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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
2 Corinthians 5





The division between the chapters is again not well made. Chapter 4 would have ended better at 2 Corinthians 5:10.

Verse 1

1. οἴδαμεν γάρ. The connexion with what precedes is shown by the γάρ and by community of subject. He is sure that temporary affliction works out an eternal weight of glory; for we know that if our earthly house of the tabernacle were taken down. Whatever doubts may have been raised on the subject, Christian ministers (or all Christians; comp. οἱ ὅντες in 2 Corinthians 5:4) know (2 Corinthians 4:14; comp. Romans 8:28) that the dissolution of the body means, not annihilation, but translation to a higher state of existence: comp. 1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:14. This knowledge comes from revelation. Philosophy and science can do no more than guess. The Vulgate has domus nostra hujus habitationis, and in 2 Corinthians 5:4 in hoc tabernaculo, where hujus and hoc represent the article. In the Epistles (not Gospels) hic mundus frequently represents ὁ κόσμος (Romans 3:6; Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 14:10; &c.).

οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους. Tent-dwelling, or tabernacle-house; a home that is only a tent. Seeing that neither houses nor tents are ‘dissolved,’ while both are ‘taken down,’ the latter is a better rendering of καταλύθῃ (Matthew 24:2; Mark 13:2), which is the exact opposite of ‘build up’ (Galatians 2:18; Matthew 26:61; Matthew 27:40), and generally implies total destruction. Our earthly tent-dwelling will be taken down at our death. Lightfoot (on τὸ ἀναλῦσαι in Philippians 1:23) remarks “that the camp-life of the Israelites in the wilderness, as commemorated by the annual feast of tabernacles, was a ready and appropriate symbol of man’s transitory life on earth.” The metaphor may have been suggested to S. Paul by his work as a σκηνοποιός (Acts 18:3), but it is common in literature, and he uses it nowhere else. Comp. Wisdom of Solomon 9:15, which is rather close to this passage (see on 2 Corinthians 10:5), and 2 Peter 1:13-14; Isaiah 38:12. Field thinks that “the depreciatory term σκῆνος for the human body is borrowed from the Pythagorean philosophy.” Clement of Alexandria says that Plato called man’s body an earthy (not earthly) tabernacle, γήινον σκῆνος (Strom. v. xiv. p. 703 ed. Potter). The idea of man’s body being a tent fits in well with that of his life being a pilgrimage, and also with the idea that here we are only sojourners (1 Peter 2:11).

οἰκοδομὴν ἐκ θεοῦ ἔχομεν. We have a building from God, given by Him. The body also is His gift (1 Corinthians 12:18; 1 Corinthians 12:24), but man has a share in the production of it. The spiritual edifice is in a peculiar sense God’s creation: and οἰκοδομή implies something more permanent than a σκῆνος (Matthew 24:1; Mark 13:1; Ephesians 2:21). The word is a later form of οἱκοδόμημα: see Lightfoot on 1 Corinthians 3:9. The present tense (ἕχομεν) is used of what is absolutely certain: as soon as the tent-dwelling is taken down, a much better edifice is there. But we need not suppose that S. Paul thinks of the better edifice as already existing in heaven. It comes ἑκ θεοῦ and ἐξ οὐρανοῦ directly it is required. Till then it is only a possibility.

οἰκίαν ἀχειροποίητον. The contrast is with the tent-dwelling, rather than with the body which it represents; for the body is not made with hands. But ἀχειροποίητος came to mean ‘immaterial, spiritual.’ Christ uses it of His own risen body (Mark 14:58), and S. Paul of the circumcision of the heart (Colossians 2:11, where see Lightfoot’s note). In the LXX. χειροποίητος is always used of objects connected with idolatry (Leviticus 26:1; Leviticus 26:30; Isaiah 2:18; Isaiah 10:11; Isaiah 16:12; Isaiah 19:1; Daniel 5:4; Daniel 5:23; Daniel 6:26); and therefore ἀχειροποίητος would come to mean ‘free from pollution, pure.’ Comp. Acts 7:47, and see Lightfoot on Colossians 2:11. This spiritual home is among τὰ μὴ βλεπόμενα (2 Corinthians 4:18). Note the balanced contrast, as in 2 Corinthians 4:17. The present body is [1] earthly, [2] a tent-dwelling. The future body is [1] from God, in the heavens, [2] not made with hands, eternal. The R.V. rightly places a comma between ‘eternal’ and ‘in the heavens,’ for ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς belongs to ἔχομεν.

Verses 1-10

1–10. He continues his impassioned statement of the sufferings and the consolations of an Apostle, as drawn from his own experience. The support derived from the realization of the unseen is further developed. Hope of eternal glory gives him strength to endeavour to be always such as Christ can approve. The balanced rhythm, which distinguishes 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, still continues for a verse or two.

