Commentators M-Z
Mark Heber Miller:  (Love) does not get puffed up. The Greek is OU PHASIOUTAI and is variously translated: NJB: never conceited; RSV: not arrogant; GDSP: not put on airs; PME: nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. We are not surprised this conceit and arrogance was a Corinthian problem. (2 Corinthians 12:20) Nor that this word is used most often within Paul’s two letters to the Corinthian Christians. Paul states the egotistical attitude often involves favoritism or a sectarian spirit involving personalities. (1 Corinthians 4:6) It is often manifest by what we say about ourselves. (1 Corinthians 4:18, 19) It is also seen in a failure to repent. (1 Corinthians 5:2)

In other letters Paul associates being puffed up with a fleshly way of thinking. (Col. 2:18) Or, a head-strong disposition. (2 Timothy 3:4) It is always a danger for ambitious men. (1 Timothy 3:6) Paul associates the attitude with those who teach erroneous doctrine not founded on the Gospel. Note what Paul writes: "If anyone teaches differently and not from a healthy approach to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ -- not according to the true form of worship -- such a man is puffed up, not possessed of a good understanding, diseased about speculations and word-fights which result in envy, strife, blasphemies, evil suspicions --- men completely corrupt who rub others the wrong way, despoiling the truth, thinking to profit from the true form of worship." (1 Timothy 6:3-5 NRS)

Skip Moen:  ou phusioutai [Love] is not arrogant. The Greek is phusioutai from phusa – a bellows. Literally, love does not puff itself up, from the Greek words meaning to blow like a bellows. The root of this word means “to inflate or to swell” and is often associated with natural growth, like germinating or sprouting.

Once again we have a word that is fairly rare. It is used several times in this letter to the Corinthians, only once in Colossians and never again in the New Testament. In every instance, it conveys the sense of human pride. But Paul chooses a word that is not commonly used for pride. The usual word would have been hubris. We are forced to ask why he would use such a rare form to express such an important idea.

Love is the opposite of selfish pride. In the New Testament Paul links phusioutai to insolence, arrogance and boastfulness. All of these terms describe aspects of pride. Ultimately, pride is the sin of usurping divine authority. Here is another term that elaborates the meaning of blasphemy. To be arrogant, to be filled with pride violates the commandment of awe and reverence. Love will have none of it.

Working backwards, we find that the LXX uses hubris to translate ga'a (pride). If Paul has the Hebrew idea of pride in mind, he would remind us that the Hebrew word ga'a has the same double aspect as qana (zealous) and shaw (boastful). There is a positive aspect of pride. Ga'a is used in various forms to describe God’s majesty and excellence. When it is positive, it is typically translated into Greek as doxa – glory. But there is also a negative aspect of the word, and this is the predominant one. Ga'a is used fifty-three times to describe arrogance, cynical insensitivity and presumption. Here the usual translation into Greek is hubris.

Victor Hamilton notes that the positive aspect of ga'a is to “become a part of the life style of the believer. Sin enters the picture when there is a shift of ultimate confidence from God as object and source to oneself as object and source”.

But why use this odd word phusioutai rather than hubris? Certainly hubris would have been immediately recognizable to the Greek speaking Corinthian church. And this immediate recognition may be exactly why Paul chose a different word. There is something about hubris that Paul did not want to imply. Paul chose phusioutai because he needed to avoid these implications.

Hubris has an incredibly wide range of meanings in the Greek world. In antiquity, it is generally associated with the idea of overestimation and exaggeration. In this sense, it is always seen in opposition to proper order (dike) and the gods usually punish it because it is presumptuous. But as Greek thought moved toward rational rather than mystical explanations of the world, hubris shifted in meaning. It was no longer a religious concept. By the time Plato used the word, it became an essential force of nature and human existence. Plato saw hubris is the necessary foil of eros. In Platonic thought, eros is the love that seeks what is most desired as a natural expression of what Man determines is best. It is self-love in its positive sense, a love that pushes Man toward the divine. It is Man’s love that sees God as the ultimate object of desire. Of course, in its less Platonic forms, eros describes love that desires to possess, whether the object desired is God, another person or any other activity or thing. The New Testament absolutely avoids any expression of eros as an acceptable form of love.

