“Tongues…Will Cease” -- By: Robert L. Thomas

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 17:2 (Spring 1974)
Article: “Tongues…Will Cease”
Author: Robert L. Thomas

“Tongues…Will Cease”

Robert L. Thomas

Talbot Theological Seminary La Mirada, California 90639

The thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians is inserted into the midst of Paul’s spiritual gift discussion for the sake of showing the futility of gifts apart from love, the indispensibility of love, and its superior qualities. The Corinthian church needed this emphasis.

The final paragraph of chapter 13 (13:8–13) deals with the temporal superiority of love, that is, love’s permanence. The temporal emphasis of the paragraph is easily noted. In v. 8 the adverb oudepote contrasts with the future tenses of verbs indicating cessation. In vv. 9–10 the future arrival of to teleion necessitates a consequent doing away with the partial, which belongs to the present. In v. 11, in the illustration of growth, a replacement of childhood habits by those of the adult transpires as time elapses. In v. 12 there is the dual occurrence of arti and tote, representing contrasts between the present and future. Time is clearly the uppermost consideration in this closing part of the great love chapter.

The objective in this study pertains to the specific words of v. 8, “Tongues…will cease.” Paul strikingly chooses the verb pauo rather than katargeo when speaking of tongues’ cessation. Perhaps no great significance may be attached to this distinction in vocabulary unless rendering inoperative (katargeo) is more accurate for revelational type gifts (prophecy and knowledge) and cessation is a more apt description of what is evidential in nature (tongues). In addition, one might detect significance in the middle voice of pausontai as compared to the passive voice of katargethesontai and katargethesetai. This also might be explained as a distinction between gifts that are primarily revelational in character, depending more directly on an outside input, and a gift for the purpose of verification, not so specifically dependent on the outside source. Hence the latter could “cease on its own” or “cause itself to cease.”

The above matters could go one of several ways, however. The issue as to defining the cessation of tongues along with the rendering inoperative of prophecy and knowledge is best approached in conjunction with the to teleion of v. 10. What is the comi...

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