Tag Archives: knowledge

Origen on Knowledge

How to properly translate and understand Origen when he uses knowledge words.

Origen, a third century Church Father considered by many historians to be a great writer and thinker, was very much steeped in Greek literature, structure and thought. This was very much reflected in his writings.

This is especially found in the catena ascribed to him on I Corinthians.1 One is hard-pressed to comprehend the semantics of his knowledge words. This applies to the majority of his other works as well.

Understanding these three words: γνώσις–gnôsis, εἲδησις–eidêsis, and επιστήμη–epistêmê are critical. These words all pertain to different nuances of the word knowledge. First of all, the English vocabulary does not distinguish between different forms of knowledge as the Greeks did. It is a problem of the limitations of the English language. The demand is then to do some dynamic translating which requires personal interpretation. So the the culture, background, and time-frame must be understood to properly reflect Origen’s intent.

The second problem is understanding what Origen meant specifically by these words. The concepts of gnôsis, eidenai and epistêmê have not been static and it depends on which era, culture and religion it is being used in. He was one of the first Christian authors attempting to integrate such terms and may not reflect medieval usage or what we modernly understand these terms to be.

There have been many attempts to distinguish these words with mixed results. Here are a number of examples:

  • Ellen Pagels attempted to do this in her book The Gnostic Gospels:

    …gnosis is not primarily rational knowledge. The Greek language distinguishes between scientific or reflective knowledge (‘He knows mathematics’) and knowing through observation or experience (‘He knows me’). As the gnostics use the term, we could translate it as ‘insight’, for gnosis involves an intuitive process of knowing oneself… Yet to know oneself, at the deepest level is to know God; this is the secret of gnosis.”(The Gnostic Gospels, p xviii-xix) Bentley Layton provides a similar definition in The Gnostic Scriptures: “The ancient Greek language could easily differentiate between two kinds of knowledge… One kind is propositional knowing – the knowledge that something is the case (‘I know Athens is in Greece’). Greek has several words for this kind of knowing-for example, eidenai. The other kind of knowing is personal aquaintance with an object, often a person. (‘I know Athens well’; ‘I have known Susan for many years’). In Greek the word for this is gignoskein…The corresponding Greek noun is gnosis. If for example two people have been introduced to one another, each can claim to have gnosis or aquaintance of one another. If one is introduced to God, one has gnosis of God. The ancient gnostics described salvation as a kind of gnosis or aquaintance, and the ultimate object of that aquaintance was nothing less than God” (The Gnostic Scriptures, p 9).”2

  • The influential modern German Philosopher Martin Heidegger added his own thoughts to this:

    To know a person is sometimes eidenai, sometimes gignoskein, which, with the noun gnosis, often has the flavour of knowledge by acquaintance. Epistasthai, ‘to know, etc.’, is, for Heidegger, ‘to be on top of [vorstehen, lit. ‘stand before’] something, know one’s way around it’ – he associates it (controversially) with histanai, histathai, ‘to place, set (up)’, ‘to stand’. The derived noun episteme, ‘knowledge’, means approaching something, knowing one’s way around it, mastering it, penetrating its substantial content (XXIX, 49). Aristotle gave it the meaning of ‘science’, but in a sense distinct from modern scientific ‘research [Forschung]’ and ‘experiment’ (AWP. 74/121. Cf. XIX. 31ff., 91ff.)3

    Science can be one of the common terms used for epistêmê, but it conjures up the wrong images in the English reader’s mind. The translator should emphasize skill or expertise within this context.

