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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

In this chapter, the Apostle exhorts the Corinthians to use their utmost exertions to acquire this virtue of charity, the excellence of which he pointed out in the foregoing. He, at the same time, encourages them to be zealous for the spiritual gifts, but he gives prophecy a preference before the gift of tongues, so much prized by the Corinthians, and he advances several reasons for this preference from verse 2 to verse 25. First, because prophecy is the more useful gift for edification (2–13). Again, it is more useful for the purpose of public prayer, whether of impetration (14) or of thanksgiving (16, 17). He recommends them to judge of gifts, not from their appearance, as is done by children, but from their utility, which is the standard of excellence with men of matured judgment (17–20). He adduces a quotation from the Prophet Isaias to prove the superior excellence of prophecy. From the quotation he infers, that prophecy was given to the Jews when faithful, and produced its intended effect; whereas, tongues were given to the same people in an unbelieving state, and failed to produce the intended effect of their conversion. Hence, the superiority of the former (21, 22). He proves the same by supposing a case in which tongues would injure believers and unbelievers, while prophecy would serve both (23–26). He next regulates the exercise of the gift of tongues (26–29), and of prophecy (29–33). He commands women to observe strict silence in the church, and assigns reasons why this should be so (34, 35); and because this law of propriety was not attended to at Corinth, he reproves them sharply (36). He says his injunctions are the commands of the Lord. He sums up his commands, which are reduced to three (39, 40).

Paraphrase

1. Such, then, being the superior excellence of charity, you should use your utmost exertions to possess it. At the same time, you should not undervalue the spiritual gifts; you should rather be zealous for their possession, with a view of exercising them in an edifying manner; but the gift of prophecy, as the more useful, you should prefer to that of tongues.

2. For he, who speaks in an unknown tongue, speaks not unto men, since no one understands him, but only to God; nevertheless, he gives utterance with devotion to the mysteries or truths of faith.

3. But he that exercises the gift of prophecy, speaks to men, language, which, on account of being understood, edifies them—(an effect which every communication from God is calculated to produce)—exhorts them—(the truths of faith exhorts us to the practice of virtue)—and consoles them. (The greatest consolation to a mind in affliction is the knowledge, which faith supplies, of the gracious designs of God in sending us crosses and afflictions).

4. The man who speaks in an unknown tongue merely edifies himself; but the man who exercises the functions of prophet in explaining the truths of faith and divine revelation, edifies the entire Church of God.

5. In adjudging the preference, however, to the gift of prophecy over that of tongues, I am not to be misunderstood, as if I were deprecating this latter gift. For, if it so pleased God, and did not interfere with the orderly constitution of his mystical body, I would wish for my part, that you all had this gift. I would, however, prefer that you had the gift of prophecy. For, the man who exercises the gift of prophecy is greater than the man who speaks in unknown tongues, unless he happen to be gifted with the faculty of interpreting them for the edification of the Church.

6. Suppose brethren, that I who am your Apostle, had come to you, speaking in unknown tongues; what good could I have done you, unless I disclosed to you some new revelation which is made known to you by “prophecy,” or some previously revealed truth, the clear knowledge of which, with all its bearings, I had acquired by my own study and research, and made this known to you by “doctrine.”

7. Nay, even the musical instruments devoid of life, whether wind instruments, such as the pipe, or stringed instruments, such as the harp, unless they are made to give a distinction of sounds, so as to give the distinctive characteristic of each kind of musical tunes, how will men be able to know, what is sounded or sung?

8. Suppose the military trumpet to give an indistinct sound, so as not to give distinctive notes for each duty, how can the soldier prepare himself for battle, if the signal for battle be not distinctly sounded?

9. So shall it be in like manner with you unless you utter language which may convey your meaning to the minds of your hearers, how can any person understand you, any more than the soldier understands the indistinct notes of the trumpet? You shall be speaking in vain, like one speaking to the air.

