The Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek that is translated as “wisdom” in English is rendered in Amganad Ifugao and Tabasco Chontal as “(big) mind,” in Bulu and Yamba as “heart-thinking,” in Tae’ as “cleverness of heart” (source for this and all above: Reiling / Swellengrebel), in Palauan as “bright spirit (innermost)” (source: Bratcher / Hatton), in Ixcatlán Mazatec as “with your best/biggest thinking” (source: Robert Bascom), and in Dobel, it is translated with the idiom “their ear holes are long-lasting” (in Acts 6:3) (source: Jock Hughes).

See also wisdom (Proverbs).

complete verse (1 Corinthians 12:8)

Following are a number of back-translations of 1 Corinthians 12:8:

  • Uma: “To one person the Holy Spirit gives cleverness to speak. To one person the same Holy Spirit gives knowledge to make-clear/explain God’s Word.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “There are people who are given by God’s Spirit the expertise of proclaiming the good news from God. There are also those given expertise in explaining the deep teachings of God.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “To some, by means of the Holy Spirit, are given the skill to interpret the true doctrine; and to someone else is given by means of the power of the Holy Spirit, the skill to explain the deep things which God wants taught.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “God’s Spirit gives to one the ability to make-known God’s wisdom, and to another (lit. one also), the ability to understand and teach concerning God.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Well some, they are being graced by the Espiritu Santo that they can explain with far-from-ordinary wisdom/understanding the determined-plans of God. In the case of others, (they) are being graced to say something which the Espiritu Santo made known to them.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Concerning some of the believers, the Holy Spirit causes that they know well in their hearts how to apply the word they speak. Others, he causes them to know how to tell the words which are hard so that people understand that word.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

Translation commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:8

The Greek sentence runs on without a break from verse 8 to the end of verse 11. Good News Bible and most modern translations divide this at various points. Translators should read these verses and decide where they would naturally make a division in their languages. Both the language and thought of this verse are more closely linked with verse 7 than are the following verses. Verses 9-11, on the other hand, may be an extension of Paul’s original point, or even an afterthought.

The grammar of verse 8 marks a contrast: “to one…,” “to another…,” yet the words that follow are similar in meaning. Bruce writes “Paul presumably intends some distinction between sophia (wisdom) and gnōsis (knowledge), but the distinction is not clear to us.” Paul has used language similar to 8a in 2.7: “we impart … a hidden wisdom.” Verse 8b mirrors 1.5: “enriched in … all knowledge.” The word for wisdom is often used in a negative sense, but clearly this is not so here. Nor can we make a clear distinction between wisdom as something practical, and knowledge as something more abstract or impractical. Both wisdom and knowledge seem to have been words commonly used, and perhaps sometimes misused, in discussion in Corinth.

In this verse Paul is less concerned to make precise distinctions between the gifts than to show that all these gifts come from the same Spirit. His style in verses 8-11 emphasizes the piling up of items rather than the differences between them. He does, though, distinguish the people to whom the gifts are given from the gifts themselves, with the puzzling exceptions of wisdom and knowledge.

“The same Spirit” is the expression used in verse 4; it will be repeated in a more emphatic phrase “by one and the same Spirit” in verse 11. Good News Bible brings out the meaning of the Greek by translating “a word of wisdom/knowledge” by “a message full of wisdom/knowledge.” In some languages it may be preferable to use an adjective such as in the English phrase “a wise message.”

An alternative translation model for this verse is:
• God’s Spirit gives one person the ability to speak a message that is full of wisdom, and the same Spirit gives to another person the ability to speak a message that is full of knowledge.

Quoted with permission from Ellingworth, Paul and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, 2nd edition. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1985/1994. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .