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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
2 Corinthians 2



Verse 1

1. ἔκρινα γὰρ ἐμαυτῷ τοῦτο. For I determined (1 Corinthians 2:2; 1 Corinthians 5:3; Titus 3:12) for myself this; the τοῦτο anticipating what is coming (Romans 14:13; 1 Peter 2:19; 2 Peter 3:8). He has just said that it was for their sakes that he gave up his visit to Corinth. He now adds that it was also better for himself that he should do so. ‘With myself’ (A.V.) would have been παρʼ ἐμαυτῷ or ἐν ἐμ.

τὸ μὴ πάλιν ἐν λύπη πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἑλθεῖν. See critical note. The clause is a substantive in apposition with τοῦτο: not again in sorrow to come to you. Here and Romans 9:2 λύπη should be ‘sorrow,’ as in the A.V. of 2 Corinthians 2:3, 2 Corinthians 2:7, 2 Corinthians 7:10; &c. In the A.V. λύπη (Luke 22:45), ὀδύνη (1 Timothy 6:10), πένθος (Revelation 18:7), and ὠδίν (Matthew 24:8) are translated ‘sorrow.’ ‘Again in sorrow’ comes first with emphasis; and this is the point. He had been obliged to come in pain and griet once, and he decided that it was best not to do so again. If he had come to Corinth on his way to Macedonia, there would have been a second sorrowful visit. The former sorrowful visit cannot have been the first visit of all, when he brought the Gospel to Corinth. So there must have been a second visit. See on 2 Corinthians 1:15. This view is confirmed by 2 Corinthians 12:14 and 2 Corinthians 13:1, where he speaks of the coming visit as the third. We need not confine ἐν λύπῃ either to the pain felt by the Apostle or to the pain inflicted by him. What follows shows that both are included: indeed each involved the other.

Verse 2

2. καὶ τίς ὁ εὐφραίνων με; Who then is he that maketh me glad? The καί makes the question more emphatic, implying that in that case there would be distressing incongruity: comp. 2 Corinthians 2:16; Mark 10:26; Luke 18:26; John 9:36. Winer, p. 545. This use of καί is classical. Blass § 77. 6.

ὁ λυπούμενος ἐξ ἐμοῦ. He that is made sorry by me. The sorrow is regarded as passing out of (ἐξ) his heart into theirs: he is the source of the pain. The singular (which is necessary as coordinate with ὁ εὐφρ.) sums up the Corinthian Church as one individual. As yet there is no direct reference to the special offender. Had he been meant, the Apostle would have expressed himself very differently.

Verse 3

3. ἔγραψα τοῦτο αὐτό. I wrote this very thing: see critical note. The interpretation is important; but there are several uncertainties. For τοῦτο αὐτό may mean ‘for this very reason’: see Bigg on 2 Peter 1:5; Winer, p. 178; Blass § 49. But had S. Paul meant ‘for this very reason,’ he would perhaps have written εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο, as in Romans 9:17; Romans 13:6. Then what does ‘this very thing’ mean? It may refer back to the τοῦτο in 2 Corinthians 2:1, his decision not to come in sorrow a second time. Or it may refer to the severe rebukes which he had been obliged to send: and with this interpretation 2 Corinthians 2:4 is in harmony. In neither case can the reference be to 1 Corinthians. For [1] in 1 Corinthians 16:5-7 there is no hint that S. Paul ever had any other plan than the one there sketched; and [2] the language here used in 2 Corinthians 2:3-4 would be extravagant if applied to 1 Corinthians, which can scarcely be said to have been written ἐκ πολλῆς θλίψεως καὶ συνοχῆς καρδίαςδιὰ πολλῶν δακρύων.

There is yet another possibility: ἔγραψα may be epistolary aorist, and may refer to the present letter. We have ἔπεμψα thus used (Acts 23:30; Philippians 2:28; Philemon 1:11; and 2 Corinthians 8:18; 2 Corinthians 9:3). But in the N.T. there is no clear instance of ἔγραψα as an epistolary aorist. In the N.T. ἔγραψα refers either to former letter (1 Corinthians 5:9; 2 Corinthians 7:12; 3 John 1:9); or to a whole letter just finished (Romans 15:15; Galatians 6:11; Philemon 1:19; Philemon 1:21; 1 Peter 5:12), perhaps marking the point at which the Apostle took the pen from the scribe and wrote himself; or to a passage in the letter just written (1 Corinthians 9:15; 1 John 2:21; 1 John 2:26). But some of these, with 1 Corinthians 5:11, may be epistolary aorists. Here (2 Corinthians 2:3-4; 2 Corinthians 2:9) the reference almost certainly is to a former letter; and, as this cannot be 1 Corinthians, we are once more (see on 2 Corinthians 1:23) directed to the hypothesis of a second lost letter, between 1 and 2 Corinthians, the first lost letter being that of 1 Corinthians 5:9. This hypothesis may be held apart from the hypothesis that 10–13 is part of the second lost letter. But we seem to have here, as in 2 Corinthians 1:23, confirmation of the theory that 10–13 is part of this lost letter. In 2 Corinthians 13:10 he says ταῦτα ἀπὼν γράφω, ἴνα παρὼν μὴ ἀποτόμως χρήσωμαι. Here he says ἔγραψα τοῦτο αὐτὸ ἴνα μὴ ἐλθὼν λίπην σχῶ. This looks like a direct reference to 2 Corinthians 13:10. There he says γράφω. In referring to this in a subsequent letter he naturally writes ἔγραψα. In the painful letter he speaks of ‘dealing sharply.’ In this conciliatory letter he speaks of ‘having sorrow.’ All this is consistent. Comp. the correspondence between 2 Corinthians 2:9 and 2 Corinthians 10:6. Scripsi, for the usual scribebam, is sometimes epistolary.