  • The above solutions do not easily work with Origen’s Commentary on Corinthians. A more religious framework is needed. This can be found at Wikipedia:

    Gnosis (from one of the Greek words for knowledge, gnôsis is the spiritual knowledge of a saint[1] or mystically enlightened human being. In the cultures of the term (Byzantine and Hellenic) gnosis was a special knowledge or insight into the infinite, divine and uncreated in all and above all,[2] rather than knowledge strictly into the finite, natural or material world which is called Epistemological knowledge. [3] Gnosis is a transcendential as well as mature understanding.[4] It indicates direct spiritual experiential knowledge[5] and intuitive knowledge, mystic rather than that from rational or reasoned thinking. Gnosis itself is obtained through understanding at which one can arrive via inner experience or contemplation such as an internal epiphany of intuition and external epiphany such as the Theophany.4

    At first reading, one may conclude that this Wikipedia text was a result of medieval Christian writings, so more inquiry has to be done. Stanford University’s webpage on philosophy is a good starting point. They outline the usage by the neo-Platonic position of Plotinus, whom Origen studied with, “In the first place, epistêmê refers to the particular cognitive state of the first hypostasis from the One, Nous, in which there is an identity between knowledge and what is known (VI. 6. 15). Our souls gain true knowledge by the presence of Nous, although Nous knows non-discursively while our souls characteristically know in a discursive way (V. 9. 7; IV. 3.18). It does all these things with certain knowledge (epistêmê) and not by opinion (I. 3. 4).”5 Here Plotinus defines epistêmê as a “certain knowledge.”The translator has to be careful about the Christian definition of gnosis, as the early Church fathers such as Clement used the term but made it distinct from the actual term used by the gnostic movement itself. “To be sure, he constantly opposes the concept of gnosis as defined by the Gnostics.”6

  • Another Wikipedia articles describes the problem also can be found in a number of contemporary languages: “In 1865, philosopher John Grote distinguished between what he described as “knowledge of acquaintance” and “knowledge-about”. Grote noted that these distinctions were made in many languages. He cited Greek (gnônai and eidenai), Latin (noscere and scire), German (kennen and wissen), and French (connaître and savoir) as examples.”7

  • Arthur Versluis, in his book, Magic and Mysticism: an Introduction to Western Esotericism, is one of the best sources for defining the early Church understanding of these words. He documents their use by Origen and other Christian leaders in this same time-frame:

    If heretical Gnosticism in its various forms died out relatively early, the concept of gnosis did not disappear from the Christian world. While heresiarchs like Valentinus and Basilides were remembered in the context of diatribes against them, still the concept of an orthodox Christian gnosis did continue into the medieval period through the work of those we might call “orthodox gnostics:” chiefly Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and most of all, Dionysius the Areopagite. These figures, and particularly the latter two, were imensely influential in later Christianity, and they insisted on the possibility, indeed, the necessity for direct experiential spiritual knowledge. Of these three seminal Christian writers, Origen discusses gnosis the least and largely by implication. For instance, in his Commentary on John, Origen distinguishes between “The Somatic [Bodily] and the Spiritual Gospel” and insists on the importance of both. He affirms the bodily coming of Christ but also affirms the immense importance of John’s “eternal Gospel,” properly called the “spiritual Gospel,” which concerns the “mysteries” and “enigma” of Christ’s life and words. We must, Origen concludes, be Christians “both somatically and spiritually” and partake in the Word (Christ) (I.9). And in his De Principiis. Origen alludes to the celestial “ordering and arrangement of the world,” to the “holy and blessed orders” through which humanity can ascend back to the condition of happiness from which many have fallen (VI.2). Here Origen is referring to the hierarchic orders of thrones, principalities, and dominions, of angelic hierarchies that, by implication, are realms through which humans can ascend to return to their divine condition. But whereas Origen is somewhat oblique about gnosis-it exists as a concept implicit in his work-Clement of Alexandria is much more implicit. In his Stromata, or Miscellanies, Clement writes at length about how “the gnostic alone is truly pious” (VII.1) and affirms that gnostic souls “surpass in the grandeur of contemplation” even the “holy ranks,” for the gnostic who is perfect in virtue and contemplation attains to the “nearest likeness possible to God and his son.” Clement is not at all endorsing heretical Gnosticism but rather is insisting on how gnosis is “a perfecting of man as man, [which is] consummated by acquaintance with divine things,” for by gnosis is faith perfected” (VII.10) In brief, the “gnostic soul, adorned with perfect virtue, is the earthly image of the divine power” (VII.11). The “life of the gnostic,” in Clement’s own view, is “nothing but deeds and words corresponding to the tradition of the Lord” (VII.16).8

