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1 Corinthians 14:8

ESV And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?
NIV Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?
NASB For if the trumpet produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?
CSB In fact, if the bugle makes an unclear sound, who will prepare for battle?
NLT And if the bugler doesn’t sound a clear call, how will the soldiers know they are being called to battle?
KJV For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
NKJV For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?

What does 1 Corinthians 14:8 mean?

Paul is showing why it is not helpful for people to display the gift of tongues during the church service if nobody can interpret what is being said. He has compared it to flutes and harps, "lifeless instruments," producing a series of random notes in random order. That is not music; it is noise, and it is unhelpful to those who hear it.

Now he ups the stakes. Then, as now, bugles were used in military settings to signal the troops to take designated actions. Different melodies represented different orders. Most importantly, one specific melody blasted on the bugle was used to call the army to go to battle.

If the bugle just blurts out an indistinct sound, notes in no sensible order, how will the soldiers know what to do? Bugle noise would lead only to confusion, not action. Paul will show in the following verse how this parallels what happens when tongues are spoken in church settings with no interpretation.
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