10. There are, for example, so many different idioms in this world, and not one nation without some peculiar language, unintelligible to the others, to express its meaning.

11. If, then, I am ignorant of the meaning of the words which I use, I shall be to the person whom I address (and who also may be ignorant of the meaning of my words), a barbarian; and he, in turn, a barbarian in regard to me.

12. So shall you also be barbarians in regard to those whom you address in unknown tongues, and in order to avoid this, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek for those which will enable you to give more abundant edification to the Church.

13. And, therefore, let the person favoured with the gift of tongues pray for the gift of interpretation, which shall render that of tongues useful for edification.

14. The inferiority of the grace of tongues in public prayer and instruction also is manifest; for, if I pray in an unknown tongue, my affection prays (as in the case of a person giving utterance to a good prayer which he does not understand), but the understanding of me by others is without any fruit, because no one understands what I am saying.

15. What, then, am I to do in order to render my prayer in public, beneficial? I shall pray with fervour and with my affection. I shall pray in such a way as to be understood. I shall recite Psalms with my affections, and in such a way as to be understood (by waiting for some person gifted with interpretation, if I myself have not that gift).

16. The same is illustrated by the example of another kind of prayer—prayer of thanksgiving and rejoicing. Suppose, in a public prayer of thanksgiving, that you were only to pray with your affection in an unknown tongue, how could the person who sustains the character of the simple faithful, not favoured with spiritual gifts, join in a confirmatory “Amen,” not knowing what you say? How can he know for certain, that you are not blaspheming God or invoking the devil?

17. Indeed, your praise of God and your thanksgiving are good and meritorious for yourself personally; but the end of these gifts, viz., the edification for your neighbour, is not attained; and hence, if you have the gift of tongues, you should pray for the useful gift of interpretation also (verse 13).

18. (Let it not be imagined that I depreciate the gift of tongues in consequence of not having been myself favoured with this gift). Thanks be to God, I can speak and understand the language of all of you.

19. But while I value the gift of tongues, I would prefer speaking but a few words, so as to understand them and be able to instruct others, beyond speaking the greatest number of words, in a tongue unknown to myself and to my hearers.

20. Do not, any longer, brethren, judge of things from mere appearances, like children, who judge by the senses (I wish, however, you had as little acquaintance with vice and malice as children have); but rather judge of matters from their reality and use, as is wont with men of sound reason and matured judgment.

21. The superiority of prophecy over tongues is also proved from the law (Isaias, chap. 28), where the Lord, directly referring to the incredulous Jews, whom he menaced with the Babylonish captivity, in punishment of their infidelity, and mystically to the Jews of the Apostle’s time, says: “I will speak to this people in different tongues and different idioms, so that they will not understand me, saith the Lord.”—Isaias, 28:11, 12.

22. From which testimony of the Prophet I draw this conclusion, viz., that the gift of tongues was given to the Jewish people when in a state of infidelity, and when God saw that they would not profit by them (“and so neither will they hear me”); whereas prophecies were given to the same people when they were faithful, in order to edify, to exhort, to console them; and hence, the superiority of prophecy in consequence of having the intended effect; whereas, tongues failed in the intended effect of converting the unbelievers.

23. Suppose all the faithful of any particular district to assemble together in the church, or in any place of meeting, and that all speak in unknown tongues, without an interpreter to explain them, and that uninstructed persons, or Pagans, led by curiosity, were to enter, what other conclusion would they come to, if not that you were all mad?

24. Suppose, on the other hand, that on the occasion referred to, all were in due order to exercise the gift of prophecy, the Pagan or unlearned Christian, instead of charging you with madness, would be himself stung with the reproaches of conscience by the words of all, he would be pointed to by all as in a state of damnation.

25. And by contrasting his own life with the rule of moral guidance, the precepts of God, now clearly explained to him, he would clearly see the sinfulness of his actions, to which his attention was never before directed, and thus, struck with the enormity of his sins, falling prostrate, he would adore God, confessing him to be the true God, and by his gifts to be truly amongst you.

