1 Corinthians 13:2
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
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(2) Prophecy.—The Apostle valued the gift of prophecy—i.e., preaching—more highly than the gift of tongues, which stood first in Corinthian estimation. He therefore naturally selects it as coming into the same condemnation, if unaccompanied by love. All the secrets of God’s providence and complete knowledge (see 1Corinthians 12:8), even such a transcendent faith as Christ had spoken of as capable of moving mountains (Matthew 17:20), may belong to a man, and without love he is nothing. We must not take these words as implying that the Apostle possessed this vast knowledge and faith personally. The whole argument is put hypothetically—it supposes a man possessed of these qualities.

13:1-3 The excellent way had in view in the close of the former chapter, is not what is meant by charity in our common use of the word, almsgiving, but love in its fullest meaning; true love to God and man. Without this, the most glorious gifts are of no account to us, of no esteem in the sight of God. A clear head and a deep understanding, are of no value without a benevolent and charitable heart. There may be an open and lavish hand, where there is not a liberal and charitable heart. Doing good to others will do none to us, if it be not done from love to God, and good-will to men. If we give away all we have, while we withhold the heart from God, it will not profit. Nor even the most painful sufferings. How are those deluded who look for acceptance and reward for their good works, which are as scanty and defective as they are corrupt and selfish!And though I have the gift of prophecy - See the note at 1 Corinthians 12:10; note at 1 Corinthians 14:1.

And understand all mysteries - On the meaning of the word "mystery" see note, 1 Corinthians 2:7. This passage proves that it was one part of the prophetic office, as referred to here, to be able to understand and explain the "mysteries" of religion; that is, the things that were before unknown, or unrevealed. It does not refer to the prediction of future events, but to the great and deep truths connected with religion; the things that were unexplained in the old economy, the meaning of types and emblems; and the obscure portions of the plan of redemption. All these might be plain enough if they were revealed; but there were many things connected with religion which God had not chosen to reveal to people.

And all knowledge - See the note at 1 Corinthians 12:8. Though I knew every thing. Though I were acquainted fully with all the doctrines of religion; and were with all sciences and arts.

And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains - Thould I should have the highest kind of faith. This is referred to by the Saviour Matthew 17:20, as the highest kind of faith; and Paul here had this fact doubtless in his eye.

I am nothing - All would be of no value. it would not save me. I should still be an unredeemed, unpardoned sinner. I should do good to no one; I should answer none of the great purposes which God has designed; I should not by all this secure my salvation. All would be in vain in regard to the great purpose of my existence. None of these things could be placed before God as a ground of acceptance in the Day of Judgment. Unless I should have love, I should still be lost. A somewhat similar idea is expressed by the Saviour, in regard to the Day of Judgment, in Matthew 7:22-23, "Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

2. mysteries—(Ro 11:25; 16:25). Mysteries refer to the deep counsels of God hitherto secret, but now revealed to His saints. Knowledge, to truths long known.

faith … remove mountains—(Mt 17:20; 21:21). The practical power of the will elevated by faith [Neander]; confidence in God that the miraculous result will surely follow the exercise of the will at the secret impulse of His Spirit. Without "love" prophecy, knowledge, and faith, are not what they seem (compare 1Co 8:1, 2; Mt 7:22; Jas 2:14; compare 1Co 13:8), and so fail of the heavenly reward (Mt 6:2). Thus Paul, who teaches justification by faith only (Ro 3:4, 5; Ga 2:16; 3:7-14), is shown to agree with James, who teaches (Jas 2:24) "by works" (that is, by LOVE, which is the "spirit" of faith, Jas 2:26) a man is justified, "and not by faith only."

And though I have the gift of prophecy: it hath been before showed, that the gift of prophecy, signifieth an extraordinary power or faculty, by which men in those primitive times were enabled to reveal the mind and will of God, either as to future contingencies, or things which should afterwards come to pass in the world, or by further explication or application of the mind and will of God already revealed in holy writ.