Verse 2

2. καὶ γὰρ ἐν τούτῳ. We must choose between several translations of both halves. For καὶ γάρ for verily (R.V.), or for indeed, or for also, or for moreover: it introduces an additional point or emphatic reason. Here γάρ introduces the motive of S. Paul’s words: ‘I speak of this sure hope because we are conscious of sorrow.’ For ἑν τούτω̣, in this tent-dwelling, or in this body? or hereby (1 Corinthians 4:4), or ‘by this, herein’ (John 4:37; John 15:8; John 16:30) are possible renderings. ‘For truly this is why we groan’ may be right; but For in this σκῆνος we groan’ is more probable. In either case, “the burden of infirmity we carry about with us prevents the full realization of our blessedness” (Lias). Comp. Romans 8:23.

ἐπενδύσασθαι ἐπιποθοῦντες. Because we long to be clothed upon. The participle gives the reason for στενάζομεν: comp. εἰδότες (2 Corinthians 4:14). Winer, p. 144. The double compound occurs nowhere else in Biblical Greek, but is full of meaning here; comp. ἐπενδύτης (John 21:7; Leviticus 8:7; 1 Samuel 18:4 A). The metaphor makes the easy change from a small tent to a garment. Here we have the two combined, to be clothed with a habitation. For the accusative comp. Matthew 6:25; Mark 6:9; Luke 7:27; 1 Corinthians 15:53-54. Even more than οἰκοδομή, οἰκητήριον gives the idea of a permanent home (Judges 1:6; 2 Maccabees 11:2); and the idea is that of a lasting edifice being placed over a frail one, like one garment over another, so that the fabric that is covered ceases to be of value. The ἐπενδύτης was put on over the χιτών, and here the ἑπενδύτης = the Resurrection body, while the χιτών = the natural body. Comp. Asc. of Isaiah 4:16, 9:9, 11:40. Our earnest desire is to escape death and draw the Resurrection body over the natural body, so that the less may be absorbed in the greater. The Apostle perhaps means that the eager longing is evidence of the reality of what is longed for. It is improbable that our natural craving to have our perishable bodies superseded by something imperishable should be incapable of realization. In the N. T. ἐπιποθεῖν is almost peculiar to S. Paul, who has it in all groups of his Epistles (2 Corinthians 9:14; Romans 1:2; Philippians 1:8; Philippians 2:26; 1 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Timothy 1:4). Place only a comma at the end of 2 Corinthians 5:2.

Verse 3

3. εἴ γε καὶ ἐνδυσάμενοι οὐ γυμνοὶ εὑρεθησόμεθα. See critical note. Here the metaphor of the garment is uppermost. Comp. the argument in Plato, Phaedo 87. In the Gorgias 523, the dead, having been deprived of their bodies, are called γυμνοί: and here γυμνός seems to mean ‘without a body.’ Comp. Crat. 403 and Orig. c. Cels. ii. 43. A man without his ἐπενδύτης was called γυμνός (John 21:7): still more would he be called γυμνός if he had also thrown off his χιτών. But if the ἐπενδύτης was on him the absence of the χιτών would not be felt. The clause explains the latter half of 2 Corinthians 5:2. ‘I say clothed upon, of course on the supposition that, when we are clothed upon, we shall not be found without any covering at all.’ Only those who are still in the body at the Second Advent (to which crisis the aorists refer) can be said to be clothed upon. The dead, who have left their bodies, may be said to be clothed, when they receive a heavenly body, but not clothed upon. Cremer (Lex. p. 163) contends that here γυμνός means ‘stripped of righteousness, guilty.’ But the passage is one of which the meaning is uncertain. See notes in the Speaker’s Commentary, pp. 418, 424. The καί adds emphasis to the assumption; ‘if indeed it so be,’ ‘if it really is the case.’ But this is perhaps too pronounced, and the force of the καί may be better given in intonation. Lightfoot on Galatians 3:4 remarks that εἴ γε “leaves a loophole for doubt, and καὶ widens this, implying an unwillingness to believe on the part of the speaker.” Elsewhere S. Paul speaks of the body, when the life is gone, as γυμνός (1 Corinthians 15:37). Comp. Enoch lxii. 15, 16; Secrets of Enoch xxii. 8.

Verse 4

4. καὶ γὰρ οἱ ὄντες ἐν τῷ σκήνει. After the explanatory remark in 2 Corinthians 5:3 he returns to 2 Corinthians 5:2 : For verily (as in 2 Corinthians 5:2), or For indeed (R.V.), we that are in the tabernacle (the one mentioned before) do groan, being (= because) burdened: comp. 2 Corinthians 1:8. This seems to refer to all Christians, not to the Apostles or ministers only; see on 2 Corinthians 5:1.

ἐφʼ ᾦ οὐ θέλομεν ἐκδύσαθαι. Because (Romans 5:12) we do not wish to be unclothed; or, wherefore (Philippians 3:12) we do not wish to be unclothed. As in Philippians 3:12 (see Lightfoot’s note), either ‘because’ or ‘wherefore’ makes sense; but here ‘because’ makes the better sense. The thought that he may be ‘unclothed,’ i.e. lose his body, before the Lord returns, is painful to the Apostle, and makes him groan. He would much rather live to see the Second Advent, and have the resurrection body put on him without dying. Such a feeling was natural to one who believed the Second Advent to be near. The direct transition from life to a higher life seemed to be much happier than the transition from life through death and resurrection to the higher life. See the remarkable parallel 2 Esdras 13:24; also Tertul. De Resur. Carn. 41 ff. The A.V. puts the ‘not’ in the wrong place: οὐ must go with θέλομεν. For the play on words comp. 2 Corinthians 1:13.