Hubris is the counterpart of eros. That means that Plato saw hubris as the ground out of which eros developed. Hubris is not sin. It is simply the fate of Man, cast into a world rife with human vulnerability. Without hubris, Man would not be able to recognize the call of eros and would not be able to aspire to lift himself above the world of selfish desire. In this regard, hubris is not disobedience at all. It is simply the natural, unenlightened state of Man. It does not require repentance. It requires re-education.

Paul is writing to a church that is predominately Greek in thought and culture. If he were to use hubris as a negative description of Love (i.e. Love is not hubris), he might communicate an idea that would link Love to eros, something that he is at pains to prevent. In fact, Paul does use a form of the word hubris in 1 Timothy 1:13. In that verse Paul says that before his confrontation with Christ, he himself was “a blasphemer, a persecutor and hubristen (usually translated as “an insolent man”). Every use of the forms of hubris in the New Testament (and there are very few) carries the sense of “harm, sufferings and men who take pleasure in harming others”.

None of this background is to be associated with Paul’s treatise on Love. In particular, Paul wishes to communicate the idea that Love is the new way of expressing the essential character of God revealed in past ages in the Decalogue. So, he must create a word that will express the idea of selfish egotism but will avoid connections to the Greek thought that such egotism is a necessary element of life. Paul is anxious to show that anything that does not express the image of divine love is disobedient and punishable. This is not a matter of “natural inclination” or fate. This is a matter of sin. So Paul creates a word that expresses the essence of arrogance – swelling up with improper ego inflation – blasphemy in inner attitude.

Arrogance is most insidious when it is disguised. Most of us shun the overt display of arrogance. We have enough social decorum to avoid those improper persons who act superior, privately convincing ourselves that we are not like them, that they are really no better (and probably a little worse) than us. It is easy to avoid visible arrogance. But this characteristic of love is not about the visible. It is about the hidden – the internal. Love is not arrogant because love recognizes God’s legitimate and authentic supremacy. Any time that my self asserts its superiority in God’s creation, my character is damaged by a lack of love.

The subtlety of this is amazing. It is the attitude of “I am not like you.” I am not homeless, disabled, retarded. I am not emotionally crippled, or circumstantially poor, or old, or homely. I am not an outsider, a career failure, a family disaster, divorced, despairing, despicable, an ex-con, a liar, a cheat, a racist. I am not poor, uneducated, illiterate, unlettered, stupid, hostile, dirty, unsophisticated. The mark of arrogance is the exclusiveness – defining myself in opposition to some other. The mark of love is inclusiveness. Love recognizes that I am not only capable of being each and every one of those whom I have put outside me; love goes beyond mere intellectual acknowledgment. Love says that I am, essentially, exactly what every other human being is. On the universal scales, there is no difference at all. None. My soul is just as putrescent, just as sinful, just as corrupt as every other soul. In the realm of identity and difference, there is only identity. God alone is different. The subtlety of my arrogance is to not see my identity with all that is human. And when I do not see my identity, I cannot recognize the difference. Love reminds me that the chasm between my Creator and myself is infinite, but the chasm between me and every other human being is insignificant.

Now we see why arrogance is so deceitful. Paul knows that arrogance supports pride. And pride refuses submission to God. In doing so, it believes that it is equal to God. This is the ultimate form of blasphemy. It is shown by a disdain for God’s other children and for God’s rightful rule. The tragedy of the proud is that believing they have no need of God, they spurn forgiveness. Love, in opposition to pride, submits itself to God’s call, recognizes its dependence on God’s grace and exemplifies humility. Love is not arrogant — it demonstrates the proper relationship between grace and submission. Love’s humility emulates God’s care. The paradigm case of this aspect of love is Jesus' kenosis — his deliberate choice to relinquish His divine attributes in order to submit to the will of the Father as the sacrificial substitute for the unworthy (Phil. 2:7-8).

