1 Corinthians 14:6
Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
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(6) Now, brethren.—Transferring these things to himself in an image the Apostle reinforces the preceding teaching. Now (i.e., seeing that these things are so), what profit would I be to come to you speaking in tongues? I have been telling you that you cannot profit others: I ask you, do you think I speaking in tongues could profit you?

Except I shall speak to you either . . .—Here is an expansion of the “interpretation of tongues” of the previous verse, and which is the condition on which depends any usefulness of the gift. The “revelation” and the “knowledge” are the internal gifts in the teacher himself which are the sources of his power to communicate “prophecy” (i.e., general exhortation), or “doctrine” (i.e., systematic religious instruction) to his hearers.

1 Corinthians 14:6. Now, brethren — As if he had said, I wonder whether that which you so much admire in others would please you in me: if I come unto you speaking with tongues — Supposing the next time I make you a visit at Corinth, I should address you in a variety of languages which you do not understand; what shall I profit you — Who are supposed not to understand me; except I speak to you — In a language with which you are acquainted; either by revelation — Of some gospel mystery; or by knowledge — Explaining the ancient types and prophecies; or by prophesying — Foretelling some future event; or by doctrine — For the regulation of your tempers and lives. Perhaps this may be the sense of these obscure expressions.

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.Now, brethren, if I come unto you ... - The truth which the apostle had been illustrating in an abstract manner, he proceeds to illustrate by applying it to himself. If he should come among them speaking foreign languages, it could be of no use unless it were interpreted to them.

Speaking with tongues - Speaking foreign languages; that is, speaking them "only," without any interpreter. Paul had the power of speaking foreign languages 1 Corinthians 14:18; but he did not use this power for ostentation or display, but merely to communicate the gospel to those who did not understand his native tongue.

Either by revelation - Macknight renders this, "speak intelligibly;" that is, as he explains it, "by the revelation peculiar to an apostle." Doddridge, "by the revelation of some gospel doctrine and mystery." Locke interprets it, that you might understand the revelation, or knowledge," etc.; but says in a note, that we cannot now certainly understand the difference between the meaning of the four words here used. "It is sufficient," says he, "to know that these reruns stand for some intelligible discourse tending to the edification of the church." Rosenmuller supposes the word "revelation" stands for some "clear and open knowledge of any truth arising from meditation." It is probable that the word here does not refer to divine inspiration, as it usually does, but that it stands opposed to that which is unknown and unintelligible, as that which is "revealed" ἀποκαλύψις apokalupsis stands opposed to what is unknown, concealed, "hidden," obscure. Here, therefore, it is synonymous, perhaps, with "explained." "What shall it profit, unless that which I speak be brought out of the obscurity and darkness of a foreign language, and uncovered or explained!" The original sense of the word "revelation" here is, I suppose, intended ἀποκαλύψις apokalupsis, from ἀποκαλύπτω apokaluptō, "to uncover"), and means that the sense should be uncovered, that is, explained or what was spoken could not be of value.

Or by knowledge - By making it intelligible. By so explaining it as to make it understood. Knowledge here stands opposed to the "ignorance" and "obscurity" which would attend a communication in a foreign language.

Or by prophesying - See the note at 1 Corinthians 14:1. That is, unless it be communicated, through interpretation, in the manner in which the prophetic teachers spoke; that is, made intelligible, and explained, and actually brought down to the usual characteristics of communications made in their own language.

Or by doctrine - By teaching (διδαχῇ didachē). By instruction; in the usual mode of plain and familiar instruction. The sense of this passage, therefore, is clear. Though Paul should utter among them, as he had abundant ability to do, the most weighty and important truths, yet, unless he interpreted what he said in a manner clear from obscurity, like "revelation;" or intelligibly, and so as to constitute "knowledge;" or in the manner that the prophets spoke, in a plain and intelligible manner; or in the manner usual in simple and plain "instruction," it would be useless to them. The perplexities of commentators may be seen stated in Locke, Bloomfield, and Doddridge.

