1 Corinthians 13

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1 Corinthians 13

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 of Tarsus and Sosthenes in Ephesus.[1][2] This chapter covers the subject of "love". In the original Greek, the word ἀγάπη agape is used throughout. 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.


English version[edit]

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. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

11 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. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

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


See main article: Agape

This chapter of Corinthians is one of a number of definitional sources for the word agape when used to refer to divine love.[3]

"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 is rendered in the KJV as "For now we see through a glass, darkly." This passage has inspired the titles of many works.

The 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.[4] 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.[5] One way to preserve this ambiguity is to use the English cognate, speculum.[6] 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."[7] 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."[8]

Other notable passages[edit]

There are three other passages from 1 Corinthians 13 which have been notably influential.

Perhaps the most significant portion of 1 Corinthians 13 is the revered passage that defines love and indicates how Christians should love others.

1 Corinthians 13, verses 4-8, and 13: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 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. ...And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love." (New International Version)

The passage is frequently read during wedding ceremonies.

In political terms, 1 Corinthians 13 is believed to have influenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Christian reverend and American hero, in his peaceful, yet persevering protests to segregation. Many believe that Dr. King's powerful leadership and his enduring love for his people and for all Americans propelled the Civil Rights Movement to gain equality for all people.[9] As Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., writes: "Uncle M.L. wrote in Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral." But inspired by 1 Corinthians 13 and believing that love never fails, he also wrote that "darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." "[10]

Secondly, verse 11: "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" (KJV).

U.S. President Barack Obama referenced verse 11 in his inaugural address to the nation on January 20, 2009.[11]

Thirdly, verse 13, in praise of the Theological virtues:

νυνὶ δὲ μένει πίστις, ἐλπὶς, ἀγάπη, τὰ τρία ταῦτα, μείζων δὲ τούτων ἡ ἀγάπη.
"And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love." (NRSV)

Verse 13 is paraphrased in country singer Alan Jackson's 2001 hit Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).

British Prime Minister Tony Blair read 1 Corinthians 13 at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997.[12]


Soundtrack of the film Three Colors: Blue composed by Zbigniew Preisner features a solo soprano singing the epistole in Greek (in a piece titled "Song for the Unification of Europe").

The paragraphs 1-3 and 12-13 of the text are cited for the fourth song of the Vier ernste Gesänge by Johannes Brahms.

A paraphrase of the text is the basis for the song "Love Is the Law" composed and sung by Australian musician Paul Kelly.

Symphony No.6 "Liturgical" for baritone, choir and orchestra by Andrei Yakovlevich Eshpai (1989).


  1. ^ Halley, Henry H. Halley's Bible Handbook: an abbreviated Bible commentary. 23rd edition. Zondervan Publishing House. 1962.
  2. ^ Holman Illustrated Bible Handbook. Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee. 2012.
  3. ^ http://biblehub.com/greek/26.htm
  4. ^ Entry: εσοπτρον (espotron – Strong's 2072), retrieved from blueletterbible.org
  5. ^ Adam Clarke, Commentary on the New Testament, Vol. II, J. Butterworth & Son, London, 1817; commentary on 1 Corinthians 12.
  6. ^ Gordon Tucker, translator's footnote to Abraham Joshua Heschel, 'Heavenly Torah as Refracted Through the Generations,' Continuum, New York, 2008; page 308.
  7. ^ Leviticus Rabbah 1:14.
  8. ^ B.T. Yevamot 49B
  9. ^ "A Christian Movement: Civil Rights in America". The Stanford Freedom Project. Retrieved 2015-10-21. 
  10. ^ "10 Compelling Life Lessons by Alveda King". www.lifeway.com. Retrieved 2015-10-21. 
  11. ^ "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. 
  12. ^ "The Funeral Service of Diana, Princess Wales". BBC. 6 September 1997. Retrieved 23 December 2009. 

External links[edit]