What To Do With PNEUMATIKOS
B. Ward Powers
bwpowers at optusnet.com.au
Tue Oct 2 22:31:33 EDT 2001
A couple of questions about what to do with PNEUMATIKOS.
The adjective PNEUMATIKOS is found in 1 Corinthians 12:1 and 14:1 in the
plural forms PNEUMATIKWN and PNEUMATIKA respectively, where this is almost
universally rendered, in the different translations, as "spiritual gifts".
Ditto lots of commentaries on this epistle. The first of these forms,
PNEUMATIKWN, is thus being taken as neuter (the same form is also
masculine), apparently on the basis that the second use is unambiguously
neuter. The word also occurs in this epistle unambiguously in the
masculine, with the meaning "spiritual person" (see 2:15, 14:37); and with
the general meaning "spiritual" (see 10:3-4). See also its wider use in
(e.g.) Ephesians 6:12.
The standard lexica give as one of its meanings, "spiritual gift". Is this
a case of circular reasoning? (Thusly: In 1 Corinthians 12:1 and 14:1 the
word PNEUMATIKOS is being used to mean "spiritual gift". Therefore
"spiritual gift" is part of its area of meaning. That is how we know it is
valid to translate it in 12:1 and 14:1 as "spiritual gift".)
Now a conclusion reached by a circular argument may possibly be correct.
But it has to be established as correct by something outside of and
independent of such circular reasoning: the circular reasoning does not
Which leads to my first question:
Is there any use of the word PNEUMATIKOS (of course, outside of 1
Corinthians 12:1 and 14:1) where it clearly has the meaning "spiritual
gift"? In this connection one will need to note that when Paul wanted to
express the meaning "spiritual gift" he explicitly added in the word
CARISMA (CARISMA PNEUMATIKON, Romans 1:11).
As noted above, almost all translations give "spiritual gifts" as its
translation in 1 Corinthians 12:1 and 14:1. Those that insert section
headings then almost all go further and insert here also "Spiritual Gifts"
as the heading at the top of chapter 12. I am aware of only two exceptions
to this pattern.
J B Phillips's version translates in 12:1 as "in spiritual matters" (though
in 14:1 he has "gifts of the Spirit").
Richmond Lattimore, the renowned Classical scholar, renders 12:1 thusly:
"But concerning matters of the spirit, brothers, I would not have you
ignorant"; and for 14:1: "Pursue love, aspire to things spiritual".
Here then is my second question:
Are any b-greekers able to point me to any other translations which do NOT
render PNEUMATIKOS in either 12:1 or 14:1 as "spiritual gifts"?
I am of course well aware of the exegetical and theological significance of
this question: 12:1 and 14:1 are the only verses in the NT which give
validation to the concept of "spiritual gifts", with all the connotations
which have attached to this term. Elsewhere one only has "gift", CARISMA or
DWREA-DWRHMA-DWRON, which do not carry the special meaning "spiritual" but
can refer to any kind of gifting. But please note: I am not wanting to
initiate a theological discussion; I only want to raise the question of the
validity of "spiritual gift" as a translation for PNEUMATIKOS.
Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-8714-7255
259A Trafalgar Street Phone (Australia): (02) 8714-7255
PETERSHAM NSW 2049 email: bwpowers at optusnet.com.au
AUSTRALIA. Director, Tyndale College
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