1 Corinthians 14:7
And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?
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(7) And even things without life.—The pipe and harp were the best-known instruments, and the principle just laid down of the inutility of sounds unless they be distinctive is illustrated by reference to them. Whether it was a harp or a pipe which was being played you could not know unless each gives a distinct sound of its own. The point here is not, as the English seems to suggest, that there must be a difference in tune, so as know what is being piped or harped—that illustration comes in in the next verse—but that each instrument has its own peculiar sound.

1 Corinthians 14:7-9. And even — Greek, ομως, in like manner, (the word, it seems, being here used for ομοιως, as it sometimes is by the poets, see Beza and Macknight,) things without life — Inanimate things; whether pipe or harp — Or any other instrument of music; except they give a distinction — Greek, διαστολην φθογγοις, a difference to the notes. “Among musicians, the former word signifies the measured distance between sounds, according to certain proportions, from which the melody of a tune results.” And Raphelius has shown that the latter word, as distinguished from φωνη, voice, signifies a musical sound, a note in music. How shall it be known what is piped or harped — What music can be made, or what end answered? For — Or, moreover; in war, if — Instead of sounding those notes whose meaning is understood by the soldiers, the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle — How could soldiers know when to advance or when to retreat, unless the trumpet sounds were adjusted, and constantly adhered to? So likewise — In your religious assemblies; except ye utter words easy to be understood — Significant words, to which the ears of your auditory are accustomed; how shall it be known what is spoken — What is intended to be signified by your expressions? For ye shall speak into the air — (A proverbial expression,) you will utterly lose your labour.

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.Things without life - Instruments of music.

Whether pipe - This instrument (αὐλὸς aulos) was usually made of reeds, and probably had a resemblance to a flageolet.

Or harp - This instrument (κιθάρα kithara) was a stringed instrument, and was made in the same way as a modern harp. It usually had ten strings, and was struck with the plectrum, or with a key. It was commonly employed in praise.

Except they give a distinction in the sounds - Unless they give a difference in the "tones," such as are indicated in the gamut for music.

How shall it be known ... - That is, there would be no time, no music. Nothing would be indicated by it. It would not be suited to excite the emotions of sorrow or of joy. All music is designed to excite emotions; but if there be no difference in the tones, no emotion would be produced. So it would be in words uttered. Unless there was something that was suited to excite thought or emotion; unless what was spoken was made "intelligible," no matter how important in itself it might be, yet it would be useless.

7. Translate, "And things without life-giving sound, whether pipe or harp, YET (notwithstanding their giving sound) if they give not a distinction in the tones (that is, notes) how?" &c.

what is piped or harped—that is, what tune is played on the pipe or harp.

In the sounds which are artificially made by the use of wind music, or other music, nothing could be understood, if art had not also devised a distinction in the sounds; that one sound should signify one thing, another sound should signify another thing: so unless the voice of the teacher be significant to, and understood by, the person instructed or taught, the sound is of no use at all.

And even things without life giving sound,.... He instances in things inanimate, that have neither reason, sense, nor life, in musical instruments, and these of various sorts:

whether pipe or harp; wind music, or hand music; either that which is blown with the breath, or pressed or stricken with the hand:

except they give a distinction in the sounds; or "tunes", so as one may be discerned from another; as that this is such a musical note, and that is another:

how shall it be known what is piped or harped? what tune is played; such an use of instruments would be a mere jargon, and not music, and so yield no pleasure to the ear, or mind; and just the like must speaking in an unknown tongue be, to one that understands it not.

{3} And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?

(3) He sets forth that which he said by a similitude, which he borrows and takes from instruments of music, which although they speak not perfectly, yet they are distinguished by their sounds, that they may be the better used.

1 Corinthians 14:7. The uselessness of a discourse remaining in this way unintelligible is now shown by the analogy of musical instrument.

ὅμως] is paroxytone, and means nothing else than tamen (Vulgate), but is put first here and in Galatians 3:15, although logically it ought to come in only before ἐὰν διαστολήν κ.τ.λ.; hence it is to be explained as if the order was: τὰ ἄψυχα, καίπερ φων. διδόντα, εἴτε αὐλός, εἴτε κιθάρα, ὅμως, ἐὰν διαστολὴν τ. φθ. μὴ δῷ, πῶς γνωσθήσεται κ.τ.λ. It is rightly taken by Chr. F. Fritzsche, Nov. opusc. p. 329. Comp. C. F. A. Fritzsche, Conject. I. p 52: “instrumenta vitae expertia, etiamsi sonum edunt, tamen, nisi distincte sonent, qui dignoscas,” etc. So Winer, also, at last (ed. 6; ed. 7, p. 515 [E. T. 693]), and, in like manner, Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 264 [E. T. 308]. To analyse it into τὰ ἄψυχα, καίπερ ἄψυχα, ὅμως φωνὴν διδόντα κ.τ.λ. (Winer formerly, comp. Rückert), brings out an antithetic relation which could not be calculated on from the context. For what is to be expressed is not that the instruments, although lifeless, nevertheless sound; but this, that the lifeless instruments, although they sound, nevertheless give out no intelligible melody, unless, etc. As regards the hyperbaton, common with classical writers also, by which ὅμως, instead of following the participle, goes before it,[3] see Matthiae, § 566, 3; Krüger, § lvi. 13. 3; Stallbaum, ad Plat. Rep. p. 495 D; Ast, Lex. Plat. II. p. 447; Jacobs, ad Del. epigr. p. 232. That ὅμως stands for ὁμοίως, and should be accented (comp. Lobeck, ad Soph. Aj. p. 480, ed. 2) ὁμῶς (Faber, Alberti, Wetstein, Hoogeveen, and others), is as erroneous (ὅμως means: equally, together) as Kypke’s assertion that the paroxytone ὅμως means similiter.

