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13:1 With the tongues [tais glōssais]. Instrumental case. Mentioned first because really least and because the Corinthians put undue emphasis on this gift. Plato (Symposium, 197) and many others have written on love, but Paul has here surpassed them all in this marvellous prose-poem. It comes like a sweet bell right between the jangling noise of the gifts in chapters 12 and 14. It is a pity to dissect this gem or to pull to pieces this fragrant rose, petal by petal. Fortunately Paul’s language here calls for little comment, for it is the language of the heart. “The greatest, strongest, deepest thing Paul ever wrote” (Harnack). The condition [ean] and present subjunctive, [lalō kai mē echō], though the form is identical with present indicative) is of the third class, a supposable case. But have not love [agapēn de mē echō]. This is the crux of the chapter. Love is the way par excellence of 12:31. It is not yet clearly certain that [agapē] (a back-formation from [agapaō] occurs before the LXX and the N.T. Plutarch used [agapēsis]. Deissmann (Bible Studies, p. 198) once suspected it on an inscription in Pisidia. It is still possible that it occurs in the papyri (Prayer to Isis). See Light from the Ancient East, p. 75 for details. The rarity of [agapē] made it easier for Christians to use this word for Christian love as opposed to [erōs] (sexual love). See also Moffatt’s Love in the N.T. (1930) for further data. The word is rare in the Gospels, but common in Paul, John, Peter, Jude. Paul does not limit [agapē] at all (both toward God and man). Charity (Latin caritas) is wholly inadequate. “Intellect was worshipped in Greece, and power in Rome; but where did St. Paul learn the surpassing beauty of love?” (Robertson and Plummer). Whether Paul had ever seen Jesus in the flesh, he knows him in the spirit. One can substitute Jesus for love all through this panegyric. I am become [gegona]. Second perfect indicative in the conclusion rather than the usual future indicative. It is put vividly, “I am already become.” Sounding brass [chalchos ēchōn]. Old words. Brass was the earliest metal that men learned to use. Our word echoing is [ēchōn], present active participle. Used in Lu 21:25 of the roaring of the sea. Only two examples in N.T. Clanging cymbal [kumbalon alalazon]. Cymbal old word, a hollow basin of brass. [Alalazō], old onomatopoetic word to ring loudly, in lament (Mr 5:38), for any cause as here. Only two N.T. examples.
13:2 The ecstatic gifts (verse 1) are worthless. Equally so are the teaching gifts (prophecy, knowledge of mysteries, all knowledge). Crasis here in [kan=kai ean]. Paul is not condemning these great gifts. He simply places love above them and essential to them. Equally futile is wonder-working faith “so as to remove mountains” [hōste orē methistanein] without love. This may have been a proverb or Paul may have known the words of Jesus (Mt 17:20; 21:21). I am nothing [outhen eimi]. Not [outheis], nobody, but an absolute zero. This form in [th] rather than [d] [ouden] had a vogue for a while (Robertson, Grammar, p. 219).
13:3 Bestow to feed [Psōmisō]. First aorist active subjunctive of [psōmizō], to feed, to nourish, from [psōmos], morsel or bit, and so to feed, by putting a morsel into the mouth like infant (or bird). Old word, but only here in N.T. To be burned [hina kauthēsōmai]. First future passive subjunctive (Textus Receptus), but D [kauthēsomai] (future passive indicative of [kaiō], old word to burn). There were even some who courted martyrdom in later years (time of Diocletian). This Byzantine future subjunctive does not occur in the old MSS. (Robertson, Grammar, p. 876). Aleph A B here read [kauchēsōmai], first aorist middle subjunctive of [kauchaomai] (so Westcott and Hort), “that I may glory.” This is correct. It profiteth me nothing [ouden ōpheloumai]. Literally, I am helped nothing. [Ouden] in the accusative case retained with passive verb. See two accusatives with [ōpheleō] in 14:6. Verb is old and from [ophelos] (profit).
13:4 verses 4-7 picture the character or conduct of love in marvellous rhapsody. Suffereth long [makrothumei]. Late Koinē word (Plutarch) from [makros], long, [thumos], passion, ardour. Cf. Jas 5:7f. Is kind [chrēsteuetai]. From [chrēstos] (useful, gracious, kind) and that from [chraomai], to use. Not found elsewhere save in Clement of Rome and Eusebius. “Perhaps of Paul’s coining” (Findlay). Perhaps a vernacular word ready for Paul. Gentle in behaviour. Envieth not [ou zēloi]. Present active indicative of [zēloō] (contraction [oei=oi], same as subjunctive and optative forms). Bad sense of [zēlos] from [zeō], to boil, good sense in 12:31. Love is neither jealous nor envious (both ideas). Vaunteth not itself [ou perpereuetai]. From [perperos], vainglorious, braggart (Polybius, Epictetus) like Latin perperus. Only here in N.T. and earliest known example. It means play the braggart. Marcus Anton. V. 5 uses it with [areskeuomai], to play the toady. Is not puffed up [ou phusioutai]. Present direct middle indicative of [phusioō] from [phusis] (late form for [phusaō, phusiaō] from [phusa], bellows), to puff oneself out like a pair of bellows. This form in Herodas and Menander. Is not arrogant. See on 4:6.
