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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
2 Corinthians 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. ἐγκακοῦμεν (אABDFG) rather than ἐκκακοῦμεν (CD3KLP). Luke 18:1 ἐνκακεῖν is right; elsewhere (2 Corinthians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Galatians 6:9; Ephesians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:13) ἑγκ. But in all six places ἐκκακεῖν appears in some texts, a word for which authority is wanting. See Gregory, Prolegomena, p. 78 and Suicer.


Verses 1-6

2 Corinthians 4:1-6. THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED

As between the first and second chapters, the division between the third and fourth is badly made. Chapter 3 should have continued to 2 Corinthians 4:6. From 2 Corinthians 3:7 to 2 Corinthians 4:6 there is no very decided break in the subject.

1–6. He perseveres with his vindication of the Apostolic office, with special reference to the charges of insincerity and self-seeking.

Διὰ τοῦτο. For this cause (2 Corinthians 7:13, 2 Corinthians 13:10; 1 Corinthians 4:17; &c.), to distinguish διὰ τοῦτο from διό (2 Corinthians 4:16) and οὖν (2 Corinthians 5:20). This at once shows that the connexion with what precedes is close. ‘Seeing that the Christian dispensation is so immeasurably superior to the Jewish (2 Corinthians 3:17-18), we (is Timothy or anyone else included?), as possessing the ministry just described (2 Corinthians 3:7 ff.), have no feeling of despair.’

καθὼς ἠλεήθημεν. Even as we received mercy. It is well to distinguish καθώς from ὡς: and the aorist, which refers to the time when he was made an Apostle, should be retained in translation. It is a very humble way of speaking of his call (1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 15:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:13; 1 Timothy 1:16).

οὐκ ἐγκακοῦμεν. We faint not, do not lose courage, but πολλῇ παρρησίᾳ χρώμεθα (2 Corinthians 3:12). Ellicott says that ἐγκακεῖν means “to lose heart in a course of action,” and ἐκκακεῖν “to retire through fear out of it”: but see critical note; also Lightfoot on 2 Thessalonians 3:13. In the LXX. neither word is found, but in the version of Symmachus ἐγκ. occurs Genesis 27:46; Numbers 21:5; Proverbs 3:11; Isaiah 7:16; and ἐκκ. Jeremiah 18:12. Cowardice leads readily to τὰ κρυπτὰ τῆς αἰσχύνης.


Verse 2

2. ἀλλὰ ἀπειπάμεθα. But (on the contrary) we have renounced the hidden things of shame, comp. τὰ κρυπτὰ τοῦ σκότους (1 Corinthians 4:5); also Ephesians 5:12 and Romans 2:16. ‘Dishonesty’ (A.V.) in 1611 might mean ‘disgrace’ or ‘shame’: “It is a great reproche and dishonesty for the husband to come home without his wiffe, or the wyffe withoute her husbande” (More, Utopia, p. 138 ed. Arber): but now it is misleading. In the N.T. αἰσχύνη is rare (Luke 14:9; Philippians 3:19; Hebrews 12:2, Judges 1:13; Revelation 3:3; Revelation 3:18); in the LXX. it is very frequent. For the genitive comp. εἰς πάθη ἁτιμίας (Romans 1:26). From ἀπειπάμεθα (here only) we are not to infer that he gave these shameful things up: he abjured them from the first. Comp. δότε τὸν μισθόν μου, ἢ ἀπείπασθε (Zechariah 11:12). Everything which shame naturally hides he kept himself free from. Plato is said to have defined αἰσχύνη as φόβος ἐπὶ προσδοκίᾳ ἀδοξίας. With the form ἀπειπάμεθα comp. προείπαμεν (1 Thessalonians 4:6), and see WH. II. Appendix, p. 164; Winer, p. 103.

πανουργίᾳ. This shows what he specially has in his mind,—unscrupulous conduct, readiness for anything, especially underhand practices, in order to gain one’s ends (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 3:19; Ephesians 4:14): from everything of this kind he kept aloof. ‘Craftiness,’ like astutia (Vulgate), emphasizes the cunning which πανουργία often implies. He perhaps refers to the unscrupulous cunning with which the Judaizers beguiled the Corinthians, passing themselves off as ministers with superior authority. Assuming that 10–13 is part of the second lost letter, this may be a reference to 2 Corinthians 11:3; or to 2 Corinthians 12:16, which shows that S. Paul was accused of πανουργία.

δολοῦντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ. Unlike καπηλεύοντες (2 Corinthians 2:17), this does not imply that the falsifying was done for gain: see 2 Corinthians 1:12. He does not intrigue, and he does not adulterate the Gospel with worthless traditions and strained misinterpretations.