διδόντα] giving forth, as Pind. Nem. v. 93; Jdt 14:9. Φωνή is used of the voice of musical instruments in Sir 50:16; 1Es 5:64; 1Ma 5:31, al. Comp. Plat. Tim. p. 47 C; μουσικὴ φωνή, Pol. iii. p. 397 A; Plut. Mor. p. 713 C; Eur. Tro. 127.

ἐὰν διαστολὴν κ.τ.λ.] If they (the ἄψυχα φωνὴν διδόντα) shall not have given a distinction to the sounds, if they shall have sounded without bringing out the sounds in definite, distinctive modulation. “Harmoniam autem ex intervallis sonorum nosse possumus,” Cic. Tusc. i. 18. 41. Comp. Plat. Phileb. p. 7 C D, and Stallbaum in loc.

πῶς γνωσθήσ. τὸ αὐλ. κ.τ.λ.] how shall that be recognised which is played upon the flute or upon the cithern? i.e. how can it then possibly happen that one should recognise a definite piece of music (a melody) from the sounds of the flute or the cithern? One is none the wiser from them as to what is being played. The repetition of the article is quite correct: what is being played on the flute, or again, in the other supposed case, what is played upon the cithern. Rückert takes it as meaning, How is it possible to distinguish between flute and cithern? Inappropriate, in view of the essentially different character of the two instruments, and seeing that the question in the context (comp. 1 Corinthians 14:9) is not as to distinguishing between the instruments, but as to understanding the melody.

It may be observed, further, that the analogy in 1 Corinthians 14:7 would be unsuitable, if Paul had been thinking of foreign languages, since these would not have lacked the διαστολή of the sounds. This holds also in opposition to the view of the matter which makes it an utterance of glosses, as likewise in opposition to Wieseler’s conception of a soft γένος γλωσσῶν, seeing that in 1 Corinthians 14:7 it is not the strength of the sound, but its distinctness (comp. Wieseler himself in 1860, p. 114), in virtue of which it expresses a melody, which is the point of comparison.

[3] Not always immediately before, as Hofmann opines that Paul must have written: τὰ ἄψυχα ὅμως φων. διδόντα. See Jacobs, l.c.; also Reisig, Enarr. Oed. Col. p. xlvi. Comp., too, 4Ma 13:26.

1 Corinthians 14:7-13. § 45. UTTERANCE USELESS WITHOUT CLEAR SENSE. P. has just asked what the Cor[2034] would think of him, if in their present need he came exhibiting his power as a speaker with Tongues, but without a word of prophetic inspiration or wise teaching to offer. Such speech would be a mockery to the hearers. This holds good of sound universally, when considered as a means of communication—in the case, e.g., of lifeless instruments, the flute and lyre with their modulated notes, or the military trumpet with its varied signals (1 Corinthians 14:7 f.); so with articulate speech, in its numberless dialects. To the instructed ear every syllable carries a meaning; to the foreigner it is gibberish (1 Corinthians 14:10 f.). Just as useless are the Tongues in the Church without interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:9; 1 Corinthians 14:12 f.).

[2034] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

7. except they give a distinction in the sounds] The effect of a melody depends entirely upon the distinction of its musical intervals. The effect of speech in like manner is dependent upon its being the communication of definite ideas.

1 Corinthians 14:7. Αὐλὸςκιθάρα, a pipe—a harp) Two of the chief musical instruments; not only the pipe, which is, as it were, animated by the breath of the piper, but also the harp.—τοῖς φθόγγοις, in the sounds) The ablative case comp. by, 1 Corinthians 14:9.—πῶς γνωσθήσειται, how shall it be known) how shall pipe be distinguished from pipe, and harp from harp? There is one and then another sound of one and the same instrument, when it is directed to different things.

Verse 7. - Even things without life giving sound. Even musical instruments - flute or harp - dead instruments as they are, must be so played as to keep up the distinction of intervals, without which the melody is ruined and the tune is unrecognizable. Much more is this the ease with the human voice.

"How sour sweet music is,
When time is broke and no proportion kept!"
The indiscriminate use of the tongue is here compared to the dissonance of jarring and unmodulated instrumental sounds, In harmony there must be due sequence and intervals of sound. 1 Corinthians 14:7Voice (φωνὴν)

See on sound, Romans 10:18. The sound generally. Used sometimes of sounds emitted by things without life, as a trumpet or the wind. See Matthew 24:31; John 3:8.

Harp (κιθάρα)

See on Revelation 5:8.

Distinction (διαστολὴν)

Proper modulation. Compare the use of the word in Romans 3:22; Romans 10:12.

Sounds (φθόγγοις)

The distinctive sounds as modulated. See on Romans 10:18.

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