Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Wed Oct 3 16:49:59 EDT 2001

Frank Gee said:
> B.    A text-linguistic approach to this question will encourage
> us to weigh
> the co-text(s) of this phrase, from close at hand to the wider-ranging
> co-texts in this epistle.  For example:
> CO-TEXT 1:    Verses 2 and 3.
> It seems to me that Peterson's version (together with others suggesting a
> wider semantic field for TWN PNEUMATIKWN) provides a smoother
> transition to
> the statements in verses 2 and 3, which otherwise would seem to
> constitute a
> rather jarring interruption to the flow of thought, especially the first
> part of verse 3.  A "wider" understanding of  TA PNEUMATIKA
> might provide a
> referential context able to accommodate the curse-utterance there referred
> to, which despite all the ingenuity of commentators I find hard
> to reconcile
> with or conceptualise within the practice of any Christian congregation's
> actual exercising of  "spiritual gifts".
> CO-TEXT 2:    Verses 4 to 7.
> I haven't had the time to look at commentaries on this, but my tentative
> observation goes like this:
> Structurally verses 4 to 6 consist of three  adversative "sentences"
> coordinated by the conjunction KAI.  The second clause in each of
> these both
> contrast with the preceding concept of  variations and provides
> the unifying
> theme of the working of  the (same) Spirit/Lord/God (a great Trinitarian
> formula??).
> What is interesting to me is that the surface-structure coordinating of
> (the first parts of) these sentences suggests that Paul presents their
> subject noun-phrases as disrete entities, rather than variant
> expressions of
> the same concept.  I base this on the observation that asyndetic
> collocation
> of noun-phrases (apposition) tends to encode equivalence, whereas a
> stringing of noun-phrases with KAI normally indicates composition (ie
> different conceptual entities).
> What is of interest in this analysis is that the CARISMATA of verse 4
> apparently constitute only one of three different groupings of items
> means in verse 1, if it is (as I believe) expounded in verses 4 to 7 (and
> beyond), it seems unlikely that its reference is exhaused by equation with
> This surmise is strengthened by analysis of what follows these
> three verses.
> Verse 7 acts as a bridge between verses 4 to 6 and what follows.  hEKASTWi
> functions anaphorically, with reference both to the theme of diffentiation
> [DIAIRESEIS] and probably to the persons-as-recipients implicit
> in EN PASIN.
> The singular passive verb DIDOTAI  with its subject noun phrase
> TOU PNEUMATOU  is expounded in its repetitions (mostly elliptical) in the
> following verses, which enumerate different spiritual activities
> manifested
> in the congregation.  But this is not its only function.  It also, as is
> shown by its collocation with its own indirect object hEKASTWi,  serves to
> summarise the three verses which precede it.
> For our purposes what is significant about this is that hH FANERWSIS TOU
> PNEUMATOU  is the summarising re-expression of  (the ideas referred to in)
> all three noun phrases which are the subjects in the first
> clauses of verses
> 4, 5 and 6.
> Summary of tentative conclusions:
> a.    Structurally, the most likely direct equivalent (if any) of  TWN
> PNEUMATIKWN  in verse 1, is hH FANERWSIS TOU PNEUMATOU  (found in the
> developmental bridge-verse 7);
> b.    This  subject phrase  of verse 7 has a wider reference than
> any of the
> individual subject phrases beginning verses 4, 5 and 6.
> c.    (In other words) the subject phrase of verse 4  [DIAI... CARISMATWN]
> is narrower in its reference than the subject of
> verse 7.
> d.    (Therefore)  CARISMATWN  has a narrower reference than  whatever is
> meant by TWN PNEUMATIKWN  in verse 1.
> e.     (And so)  "spiritual gifts" is not an adequate or appropriate
> translation for the phrase TWN PNEUMATIKWN in that verse (1).

Thanks, Frank, for these insights. I like your suggestion that the
underlying concept for TWN PNEUMATIKWN may well be related to FANERWSIS.
Below I shall suggest a circular structure which relates the first item in
each circle, so that the following three words are structurally linked

My problem with "spiritual things" is that it is too broad. But I can see
that "spiritual gifts" may be too narrow, at least as the phrase is normally
used and understood in English. I also like the suggestion by Russell that
it refers to "the Spirit's work". I would be happy with something like "how
the Spirit operates". On the other hand, Paul is correcting the misuse of
spiritual gifts among the Corinthians more so than he seems to correct any
misuse of ministry or powerful deeds. So, if I had to choose only between
"spiritual gifts" and "spiritual matters" I would go for the first. But
maybe there is a middle position that is better.

When we talk about context, we should keep in mind that the immediate
context carries more weight than the wider context. Therefore, 12:2-11 carry
more weight than chapter 13 which is an important side issue about
underlying motivation for spiritual ministry and the mature use of the
spiritual gifts. You have kept this in mind, but not everyone does.

Another thing we need to keep in mind is that Paul often uses Hebrew
rhetorical structure which is circular. Verses 1-3 is the first circle, 4-6
is the second circle, (note the DE in v. 1, 4 and 7) and the third, large
circle is probably 12:7-14:40. It is normal for the first circle to
introduce one or more topics that will be dealt with in later circles in
more detail.

V. 2 compares their former state as pagans, when they were carried away to
worship idols that could not speak. This may contrast to the fact that the
spirits of prophets are subject to prophets (14:32). It is one of the major
differences between pagan spiritual frenzy and true prophetic inspiration,
that prophetic inspiration from the Holy Spirit is a gentle voice. It never
carries me away against my will. It has absolutely nothing to do with
ecstasy. I need to decide in my Spirit whether what I sense is truly the
voice of God and then I need to decide how and when to bring that
inspiration out in words. And I can stop at any time when I speak a word of
prophecy. (I use "I" because I speak from experience here, not theory.)
There may also be a contrast between the mute idols and a God who speaks by
the Spirit. So v. 2 is a contrastive background for much of what is being
said later.
V. 3 contrasts and describes a message that is claimed to come from God as
either positive or negative, for or against. It is probably a typical Hebrew
exaggeration. "Cursing Jesus" stands for words that condemn and tear down
the body of Christ. "Acknowledging Jesus as Lord" stands for words that
build up the body of Christ, based on a servant attitude. Much of chapter 14
talks about the purpose of spiritual gifts, which is to build up and not
tear down. One of the main problems Paul is addressing in chap. 14 is that
improper use of tongues does not build up the body of Christ.

The second circle of 4-6 takes up the concept of how the spirit works in
three different, but closely related areas.
There is first the area of spiritual gifts - CARISMATA, and this is taken up
in 7-11 which starts out with FANERWSIS - together with the undercurrent
theme of unity in diversity and the purpose of building up the other members
of the body.
Second, there is the area of spiritual ministries - DIAKONIAI. This is taken
up in 12-31, because ministry must be for all members of the body. Each one
has a role to play, but there are different roles.
Third, there is the area of spiritual manifestations of power - ENERGHMATA
(e.g. special powers of healing and faith).
In the summary verses of 27-31 all these three areas are dealt with
simultaneously from the perspective of unity in diversity.

Thanks for the discussion, I'll consider seriously the option of "how the
Spirit operates" for v. 12:1, but probably maintain "spiritual gifts" for

Iver Larsen

 In 28-31 Paul does not distinguish clearly between ministry gifts (apostle,
prophet, teacher, evangelist, shepherd, administration), speaking gifts
(tongues, prophecy) and power gifts (

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