26. What, then, is be done? Simply this: when, in assembling together, any of you is inspired with some spiritual canticle, or has to explain some doctrine of faith by human reasoning, or is inspired on the spot with some new revelation, or has the gift of tongues, or of interpretation; let all these gifts be exercised in such a way as to promote edification—the great end for which they were conferred.

27. If there be question of the gift of tongues, let only two, or at most, three speak, and that in succession, and let one interpret the meaning of the unknown tongues.

28. But if there be no one present favoured with the gift of interpretation, then, as the end of these gifts could not be attained, let the man favoured with tongues be silent in the church, and speak only to God and to himself, and not be disturbing others.

29. So far for the gift of tongues. Now, as to the gift of prophecy—Let two or three, endowed with the gift, speak in succession, and let the others endowed with the gift, judge whether the announcement made be from God or not.

30. But if a new revelation be made to any person sitting down, let the person speaking be silent, and afford him an opportunity of announcing it.

31. For, by observing proper order, you may all prophesy in turn, so that all may learn, and all may be instructed by those who speak in their proper order.

32. (And let no one object to such an arrangement as impossible, on the ground that being urged on by the Spirit, he cannot defer giving expression to the revelation with which he has been inspired); for, the divine instinct and impulse by which the true prophets are moved are subject to themselves and under their control, so that they can give expression to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost just as they please.

33. For, God is not a God of dissension, but of peace (and hence he will not impel men to act in a disorderly way), as I teach in all the churches; and hence, on these grounds I exhort you to cultivate order and union.

34. As for women, let them be altogether silent in the churches: for, it is not permitted them by any means, to speak or teach publicly; they should be subject to their husbands, as the law of God teaches, which subjection they should testify by their silence in public.

35. If a woman have any question to propose for the sake of information, let her consult her husband at home about them, for it is indecent for her, it is opposed to female modesty, to raise her voice in public, and particularly in the church.

36. (Why not follow the general practice of the church in reference to those gifts?) Was it from you the word of God has emanated, so that your practice should be the model for all others?—or has it reached you only, so that you could institute usages, independent of all the other churches equally favoured with yourselves?

37. Any person amongst you gifted with the true spirit of prophesy, or practised in the spiritual principles of faith, can know that the instructions I am writing to you are the commands of God.

38. But if any person persist in ignoring, and not acquiescing in these precepts, he shall not be known by God, and shall be reprobated with the sentence, I know you not.

39. Wherefore—to reduce my injunctions to a few words—be zealous for the acquisition of prophecy, as being the more useful gift; and do not neglect, or prevent the exercise of the gift of tongues, which is a gift from God, and which, if used properly, is useful to the church.

40. But let all things be done with decency, and in an orderly manner in your public assemblies.

Commentary

1. “Follow after.” The Greek word, διωκετε, conveys a metaphorical allusion to the eager pursuit of battle or the chase. “But rather that you may prophesy.” From the following part of the chapter, it appears quite clear, that the gift of tongues is specially the gift before which he gives prophecy a preference, while in a general way, he gives it a preference before all the gifts classed under the head of knowledge also. Hence, in enumerating the different gifts (chap. 12) he places “Prophets” immediately after “Apostles,” and assigns the last place to the gift of tongues, which the Corinthians prized too highly and abused so much. It is likely that, among the several points submitted to the Apostle (chap. 7), he was consulted regarding the relative merits of the gifts of prophecy and of tongues; and while adjudging here the preference in favour of the former, he corrects some of the abuses to which the latter gift was perverted. The leading abuse consisted in this: that some of those who were endowed with this gift gave utterance to unknown tongues without a due regard to circumstances of time and place, or without caring whether persons gifted with the faculty of explaining these tongues in the vernacular of the country were present or not.