ἀφʼ ὦν ἔδει με χαίρειν. From them from whom I ought to rejoice; from whose hands, as being his children (2 Corinthians 12:14; 1 Corinthians 4:14-15), he ought to receive joy. Comp. ‘wisdom is justified at the hands of (ἀπό) all her children’ (Luke 7:35). The imperfect ἔδει warrants the rendering, I ought to have been rejoicing; it implies what should have been the case at that time.

πεποιθὼς ἐπὶ πάντας ὑμᾶς. Because I reposed trust on you all (2 Thessalonians 3:4; Matthew 27:43). The dative (2 Corinthians 1:9) is more common. In this affectionate outburst he does not care to remember that there may be some who have not yet been won over: he believes all things and hopes all things (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Verse 4

4. ἀλλὰ τὴν ἀγάπην ἵνα γνῶτε. Strong emphasis on τὴν ἀγάπην. No doubt some had called his severe letter cruel. But had he not loved them so much, he either would have done nothing, or would not have abstained from coming and inflicting heavy punishment.

ἥν ἔχω περισσοτέρως εἰς ὑμᾶς. Not only are they dear to him; few of his converts are so dear: and he wishes them to know this. Βούλεται γὰρ αὐτοὺς καὶ ταύτῃ ἐπισπάσασθαι, τῷ δεῖξαι ὅτι πλέον πάντων αὐτοὺς φιλεῖ, καὶ ὡς περὶ ἐξαιρέτους μαθητὰς διάκειται (Chrysostom).

Verse 5

5. Εἰ δέ τις λελύπηκεν, οὐκ ἐμὲ λελύπηκεν. But if any hath caused sorrow, he hath caused sorrow, not to me. The repetition of λύπη and λυπέω must be preserved in translation here, as that of θλίψις and θλίβω, παράκλησις and παρακαλέω in 2 Corinthians 1:4-8. Εἰ does not imply that there is doubt; it is a gentle way of putting it: comp. 2 Corinthians 2:10, 2 Corinthians 7:14, 2 Corinthians 10:7.

As regards the construction of what follows there is much difference of opinion There are four renderings. [1] He hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all (A.V.). This has the support of Tertullian and Luther, but it cannot be right. The ἀλλά (comp. Mark 10:40) and ἀπὸ μέρους are decisive against it; for ἀλλά does not mean ‘except,’ and ἀπὸ μέρους means ‘some out of many’ (2 Corinthians 1:14). Moreover the Apostle does not urge that he personally has been hurt, whether partly or wholly. It is for him not a personal matter at all. [2] He hath caused sorrow not to me, but partly (that I may not press too heavily on all) to you. This is better. It gives the right meaning to ἀλλά, and it makes ἀπὸ μέρους qualify, not the Apostle, but the Corinthians. But it divides the sentence awkwardly, and it spoils the antithesis between ἐμέ and πάντας ὑμᾶς, which is very marked, ἑμέ being placed first, and πάντας ὑμᾶς last, in emphatic opposition. This rendering would require, ἴνα μὴ πάντας ἐπιβαρῶ. [3] Has he not caused sorrow to me? nevertheless for a time (that I may not press too heavily on you all) sufficient to such a one &c. This is perverse ingenuity. It may be mentioned, but it does not need discussion. [4] He hath caused sorrow, not to me, but in part (that I press not too heavily) to you all (R.V.). This is almost certainly right. The offender has not so much pained the Apostle, as he has practically (not to be too severe) pained all the Corinthians. S. Paul sets himself out of the case altogether: it is a question between the offender and the Corinthian Church. But the Apostle will not say absolutely that every member of it has been pained, and he inserts ἀπὸ μέρους to cover exceptions. The ἀπὸ μέρους does not mean that all of them had been pained to some extent, but that practically all had been pained. The whole Church was distressed, although some did not sympathize. If any accusative be understood after ἐπιβαρῶ, it is the offender, who is not mentioned out of delicacy. Comp. the classical ἵνα μηδὲν φορτικὸν λέγω.