ἀλλὰ τῇ φανερώσει τῆς ἀληθείας. In marked contrast to τὰ κρυπτὰ τῆς αἰσχύνης and πανουργία: but (on the contrary) by the manifestation of the truth (placed first with emphasis), viz. the truth of the Gospel (Galatians 2:5; Galatians 2:14). See on 2 Corinthians 2:16.

συνιστάνοντες ἑαυτούς. See critical note. This commending ourselves looks back to 2 Corinthians 3:1. The use of the reflexive pronoun of the 3rd pers. with verbs of the 1st (Acts 23:14; Romans 8:23; Romans 15:1; 1 Corinthians 11:31) and 2nd (Luke 12:1; Luke 12:33; Luke 16:9; Luke 16:15; Luke 17:3; Luke 17:14) is common where no ambiguity is involved: comp. 2 Corinthians 4:5, 2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 5:15, 2 Corinthians 6:4.

πρὸς πᾶσαν συνείδησιν ἀνθρώπων = πρὸς τὴν πάντων τῶν ἀνθρώπων συνείδησιν. Comp. πᾶσαν ψυχὴν ἀνθρώπου (Romans 2:9). S. Paul does not commend himself to men’s fancies, or passions, or prejudices, or even to their intellect; but to that power which God has given to each to discern between right and wrong. Every kind of conscience will recognize his integrity. See on 2 Corinthians 1:12, and Ellicott on Ephesians 1:8.

ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. The commendation is made with all solemnity, the judges to whom he appeals being reminded that he and they will be responsible for the verdict: comp. Galatians 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:14; 2 Timothy 4:1. “The strength of St Paul’s language is to be explained by the unscrupulous calumnies cast upon him by his enemies” (Lightfoot on Galatians 1:20). Deus ipse testis est nos manifestare puram veritatem, cujus oculos nihil latet (Herveius Burgidolensis). Magnum esset, si hoc solummodo de hominibus diceret; sed, quia homines falli possunt, ideo subjunxit quod majus est incomparabiliter (Atto Vercellensis).


Verse 3

3. εἰ δὲ καὶ ἔστιν κεκαλυμμένον. But if (2 Corinthians 4:16) our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that are perishing (chiasmus). The perf. part. indicates that it has been and remains veiled, and τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἡμῶν means our preaching of the good tidings. The reference to κάλυμμα (2 Corinthians 3:12-18) must be preserved in translation. The ἕστιν is emphatic, not enclitic; ‘even if it is veiled.’ The Judaizers might say, ‘Whether or no a veil hides the Law from us, a veil certainly hides your Gospel from us’: comp. 1 Corinthians 2:7. To this he replies, ‘Yes, from you. What we preach is veiled from those who are in the paths of death: but its glories are manifest to all who are in the way of salvation’ (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). As distinct from καὶ εἰ, representing an assumed possibility, εἰ καί represents the concession of what is a fact (2 Corinthians 5:16, 2 Corinthians 12:11). In 2 Corinthians 11:15 the καί belongs to οἱ διάκονοι.


Verse 4

4. ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου. The god of this age (Ephesians 2:7; Colossians 1:26). It is world regarded as time, seculum, and not world regarded as ordered space, κόσμος, mundus, that is mentioned. Comp. 1 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 2:6; Luke 16:8; Luke 20:34. For κόσμος see 2 Corinthians 1:12, 2 Corinthians 5:19, 2 Corinthians 7:10. Trench, Synonyms § lix; Lightfoot on 1 Corinthians 1:20. But ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου occurs nowhere else. Comp. ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου (John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11), and ὁ ἄρχων τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος (Ephesians 2:2). In all these places Satan is meant. Yet Irenaeus (Haer, IV. xxix. 1) interprets this passage of God; and some ancient commentators take τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου after τῶν ἀπίστων: ‘in whom God hath blinded the minds of the unbelievers of this world.’ So Origen, Chrysostom, and Theodoret, Tertullian, Hilary, and Augustine. This improbable interpretation was adopted to avoid giving countenance to the Manichaean doctrine of two Gods, one good and the other evil; magis de illis propulsandis, quam de inquirenda Pauli mente solliciti fuerunt (Calvin). Atto of Vercelli says of the true interpretation sed quia iste sensus vicinus est errori, ipsum Deum intelligere debemus. On the whole expression see Chase, The Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church, pp. 88, 89. Comp. Origen on Mt. Bk 2 Corinthians 4:14.

