[b-greek]: Response (1) re PNEUMATIKOS

B. Ward Powers bwpowers at optusnet.com.au
Thu Oct 4 07:31:06 EDT 2001

Friends all:

I plan, in this and a subsequent posting, to interact with some of the 
responses received (on list and off) to the question I raised about what to 
do with PNEUMATIKOS in 1 Corinthians 12:1 and 14:1:

I respect the scholarship and integrity of these people whose comments I 
respond to, and in no way is this a criticism of them. Quite the contrary: 
I consider what they have said has such value that it merits a careful 
response. But I do disagree quite markedly with their premises and their 
conclusions, and I believe these issues should be discussed further, 
because this is not an unimportant issue. That is how progress is made in 
matters where scholars disagree: we discuss. And if my understanding of the 
Greek can be shown to be in error, then I am willing and open to be persuaded.

Firstly, at 10:20 PM 011002 -0600, Wayne Leman wrote:

>From: "B. Ward Powers" <bwpowers at optusnet.com.au>
> > Fellow b-greekers:
> >
> > A couple of questions about what to do with PNEUMATIKOS.
> >
> > The standard lexica give as one of its meanings, "spiritual gift". Is this
> > a case of circular reasoning?
>No, not necessarily.

Ah, but there IS circular reasoning going on in the situation that I 
outlined in my initial posting. It had the basic structure: A, therefore B. 
and B, therefore A. That is circularity. And logically invalid as a way of 
arguing a case. The conclusion is not necessarily invalid, but it has to be 
established on other grounds. That is what my b-greek enquiry is all about: 
to look at what other grounds there may be.

Wayne continues:

>It may just be a case of applying the principle of context-determined 
>meaning. The core lexical gloss for PNEUMATIKOS is simply
>'spiritual (something)'. But like any other lexical form, the referential
>meaning (as opposed to simply lexical gloss) is filled out in specific
>contexts, and all words of all utterances we ever say or write are given in
>contexts of some kind.

For now we are moving OUTSIDE the circle to see if we can anchor it 
someplace. If so, we can draw a valid conclusion. And the only place it can 
be anchored (that is, the only basis for regarding PNEUMATIKOS/-WN/-A as 
here having the meaning "spiritual gifts") is if this is clearly shown to 
be the case by the context. At this point Wayne and I are in agreement.

Now Wayne quotes, and responds to, part of my statement of the circular 

>  (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.
>It depends on what we mean by meaning here. It is a part of the extended
>referential, implicit, and associative meaning of the lexical meaning of
>PNEUMATIKOS in the context of discussion about the CARISMATA.

I comment:
In 1 Corinthians 12, does PNEUMATIKOS imply CARISMATA? And vice versa?
Lots of people are saying so. Several responses (on and off list) even 
equate PNEUMATIKOS and CARISMA as synonyms. Indeed, the first edition of 
the NIV actually "translated" CARISMATA in 1 Corinthians 12:4 as "spiritual 
gifts" - there were strong objections to this, and it was changed (current 
editions of the NIV just translate it as "gifts"; the same initial 
rendering of CARISMATA as "spiritual gifts" and subsequent modification to 
"gifts" occurred in 1 Peter 4:10 also).

But, leaving aside 1 Corinthians 12-14 (because it is the passage we are 
examining) and with the exception of Romans 1:11 (where, as noted in my 
original email, both words are used, CARISMA PNEUMATIKON) there is no 
occurrence of CARISMA in the GNT which implies SPIRITUAL gifts. Unless you 
are to "read in" this meaning from what you think of its meaning in 1 
Corinthians 12-14 (into Romans 12:6 and 1 Peter 4:10).

So: is the discussion in 1 Corinthians 12 all about CARISMATA, so that 
references to the one are to be interpreted as implying the other, and this 
thus validates the treatment of PNEUMATIKOS as meaning "spiritual gifts"? 
Now, this indeed is the crux of the matter. This is the question of 
context. But is the discussion in 1 Corinthians 12 really all about CARISMATA?

If we carefully examine this chapter we will see that, No, it most 
definitely is not. After Paul's introduction in which he emphasizes that no 
one is able to affirm "Jesus is Lord" except through the Holy Spirit, he 
lists three ways in which the Spirit manifests himself:

12:4  There are diversities of gifts (CARISMATWN), but the same Spirit;
12:5  there are diversities of ways of serving (DIAKONIWN) , but the same 
Lord [who is being served];
12:6  there are diversities of energizings ( ENERGHMATWN) but it is the 
same God who is working (ENERGWN) in them all in all people -
12:7  and to each person is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the 
common good.

[I note that Frank Gee, in his posting, has the same understanding of these 
verses as I do.]

Thus we see that the manifestation of the Spirit is given to various people 
in three ways which are separately identified by Paul: CARISMATA, 
DIAKONIAI, and ENERGHMATA. These are to be equated, I consider, with those 
areas of ministry which he has set out in 12:28-29, thusly:

(a) the special endowments for "up-front" ministry (12:28a, the CARISMATA 
of 12:4);

(b) the "ministries of helping others" [ANTILHYEIS of 12:28b), the 
"serving" areas of ministry (the DIAKONIAI of 12:5 - bearing in mind that 
this word originally related to domestic service, as in Acts 6:1, and the 
DIAKONOI of John 2:1-11) - this would range, in today's church, from 
referring to those who serve the tea and coffee after the worship service 
to those who go out onto the streets to help the needy, and lots more 
service of this practical "helping" kind;

(c) the "energizers" (the ENERGHMATA of 12:6, the KUBERNHSEIS of 12:28): 
the activators, the initiators, the entrepreneurs, the administrators, the 
organizers, the (usually) behind-the-scenes people who both make it all 
come together and happen, and who keep the records of it happening.

These are the eyes, the ears, the mouths, the hands and feet, of Paul's 
"body" illustration which takes up most of the chapter. This is made plain 
in 12:27 where Paul applies the illustration by saying, "Now you are 
Christ's body - each one of you is a different part of it. And in the 
church God has made these appointments: some to be [this kind of worker]", 
and so on.

After 12:4, the only subsequent appearances of CARISMATA are related to 
healing (12:9, 28, 30) and in Paul's concluding words for this section 
about seeking for gifts (12:31). The word does not occur thereafter in this 

Moreover, PNEUMATIKOS occurs in 1 Corinthians 12-14 only in 14:37, where it 
is masculine, referring to a person, and in the verses under consideration, 
12:1 and 14:1.

In sum: There appears to be wide agreement that taking PNEUMATIKOS to mean 
"spiritual gifts" stands or falls upon whether this meaning is being 
indicated by the context of this passage. All that I have said above is 
part of assessing this question of context for understanding the meaning 
this word in this section of the epistle.

I submit that such a case for "spiritual gifts" cannot be derived from this 
context. Rather, in 12:1 Paul is saying, "Now concerning what it means to 
be spiritual ..." And the "gifts" of 1 Corinthians 12 (and Romans 12:4-8, 
and Ephesians 4:7-13, and 1 Peter 4:9-11) are not a special category, 
"spiritual gifts", but every kind of gifting and calling with which the 
Lord chooses to endow the members of his body (Ephesians 4:7, 11). For 
(James 1:17) every good gifting, and every perfect gift, comes down to us 
from the Father who gives light without change or shadow.

In a second email, I shall refer to other responses on this topic.



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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