Verses 5-11

5–11. Having vindicated himself with regard to the charge of levity (2 Corinthians 1:15 to 2 Corinthians 2:4), he now goes on to vindicate his treatment of the grievous offender. It used to be assumed that this referred to the incestuous person, whom the Apostle sentenced to excommunication (1 Corinthians 5:1-8); and this passage fits that one well in some respects. But there are difficulties which seem to be insuperable. [1] It is scarcely credible that S. Paul should speak of so heinous an offence as that of 1 Corinthians 5:1 in the gentle way in which he speaks here. This is vehemently urged by Tertullian (De Pudic. XIII.), and it is hard to find an answer. [2] If this passage refers to it, its heinousness was even greater than appears from 1 Corinthians 5:1. For 2 Corinthians 7:12 refers to the same case as this passage; and if this and 1 Corinthians 5:1 refer to the same case, then the incestuous man married his father’s wife while his father was still living. In 2 Corinthians 7:12, if τοῦ ἀδικήσαντος is the incestuous person, τοῦ ἀδικηθέντος must be the lawful husband of the woman; and the latter is spoken of as alive when S. Paul wrote. Could the Apostle write as he does here of such an offender as that? [3] Would he speak of such a sin from the point of view of injuring an individual? In 1 Corinthians 5 it is the pollution of the whole Church which appals him. For these reasons the time-honoured and attractive reference of this passage to the incestuous person must be abandoned, and both this and 2 Corinthians 7:8-12 must be interpreted of an offender about whom we know no more than is told us in this letter (see A. Robertson in Hastings’ DB. i. p. 493, and Sanday in Cheyne’s Enc. Bib. I. 902). He may have been a ringleader in the revolt against the Apostle’s authority; and in that case ὁ ἀδικηθείς may be either S. Paul himself or (less probably) Timothy. Or he may have been the one who was in the wrong in some outrageous quarrel, about which nothing is said. Everything is uncertain, except that [1] in some particulars this passage fits the incestuous person very badly, and that [2] the case is treated with the utmost gentleness and reserve. No names are mentioned, and no needless particulars are given; and hence our perplexity. S. Paul says just enough to make the Corinthians understand, and then leaves τὸ πρᾶγμα (2 Corinthians 7:11).

Verse 6

6. ἱκανὸν τῷ τοιούτῳ ἡ ἐπιτιμία αὕτη. Not, ‘This is a sufficient punishment for such a one,’ but This punishment is for such a one a sufficient thing; it satisfies the requirements. Perhaps ἱκανόν is here verbum forense (Bengel), used in the sense of legal satisfaction. Legal words are rather frequent in this letter; ἀπολογία, πρᾶγμα (2 Corinthians 7:11), ἀδικέω (2 Corinthians 7:12), ἐκδικέω (2 Corinthians 10:6), ἀρραβών (2 Corinthians 1:22, 2 Corinthians 5:5), κυρόω (2 Corinthians 2:8). With the substantive use of the neuter, when a feminine noun follows, comp. ἀρκετὸν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἡ κακία αὐτῆς (Matthew 6:34): ἀρεστὸν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ἡ ἐπιχείρησις αὐτοῦ (Acts 12:3 D). Blass § 31. 2. S. Paul’s readers would know who was meant by ὁ τοιοῦτος, as they did in the case of the incestuous man (1 Corinthians 5:5); and they would also know what the punishment in this case had been. It is clear from this verse that in some way he had been treated as a guilty person. In the N.T. we have various words for punishment; κόλασις (Matthew 25:46; 1 John 4:18), τιμωρία (Hebrews 10:29), ἐκδίκησις (1 Peter 2:14), δίκη (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Judges 1:7). Nowhere else in the N.T. does ἐπιτιμία occur, and in the LXX. only in Wisdom of Solomon 3:10. In classical Greek it commonly means ‘citizenship,’ the connecting link between this and ‘penalty’ being the idea of assessment. The citizen has the rights of which he is thought worthy, and the offender has the punishment of which he is thought worthy. Liddell and Scott quote C. I. G. 4957. 43 for ‘penalty.’ The use of ὁ τοιοῦτος here and 1 Corinthians 5:5 is no evidence that the same offender is meant in both places: in 2 Corinthians 12 :2 S. Paul uses ὁ τοιοῦτος of himself. Comp. 2 Corinthians 10:11; Galatians 6:1; and οἱ τοιοῦτοι, 2 Corinthians 11:13; 1 Corinthians 7:28; Romans 16:18.

