Gifts and Body

First Corinthians 12 talks about spiritual gifts and the parts of the Body of Christ. The context assumes the gifts map to the parts, but it is not easy to see how.


The map is actually really simple, but without knowledge about how the tribes also map to the passage the result of mapping the gifts and parts would be uninteresting (which is probably why no one has done this before).

The process is to just map the first gift mentioned with the first body part and so forth down the two lists. There are 9 gifts, and Paul mentions 9 distinct body parts, and 4 duplicate parts (like feet, hands and eyes). So the 9 distinct body parts map to the 9 gifts, and the 4 duplicate parts share some of the gifts.

Altogether there are 13 body parts, which map to the 13 tribes, causing some tribes to share a body part and spiritual gift. When a given body part and spiritual gift is shared by more than one tribe it seems clear that there are two aspects to the part/gift.

Tribe Body Part Gift
Judah Foot (1) Wisdom (1)

Judah has a theme of looking ahead, like a good chess player who is able to plan many moves ahead. The body part for Judah is the foot. Why? It seems one issue with the foot is the question of where you are going. It's knowing the next move. What's the next step?

The spiritual gift that assists here is wisdom. The word of wisdom is advice about what to do in a decision making situation, but it comes from someone like Judah, a foot, who has the ability to see the steps ahead.

Reuben Hand (1) Knowledge (1)

Reuben has a theme of intimacy. Reuben is a hand. The hand is used, among other things, for touch. Touch is a personal or intimate thing.

Reuben's gift is knowledge. Knowledge, though, not simply in terms of knowing many things, but knowing something that's personal or private. Individuals who experience this spiritual gift often are told something about another person by God that is entirely private or unknown. When that knowledge is shared it's a proof that God knows all about the other person and often releases emotional healing. This gift, understood this way, is like a comforting hand.

Gad Ear Faith

Gad has a theme of going. His body part is the ear. The relationship between going and hearing is key. Unless one hears Jesus send them, their going is in vain. So knowing Jesus is sending you means hearing, with your ear, like Gad, that Jesus is sending you.

The gift that plays here is faith. Faith is always based on hearing. Faith begins by hearing. Faith is responding positively to something Jesus says. If Jesus says go there, and you go, you demonstrate faith.

If you decide to go over there, because you think it might help Jesus, that's not faith, that's something else, maybe even sin. So Gad has the faith to go when he hears the call. This suggests the gift of faith is operative when the issue is going or doing something.

Asher Eye (1) Healing (1)

Asher has a theme of purity. He's often related to oil and the lamp stand in the tent, but oil does not burn to give light unless it's pure. The body part for Asher is the eye. It's the ability to see, however, the eye is more then just physical sight. It's clear thinking.

The gift that goes with the eye is healing. This suggests to me that all sickness is a problem of impurity. The ability to see purely is the gift needed to remove impurity and bring healing.

Naphtali Nose Miracles

Naphtali has a theme of words, where words are just labels that point at or describe something real. The body part that goes with Naphtali is the nose. Smelling works like words. You smell something baking in the oven, which tells you something is baking in the oven, but the smell is not the thing itself, it's just a pointer or label for the thing.

Naphtali's gift is miracles. Miracles, as you read Acts, get everyone's attention and cause them to listen to the message. Miracles are wonderful, but they are not the thing, they are the label or smell that says God is active here. Miracles should get our attention and cause us to listen.

Manasseh Whole body (recursion) All gifts (recursion)

Manasseh often has a theme of the whole or is often treated as a microcosm of the whole. This is clearly the pattern in this map. Paul speaks about the "whole body" when he gets to Manasseh's spot in the list.

So Manasseh is a miniature of the whole body. In the list of spiritual gifts we fill in Manasseh's spot with "all gifts." This is the implication of saying he's the "whole body."

Simeon Eye (2) Healing (2)

Simeon has a theme of counsel (good or bad). In this map his body part is the eye. Sight, or understanding, is key to giving good counsel. If your eye is not clean neither is your counsel.

His gift is healing. With Asher the gift seems to be the ability to remove impurities and may relate to physical healing of physical problems. Here, with Simeon, it looks like the gift of healing relates to clear or pure counsel. It may be that it's a different kind of healing, perhaps emotional, that Simeon is particularly gifted for.

Levi Hand (2) Knowledge (2)

Levi has a theme of ministry in general. He's the itinerant preacher, the teacher, the one who knows the law and teaches it. His body part is the hand. The hand here probably represents laying on of hands, in terms of appointing elders and doing ministry in general, not to be confused with Reuben who is also a hand, but in the sense of touch.

Levi's gift is knowledge. When this gift maps to Reuben it's the aspect of supernaturally being given knowledge about some person. Here, with Levi, it's supernaturally being given knowledge about some thing that can be taught or ministered to a group or nation.

Issachar Head Prophecy

Issachar has a theme of working or business. His body part is the "head," but the brain is what's meant by head. Issachar's holiday is Tabernacles, which is an annual holiday for receiving direction.

Tabernacles is when everyone comes together. That's another study, but to say Issachar is the head means he's the place where the nerves for all the parts connect to each other and communicate.

He's the brain. The gift that goes with Issachar is prophecy. Prophecy is said to be understanding and knowledge in First Corinthians 13:2, so it's a gift that operates in the brain. Whatever the sense of "knowledge" or "understanding" here, it must be different then the knowledge gift that Levi has and the ability to see or understand that Asher has.

Zebulun Foot (2) Wisdom (2)

Zebulun has a theme of origins or foundations. His body part is the foot. The foot functions as support for the body. The foot may be a picture of time too. Consider how a small child grows taller over time. Their feet are always on the ground, yet over time the rest of their body grows up, or taller.

The foot almost appears to be the origin. Consider also, that Judah's use of the foot is the question of looking ahead and making the next step. Zebulun's is the question of where have we come from, what's our origin or DNA or what lessons have we learned so far on the journey that matter now.

Zebulun's gift is wisdom. Like Judah it's the ability to plan the next step, but it's because the past is known and recalled in the decision making process.

Joseph Penis Discernment

Joseph has a theme of reproduction. He is blessed by Jacob with abundance from the breasts and womb. He is promised to become a community of nations and a great nation. The term "Joseph" actually refers to two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim. Manasseh, as mentioned above, is a recursion of the whole. In other words he's a reproduction, albeit miniature, of the whole.

The body part that goes with Joseph is referred to by Paul as the "delicate part." The wording is a bit ambiguous. Let me venture that what Paul is referring to are the reproductive organs, such as the male penis. Why? The penis goes with the womb, which is what Jacob spoke over Joseph.

The reproductive organs, as a body part, are what contain the ability to reproduce another, smaller, version of the whole body. Joseph's gift is discernment, discernment of people. The connection between discernment and reproduction is the idea that the primary way one learns to discern and manage a people is by raising a family. So a family and a community of nations are the same idea on different scales.

Benjamin Chest Tongues

Benjamin body part is the chest and/or the heart. His gift is tongues, which might refer to language, or tongues in the Pentecostal sense, or perhaps both.

Dan Back Interpretation of Tongues

Dan body part is the back or spine. He is the judge and that takes spine. His gift is the interpretation of tongues. Since tongues is Benjamin's gift, and he's likely the chest, and Dan has interpretation of tongues, it seems consistent that his body part would be matched to the chest, which would be the back. The back has not been used and there aren't any other viable parts left.