Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Thu Oct 11 05:04:47 EDT 2001

Dear Frank,

Thank you very much for a comprehensive, stimulating  and detailed response.
Including irony, just like Paul himself. I like that. I am afraid I don't
recognize many of the opinions you say I have, but that is one of challenges
of communicating in brief e-mails, especially when we don't know each
other's background and presuppositions. And during the discussion and
further study, my own understanding is changing and developing as I discover
new things. It is good to hear that you also discover new things as we go

I was amused that you thought an e-mail which I wrote and posted at 10 p.m.
local time Tuesday evening was actually written at 6 a.m. the next morning.
It does show that a lack of situational context can make us infer things
that are incorrect. We are in different time zones, and that is relevant for
1 Corinthians because this letter was never intended for us but for the
Church in Corinth. If we knew more about the original situation we would be
more likely to understand it the way it was intended.

It is difficult to respond in detail to everything you write, so I'll try to
address what I consider the more interesting general topics which relate to
overall structure. I'll only keep the last part of your e-mail for reference
here in order to cut down on size.

> So what are we to conclude, so far?
> The main effect of  my analysis has been to show that:
> 1.    Whatever DIAIRESEIS CARISMATWN may mean, it does not have
> the thematic scope or prominence which you and many others have claimed
for it.

I don't know what you mean here, but I'll comment on DIAIRESEIS below
because it is a key concept.

> 2.    It does have a place alongside the other two topics in
> verses 4 to 6, and it can be shown to be expounded linguistically
> by ONE item in the list of what I have here called
> the "spiritual eggs" in verses 8 to 10.  In terms of what is
> provable linguistically, it thus has no more claim to
> primacy as a comprehensive "basket" topic than the quite humble
> role you have identified for DIAKONIWN in those verses.

> 3.    The big surprise is how big a field thematically is
> controlled by the category of ENERGHMATWN.  I was not joking
> in what I said about verse 11, even though you will have
> noticed the enjoyment I gained from examining it.
> If we take the language seriously, it appears that CARISMATA has a
> somehow hyponymous relationship with ENERGHMATWN,
> in the sense that the latter is the thematic field
> within which CARISMATA functions, even
> though the two terms appear to be coordinated in verses 4 and 6.
> This may be worth some further study.
> 4.    (In consequence of the above):  There are no linguistic grounds in
> chapter 12: 1-11 (our first four contextual circles) to treat CARISMATA
> as the full equivalent of  what is signified by TWN PNEUMATIKWN.
> Nor is there any sound reason provided in these four contextual
> circles for translating either Greek expression as "spiritual gifts".

When I read your whole response, I could see that there are actually a
number of things we have come to or have always been in agreement about.
Others we are still working on, especially your last point 4 above. Whether
a particular reason is "sound" is quite subjective, I think.

I have two major points I'd like to bring.

One is developing the circle idea. Often these circles are concentric, one
circle inside another circle. Sometimes the overlap. I have seen this many
times in both the OT and the NT. We need to be careful that we do not think
of the circles as separate steps, one after another, in a linear fashion.
The circle idea is related to the "sandwich effect" namely that the first
and last part (verse) in a section bear a relationship to one another that
helps to delineate the section. It is also called "inclusio".

The other point is the situation in Corinth that Paul was speaking into and
we can only establish indirectly what it was.

Our discussions have helped me to have a clearer picture of what is Paul's
concern in 12-14. I assume that most of us agree that 12-14 constitute a
section, introduced by PERI DE. Chapter 15 starts a different topic
I believe the overriding concern for Paul in 12-14 is to help the
Corinthians combat a competitive spirit that had crept into the church from
the Greek culture of that time. They were used to competitive races, both
with horses and humans, as well as fights of different kinds in the arenas.
The spectators would be divided, I expect, like modern football fans.
Some of the things happening in the church were probably spectacular, and
speaking in tongues, prophesying, miracles of healing etc have a tendency to
attract attention. But it also created disunity in the church. Some
individuals were considered more important or more "spiritual" than others
and some spiritual activities - whatever they were - were considered more
important than others. The Holy Spirit does not operate in a competitive
fashion, and I think that is really the main thing Paul wants to make clear
in 12-14. The Holy Spirit operates in love and encourages us to work
together in body fashion, where each one has an important role to play, no
matter how spectacular or up-front that role or activity may be.