ἵνα καταποθῇ τὸ θνητὸν ὑπὸ τῆς ζωῆς. That what is mortal (in us) may be swallowed up (2 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 15:54) by life; i.e. that our bodies, instead of being separated from us by death, may be transfigured and glorified by life, through the absorption of all that is perishable. Comp. Isaiah 25:8. In the Book of Enoch this feeling takes the form of a desire to be translated to the Kingdom of Heaven, without consideration of the body; but there is the same confidence as to the future life in glory: “Here I wished to dwell, and my soul longed for that dwelling-place: here already heretofore had been my portion, for so has it been established concerning me before the Lord of Spirits” (xxxix. 8; comp. lxxi. 14, xc. 31).

Verse 5

5. ὁ δὲ κατεργασάμενος ἡμᾶς εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο θεός. But he who wrought us out for this very thing is God. ‘But’ implies ‘This may seem strange.’ But δέ may have reference to the wish in 2 Corinthians 5:4 and to its fulfilment: ‘Now he who &c.’ The aorists point to the time when the fitness and the Spirit were given, and κατεργασάμενος refers to redemption and regeneration rather than to creation: comp. 2 Corinthians 4:17, 2 Corinthians 7:10-11, 2 Corinthians 9:11, 2 Corinthians 12:2. By αὐτὸ τοῦτο is meant what is mortal being absorbed in life. It was for precisely this (Romans 9:17) that God prepared as, who gave to us the earnest of the Spirit (see critical note). The Spirit is an earnest of the realization of the yearning for future glory. With the doctrine of the Spirit as a pledge, here and 2 Corinthians 1:22, comp. Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 4:30 and Romans 8:15-17; Romans 8:23.

Verses 6-10

6–10. These verses sum up results, and recall the strong conviction expressed in 2 Corinthians 5:1. The A.V. does not bring out the construction of 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, which is broken by the parenthesis in 2 Corinthians 5:7. Confident therefore always, and knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord, for we walk by means of faith and not by means of visible form,—we are confident, I say, and are well pleased rather to get absent from the body and to get home unto the Lord. The repetition of θαρρεῖν must be preserved; and the change from presents (ἐνδημοῦντες, ἐκδημοῦμεν) to aorists (ἐκδημῆσαι, ἐνδημῆσαι) must be marked. For the thought comp. Philippians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:10; also ἄφιξις in Acts 20:29, where (as invariably in Hdt., Dem., &c.) it means ‘arrival’ = ἐνδημῆσαι πρὸς τὸν κύριον, not ‘departing’ (A.V., R.V.), discessio (Vulg.). Comp. the German Heimgang for ‘death,’ and see Chase, Credibility of the Acts, pp. 263, 264. In the N.T. θαρρεῖν is rare (2 Corinthians 7:16, 2 Corinthians 10:1-2; Hebrews 13:6), in the LXX. perhaps only Proverbs 1:21 : θαρσεῖν is more common, especially in the imperative.

Verse 7

7. διὰ πίστεωςδιὰ εἴδους. Perhaps διά has not quite the same shade of meaning in both cases. In each place it may indicate either the means by which, or the element through which, the motion takes place. The latter meaning easily passes into the condition in which a thing takes place. In Revelation 21:24 διὰ τοῦ φωτὸς περιπατεῖν may mean ‘walk in the light’ (A.V.), or, ‘amidst the light’ (R.V.), or, ‘by the light’ (R.V. margin). Here διὰ εἴδους cannot mean ‘by sight’ in the sense of ‘by our eyesight’: it means ‘by that which is seen’ (Luke 3:22; Luke 9:29); ‘we have no pillar of cloud or of fire to guide us.’ Comp. στόμα κατὰ στόμα λαλήσω αὑτῷ, ἐν εἴδει καὶ οὐ διʼ αἰνιγμάτων (Numbers 12:8), which S. Paul has also in mind in 1 Corinthians 13:12. We live here under a condition of believing in Christ, not under the condition of His visible presence.

Verse 8

8. The δέ marks the resumption of θαρροῦντες in θαρροῦμεν, and this is well rendered by ‘I say’ (A.V.).

εὐδοκοῦμεν. Are well pleased (2 Corinthians 12:10; Matthew 3:17; Matthew 12:18; Matthew 17:5; Luke 12:32; 1 Corinthians 1:21; &c.): stronger than θέλομεν. The Apostle is more than willing to migrate out of the body; which shows that though there may be natural awe, there is no fear of death in 2 Corinthians 5:4. As at a later period (Philippians 1:20-25), he is ‘in a strait betwixt the two.’ For some reasons he would like to remain alive; for others he would prefer to depart. But the reasons for wishing to remain have changed. Here it is for his own sake that he desires not to die: he believes that the Lord will come soon, and he longs to see Him without dying. There it is for the sake of the Philippians that he desires to remain alive: they can ill do without him. Probably, when he wrote to them, he was less confident that Christ would come soon, and therefore had ceased for this reason to wish to live longer. In both cases the reason for his desire to migrate from the body is that he may come home to the Lord. Comp. Cic. Tusc. I. 41. 98.

