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2 Corinthians 12

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Subjects treated by Paul in this chapter are: the revelations he received from the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:1-6), the counteracting thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), another regret at the necessity of glorying (2 Corinthians 12:11-12), his independence (2 Corinthians 12:13-15), a reply to false charges (2 Corinthians 12:16-18), and certain cautions and warnings (2 Corinthians 12:19-21).

Verse 1

I must needs glory, though it is not expedient, but I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.

Though it is not expedient … is rendered, "there is nothing to be gained by it"; but, as Filson said:

Paul does not mean literally that there is nothing to be gained by it, for he hopes by the boasting, forced upon him, to make the Corinthians see that they have been wronging him and following the false leaders at Corinth … he feels driven by a necessity which he cannot evade. Floyd V. Filson, The Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1953), Vol. X, p. 405

Kelcy has a similar view, "The boasting is not expedient as far as making a real contribution to the spiritual state of the Corinthians is concerned." Raymond C. Kelcy, Second Corinthians (Austin, Texas: R. B. Sweet Company, 1967), p. 70.

Visions and revelations … As John Wesley put it, "Visions are seen; revelations are heard." John Wesley, One Volume New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), in loco. The plural here, as regards both visions and revelations, supports the possibility that the "third heaven" and "Paradise" could have been the subjects of different visions.

Of the Lord … identifies the Lord as the source of the visions and revelations, not as the object of them. "The genitive of the Lord is subjective, not objective." R. V. G. Tasker, The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1958), p. 169.

Verse 2

I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I know not; or whether out of the body, I know not; God knoweth), such a one caught up, even to the third heaven.

A man in Christ … The center and circumference of Pauline theology are summed up in the phrase "in Christ." The thought behind the use of the third person here is that it was not as himself that these experiences came to him, but that "as Christ" and "in Christ" he was granted those things. On this account, his glorying is "glorying in the Lord," not in himself.

Whether in the body … out of the body … Paul simply did not know what state he was in; and modesty should restrain all commentators from elaborating on what it was.

Such a one caught up to the third heaven … Since the apostle Paul here quite obviously resorted to the third person when narrating these events, the critics who deny the authorship of the book of Jonah on the ground that it was written in the third person are refuted. The words "caught up" are the same that Luke used of Philip (Acts 8:39) and that Paul used of the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Fourteen years ago … "This was in 41-42 A.D., some years after his escape from Damascus." Norman Hillyer, The New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 1086. There is nothing known of any vision Paul had at that time, except what is related here; although he had numerous visions. It is futile to attempt to identify this with any of the known visions recorded elsewhere.

The third heaven … This is mentioned only here in the New Testament; and there is no certainty about what is meant. Lipscomb outlined the three heavens as understood by the Jews thus:

(1) The air or atmosphere where the clouds gather (Genesis 2:1,19), (2) the firmament containing the sun, moon and stars (Deuteronomy 18:3; Matthew 24:29), and (3) God’s dwelling place (Matthew 5:12, 16,45,48). David Lipscomb, Second Corinthians (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company), p. 157.

There are no geographical connotations whatever in these words, for the third heaven where God dwells is not a thing of space and physical location at all. It is a state of being beyond, above and higher even than the second heaven. Robinson’s remarkable blindness to this fact enabled him to write: "Now it seems there is no room for God, not merely in the inn, but in the entire universe; for there are no vacant places left." John A. T. Robinson, Honest to God (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1963), p. 13. The eternal Spirit is ubiquitous; and as Paul said, "in him we live, and move and have our being" (Acts 17:26). Finite man cannot understand infinity. The great value of this astounding revelation of Paul the apostle does not lie in what is explained (as a matter of fact, he did not EXPLAIN anything); but its value lies in the revelation that no explanation of such things is possible.