τὰ νοήματα τῶν ἀπίστων. See on 2 Corinthians 3:14 and comp. 2 Corinthians 10:5, 2 Corinthians 11:3. Some would reject τῶν ἀπίστων as a superfluous gloss. But there is no authority for its omission; and it may be understood as explaining how the evil one was able to do this and to put them on the road to perdition. It was through their refusal to believe what was offered to them for their salvation. They would not use their eyes, and so they lost the power of seeing. A veil of darkness hindered them from perceiving the truth which the Apostle brought them; and this was partly the cause and partly the effect of their being in the path to destruction. Winer, p. 779. By οἱ ἄπιστοι he means those who do not believe the Gospel, and he frequently uses it of the heathen (2 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Corinthians 6:6; 1 Corinthians 7:12 ff; 1 Corinthians 10:27; 1 Corinthians 14:22 ff.).

εἰς τὸ μὴ αὐγάσαι κ.τ.λ. See critical note. Words are piled up to express the intense brilliancy of that which Satan prevented them from being able to see. That the illumination of the gospel of the glory of the Christ, who is the image of God, should not shed its brightness on them. The addition ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ (see Lightfoot on Colossians 1:15) not only augments the idea of glory, but explains the devil’s action. Of course he would oppose the Gospel of Him who is the image of God (Hebrews 1:3); and this was evidence for the truth of the Gospel, for if it did not bring saving truth, he would not wish to blind men’s thoughts to it. Here only in the N.T. is αὐγάζειν used: in the LXX. it occurs only of the bright spot which was a sign of leprosy (Leviticus 13:24-39; Leviticus 14:56). And φωτισμός is found only here and 2 Corinthians 4:6; in the LXX. Job 3:9; Psalms 26:1; Psalms 43:3; Psalms 77:14; Psalms 89:8; Ps. 138:11. With τὸ εὐαγγ. τῆς δόξης τοῦ χριστοῦ comp. τὸ εὐαγγ. τῆς δόξης τοῦ μακαρίου θεοῦ (1 Timothy 1:11), which means the Gospel that contains and makes known His glory. The Gospel is thus traced to the absolutely supreme Source. It is the revelation of the Messiah, and the revelation of the Messiah is the revelation of the Father (John 14:7 ff.). For δόξα comp. John 1:14.


Verse 5

5. οὐ γὰρ ἑαυτοὺς κηρύσσομεν. It is very far-fetched to make γάρ refer back to 2 Corinthians 3:1-5. It refers quite naturally to 2 Corinthians 4:2 or 2 Corinthians 4:4 or both. ‘I am quite justified in saying that we do not adulterate the word of God by mixing our own advantage with it, and that our Gospel is the Gospel of the glory of Christ, for it is not ourselves (first with emphasis) that we preach, but (on the contrary) Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.’ He is not insinuating that his opponents preach themselves: he is repelling a charge which they brought against him. Such passages as 1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 11:1 might be used to support such a charge. We are not to understand κυρίους from κύριον, ‘we preach not ourselves as lords.’ But δούλους must have its full meaning, ‘bondservants, slaves.’ And he does not say ‘Christ’s slaves’ but ‘your slaves’; yet, to show that this is said in no servile, fawning spirit, he adds ‘for Jesus’ sake,’ or possibly ‘through Jesus.’ See critical note, and on 2 Corinthians 1:1.


Verse 6

6. ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ὁ εἰπών. Because God that said, Out of darkness light shall shone, is he who shine in our hearts for the illumination (2 Corinthians 4:4) of the knowledge of the glory of God. The ὄτι introduces the reason why he must preach, not himself, but Christ. The reference to ‘Let there be light,’ Γενηθήτω φῶς, at the Creation is obvious. There is also a reference to the scales falling from his own eyes and mind; and this has perhaps already been alluded to 2 Corinthians 3:18 and 2 Corinthians 4:4. By φωτισμὸν τῆς γνώσεως is meant the illumination which the knowledge of the glory of God brings. This φωτισμός the Apostle had received, and it was his duty to pass his knowledge of it on to others. It is possible that, as in μεταμορφούμεθα (2 Corinthians 3:18), the narrative of the Transfiguration is still somewhat in his mind.

ἐν προσώπῳ Χριστοῦ. In the face of Christ, in facie Christi (Vulgate, which has in persona Christi 2 Corinthians 2:10). It is in the face of Christ, who is εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ, that the glory of God is manifested as a means of making it known to men. The translation, in the person of Christ, means that Christ Himself reveals the glory of God. But the implied contrast with the face of Moses (2 Corinthians 3:7), the glory of which was evanescent, while this is abiding, decides for ‘face’ against ‘person.’ Cremer, Lex. p. 459.