And understand all mysteries, and all knowledge: though, saith the apostle, I have a vast knowledge, and could in any notion comprehend the most sublime and hidden things, whether Divine or human.

And though I have all faith (except that which is saving and justifying).

So that I could remove mountains: he further opens what faith he meant, viz. faith of miracles, a firm persuasion that God would upon my prayer work things beyond the power, and contrary to the course, of nature: the apostle alludeth to the words of our Saviour, Matthew 17:20.

And have not charity, I am nothing; yet, saith he, if I have not love, that true love to God and men, by which that faith which is profitable to salvation worketh and showeth itself, it will all signify nothing, be of no profit nor avail unto me in order to my eternal salvation; I may perish for ever, notwithstanding such gifts.

And though I have the gift of prophecy,.... Either of foretelling future events, as Balaam, who foretold many things concerning the Messiah and the people of Israel, and yet had no true love for either; and Caiaphas, who was high priest the year Christ suffered, and prophesied of his death, and was himself concerned in it, being a bitter enemy to him; or of explaining the prophecies of the Old Testament, by virtue of an extraordinary gift which some persons had; or of the ordinary preaching of the word, which is sometimes expressed by prophesying, which gift some have had, and yet not the grace of God; see Philippians 1:15

and understand all mysteries; either the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, the mysterious doctrines of the Gospel; such as the trinity of persons in the Godhead, the incarnation of Christ, the unity of the two natures, human and divine, in him, eternal predestination, the doctrines of regeneration, justification, satisfaction, and the resurrection of the dead; all which a man may have a speculative understanding of, and be without love to God or Christ, or to his people: or else the mystical sense of the types, figures, and shadows of the old law; as the meaning of the passover, brazen serpent, and the rock in the wilderness, the tabernacle, temple, sacrifices, and all things appertaining thereunto. The Jews give us an instance (c) of one who was no lover of Christ, and lived in the times of the apostle; R. Jochanan ben Zaccai, of whom they boast, and who they say was the least of the disciples of Hillell, and yet

"perfectly understood the Scripture, the Misna, the Gemara, the traditions, the allegorical interpretations, the niceties of the law, and the subtleties of the Scribes, the lighter and weightier matters of the law (or the arguments from the greater to the lesser, and "vice versa"), the arguments taken from a parity of reason, the revolution of the sun and moon, rules of interpretation by gematry, parables, &c.''

The apostle proceeds,

and all knowledge; of things natural, as Solomon had; of the heavens, and the stars thereof, of the earth and sea, and all things therein, and appertaining thereunto; of all languages, arts, and sciences; of things divine, as a speculative knowledge of God, and the perfections of his nature, of Christ, his person and offices, of the Gospel, and the doctrines of it:

and though I have all faith; not true, special, saving faith, or that faith in Christ, which has salvation connected with it; for a man cannot have that, and be nothing; such an one shall be certainly saved; and besides, this cannot be without love, and therefore not to be supposed: but all historical faith, an assent to everything that is true, to all that is contained in the Scriptures, whether natural, civil, moral, or evangelical; to all that is contained in the law, or in the Gospel; that faith which believes everything: so the Jews (d) say, what is faith? that in which is found , "all faith"; or rather the faith of miracles is meant, both of believing and doing all sorts of miracles, one of which is mentioned;

so that I could remove mountains; meaning either literally, a power of removing mountains from one place to another, referring to Matthew 17:20 so Gregory of Neocaesarea, called "Thaumaturgus", the wonder worker, from the miracles done by him, is said (e) to remove a mountain, to make more room for building a church; but whether fact, is a question; or this may be understood figuratively, see Revelation 8:8 for doing things very difficult and wonderful, and almost incredible. The Jews used to call their learned and profound doctors, such as could solve difficulties, and do wondrous things, by the name of mountains, or removers of mountains; thus (f).

"they called Rab Joseph, "Sinai", because he was very expert in the Talmudic doctrines, and Rabbah bar Nachmani, , "a rooter up of mountains"; because he was exceeding acute in subtle disputations.''

