Alternate translation/interpretation of I Corinthians 12:31

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Jake

Puritan Board Senior
I heard a sermon on the end of I Corinthians 12 this morning and was thinking about the translation of the last verse. This was not brought up, but I was curious what some people with better knowledge of the Greek thought of this interpretation of the verse in the "God's Word to the Nations" paraphrasic translation from 1995. It seems to be a completely different understanding than normal.

"You [only] want the better gifts, but I will show you the best thing to do." (GW)

Does it make sense to read the verse this way? Is it a good rendering? etc.

For comparison:

"But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way." (AV)

"and desire earnestly the better gifts; and yet a far excelling way do I shew to you" (YLT)

"But desire earnestly the greater gifts. And moreover a most excellent way show I unto you." (ASV)
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
Doesn't make much sense to me, as the word 'desire earnestly' or seek after etc. is a present active imperative - i.e a command, not an indicative description.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The first word is an imperative, a command; and that is how all these reputable translations render it.

The paraphrase not only doesn't get the force of the word correct; it appears to me that on this reading Paul could be saying that "the better gifts" are the show-off ones upon which the Corinthians have been doting. This also runs against the grain of the passage.

One might respond that Paul is simply granting the Corinthians' characterization of the gifts, in order to make his superlative appeal; but I think the real point is being missed. They don't want the better (more helpful and edifying) but less flashy gifts.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
The first word is an imperative, a command; and that is how all these reputable translations render it.

The paraphrase not only doesn't get the force of the word correct; it appears to me that on this reading Paul could be saying that "the better gifts" are the show-off ones upon which the Corinthians have been doting. This also runs against the grain of the passage.

One might respond that Paul is simply granting the Corinthians' characterization of the gifts, in order to make his superlative appeal; but I think the real point is being missed. They don't want the better (more helpful and edifying) but less flashy gifts.

Thanks for this information, Pastor Buchanan (and Pastor Wallace as well). This rendering did seem to show a different reading and one that was unfamiliar, and I guess there isn't much basis in the text for it. I guess there is also a possibility of this conforming to a textual variant, although it would have to be a rather rare one, as translations from both traditions agree here.

On your last paragraph, that would be generally consistent with the exposition I heard this morning. The preacher essentially said that the better gifts were those of most importance to building the church, which are also those listed first in the passage, in comparison to the more flashy/less useful gifts lifted afterwards.
 
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