Verse 9

9. διὸ καὶ φιλοτιμούμεθα. Wherefore also (2 Corinthians 1:20) we are ambitious (R.V. margin), whether we are at home or absent from home, to be acceptable (Romans 12:1-2; Romans 14:18, Ephesians 5:10) to him. If εὐδοκέω is ‘am well pleased,’ we must have a different expression for εὐάρεστοι, for which otherwise ‘well-pleasing’ (Philippians 4:18; Colossians 3:20; Hebrews 13:21) is accurate: in LXX. only Wisdom of Solomon 4:10; Wisdom of Solomon 9:10. In late Greek, φιλοτιμέομαι loses its definiteness, and need mean no more than ‘strive earnestly’: so that ‘labour’ (A.V.) and ‘make it our aim’ (R.V.) represent it fairly well. Elsewhere only Romans 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:11. Nevertheless the older meaning may be right here. This aim of the Apostle is his legitimate ambition: whatever his personal wishes might be, this is a point of honour with him. It is incredible that εἴτε ἐνδημοῦντες εἴτε ἐκδμοῦντες refers to his place of abode in this world. Both 2 Corinthians 5:8 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 show that the reference is to being in the body or out of the body. His ambition is, in either state to have Christ’s approval. See on 2 Corinthians 1:6.

Verse 10

10. τοὺς γὰρ πάντας ἡμᾶς. First with great emphasis: For all (1 Corinthians 10:17) of us must be made manifest (1 Corinthians 4:5) before the judgment seat of Christ. This is a reason for aiming at Christ’s approval; every Christian, whether Apostle or not, whether in the body or out of it at the time of His Advent, will, by Divine decree (δεῖ), have to come before Him for approbation or condemnation, there to be made manifest (2 Corinthians 3:3) by having his real character disclosed (John 3:21; Ephesians 5:13; Colossians 3:4; Revelation 3:18; Revelation 15:4). φανερωθῆναι is stronger than ‘appear’ (A.V.), which is φαίνεσθαι.

ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ βήματος. Comp. Romans 14:10. The word is used of earthly judgment-seats Matthew 27:19; John 19:13; and often in Acts. In the LXX. it is a ‘pulpit’ or ‘platform,’ rather than a ‘judgment seat’ (1 Esdras 9:42; Nehemiah 8:4; 2 Maccabees 13:26), or a ‘footstep, walk’ (Deuteronomy 2:5; Sirach 19:30; Sirach 45:9).

τοῦ βήματος τοῦ χριστοῦ. See also Polycarp 6. In Romans 14:10 we have τῷ βήματι τοῦ θεοῦ. “It is important to notice how easily St Paul passes from Χριστός to θεός. The Father and the Son were in his mind so united in function that they may often be interchanged. God, or Christ, or God through Christ, will judge the world. Our life is in God, or in Christ, or with Christ in God” (Sanday and Headlam ad loc.).

ἵνα κομίσηται ἕκαστος. That each one may receive. The treatment will be individual, soul by soul. From implying that what is received is one’s own or one’s due (Tobit 7:12-13; 2 Maccabees 7:11) κομίζομαι easily acquires the sense of ‘am requited for’ (Colossians 3:25; Ephesians 6:8; Leviticus 20:17). It is used of receiving wages and reaping a reward (2 Peter 2:13; 2 Maccabees 8:33).

τὰ διὰ τοῦ σώματος. The things (done) by means of the body as an instrument, and therefore while the agent ἐνδημεῖ ἐν τῷ σώματι. In Plato we have such expressions as ἡδοναί, or αἰσθήσεις, αἱ διὰ τοῦ σώματος.

πρὸς ἃ ἔπραξεν, εἰτε ἀγαθὸν εἴτε φαῦλον. See critical note. It is of course more probable that κακόν should have been substituted for the less common φαῦλον, than that φαῦλον should have been substituted for κακόν. But φαῦλον is so common of moral evil (Aristotle passim), that a copyist might have thought it more appropriate here than the vaguer κακόν (see on 2 Corinthians 13:7). Therefore the alteration of κακόν into φαῦλον is not impossible. For this use of πρὸς comp. Luke 12:47; Galatians 2:14 : according to the things which he did while in the body, whether he did good or did bad. The neuter singular sums up the single acts (τὰ διὰ τ. σ.) as one result. There are gradations of recompense (2 Corinthians 9:6); but nothing is said here either for or against the doctrine of a probation after death. There is silence as to the possibility of such probation. The Apostle says that all Christians will have to answer, each by himself, for what has been done by them in this life. The natural, but not necessary, implication is, that there will be no other period in which either reward or punishment can be earned. Nor is there anything to show whether S. Paul thought of the judgment of each person as taking place when he left this world, or as being deferred till Christ’s Return to judge all who are still in the body.