There has never been anything written that carries any greater internal evidence of being the truth, than what Paul wrote here. The visions and revelations referred to occurred more than fourteen years previously; and it may be assumed that Paul would never have mentioned them at all, except for their connection with the "thorn in the flesh." Furthermore, when he finally recorded them, he did so with the most tantalizing brevity, requiring only ten words in Greek to describe both the visions of the third heaven and of Paradise. Plainly, Paul did not intend to convey any information at all beyond the fact that he had experienced such marvelous events. He explained his brevity (2 Corinthians 12:4) by declaring it to be: (1) an outright impossibility to elaborate, and (2) contrary to God’s will, even if he could have done so. Finite, limited, mortal and sinful people simply do not possess the intellectual tools to comprehend, either the God and Father of mankind, or the nature of his dwelling place. Of God, men may know only what is revealed; and, even with regard to that, only a fool could believe that man fully understands all of that, in any complete sense. Therefore, as far as "the third heaven" is concerned, this writer does not profess to know anything beyond the truth that an apostle was "caught up" into it.

Verses 3-4

And I know such a man (whether in the body, or apart from the body, I know not; God knoweth), how that he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

The repetition of the same thought in 2 Corinthians 12:2,3 ("whether in the body …") is difficult to interpret. "Opinion is divided as to whether the apostle is merely repeating what he had just said, or is describing" Philip E. Hughes, Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), p. 435. a second event. There are many scholars on both sides of the question. The conviction here is that Paul described two experiences taking place on one occasion. The time of "fourteen years ago" thus applies to both. Paul’s repetition here is for the purpose of applying his ignorance of what state he was in to both events. The plural "visions" (2 Corinthians 12:1) is thus fulfilled by the two here given; and, as Hughes said, "The word ’and’ at the beginning of this sentence at least seems to indicate that he is narrating something additional." Ibid.


There is another important consideration which supports the understanding of two events, rather than merely one,; and that is Paul’s use of the word "Paradise." There is no authority whatever for making this mean the same thing as "the third heaven," despite the fact of endless arguments that they are the same.

Paradise … This word in the New Testament is found only here and in Luke 23:43 and in Revelation 2:7. If it is true, as has been assumed, that the third heaven is the place of God’s dwelling (see under 2 Corinthians 12:2), Jesus had not yet ascended to it on the day he rose from the dead; for he said to Mary Magdalene, "Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to my Father" (John 10:17). Yet the Lord had promised the thief on the cross, "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). In the light of these scriptures we must set aside the learned opinions to the effect that Paradise and the third heaven are the same place. Jesus had been with the thief in Paradise already, but he had not yet ascended to the third heaven. However, we call attention to the "if" that stands at the head of this paragraph. As Farrar said:

Such questions are clearly insoluble, and I leave them where I find them. We shall never understand this passage otherwise than in the dim and vague outline in which St. Paul purposely left it. F. W. Farrar, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), Vol. 19, Second Corinthians, p. 291.

Unspeakable … unlawful … In these words are Paul’s reasons for not satisfying human curiosity about the things he mentioned (see under 2 Corinthians 12:2). "Paul here revealed nothing, either of what he saw or what he heard. The New Testament deliberately veils the next life, though it makes plain what is needful for our salvation." Norman Hillyer, op. cit., p. 1086.

Verse 5

On behalf of such a one will I glory: but on mine own behalf I will not glory, save in my weakness.

Such a one … such a man … such a one … (2 Corinthians 12:2,3,5). Each is the equivalent of "a man in Christ" (2 Corinthians 12:2) and should be understood as Paul’s repeated affirmation of the truth of his experiences being, in a sense, not his own but Christ’s. It was in unity with Christ that the events occurred. In that exalted sense, therefore, Paul could not glory on his own behalf. "All spiritual blessing in the heavenly places is in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). The theology of our age needs to do a lot of work on the concept of being "in Christ," a concept mentioned by Paul 169 times, not counting the three at the head of this paragraph. If one is ever saved, he shall not be saved as himself, but as Christ, in Christ, and fully identified with Christ.