It may be asked here, what is meant by “prophecy”? Looking to etymology, the word means, the faculty of foretelling future events. It is frequently employed to designate also, the faculty of seeing into hidden and obscure things, and especially of examining into and of knowing the divine mind. Hence, it is used to designate the faculty of examining into and explaining the recondite and abstruse meaning of the SS. Scriptures, and especially the prophetical ones, in an extraordinary way, as the effect of the inspiration of the moment; and of treating, in like manner, of the affairs of God and of religion. That this latter, and not its strict meaning, belongs to the word in the present passage, is clear from verse 3, and verse 24, where the effects referred to could not immediately follow from the mere prediction of future events, the truth or falsehood of which could be known only from the result. The word has this meaning, Acts, 13:1; Acts, 21. The gift of tongues consisted in the faculty of speaking in many unknown languages; this was often unaccompanied in the same person with the gift of interpreting them in the language of the country, as is clear from this chapter.

2. “In a tongue” which he has not himself learned, and which his hearers do not understand. He assigns a reason for the preference which he adjudges to prophecy over tongues, viz., its greater utility. “No one heareth,” i.e., understands him. “Hear” has this meaning in Genesis, 11:7; Acts, 2:6. “By the Spirit.” “Spirit” is understood by some, of the Holy Ghost, as if he said, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, he speaks mysteries: and hence, although unintelligible to us, he is not still to be despised.

3. “Speaketh unto edification.” The Greek is, λαλεῖ οικοδομην και παρακλησιν, &c. “Speaketh edification and exhortation,” &c. From this verse it is clearly seen—that by “prophecy” is not meant the prediction of future events, since the effects of “edification,” “comfort,” &c., referred to here, would only result, at most after the prophecy was fulfilled.

4. “Edifies himself.” The man who speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself only, by devoutly giving expression to the gift of God, just as a person is edified, who devoutly and piously recites a prayer in a language which he does not understand. “Edifieth the church.” The Vulgate has, “Ecclesiam Dei edificat,” “edifies the Church of God.”

5. “Greater is he that prophesieth.” The man who exercises the gift of prophecy is greater than the man who speaks in unknown tongues; because, he corresponds more perfectly with the end for which all spiritual gifts, or, as they are called, “gratiæ gratis datæ,” are given, viz., the edification and spiritual good of others. In this point of view, the man who exercises the gift of prophecy is the greater of the two. “Unless, perhaps, he interpret.” From these words it appears evident, that the gift of interpretation did not always accompany the gift of tongues; for it is only over the gift of tongues in itself, without the gift of interpreting these tongues, that the Apostle adjudges a preference to the gift of prophecy.

6. He illustrates what he has been saying by a case in which he adduces himself as an example. “Revelation,” “knowledge,” “prophecy,” “doctrine.” It is better to reduce these four members to two, the first comprising “Revelation,” the exponent of which is “prophecy;” the second, “science,” of which the exponent, or sermo scientiœ, is “doctrine.” “Doctrine” and “prophecy” differ in this, that “prophecy” is the power of immediately explaining a revelation just made. “Doctrine,” the power of imparting knowledge acquired by labour and studious application.—(See Paraphrase).

7. Another illustration of the superiority of prophecy is derived from the various instruments of music. “Even.” The Greek word for this ὅμως, “is understood by some to mean the same as, ὅμοιως “in like manner.” This construction is rejected by Erasmus and the best critics. The meaning in the Paraphrase is the more probable.

8. The military wind instruments among the ancients were used not only for directing their steps in marching, but also as signals to tell the soldier what to do, whether to march forward or to retreat. Now, if the trumpeter so used the trumpet as not to give the distinctive note for each duty, the soldier could not prepare himself for that duty.