One article I read years ago has influenced my thinking about Semitic
thought patterns more than anything else I have ever read. It was a brief
report on research done in the US about thought patters as they were
expressed by university students from different cultures writing
compositions in English. The reference is:
Kaplan, Robert, B. 1966. "Cultural thought Patterns in Inter-Cultural
Education" Language and learning 16(1 and 2) 1-20.

My approach to Biblical texts have been greatly illuminated by that
research. This is where I got the "circles" from although they use a better
drawing in the article that I cannot duplicate in a text e-mail.

On this basis, I see a connection between the introductory verse of 12:1 and
14:37-40. This is the inclusio of the outer circle. There is a brief
introduction in the beginning and a conclusion with some salient points in
the end.

Within that outer circle there are several smaller circles. After the
background comments in 12:2-3 the next circle begins with 4-5. It is
debatable where that second circle ends, but I am inclined to think that it
ends with 12:31. 31 is a true bridge verse (12:7 is not a bridge verse, but
an introductory verse, the first half of an inclusio). A bridge verse looks
backwards and forwards at the same time, the first half looks backward, the
second half looks forward. 12:31a is notoriously difficult because it is not
clear whether the verb ZHLOUTE is an imperative or indicative. If my thesis
is correct that Paul is going against a competitive spirit, it cannot be
imperative: "You must seek TA CARISMATA TA MEIZONA". It is more likely a
rebuke in the form of irony: "So you are seeking the greater CARISMATA!" -
as if there were such things as the "greater ones" - "Now let me tell you
what is the really greatest "spiritual gift" of all, namely love. You can
come with all the CARISMATA, DIAKONIAI and ENERGHMATA you like, they are all
nothing if they are not expressed in love."

If 4-5 is the introduction to 4-31, then we would expect the theme to be
introduced here, and I am sure it is. The most essential theme is NOT
AUTOS. These are the words that are repeated three times. Even though there
are DIFFERENT workings of the Spirit, it is the SAME Spirit that works in
all. This is confirmed by words like hEKASTOS which you, Frank, pointed out.
Because of the sandwich effect and the fact that this word is introduced in
v. 7 and closed in v. 11, the verses 7-11 constitute another inner circle.
That inner circle develops the sub-topic that was introduced in v. 6c,
namely hO ENERGWN TA PANTA EN PASIN. These words are nicely referred to
again in v. 11. So, one could say that v. 6 has some features of a bridge
verse. The last part of it introduces a sub-topic that is being developed in
the following verses 7-11.

There is another Hebrew thought pattern that I need to mention. It is the
Generic-specific restatement procedure. A topic is often referred to first
in a generic way and then developed in detail. This is related to the
concentric circles. Without understanding this concept, people misunderstand
the structure of many Biblical passages (and numerous literal translations
have misled numerous people over the years, because this is contrary to
Western thought pattern.)
The reason for mentioning this now is the GENERIC statement in v. 7 which is
FANERWSIS TOU PNEUMATOS. This generic statement is detailed in the following
verses 8-10 with 11 as the summary verse for 7-11.

Verse 12 is explicitly marked by a GAR as is 13 and 14. This indicates that
the section 12-30 is a supporting section for the theme. It does not really
introduce a new topic, but gives support for the topic introduced in v. 7.
It is fairly well established by now that GAR is not a logical reason
connector, but a connector that introduces explanatory support for what has
just been said. The theme of 12-30 is, of course, the unique value of each
member of the body and the contribution that each one has to the whole. It
is still related to the general combat against an overly competitive spirit
as it gives further support for the thought in v. 7 that to each one is
given ... for the common good.

I need to stop, although I am not sure this is sufficient for people trained
in linear Western thought patterns to follow Paul's train of thought.  There
are definitely sound literary and linguistic reasons for translation the
famous expression in the context of 14:1 and possibly also in 12:1 as
"spiritual gifts", but the background for these reasons is probably new to
many people. I recommend the article mentioned. It is very worthwhile

Best wishes,
Iver Larsen

More information about the B-Greek mailing list