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1 Corinthians 13

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1 Corinthians 13
1 Corinthians 7:33–8:4 in Papyrus 15, written in the 3rd century
BookFirst Epistle to the Corinthians
CategoryPauline epistles
Christian Bible partNew Testament
Order in the Christian part7

1 Corinthians 13 is the thirteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is authored by Paul the Apostle and Sosthenes in Ephesus. This chapter covers the subject of love. In the original Greek, the word ἀγάπη, agape is used throughout the chapter. This is translated into English as "charity" in the King James version; but the word "love" is preferred by most other translations, both earlier and more recent.[1]


The original text was written in Koine Greek. This chapter is divided into 13 verses.


Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians is one of many definitional sources for the word agape when used to refer to divine love.[2] Introducing his homage to love in 1 Corinthians 12:31,[3] Paul describes agape as "a more excellent way".

"Through a glass, darkly"[edit]

1 Corinthians 13:12 contains the phrase βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι' ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, blepomen gar arti di esoptrou en ainigmati, which was translated in the 1560 Geneva Bible as "For now we see through a glass darkly" (without a comma). This wording was used in the 1611 KJV, which added a comma before "darkly".[4] This passage has inspired the titles of many works, with and without the comma.

The Greek word ἐσόπτρου, esoptrou (genitive; nominative: ἔσοπτρον, esoptron), here translated "glass", is ambiguous, possibly referring to a mirror or a lens. Influenced by Strong's Concordance, many modern translations conclude that this word refers specifically to a mirror.[5] Example English language translations include:

Paul's usage is in keeping with rabbinic use of the term אספקלריה, aspaklaria, a borrowing from the Latin specularia. This has the same ambiguous meaning, although Adam Clarke concluded that it was a reference to specularibus lapidibus, clear polished stones used as lenses or windows.[6] One way to preserve this ambiguity is to use the English cognate, speculum.[7] Rabbi Judah ben Ilai (2nd century) was quoted as saying "All the prophets had a vision of God as He appeared through nine specula" while "Moses saw God through one speculum."[8] The Babylonian Talmud states similarly "All the prophets gazed through a speculum that does not shine, while Moses our teacher gazed through a speculum that shines."[9]

Other notable passages[edit]

There are other passages from 1 Corinthians 13 that have been influential. Perhaps the most significant portion of 1 Corinthians 13 is the revered passage that defines love and indicates how Christians should love others.

Verse 1[edit]

1 Corinthians 13, verse 1: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal."

Bob Dylan paraphrases verse 1 in his song 'Dignity': "I heard the tongues of angels and the tongues of men... wasn't any difference to me."

Verses 4–8[edit]

Verses 4–8, and 13 are frequently read during wedding ceremonies.

In the King James Version, instead of "love", the word used in 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 is "charity".[10]

Verse 11[edit]

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

— 1 Corinthians 13:11, King James Version.[11]
  • 1 Corinthians 13:11-12 was quoted in the 1995 anime Ghost in the Shell.
  • The verse is quoted by Emmanuel "Cereal Killer" Goldstein (Matthew Lillard) in the 1995 film Hackers.
  • The verse is quoted by former slave trader Rodrigo Mendoza (Robert De Niro), when he is admitted into the Jesuit order in the 1986 film The Mission.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama referenced verse 11 in his inaugural address to the nation on January 20, 2009.[12]
  • The verse is quoted by Dakin Matthews in the 1991 film Child's Play 3.
  • This verse is quoted by the character Wilson in the sitcom Home Improvement on the episode "For Whom the Belch Tolls".
  • The verse is quoted by Todd Rundgren in the song "Real Man" from his 1975 album Initiation.
  • The verse is referenced in Episode 34 of Season 2 of In Treatment. The character Walter says that his parents' grief after the death of his brother forced him to 'put away childish things'. Walter's therapist Paul Weston notes that, unlike the narrator of Corinthians, Walter was still a boy and not yet a man when this happened.
  • The verse is referenced in the Dirty Projectors song Stillness is the Move: "When the child was just a child, it did not know what it was. Like a child it had no habits, no opinions about anything."
  • The verse was referenced by author C. S. Lewis in his famous quote "When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to appear very grown up."

Verse 13[edit]

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

— 1 Corinthians 13:13, New Revised Standard Version, [13]

Abridged verses[edit]

1 Corinthians 13, verses 2, 3, 4, 11 and 13 are introspectively digested aloud by ex-slave-trader mercenary, transitioned to Jesuit missionary, Rodrigo Mendoza (played by Robert De Niro) in the Robert Bolt-penned 1986 cinematographic Oscar winner The Mission, directed by Roland Joffé.

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "1 Corinthians 13:1". Bible Gateway.
  2. ^ "Strong's Greek: 26. ἀγάπη (agapé) – love, goodwill". biblehub.com.
  3. ^ 1 Corinthians 12:31
  4. ^ 1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV
  5. ^ "εσοπτρον" [espotron]. Strong's Greek Lexicon – via Blue Letter Bible.
  6. ^ Clarke, Adam (1817). "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12". Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. II. London: J. Butterworth & Son.
  7. ^ Gordon Tucker, translator's footnote to Abraham Joshua Heschel, 'Heavenly Torah as Refracted Through the Generations,' Continuum, New York, 2008; page 308.
  8. ^ Leviticus Rabbah 1:14.
  9. ^ B.T. Yevamot 49B
  10. ^ "Bible Gateway passage: 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 – King James Version". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2018-10-06.
  11. ^ 1 Corinthians 13:11
  12. ^ "Barack Obama's Inaugural Address". The New York Times. 20 January 2009. Retrieved 23 December 2009. We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.
  13. ^ 1 Corinthians 13:13
  14. ^ "The Funeral Service of Diana, Princess Wales". BBC. 6 September 1997. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  15. ^ ""Through a Glass, Darkly"". 30 May 2016.
  16. ^ Palmer, John (2012). "Vier ernste Gesänge (4), for voice & piano (Four Serious Songs), Op. 121". Allmusic. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
  17. ^ "Lauryn Hill – Tell Him" – via genius.com.
  18. ^ "Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I abandoned my childhood, I put these ways behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known / And now these two remain". Genius. Retrieved 2018-03-08.
  19. ^ Baldwin, James (1988) [1956]. Giovanni's room. New York: Dell. ISBN 0440328810. OCLC 17844541.

External links[edit]