1 Cor 13:7 – the language of love

One of the most famous and beloved passages in the NT is 1 Cor 13. I have been digging into the Greek text of verse 7 recently and thought I might share my thoughts with you.

The Greek words are: πάντα στέγει, πάντα πιστεύει, πάντα ἐλπίζει, πάντα ὑπομένει.
RSV provides a fairly literal translation: Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The verse is poetic in two ways: the rhetorical repetition of πάντα (panta) – all things or everything or all the way and a chiasm. Let me explain the chiasm.
The Greek word στέγει (stegei) is very close in meaning to ὑπομένει (hupomenei), so the first and last words are close. Similarly the word for believe and hope are close in meaning, so the two middle words correspond to each other.

στέγω only occurs 4 times in the NT and all in Paul’s letters. Let us look at them:
1 Cor 9:12 – we endure everything (NET), we put up with anything (NIV)
1 Cor 13:7 – bears all things (NET), always protects (NIV)
1 Th 3:1 – we could bear it no longer (NET), we could stand it no longer (NIV)
1 Th 3:5 – I could bear it no longer (NET), I could stand it no longer (NIV)

I like the NIV idiom ”I cannot stand it”. This idiom is mainly used in a negative construction, I believe, so for the positive usage NIV says ”we put up with anything.” Why NIV did not also say ”Love puts up with anything” in v. 7 I do not know. It would be consistent with 9:12 and give the meaning nicely. Why did they use ”protect” and why say ”always” instead of ”everything” or “anything”? Paul commonly used the standard word for always (pantote). I can only guess the reason for the NIV rendering. My guess is that it was to forestall possible misuses of the text. Because we have a long tradition of pretty unreadable Bible translations, Bible readers, including pastors, cannot stand to read many verses at a go before they get tired. Maybe that is one reason for their habit to take one or two verses out of context and meditate or preach on them. The result is often some strange teaching and ideas. Of course, we are not to ”put up with everything” in every situation. But this text talks about the characteristics of love. It must be set in the context of a relationship between people, especially the context of a natural and spiritual family. PANTA – everything/all things is a rhetorical hyperbole, it does not literally and absolutely mean everything, but it does mean a lot. A loving person puts up with a lot that an unloving person would not put up with. Another reason for the NIV may be that a text is supposed to be read aloud, and ”Love bears everything” might possibly be understood when spoken as ”Love bares everything.” Or maybe ”bear” is just too old-fashioned English?

The final word ὑπομένω (hupomenw) means to endure something, to stay put when others might have left. These words describe love very well, including the relationship between husband and wife. If I have love, I can put up with (almost) everything in my spouse, and I will stay put in the relationship through difficult times.

The two middle words are πιστεύω (pisteuw) and ἐλπίζω (elpizw). PISTEUW can have a semantic frame with three participants or with two. When pisteuw has three participants, it means that A entrusts P to G.
We see this in John 2:24 IHSOUS OUK EPISTEUEN AUTON AUTOIS – Jesus was not entrusting him(self) to them. Jesus is Agent, him(self) is Patient and AUTOIS is the Goal/Direction. It is normal for the semantic Patient to be encoded with the accusative case and the Goal with the Dative case or a preposition such as EIS and occasionally EN or EPI, and this is how PISTEUW is used.

In many instances of this verb, the Patient is not expressed openly, but assumed, and in that case it refers to the same person as the Agent. In John 3:15 we find hO PISTEUWN EN AUTWi and the next verse has the variation with the same meaning hO PISTEUWN EIS AUTON. John 4:21 has PISTEUE MOI – entrust (yourself) to me. This is the same as “put your trust in me” or “believe in me.”