2 Corinthians 5:11 to 2 Corinthians 6:10. THE LIFE OF AN APOSTLE

It is not easy to find a suitable heading for this section, which, although consecutive, touches on a variety of topics connected with the office of an Apostle and with S. Paul’s own life and experiences. But there is a marked transition from the Sufferings and Supports of an Apostle (2 Corinthians 4:7 to 2 Corinthians 5:10) to matters which do not fall under that head. He once more makes personal explanations as to his conduct, and in particular as to his work in the capacity of a preacher (2 Corinthians 5:11-19), of an ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20-21), and of a minister (2 Corinthians 6:1-10). All this has been of a character which ought to commend him to those among whom he has worked.

Verse 11

11. τὸν φόβον τοῦ κυρίου. The fear of the Lord; the fear which we feel before Christ as our Judge (Ephesians 5:21), not ‘the terror’ (A.V.) which He inspires. Comp. οὐκ ἕστι φόβος θεοῦ ἀπένατι τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν αὐτοῦ (Psalms 35:1). S. Paul is conscious that his actions are determined by the conviction that he will have to answer for them before the judgment-seat of Christ.

ἀνθρώπους πείθομεν, θεῷ δὲ πεφανερώμεθα. The two clauses are in marked contrast, an effect which the A.V. spoils by bad punctuation. There should be only a comma after the first clause and more than a comma after the second: men we persuade (Galatians 1:10), but to God we have been made manifest (1 Corinthians 4:5). Of what is it that the Apostle persuades men? Of his own integrity. This explanation brings out the contrast. ‘I have to persuade men that I am honest, but to God I have already been made manifest and remain so.’ The judgment passed by God on his conduct has been made with full knowledge. The prejudices of the Corinthians against him, being the result of misapprehension, can be removed by persuasion, and he hopes that they have been removed: I hope that in your consciences also we have been made manifest. After ἐλπίζω we commonly have the aor. infin. (1 Corinthians 16:7; Philippians 2:19; Philippians 2:23; &c.), but the perfect here answers the previous perfect, and both express what has been and remains manifested. The καί means ‘in your consciences as well as to God.’ He hopes that his self-vindication has been successful, and that he is seen by them as lie knows that he is seen by God.

There is another view with regard to πείθομεν, making it anticipate 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; ‘Realizing the awfulness of the thought of Christ who is the Judge of all, we do our work as an Evangelist; we persuade men to be reconciled to God and so be ready for that day.’ Then, partly perhaps because persuasion suggests the idea of artifice and recalls to his mind the charge of insincerity, he continues, ‘but to God we have been made manifest.’

Verse 12

12. οὐ πάλιν ἑαντοὺς συνιστάνομεν ὑμῖν. See critical note. We are not again commending ourselves to you: see on 2 Corinthians 3:1. What he has just been saying would easily lend itself to a repetition of that charge.

ἀλλὰ ἀφορμὴν διδόντες ὑμῖν καυχήματος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν. But (on the contrary we say this) as giving you an occasion of glorying on our behalf, that ye may have (it to use) against them who glory in appearance and not in heart. Once more (2 Corinthians 2:12) it is all for the Corinthians’ sake. What looks like self-praise is really done to supply them with material, when they have to stand up against those who boast about superficial advantages rather than solidity of character. His Jewish opponents boasted of their descent from Abraham, of being circumcised, of having exclusive privileges, perhaps also of intimacy with James, the Lord’s brother, and of having seen Christ Himself. S. Paul tells the Corinthians that he is giving them the means of answering these boasts with boasting of a different kind. If what he has been saying about himself is believed by them to be true, they can use it as an answer. ‘What are the external advantages of which you vaunt compared with a good conscience and work done in the fear of God? Our experience of Paul is that he devotes himself to God and to us. You do neither.’ With the exception of Luke 11:54, ἀφορμή in the N.T. is peculiar to S. Paul (2 Corinthians 11:12; Romans 7:8; Romans 7:11; Galatians 5:13; 1 Timothy 5:14). For the opposition between πρόσωπον and καρδία see 1 Thessalonians 2:17; 1 Samuel 16:7; and here, as there, neither word has the article, classes, not individual cases, being under consideration. The subjective μή (see critical note) gives the class as thought of, not as existing in fact; but this distinction is dying out in late Greek and need not be insisted upon here. For καυχῶμαι see on 2 Corinthians 9:2 : in the N.T. it is followed by ἐν, in the LXX. by ἐν and sometimes ἐπί or acc., in classical Greek by εἰς, ἐπί or acc.

