1 Corinthians 14:10
There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.
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(10) There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world.—There are a great many voices or languages in the world, and none of them but has a right meaning when spoken rightly and to the right person. No word in any language can be meaningless, but must correspond to some thought—for the thought exists first, and the word is invented as the expression of it.

1 Corinthians 14:10-12. There are — No doubt; so many kinds of voices — Or languages; in the world — As ye speak; and none of them is without signification — To those that are acquainted with them. Therefore — Nevertheless; if I know not the meaning of the voice — The import of the particular language which is used in my hearing; I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian — What I say will appear unintelligible jargon; and he a barbarian unto me — We shall be incapable of holding any conversation with each other. “The Greeks, after the custom of the Egyptians, mentioned by Herodotus, lib. 2., called all those barbarians who did not speak their language. In process of time, however, the Romans, having subdued the Greeks, delivered themselves by force of arms from that opprobrious appellation, and joined the Greeks in calling all barbarians who did not speak either the Greek or the Latin language. Afterward, the word barbarian signified any one who spake a language which another did not understand. Thus the Scythian philosopher, Anacharsis, said, that among the Athenians, the Scythians were barbarians; and among the Scythians, the Athenians were barbarians. This is the sense of the word barbarian in this passage.” Even so, &c. —

Wherefore ye also, that ye may not be barbarians to each other; forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts — And are ready to vie with each other in the exercise of them, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church — And not merely for your own honour. Strive for the greatest share of those gifts whereby you may be useful to your fellow-Christians.14:6-14 Even an apostle could not edify, unless he spoke so as to be understood by his hearers. To speak words that have no meaning to those who hear them, is but speaking into the air. That cannot answer the end of speaking, which has no meaning; in this case, speaker and hearers are barbarians to each other. All religious services should be so performed in Christian assemblies, that all may join in, and profit by them. Language plain and easy to be understood, is the most proper for public worship, and other religious exercises. Every true follower of Christ will rather desire to do good to others, than to get a name for learning or fine speaking.There are it may be ... - There has been considerable variety in the interpertation of this expression. Rosenmuller renders it, "for the sake of example." Grotius supposes that Paul meant to indicate that there were, perhaps, or might be, as many languages as the Jews supposed, to wit, seventy. Beza and others suppose it means, that there may he as many languages as there are nations of people. Bloomfield renders it, "Let there he as many kinds of languages as you choose." Macknight, "There are, no doubt, as many kinds of languages in the world as ye speak." Robinson (Lexicon) renders it, "If so happen, it may be; perchance, perhaps;" and says the phrase is equivalent to "for example," The sense is, "There are perhaps, or for example, very many kinds of voices in the world; and all are significant. None are used by those who speak them without meaning; none speak them without designing to convey some intelligible idea to their hearers." The "argument" is, that as "all" the languages that are in the world, however numerous they are, are for "utility," and as none are used for the sake of mere display, so it should be with those who had the power of speaking them in the Christian church. They should speak them only when and where they would be understood.

Voices - Languages.

10. it may be—that is, perhaps, speaking by conjecture. "It may chance" (1Co 15:37).

so many—as may be enumerated by investigators of such matters. Compare "so much," used generally for a definite number left undefined (Ac 5:8; also 2Sa 12:8).

kinds of voices—kinds of articulate speech.

without signification—without articulate voice (that is, distinct meaning). None is without its own voice, or mode of speech, distinct from the rest.

The whole earth was originally of one language, and of one speech, Genesis 11:1; but upon the building of Babel, Genesis 11:7, God confounded their languages, so as they did not understand one another. They being scattered abroad, had different languages; so as now there are in the world many languages, and the words in every language are significant to those that understand that language. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices,.... "tongues", or "languages", as the Syriac version renders it; that is, as many as there are nations in the world; there may be seventy of them, as the Jews say there were at the confusion of languages at Babel; there may be more or less:

and none of them is without signification: every language, and every word in a language, has a meaning in it, an idea annexed to it, which it conveys to him that understands it, and that cannot be done without a voice ordinarily speaking.