6. Translate, "But now"; seeing there is no edification without interpretation.

revelation … prophesying—corresponding one to the other; "revelation" being the supernatural unveiling of divine truths to man, "prophesying" the enunciation to men of such revelations. So "knowledge" corresponds to "doctrine," which is the gift of teaching to others our knowledge. As the former pair refers to specially revealed mysteries, so the latter pair refers to the general obvious truths of salvation, brought from the common storehouse of believers.

God hath given me an ability to speak with tongues; suppose I should come to you speaking in the Arabian, Scythian, or Parthian language, what good would it do you? How should it any way

profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? Some make these four things distinct each from other; others think that they all signify no more, than the interpreting mentioned in the former verse. Those who distinguish them say, by revelation is meant the explication of the types and figures of the Old Testament; or some such revelation as John had in Patmos; or the expounding the mysteries of the gospel.

By knowledge they understand the knowledge of history, or any other ordinary knowledge.

By prophesying, the explication of the difficult texts of Scripture.

By doctrine, catechetical or practical doctrine. But these are all but uncertain guesses; the sense is plainly no more, than, if I should come speaking with unknown tongues, and no way by interpretation make what I say intelligible unto you.

Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues,.... The apostle exemplifies this matter in himself, and supposes it his own case, that should he who was the apostle of the Gentiles, and to be received by them as such, when he came to them, come with this gift of tongues, which he was capable of, as much, or more than any, see 1 Corinthians 14:18 and only make use of that,

what shall I profit you? of what use would my ministry be to you? what instruction, comfort, and edification, could you receive by it?

except I shall speak to you, either by revelation; by the revelation of Jesus Christ, whereby he received the Gospel he preached; or by the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, and the mysteries of his grace, by which they were made known unto him at first, or by a fresh immediate revelation from heaven:

or by knowledge; the word of knowledge, one of the peculiar gifts of the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:8.

Or by prophesying; the gift of prophecy, another of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, mentioned in the same chapter, 1 Corinthians 12:10 and already explained:

or by doctrine? the same with the word of wisdom, another gift of the same Spirit, in 1 Corinthians 12:8. The apostle intimates, that by the use and exercise of these gifts, he might be profitable to them, to lead them into a clearer view of the doctrines of the Gospel, and for the further improvement of their knowledge in the Scriptures of truth, which could never be done by bare speaking with tongues, and with tongues they understood not.

Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
1 Corinthians 14:6. Νυνὶ δέ] But so, i.e. but in this condition of things, since, namely, prophecy is greater than the speaking with tongues when left without edifying interpretation, I, if I came to you as a speaker with tongues, would only then be useful to you when I united with it prophetical or doctrinal discourse. Hofmann is wrong in wishing to refer νυνὶ δέ to the main thought of 1 Corinthians 14:5; in that case the second part of 1 Corinthians 14:5 is all the more arbitrarily overlooked, seeing that the ἐὰν μή in 1 Corinthians 14:6 is manifestly correlative to the ἑκτὸς εἰ μή in 1 Corinthians 14:5. Others take it otherwise. But the key to the interpretation which is in accordance with the context and logically correct lies in this, that the two uses of ἐάν are not co-ordinate (which was my own former view), so as in that way to give to the principal clause, τί ὑμᾶς ὠφελήσω, two parallel subordinate clauses (comp. on Matthew 5:18); but, on the contrary, that ἐὰν μή, corresponding to the ἑκτὸς εἰ μή, 1 Corinthians 14:5, is subordinated to the first ἐάν. Paul might, forsooth, instead of ἐὰν μὴδιδαχῇ have written simply: ἐὰν μὴ ὑμῖν διερμηνεύσω. Instead of doing so, however, he specifies the two kinds of discourse in which he might give an interpretation of his speech in tongues, and says: If I shall have come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, if I shall not have spoken to you (for the sake, namely, of expounding my speech in tongues, 1 Corinthians 14:5), either in revelation, etc. The apostle possessed the gift of glossolalia (1 Corinthians 14:18), but might also be his own διερμηνευτής, and might apply to the διερμηνεύειν the other apostolic charismata which belonged to him for teaching, prophecy, and διδαχή (1 Corinthians 13:9; Acts 13:1).