Perhaps too much is being emphasized out of these words. Origen quotes I Corinthians 12:8-10 in the Header 48 “ἄλλῳ δὲ λόγος γνώσεως” and it simply means gnôsis as knowledge with no hidden, secret or divine meaning. The Septuagint also reflects this with epistêmê meaning only knowledge, ἐν πολλῷ χρόνῳ σοφία, ἐν δὲ πολλῷ βίῳ ἐπιστήμη.” “In length of time is wisdom, and in long life knowledge.”9

The modern Pentecostal movement may provide a clue. They make this distinction. There is an intellectual knowing, which is the result of using ones deductive reasoning and then there is knowing — a type of knowledge that changes ones perceptions and decision making processes, resulting in transformation, personal growth and changed behaviour. It is the prime impulse that motivates the Christian life and witness. It is not necessarily possessed by those with intellectual ability. They also believe that the intellect on occasion can impede the real knowing.

One also has to factor in two more important things: Origen was firstly a Christian religious zealot, and he not only was influenced by Greek philosophy, but by Jewish writings as well. He cannot be interpreted solely from classical Greek influences but all three. There isn’t strong enough evidence to demonstrate that Origen departed substantially from the Biblical use, but it is fair to assume a slight shift had occurred based on his play of gnôsis against eidenai, but not to the degree many of the above authors have suggested. With these above in mind Origen means gnôsis to be simply knowledge, the type that changes ones world-view and thought processes, ultimately being expressed in action. This is why Clement could write, “the gnostic alone is truly pious”.10 So it is best to be left as ‘knowledge’. Eidenai is simply a factual knowing. ‘Grasping’ or ‘comprehending’ may be the most suitable English words as it refers the attempt to understand something from an intellectual perspective. Epistêmê is the skill, art or expertise in acquiring facts.

One must understand as well that Origen wasn’t trying to use mysterious philosophical words in his time to illustrate some esoteric christian life. He was attempting to be very practical. His concern in his coverage of I Corinthians was not in the literalness of the text but a personal application; how a person can be transformed and make positive decisions for daily living.■

Aquinas on Tongues: ICor 14:5-12

A translation of Thomas Aquinas on I Corinthians 14:5 — 12 from the Latin into contemporary English.

Translated from the Latin text: Reportationes 088 R1C cp 14 Pg. 388 lc2

I Corinthians 14:5 – 12


1c2. Here the Apostle excludes the objection or false understanding that one can have concerning the things mentioned before. For some were embraced to believe by that reason the Apostle preferred prophecy to the gift of tongues because it was that the gift of tongues ought to be frowned upon. From which place in order that he prevents this, he says, “and I would you,” whereby he first demonstrates that he intends to arrive at something, secondly he assigns a reason here. As it says in that place, “For greater, etc.,” he then says, clearly this, that what was written above, I meant that I do not want you to reject the gift of tongues but “I wish everyone to speak in tongues,” nevertheless that, “I wish more that you would prophecy.” “that He is to bestow to all so that all people… etc., [might prophecy]” (Numbers 11:29), to which he assigns when he says, “for greater, etc.,” as if he should say, therefore I wish that you would prophecy more, because “greater is, etc.,” and the reason is of this manner, because sometimes some are being moved by the holy Spirit to speak something mysterious, that they themselves do not understand. From whence in that place, they have the gift of tongues.

On the other hand, sometimes they not only are speaking in tongues but also those who are speaking, they interpret. Therefore, he also says, “unless perhaps they should interpret.” For the gift of tongues with an interpretation is better than prophecy because as it has been written, the interpretation of whatsoever difficulty relates to prophecy. Therefore, the one who speaks and interprets is a prophet and the one who has the gift of tongues and interprets [does so] in order for the Church to be built up. Consequently he says, “in order for the Church, etc.,” that is he should not only understand himself, but also that he should build up the Church. “Let us mutually guard what are the things of edification” (Romans 14:19), and “Let each one of us please his neighbour in goodness for edification” (Romans 15:2).

