1 Corinthians 14:13

14:13 interpret. The word “interpret” in this verse is the Greek diermeneuo, meaning “explain” or “expound” or (if from another language) “translate.” It is also the word used in I Corinthians 12:30; 14:5; 14:27; 14:28. The only two other occurrences in the New Testament are in Acts 9:36 and Luke 24:27. However, the word translated “interpretation” in I Corinthians 12:10 and 14:26 is hermeneia, from which we get our English word “hermeneutics” (see also its only other occurrences in John 1:38,42; 9:7 and Hebrews 7:2). It seems to be used only of actual “translation” applications. In any case, Paul here stresses again that speaking in a foreign tongue is of no value if no one could understand what the speaker said.

The gift of interpretation enabled its possessor to translate what someone of another nation was saying, an ability which would have particular value when trying to communicate with “barbarians” (I Corinthians 14:11). If there was no such person present, however, then the responsibility fell to one who would presume to speak to the congregation in a foreign language also to translate it for them. This restriction would obviously put a serious curb on the wanton display of the gift of tongues to a group of people unable to comprehend its message.

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