10. In this verse the Apostle shows how useless it is to speak in any unknown tongue, since each nation has its own peculiar idiom, unintelligible to the others; if, then, you were to speak the idiom or language of one to another, you might as well be speaking to the air. Others understand the word “none” in the sentence, “none is without a voice,” to regard not the different nations (as in Paraphrase), but the tongues, as if he said, and none of these tongues is without a voice or peculiar signification of its own; and hence, when a person speaks, he should endeavour to know the meaning of the articulate sound which he utters. The Greek, καὶ οὐδὲν αυτῶν ἄφωνον, favours this interpretation, and none of them voiceless.

11. Estius remarks that some addition must be made to the words in the Vulgate, in order to express the Apostle’s meaning, as in Paraphrase (and who also may be ignorant of the meaning of my words). A “barbarian.”—(See Romans, 1:14). The Greeks and Romans, from a feeling of pride and a sense of superiority over all others termed all persons not speaking the Greek or Latin tongue, “barbarians”—a term designating not only difference of language, but uncouth rusticity of manners. Here, the word has the meaning of stranger or foreigner. How applicable is the term to those vain preachers of God’s holy word “that fly as clouds,” addressing the people in a lofty strain, quite unintelligible to their hearers. Plebes sibi commissas pro SUA et EARUM CAPACITATE pascant salutaribus verbis, is the precept of the Council of Trent.—(SS. 5, de Reformatione.)

12. “So you also” (shall be barbarians), and in order to avoid this, &c.—(See Paraphrase.) Others connect the words with the following, and interpret them thus: so, therefore, in your case; since you are anxious for spiritual gifts, if you wish not to be accounted barbarians, seek for those which will enable you to give edification.

13. Hence the gift of tongues was not always found united with the gift of interpretation.

14. “But my understanding is without fruit.” These words are commonly interpreted, my intellect is without fruit, for want of understanding the beauty and unction of the truths contained in my prayer. The interpretation of A’Lapide, adopted in the Paraphrase, explains the words “my understanding,” not of the understanding of the man who prays; but, of his being understood by others. Mens mea, i.e., Mens mei, intellects mei ab aliis, the understanding of me, or, my being understood by others, is without fruit, and hence, the inferiority of tongues even in prayer, since the gift does not fully answer the end of all such gifts, viz., the general good and edification of the Church. This interpretation seems the more probable. The Greek word for understanding, νοῦς bears this meaning. It signifies the same as διᾶνοια the understanding of a man’s mind by others, and its corresponding Hebrew word, Sechel, signifies the same. It is clear, that in this passage the Apostle is referring to public prayer; for, of private prayer, to which he thinks the gift of tongues may be conveniently adapted, he has treated already, verse 2. In public prayer, it is not so much the understanding of a man by himself as by his hearers that is to be considered. Besides, it is not so much by their advantage to the person possessing these gratiæ gratis datæ, such as prophecy, tongues, &c., that the Apostle estimates their relative value, as by their promoting the public good of others and the edification of the Church—the end for which these gratiæ gratis datæ were given—and if we adopt the other interpretation, which refers “my intellect” to the intellect or understanding of the man who utters the prayer, this inconvenience would follow, viz., that the Apostle would be instituting a comparison between the gift of tongues only, in prayer, and the same gift accompanied with the faculty of interpretation, about the relative merits of which no one ever entertained a doubt, as the latter is manifestly preferable.

15. The Greek for “with the understanding,” τῶ νο̈́ι, is a dativus commodi, for, εις το νοεισθαι signifying, so as to be understood by others, the same as, νοῆσαι.

16. In the preceding verse, there is question of prayer of impetration, of prayer for favours; in this, of prayer of thanksgiving and of rejoicing; after it, “Amen,” or fiat, fiat, “be it so,” used to be added. By “the unlearned,” τοῦ ἰδιώτου, is commonly understood the class of persons not favoured with these gratuitous gifts.

OBJECTION, against the practice of the Catholic Church employing an unknown tongue in her Liturgy. Does not St. Paul here condemn this practice, or, at least, does he not prefer the practice of praying publicly in the language which the faithful could understand.

