1 Corinthians 12-14 Greek Terms

1 Corinthians 12-14 Greek Terms

This entry provides further comment on Greek words used in my series of posts on 1 Corinthians 12-14. I’m posting this section prior to the entries on each of the three chapters so it will be available for study with them.

Note: I am limiting my discussion of these words to their application related to this chapter. These should not be viewed as full discussions of each term. Consult one of the standard Greek lexicons for further information.

diakonia (diakonia) = service

One of the three categories in 1 Cor. 12:4-6. It occurs approximately 34 times in the New Testament, with the bulk of these (12) in 2 Corinthians along with 11 other times in the Pauline corpus. Of the remainder, 8 occur in Acts. Thus 31 of 34 times this word is used in the NT, it refers to the work of ministry as done in the early church. It is used in a negative context only once, in Luke 10:40, where Jesus chides Martha for being distracted by many tasks. It occurs only twice in 1 Corinthians itself, one of them here, and the other in 16:15 where the family of Stephanus is commended for devoting themselves to the service of the saints.

It is used in the New Testament to denote a variety of types of ministry, including evangelism (Acts 21:19), charitable work (Acts 6:1), preaching or teaching (Acts 6:4), and to mission efforts such as Paul’s journeys (Acts 12:25). Paul uses the word in a number of different ways in 2 Corinthians, and one can see, especially in 2 Cor. 3:7-9 how the translation “administration” might come through. The core idea, however, is service, or something accomplished for someone else through an activity. Even in the case where it is used to refer to the activity of the law, of the Spirit, and of justification (2 Cor. 3:7-9) it is the action as it impacts the recipients that Paul has in view.

In our literature, it is simply this variety which Paul has in view. Many different services are performed, but all are under the same Lord.

(See also carisma and energhma.)

elpis and elpizw (elpis and elpizô) = hope

Includes the idea of “expectation.” If one hopes in someone then one expects some particular result (1 Corinthians 15:9). These two words tie chapters 12-14 to the hope of the resurrection in chapter 15, the ultimate spiritual maturity to which the believer aims.

energhma (energêma) = activity

Occurs only twice in the New Testament, both in this chapter. It refers to the activity involved in accomplishing some goal, though I think Paul may be looking past the term “activity” to the etymology of the word which would suggest the power behind the activity. Notice that he uses “energêmata dunameôn” to refer to the working of miracles. It is possible that he intends to call attention to the fact that the same underlying power works in all the activities as is involved in miracles. There is no distinction between the various forms of ministry in terms of source of power.

logos (logos) = word, message, with emphasis on underlying thought.

This word can refer to a wide variety of things, but its semantic range tends toward the broader message or underlying understanding. I am suggesting that Paul is using it here in a sense broader than “word” as a single word, but rather to refer to the underlying understanding; that in the word of knowledge or wisdom God places within someone an understanding of divine knowledge and wisdom that goes beyond the ordinary in the sense of spiritual building.

I do not intend this to deny that God can provide a word or phrase to someone as a form of revelation, in the common use of the gift of words of knowledge, but I would tend to cover this revelation under the gift of prophecy, which has, after all, involved persons receiving a word or words from God for as long as the gift has been known

nhpios (nêpios) = infant

Used of immaturity or a lack of complete spirituality in contrast to anhr and teleio”.

pneumatikos, pneumatikw” (pneumatikos, pneumatikôs) = spiritual, in a spiritual manner

The word pneumatikos occurs 26 times in the New Testament, with all but two of them being in the Pauline corpus (the remaining two are in 1 Peter 2:5). It is predominantly used to contrast spiritual things with carnal things, and is most commonly used as an adjective. It is also used of the post-resurrection body which is described as “spiritual.” Paul also uses it twice with reference to spiritual matters in general—Romans 15:27 and 1 Corinthians 9:11. In one case Paul clearly uses the term “spiritual gift,” but in that case he uses pneumatikos as an adjective along with the noun xarisma (Romans 1:11).