This tri-valent APG verb is sometimes used in the middle-passive. One of the functions of passive is to make the Agent (or Goal) implicit. Usually the Patient takes over the subject slot in a passive construction, but in some cases the Goal can also be subject in Greek.
1 Cor 9:17 OIKONOMIAN PEPISTEUMAI – a stewardship has been entrusted to me or: I have been entrusted with a stewardship. Implied/assumed Agent is God, Patient (accusative) is OIKONOMIAN and Goal is me, expressed as subject.
Gal 2:7 PEPISTEUMAI TO EUAGGELION – the gospel has been entrusted to me (also 1 Th 2:4)
1 Tim 1:11 TO EUAGGELION…hO EPISTEUQHN EGW – the gospel which has been entrusted to me. (also Tit 1:3)
Rom 3:2 EPISTEUQHSAN TA LOGIA TOU QEOU – The words of God were entrusted to them. The implicit Agent is God, the Patient is TA LOGIA TOU QEOU and the Goal is represented by the plural subject – they/them.

Now, the verb PISTEUW can also have only two participants with the meaning “accept as true”. In this case, we have the Agent (or Experiencer) and the Patient (object). The Patient can be in the form of a clause introduced by hOTI (that) or it can be an infinitive (or participle) with accusative or it can be a noun that stands for a statement.
Mat 9:28 PISTEUTE hOTI DUNAMAI TOUTO POIHSAI – Do you accept as true that I am able to do this?
John17:9 (+21) EPISTEUSAN hOTI SU ME APESTEILAS – They accepted as true that you have sent me.
John 11:27 EGW PEPISTEUKA hOTI SU EI hO CRISTOS hO hUIOS TOU QEOU – I have accepted as true that you are the Messiah, the Son of God.
Acts 8:37b (v.l.) PISTEUW TON hUION TOU QEOU EINAI TON IHSOUN CRISTON – I accept as true that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Jn 11:26 PISTEUEIS TOUTO – Do you accept this as true?
Rom 14:2 hOS PISTEUEI FAGEIN PANTA – he who accepts as true that he can eat anything.
1 Cor 13:7 PANTA PISTEUEI – it (love) accepts all things as true

Quite often the verb is used without any object or prepositional phrases, and in such cases there is no way to know whether it is the tri-valent verb “entrust” or the di-valent verb “accept as true”. Context will usually clarify it, but not always.

So, “accept everything as true” shows the attitude of love. You accept that this other person (husband, wife, child, etc.) speaks the truth and can be trusted. It does not mean that we are to accept and believe every wind of doctrine that comes our way. The accusative object “everything” indicates that this is not a matter of believing in God or Jesus, but of accepting as true what the other person is saying.

ἐλπίζω (elpizw – hope) can be used with a semantic Goal in the dative case or a preposition like EIS (towards), e.g. John 5:45 ”Moses, in whom you have placed your hope.” (NET). Also 2 Cor 1:10, 1 Pet 3:5. Sometimes EPI (on) is used as in Rom 15:12 ”The root of Jesse will come, and the one who rises to rule over the Gentiles, in (EPI) him will the Gentiles hope.” (NET). Also 1 Tim 4:10, 5:5, 6:17, 1 Pet 1:13. Or an EN (in) can be used as in 1 Cor 15:19 and Php 2:19 ”I hope in the Lord Jesus” (KJV has trust here – I place my hope and trust in Jesus).

However, in most cases ἐλπίζω (elpizw) has the two semantic participants Agent and Patient (object). This object may be a clause introduced by hOTI (that) or it may be a noun that stands for something that you can hope and expect will happen.

In 1 Cor 13:7, the two words hope and believe are parallel in the sense that they are both used with an object (Patient). Love accepts everything as true and hopes for everything. A relationship has hopes and aspirations, but these hopes require acceptance and love to be realized.

Biblical Studies Carnival נז (November 2010)

Gentle Readers,

I don’t presume to mention the esteemed Biblical Studies Carnival just published at Bulletin for the Study of Religion solely to note that this humble author was featured as the only blogger in the whole world to scoop the appearance of the new new new NIV, but also to let you know that two other authors from this humble outpost featured prominently (Kudos, Peter and Iver!). Several other blogger friends with a focus on Bible translation were also mentioned (Hobbins, Joel, and Rick to name three) .

But you really must read this month’s Carnival. First thing to note is that it is massive. I’ve never seen one larger with more interesting information. If you want to get a feel for the tone and scope of modern Biblical studies, you could do worse than to read every post linked to in this Carnival.