“Now then brothers, etc.” He demonstrates here the gift of prophecy to be more excellent than the gift of tongues, by example and this in three ways: first by an example having been supplied by himself, secondly by the example having been supplied by a lifeless thing, in which place it says, “Yet there are things without life, etc.”. Third by the example having been supplied by men who are speaking in diverse ways, as it says, “So many, etc.”[so many kinds of tongues in this world].1 He thus additionally supports by a personal perspective: he then maintains that I do not have the gift of tongues less than you, but that if I was to speak only in tongues to you and was not interpreting then I would be worthless to you and subsequently neither you to exchange to anyone else. And this is what he says, “Now then brothers, if I will come to you speaking in tongues.” This can be understood in two ways. Namely, whether in unknown tongues or to be literal, by whatever sign which has not been understood.

“What shall I profit you, unless I speak to you either in revelation, [or in knowledge or in prophecy or in doctrine?] etc.,”.2 Whereby it is bound to be noted with respect to those four things, specifically “whether in revelation, etc.,” they have the ability to distinguish two modes. One way belonging to those things by which anything exists, and so ought to have been understood, that the vivid image of the mind for the purpose of acquiring knowledge also [originates] from the four things because whether it is from divine things and this vivid image pertains to the gift of wisdom. For concerning the divine things, as it has been written above, is revelation because “they are things of God that no one knows, etc.,” and for that reason he says, “in revelation” I Corinthians 2:11 which clearly that the mind is to be illumined for the purpose of acquiring knowledge, or its [origin] is from earthly things and not [originating] just from whatever but [originating] only tantum from them, which they are for the building-up of the faith, and this pertains to the gift of knowledge, and therefore he says, “in knowledge,” not geometry, nor astrology, because these do not pertain to the building-up of the faith, but in the knowledge which is relating to holy things. “He gave him the knowledge of the holy things, etc.,” (Wisdom 10:10), or it is from future events, and this pertains to the gift of prophecy, for that reason he also says, “or in prophecy,” “she knows signs and wonders before they are to be done also evens of time and ages” (Wisdom 8:8).

For it ought to be noted that prophecy is not to be ordinarily taken here. In fact following what was written above, but in fact it is specially received here as the manifestation of future events only. And it is being defined according to this by Cassiodorus, “prophecy is announcing with unchangeable truth the inspiration of matters in the future.” “I will yet pour out teaching as prophecy, etc.,” (Ecclesiasticus 24:46), or it is from moral acts and this pertains to teaching. And therefore he says “or in doctrine.” “He who teaches in doctrine,” (Romans 12:7). “Good instruction shall give grace,”3 (Proverbs 13:15). These can be distinguished in a different way with the diverse modes in regards to acquiring understanding and so one ought to know that all knowledge is either from a supernatural source, namely God, or from a natural one, namely from the natural light of our intellect. If then from a supernatural source, namely from the divine light having been poured in, this can be in two ways. Because either the knowledge is suddenly being poured-in and so it is by revelation or being successively poured-in, and so it is by prophecy. For the prophets did not suddenly possess [it], but successively and by parts, which their prophecies have demonstrated. For if knowledge is truly to be acquired by a natural source that is either through personal study, and so it pertains to knowledge, or being related by another person, and so it pertains to teaching. “Even things without life, etc.,”

He shows the same thing by examples which have been selected from inanimate things, namely by instruments which seem to have a voice and first by instruments of joy, secondly by instruments of battle. Whereby it says, “For if uncertain etc.,” He then says, this is not only to be well known by those which were written above, but again in reference to hose which give voice without life, because to speak in tongues does not profit others by no means alone and “Even things without life that give sound.”.

Against this. The voice is a sound which has been brought forth and formed by natural means from the mouth of a living thing. It is not therefore these that are without life that give a voice. It is to be said that although the voice by no means exists except of animals, yet it can be said by a certain likeness, in fact accompanying that certain thing, such as [musical] instruments, they have a certain harmony and melody, and therefore he makes mention of these things, specifically concerning the cithara, which gives voice by a sense of touch, and the flute which is by blowing as The actual copy reads si ergo haec dant vocem sine distinctione. “Si” here does not seem to fit. I think it is a copyist error and should read “sic”. these then give a voice lacking distinction. “How shall it be known, etc.,” While man intends to express something by an instrument, say, some songs which are being composed whether about sorrow or joy,“You will have a song as in the voice The Vulgate reads “canticum erit vobis sicut nox” The Aquinas text has “vox” instead of “nox” of the sanctified solemnity and joy of heart as one goes with the flute and is to enter the mountain of the Lord” (Isaiah 30:29). Or even to playfulness, if the sound is confusing and indistinct, it will not be able to be determined to what is being played by any sort of flute or cithara.