{4} There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.

(4) He proves that interpretation is necessarily to be joined with the gift of tongues, by the manifold variety of languages, insomuch that if one speak to another without an interpreter, it is as if he did not speak.

1 Corinthians 14:10-11. Another example still to induce them to lay aside this way of speakin.

εἰ τύχοι] if it so happens, if it is really the case, i.e. perhaps, just as the mere absolute τυχόν also is employed (Isocr. Archid. 38; De pace, 60; Xen. Mem. vi. 1. 20, and Kühner in loc.). So in all the passages in Wetstein, Loesner, p. 293; Viger. ed. Herm. p. 301, which are usually adduced in support of what is assumed (by Rückert also) to be the meaning here: for example. The phrase has never this meaning, and merely its approximate sense can be so expressed,[4] and that always but very unexactly, in several passages (such as 1 Corinthians 15:37; Lucian, Amor. 27). And in the present case this sense does not suit at all, partly because it would be very strange if Paul, after having already adduced flutes, citherns, and trumpets as examples, should now for the first time come out with a “for example,” partly and chiefly because εἰ τύχοι is a defining addition, not to the thing itself (γένη φωνῶν), but to its quantity (to τοσαῦτα). Comp. Lucian, Icarom. 6 : καὶ πολλάκις, εἰ τύχοι, μηδὲ ὁπόσοι στάδιοι Μεγαρόθεν Ἀθήναζέ εἰσιν, ἀκριβῶς ἐπιστάμενοι. Paul, namely, had conceived to himself under τοσαῦτα a number indefinite, indeed, but very great;[5] and he now takes away from this conception its demonstrative certainty by ΕἸ ΤΎΧΟΙ: in so great multitude, perhaps, there are different languages in the world. Billroth, too, followed by Olshausen, takes εἰ τύχοι in itself rightly, but introduces an element of irony, inasmuch as he quite arbitrarily takes ΤΟΣΑῦΤΑΚΑῚ ΟὐΔΈΝ for ὍΣΑΤΟΣΑῦΤΑ, and, in doing so, makes ΕἸ ΤΎΧΟΙ even reach over to the second clause: “as many languages as there are, probably just so many have sense and significance.”

On ΕἸ with the optative, expressing the mere conjecture, it may suffice to refer to Hermann, ad Viger. p. 902.

γένη φωνῶν] i.e. all sorts of different languages, each individual unit of which is a separate γένος φωνῶν. The opposite is ΦΩΝῊ ΜΊΑ ΠᾶΣΙ, Genesis 11:1.

] namely, ΓΈΝΟς ΦΩΝῶΝ. Bleek renders it, contrary to the context: no rational being. Similarly Grotius and others, so that αὐτῶν in the Textus receptus would apply to men. Comp. van Hengel, Annot. p. 194 f., who supplies ἔθνος with ΟὐΔΈΝ.

] speechless, i.e. no language is without the essence of a language (comp. βίος ἀβίωτος, and the like, in Lobeck, Paralip. p. 229 f.; Pflugk, ad Eur. Hec. 612; Jacobs, Del. epigr. i. 33), i.e. unintelligible, and that absolutely, not merely for him, to whom it is a foreign tongue (1 Corinthians 14:11).

οὖν] therefore, draws its argument, not from the great multitude of the languages (Hofmann), which, in truth, is not at all implied in what is contained in 1 Corinthians 14:11, but from οὐδέν ἄφωνον. For were the language spoken to me (Τῆς ΦΩΝ.) ἌΦΩΝΟς, and so unintelligible in itself, I could not in that case appear even as a barbarian to the speaker, because, in fact, what he spoke would be understood by no man. The barbarian (βαρβαρόφωνος, Herod. vii. 20, ix. 43) speaks only a foreign language, not one altogether devoid of meaning for other.

