The Greatest of These Is Love

Words from I Corinthians 13:1-13
Music Creative Commons License 1996 by Jim Bearden

The words for this come from one of the best-known chapters in the Bible, on the subject of love. One problem I encountered in trying to set it to music was the extent to which different translations of the Bible use different words for the same verses: which words should I use? I resolved this by working from seven different modern translations of the Bible (some, such as the King James version, were so far from modern usage that they were not included). I marked the corresponding phrases in each version, and then tried to choose the one which best expressed the “consensus” for that thought for each line, and would also fit into the musical meter. Sometimes none of the versions would fit, as they were, so I tried to paraphrase the idea they expressed — if you know this chapter, and do not see some of the verses as you remember them, this is probably the reason. I hope that I have been true to the meaning of this chapter. One other interesting thing, which I only discovered many months after I wrote this, is that Joni Mitchell had had the same idea — her version, which is called “Love (Corinthians)”, is on her CD “Wild Things Run Free”. Of course, it sounds quite different from mine, and you can decide which one you like better.

Verse 1:
If I speak in the tongues of men and angels,
But have not love, I am nothing.
If I understand all mysteries, have faith to move mountains,
But have not love, I am nothing.
If I give away all I have, give my body to be burned,
But have not love, I am nothing.

So faith, hope, and love abide, these three —
But the greatest of these is love!

Verse 2:
Love is patient and kind, never jealous or boastful;
Never selfish, or quick to take offense.
Love keeps no score of wrongs that others might do;
Takes no joy in wrongdoing, finds its joy in the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things,
Hopes all things, endures all things.


Verse 3:
When I was a child, I thought as a child;
But when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
Now all we see is a cloudy picture in a mirror;
But then we shall see face to face.
Now I can know only in part;
Then I shall know in full, just as I am fully known.


The greatest of these … is love!

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