Therefore if a man is speaking in tongues and it is not being interpreted, any sort he would wish to say, he will not be able to be understood. “If indeed it gives an uncertain sound, etc.” He shows in this place the same thing by the example of an inanimate object, clearly by instruments having been arranged for battle. This similarity is being taken from the Book of Numbers 10:1-10 where it in fact is being read that the Lord instructs Moses that he was to make two silver trumpets which they were for the purpose of bringing the people together, moving the camp, and for battle. Also anyone of these mentioned possessed a certain way concerning how the trumpet sounds because they were differently giving a sound when they were obligated to come together for a public meeting, differently when they were moving the camp, and differently when they were warring. For that reason the Apostle argues that just as “if the trumpet is to give an uncertain sound,” that is indistinct, it is not known whether they ought to prepare themselves for battle. And so you, if you speak in tongues so much, unless you are to speak a distinct voice by which ought to be understood 4 cannot be understood by the trumpet. (Isaiah 58:1) “lift up your voice like a trumpet, etc.,” For the reason why he is not able to know what you are speaking is because, “you will be one of those who are speaking in the air,” I Corinthians 14:9 which is useless. “I fight not as it were one who is beating the air, etc.,” (I Corinthians 9:26).

“There are many, etc..” I Corinthians 14:10 He takes up the example in this place the concerning those speaking diverse languages. He [Paul] does three things about this. First he shows the diversity of language, secondly the uselessness those speaking from themselves to another in foreign languages, “in linguis extraneis” which it says, “if then I know, etc..” I Corinthians 14:11 Thirdly he finishes-up what he intended when it says, “So you also, forasmuch as you are zealous, etc.,”5 I Corinthians 14:12. With the first he says there are many and diverse languages in the world and anyone can speak whatever he wishes. Nevertheless, if he is not to speak a designated one,6 it is not going to be understood. And this is what he says, “There are many, etc..” This can be explained in two ways: because it can be connected with that which precedes, for it is being said, “you will be one of those who are speaking in the air, and there are many, for example, etc..” as if he should say, therefore in the air, that is, you are uselessly speaking in all the languages, because you are speaking without understanding which still by this they have [their] very own meanings of voice, that they are capable to be understood, for nothing is without a voice. Or it thus can be punctuated,7 “you will be one of those who are speaking in the air, and there are many, for example, kinds of languages,” that is, with individual languages.

“If then I do not know, etc.,” He shows in this place the uselessness of this. And this is what he says, “If I am to speak in all the languages,” but, “If I do not know the power of the voice,” that is, the meaning of the voice. “I will be to whom I am speaking to a barbarian.” “I am about to bring upon you a nation from far-away, a nation to whom you are ignorant of the language”8 (Jeremiah 5:15). Note that barbarians according to some, these are being named of whose idiom is altogether different from Latin. However, others say that any foreigner is a barbarian to every other foreigner when in fact he is not being understood by him. But this is not true, because, according to Isodore,9 barbarian is a particular nation. “In Christ Jesus there is not a barbarian, Scythian, etc.,” The Vulgate has, “barbarus et Scytha servus et liber sed omnia et in omnibus Christus.” Aquinas only has ” in christo iesu non est barbarus et scytha, etc..” He is assuming the reader knows the full verse when doing this. (Colossians 3:11). But following that it is to be correctly said, barbarians are to be appropriately named to those who thrive by the power of the body, are deficient in the power of reason and as if they are outside the laws and without the rule of justice. And Aristotle seems to agree with this in his Politics.