Verse 13

13. εἴτε γὰρ ἐξέστημεν, θεῷ· εἴτε σωφρονοῦμεν, ὑμῖν. For whether we went mad (it was) for God; or whether we are in our right mind, (it is) for you. The change from aorist to present must be marked: the datives are commodi, and must be translated alike. S. Paul had his speaking with tongues, his revelations, his ecstasies; and for all that side of his life his critics had said with Festus (Acts 26:24), as His critics had said of Christ (Mark 3:21), that he was mad. ‘Be it so,’ he replies; ‘let us allow that at such times I was beside myself; it was to God and in His service that I was so. But now and generally I am in my right mind; and it is to you and in your service that I am so. Take whichever side of my life you like; assume that the whole of it is madness, or the whole of it sanity; where does selfishness come in? There is no room for it either in what is directed to God’s glory or in what is devoted to your edification.’ If ἐξέστημεν refers to one event, and not to the different occasions on which he had exceptional spiritual experiences, it must be referred to the Rapture recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:1-5 rather than to his conversion, for the latter, by turning him into an Apostle, was as much ὑμῖν as θεῷ. Assuming that 2 Corinthians 12:1-5 was written before this, this may be a direct reference to it. It was one instance of his being ‘beside himself,’ of which he had ‘gloried’ to the Corinthians. See Swete on Mark 5:15. For εἴτεεἴτε … see on 2 Corinthians 1:6.

Verse 14

14. ἡ γὰρ ἀγάπη τοῦ χριστοῦ συνέχει ἡμᾶς. This is not parallel to τὸν φόβον τοῦ κυρίου (2 Corinthians 5:11): it means the love which Christ has towards us (Ephesians 3:19; Romans 5:5; Romans 5:8). See Cremer, Lex. p. 594. Because He loves us so much, we have to restrict our energies to the service of God and of our fellow-men, to the exclusion of self. By συνέχει is meant ‘keeps within bounds,’ prevents from wandering to other objects than the service of God and of man. The word implies pressure (Luke 8:45; Luke 19:43), but the pressure which restrains (Luke 12:50), rather than that which pushes forward. See Lightfoot on συνέχομαι ἐκ τῶν δύο (Philippians 1:23), the only other Pauline use of the verb; ‘I am hemmed in on both sides, I am prevented from inclining one way or the other.’ ‘Urges us on’ is not quite the meaning, although Chrysostom so paraphrases it; οὐκ ἀφίησιν ἡμᾶς ῥαθυμῆσαι οὐδὲ ὑπνῶσαι, ἀλλὰ διανίστησι πρὸς τοὺς ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν πόνους, καὶ ὠθεῖ. He twice quotes, ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ, a reading for which there seems to be no authority. But restrains us from commending ourselves may be right. The idea of motive, though not in the word, can perhaps be deduced from it; ‘possesses us, absorbs us’; comp. Acts 18:5, ‘he was wholly absorbed in preaching.’

κρίναντας τοῦτο. Because we formed this judgment (1 Corinthians 10:15; 1 Corinthians 11:13), came to this opinion. Some refer this to his conversion. But at the moment when Christ captured him and changed him from a persecutor into a convert he could hardly be said to have formed any such conviction. The time of reflexion after his conversion may be meant. In that case translate, because we have formed this judgment, or because we thus judge (A.V., R.V.). The τοῦτο anticipates ὅτι and ἄρα, especially the latter: it is οἱ πάντες ἀπέθανον that is the main element in the judgment. For this use of τοῦτο comp. 2 Corinthians 8:20, 2 Corinthians 10:7; 2 Corinthians 10:11.

ὅτι εἶς ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀπέθανεν· ἅρα οἱ πάντες ἀπέθανον. See critical note. That one died for all, therefore they all died; the ὅτι is practically the sign of quotation, giving the words of his judgment. In one sense, all died in Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22); in quite another, all died in Christ (Galatians 2:19; Colossians 3:3). This is the interpretation of οἱ πάντες ἀπέθανον adopted by Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria, and many moderns; and it is preferable to the explanation that the death of one for all showed that all men were previously dead in sin, which Chrysostom seems to mean.

Verse 15

15. ἵνα οἱ ζῶντες μηκέτι ἑαυτοῖς ζῶσιν. That they which live should no longer (now that they have died in Christ as their representative) live to themselves. Christ died for all, that they should die to themselves, and live to Him. Comp. Romans 14:7-9; Galatians 2:20.

τῷ ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἀποθανόντι καὶ ἐγερθέντι. The ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν goes on to ἐγερθέντι, and this shows that in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν must not be rendered ‘in your stead.’ Christ was raised on our behalf, that we might be made alive in Him (οἱ ζῶντες) and ourselves be raised again; but He was not raised instead of us, ἀντὶ ἡμῶν. Comp. τὴν δύναμιν τῆς ἀναστάσεως (Philippians 3:10).

Verse 16

16. Against all external evidence this verse has been suspected of being a subsequent insertion, made either by the Apostle or by a copyist, because (it is said) it breaks the argument. No doubt the passage would read quite smoothly if we omitted 2 Corinthians 5:16 : but that does not prove that 2 Corinthians 5:16 is not original. Its connexion with what precedes and with what follows is very intelligible. Seeing that all men are intended to live, not to self, but to Christ and to others in Him, it follows that our knowledge of others must not be κατὰ σάρκα: it must not be based upon their bodily appearance or material circumstances, such as race, wealth, position, and the like. It is the inner man, the spirit, the new creation, which counts; and this is the same in Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, teacher and taught. Comp. 2 Corinthians 11:18; Philippians 3:4; John 8:15.