2 Corinthians 4:7 to 2 Corinthians 5:10. THE SUFFERINGS AND THE SUPPORTS OF AN APOSTLE

This is a letter written in very varying moods: and here the mood of the writer changes in a very marked way. The subject is not changed, and the connexion with the preceding part of the subject is not broken; but the tone is greatly lowered. In his Apologia pro vitá suâ (2 Corinthians 1:12 to 2 Corinthians 7:16), after defending himself with regard to the charge of levity, and also with regard to the case of the great offender (2 Corinthians 1:12 to 2 Corinthians 2:17), he went on in a tone of great confidence and exultation, which had already begun at 2 Corinthians 2:14, to speak of the greatness of the Apostolic office and of the glory and freedom of the Gospel which he preaches (2 Corinthians 2:17 to 2 Corinthians 4:6). Here he begins to point out that there is another side to all this. The Gospel has a superabundance of glory, which is reflected from a glorified Christ who is the image of God. But it does not follow from this that he who preaches the Gospel has abundance of glory. So far as externals go, the very reverse of this is the case. Not even the transitory glory of Moses has been allowed to him. He has a body, which is a fragile earthly vessel, often made still more frail by sickness and hardship. His spirit is broken down with anxiety and disappointment. He groans, being burdened; and he feels the sentence of death ever at work within him. But, side by side with this intense depression, there is a feeling of trust in the never-failing support of the God whom he serves. ‘Wherefore we faint not.’ He had said this before when he thought of the glorious character of the ministry committed to him (2 Corinthians 4:1); and he says it again now (2 Corinthians 4:16). His opponents may say that his infirmities are evidence against his Apostolic authority. But the truth is that, in his weakness, God is giving proof of the Divine power of the Gospel. The Apostle’s humiliation here tends to the glory of God; and he will have, in exchange for the weight of suffering here, ‘an eternal weight of glory’ hereafter (2 Corinthians 4:17). Three times he counts up his sufferings, here, 2 Corinthians 6:4-10, 2 Corinthians 11:23-30.


Verse 7

7. Ἔχομεν δὲ τὸν θησαυρὀν τοῦτον. The δέ introduces the contrast between the glory of the message and the weakness of the messenger. It matters little whether we interpret τὸν θησαυρόν as the γνῶσις τῆς δόξης, or the φωτισμός which this γνῶσις brings, or the ministry by which the γνῶσις is conveyed to others. It means the powers committed to him as an Apostle.

ἐν ὀστρακίνοις σκεύεσιν. Comp. Romans 9:22-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:4; 2 Timothy 2:21; 1 Peter 3:7; 2 Esdras 7:63. The human body in its frailty is meant. Vessels of clay have neither the beauty nor the strength of vessels made of bronze, silver, or gold. They are rough in appearance, and can be easily chipped, cracked, or broken. Herodotus (III. xcvi. 3) tells how Darius used to melt down the tribute-money and run it into earthen jars, which he afterwards stripped off, περιαιρέει (comp. 2 Corinthians 3:16), leaving the bullion for future use. The comparison of the body to an earthenware vessel is common in literature, especially among the Stoics. Thus Seneca says that man is “a cracked vessel, which will break at the least fall” (Ad Marc. 11). Marcus Aurelius says that τὸ περικείμενον ἀγγειῶδες is by no means to be considered to be the man himself, but only the envelope out of which the soul glides gently in a peaceful death (x. 36, 38). But such metaphors have no necessary connexion with the Gnostic, Manichaean, and Neo-Platonic doctrine of the utter vileness of everything material, and therefore of man’s body. The reference to the creation of light in 2 Corinthians 4:6 renders it possible that here there is a reference to man’s being made out of earth (Genesis 2:7); a reference to Gideon’s earthen pitchers (Judges 7:16; Judges 7:19) is also possible; but neither is at all certain. Origen (Philocal. iv) makes the ‘earthen vessels’ to be the humble diction of Scripture. The general meaning is, that a magnificent trust has been committed to us, but the instrument by which we discharge it is very mean.

ἵνα ἡ ὑπερβολὴ τῆς δυνάμεως ᾖ τοῦ θεοῦ μὴ ἐξ καὶ ἡμῶν. That the exceeding greatness (2 Corinthians 12:7) of the power may be God’s, and not from us; may be recognized as belonging in God, and not as coming from ourselves (2 Corinthians 3:5). Comp. Romans 3:26, where εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν δίκαιον means ‘that He might be seen to be righteous.’ What man has from himself is not ὑπερβολή but ἔλλειψις.