RESP.—St. Paul neither contemplates the case of a Church Liturgy at all, nor any thing similar to it. This is clear: First—Because the Liturgy of the Church of Corinth was, according to the Protestants themselves, composed and framed in the Greek language—the vernacular of the country, which all understood—whereas St. Paul refers to languages which the people did not understand. Secondly—St. Paul treats of prayers to which the simple faithful, “the unlearned,” could not for certain give the confirmatory “Amen,” for want of knowing whether the prayer was good or bad. Now, the Liturgy had a fixed form of words, which it depended on no private individual to change or modify. Every man in the Church knew such a form of words to be a good prayer, and could, therefore, safely answer “Amen.” The Apostle is not, then, treating of the Liturgy. He is treating, in both verses 15 and 16, of public prayer, consisting of certain extemporaneous effusions, on the part of private individuals, in many instances emanating from the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and intended for the instruction of others, and in consequence of being uttered in unknown tongues, lost upon the hearers for want of having some person present who could interpret them in the vernacular of the country.’

GRANTED, that the Apostle does not speak here of the Church Liturgy, are not the reasons adduced by him applicable to our Liturgy, and are we not acting against, at least, the spirit of this chapter; for, the Apostle appears to prefer public prayers, said in a language known to the people, to prayers offered up in an unknown tongue?

RESP.—The Apostle does not censure or contemplate at all, the use of prayers in an unknown tongue, if there be one by to interpret such language. Now, the Church has provided interpreters in her pastors, and has strictly commanded them (Council of Trent SS. 22, c. 8; SS. 24, c. 7) to explain the Liturgy in plain language to the people; and hence, the inconvenience referred to here by the Apostle does not exist in our case unless through the neglect of individual pastors, which is not chargeable upon the general discipline of the Church. Again, it is to be borne in mind, that the Apostle is contemplating, not fixed prayers, but certain extemporaneous effusions, intended for public instruction, that prove of no avail to the hearers, and frustrating the end for which they were inspired; and hence, the inconveniences to which he refers can never apply to our Liturgy, in which the prayers are of a fixed character, are intended rather to praise, and entreat God, than to instruct the people. It treatises of Theology, where this question is professedly discussed, are shown the weighty reasons upon which the practice of the Church in this matter is founded. Among these are pointed out the advantages of this practice for preserving unity of faith and discipline, and for consulting, by one unchangeable language, for the decency and dignity of divine worship. These advantages far outweigh any inconvenience arising from the ignorance, on the part of the people, of the language of the Ritual, and this very inconvenience, if there be any, is removed by the decrees of the Church, already referred to. There is another point which should not be lost sight of in this matter. It is, that all the rights and ceremonies of the Catholic Church are translated and published in books of every size and form for the accommodation of all classes of persons; so that any one that pleases may easily accompany the ministering priest, whether in offering up the Adorable Sacrifice of the Mass, or, in administering the holy sacraments, &c. The Latin tongue—the tongue employed in the Church Liturgy—is so generally cultivated, that it can hardly be termed an unknown tongue. At all events, it cannot be regarded as such in the sense here contemplated by the Apostle.

18. “I thank my God,” &c. This he adds, lest they might suspect him of undervaluing the gift of tongues, in consequence of not being favoured with it himself, as is the case with many, who depreciate in others the gift which they themselves do not possess “With all your tongues.” (In Greek, πάντων ὑμῶν μᾶλλον γλώσσαις, with tongues more than ye all), may either mean, the tongues of all who frequent their commercial city, or, the tongues which all among them, favoured with this supernatural gift, can speak.

19. “Five words,” signify a very few words, as “ten thousand” signify a large number.

20. “Be perfect in sense.” The conclusion from which is, that they should prefer the gift of prophecy, and other such gifts, as being the more useful.

