1 Corinthians 14:16

16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer,[a] say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying?

1 Corinthians 14:16 in Other Translations

King James Version (KJV)
16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
English Standard Version (ESV)
16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say "Amen" to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?
New Living Translation (NLT)
16 For if you praise God only in the spirit, how can those who don’t understand you praise God along with you? How can they join you in giving thanks when they don’t understand what you are saying?
The Message Bible (MSG)
16 If you give a blessing using your private prayer language, which no one else understands, how can some outsider who has just shown up and has no idea what's going on know when to say "Amen"?
American Standard Version (ASV)
16 Else if thou bless with the spirit, how shall he that filleth the place of the unlearned say the Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he knoweth not what thou sayest?
GOD'S WORD Translation (GW)
16 Otherwise, if you praise God only with your spirit, how can outsiders say "Amen!" to your prayer of thanksgiving? They don't know what you're saying.
Holman Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
16 Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will the uninformed person say "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?
New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
16 Suppose you are praising God with your spirit. And suppose there are visitors among you who don't understand what's going on. How can they say "Amen" when you give thanks? They don't know what you are saying.

1 Corinthians 14:16 Meaning and Commentary

1 Corinthians 14:16

Else when thou shall bless with the spirit
Which must be understood of giving thanks to God, not in a private way, in the family and at meals, but in a public manner before the whole congregation, for mercies temporal and spiritual, especially the latter; and that not with the breath, or voice only; nor with the affections of the heart, with the soul, and all that is within it, though that is what should be; nor with the common assistance of the Spirit, and under the influence of his grace, which excites to true gratitude; but with the extraordinary gift of the Spirit, pronouncing the blessing, or expressing the thanksgiving with divers tongues, or in an unknown language: when this part of divine service, which by the way is distinct from singing, is performed in this manner,

how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned;
(idiwtou) , "idiot". The word (jwydh) , "idiot", is often used by the Jewish writers, and signifies a plebeian, one of the common people; and is sometimes indeed distinguished from a wise man, or a learned man; but frequently signifies a private person, whether learned or unlearned, that is not in so high a post as others; hence we read


F3 (twjwydh Mynyyd) , "of private judges", which were not of the great sanhedrim, and of private men, as distinguished from kings F4;

``there are three kings, and four (twjwydh) , "private men", (the Jews say,) that have no part in the world to come; the three kings are Jeroboam, Ahab, and Manasseh; the four private persons are Balsam, Doeg, Ahithophel, and Gehazi:''

here a private man is distinguished from the public minister that blesses, or gives thanks in the name of the people; and not to be understood of a single person, whose place and office it was to say "Amen", at the minister's giving of thanks, and who stood in some particular place for that purpose; but of the whole body of the people, who, in distinction from the minister, were in the condition of private men, and all joined, as will be seen hereafter, in saying "Amen"; now the apostle's question is, that if thou who art a public minister, givest blessing and praise, or returnest thanks to God in an unknown tongue, how shall the common people, or anyone that is in a private capacity,

say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what
thou sayest?
It was usual to say "Amen" at blessing, or giving of thanks privately at meals, by those that were present, concerning which are the following rules F5;

``he that breaks the bread, might not break it until the "Amen" was finished out of the mouth of those that answered; Rab Chasdai says out of the mouth of the major part of those that answer:''

and elsewhere F6 it is said,

``they answer "Amen" after an Israelite has blessed, but they do not answer "Amen" after a Cuthite (a Samaritan, or any Gentile, or Christian) hath blessed, unless the whole blessing is heard:''

but of this kind of blessing the apostle speaks not, but of blessing in public: upon which all the people, and not a single person only, as with one united voice, said Amen; see ( 1 Chronicles 16:36 ) ( Nehemiah 8:6 ) to this practice the apostle refers; concerning which the rule F7 is;

``that the congregation may not answer "Amen", until the blessing is finished out of the mouth of the priests; and the priests may not begin the other blessing, until the "Amen" is finished out of the mouth of the congregation.''

There were different sorts of "Amen", or rather different pronunciations of it; of which the Jews say F8,

``they may not answer with a fatherless "Amen"; nor with a sudden or violent "Amen"; (pronounced quick and in haste;) nor with an "Amen" cut off, or asunder (the last letter of it not pronounced): says Ben Azzai, whoever answers with a fatherless "Amen", his children shall be fatherless; with a quick "Amen", his days will be short; with an "Amen" cut off, his days shall be cut off; and whoever prolongs "Amen", his days and years shall be prolonged.''

Now, (hmwty Nma) , "a fatherless Amen", was when a person answered, and he did not know what he answered F9 to; and such an "Amen", in the case here, must a private man answer with, at the giving of thanks in an unknown tongue; and to answer "Amen" to what was said in a language not understood, was not allowed of; so the woman suspected of adultery was to be sworn and examined by the priest in a language she understood; and was to say "Amen, Amen", to what was said, in a language known to her F11; for if she did not understand it, how could she say "Amen?" which is the apostle's reasoning here: but was this an affair of such importance, to be instanced in and argued upon in this manner? with the Jews it was, who say F12,

``that greater is he that answers "Amen", than he that blesses:''

and indeed they bestow very extravagant encomiums on those who say it in a proper manner;

``there is nothing greater (they say F13) in the sight of the blessed God, than the "Amen" the Israelite answers with; says R. Joden, whoever answers "Amen" in this world, is worthy to answer "Amen" in the world to come;''

again F14,

``says R. Joshua ben Levi, whoever answers "Amen", his hame shall be great and blessed for ever and ever; says R. Simeon ben Lakish, whoever answers "Amen" with all his strength, the gates of paradise will be opened for him, according to ( Isaiah 26:2 ) .''

Moreover, it was a practice of the primitive Christians at the Lord's supper, at the close of it, to say with a loud voice "Amen"; the account Justin Martyr gives of it is this F15; that

``when the minister had finished the prayers, and the thanksgiving, all the people present, with a joyful acclamation, said "Amen"; which word, he observes, in the Hebrew tongue, signifies "so be it":''

and this custom might obtain in the Corinthian church at this time, to which the apostle is thought by some learned men to refer.

F3 Misn. Yebamot, c. 12. sect. 1.
F4 T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 90. 1.
F5 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 47. 1.
F6 Misn. Beracot, c. 8. sect. 8.
F7 T. Bab. Sota, fol. 39. 2.
F8 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 47. 1. Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. affirm. 27.
F9 T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 12. 3. Succa, fol. 54. 1. & Megilla, fol. 72. 1.
F11 Maimon. Hilch. Sota, c. 3. sect. 7.
F12 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 53. 2. & Nazir, fol. 66. 2. Zohar in Gen. fol. 19. 2. & Baal Hatturim in Deut. xxvii. 15.
F13 Debarim Rabba, sect. 7. fol. 242. 2.
F14 T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 119. 2. Shaare Zion, fol. 99. 2. 100. 2. 101. 1.
F15 Apolog. 2. p. 97.

1 Corinthians 14:16 In-Context

14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.
15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.
16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying?
17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.
18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.

Cross References 2

  • 1. Deuteronomy 27:15-26; 1 Chronicles 16:36; Nehemiah 8:6; Psalms 106:48; Revelation 5:14; Revelation 7:12
  • 2. S Matthew 14:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. The Greek word for "inquirer" is a technical term for someone not fully initiated into a religion; also in verses 23 and 24.
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