As a result when he [Paul] says, “So [you also], etc.,” I Corinthians 14:12: The Vulgate begins with “sic et vos” and Aquinas’ text begins with “sicut” He finishes what he intended and this can be arranged in two ways. First that it may be punctuated this way, as if he is saying, thus I will be a barbarian to you if I am to speak without meaning and interpretation, just as you will be barbarians to one another. And for that reason, “Seek that you may abound, etc,.” and this “Forasmuch you are eager, etc.,” or, another way, the entire thing is to be placed under distinction, as if he was to say, therefore you are not to be barbarians, in fact like I do in another way, “Forasmuch you are eager of spirits,” that is, of the gifts of the holy Spirit, “seek” from God,10 “that you may abound.” “The greatest strength is in abundant justice” (Proverbs 15:5), which indeed is to build up others in justice. “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7).■


For more information:

A Translation of I Corinthians 13 from the Ambrosiaster Text

A translation of the Ambrosiaster text on I Corinthians 13.

Translated from the Latin text found in MPL. Vol. 17. Ad. Opera S. Ambrosii Appendix. Comment. In Epist. Ad I Cor. Col. 257ff

For introductory notes on this translation along with commentary go to: Notes on Translating Ambrosiaster’s Corinthians 12-14.

Comment. In. Epist. I ad Corinthios 13

(Vers. 1) “If I should speak in the language of men and angels [Col. 265] but I do not have charity, I am one just like a sounding brass1 or a ringing cymbal.” Certainly a great grace appears to speak in diverse languages. But it is something even more if it is possible to know any language of angels, it is having been stirred of angels, if he can spiritually have become acquainted with. Truly this is not to be reckoned according to merit, but according to the glory of God, he shows by those who been made obedient, to be saying as follows as a sounding brass or ringing cymbal.

Because as the brass resounds by another strike and the cymbal rings, therefore it is also this he who is speaking in languages, has the effect and movement of the holy Spirit, as also the Saviour says in a different place, “for it is not you [plural] that are speaking but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matt. 10:20). For a she-ass also had spoken in a human language to Balaam son of Beor (Num. 22:28) when he was adjudging the majesty of God and young children broke out in praise of God to the confusion of the Jews (Matt. 21:16). For the Saviour not only that but also shows the stones can cry out to the condemnation of the faithless ones and to the glory of God (Luke 19:40). And between the origins itself to the committal of faith, those who were being baptized, were speaking in languages (Acts 10:46).

Because as the brass resounds by another strike and the cymbal rings, therefore it is also this he who is speaking in languages, has the effect and movement of the holy Spirit, as also the Saviour says in a different place, “for it is not you [plural] that are speaking but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matt. 10:20). For a she-ass also had spoken in a human language to Balaam son of Beor (Num. 22:28) when he was adjudging the majesty of God and young children broke out in praise of God to the confusion of the Jews (Matt. 21:16).2 For the Saviour [does] not only that but also shows the stones can cry out to the condemnation of the faithless ones and to the glory of God (Luke 19:40). And between the origins itself to the committal of faith, those who were being baptized, were speaking in languages (Acts 10:46).

(Vers. 2) “And if I shall have prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge but I do not have charity, it is profiting nothing with me.” Truly it profits nothing, for it is being prophesied to the glory of God, even as David says [about] prophecy “Not to us, Lord, not to us, but give glory in your name” (Psalm 113:1).3 For instance Balaam also prophesied (Num. 24:17), although he was not a prophet but a soothsayer.4 And Caiphas prophesied (John 11:51), not by merit but through the position of the priest’s rank. And Saul prophesied (I Samuel 19:23), while already for the reason of disobedience he was filled-up by an evil spirit but by God’s reason, he was not able to seize David which he was desiring to kill.

