1 Corinthians 13:2

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I have the gift of prophecy,.... Either of foretelling future events, as Balaam, who foretold many things concerning the Messiah and the people of Israel, and yet had no true love for either; and Caiaphas, who was high priest the year Christ suffered, and prophesied of his death, and was himself concerned in it, being a bitter enemy to him; or of explaining the prophecies of the Old Testament, by virtue of an extraordinary gift which some persons had; or of the ordinary preaching of the word, which is sometimes expressed by prophesying, which gift some have had, and yet not the grace of God; see Philippians 1:15

and understand all mysteries; either the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, the mysterious doctrines of the Gospel; such as the trinity of persons in the Godhead, the incarnation of Christ, the unity of the two natures, human and divine, in him, eternal predestination, the doctrines of regeneration, justification, satisfaction, and the resurrection of the dead; all which a man may have a speculative understanding of, and be without love to God or Christ, or to his people: or else the mystical sense of the types, figures, and shadows of the old law; as the meaning of the passover, brazen serpent, and the rock in the wilderness, the tabernacle, temple, sacrifices, and all things appertaining thereunto. The Jews give us an instance {c} of one who was no lover of Christ, and lived in the times of the apostle; R. Jochanan ben Zaccai, of whom they boast, and who they say was the least of the disciples of Hillell, and yet

"perfectly understood the Scripture, the Misna, the Gemara, the traditions, the allegorical interpretations, the niceties of the law, and the subtleties of the Scribes, the lighter and weightier matters of the law (or the arguments from the greater to the lesser, and "vice versa"), the arguments taken from a parity of reason, the revolution of the sun and moon, rules of interpretation by gematry, parables, &c.''

The apostle proceeds,

and all knowledge; of things natural, as Solomon had; of the heavens, and the stars thereof, of the earth and sea, and all things therein, and appertaining thereunto; of all languages, arts, and sciences; of things divine, as a speculative knowledge of God, and the perfections of his nature, of Christ, his person and offices, of the Gospel, and the doctrines of it:

And though I have all faith; not true, special, saving faith, or that faith in Christ, which has salvation connected with it; for a man cannot have that, and be nothing; such an one shall be certainly saved; and besides, this cannot be without love, and therefore not to be supposed: but all historical faith, an assent to everything that is true, to all that is contained in the Scriptures, whether natural, civil, moral, or evangelical; to all that is contained in the law, or in the Gospel; that faith which believes everything: so the Jews {d} say, what is faith? that in which is found atwnmyhm lk, "all faith"; or rather the faith of miracles is meant, both of believing and doing all sorts of miracles, one of which is mentioned;

so that I could remove mountains; meaning either literally, a power of removing mountains from one place to another, referring to

Matthew 17:20 so Gregory of Neocaesarea, called "Thaumaturgus", the wonder worker, from the miracles done by him, is said {e} to remove a mountain, to make more room for building a church; but whether fact, is a question; or this may be understood figuratively, see Revelation 8:8 for doing things very difficult and wonderful, and almost incredible. The Jews used to call their learned and profound doctors, such as could solve difficulties, and do wondrous things, by the name of mountains, or removers of mountains; thus {f}

"they called Rab Joseph, "Sinai", because he was very expert in the Talmudic doctrines, and Rabbah bar Nachmani,

Myrh rqwe, "a rooter up of mountains"; because he was exceeding acute in subtle disputations.''

Says Rabba {g} to his disciples,

"lo, I am ready to return an answer smartly to everyone that shall ask me, as Ben Azzai, who expounded in the streets of Tiberias; and there was not in his days such a

Myrh rqwe, "rooter up of mountains", as he.''

Again {h},

"Ula saw Resh Lekish in the school, as if Myrh rqwe, "he was rooting up the mountains", and grinding them together; says Rabenu, does not everybody see R. Meir in the school, as if he was "rooting up the mountains of mountains", and grinding them together?''

They {i} elsewhere dispute which is the most honourable to be called, "Sinai" or a remover of mountains;

"one says "Sinai" is the more excellent name; another says "the rooter up of mountains" is the more excellent; Rab Joseph is Sinai, and Rabbah the remover of mountains;''

the gloss says the former is so called,

"because the Misnic laws and their explications were ordered by him, as if they had been given on Mount Sinai,''

though he was not so acute as Rabbah; and the latter was called the rooter up of mountains, because

"he was sharp and subtle in the law;''

once more on those words relating to Issachar, Genesis 49:15 "and bowed his shoulder to bear", it is observed {k}; that

"this intimates that he was wise in wisdom, Myrh qrpm, "a breaker of the mountains", a shatterer in pieces of the rocks of dissensions and division various ways; as it is said, Jeremiah 23:29 "is not my word like as a fire, saith the Lord, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" So a wise man, by the sharpness of his wit, breaks the mountains of difficulties, and divides them by the words of his mouth: hence they used to call the wise men by the names of Sinai, and a rooter of mountains; because they beat and brake the rocks in pieces, the traditions that are difficult and deep.''

The phrase is also used of removing difficulties in a civil and political sense, as well as in a theological one {l}: but let a man be able to do ever such great things, yet if he has not "charity", love to God, to Christ and to his people, he is nothing at all; as the apostle says of himself, supposing it was his own case,

I am nothing; not nothing as a man, nor nothing as a gifted man, still he would be a man, and a man of gifts; nor does the apostle say, that his gifts were nothing, that the gift of prophecy was nothing, or the gift of understanding mysteries nothing, or the gift of knowledge nothing, or the gift of doing miracles nothing, for these are all something, and very great things too, and yet a man in whom the grace of love is wanting, is nothing himself with all these; he is nothing in the account of God, of no esteem with him; he is nothing as a believer in Christ, nor nothing as a Christian. This is also a Jewish way of speaking; for they say {m},

"as a bride that is to be adorned with four and twenty ornaments, if she wants anyone of them, Mwlk hnya, "she is nothing"; so a disciple of a wise man ought to be used to the twenty four books (of the Scripture), and if he is wanting in one of them, Mwlk wnya, "he is nothing".''

{c} T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 134. 1. & Succa, fol. 28. 1.
{d} Zohar in Numb. fol. 60. 1.
{e} Gregor. Pap. Dialog. l. 1. c. 7.
{f} T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 64. 1. Shalsheleth Hakabala, fol. 25. 2. Juchasin, fol. 95. 2. & 160. 2. Ganz Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 32. 2. Halichot Olam, p. 23, 207.
{g} Gloss. in T. Bab. Erubin, fol. 29. 1. Juchasin, fol. 44. 2.
{h} T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 24. 1.
{i} T. Bab. Horayot, fol. 14. 1. Juchasin, fol. 112. 1.
{k} Tzeror Hammor, fol. 39. 3. & 126. 4.
{l} Vid. T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 3. 2.
{m} Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 18. 2.