1 Corinthians 12:3 A Faithful Version

Therefore, I am letting you know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed; and no one can say [G2036] that Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.

who is speaking
λαλῶν (lalōn)
Verb - Present Participle Active - Nominative Masculine Singular
Strong's Greek 2980: A prolonged form of an otherwise obsolete verb; to talk, i.e. Utter words.

λέγει (legei)
Verb - Present Indicative Active - 3rd Person Singular
Strong's Greek 3004: (a) I say, speak; I mean, mention, tell, (b) I call, name, especially in the pass., (c) I tell, command. Occurs 1,343 times.

εἰπεῖν (eipein)
Verb - Aorist Infinitive Active
Strong's Greek 2036: Answer, bid, bring word, command. A primary verb; to speak or say.
Occurs 976 times.


4 Answers 4


Yes, we should interpret the text literally.

But we should also translate it correctly.

The verb form εἶπον, eipon (a form of the common verb λέγω, lego) seems to require special treatment, according to Thayer.

εἶπον, 2 aorist active from an obsolete present ἘΠΩ

  1. specifically,

a. equivalent to to asseverate, affirm, aver, maintains: followed by an accusative with an infinitive,

My understanding of what Thayer gives (on the whole of that page referenced in Biblehub) is that this particular form of the common verb should be seen as an 'affirmation' or as an 'averance'.

It is more than just an utterance, or just an idle comment.

It has force, it has intent, it means something.

It is in this sense that the apostle is using the word, meaning that nobody who, as a statement, as a testimony, as an affirmation, says "Lord Jesus" (as is the original) can do so without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

ουδεις δυναται ειπειν κυριον ιησουν ... ει μη εν πνευματι αγιω [TR]

No-one . is able . to say (infinitive) . Lord Jesus (accusative).... if not in Holy Spirit.

The construction is a present tense, an infinitive and an accusative singular.

The interpolation 'is' (Jesus is Lord) is not present in the original. The apellation 'Lord Jesus' is, therefore, as an accusative, to be seen as a vocative.

The person being quoted is addressing the Lord Jesus, personally.

Nobody addressing the Lord as 'Lord Jesus' in a way of affirmation, in a way of 'avering' (as Thayer puts it) can do so save 'in Holy Spirit'.

No-one is able to aver 'Lord Jesus' if not in the Holy Spirit.


Once you understand “Ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς,” taking it literally isn't a problem. Note there is no verb in this phrase. Archaeology in Corinth showed that the Corinthians used similar phrases to curse people through their gods. In other words we should translate it "Jesus curse you." See the details in my answer at How should we contextualize Paul's "Jesus is accursed" in I Co 12:3?.

The Spirit of God would not say this. But, given the divisiveness in the church at Corinth, that some would say such is not surprising.

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor 1:10–13, ESV)

The statement οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν· Κύριος Ἰησοῦς, εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ. (NA27) made it difficult to keep arguing with other divisions.


I would place 1 Cor 12:3 in the context of other references:

1. Balaam's seven Oracles

  • In Num 34 & 24 we have seven of the most sublime prophecies about Israel and the coming Messiah uttered by an antagonistic prophet who finally organised to have Israel sin. However, when he was taken over by the Spirit he uttered truth

2. Saul

  • Notice 1 Sam 19:1 - "Then Saul ordered his son Jonathan and all his servants to kill David." Then a few verses later in V23, 24, "So Saul went to Naioth in Ramah. But the Spirit of God came upon even Saul, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth in Ramah. Then Saul stripped off his robes and also prophesied before Samuel. And he collapsed and lay naked all that day and night. That is why it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

3. John 16:13, 14

  • However, when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and He will declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me by taking from what is Mine and disclosing it to you.

4. Rom 8:9

  • You, however, are controlled not by the flesh, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

5. 1 Cor 12:3

  • Therefore I inform you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

Thus, I would definitely understand 1 Cor 12:3 literally. The presence and indwelling of the Holy Spirit is essential to understand spiritual truth and also for the imitation of Christ.


“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). Let’s suppose the context is of a person saying “Jesus is Lord” aloud for the ears and benefit of others. If so, then I think this phrase addresses the limitations of our words in giving testimony. Of themselves, human words and wisdom, no matter how lofty, can fall flat and fail the goal of giving witness. Like empty sails that need the wind, words need the power of the Spirit. In other words, it is not what we say, but what the Spirit says through us that has the power to inspire faith. Reference Paul’s words:

  • When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God… My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Cor 2:1-5)

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