1 Corinthians 13 Essay
6 April 2011 1 Corinthians 13 The book of 1 Corinthians is the seventh book of the New Testament and is located between the books of Romans and 2 Corinthians. 1 Corinthians is also referred to as the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, as it was a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the Church in Corinth. It has been debated that letters and epistles differ from one another in literary style, as letters where meant to be nonliterary, versus epistles were meant as a public literary form (Fee 56) .
For the purposes of this paper, I will use epistle and letter interchangeably. We know the literary form of 1 Corinthians is a letter and/or epistle because it followed the standard form of ancient letters. The standard form of ancient letters, much like letters of today, contained six distinct pieces, name of the writer, name of the recipient, greeting, prayer wish or thanksgiving, body, and final greeting and farewell (Fee 56-57).
Paul’s epistle contained all of these standard elements, Paul was the writer, the church in Corinth was the recipient, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father…” is the greeting, thanksgiving “I always thank God for you…”, the body, and then the farewell, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you” (Fee 57). Paul’s letter was written approximately 55 AD (“Corinth in the Time of Paul” 1) and was constructed to address rumors of non-Christian acts that were going on with Christians in the city of Corinth.
The city of Corinth was a very influencial city in Greece at the time, as it was known for its commerce, culture, and religion (“Corinth in the Time of Paul” 1). “The city of Corinth was a very important hub in ancient Greece. Located between Italy and Asia this major trade center was bustling with ethnic diversity. Even though it was a commercial success, its immorality was unrivaled. The Aristophanes coined the term Korinthiazomai, meaning “to act like a Corinthian”-synonymous to sexual immorality.
They worshiped Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty with their lewd rituals” (“History of the Book of 1st Corinthians” 1). Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth was written to “instruct and restore the church in its areas of weakness, correcting erroneous practices such as divisions, immorality, litigation in pagan courts and abuse of the Lord’s Supper to correct false teaching concerning the resurrection” (“Corinth in the Time of Paul” 1). Paul’s epistle addressed many of the same issues that Christians face in today’s society, over nineteen hundreds years after it was was written.
Paul’s letter served as a “how-to guide” to the church of Corinth covering a variety of topics on being a Christian. This letter addressed divisions in the church, moral and ethical disorders in the life of the church, instruction of marriage, instruction on questionable practices, instruction on public worship, instruction on the resurrection, and practical and personal matters (“Corinth in the Time of Paul” 1). I will be taking a more detailed look at the topic of instructions on public worship, which spans chapters eleven through fourteen, and more specifically the concept of “Love”.
In chapter thirteen, Paul addresses the importance of the gift of love to the church in Corinth. 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen is located towards the end of book, as there are a total of sixteen chapters, and reads (Holy Bible: New Living Translation): 1 Corinthians 13 1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless.
But love will last forever! 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless. 11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 3 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. As previously mentioned, this passage is mainly about the importance of love to Christain faith, and because of this is often read at wedding ceremonies. Different translations exchange the word love with other words. For instance, the Wycliff and King James translation use the word charity, but because of the negative cognotation of charity in today’s society, I prefer the word love as represented in most of the modern day translations. This passage is a very popular passage, not quite like John 3:16, and not just because of wedding ceremonies.
This passage was even made reference to by President Barack Obama in his inaugural address. During this address, President Obama stated, “We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. ” This reference is to verse eleven of the passage and the main reason I chose this passage for this paper. When most people read 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen they read of love, which is a common theme throughout the entire Bible, with versus like: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18) “If you love me keep my commandments. God is love” (John 14:15) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34) “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) In fact, the word ‘love’ appears 763 times in the New Living Translation Bible. I obviously am not like most people, as when I read this passage I immediately think of the verse President Obama referenced.
This verse has to be one of my personal favorite in the entire bible, and has a special spot in my heart. Verse eleven reads: 11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. This verse has become a real anthem for me. I went through a period in my life, early twenties to be exact, when looking back I was definitely a child. I was in college at the University of Cincinnati, on a soccer scholarship, in a highly competitive engineering college, while also in a fraternity, and was doing some pretty childish things.
To say the least my life was spiraling out of control. From the outside, it seemed like I had it all, but on the inside I was missing something. The short version of the story was that I ended up quitting the soccer team, dropping out of school, and starting into the business world. When I was nearly at rock bottom, we had an alumni come in and speak at a fraternal event. He gave a speech on becoming men and contributing to society, he ended his session with, “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.
But when I grew up, I put away childish things. ” At the time he quoted the scripture it really didn’t mean much to me. Though, about a week later, I realized that the verse was being replayed over and over again in my mind. So, I did just that, I put away childish things. Almost over night, I grew up and stopped all the childish things I was doing and I am a much better person for that. After analyzing this passage even further, I started to wonder why Paul even included versus nine through twelve in this passage about love.
Versus nine through twelve reads: 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless. 11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
There are no references to love in any of these three versus, yet these are all considered part of this passage. Why? Why do the first eight verses stress the importance of love and then the last three not even mention it? In our readings we learned, “as a basic premise that a text cannot mean what it never could have meant to its author or his or her readers. This is why exegesis must always come first. ” (Fee 74) Merriam-Webster defines exegesis as, “an explanation or critical interpretation of a text”. So, I think we eed to interpret why Paul did not mention love at all in the last three verses of this passage. This is where I believe real Bible reading and/or interpretation comes in. Fee states on page 18, “Unique interpretations are usually wrong” and “The aim of good interpretation is simple: to get the “plain meaning of the text. ” I would have to disagree a little bit from these statements. I understand what he is trying to convey, but I personally feel that what makes the Bible such an amazing literary marvel and keeps it relevant are the unique personal interpretations we all have as we read it.
Our own personal interpretations are what make this passage written over nineteen hundred years ago seem that it could have been a letter written to a church in our very own city of today. Something that our electronic/digital generation knows all too well is that words written down on a screens, emails, tweets, books, or even papyrus does not do the author justice. As the reader we do not know the author’s mood, facial expressions, mannerisms…So, us as the reader must interpret these things that can easily be misunderstood and thus take us down the wrong path of understanding.
Unless Paul was speaking directly to us and we were able to correspond back to him, we really do not know his intent of this passage and specifically the last three verses. I like to think that Paul starts out by saying how important love is to public worship and Christianity in versus one through eight. Then proceeds in verses nine through twelve to tell us that we have no idea of what real love is because we do not know the whole picture. The only way to see the whole picture is to emulate love and thus emulating God.
Scientists, doctors, theologists, and people way smarter than me can agree or disagree with my interpretations, but I believe that is what makes the bible so special. Reading it, just like religion as a whole, is a personal experience. If I believe a passage means something to me or inspires me to do something than that is what it should mean. Much like when someone states, “It tastes like chicken. ” Does chicken taste the same to everyone? If it does, then how come some people like it and some do not?
It can’t taste the same to everyone and same with the Bible, religion, and this passage. One thing that I have learned in my life, during my Christian walk, and even more so now in this class is that it doesn’t matter the translation of the Bible, passage, or verse, but the important part is how you interpret it and how you can put it to practical use as a Christian. That is the marvel of Paul’s epistle, while an amazing literary piece written over nineteen hundred years ago in Greece but still relevant as if it was written a week ago in modern day America.
Works Cited “Corinth in the Time of Paul. ” Biblica. Zondervan. From the Zondervan NIV Study Bible. “exegesis. ” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. Merriam-Webster Online. 7 May 2008 Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. ” 3rd ed. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1993. “History of the Book of 1st Corinthians. ” JesusAnswers. com. Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2008. Obama, Barack. “Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address. ” January 20, 2009.