21. “In the law it is written.” The prophecy of Isaias is, in a general sense, included under the “law.” The Apostle in this verse adduces another argument to prove the superiority of prophecy over tongues. “In other tongues,” &c. These words, in their literal signification, refer to the Babylonish captivity. They are taken from chap. 28, verse 11, &c., of the Prophet Isaias. In this passage, the Prophet threatens the Jews of his day, that, in punishment of their unbelief, and in return for their rejecting the promises and defying the menaces of God, he will send them persons who shall be the instruments of their punishment; viz., the Chaldeans, who shall speak to them in unknown tongues. Although a good many among the Jews listened to Isaias, the greater number did not. In their mystical sense, however, (a sense oftentimes principally intended by the Holy Ghost in the writings of the prophets, and the sense principally expressed here by the Apostle in this prophetic quotation), the words refer to the gift of tongues conferred on the Apostles at Pentecost, when the greater number of the Jews continued in their incredulity. The Apostle quotes the sense of the passage from Isaias, without minding the exact words. In Isaias they run thus: In loquela enim labii (which is explained by the Apostle, in aliis labiis, “other lips,” and in the original Hebrew, the words mean, in lisping and deriding tongues), et in lingua, altera loquetur ad populum istum. So that the Apostle transposes the phrases, and makes a change from the third to the first person, “I will speak.” &c.

22. In this verse, is expressed the conclusion, which the Apostle deduces from the testimony of the Prophet. The conclusion, as far as it regards the “tongues,” is quite clear. From the testimony of the Prophet, it appears that the tongues were given both in the time of the Chaldeans, and, lastly, in the time of the Apostles, as signs for working conviction on the unbelieving Jews, although God foresaw that they would fail to effect the conversion of the greater number among them, “and so neither will they hear me.” We cannot find anything in the quotation from Isaias about prophecies to warrant the Apostle in drawing the conclusion; “but prophecies—for the believers.” But this latter he appears to assert, as a thing quite manifest and undeniable. It is to be borne in mind, that the conclusion of the Apostle in this verse, is not to be understood of tongues and prophecy in reference to all persons; for, as appears from this very chapter, tongues were occasionally given to the faithful, and prophecies to unbelievers. The conclusion is to be limited to the Jewish people, to whom the two gifts were given at different periods. It is only of the Jews, that the Prophet Isaias speaks, and it is from the effects of these gifts among them that the Apostle wishes us to judge of their relative excellency. The conclusion, then, comes to this:—Prophecy was intended for the faithful Jews; tongues for the same when they were unbelievers; prophecy produced its effect of consoling, of encouraging them (verse 2)—tongues failed of producing the intended effect of converting them from their unbelief. Hence, the superiority of the former over the latter gift.

23. He supposes a case in which the superiority of prophecy over tongues must appear quite manifest. “Unlearned persons” (ἰδιῶται), refer to those among the faithful who were ignorant of tongues, favoured with no gifts, and exercising no ministry in the Church. “Will they not say that you are mad?” In the case made, the gift of tongues would not only be useless, but even injurious both to the faithful and unbelievers, who would be scared away from sacred meetings.

24. “If all prophesy.” Of course in order, and in succession, otherwise disorder would result, if they were to “prophesy,” i.e., explain the truths of faith in an intelligible manner, the Pagan or unlearned Christian, would, on entering your place of meeting, “be convinced of all,” that is, he would be convinced, on looking into his soul, and contrasting his life with the sanctity of life which the law of God prescribes, of his error and sinfulness. “He is judged of all,” and shown by the words of all the speakers to be in a state of damnation.

25. “The secrets of his heart are made manifest.” In the common Greek, και ουτω τα κρυπτα της καρδιας, “and thus, the secrets of his heart,” &c.; the words, and thus, are cancelled by the best critics on the authority of the chief MSS. The words of this verse are understood by some to mean, that the man who exercises the gift of prophecy, had the faculty of diving into the secrets of hearts, and when the infidel or sinful Christian came into the church, the state of his soul was disclosed, and his private sins manifested to him by the man exercising the gift of prophecy.