13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly [ouk aschēmonei]. Old verb from [aschēmōn] (12:23). In N.T. only here and 7:36. Not indecent. Seeketh not its own [ou zētei ta heautēs]. Its own interests (10:24, 33). Is not provoked [ou paroxunetai]. Old word. In N.T. only here and Ac 17:16 which see. Irritation or sharpness of spirit. And yet Paul felt it in Athens (exasperation) and he and Barnabas had [paroxusmos] (paroxysm) in Antioch (15:39). See good sense of [paroxusmos] in Heb 10:24. Taketh not account of evil [ou logizetai to kakon]. Old verb from [logos], to count up, to take account of as in a ledger or note-book, “the evil” [to kakon] done to love with a view to settling the account.
13:6 Rejoiceth not in unrighteousness [ou chairei]. See Ro 1:32 for this depth of degradation. There are people as low as that whose real joy is in the triumph of evil. But rejoiceth with the truth [sunchairei de tēi alētheiāi]. Associative instrumental case after [sun-] in composition. Truth personified as opposed to unrighteousness (2Th 2:12; Ro 2:8). Love is on the side of the angels. Paul returns here to the positive side of the picture (verse 4) after the remarkable negatives.
13:7 Beareth all things [panta stegei]. [Stegō] is old verb from [stegē], roof, already in 1Co 9:12; 1Th 3:1,5 which see. Love covers, protects, forbears (suffert, Vulgate). See 1Pe 4:8 “because love covers a multitude of sins” [hoti agapē kaluptei phēthos hamartiōn], throws a veil over. Believeth all things [panta pisteuei]. Not gullible, but has faith in men. Hopeth all things [panta elpizei]. Sees the bright side of things. Does not despair. [Endureth all things] [panta hupomenei]. Perseveres. Carries on like a stout-hearted soldier. If one knows Sir Joshua Reynolds’s beautiful painting of the Seven Virtues (the four cardinal virtues of the Stoics—temperance, prudence, fortitude, justice—and the three Christian graces—faith, hope, love), he will find them all exemplified here as marks of love (the queen of them all).
13:8 Love never faileth [Hē agapē oudepote piptei]. New turn for the perpetuity of love. [Piptei] correct text, not [ekpiptei], as in Lu 16:17. Love survives everything. They shall be done away [katargēthēsontai]. First future passive of [katargeō]. Rare in old Greek, to make idle [argos], inoperative. All these special spiritual gifts will pass. It is amazing how little of human work lasts. They shall cease [pausontai]. Future middle indicative of [pauō], to make cease. They shall make themselves cease or automatically cease of themselves.
13:9 In part [ek merous]. See on 12:27. As opposed to the whole.
13:10 That which is perfect [to teleion]. The perfect, the full-grown [telos], end), the mature. See on 2:6. [Hotan elthēi] is second aorist subjunctive with [hotan], temporal clause for indefinite future time.
13:11 A child [nēpios]. See on 3:1 for [nēpios] in contrast with [teleios] (adult). I spake [elaloun]. Imperfect active, I used to talk. I felt [ephronoun]. Imperfect active, I used to think. Better, I used to understand. I thought [elogizomēn]. Imperfect middle, I used to reason or calculate. Now that I am become [hote gegona]. Perfect active indicative [gegona], I have become a man [anēr] and remain so (Eph 4:14). I have put away [katērgēka]. Perfect active indicative. I have made inoperative (verse 8) for good.
13:12 In a mirror [di’ esoptrou]. By means of a mirror [esoptron], from [optō], old word, in papyri). Ancient mirrors were of polished metal, not glass, those in Corinth being famous. Darkly [en ainigmati]. Literally, in an enigma. Old word from [ainissomai], to express obscurely. This is true of all ancient mirrors. Here only in N.T., but often in LXX. “To see a friend’s face in a cheap mirror would be very different from looking at the friend” (Robertson and Plummer). Face to face [prosōpon pros prosōpon]. Note triple use of [pros] which means facing one as in Joh 1:1. [Prosōpon] is old word from [pros] and [ops], eye, face. Shall I know [epignōsomai]. I shall fully [epi-] know. Future middle indicative as [ginōskō] (I know) is present active and [epegnōsthēn] (I was fully known) is first aorist passive (all three voices).
13:13 Abideth [menei]. Singular, agreeing in number with [pistis] (faith), first in list. The greatest of these [meizōn toutōn]. Predicative adjective and so no article. The form of [meizōn] is comparative, but it is used as superlative, for the superlative form [megistos] had become rare in the Koinē (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 667ff.). See this idiom in Mt 11:11; 18:1; 23:11. The other gifts pass away, but these abide forever. Love is necessary for both faith and hope. Does not love keep on growing? It is quite worth while to call attention to Henry Drummond’s famous sermon The Greatest Thing in the World and to Dr. J.D. Jones’s able book The Greatest of These. Greatest, Dr. Jones holds, because love is an attribute of God.
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