Verse 8

8. ἐν παντὶ θλιβόμενοι ἀλλʼ οὐ στενοχωρούμενοι. In every way pressed, but not straitened. The participles agree with the subject of ἔχομεν. Here, as in Mark 3:9, the notion of pressure must be preserved in translating θλίβω, although ‘pressed’ and ‘pressure’ would not be suitable, 2 Corinthians 1:4-8 : see on 2 Corinthians 1:4. By στενοχωρούμενοι (2 Corinthians 6:12) is meant ‘cramped, penned in a corner so as to be helpless.’ The vague ἐν παντί may be ‘in everything’ (2 Corinthians 6:4, 2 Corinthians 7:11, 2 Corinthians 8:7, 2 Corinthians 11:6), or ‘on every side’ (2 Corinthians 7:5), or ‘in every condition of life’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18). The context seems to require ‘in everything.’ ‘Greatly hampered, but not hemmed in’ is the general meaning. Comp. θλίψις καὶ στενοχωρία (Romans 2:9; Romans 8:35).

ἀπορούμενοι ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἐξαπορούμενοι. Another play upon words: in difficulty, but not in despair. Comp. 2 Corinthians 1:8 and see on 2 Corinthians 1:13 and 2 Corinthians 3:2. He had this feeling about the Galatians: ἀποροῦμαι ἐν ὑμῖν (Galatians 4:20). Comp. θλίψις καὶ στενοχωρία καὶ σκότος ὥστε μὴ βλέπειν, καὶ οὐκ ἀπορηθήσεται ὁ ἐν στενοχωρίᾳ ὤν (Isaiah 8:22), which S. Paul may have had in his mind. Note the accumulation of participles.


Verses 8-11

8–11. Five illustrations of the contrast between the treasure and the earthen vessel.


Verse 9

9. διωκόμενοι. Comp. 1 Corinthians 4:12; Galatians 6:12; Matthew 5:10.

οὐκ ἐγκαταλειπόμενοι. We might have expected ‘but not captured’ rather than ‘but not forsaken’; ‘left behind’ (R.V. margin) ‘by his friends in the hands of his foes’ may be the meaning: ἐγκαταλιπεῖνἢ μὴ βοηθῆσαι κινδυνεύοντι (Plat. Symp. 179 A). ‘Forsaken of God’ is also possible. Comp. Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; Acts 2:27; Acts 2:31; 2 Timothy 4:10; and the promise to Joshua, οὐκ ἐνκαταλείψω σε (Joshua 1:5).

καταβαλλόμενοι ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἀπολλύμενοι. This refers to being struck down in battle rather than thrown in wrestling. Comp. καταβαλῶ αὐτὸν ἐν ῥομφαίᾳ (2 Kings 19:7), κατ. αὐτοὺς ἐν μαχαίρᾳ (Jeremiah 19:7).


Verse 10

10. The two illustrations in 2 Corinthians 4:8 refer to the difficulties of his position; the two in 2 Corinthians 4:9 to those brought upon him by his opponents. The fifth and last is different from both pairs. He shares in the dying, and also in the life, of Jesus Christ.

πάντοτε. First with emphasis, like ἐν παντί (2 Corinthians 4:8) and ἀεί (2 Corinthians 4:11): at all times (2 Corinthians 2:14, 2 Corinthians 5:6, 2 Corinthians 9:8), to distinguish from ἀεί (2 Corinthians 6:10).

τὴν νέκρωσιν τοῦ Ἰησοῦ. This ‘making a corpse’ or ‘putting to death,’ as θανάτωσις (Thuc. v. ix. 7), is given here as a process leading to death or deadness, rather than as a result. In Romans 4:19 it is used of the result, the deadness of Sarah’s womb; comp. Hebrews 11:12; Colossians 3:5. Here, as in 2 Corinthians 1:5, the sufferings of the Apostle are identified with the sufferings of Christ, both being caused by the enmity of the world and endured for the furtherance of the will of God. As in the case of the Master, the Apostle’s body is in the end to be made a corpse. But, at the present, what he ceaselessly has with him is the suffering which leads to this result. As Christ’s Passion began long before Gethsemane, so the martyrdom of S. Paul began long before his condemnation to death. It is possible that ἐν τῷ σώματι περιφέροντες keeps up the metaphor of the earthen vessels, but the expression is natural enough without that. For the verb comp. Mark 6:55; Ephesians 4:14; for the meaning Galatians 6:17; ‘go where he will (περι-), everywhere.’ The κυρίου before Ἰησοῦ (KL), ‘The Lord Jesus’ (A.V.), is certainly to be omitted (אABCDFGP); and note that throughout (2 Corinthians 4:10-14) Christ is designated by the name which He bore as man (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

ἵνα καὶ ἡ ζωὴ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἐν τῷ σώματι ἡμῶν φανερωθῇ. The fragile body is charged with the sufferings which tend to deprive it of life, in order that the life of Jesus may be manifested in it. This perhaps means that S. Paul’s frequent deliverances from death were manifestations of the life-giving power of the risen Christ. Like Christ’s Resurrection, they were a witness to the truth of the Gospel, for they showed that Jesus is still alive and able to save. But ἡ ζωὴ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ probably includes more than deliverance from physical death; and ἑν τῷ σώματι ἡμῶν does not limit us to what is physical. Even in the body the moral power of the living Christ may be manifested; as when Christians are enabled to endure prolonged suffering of the worst kind with cheerfulness. See Bigg on 1 Peter 3:18.


