Original Research

Spiritually gifted and divided? A text-centred interpretation of 1 Corinthians 12:1–31a

Tsholofelo J. Kukuni
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 58, No 1 | a3043 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v58i1.3043 | © 2024 Tsholofelo J. Kukuni | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 November 2023 | Published: 31 May 2024

About the author(s)

Tsholofelo J. Kukuni, School of Ancient Language and Text Studies, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


This article interpreted the persuasion of the Corinthians who claimed to be spiritually gifted yet divided. This article showed how Paul persuaded them not to be divided in 1 Corinthians 12:1–31a from a text-centred rhetorical perspective, which is called a ‘text-generated persuasion-interpretation’ (TGPI). Text-generated persuasion-interpretation is not based on ancient Greco-Roman rhetoric; it differs from rhetorical analyses that impose rhetorical categories on the text by analysing it within the confines of those rhetorical categories or rhetorical analyses. These merely mention rhetorical stylistic devices and techniques that the author uses to persuade the audience. Instead, TGPI, as used in this study, reconstructed the rhetorical strategy from the text itself, including how Paul employed rhetorical arguments and rhetorical techniques to persuade the Corinthians. Paul persuaded the Corinthians to pursue unity in the church. He used the metaphor of a body in 1 Corinthians 12:1–31a to refer to the church and how each part of the body can serve the church with the diverse gifts they possess. To achieve this objective, Paul persuaded the Corinthians by means of four supportive rhetorical strategies, types of arguments, the employment of processes of argumentation, and various rhetorical techniques.

Contribution: Firstly, this article contributes to the rhetorical analysis of 1 Corinthians 12:1–31a, using a TGPI methodology that has not been implemented to interpret this text before. Secondly, this article contributes to the study and value of the rhetorical interpretation of biblical texts. Finally, this article demonstrates that the dominant rhetorical objective of a text, namely the persuasion of the audience by the author, can be constructed from the text without relying on ancient rhetoric; rather, it uses a text-centred methodology, new rhetorical arguments and rhetorical techniques that emerge from the text.


Persuasion; text-generated persuasion-interpretation; rhetorical objective; rhetorical techniques; divided; unity

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