ἡ ὑπὸ τῶν πλειόνων. Which was inflicted by the majority (1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Corinthians 10:5), rather than simply ‘many’ (A.V.). The A.V. has a similar inaccuracy 2 Corinthians 4:15, 2 Corinthians 9:2; Philippians 1:14 : but Blass holds that in all these passages ‘many’ or ‘several’ may be right (§ 44. 4). At any rate the article must not be ignored (see on 2 Corinthians 2:16), and we must say, by the many (R.V.), which implies a division into many and few, majority and minority. This might mean that not all were present when sentence was pronounced. It more probably means that a minority dissented from the decision as to the penalty. But in which direction? Did they regard the punishment as insufficient, or as too severe? It is commonly assumed that this minority thought it too severe for one whom they did not regard as a serious offender: and it is thought that some of S. Paul’s opponents may have openly sympathized with the censured man. But the context rather implies that the minority were devoted adherents of the Apostle, who protested against the penalty inflicted ὑπὸ τῶν πλειόνων as inadequate. S. Paul does not condemn or reproach this minority for abetting or condoning rebellion. He merely tells them that the ἐπιτιμία ἡ ὑπὸ τῶν πλειόνων is ἱκανόν, and that τοὐναντίον, ‘contrariwise,’ they may forgive the offender. ‘Contrariwise’ implies that previously they had been unwilling to forgive him; not that they had previously wished him to be very leniently treated. See Kennedy, Second and Third Corinthians, pp. 100 ff.

Verse 7

7. ὥστε τοὐναντίον [μᾶλλον] ὑμᾶς χαρίσασθαι καὶ παρακαλέσαι. There is no need to understand δεῖν: so that on the contrary you may forgive and comfort him. If μᾶλλον is genuine (see critical note), it indicates that feeling on the subject is still acute. For χαρίσασθαι, which implies gracious forgiveness, comp. 2 Corinthians 12:13; Luke 7:42-43 : the aorist is timeless. With the thought comp. Galatians 6:1.

μή πως. Lest by any means (1 Corinthians 9:27; Galatians 2:2). The A.V. stumbles over this particle here, 2 Corinthians 9:4, and 2 Corinthians 12:20.

τῇ περισσοτέρᾳ λύπῃ καταποθῇ. The article must not be neglected: be swallowed up by his overmuch sorrow. It is useless to ask whether death, suicide, apostasy, or despair of salvation is meant. Probably nothing more definite is intended than that a continuation of punishment will do much more harm than good: nihil enim periculosius quam ansam Satanae porrigere, ut peccatorem ad desperationem sollicitet (Calvin). As Theodoret remarks, S. Paul here exhibits his fatherly tenderness and affection, τὴν πατρικὴν φιλοστοργίαν γυμνοῖ. With καταποθῇ comp. 2 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Corinthians 15:54. The verb is common in the LXX. to represent a Heb. word of similar meaning.

Verse 8

8. κυρῶσαι εἰς αὐτὸν ἀγάπην. To ratify towards him love, i.e. to make it valid and effective (Galatians 3:15). The metaphor is so natural, especially in one so fond of legal phraseology as S. Paul, that we cannot infer from κυρῶσαι that a formal decree, restoring the offender to communion, is suggested. He leaves it to them to decide how affection is to be ratified. But it is affection and not punishment that is to be ratified: ἀγάπη comes as a kind of surprise at the end of the sentence. Comp. Galatians 6:1.

Verse 9

9. εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ ἕγραψα. Here, as in 2 Corinthians 2:3, it is very unlikely that either 1 Corinthians or this letter is meant. It is the second lost letter, written between these two, to which ἕγραψα refers. This severe letter, carried by Titus, was a testing letter; and the point of the γάρ and the καί is: For it is also in harmony with my present request that you should forgive him, that I wrote in order to test you rather than to be severe on the offender. The εἰς τοῦτο anticipates ἴνα γνῶ, and its emphatic position makes it almost equivalent to ‘simply for this.’ For τὴν δοκιμήν, comp. 2 Corinthians 8:2, 2 Corinthians 9:13, 2 Corinthians 13:3; Romans 5:4; Philippians 2:22 In translating, the A.V. has ‘experience,’ ‘experiment,’ ‘trial,’ and ‘proof.’; the R.V. has ‘probation,’ ‘proving,’ and ‘proof.’ See Mayor on James 1:3.

εἰ εἰς πάντα ὑπήκοοί ἐστε. The reading , ‘whereby,’ agreeing with δοκιμῇ, although supported by only AB, 17, is worthy of consideration. The εἰς πάντα is the important point. It was not for them to decide how far they were to obey: their obedience must extend to (εἰς) all points. Here again we seem to have corroboration of the view that 10–13 is part of the lost letter. In 2 Corinthians 10:6 S. Paul says ἐν ἑτοίμῳ ἕχοντες ἐκδικῆσαι πᾶσαν παρακοήν, ὅταν πληρωθῇ ὑμῶν ἡ ὑπακοή. What is said here looks like a direct reference to this; and 2 Corinthians 7:15-16 may be another reference to 2 Corinthians 10:6. In the earlier severe letter he spoke of ‘avenging disobedience.’ In this later conciliatory letter there is no longer any such thought. See on 2 Corinthians 2:3 and on 2 Corinthians 1:23 for other facts of a similar kind. The three together make a strong case; and they lie within a very short section of the letter, 2 Corinthians 1:23 to 2 Corinthians 2:11.

