The Context and Genre of I Corinthians 13

A little bit of the work my group has been putting together. This section on the context of chapter 13 in the letter as a whole brings to light much of the value of this chapter.

Context of 12-14: Chapter 13 fits into the middle section of a three part argument, wherein Paul argues for the right use of tongues in public worship: for the edification of the body. The argument structure is an A-B-A pattern following the basic chapter divisions (571):
A – chapter 12
B – 12:31- chapter 13
A – chapter 14

This is important for understanding chapter 13 as a “theological interlude”(571). He does not step aside from his argument on gifts and their function in the body in order to warm the Corinthians’ hearts with some thoughts on ‘love’as if it were some notion or idea to which they ought to assent. Rather, love is to be the central motivation for using gifts and therefore determines how they are used as well. “Love … is not set forth in contrast to tongues” (572). Rather “[t]he reason for the gifts is the edification of the church, which is precisely what love aims at, but uninterpreted tongues does not” (572).

References from Fee’s NICNT commentary on I Corinthians


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