Ὥστε ἡμεῖς ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν. There is a strong emphasis on ἡμεῖς, and a secondary emphasis on ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν, a phrase which, with this exception [and John 8:11], is peculiar in the N.T. to S. Luke (Luke 1:48, Luke 5:10, Luke 12:52, Luke 22:18; Luke 22:69; Acts 18:6). Wherefore we henceforth know no man after the flesh. He intimates that there are people, his Judaizing opponents, whose knowledge is limited to externals, and that there was a time when he himself did so. But when once a man has recognized that in Christ he and all died and rose again, he makes that mistake no longer.

οἱ καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν. See critical note. Even though (2 Corinthians 4:3; 2 Corinthians 4:16) we have known Christ after the flesh. He admits as a fact that he once knew Christ only according to outward appearance, as a renegade Jew and revolutionary Rabbi, who had been rightly put to death.

ἀλλὰ νῦν οὐκέτι γινώσκομεν. Yet now we come to know (Him in that way) no more. S. Paul had got rid not only of his original hostility to Christ, but also of his early narrowness of view respecting Him. In connexion with Him “all mere local, and family, and national distinctions” were out of place. The change from οἴδαμεν to ἑγνώκαμεν is made, simply because οἴδαμεν is present, and a perfect is wanted: when the present is again wanted, the change is naturally from ἑγνώκαμεν to γινώσκω, instead of back to οἴδαμεν. But the difference between οἵδαμεν and γινώσκω is worth marking in translation.

Verse 17

17. ὥστε εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ, καινὴ κτίσις· τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν. The punctuation of the Vulgate may be safely rejected: si qua ergo in Christo nova creatura, vetera transierunt. “This seems to convert a striking truth into a barren truism” (Lias). Wherefore if any man is in Christ, (he is) a new creature; or (there is) a new creation (Galatians 6:15): the old things passed away (Matthew 5:18; Matthew 24:35). “This phrase καινὴ κτίσις is a common expression in Jewish writers for one brought to the knowledge of the true God. See the passages in Schöttgen I. p. 704” (Lightfoot on Galatians 6:15). The ὥστε here is a step beyond the ὥστε of 2 Corinthians 5:16. That gives us the consequence of 2 Corinthians 5:15, this of 2 Corinthians 5:15-16 combined. ‘If Christ died for all, that all might live to Him, and if knowledge by mere externals is for Christians no longer possible, then, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creature.’ It is not likely that ἔστω is to be understood: ‘let him be a new creature’ (A.V. margin). Comp. Titus 3:5. Marcus Aurelius says of the acquisition of a noble disposition, ἔσῃ ἕτερος, καὶ εἰς βίον εἰσελεύσῃ ἕτερον (2 Corinthians 10:8). What follows here is an explanation of καινὴ κτίσις: the old things passed away; behold, they are become new. See critical note. Perhaps τὰ ἀρχαῖα here has the notion of ‘antiquated, belonging to a past order’ (Matthew 5:21; Matthew 5:33; 2 Peter 2:5): see Trench, Synonyms § lxvii. The aor. and perf. are in contrast; when the man came to be in Christ Jesus, then the old things passed away. The ἰδού and the perfect tense give the sentence a jubilant ring. Comp. ἱδοὺ ἐγὼ ποιῶ καινὰ ἂ νῦν ἀνατελει (Isaiah 43:19), and ἰδοὺ καινὰ ποιῶ πάντα (Revelation 21:5); also Book of Jubilees 2 Corinthians 5:12.

Verse 18

18. τὰ δὲ πάντα ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ καταλλάξαντος ἡμᾶς ἑαυτῷ διὰ Χριστοῦ καὶ δόντος ἡμῖν τ. δ. τ. κ. This great change is not our own work: but all things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and, gave to us the ministry of reconciliation. That ἡμᾶς means all mankind is clear from κόσμον in 2 Corinthians 5:19; and that ἡμῖν means the Apostles is clear from ἐν ἡμῖν in 2 Corinthians 5:19. Had ἡμῖν meant all mankind, we should have had ἐν αὐτοῖς in 2 Corinthians 5:19. Here, as elsewhere in Scripture, the change on man’s side is emphasized: Romans 10:10-11; Romans 11:15. In Romans 5:11 the A.V. renders καταλλαγή by ‘atonement,’ which in 1611 was ‘at-one-ment’ and equivalent to ‘reconciliation.’ “Since we cannot atone you” (Richard II., I. i. 203). “I would do much to atone them” (Othello, IV. i. 244). The notion of making amends by paying something is a later meaning. See Trench, Synonyms § lxxvii. Comp. διαλλάγηθι τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου (Matthew 5:24): συνήλλασσεν αὐτοὺς εἰς εἰρήνην (Acts 7:26): and ἀποκαταλλάσσω (Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20-21). S. Paul does not use the LXX. words ἱλάσκομαι, ἐξιλάσκομαι, ἱλασμός. He uses ἱλαστήριον, Romans 3:25.

τὴν διακονίαν τῆς καταλλαγῆς. Comp. 2 Corinthians 3:9. To the preachers of the Gospel is committed the work of persuading men to accept God’s offer of reconciliation with Himself. For διακονία used of the Apostles comp. 2 Corinthians 4:1, 2 Corinthians 6:3; Romans 11:13; 1 Timothy 1:12; and often in Acts.