Says Rabba (g) to his disciples,

"lo, I am ready to return an answer smartly to everyone that shall ask me, as Ben Azzai, who expounded in the streets of Tiberias; and there was not in his days such a , "rooter up of mountains", as he.''

Again (h),

"Ula saw Resh Lekish in the school, as if , "he was rooting up the mountains", and grinding them together; says Rabenu, does not everybody see R. Meir in the school, as if he was "rooting up the mountains of mountains", and grinding them together?''

They (i) elsewhere dispute which is the most honourable to be called, "Sinai" or a remover of mountains;

"one says "Sinai" is the more excellent name; another says "the rooter up of mountains" is the more excellent; Rab Joseph is Sinai, and Rabbah the remover of mountains;''


And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all {c} faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

(c) By faith he means the gift of doing miracles, and not that faith which justifies, which cannot be void of charity as the other may.

1 Corinthians 13:2. That Paul adduces only two charismata (προφητεία and πίστις) in the protasis, and consequently uses καὶ εἰδῶγνῶσιν to mark out the degree of προφητεία, is shown plainly by himself in his repeating the καὶ ἐάν. In the case of these gifts also he is supposing the highest conceivable degree.

τὰ μυστήρια πάντα] the whole of the mysteries, i.e. what remains hidden from human knowledge without revelation, as, in particular, the divine decrees touching redemption and the future relations of the Messianic kingdom, 1 Corinthians 4:1; Matthew 13:11; Romans 16:25, al[2052]

ΓΝῶΣΙΝ] profound knowledge of these mysteries, as 1 Corinthians 12:8. The verb connected with it is εἰδῶ, but in such a way that the latter is to be taken here zeugmatically in the sense: I am at home in (Homer, Od. ii. 121; Il. xviii. 363, xv. 412). Observe further, that before it was μυστήρια, but here ΠᾶΣΑΝ, which has the emphasis; translate: “the mysteries one and all, and all knowledge.” To these two departments correspond the λόγος σοφίας and the ΛΌΓΟς ΓΝΏΣΕΩς in 1 Corinthians 12:8.

ΠᾶΣΑΝ Τ. ΠΊΣΤΙΝ Κ.Τ.Λ[2053]] the whole heroism of faith (not specially the faith of miracles, see on 1 Corinthians 12:9), so that I displace mountains.

The latter phrase in a proverbial sense (to realize the seemingly impossible), as Jesus Himself (Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21) had already portrayed the omnipotence of faith. But without love, even in such an instance of the might of faith there would still not be the fides salvifica, Matthew 7:22.

οὐδέν εἰμι] in an ethical respect, without any significance and value. Comp 2 Corinthians 12:11; Arist. Eccl. 144; Soph. Oed. Rex, 56; Xen. Anab. vi. 2. 10, al[2055]; Wis 3:17; Wis 9:6; Bornemann, a[2056] Xen. Cyr. vi. 2. 8; Stallbaum, a[2057] Plat. Symp. p. 216 E; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. 430.

Notice further, that Paul only supposes the cases in 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 in a general way; but they must be conceived of as possible; and their possibility arises from the fact that, in the midst of the charismatic phenomena which made their appearance as if by contagion in the church, men might be carried away and rapt into states of exaltation without the presence of the true ground of the new inward life, the new creature, the true καινότης ζωῆς and πνεύματος (Romans 6:4; Romans 7:6).

[2052] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[2053] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[2055] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[2056] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[2057] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