Pride is such a terrible sin. It is so easily hidden in the affirmations of our acceptability. It doesn’t care if we associate ourselves with the neo-Nazis or the Christian Coalition. It only cares that we find some reason for separation. It masks the essential truth that human beings, all human beings, are fallen creatures and that every one of us is quite capable of mayhem, murder, deceit, cruelty and indifference. It forgets that in the creation account of the Bible, only human beings are created as one genus without species.

Not until we see that the only way love can truly express itself is in complete identification with the unlovable will we know that nature of love. No wonder Jesus encountered such bitterness from the moral majority. He demonstrated that God loves the untouchables. He reminded us of our similarity with all of God’s creatures. And he paid the price. We humans would rather execute our reminders than admit we are like those “others”.

Love is not arrogant. Love says you and I are the same, right to the core. Love replaces animosity with identity. Love sees that God’s rule is the only rule and that my role is the role of His servant.

Leon Morris: : There are many ways of manifesting pride, and love is incompatible with them all. Love is concerned rather to give itself than to assert itself.

Robert E. Neighbour:  Even if the love life, through accomplishment, is applauded and praised in the papers, it is not puffed up.

Jose L.S. Nogales:  El amor no se engríe (oú phisíoûntai). No se hincha, infla, o ensoberbece, creciendo sólo para sí mismo. No hurta, para ello, el alimento material y espiritual al amado. Hinchado de sus cualidades positivas, tendería a autoconvencerse de que solo él tiene derecho a crecer y, en el fondo, a vivir. No actúa desde el engreimiento desconsiderado y humillante. Respeta siempre la valía personal de quien es, siempre, amado de Dios, aun cuando está equivocado, y ha cometido un error. El amor insiste hacia el amado cuando está en la desolación y el abatimiento, bajo el peso del sentimiento de culpa porque ha pecado contra el amor.

Peter Pett:  It is not puffed up if it has the greater gifts.

Pfeiffer & Harrison:  "Puffed up" clearly points to the opening section of the book (1:10-4:21).

John Piper:  Now Paul says, "Love does not brag and is not arrogant." That is, it does not speak much about itself and is not puffed up with its achievements or too concerned about its hurts. Love is other-directed, not self-consumed. Which means that a massive craving in our hearts must die, if we are going to love. We're not puffed up because we decide to be. We are puffed up by fallen sinful human nature. This comes from deep within who we are as corrupt human beings. If love is humble and other-directed, love is death. The glory-loving, self-exalting, attention-seeking, whining, pouting, self-pitying me has to die.

This is why Jesus said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and die it remains alone"—alone in its self-absorbed, self-asserting, self-enhancing prison—"but if it dies, it bears much fruit"—the fruit of love and all the people that will see Christ in that love.

Matthew Poole:  is not puffed up, proudly lifting up himself above others, and swelling with high conceits of himself.

Ray Pritchard:  Fifth, love is not proud. The King James Version says love is “not puffed up.” That means love does not have an inflated opinion of itself. It is not filled with hot air. As I think about the truly great people I have known, they have all (on one level at least) seemed rather ordinary. They dressed and acted like real people. When someone has to dress or act or talk like they are somebody special, it’s because they’re trying to convince themselves. With those who are truly great, what you see is what you get, which is how it ought to be with all of us.

A.T. Robertson:  {Is not puffed up} (ou fusioutai). Present direct middle indicative of fusiow from fusis (late form for fusaw, fusiaw from fusa, bellows), to puff oneself out like a pair of bellows. This form in Herodas and Menander. Is not arrogant.

Hamilton Smith:  Love "is not puffed up". The flesh is often vain and filled with its self-importance. Love takes the lowly place in service to others.

