1 Corinthians 13:1

With the tongues (tai glwssai). Instrumental case. Mentioned first because really least and because the Corinthians put undue emphasis on this gift. Plato (Symposium, 197) and many others have written on love, but Paul has here surpassed them all in this marvellous prose-poem. It comes like a sweet bell right between the jangling noise of the gifts in chapters 12 and 14. It is a pity to dissect this gem or to pull to pieces this fragrant rose, petal by petal. Fortunately Paul's language here calls for little comment, for it is the language of the heart. "The greatest, strongest, deepest thing Paul ever wrote" (Harnack). The condition (ean and present subjunctive, lalw kai mh ecw, though the form is identical with present indicative) is of the third class, a supposable case. But have not love (agaphn de mh ecw). This is the crux of the chapter. Love is the way par excellence of 1 Corinthians 12:31 . It is not yet clearly certain that agaph (a back-formation from agapaw) occurs before the LXX and the N.T. Plutarch used agaphsi. Deissmann (Bible Studies, p. 198) once suspected it on an inscription in Pisidia. It is still possible that it occurs in the papyri (Prayer to Isis). See Light from the Ancient East, p. 75 for details. The rarity of agaph made it easier for Christians to use this word for Christian love as opposed to erw (sexual love). See also Moffatt's Love in the N.T. (1930) for further data. The word is rare in the Gospels, but common in Paul, John, Peter, Jude. Paul does not limit agaph at all (both toward God and man). Charity (Latin caritas) is wholly inadequate. "Intellect was worshipped in Greece, and power in Rome; but where did St. Paul learn the surpassing beauty of love?" (Robertson and Plummer). Whether Paul had ever seen Jesus in the flesh, he knows him in the spirit. One can substitute Jesus for love all through this panegyric. I am become (gegona). Second perfect indicative in the conclusion rather than the usual future indicative. It is put vividly, "I am already become." Sounding brass (calco hcwn). Old words. Brass was the earliest metal that men learned to use. Our word echoing is hcwn, present active participle. Used in Luke 21:25 of the roaring of the sea. Only two examples in N.T. Clanging cymbal (kumbalon alalazon). Cymbal old word, a hollow basin of brass. Alalazw, old onomatopoetic word to ring loudly, in lament ( Mark 5:38 ), for any cause as here. Only two N.T. examples.