Verse 10

10. ᾦ δέ τι χαρίζεσθε, κἀγώ. The δέ is ignored in the A.V. and most earlier English Versions. It may be a mere particle of transition; or may introduce a further reason why the Corinthians should ratify love towards the offender. ‘You have proved your loyalty by your submission to discipline. But, if you now forgive, you may be sure that your forgiveness is confirmed by mine.’ He is not exactly giving them a carte blanche to act as they please; he is expressing his approval of a public act of forgiveness. “We may observe [1] that S. Paul acts upon the report of the Corinthian Church properly authenticated by Titus, his representative there (ch. 2 Corinthians 7:6-14), and [2] that he gives his official sanction to their act” (Lias). In almost all places κἀγώ, κἀμοί, κἀμέ, not καὶ ἐγώ, καί ἑμοί, καὶ ἐμέ are found in the best MSS. Gregory, Prolegomena, p. 96.

καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ ὅ κεχάρισμαι, εἵ τι κεχάρισμαι. For also what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything. As in 2 Corinthians 2:5, the εἰ intimates no doubt as to the fact; and here, as there, the perfect must be retained in English: εἴ τις λελύπηκεν and εἴ τι κεχάρισμαι are parallel. The translation, ‘what I have been forgiven, if I have been forgiven anything’ does not fit the context. Note the καί: S. Paul confirms what he has said by a further consideration. The order of the words emphasizes ἑγώ as a fresh point. The meaning is, ‘I entreat you to forgive him, and you may be sure that I shall do the same; indeed for your sakes I have forgiven him already.’

ἐν προσώπῳ Χριστοῦ. This is added to prevent a misapprehension of διʼ ὑμᾶς. He acts, not out of weak affection, merely to please them, but with a full sense of responsibility. But the exact meaning is uncertain. Either, in the person of Christ, acting as His vicegerent, in persona Christi (Vulgate), in Christ’s stead’ (Luther); or, in the presence of Christ, with Him as a witness (Proverbs 8:30), in conspectu Christi (Calvin). Comp. σὺν τῇ δυνάμει τ. κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ, (1 Corinthians 5:4). In three passages in this letter the meaning of πρόσωπον is doubtful (2 Corinthians 1:11, 2 Corinthians 2:10, 2 Corinthians 4:6); in three it certainly means ‘face’ (2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 3:18).

Verse 11

11. ἵνα μὴ πλεονεκτηθῶμεν ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ. That we be not overreached by Satan. Comp. 2 Corinthians 7:2, 2 Corinthians 12:17-18; 1 Thessalonians 4:6. Here only is the verb used in the passive. The ‘we’ unites the interests of the Corinthians with his own. The evil one, whose personality is clearly marked, would defraud the Church, if he caused it to lose one of its members. Comp. 1 Peter 5:8. Chrysostom explains the πλεονεξία somewhat strangely. That Satan should defeat us by means of our sins is natural enough: but that he should defeat us by means of our penitence is grasping at more than can be allowed to him. That Satan is mentioned here as well as in 1 Corinthians 5:5 is no more evidence than the use of ὁ τοιοῦτος in both places that the offender in each case is the same. In every sinful act there must be ὁ τοιοῦτος and the work of Satan. Satan is mentioned very differently in the two passages.

οὐ γὰρ αὐτοῦ τὰ νοήματα ἀγνοοῦμεν. Comp. τὰς μεθοδείας τοῦ διαβόλου (Ephesians 6:11). Νόημα is almost peculiar to this Epistle; 2 Corinthians 3:14, 2 Corinthians 4:4, 2 Corinthians 10:5, 2 Corinthians 11:3; Philippians 4:7. It is not found in the O.T. and is rare in the Apocrypha. Note the paronomasia in νοήματα ἀγνοοῦμεν, and comp. 2 Corinthians 1:13, 2 Corinthians 3:2, 2 Corinthians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 4:15, 2 Corinthians 6:10, 2 Corinthians 7:10, 2 Corinthians 10:5-6; 2 Corinthians 10:12.

Verse 12

12. Ἐλθὼν δὲ εἰς τὴν Τρῳάδα. Now when I came to Troas. ‘Furthermore’ (A.V.) is quite wrong. Having got the charge of levity and the case of the grievous offender out of the way, he returns to the affliction which was so near killing him in Asia. His anxiety about the mission of Titus, and about the effect of the letter which Titus took with him to Corinth, was so intense, that, although he found an excellent opening for preaching in Troas, he could not remain there to wait for Titus, but went on to Macedonia, in order to meet him all the sooner. Troas would be on his way to Corinth, if he went by land through Macedonia from Ephesus.

εἰς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ χριστοῦ. For the gospel of the Christ, i.e. to promote the spread of it.

θύρας μοι ἀνεῳγμένης ἐν κυρίῳ. When a door stood open to me in the Lord. Comp. 1 Corinthians 16:9 and Colossians 4:3, where the same metaphor is used, and 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:1, where εἴσοδος is used in the same sense, viz. an opening for preaching the Gospel. But see Lightfoot on 1 Thessalonians 1:9; also Ramsay in Hastings’ DB. iv. p. 814. In Acts 14:27 the ‘door’ is opened, not to the preachers, but to the hearers. The ἐν κυρίῳ gives the sphere in which the opportunity was offered: not for teaching of any kind, but for preaching Christ.