1 Corinthians 13:2. Prophecy in its widest range, and faith at its utmost stretch—in those lacking love, both amount to “nothing!” (ἐὰν) εἰδῶ τὰ μυστήρια πάντα κ.τ.λ., “If I know all the mysteries (of revelation) and all the knowledge (relating thereto),” explains καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω προφητείαν by stating the source, or resources, from which “prophecy” is drawn: πᾶσαν τ. γνῶσιν (attached somewhat awkwardly to εἰδῶ), combined with τ. μυστ., posits a mental grasp of the contents of revelation added to the supernatural insight which discovers them (see notes on λόγος γνώσεως and προφητεία, 1 Corinthians 12:8 ff.), as e.g. in the case of Isaiah. Hn[1967] supplies ἔχω, instead of the nearer εἰδῶ, before τ. γνῶσιν (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 8:10), reading “if I have all knowledge” as a second, distinct assumption following on “if I know all mysteries,” on account of the incongruity of Prophecy and Knowledge; but the point of P.’s extreme supposition lies in this unusual combination—the intellect of a philosopher joined to the inspiration of a seer.—For μυστήρια, see note on 1 Corinthians 2:1.—πίστιν (see note on 1 Corinthians 12:9) ὥστε μεθιστάνειν ὄρη—an allusion to the hyperbolical sayings of Jesus ad rem (Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21; see notes in vol. i.); in the pr[1968] (continuous) inf[1969]—“to remove mountain after mountain” (Ed[1970]). Whatever God may be pleased to accomplish through such a man (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9), he is personally worthless. On the form οὐθέν, see Wr[1971], p. 48; for the thought, cf. 1 Corinthians 3:18, 2 Corinthians 12:11, Galatians 6:3.

[1967] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[1968] present tense.

[1969] infinitive mood.

[1970] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

[1971] Winer-Moulton’s Grammar of N.T. Greek (8th ed., 1877).

2. all faith] In the sense of ch. 1 Corinthians 12:9, where see note.

so that I could remove mountains] A quotation of words recorded in St Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21. Whether St Matthew’s Gospel were already written or not, these words had reached St Paul, and this must be regarded as a confirmation of the truth of the Gospel narrative. It is remarkable that they appear in a different form in St Luke (Luke 17:6).

I am nothing] The Apostle does not say that it is possible for a man to have all these gifts without love. He only says that if it were possible, it would be useless. But real faith, in the Scripture sense, without love, is an impossibility. Cf. Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 3:17; Ephesians 3:19; Ephesians 4:13-16; St James 2:18-26. True Christian faith unites us to Christ, Who is Love.

1 Corinthians 13:2. Μυστήρια, mysteries) Romans 11:25, note. He does not add wisdom, which is nothing without love.—καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γνῶσιν, and all knowledge) This is construed with εἰδῶ, I understand, as being a word of kindred meaning and immediately preceding. Of those gifts, which are enumerated at ch. 12, Paul at ch. 13. selected such as are more remarkable, and to which the peculiar prerogatives of love are fitly opposed. Mysteries relate to things concealed; knowledge comprehends things which are more ready at hand, and more necessary, as Wissenschaften is commonly said of natural things—πίστιν, faith) ch. 1 Corinthians 12:9, note.

Verse 2. - Prophecy. The power of lofty utterance belonged to Balaam and Caiaphas; yet it availed them nothing without love. "Lord, Lord," exclaim the troubled souls at the left hand, "have we not prophesied in thy Name?" Yet he answers them," I never knew you." All mysteries. Though I can speak of the secrets of God once hidden but now revealed (Matthew 13:11; Romans 16:27; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:3, etc.). And all knowledge. Insight into the deeper meanings of Scripture, etc. All faith. Not here meaning "justifying faith," or "saving faith," which can no more exist without showing itself in works than light can exist without heat; but fides miraculosa, reliance on the power to work wonders. Judas, for instance, must have possessed this kind of faith, and it was exercised by "many" who will yet be rejected because they also work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23). So that I could remove mountains. It has been supposed that this must be a reference to Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21. It is, however, much more probable that, if St. Paul derived the words from our Lord, they came to him by oral tradition. And the inference must in any case be precarious, for the phrase was so common among the rabbis that "remover of mountains" was one of their admiring titles for a great teacher. I am nothing. No expression could 'involve a more forcible rebuke to intellectual and spiritual pride. 1 Corinthians 13:2All mysteries (τὰ μυστήρια πάντα)

The mysteries, all of them. See on Romans 11:25. The article indicates the well-known spiritual problems which exercise men's minds.

All faith (πᾶσαν τὴν πίστιν)

All the special faith which works miracles.

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