1 Corinthians 13

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1 Corinthians 13
POxy1008 (1Co 7.33-8.4).jpg
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 "Ο ύμνος της αγάπης". 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.

English translation[edit]

New King James Version

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal resounding in the wind. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and can understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have faith, that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I give all I possess to the poor, and surrender my body to the flames,[2] but have not love, I gain 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, darkly, 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.


This chapter of 1 Corinthians is one of many definitional sources for the word agape when used to refer to divine love.[3] Introducing his homage to love in 1 Corinthians 12:31, 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". This passage has inspired the titles of many works, with and without the comma.[4]

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 was "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." (KJV).[11]

The verse was used in the 1995 anime, Ghost in the Shell, at time 1:17:21.

The verse is quoted by Emmanuel "Cereal Killer" Goldstein (Matthew Lillard) in the 1995 film Hackers, at time 01:03:03.

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]

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)

US President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the oath at his inauguration in 1933, with his hand on his family Bible, open to 1 Corinthians 13.

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.[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, at the 48:02 mark.


Quoted by James Mason playing the dying revolutionary Johnny McQueen, in Carol Reed's 1947 film "Odd Man Out"(1:45:00).

George S. Patton's poem "Through a Glass, Darkly,"[14] also quoted by George C. Scott (portraying Patton) in the 1969 Francis Ford Coppola film Patton (film).[15]

Philip K. Dick's 1962 novel The Man in the High Castle, and Dick's 1977 novel A Scanner Darkly.

Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman's twenty-third film as a director was titled Såsom i en spegel, (lit. 'As in a Mirror'), and released internationally under the title Through a Glass Darkly.

Soundtrack of the film Three Colors: Blue composed by Zbigniew Preisner features a solo soprano singing the epistle 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.[16]

The Renaissance composer Orlando di Lasso set verses 11–13 in his sacred motet "Cum essem parvulus."

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).

Joni Mitchell uses much of the text in 20th-century vernacular, including "through a glass darkly" in her song "Love" from her 1982 album Wild Things Run Fast, and fully -and dramatically -orchestrated on her 2002 retrospective Travelogue.

The Rolling Stones paraphrase the verse in the title of their 1969 compilation album Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2).

Characters in Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono's 2008 film Love Exposure quote the chapter in its entirety and discuss its meaning during scenes at the end of the film's third hour.

Macklemore uses the verse "Love is patient. Love is kind" in his 2012 song, "Same Love".

Video game developer Arkane Studios paraphrased the title of Lewis Carroll's book by linking it with the verse, as the title for a chapter in their game "Prey": "Through the Looking Glass Darkly".

The text is drawn on / paraphrased in Lauryn Hill's song 'Tell Him' hidden on 'The Miseducation Of ..."[17]

Car Seat Headrest uses verses 8–12 at the end of the song "Famous Prophets (Stars)" on the album Twin Fantasy (Face to Face).[18]

James Baldwin quotes verse 11 in the fifth to last paragraph of Giovani's Room.[19]

The lyrics of Legião Urbana's song "Monte Castelo" are a mix of this text and Camões' "Sonnet 11".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "1 Corinthians 13:1 – Bible Gateway". www.biblegateway.com.
  2. ^ Some translations read so I may boast
  3. ^ "Strong's Greek: 26. ἀγάπη (agapé) – love, goodwill". biblehub.com.
  4. ^ KJV 1 Corinthians 13:12 "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
  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. ^ "The Funeral Service of Diana, Princess Wales". BBC. 6 September 1997. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  14. ^ ""Through a Glass, Darkly"". 30 May 2016.
  15. ^ "Patton Through a Glass and Darkly". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-05.
  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.

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