Friday, June 14, 2013

1 Corinthians 12:7-11; A list of Gifts

In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul talks about “things of the Spirit” and tries to correct the Corinthians in abusing the gift of tongues.  In verses 7-10, Paul lists a few of these gifts in order to show that not all people have the same Spiritual gift(s).  By doing so, he seems to group the gifts in certain ways by using the Greek words ᾧ and ἑτέρῳ.  Let me try to demonstrate this starting with verse 7.

7 The manifestation (outward expression/disclosure, announcement) of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good.  8 For to one person (), on the one hand, given a word of wisdom (ability to speak wisely) is given, but to another person (ἄλλῳ), on the other hand, a word of knowledge (ability to speak knowledgable things) is given according to the same Spirit.  9 To a different person (ἑτέρῳ), faith by the same Spirit, but to another person (ἄλλῳ), gracious gifts of healing by the one Spirit.  10 To another person (ἄλλῳ), the ability to effectively work miracles; but to another person (ἑτέρῳ), the ability to speak prophecies; but to another person (ἄλλῳ), the ability to distinguish (and evaluate) spirits; to a different person (ἑτέρῳ), different kinds of tongues; but to another person (ἄλλῳ), the interpretation/translation of tongues. 11 All these things are the effective work of the one and the same Spirit, who distributes to each person his own gift, just as the Spirit determines.

So, here is the breakdown.  The first grouping starts with ᾧ and the others are divided by ἑτέρῳ:

  1. “A word/message of wisdom” and “a word/message of knowledge” go together.
  2. “Faith (the mountain moving kind [13:2])”, “healing gifts”, and “working miracles” go together.
  3. “Speaking prophecies” and “distinguishing and evaluating spirits” go together (more on this below).
  4. “Speaking in different (kinds) of tongues” and “interpreting/translating tongues” go together.

Is it possible that Paul is using the different words for stylistic purposes?  Sure, but I don’t think that is very likely as the groupings seem to be natural divisions.

Another interest aspect of the Greek of this passage is that verses 8-11 is one long sentence.  It goes without saying that the verse division pollutes the passage a little.

One final thing to discuss on this blog.  What does διακρίσεις πνευμάτων (distinguishing and evaluating spirits) actually mean?  A big clue is given in 14:29 where the cognate verb (διακρίνω) of διάκρισις (διακρίσεις) is used.  There, it states that two or three prophets should prophesy and the others of the congregation must “make a distinction, differentiate” along with “evaluate, judge” (See BDAG) what was just prophesied.  The NIV11 translates this as “should weigh carefully what is said”.  So, διακρίσεις πνευμάτων (distinguishing and evaluating spirits) actually means “evaluating prophecies” and that too is a gift.  In fact, there are more examples of this kind of language being used for “prophecy”.  

In the next blog(s) that will come soon, I’ll discuss these phrases: “spirits of prophets” (1 Corinthians. 14:32), “through spirit” (2 Thess 2:2), “don’t believe every spirit” (1 John 4:1), and “test the spirits” (1 John 4:2).

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