Verses 12-17

12–17. The passage about the great offender (2 Corinthians 2:5-11) follows quite naturally after 2 Corinthians 2:4, the connecting thought being λύπη. But it is somewhat of a digression, from which the Apostle now returns. We might go direct from 2 Corinthians 2:4 (or even from 2 Corinthians 1:11) to 2 Corinthians 2:12, without any break in the sequence.

Verse 13

13. οὐκ ἔσχηκα ἄνεσιν τῷ πνεύματί μου. Literally, I have not got relief for my spirit. As in 2 Corinthians 1:9, the perfect shows how vividly he recalls the feelings of that trying time. No one English word will represent ἄνεσις in all the places where it occurs; 2 Corinthians 7:5, 2 Corinthians 8:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, Acts 24:23. Relaxation after tension, or after close confinement, is the main idea; and τῶ̣ πν. μου is dat. comm.

τῷ μὴ εὑρεῖν με. Because I found not: dative of cause. Winer, 413. D reads ἑν τῶ̣ μή. Apparently they had agreed to meet in Troas; and there the “sense of loneliness” (Lightfoot on 1 Corinthians 2:3) and anxiety about Corinth overwhelmed S. Paul. By τὸυ ἀδελφόν μου he probably means ‘my beloved fellow-worker,’ not merely ‘my fellow-Christian.’ Theodoret suggests that his having no fellow-worker was one main reason for going. He felt that he could do nothing single-handed, συνεργὸν τῆς ἐπιμελείας οὐκ ἔχων.

ἀποταξάμενος αὐτοῖς. The disciples in Troas no doubt begged him to remain and use the ‘opened door.’ But the distracting anxiety about the effect of his severe letter prevented all satisfactory work, and therefore he ‘set himself apart from them,’ bade them farewell, and went forth to M. In N.T. ἀποτάσσω occurs only in the middle; Acts 18:18; Acts 18:21; Luke 9:61; Luke 14:33; Mark 6:46. The more classical phrase would be ἀσπάζεσθαί τινα. In ecclesiastical Greek ἀπόταξις, ἀποταξία, ἀποταγή, are used of renunciation of the world; see Suicer, ἀποτάσσομαι. As in Acts 16:10; Acts 20:1, ἐξῆλθον is used of leaving Asia for Europe; but it need mean no more than exit from the place. The crisis at Corinth was more urgent than the opportunity in Troas. Delay might be disastrous: so he goes.

Verse 14

14. Τῷ δὲ θεῷ χάρις. This abrupt transition graphically, though unintentionally, reproduces the sudden revulsion of feeling caused by the news which Titus brought from Corinth. At the mere mention of Macedonia, the memory of what he experienced there carries him away. The journey, the search, the meeting, the report brought by his emissary are all passed over, and he bursts out into thanksgiving for God’s great mercies to him and to the cause. Note the emphatic position of τῷ θεῷ here, as in 1 Corinthians 15:57. He commonly writes χάρις τῷ θεῷ (2 Corinthians 8:16, 2 Corinthians 9:15; Romans 6:17; Romans 7:25 : comp. 1 Timothy 1:3). The outburst of thanksgiving makes him forget the story of the return of Titus. We might have guessed it; but he tells it 2 Corinthians 7:6-7 : interjacet nobilissima digressio (Bengel). It is surprising that anyone should attribute this sudden outpouring of praise to the success in Troas, or to that in Macedonia (of which there is here no hint), or to God’s blessings generally. Along with the signal mercy granted to him in the crisis of Titus’ mission to Corinth S. Paul thinks of the constant blessings which he enjoys; but it is the remembrance of that unspeakable relief from a sickening anxiety which inspires this thanksgiving. The connexion with 2 Corinthians 2:13 is close, and the R.V. rightly makes 2 Corinthians 2:12-17 one paragraph.