Ray Stedman:  Then, Paul says, love "is not arrogant." Arrogance is disdain, lack of respect for another person, ignoring how he will feel and asserting yourself regardless of what the result may be. Nor is love "rude," Paul says. This is to ignore another's rights; literally, the term is, "to be puffed up."

R.A. Torrey:  is not [puffed up]. 1 Corinthians 4:6; 4:18; 5:2; 8:1; Col. 2:18; Philippians 2:1-5.

John Trapp:  Is not puffed up. Hence charity is portrayed as a naked child with a merry countenance, covered in a cloud, with a bloody heart in the right hand, giving honey to a bee without wings.

Bill Turner:  Love is not puffed up. "Ou phusioutai." “Phusioutai,” is the present middle indicative of “phusioo,” to puff oneself up like a pair of bellows. It is only used by Paul in 1 Cor. 4:6,18,19, 5:2, 8:1, 13:4, and Col. 2:18. The Corinthians must have suffered a great deal from this spiritual disease, from the number of times that Paul mentions it. Jesus is “meek and lowly in heart.” Mt. 11:29. He knows the proud afar off, but dwells with the contrite in heart. Ps. 138:6. Is.66:2. Love is not conceited, or blown up like a pair of bellows, with a sense of its own importance. This is the inward cause of the previous vaunting. The greater our “puffage” is, the greater our spiritual “shrinkage” is, and the more certain it is that our Lord will deflate us. The present tense shows that the truly loving Christian always refuses to have conceited and inflated ideas about themselves, or get puffed up about their successes, achievements, or spirituality.

Bob Utley:  " orgulloso" El término se refiere a quienes se sobreestiman y hacen alarde de sí mismos. A menudo se usa en I Corintios (4:6, 18-19; 5:2; 8:1) y aquí. Realmente refleja el carácter de esta iglesia.

Marvin R. Vincent:  Puffed up (fusioutai). See on ch. 4:6, and compare ch. 8:1. Of inward disposition, as the previous word denotes outward display. The opposite is put by Dante:
"That swells with love the spirit well-disposed."
"Paradiso," x., 144.

John Wesley, Sermon 22:  It follows, love "is not puffed up:" It does not incline or suffer any man "to think more highly of himself than he ought to think;" but rather to think soberly: Yea, it humbles the soul unto the dust. It destroys all high conceits, engendering pride; and makes us rejoice to be as nothing, to be little and vile, the lowest of all, the servant of all. They who are "kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love," cannot but "in honour prefer one another." Those who, having the same love, are of one accord, do in lowliness of mind "each esteem other better than themselves."

John Wesley, Sermon 139:  I only mention one more of the properties of this love: "Love is not puffed up." You cannot wrong one you love: Therefore, if you love God with all your heart, you cannot so wrong him as to rob him of his glory, by taking to yourself what is due to him only. You will own that all you are, and all you have, is his; that without him you can do nothing; that he is your light and your life, your strength and your all; and that you are nothing, yea, less than nothing, before him. And if you love your neighbour as yourself, you will not be able to prefer yourself before him. Nay, you will not be able to despise any one, any more than to hate him. [Nay, you will think every man better than yourself.] As the wax melteth away before the fire, so doth pride melt away before love. All haughtiness, whether of heart, speech, or behaviour, vanishes away where love prevails. It bringeth down the high looks of him who boasted in his strength, and maketh him as a little child; diffident of himself, willing to hear, glad to learn, easily convinced, easily persuaded. And whosoever is otherwise minded, let him give up all vain hope: He is puffed up, and so hath not love.

Daniel Whedon:  Not puffed up: Imaginary assumption of personal importance.

Steve Zeisler:  The self-absorbed life is the opposite of the competitive life in some ways. It's a life that never notices anybody else. "Arrogant" is translated "puffed up" in the King James Bible. We become so filled with ourselves that other people don't even come into view anymore. We don't have to acknowledge them, we don't have to pay attention to them, and we're our own universe.

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