“And if I will have known all the mysteries.” In fact Judas profited nothing having been with the apostles and became acquainted with mysteries when the enemy of charity handed over the Saviour. And Ezekiel the prophet demonstrates the devil to know the celestial mysteries, because by the voice which had been scorned in paradise to be that of God, and bears witness to have had the most costly stones (Ezekiel 28:13), which stones the same5 Apostle signified the mysteries of the divine doctrine (I Cor. 3:12-15). And it profits to me nothing because forgetful of charity, he jumped into pride.6

“And if I would have all knowledge.” Knowledge benefits nothing to me if it is not charitable. In fact it benefitted nothing to the Scribes and Pharisees with the Saviour saying, “You have the key of knowledge, and neither do you enter nor do you permit others to enter.”7 (Luke 11:52) For charity through ill-will8 these ones who are corrupt have spun his knowledge to nothing. For both Tertullian and Novatian were not in small knowledge but because they ruined the alliances by means of a rivalry of charity, with regards to the schism9, the heresies gave birth to its own destruction.

“And if I would have all faith, so as that I could transport mountains.” Powers to be acquired, or rather the power and glory of God is to cast out demons through faith, neither does this accomplish by [means of] merit, neither to anyone who would have been a diligent imitator of a good moral life, as I mentioned above.

(Vers. 3) “And if I would have expended my every resource.” It was explained that if every resource be expended, it profits nothing with charity having been ignored, because charity is the head of the religion, and [the one] who does not have a head, does not have life. “And if I would surrender my body that I am ablaze, it profits me nothing.” Nothing profits without charity because charity is the religious foundation. Whatever then happens without charity, it is doomed.

(Vers. 4-8) “Charity is generous, it is kind.10 It is not being envious, nor is it being haughty, nor wrongly compels, it is not ambitious, it does not search for those things which they are for itself, it is not being provoked, nor thinks evil, it does not rejoice in unfairness, but revels in the truth. It endures, believes, hopes and puts up with all things. Charity at no time ceases.” He taught so great the praise of charity that he was not to appear to place this with the unmerited and to labour the same in vain, which they ascribe the work to different ones, in these ones, they are not compliant. The Apostle John affirms from this, “God is charity” (I John 4:8), that the one who does not have charity, should understand that he does not himself have God. From also the Apostle Paul likewise says, “But God who is rich in mercy who had compassion on us according to His exceeding charity” (Eph. 2:4).11 Whoever then does not have charity, is ungrateful of the mercy of God because he does not value concerning anyone who has been saved. In the same way that they were to distinguish because they were supposed to put victuals in front of the brothers of charity. For this is also what produces in the present, remains in eternity with God.

(Vers. 9-10) “Whether prophecies would become purged or tongues would cease, or knowledge would be purged.12 For we know in part and we prophecy in part but when it will come what which is perfect, the former will be purged which are from the part.” He said all the gifts of the graces are to be purged because they are not able to understand so much, the truth possesses so much. Neither are we able either to grasp or explain the fullness of truth. In fact who can do it that can grasp all the human languages, is that of God? For that reason our imperfection will be destroyed, Not that he would purge what is truth but as long as it is in imperfection it is about to be destroyed. That it is the destruction of imperfection when that, that is imperfection is to be completed in truth.

[Col. 267] (Vers. 11) “While being a child, I was speaking as a child, I was with the sense of a child, I was speaking as a child but when I had become a man, I destroyed13 those things which were of a child.” He says this because the holy things of this world which are perishing, it is more than necessary they should come which they reckon now, as John the Apostle said concerning the Saviour: “Then at that time we will see that one, even as He is,” (I John 3:2). In this life we are now small in comparison to the future life because as this life is imperfect so is also knowledge.

(Vers. 12) “We see now through a glass in an obscure manner then truly face to face.” It has now been revealed to see the images by faith, then the events themselves. “I presently know in part, then at that time I shall truly understand even as I am known.”14 That is, I will see what has been promised even as I am being seen. This is to be present near the Lord where Christ is.

(Vers. 13) “For there now remains faith, hope, charity, these three but the greatest of these is charity.” Charity is the greatest worthy acts because although faith is be made known, and hope is for the future life, charity is preferable even as I mentioned above. From which as John the Apostle, “We know from this, it says, his charity because he himself laid down his own life for us,” (I John 3:16). Therefore justifiably greater is charity by which the human race has been restored.■

Next: I Corinthians 14 from the Ambrosiaster Text

Previous: I Corinthians 12 from the Ambrosiaster Text

The original Latin copy used for this translation can be found here: The Ambrosiaster Latin text on I Corinthians 12-14