1 Corinthians xiii.

Notes & Commentary:

The apostle here shews the necessity of the great virtue of charity, that is, of the love of God, and of our neighbour. (Witham)

Ver. 1. A tinkling cymbal. Which may give notice, and be beneficial to others, but not to itself. (Witham) — Without charity, both towards every individual, and especially towards the common body of the Church, none of the aforesaid gifts will be available. (Bristow)

Ver. 2-3. These prove that faith without good works, and especially charity for God and our neighbour, cannot avail to eternal life; faith and charity are both essentially necessary. Hence St. Augustine declares, that where there is not true faith, there cannot be justice; because the just man liveth by faith: and where charity is not, there can be no justice, which if they had, they would never tear in pieces the body of Christ, which is the Church. (De fid. ad Pet. chap. xxxix.)

Ver. 4. Charity….dealeth not perversely.[1] The Greek word here seems taken from the Latin. St. Chrysostom expounds it, is not rash, but acteth prudently and considerately. Others, it is not light or inconstant. Others, it braggeth, or vaunteth not, as in the Protestant translation. (Witham)

Ver. 5. Is not ambitious;[2] which is also the sense of some Greek copies, but in others, and in St. Chrysostom, it signifies, it is not ashamed of any one. (Witham)

Ver. 8. Prophecies and tongues last no longer than this life. — Knowledge shall be destroyed, that is, that imperfect knowledge we have in this world. For now we know only in part, we only see, as it were, through a glass, and imperfectly. — Faith, which is of things that appear not, and hope, which is of things that we enjoy not, will cease in heaven, but charity, the greater, or greatest even of these three, will remain, and be increased in heaven. (Witham)

Ver. 10. St. Augustine proves from this text, that the saints in heaven have a more perfect knowledge of what passes here below, than when they sojourned on earth. (De Civit. Dei. lib. xxii. chap. 29.)

Ver. 11. When I was a child. I, like you, formerly judged of the goodness and excellency of these spiritual gifts by the advantages the procured; but after the Almighty had bestowed upon me his particular light, my opinion was far otherwise. Prophecy, and the gifts of languages are certainly very estimable gifts, yet charity is much more excellent. (Calmet) — It is by charity we approach near to God, that we become his true image. Can we, then, wonder at the magnificent praises, glorious prerogatives, and surprising effects St. Paul gives to this all necessary virtue?


[1] Ver. 4. Non agit perperam, ou perpereuetai. St. Chrysostom says, toutesti ou propeteuetai, non est prÄ™ceps, aut temeraria.

[2] Ver. 5. Non est ambitiosa. Some Greek copies, philotimei. In the ordinary Greek, and in St. Chrysostom, ouk achemonei. It is not ashamed to undergo any disgrace for God, or our neighbour’s sake.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Charity is to be preferred before all other gifts.

1 If I speak with the tongues of men, and of Angels, and have not charity, I am become a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2 And if I should have prophecy, and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge: and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3 And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

4 Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up,

5 Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil,

6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth:

7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8 Charity never faileth; whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed.

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect shall come, that which is in part shall 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 the things of a child.

12 We see now through a glass in an obscure manner: but then face to face. Now I know I part: but then I shall know even as I am known.

13 And now there remain, faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.