There are two disputed cases of the use of the word, first in 1 Corinthians 12:1 and then again in 1 Corinthians 14:1. Many commentators suggest that 12:1 be translated “spiritual things” or “spiritual persons” but of the modern translations only one, The Message, supports this type of translation. Amongst the ancient versions, the Vulgate and the Syriac (Peshitta) do not use “gifts” in 12:1 and only the Vulgate does not do so in 14:1. Unfortunately, Latin is capable of the same construction as the Greek here, using only the adjective without providing a separate substantive, and thus provides weak support for not using the word “gifts” at best.

Nonetheless I suggest that pneumatikos be translated “spiritual matters” or “spiritual persons” (my preference being the former) on the following grounds:

  1. The only cases in which the word is translated gifts are in the two passages in dispute.
  2. There are numerous other occasions in which pneumatikov could be used on its own to denote spiritual gifts, or could be used as an adjective with xarisma, but in no case is it used in an undisputed passage, and only once is it used as an adjective in combination with xarisma.
  3. In the only case (noted above) in which Paul is clearly intending to refer to spiritual gift(s), he uses the substantive xarisma.
  4. In 1 Corinthians 12:1, when Paul says he wants the Corinthian believers not to be ignorant about pneumatika he doesn’t immediately speak about gifts, and when he does, he does so in a context with a number of other spiritual issues, including ministry and activity (12:4-6) and the place or position from which the believers have been brought (12:12 & 14). In fact, the majority of 1 Corinthians 12 is not speaking about spiritual gifts, but rather about the unity of the body irrespective of the source of the individual believers. Chapter 12 builds into 13, in which each member of the body doesn’t seek his or her own (13:5).
  5. In chapter 14, which seems most clearly to call for us to supply the substantive “gift” I think we should resist the temptation, because here Paul is using the gifts not as the actual goal, but as an illustration of how we use our spirituality. He will talk about praise, teaching, order and worship as he proceeds through chapter 14, but the object of the discussion is not the gifts, but rather illustrating true spirituality by means of discussing the way in which the various gifts are used.

pneumatikws is used only twice, but reinforces the use of pneumatikos in connection with spiritual matters, referring to the discernment of spiritual issues (1 Corinthians 2:14). The other usage is in Revelation.

pneuma (pneuma) = spirit

I will deal here only with the use in 1 Corinthians 14:12, where I think that it should be translated “spiritual state of mind” (Bauer Arndt and Gingrich definition 3c). I suggest the translation:” In this way also you, if you are zealous to be in a spiritual state of mind, seek that you may have an abundance of what leads to building up the church.” (See also my note at 14:12.)

fanerwsis, fanerow, fanerw” (phanerôsis, phaneroô, phanerôs) = bringing to light or disclosure

This word means simply that which is shown openly or is visible. The “phanerosis” of the Spirit is that which shows physically that the spirit is present and active. This is not a special revelation or revealing (apokaluyiv), nor a pointing out (deiknumi) but simply the visible part of the Spirit’s working. Note that this is not how the Spirit is discerned; discernment is one of the gifts which constitute a part of the Spirit’s fanerwsi”.

teleios (teleios) = perfect or mature

Used largely in 1 Corinthians in contrast to nhpio”, dealing with maturity. Paul uses anhr almost as a synonym. I believe that teleios is used of the fully spiritual, as exemplified by the spiritual or renewed body (1 Cor. 15:44). The word teleios in 13:10 refers to this coming of the perfect spirituality when, rather than having flesh opposed to spirit we are all changed in an instant and become totally spiritual.

carisma (charisma) = gift

This term, closely related to cari” occurs 17 times in the New Testament, 16 of them in the Pauline corpus. Of those occurrences, all but four refer to some kind of gifting for ministry. (I would place the usage in Romans 11:29 as referring to the gift of God’s calling rather than any specific gift.) carisma is only used once in connection with the word “spiritual” (Romans 1:11) and in that context it is not at all clear that it is referring to “gifts” in the same same sense as 1 Corinthians 12, but rather is speaking of the teaching about the grace of God which Paul would impart through his letter or the personal teaching he hoped to have the opportunity to present.

See also pneumatikos, pneumatikw”.

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