1 Corinthians 13:2 (NIV)

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

Does the phrase in bold inform the reader that the gift of Prophecy includes the Prophet being able to fathom all mysteries? If so, can someone direct me to where in the bible there is an example of a Prophet understanding a mystery.

6 Answers 6


And does not infer causation in Greek nor English, unless there is other context to definitively create an implication. For example:

I am a skilled juggler and can walk on my hands.1

The above tells you nothing about the relationship between these two attributes. I may use them in the same sentence and imply a link between the two ideas, but that link is not necessarily causative. It might be, but this is not implied by the construction.

In your quoted verse from 1 Corinthians 13, the point is that the author is building together various attributes to create a hyperbolic extreme. The point is not that being a prophet causes the rest of these things to be true, but rather that the reader is being requested to imagine somebody who has the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and can fathom all knowledge and has a faith which can move mountains and yet does not have love.

The hyperbolic extreme of such a talented person is contrasted against the lack of love, to make the clear point that no matter how incredibly talented somebody may be, it's no use if this person does not also possess love.

1 - Incidentally, this is not a made-up example. I really can do both these things, and they have no causative relationship. And if I were to do both of these things at the same time, and yet did not have love, I would still be nothing.


Paul is making a hypothetical and not a parenthetical comment here; he is not, in fact, claiming that one who has the gift of prophesy can "fathom all mysteries". He is saying, rather, that even if one had all of the knowledge, understanding and faith that could be had, it is worthless without love. This is somewhat clearer, perhaps, in the KJV choice of "though" instead of "if" in translating εαν:

1 Corinthians 13:2 (KJV)

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.

Earlier in the same Epistle, Paul seems to make clear that he ascribes omniscience only to God:

1 Corinthians 2:11 (RSV)

So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God

The Psalms also affirm that man is not capable of omniscience:

Psalm 139:3-6

Thou searchest out my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it


Daniel comes to mind. Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and wants 'the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed'. (Daniel 2:1) 'The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer.' 2 Daniel 2:10

This sounds like a mystery.

Daniel 2:19

  1. During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven. (emphasis added)

Verses 27 through 45 show Daniel explaining the mysterious dream to the king.


It appears to me like this: I think the key word in this context is the word. "IF". If that small word was omitted, then that would mean that that person COULD fathom ALL mysteries, ect., and would essentially BE God. No human has this capacity. But, IF they could, but didn't have LOVE, all those extraordinary capabilities would be worthless. I hope I haven't sounded too redundant....

  • Hello and welcome, Kathy. No, your answer is not redundant, for it contains a couple of worthwhile points. Unfortunately, neither deal with the issue that is being questioned. Can you explain from the Greek words used whether the meaning is that the Prophet should be able to fathom all mysteries, or not? You might find that checking out our Code of Conduct will be helpful to you.
    – Anne
    Feb 22, 2019 at 19:27

Paul is saying if I have the best of the best gifts and "do not have love, I am nothing." Paul placed the highest value on the gift of prophecy. Paul did not say that it is possible for a person with the gift of prophecy to be all-knowing, that is God's attribute, not possible for a human. Paul said even the most extreme of the best gifts are no good without love.

23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Cor. 14:23–25)

So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. (1 Cor. 14:39, ESV)


"if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge" (ESV) is the conditional part of a conditional sentence and doesn't intend to convey reality.

καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω [subjunctive] προφητείαν καὶ εἰδῶ τὰ μυστήρια πάντα καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γνῶσιν καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω [subjunctive] πᾶσαν τὴν πίστιν ὥστε ὄρη ⸀μεθιστάναι,* ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω [subjunctive], οὐθέν εἰμι. (1 Co 13:2, NA28)

 Relation to Reality

What is the relation of the conditional statement to reality? This fits into the larger issue of the relation of language to reality. As we have argued throughout this work, language is essentially a portrayal of reality. The portrayal is never a complete picture of reality. This does not necessarily mean that it is incorrect, but neither is the portrayal necessarily correct either. -- Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 685). Zondervan.


I think yall may be missing the point. Take the stated translation: "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." Change the two instances of the word "though" to the word "if" and I think it makes more sense.

  • Welcome to the site, Tom. If you care to check out our Code of Conduct, you will see that answers are not to suggest improving the question. You can use the comments box under the question for that. If you have no information on the biblical link between prophecy and fathoming mysteries, then you cannot really give an answer. If you care to research the question as it stands and provide an answer, that would be good.
    – Anne
    Feb 22, 2019 at 19:23
  • Though this answer is incomplete, it should not have a negative vote.
    – Perry Webb
    Nov 30, 2021 at 10:22

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