Verse 11

11. ἀεὶ γὰρ ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες εἰς θάνατον παραδιδόμεθα. For alway we the living are being delivered unto death. No sooner is one rescue effected than the Apostle is handed over to death once more. He always goes about with his life in his hand; but then it is also in God’s hand, who does not allow it to be lost. Note ἀεί, which gives the idea of continuousness and is not frequent in S. Paul, taking the place of πάντοτε (2 Corinthians 4:9). For παραδιδόμεθα comp. the many passages in which this verb is used of Jesus being handed over to His enemies (Matthew 10:4; Matthew 17:22; Matthew 20:18-19; Matthew 26:20, &c.). The addition of οἱ ζῶντες heightens the paradox that life is a series of exposures to death: ‘we who live are constantly dying; we are ever a living prey to death.’ And as this is for Jesus’ sake, it is a bearing of the νέκρωσις τοῦ Ἰησοῦ. See Briggs, The Messiah of the Apostles, p. 122.

ἐν τῇ θνητῇ σαρκὶ ἡμῶν. Stronger than ἐν τῷ σώματι ἡμῶν. Even in the very seat of pain and decay and death the life of Jesus is made manifest. Just that part of man which most easily yields to persecution and suffering is able to manifest the life-giving power of Christ. Comp. Romans 8:17; Philippians 3:10; 2 Timothy 2:11; also Ign. Magn. v.


Verse 12

12. ὥστε ὁ θάνατος ἐν ἡμῖν ἑνεργεῖται, ἡ δὲ ζωὴ ἐν ὑμῖν. This is a startling conclusion to draw from what has just been said; so startling, that Chrysostom, Calvin, and others treat it as sarcastic: ‘So you see that Apostles have a very hard existence, while you live in comfort.’ But there is probably no irony. The first half of the conclusion is drawn from the first half of 2 Corinthians 4:11 : ‘Always we the living are being handed over unto death; so that it is death that is at work in us.’ The second half of the conclusion is drawn from the second half of 2 Corinthians 4:11 : ‘The power of the life of Jesus preserves us to work for your salvation; so that it is life that is at work in you.’ Some of the Corinthians had taunted S. Paul with his bodily infirmities; his appearance was against him; no one would suppose that such a miserably broken-down man was an Apostle. He tells them that they should have been the last people to utter such a scoff; for it is they who have profited by his endurance of sufferings which, but for Divine support, would have killed him. Those who get the treasure should not mock at the shabby appearance of the vessel which brought it to them. Comp. 1 Corinthians 4:10. Theodoret takes it in the same way: τῆς γὰρ ὑμετέρας εἵνεκα σωτηρίας ὑπομένομεν τοὺς κινδύνους· μετὰ κινδύνων γὰρ ὑμῖν τὴν διδασκαλίαν προσφέρομεν· ἡμῶν δὲ κινδυνευόντων, ὑμεῖς ἀπολαύετε τῆς ζωῆς. The articles (ὁ θάνατοςἡ ζωή) perhaps mean the death and the life which have just been mentioned in 2 Corinthians 4:11.


Verse 13

13. ἔχοντες δὲ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα. But, because we have the same spirit of faith, according to that which is written, I believed, wherefore I spoke, we also believe, wherefore also we speak. The same trust in God which sustained the Psalmist sustains the Apostle; and it is this faith which enables him, in spite of his infirmities, to preach, and to preach with effect. The quotation is from the LXX. of Psalms 116:10 [Psalms 115:1], which here differs from the Hebrew. The Hebrew gives, ‘I believe when I speak,’ or, ‘I do believe, for I must speak.’ The point here is that faith and trust in God enable those who are in trouble themselves to make known to others the love of God. The whole context seems to be in S. Paul’s mind.


