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.
Book First Epistle to the Corinthians
Bible part New Testament
Order in the Bible part 7
Category Pauline epistles

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.[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.[3]


English translation[edit]

New King James Version

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,[4] 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, 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.[5] 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), which wording was used in the 1611 KJV, which added a comma before "darkly". This passage has inspired the titles of many works, with or without the comma.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] One way to preserve this ambiguity is to use the English cognate, speculum.[9] 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."[10] 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."[11]

Other notable passages[edit]

There are 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.

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."

Verse 4-8[edit]

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.

The passage is also used in the song "Pag-ibig" by Yeng Constantino.[12][better source needed]

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).[13]

The verse was used in the 1995 anime, Ghost in the Shell, at time 1:16:55.

The verse is quoted by Matthew Lillard in the 1995 film Hackers, at time 01:03:03

U.S. President Barack Obama referenced verse 11 in his inaugural address to the nation on January 20, 2009.[14]

The verse is quoted by Dakin Matthews in the 1991 film, Child's Play 3

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.[15]


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.

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).

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 ..."[16]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Range of translations at BibleGateway.com
  4. ^ Some translations read so I may boast
  5. ^ http://biblehub.com/greek/26.htm
  6. ^ 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."
  7. ^ Entry: εσοπτρον (espotron – Strong's 2072), retrieved from blueletterbible.org
  8. ^ Adam Clarke, Commentary on the New Testament, Vol. II, J. Butterworth & Son, London, 1817; commentary on 1 Corinthians 12.
  9. ^ Gordon Tucker, translator's footnote to Abraham Joshua Heschel, 'Heavenly Torah as Refracted Through the Generations,' Continuum, New York, 2008; page 308.
  10. ^ Leviticus Rabbah 1:14.
  11. ^ B.T. Yevamot 49B
  12. ^ Metamorphosis (Yeng Constantino album)#Singles
  13. ^ 1 Corinthians 13:11
  14. ^ "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. 
  15. ^ "The Funeral Service of Diana, Princess Wales". BBC. 6 September 1997. Retrieved 23 December 2009. 
  16. ^ https://genius.com/Lauryn-hill-tell-him-lyrics

External links[edit]