Verse 19

19. ὡς ὅτι θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ κόσμον καταλλάσσων ἑσυτῷ. The ὡς indicates that this is S. Paul’s view rather than an absolute statement: comp. 2 Corinthians 11:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:2. There are three ways of taking this sentence: to wit, that there was God, in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (Theodoret); to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling &c. (A.V.); to wit, that God in Christ was reconciling &c. The last is to be preferred, making ἦν καταλλάσσων the periphrastic imperfect. Comp. John 1:9 and Luke 1:10 for similarly doubtful cases; but there the ἦν should probably be taken separately. For the omission of the article before κόσμος comp. Galatians 6:14; 1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 14:10; Romans 4:13. The verse contains the Pauline doctrine that in redemption the Father is the Source, the Son the Mediator: Romans 3:24; Colossians 1:20. See Origen, Philocal. xiv. 10.

μὴ λογιζόμενος αὐτοῖς τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν, καὶ θέμενος κ. τ. λ. Comp. Colossians 1:19-20; 1 John 2:2. There were two things which showed that God was working to win over the whole human race to Himself, [1] His not reckoning against them sins for which Christ had atoned, [2] His having deposited with the Apostles His message of reconciliation. The change from present to aorist participle indicates that the not reckoning sins went on continually, while the commission was given once for all. As in Galatians 1:1, the Apostle claims to have received his commission direct from God. On the difference between the πάρεσις (Romans 3:25; comp. Acts 17:30; Wisdom of Solomon 11:23 [24]) and the ἄφεσις of sins see Trench, Syn. § xxxiii. The former is putting aside, praetermission, for future treatment, of foregone sins; the latter is putting away, full and unreserved remission.

Verse 20

20. Ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ. First with emphasis. On behalf of Christ, therefore, we are acting as ambassadors, as though God were intreating by us (2 Corinthians 1:19, 2 Corinthians 9:11). Comp. for the construction of the last clause ὡς μὴ ἐρχομένου μου (1 Corinthians 4:18); also Hebrews 13:17 and James 2:14 : and for the meaning of the whole ὑπὲρ οὖ πρεσβεύω ἐν ἁλύσει (Ephesians 6:20) and Lightfoot’s note on Philemon 1:9.

δεόμεθα ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ, καταλλάγητε τῷ θεῷ. We beseech on behalf of Christ, Become reconciled to God. We have the change from παρακαλῶ to δέομαι again 2 Corinthians 10:1-2 : comp. 2 Corinthians 8:4. As in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, ὑπέρ is ‘on behalf of’: ‘in Christ’s stead’ (A.V.) is probably wrong in both places; and both must be translated alike. ‘Become reconciled’ is better than ‘be ye reconciled’ (R.V.), as [1] expressing the tense, [2] as avoiding the emphasis on ‘ye,’ which is not in the Greek at all.

Verse 20-21

20, 21. He sets forth his work as an ambassador from God. See Lightfoot’s Ordination Addresses, pp. 47 ff.

Verse 21

21. τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν. The insertion of γὰρ in some MSS. and versions illustrates the tendency, especially in versions, to insert particles, which make the diction more smooth, but less forcible. Here the abruptness of the appeal is impressive. ‘Does any one ask, How should I be reconciled?’ Him who knew no sin, on our behalf he made (to be) sin (Galatians 3:13): in order that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Cremer, Lex. p. 640. Here, as probably in Hebrews 3:2, ἐποίησεν may mean ‘constituted.’ The proposal to make ἁμαρτίαν in ἁμ. ἐποίησεν mean ‘sin-offering’ has found advocates from Augustine to Ewald; but N.T. usage is against it. Ritschl, Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung (Eng. tr., Justification and Reconciliation, Edinb. 2nd ed. 1902), is a storehouse of information as to theories respecting this difficult subject. See also Oxenham, The Catholic Doctrine of the Atonement, Lond. 1881; Lias, Hulsean Lectures, Camb. 1884; Westcott, The Victory of the Cross, Lond. 2nd ed. 1889.

ἵνα ἡμεῖς γενώμεθα δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ. This includes both the righteousness which is God’s attribute and also that which proceeds from Him as a grace to man: see Sanday and Headlam on Romans 1:17. While God is made human in Christ, even to the extent of being a sacrifice for man’s sin, man is made divine in Christ, even to the extent of winning the reward for God’s righteousness. As Theodoret puts it, κληθεὶς ὅπερ ἦμεν ἡμεῖς, ἐκάλεσεν ἡμᾶς ὅπερ ὑπῆρχεν αὐτῷ. Note that the two cases are looked at from opposite sides: ἐποίησεν states God’s action towards Christ, γενώμεθα states man’s advantage through the same. See Briggs, The Messiah of the Apostles, pp. 122 ff.

ἐν αὐτῷ. By virtue of His atoning death and our union with Him. It balances ὑπὼρ ὑμῶν: but we do not ‘become righteousness’ ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ, ‘on Christ’s behalf.’ On the death of Christ as a propitiatory sacrifice see Sanday and Headlam on Romans 3:26.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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