Verse 14

14. εἰδότες. Because we know. Comp. 2 Corinthians 1:7. This may be the πίστις of 2 Corinthians 4:13 in another form. To the man who has it, complete belief is equivalent to knowledge. Many of the first Christians knew that God had raised Jesus from the dead, because they had seen Him alive after the Crucifixion. Others had a belief in the fact which was equal to knowledge. All had a belief equal to knowledge that God would raise them also from the dead, supposing that they died before Christ’s Return. It is a mistake to say that “it is impossible that the reference can be to the resurrection of the body at the Parousia, for St Paul was persuaded, when he wrote the First Epistle, that he should live until the Lord’s coming, and there is no indication in the Second that his view had undergone any change.” In 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 he contemplates the probability of his being alive at the Second Advent. In 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 he contemplates the possibility of his not being among those who will live to see Christ’s Return. During the period in which he wrote both letters he seems to have still thought that the majority of Christians then living would live on until the Second Coming (1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:17), and to have supposed that he would be in this majority. But on this last point he nowhere lays stress; and when he was in one of his desponding moods he may easily have expected the contrary. What he says here is that, if he dies, he knows that God will raise him as He raised Jesus, and will present him along with his Corinthian converts to the risen Christ. Polycarp [2] quotes this; comp. 2 Corinthians 3:2, 2 Corinthians 8:21.

σὺν Ἰησοῦ. See critical note. The σύν does not mean ‘at the same time with,’ but indicates the unity of all Christians with and in Christ. In rising again He is the ἀπαρχή (1 Corinthians 15:23), and His members, when they are raised from the dead, rise in union with Him, and by virtue of that union. Hence the correction of the original σύν to the usual διά. Comp. Romans 8:11.

παραστήσει σὺν ὑμῖν. Nothing is said about presenting them before the judgment-seat (Romans 14:10), which would probably have been expressed (2 Corinthians 5:10), had it been meant. From the use of παραστῆσαι in 2 Corinthians 11:2; Colossians 1:22; Ephesians 5:6 we may infer that it is the presentation of the Church as Bride to the Christ as Spouse that is implied. Comp. Judges 1:24.


Verse 15

15. τὰ γὰρ πάντα διʼ ὑμᾶς. Once more (see on 2 Corinthians 3:2) we see the Apostle’s affection for his converts forcing its way to the front. The γάρ refers specially to σὺν ὑμῖν, but may cover the whole of 2 Corinthians 4:7-14. His ceaseless afflictions, perplexities, persecutions, overthrows, and approaches to death (8–10), with his equally ceaseless deliverances, and his consequent work for the Gospel, have all been for their sakes, that life may work in them (2 Corinthians 4:12).

ἵνα ἡ χάρις πλεονάσασα διὰ τῶν πλειόνων. In order that the grace being made more by means of the more may cause the thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. Note the alliteration, which indicates that διὰ τῶν πλειόνων belongs to πλεονάσασα rather than to περισσεύῃ. The meaning is not clear, but the sequence of thought may be as follows: ‘We endure all for your sake, in order that the Divine help which enables me to bear all, granted to me in answer to your prayers, may call out your thanksgiving, and so may redound to the glory of God.’ Comp. 2 Corinthians 1:11. With περισσεύω transitive comp. 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:12. It is commonly intransitive (2 Corinthians 1:5, 2 Corinthians 3:9, 2 Corinthians 8:2, 2 Corinthians 9:12), and may be taken so here: in order that grace, being made more, may abound to the glory of God, on account of the thanksgiving of the more. As in 2 Corinthians 2:6 (see note), the A.V. here renders τῶν πλειόνων ‘many,’ instead of ‘the majority.’ He does not say ‘all,’ because there were some Corinthians of whom this was not true.


Verse 16

16. Διὸ οὐκ ἐγκακοῦμεν. Wherefore we faint not: see on 2 Corinthians 4:1, to which ἐγκακοῦμεν takes us back. The thought emerges again 2 Corinthians 5:6. Through all his trials he retains courage. The διό refers to 2 Corinthians 4:14-15. Because all that comes upon him is for his readers’ benefit and the glory of God, therefore he can never lose heart.

ἀλλʼ εἰ καὶ ὁ ἔξω ἡμῶν ἄνθρωπος. But (on the contrary) although (see on 2 Corinthians 4:3) our outward man is being destroyed, as a garment is ruined by moths (Luke 12:33). Nowhere else do we find ὁ ἕξω ἅνθρωπος. It is the same as the earthen vessel (2 Corinthians 4:7), which is battered and damaged and of less and less worth. See Ellicott on Ephesians 3:16.

