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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Women Leaders: 1 Cor. 12: 7 - 11

This is another of the passages that I was asked to write about,

    Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, [a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues. [b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
There are no issues regarding gender in this passage that I can see. Clearly the Spirit distributes gifts to each one as he determines. However, there are a few other interesting details.

The 'message' of wisdom, and the 'message' of knowledge are λογος - logos in Greek. This might be better translated as 'utterance' (ESV) or 'word' (KJV). In any case, it is clearly the 'expression' of wisdom or knowledge. There is no case here for a received message that is not expressed. Individuals are given the gift of expressing wisdom, not the gift of receiving or having wisdom.

I notice that the TNIV does not seem to translate the word ἰδια in verse 11. This is translated as 'individually' in the ESV and 'severally' in the KJV. Possibly the TNIV translators felt that 'individually' was stronger than the force of the Greek term and so simply translated it as 'each one'. In any case the gifts are given to individuals to be used for the common good, not for the sake of the individual who is given the gift.

The JK version of verse 11 is interesting for other reasons,

    But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
Of course, one understands that 'every man' was used to mean 'everyone' and is generally inclusive throughout the KJV. What I want to note here is the use of 'dividing' for 'distributing'. This sheds light on the KJ version of the following verse.

    Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Tim. 2:15 JKV
The KJV suggest that Timothy was to distribute the word of God rightly, for the building up of the body of Christ. The focus is not on ascertaining orthodoxy.

However, I would suggest that there should be no false dichotomy between nurturing the body of Christ and preserving pure doctrine. The full force of these passages is on the visible and audible expression of wisdom and knowledge for the building up of the community of believers.



At Tue Mar 20, 01:41:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, I thought you were actually going to study 1 Corinthians 11:7-11 or some such passage. But actually you seem to have studied 12:7-11, an interesting passage but not what I would have expected from you.

But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit

I actually thought this was a grammatical error, that someone using obsolete -eth endings failed to realise that it is used only with a singular subject, not with a plural like "all these". It took some time for me to realise that this is in fact an inverted object-first sentence of the kind which is quite common in Greek, and possible because subjects and objects are marked, but just doesn't work in English. Well, perhaps it did work when the King James version was published, with the -eth ending resolving the ambiguity between subject and object. But I wonder what proportion of modern readers of KJV would understand that the Spirit is the subject and not the object here?

At Tue Mar 20, 01:55:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, it is inverted order. Takes a while to get used to, doesn't it?

I have been having some trouble with blogger for the last few days and actually had to rewrite this post entirely in a rush which was how I came to mistype my title.

No, I don't think that most modern readers would understand the KJV but I don't see why some of us shouldn't.

At Thu Mar 22, 04:02:00 PM, Blogger Kenny said...

I don't think we should probably translate logos as 'utterance.' 'Message' is a frequent and well-attested meaning of logos, whereas 'utterance' would be better reserved for words like rema that generally refer to a specific speech-act and the exact words spoken. If you look at all the lexicon definitions for logos, they all cluster around a single core concept which is something like 'the intelligible content of language.' (Hence, in addition to 'word,' 'message,' 'speech,' 'argument,' etc., we also get 'ratio' and even 'reason.')

This may, of course, be because of my philosophy training. In contemporary philosophy, 'utterance' has a technical meaning: it is a specific time, place, and circumstance in which a sentence is spoken (the conditions of the utterance are necessary to determine what proposition is expressed by a sentence - for instance, the sentence 'you are here' has two indexicals in it, and the reference of the indexicals is fixed only by the specific conditions of the utterance: where and to whom it is uttered). Logos doesn't mean anything like that.

At Fri Mar 23, 03:25:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I was surprised to see utterance (ESV) here but I was wondering if 'expression' might be better.

At Fri Mar 23, 04:04:00 PM, Blogger Kenny said...

'Expression' still sounds to me like it's talking about the specific words and not the content. I think 'message' is both more literal and more accurate in this case. On the other hand "message of wisdom" sounds kind of unnatural - I would say even more unnatural than "word of wisdom" but maybe I'm just used to the latter. If we were being a bit less literal we could say "the ability to communicate knowledge/wisdom" and I think that would be pretty accurate.

At Fri Mar 23, 05:30:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


Translating logos deserves its own discussion sometime soon.


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