τῷ πάντοτε θριαμβεύοντι ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ χριστῷ. ‘Which always causeth us to triumph’ (A.V.) is almost certainly wrong. In Colossians 2:15, as in classical Greek, θριαμβεύω means ‘I lead in triumph,’ and is used of a conqueror in reference to the vanquished. No doubt some verbs of similar formation at times acquire a causative sense. Thus, μαθητεύω, ‘I am a disciple’ (Matthew 27:57, where the differences of reading illustrate both uses), also means ‘I make a disciple of’ (Matthew 28:19; Acts 14:21): and βασιλεύω, ‘I am a king’ (Luke 19:14; Luke 19:27), sometimes means ‘I make to be king’ (Isaiah 7:6). But that does not prove that θριαμβεύω ever has a causative sense, still less that it means ‘cause to triumph’ here. To say that ‘causeth us to triumph’ is the only rendering which makes sense here, is superficial criticism. It would be nearer the truth to say that the meaning which θριαμβεύω has in every other known passage gives a deeper sense than the rendering which at first sight seems to fit so well. But it is going too far on the other side to say that it must mean ‘triumph over.’ It need mean no more than ‘lead in triumph’; and which always leadeth us in triumph (R.V.) is the safest rendering here. ‘He leads us about here and there and displays us to all the world’ is Theodoret’s paraphrase: τῇδε κἀκεῖσε περιάγει δήλους ἡμᾶς πᾶσιν ἀποφαίνων. In Tatian, Oratio ad Graecos XXII., we have ‘Cease making a display of other people’s sayings and, like the jackdaw, decorating yourselves with plumage not your own’: παύσασθε λόγους ἀλλοτρίους θριαμβεύοντες καὶ, ὥσπερ ὁ κολοιός, οὐκ ἰδίοις ἐπικοσμούμενοι πτεροῖς. Suicer shows that Chrysostom uses θριαμβεύω and θριάμβευσις simply in the sense of display. Here, those who are led in triumph are so led, not to humiliate them, but to show them to the whole world as being the property and the glory of Him who leads them. In a Roman triumph the general’s sons (Liv. XLV. 40), with his legati and tribuni (Cic. In Pis. xxv. 60; Appian, Mith. 117), rode behind his chariot. So God has made a pageant of the Apostle and his fellow-workers, as instruments of His glory. We may go farther, and say that, before exhibiting them as His, He had taken them captive, as was true, in a very marked way, of S. Paul; or that He had triumphed over them by showing that all their anxiety, which they ought to have cast upon Him (1 Peter 5:7), was needless. But the idea of display is all that is required (comp. 1 Corinthians 4:9), and it fits on very well to φανεροῦντι, which follows. The success of his letter to Corinth and of the mission of Titus was a conspicuous example of God’s showing to the world that the Apostle and his colleagues were His ministers working for His glory. The addition of ἐν τῷ χριστῷ, like ἐν κυρίῳ in 2 Corinthians 2:12, marks the sphere in which the display takes place. It is as being Christ’s that they are God’s (1 Corinthians 3:23). See Field, Otium Norvic. III. p. 111, Notes on Translation of the N.T. p. 181; but he denies the reference to a Roman triumph.

τὴν ὀσμὴν τῆς γνὡσεως αὐτοῦ. The idea of a triumphal procession continues, with the burning of incense which accompanied such things. The sweet odour is the knowledge (genitive of apposition) of God in Christ, diffused by the Apostles and their fellows in every part of the world. It is immaterial whether we interpret αὐτοῦ of God or of Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:15 favours the latter: comp. 2 Corinthians 4:6. God is revealed in Christ, who came in order to reveal Him; so that the meaning is the same, however we interpret αὐτοῦ. See Chase, Chrysostom, p. 184.

διʼ ἡμῶν. Through us (R.V.). As in 2 Corinthians 1:19-20, διά indicates that they are only instruments. Throughout the passage everything is attributed to God. It is to Him that thanks are due. It is He too who, not makes us to triumph, but displays us in His triumph, as instruments which He owns and uses in diffusing the fragrant knowledge of Himself in His Son. Note the πάντοτε, ‘at every time,’ at the beginning, and the ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ, ‘in every place,’ at the end, of this description of God’s work.

Verse 15

15. ὅτι Χριστοῦ εὐωδία ἐσμὲν τῷ θεῷ. The ὅτι explains διʼ ἡμῶν. Those who diffuse the fragrant knowledge are now themselves spoken of as being to God (dat. comm.) a sweet odour (Daniel 2:46 Theodot.) of Christ. The emphasis is on Χριστοῦ: For it is of Christ that we are a sweet odour to God. To God they are always this; but among men there is a difference, not because the knowledge of Christ varies in sweetness and salubrity, but because some men are ready to welcome it and some not. These two classes are distinguished as τοῖς σωζομένοις, those that are being saved, or are in the way of salvation (Luke 13:23; Acts 2:47; 1 Corinthians 1:18), and τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις, those that are perishing, or are in the way of perdition (2 Corinthians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:10). The use of εὐωδία does not prove that the idea of sacrifice is here introduced: the burning of spices in triumphal processions sufficiently explains the metaphor. The sacrificial expression is ὁσμὴ εὐωδίας (Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:18; Exodus 29:25; Exodus 29:41; about 40 times in the Pentateuch). Contrast Ephesians 5:2 and Philippians 4:18, where S. Paul not only says ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας, but adds θυσίαν, thus placing the sacrificial meaning beyond a doubt. See Hatch, Biblical Greek, p. 13.

