Meaning of PANTWN hUMWN in 1 Cor 14:18

Lynn Trapp rltrapp at
Fri Aug 25 12:21:16 EDT 2000

Thanks for your helpful response to this post. I would like to further the
discussion by trying to discover the reason you believe GLWSSAI in Acts 2 is
different from that in 1 Cor. 12-14. Are there instances in other Greek
literature that show GLWSSAI being used to refer to "ecstatic speech". I was
under the impression that it always referred to normal human speech. 
Thanks in advance for you enlightenment.
Lynn  :-)

-----Original Message-----
From: Carl W. Conrad [mailto:cwconrad at]
Sent: Friday, August 25, 2000 6:22 AM
To: Biblical Greek
Cc: Biblical Greek
Subject: [b-greek] Re: Meaning of PANTWN hUMWN in 1 Cor 14:18

At 11:37 PM +0000 8/24/00, Mark Wilson wrote:
>>This raises a different question than I was asking, but still appropriate.
>>Does MALLON refer to the comparative number of languages/tongues that Paul
>>and the Corinthians speak or the comparative number of occasions or times
>>that they speak in tongues?
>Again, I do not see any reason to restrict the usage here. Do you?
>Since God had called Paul to the unique role as apostle to the Gentiles
>(plural), it would seem beyond likely that Paul spoke BOTH more (Gentile)
>languages and on more occasions than those who had this gift in Corinth.
>(I personally do not use "tongues" since it seems archaic to me. I would
>consider using "tongues" if I were conversing with a native American
>I mean no disrepect, but why do you ask?

I noted yesterday, perhaps all too briefly, that I see no relationship
between Acts 2 and the discussion of GLWSSAI in 1 Cor 12-14; I think the
confusion is between two very different senses of GLWSSH for (1) an
intelligible human language (in Acts 2, where Luke seems to envision a
reversal of the dispersion of humanity into diverse language-speaking ethnic
groups in the Genesis Babel story--and I understand Acts 2 as a proleptic
narrative assertion that the gospel, heard in every human language, will
restore the primal unity of humanity) and (2) ecstatic speech that is
unintelligible by itself and requires an interpreter--and in 1 Cor 14 Paul
insists that this glossolalia ought not to be undertaken in worship without
interpreters being present to make the sense of what is 'babbled'
intelligible to others. Here's Louw & Nida:

33.2 GLWSSA, HS f: a language, with the possible implication of its
distinctive form - 'language, dialect, speech.' HRXANTO LALEIN hETERAIS
GLWSSAIS 'they began to talk in other languages' Ac 2:4. The miracle
described in Ac 2:4 may have been a miracle of speaking or a miracle of
hearing, but at any rate people understood fully, and therefore it seems
appropriate in this context to speak of 'languages' in contrast with 1Cor
14:2, in which case people required an interpreter if they were to receive
the presumed content of the speech (see 33.3).

33.3 GLWSSA, HS f: an utterance having the form of language but requiring an
inspired interpreter for an understanding of the content - 'ecstatic
language, tongue, ecstatic speech.' hO GAR LALWN GLWSSHi OUK ANQRWPOIS LALEI
ALLA QEWi×- 'he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God'
1Cor 14:2. Most scholars assume that the phenomena described in Ac 2:4 (see
33.2) and in 1Cor 14:2 are significantly different in that in one instance
people understood in their own regional language or dialect and in the other
instance an interpreter was required. It is for that reason that many
interpret glw×ssa in 1Cor 14:2 as ecstatic speech, which was also an element
in Hellenistic religions and constituted a symbol of divine inspiration.

And again I would argue that MALLON PANTWN hUMWN in 1 Cor 14:18 (EUCARISTW
TWi QEWi PANTWN hUMWN MALLON GLOSSAIS LALW) must mean "I thank God that I
speak ecstatically more than all of you." It's not at all a matter of
speaking more different languages but of speaking a language that is not
ordinary human language at all--and personally I think that this assertion
of Paul is probably sarcastic, as I think many of Paul's statements in this
letter to Corinthians who are so proud of their private mystical experience
are sarcastic. I don't wish to argue that question, because it really
doesn't have to do with the Greek text as such but with the general
interpretation of 1 Corinthians, but it IS a strange statement for Paul to
make in a context where he seems to be trying to discourage glossolalia as a
key element in worship.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
cwconrad at 

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