The meaning, however, adopted in the Paraphrase, which supposes the conversion of the person in question to arise from the moral effect which the plain exposition of God’s law, and of the grievousness of sin (v.g.), idolatry, or fornication, &c., had on him, is the more probable explanation.

26. After showing the superiority of prophecy in the sense already explained, the Apostle now proceeds to regulate the exercise of these several gifts. “A doctrine,” is by some understood to mean a truth of faith, known from the study of revelation. “Hath a revelation, hath a tongue.” The common Greek has the order inverted, “hath a tongue, hath a revelation,” but the Vulgate order is that of the chief MSS. and versions generally.

28. In private prayer, not intended for public instruction, the Apostle does not censure the use of unknown tongues.—(See verse 2). From this verse it clearly follows, that the gift of interpretation did not always accompany, in the same person, the gift of tongues.

29. After pointing out the mode of exercising the gift of tongues, the Apostle now proceeds to regulate the orderly exercise of the gift of prophecy.

30. “Let the first hold his peace.” For, by inspiring a new revelation, the Holy Ghost shows it is a more excellent one, or at least more urgent, than the one already imparted.

31. “That all may learn,” &c. Hence, the intellect and affection of all will profit by such order.

32. The true prophets of God, unlike those under the frenzied excitement inspired of the devil, who have no control over themselves, can either express or commit to writing the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, as they please. Others connect the words differently, thus:—“the spirits of the prophets are subject to (other) prophets,” who can, therefore, judge of them whether they are from God or not. Hence, the gift termed discretio spirituum, to which reference is made in the words, “Prophetias æolite spernere, sed omnia probate.”—(1 Thes. 5:20). The interpretation in the Paraphrase, “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the themselves, unlike the frenzied persons, inspired by the devils,” is the more natural.

33. “He is the God of peace, as I teach in all” the churches. Others connect the words thus: Let this arrangement be observed among you, as it has been in all the other churches. “As I teach,” &c. The word “teach” is not in the Greek, which runs thus, ως εν πασαις ταις εκκλησιαις, &c., found in some ancient MSS. Hence, some persons refer these words to the following verse: “As I teach in all the churches, let the women be silent,” &c.

34. In the common Greek, “let your women,” &c.; your, is wanting in the chief MSS. Females are, therefore, incapable of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. It has been already shown (chap. 11) that there is no contradiction between the injunctions of the Apostle in this place and chapter 11. For, although in chapter 11 the Apostle only condemns the practice of women propheysing with unveiled heads, he by no means permits them to prophesy at all, even when their heads are veiled. It did not fall within his scope, in that passage, to condemn the practice of women speaking at all in public. All that he had in view was to censure the immodesty of female dress in public assemblies. The other abuse of their speaking at all, in public, he reserves for this place.

“As also the law saith.” The “law,” here, as well as in verse 21, denotes, in a general way, the Scripture of the Old Testament. In Genesis (chap. 3, verse 16), the woman is told, that she “shall be under the power of her husband.”

35. Let her consult her husband at home. Unless there be a question of knowledge indispensable for salvation, it would be much better for her to be without it altogether, than expose herself by going about to make inquiries of other men, in case her own husband could not instruct her. Of course, in every such case, the ministers of religion are the only persons to be consulted. “For a woman.” In the common Greek, γυναιξιν for women. The chief MSS. have the singular, γυναιειν.

38. “He shall not be known.” In Greek, ἀγνοειτω, “let him be ignorant,” as if he said, if any man refuse to follow the order laid down, let him follow his own way at his peril.

39. “And forbid not,” &c. This he adds, lest he might be thought, owing to the preference which he adjudged in favour of prophecy, to have prohibited the use of tongues. He only wishes them to regulate the proper exercise of this gift.

40. “Decently,” as in the case of women observing silence in the church, “and according to order,” as has been laid down in reference to the exercise of tongues, prophecy, &c.








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