ἀλλʼ ὁ ἔσω ἡμῶν ἀνακαινοῦται. Yet our inward man is being renewed (Colossians 3:10; comp. Hebrews 6:6; Psalms 102:5, Ps. 103:30) day by day. In the LXX., as in classical Greek, ἀνακαινίζω is preferred to ἀνακαινόω. The process of renewal in the spirit is as constant as the process of decay in the body. S. Paul does not say that the body, which is again and again rescued from perishing, is preserved from waste. ὁ ἕξω ἄνθρωπος occurs Romans 7:22; Ephesians 3:16. Comp. ὁ παλαιὸς ἡμῶν ἅνθρωπος, ὁ καινὸς ἄνθρωπος (Romans 6:6; Ephesians 2:15; Ephesians 4:22; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:9). These expressions are possibly of Platonic origin, and they should be noted as linking Epistles which are sometimes disputed, as Ephesians and Colossians, to Epistles whose genuineness is not open to doubt, as Romans and Corinthians. The idea of ‘renewal’ is another link (ἀνακαινόω, Colossians 3:10; ἀνακαίνωσις, Romans 12:2; Titus 3:5). The expression ἡμέρᾳ καὶ ἡμέρᾳ is unique in Biblical Greek. It does not mean ‘daily,’ which would be καθʼ ἡμέραν or τὸ καθʼ ἡμέραν, but ‘day by day’; there is a progressive renewal advancing as the days pass. Winer, p. 581. Tertullian has de die et die. See Origen’s use of the passage (on Mt. Bk x. 15).


Verses 16-18

16–18. He has just said how his faith sustains him. Without using the word, he now expresses his steadfast hope. The balanced antitheses, verse by verse, give this passage something of the rhythm of a hymn.


Verse 17

17. τὸ γὰρ παραυτίκα ἐλαφρὸν τῆς θλίψεως. Literally, ‘For the momentary lightness of our affliction’; which is admirably turned as, For our light affliction, which is but for a moment (A.V.), or ‘for the moment’ (R.V.). For παραυτίκα see Psalms 69:3; not elsewhere in the N.T. In what follows, as in 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:6, words are piled up to express the intensity of the glory.

καθʼ ὑπερβολὴν εἰς ὑπερβολὴν αἰώνιον βάρος δόξης κατεργάζεται ἡμῖν. Worketh out for us more and more beyond measure (2 Corinthians 1:8) an eternal weight of glory; in which αἰώνιον is in contrast to παραυτίκα, βάρος to ἐλαφρόν, and δόξης to τῆς θλίψεως. The etymological connexion in Hebrew between the word for ‘heavy’ and the word for ‘glory’ may have caused the connexion of the ideas in S. Paul’s mind: comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:6. With the general sense comp. Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:11. In κατεργάζεται ἡμῖν there is no idea of compensation for injury, or of payment for value received, as if suffering constituted a claim: it means ‘brings to completion,’ perficit. The verb is frequent with S. Paul, especially in Romans and this letter (2 Corinthians 5:5, 2 Corinthians 7:10-11, 2 Corinthians 11:11, 2 Corinthians 12:12): elsewhere only James 1:3; 1 Peter 4:3; but not rare in the LXX. With καθʼ ὑπερβολὴν εἰς ὑπ. comp. ἀπὸ δόξης εἰς δόξαν (2 Corinthians 3:18).


Verse 18

18. μὴ σκοπούντων ἡμῶν. Since we look not, do not fix our eyes upon or pay attention to: Philippians 2:4; Philippians 3:17; Romans 16:17. We might have had μὴ σκοποῦσι. Blass (§ 74. 5) compares φρίκη μοι προσῆλθεν, μόνου μου ὅντος. If ἡμῶν means all Christians, we may, with Chrysostom, interpret, provided we look not; but ‘since’ is probably right. S. Paul sometimes passes rapidly from ‘we’ = Apostles or ministers to ‘we’ = all Christians: comp. Ephesians 1:12-14; Colossians 1:6-7; Colossians 1:9; Colossians 1:13.

τὰ βλεπόμενα. To be understood in its full sense, including the afflictions as well as the pleasant things of this life.

τὰ μὴ βλεπόμενα. The things which we cannot see, not the things which cannot be seen, τὰ ἀόρατα (Romans 1:20). Contrast παράγματα οὐ βλεπόμενα (Hebrews 11:1) and comp. Hebrews 11:7.

πρόσκαιρα. Temporary. It is their nature to last only for a season: elsewhere only Matthew 13:21 = Mark 4:17; Hebrews 11:25. Seneca has words similar to these; that the things of this world “are unreal, and only for a time make a kind of show. Not one of them has stability or substance.… Let us direct our minds to the things which are eternal” (Ep. 59). This was a commonplace in Stoicism, which knew nothing of Christian hope, and therefore could inculcate nothing better than philosophic resignation, which may fortify, but does not console. See on 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, 2 Corinthians 4:7. On αἰώνια see Appendix E in the volume on the Gospel according to S. John. Sic enim visibilia haec sunt ad invisibilia, quomodo figura ad veritatem. Figura deperit, veritas permanet (Herveius Burgidolensis).

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/2-corinthians-4.html. 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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