Verse 16

16. οἶς μὲν ὀσμὴ ἐκ θανάτου εἰς θάνατον, οἶς δὲ ὀσμὴ ἐκ ζωῆς εἰς ζωήν. Note the chiasmus: the clauses balance what precedes in the reverse order. Comp. 2 Corinthians 4:3, 2 Corinthians 6:8, 2 Corinthians 9:6, 2 Corinthians 13:3. A savour from death unto deatha savour from life unto life. Inaccuracy about the definite article is a common defect in the A.V. Sometimes, as here (‘the savour’), it is inserted where there is no article in the Greek (2 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 3:15, 2 Corinthians 6:2, 2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Corinthians 11:15; Luke 6:16; John 4:27; Acts 8:5); very often it is ignored where it is in the Greek (2 Corinthians 2:6, 2 Corinthians 12:13; 1 Corinthians 9:5; Philippians 1:14; Romans 5:15-19; Colossians 1:19; Hebrews 11:10; Revelation 7:13-14, &c.); sometimes it is mistranslated ‘that’ or ‘this’ (2 Corinthians 3:17, 2 Corinthians 7:11; John 1:21; John 1:25; John 6:14; John 6:48; John 6:69; Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9; Acts 19:23; Acts 24:22). The ἐκ in both places is to be retained: see critical note. It has probably been omitted because of the difficulty of seeing how Χριστοῦ εὐωδία can proceed ἐκ θανάτου. The meaning seems to be this. The two kinds of recipients are in an incomplete condition, the one tending to salvation, the other to perdition. The sweet savour of Christ comes to both, and it confirms each class in its original tendency. In the one case there is a progress from death potential to death realized, in the other a progress from life potential to life realized. The coming of Christ, whether in person or in the preaching of the Gospel, involves a κρίσις, a sundering of those who are ready for Him from those who are not (John 1:5; John 3:19; John 9:39; John 18:37; Luke 2:34; 1 Peter 2:7). For ἐκεἰς comp. Romans 1:17; Psalms 83 [84]:8.

καὶ πρὸς ταῦτα τίς ἱκανός; And for these things (first with emphasis) who is sufficient? Comp. οὗτος δὲ τί; (John 21:21). For the καί see on 2 Corinthians 2:2. With dramatic suddenness S. Paul presses on his readers the tremendous responsibility of having to carry a message with this double power, which to some of those who hear it may result in death. The question is preparatory to an inquiry into the office and character of an Apostle as a vindication of his own conduct. See 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 for the answer. Is quis tam (Vulg.) a corruption of quisnam?

Verse 17

17. οὐ γάρ ἐσμεν ὡς οἱ πολλοί. The answer to the question is lost in the contrast between the Apostle and the other teachers: but the answer which is implied is that ‘we are sufficient’; for we are not as the many. The article is again ignored in the A.V., as in 2 Corinthians 2:6. But, unless the Apostle is here comparing the Judaizing teachers with himself, Silvanus, and Timothy, οἱ πολλοί can hardly have its common meaning of ‘the majority.’ Even in his most desponding moods S. Paul would scarcely say that in the Church at large false teachers were ‘the majority.’ But οἱ πολλοί may mean a definite group which is large, ‘the many’ who are well known, as in Polycarp 2, 7. In any case it retains the tone of contempt with which οἱ πολλοί are often mentioned.

καπηλεύοντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ. Corrupting the word of God. The participle goes with ἐσμέν: ‘such is not our manner of teaching.’ But ‘corrupt is an inadequate rendering of καπηλεύω, which means ‘corrupt for sordid gain.’ Their corrupting or falsifying of the word is spoken of as δολοῦντες (2 Corinthians 4:2): and the Vulgate has adulterantes in both places. Erasmus suggested cauponati; and this is used by Cassiodorus; quod verbum veritatis videantur esse cauponati (Hist. Eccl. iv. 24). A κάπηλος is one who sells by retail, a huckster, especially a retailer of wine; and hence one who makes gain by petty traffic, with or without the additional notion of cheating by adulteration or otherwise: comp. οἱ κάπηλοί σου μίσγουσι τὸν οἶνον ὕδατι (Isaiah 1:22). In the only other passage in the LXX. in which κάπηλος occurs, ‘An huckster shall not be judged free from sin’ (Sirach 26:29), there is the same idea of cheating. Here καπηλεύοντες means ‘adulterating for the sake of pitiful gain.’

ἀλλʼ ὡς ἐξ εἰλικρινίας, ἀλλʼ ὡς ἐκ θεοῦ. ‘Sincerity (2 Corinthians 1:12) is in our hearts; nay more, God is in our hearts; and therefore what comes from sincerity comes from Him.’ The second ἀλλά marks a climax: in 2 Corinthians 7:11 and 1 Corinthians 6:11 we have a series. Both sources (ἐκ) of the Apostle’s teaching are in marked contrast to καπηλεύοντες.

κατέναντι θεοῦ. This consciousness of the Divine presence (2 Corinthians 12:19; Romans 4:17) is a guarantee for sincerity. See critical note. Neither κατέναντι (2 Corinthians 12:19; Romans 4:17, &c.) nor κατενώπιον (Ephesians 1:4; Colossians 1:22; Judges 1:24) are found in classical authors: both occur several times in the LXX.

ἐν Χριστῷ. As being His members and ministers. In Him our teaching lives and moves. Comp. 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 16:10.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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