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First Corinthians by Joshua W. Jipp

Q. Did Paul write 1 Corinthians 13? Its hymn-like quality, in contrast to the chapters that frame it, seems cause for suspicion.

A. The questioner makes an astute observation. Undoubtedly, there is a contrast between the rhetorically elevated description of love in chapter 13 and the prosaic exhortations and arguments regarding spiritual gifts in chapters 12 and 14. And chapter 13 does transition from second person to first person speech with the speaker apparently setting himself forth as a model of love. The text moves smoothly, furthermore, from 1Cor 12:31-14:1 thereby making some think that chapter 13 is either an interpolation or was penned by someone else.

Few, however, find these observations strong enough to convince that chapter 13 was written by someone other than Paul. Paul is more than capable of speaking in different voices, can use different generic and rhetorical conventions, and can engage in rhetorically elevated speech (e.g., Rom 7:7-25; 2Cor 10-13). Paul has, furthermore, done something quite similar in 1Cor 8-10 where in chapter 9, in an apparent digression, he appeals to his own example of renouncing rights as a model for how the strong in Corinth should respond to the weak.

So here in chapter 13, love and regard for the other is the interpretive key for exercising spiritual gifts in the community. Finally, 1Cor 13 is tightly integrated into Paul’s broader argument. Love is set forth as the antidote to the Corinthian divisions and the competitive dispositions that lead to the factions. What is claimed for love, then, is the necessary antidote to the Corinthians’ boasting (1Cor 1:29-31; 1Cor 3:21; 1Cor 4:7; 1Cor 5:6), arrogance (1Cor 4:6; 1Cor 4:18-19; 1Cor 5:2; 1Cor 8:1), jealousies (1Cor 3:3), and self-seeking (1Cor 10:24, 1Cor 10:33). For these reasons, claims that 1Cor 13 was not written by Paul have not convinced many.

Joshua W. Jipp, "First Corinthians", n.p. [cited 22 Jul 2017]. Online: http://bibleodyssey.com/en/tools/ask-a-scholar/first-corinthians

Contributors

Joshua W. Jipp

Joshua W. Jipp
Assistant Professor, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Joshua W. Jipp is assistant professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. His most recent scholarly work includes “Paul’s Areopagus Speech of Acts 17:16-34 as both Critique and Propaganda” (Journal of Biblical Literature) and Divine Visitations and Hospitality to Strangers in Luke-Acts (Brill, 2013).

Not specific; not connected to a particular version.

A song or poem that is religious in nature.

A segment of a text that has been added into the original by a later hand.

Relating to persuasive speech or writing.

1Cor 12:31-14:1

31But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.Chapter 13The Gift of Love
1If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angel ... View more

Rom 7:7-25

The Law and Sin
7What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have kn ... View more

2Cor 10-13

Paul Defends His Ministry
1I myself, Paul, appeal to you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward yo ... View more

1Cor 8-10

Food Offered to Idols
1Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.2Anyone who c ... View more

1Cor 13

The Gift of Love
1If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.2And if I have prophetic powe ... View more

1Cor 1:29-31

29so that no one might boast in the presence of God.30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sa ... View more

1Cor 3:21

21So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours,

1Cor 4:7

7For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?

1Cor 5:6

6Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?

1Cor 4:6

6I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters, so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, “Nothing beyo ... View more

1Cor 4:18-19

18But some of you, thinking that I am not coming to you, have become arrogant.19But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk ... View more

1Cor 5:2

2And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you?

1Cor 8:1

Food Offered to Idols
1Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

1Cor 3:3

3for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinatio ... View more

1Cor 10:24

24Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other.

1Cor 10:33

33just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved.

1Cor 13

The Gift of Love
1If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.2And if I have prophetic powe ... View more

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