I’ve put together a Carnival before (Not for BS) and let me tell you it is a lot of work. Congratulations to Deane Galbraith for such a comprehensive list of posts, especially those surrounding the recent SBL, ETS and several other acronyms that took place in the month of December.

So what are you waiting for, just click on the colorful chap below and you’ll be whisked away to this month’s Biblical Studies Carnival:

Read The Books of The Bible in 2009

Today I was invited to “attend” an event on Facebook. I accepted. The event is to join with others in reading the Bible through in a new format during 2009 and discussing it. The format is The Books of The Bible which we have previously blogged about. This format removes chapter and verse divisions which can hinder us from hearing the text as closely as possible to how the original hearers did (they didn’t have chapter and text divisions either). This format arranges the Bible in a more chronological order than the traditional order found in Catholic and Protestant Bible versions. And it arranges the Old Testament more closely to how the books of the Hebrew Bible were arranged.

I invite you to join me at this event. Those of you who are already members of Facebook can attend the event by going to this Internet address:


If you are not a member of Facebook, you can join for free during a short sign-up process. I do not know if you can attend the event from another website if you are not a member of Facebook and do not with to become one. But I can let you know if there will be any way to attend outside of Facebook.

Here is the invitation from The Books of The Bible folks:

Read The Books of The Bible in 2009: Genesis

Join us in reading and discussing the books of the Bible in 2009! We’re starting with Genesis, and we hope you’ll join us for as many books as you’d like–hopefully all of them.

We’ll be using an edition of the Scriptures called “The Books of The Bible” that the International Bible Society has specially formatted for reading with greater understanding and enjoyment. The text is in a single column, and there are no chapters or verses or section headings. The book of Genesis in this format can be downloaded free as a PDF file at

(To find out more about this edition, visit http://www.thebooksofthebible.info. You can order a copy of the complete Bible at http://www.ibsdirect.com/p-574-tniv-the-books-of-the-bible-tbotb.aspx.)

To take part in this event, read through the introduction to Genesis (pp. 5-6) and the book itself (pp. 7-71) any time between January 1-14. Take a break wherever you want along the way. (At an average adult reading speed, it should take about three hours to read the whole book.) Join in the discussion with your questions, comments and observations. What is it like to read Genesis as a continuous narrative? What strikes you as you read? What bothers you? What would you like explained (if possible)?

The discussion of Genesis will be led by the Rev. Dr. Christopher Smith, a consulting editor for “The Books of The Bible.”

We look forward to reading and discussing Genesis together! (Please pass this invitation along to others–we’d love to have them join us, too.)

Event Info
Time and Place
Start Time:
Thursday, January 1, 2009 at 12:05am
End Time:
Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 11:55pm
Wherever you like to read


The Wicked Prodigal

I haven’t seen anyone else mention it so I’ll draw your attention to the fact that I was mentioned on the latest Biblical Studies Carnival as the newest member of the Better Bible Blog contributors. I was feeling a bit overlooked since I hadn’t been mentioned anywhere else on the Carnival for my brilliant Biblical studies efforts on my Lingamish blog. I thought maybe something like Learn New Testament Greek By Singing, or If Heaven Is So Exciting, Why Are Your Sermons So Dull?, or 10 Reasons Blogging Is Better Than Going To Church would have surely been listed for their transcendent theological insights. But it did warm my heart to get several lines of copy in the Carnival:

Another member of the blogging community, David Ker, has been added to the list of those participating in the Better Bibles Blog (a group blog). Without seeming irreverent, I do have a question for the folk over there: ‘What the devil are you thinking adding Ker to your happy family??? ‘ You’ve invited the wicked prodigal to the supper table and he’s sure to steal the rolls off the children’s plates. He makes up Psalms of his own, for pete’s sake… he’s quite mad!

Thanks, Jim, for the mention.

P.S. I plan to follow up my last post as soon as I recover from a cold and get my life back on track after the long weekend at the beach.