ἢ ἐν ἀποκαλ. κ.τ.λ.] not four, but two charismatic modes of teaching are here designated—prophecy and didascalia. For the former, the condition is ἀποκάλυψις; for the latter, γνῶσις. See Estius in loc. The prophet spoke in an extempore way what was unfolded and furnished to him by revelation of the Spirit; the teacher (if he did not simply deliver a λόγος σοφίας, 1 Corinthians 12:8) developed the deep knowledge which he had acquired by investigation, in which he was himself active, but yet was empowered and guided by the Spirit. This twofold division is not at variance with 1 Corinthians 13:2, from which passage, on the contrary, it is plain that there belonged to prophecy γνῶσις and ἀποκάλυψις, the latter of which was not included as a condition of the didascalia; so that the characteristic mark of distinction in prophecy is thus the ἀποκάλυψις. Comp. 1 Corinthians 14:30.

ἐν denotes the inward (ἀποκαλ., γνωσ.) and outward (προφ., διδ) form in which the λαλεῖν takes place. Comp. Matthew 13:3.

Note further the use of the first person, in which Paul comes forward himself with all the more convincing force in support of what he says.

1 Corinthians 14:6. What the Ap. has said touching the criterion of edification, he applies to his own approaching visit (1 Corinthians 4:18 ff., 1 Corinthians 16:5 ff.): “But at the present time, brothers,”—νῦν δέ, temporal, as in 1 Corinthians 5:11, etc.; not logical, as in 1 Corinthians 7:14, 1 Corinthians 13:13, etc. (see Hf[2030], against most interpreters). It is the situation at Cor. which gives point to this ref[2031]: what help could the Ap. bring to his readers in their troubled state, if he were to offer them nothing but confused mutterings and ravings? (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:7-11)—an appeal to common sense.—The hypotheses are parl[2032] (expressing by ἐὰν actual possibility, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:18; not mere conceivability)—the second the negative of the first: “if I should come to you speaking with tongues, wherein shall I profit you—if I do not speak in (the way of) revelation or knowledge, or prophesying or teaching?” In the four clauses, the second pair matches the first: revelation comes through the prophet, knowledge through the teacher (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Corinthians 12:28, etc.). For ἔρχομαι with ptp[2033] of the character or capacity in which one comes—“a (mere) speaker with tongues,” unable to interpret (see 5)—cf. Acts 19:18, Matthew 11:18 f., Mark 1:39, Luke 13:7.

[2030] J. C. K. von Hofmann’s Die heilige Schrift N.T. untersucht, ii. 2 (2te Auflage, 1874).

[2031] reference.

[2032] parallel.

[2033] participle

6. by revelation] That which comes directly to the spirit from on high.

by knowledge] That which is gained by observation and study, see ch. 1 Corinthians 12:8.

by prophesying] The outward expression of that which has come from above by revelation.

by doctrine] Or rather, teaching, the outward expression of knowledge. See the distinction between the prophet and the teacher in ch. 1 Corinthians 12:28.

1 Corinthians 14:6. Ἢ ἐν ἀποκαλύψει, ἢ ἐν γνώσει, ἢ ἐν προφητείᾳ, ἢ ἐν διδαχῇ, either in revelation, or in knowledge, or in prophecy, or in doctrine) Here are four kinds of prophecy broadly so called; the two former refer to the person himself, who rejoices in the gift; the two latter at the same time show more of a leaning towards the hearers.[122] On the difference of prophecy (which corresponds to revelation) and of knowledge (with which doctrine agrees) see 1 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:10 : and on the whole subject, below at 1 Corinthians 14:26, etc. Prophecy has relation to particular points, formerly not well understood, to mysteries to be known finally [and only] by revelation. Doctrine and knowledge are brought from the common storehouse of believers, and refer to things obvious in the matter of salvation.

[122] What Ernesti approves in Moldenhauer evidently agrees with these views.—Bibl. Theol., T. viii., p. 673.—E. B.

Verse 6. - Except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? My "tongue" will be useless to you unless I also speak to you of what I know by revelation, or by my thoughtful study, which may take the form of preaching or of teaching (1 Corinthians 12:28). 1 Corinthians 14:6
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