ΤῊΝ ΔΎΝΑΜΙΝ Τῆς ΦΩΝῆς] the signification, the sense of the language (which is being spoken). Polyb. xx. 9. 11; Lucian, Nigr. 1, al. Comp. Herod. ii. 30; Plat. Euthyd. p. 286 C.

ἐν ἐμοί] with me, i.e. in my judgment. See Valckenaer, ad Eur. Hipp. 324; Pflugk, ad Eur. Hel. 996; Winer, pp. 362, 204 [E. T. 483, 273].

[4] This also in opposition to Hilgenfeld, Glossol. p. 24.

[5] For this reason he could limit even the indefinite expression by εἰ τύχοι (in opposition to Hilgenfeld).


Paul has chosen φωνή to denote language, because in the whole section he has only the meaning tongue in his mind for γλῶσσα. To instruct his readers regarding the speaking with tongues, he uses the analogy of speaking languages. Hofmann resorts to the suggestion that Paul must have used φωνή here, because he would not have expressed what καὶ οὐδὲν ἄφωνον was designed to convey by κ. οὐδὲν ἄγλωσσον. That is incorrect; for ἄγλωσσον would have conveyed the very same thing (speechless, Poll. ii. 108; Soph. Trach. 1060; Pind. Nem. viii. 41) with the very same point (et nullum elingue), if he had used γλῶσσα instead of φωνή.1 Corinthians 14:10. Speaking of vocal utterance, the Ap. is reminded of the multitude of human dialects; this suggests a further proof of his contention, that there must be a settled and well-observed connexion between sound and sense. “Ever so many kinds of voices, it may chance, exist in the world.”—On εἰ τύχοι (if it should hap = τυχόν, 1 Corinthians 16:6), which removes all known limit from the τοσαῦτα, see note of El[2058] For the anarthrous ἐν κόσμῳ, cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19; “in the world”—a sphere so wide.—καὶ οὐδὲν (sc. τῶν γενῶν) ἄφωνον, “and none (of them) voiceless”: not tautologous, but asserting for every “kind of voice” the real nature of a voice, viz., that it means something to somebody; “nullum genus vocum vocis expers” (Est.); “aucune langue n’est une non-langue”; the Greeks love these paradoxical expressions—cf. βίος ἀβίωτος, χάρις ἄχαρις (Gd[2059], Hn[2060]). The Vg[2061] and Bz[2062] miss the point in rendering, “nihil est mutum”.

[2058] C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

[2059] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

[2060] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[2061] Latin Vulgate Translation.

[2062] Beza’s Nov. Testamentum: Interpretatio et Annotationes (Cantab., 1642).10. without signification] Literally, without sound, dumb. Cf. Acts 8:32, and ch. 1 Corinthians 12:1.1 Corinthians 14:10. Τοσαῦτα, εἰ τύχοι) εἰ τύχοι (the Latin, verbi gratia, for example; comp. 1 Corinthians 15:37) makes τοσαῦτα have the force of a certain number. If men could ever have counted the number of voices, Paul would have set down the number here.—οὐδὲν ἄφωνον, none without signification) each one of them has its own power [meaning, 1 Corinthians 14:11], δύναμιν.Verse 10. - It may be. A mere expression of uncertainty as to the exact number (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:37). It is one of the very few instances where even the verb which implies "chance" is recognized. The word "chance" itself (τυχὴ) does not occur in the New Testament. So many kinds of voices. This does not seem to mean "so many languages." The Jews always asserted that the languages, of the world were seventy in number. It seems to mean "classes of expressive sounds." None of them is without signification. The words rendered "without signification," literally mean dumb. The meaning must either be that "nothing - no creature - is dumb," or that "every class of sounds has its own distinct meaning." Voices - without signification (φωνῶν - ἄφωνων)

The translation loses the word-play. So many kinds of voices, and no kind is voiceless. By voices are meant languages.

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