. But does it make sense that a (seemingly needless) orthography difference would take place in text like this?

Update (2005-08-01): Cheers to Stephen C. Carlson (Hypotyposeis) for yet another very insightful answer via blog comment. Stephen, I can't thank you enough for putting up with my questions and giving a concise and informative response. I hadn't thought to examine the consistency of MSS as reported by Tischendorf for the other instances of καὶ ἐὰν. Someday, when I get my junior text-critic merit badge, you'll be one among others that I'll have to thank.

Update II (2005-08-02): I completely forgot, but I have a copy of Reuben Swanson's New Testament Greek Manuscripts for First Corinthians on my desk. Talk about the perfect resource to fully examine the problem. It addresses the have κἂν / καὶ ἐὰν issue and the οὐθέν οὐδὲν issue. Short answer: Manuscripts are all over the place here. Some consolidate, some split. I don't have time to post more now, but perhaps I'll get to that tomorrow. 

Post Author: Rico
Sunday, July 31, 2005 9:35:24 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

#     |  Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]