Verse 6

For if I should desire to glory, I shall not be foolish; for I shall speak the truth: but I forbear, lest any man should account of me above that which he seeth me to be, or heareth from me.

The first half of this was paraphrased by Wesley thus, "It could not justly be accounted folly to relate the naked truth." John Wesley, op. cit., in loco. There is also an insinuation here that the wicked "apostles" in Corinth were not telling the truth. Regarding the second half of this verse, Carver said that one of the great reasons for Paul’s refusal to go any further with his narration of visions was that "he did not want anyone to form an estimate of him that goes beyond what he sees in Paul or hears from him." Frank G. Carver, Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1968), p. 624. Macknight interpreted these lines as follows:

He showed them the absurdity of fancying that the whole of a teacher’s merit lies in the gracefulness of his person, in the nice arrangement of his words, and in the melodious tones with which he pronounces his discourses. James Macknight, Apostolical Epistles and Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1969), p. 455.

Those things, of course, were the principal commendations of the false teachers at Corinth. It would appear, however, that Filson really got to the heart of Paul’s message here, saying:

To recount further instances (of his visions) would be speaking the truth; but he refrains so they may judge him, not by his secret visions, which could be challenged by hostile men, but by what he had done. Floyd V. Filson, op. cit., p. 406.

Verse 7

And by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted overmuch.


Like the visions themselves, the thorn in the flesh is little more than a hint, revealed in terms of tantalizing brevity, and described by enigmatical allusions which have puzzled people for centuries. The thorn has been speculatively identified as follows:

Tertullian thought it was a headache. Tertullian, De Pudis, xiii, 16.

Klausner believed it was epilepsy. Joseph Klausner, From Jesus to Paul (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1943), pp. 325-330.

Ramsay identified it as recurrent malarial fever. Sir William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1903), p. 97.

Chrysostom said it was "all the adversaries of the Word. R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 176.

John Calvin made it "fleshly temptation." Ibid.

Martin Luther considered it "spiritual temptation." Ibid.

John Knox decided it was "infirmities of the mind." R. A. Knox, The Epistles and Gospels, p. 79.

Catholic commentators generally say "lustful thoughts." Philip E. Hughes, op. cit., p. 444.

McGarvey: "acute, disfiguring ophthalmia." J. W. McGarvey, Second Corinthians (Cincinnati, Ohio: The Standard Publishing Company, 1916): p. 236.

Macknight spoke of some who believed it was "the false teachers." James Macknight, op. cit., p. 455.

Lightfoot suggested "blasphemous thoughts of the devil." J. B. Lightfoot, The Epistle to the Galatians, p. 189.

Alexander was sure it was "Malta fever." W. M. Alexander, St. Paul’s Infirmity (London: The Expository Times, 1904), Vol. X. Etc., etc.

It would seem rash to some to venture an opinion in the face of such a mountain of scholarly disagreement; but this writer would like to get in his two cents worth also. The thorn in the flesh is believed to be the malignant opposition of secular Israel, a view contained but not specified in Chrysostom’s identification. The reasons for this opinion are as follows:

(1) Any crippling or disabling bodily ailment simply does not conform to the amazing strength and endurance of the matchless apostle. "He is revealed in the New Testament as a man of exceptionally strong constitution and remarkable powers of physical endurance." R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 175.

(2) "In the flesh" as used in this verse would almost surely indicate a bodily infirmity; but Hughes declares the word to be "for the flesh," Philip E. Hughes, op. cit., p. 447. thus leaving the question open. Paul thus avoided words which would have implied bodily sickness. The meaning appears to be "a thorn in the flesh for the duration of Paul’s fleshly life."

(3) Paul described the thorn as "a messenger of Satan," which can be nothing but personal in its import; and because the Canaanites were called "thorns in the sides" of the Israelites (Numbers 33:55), there is strong evidence here that Paul referred to bitter and relentless enemies of the gospel, doing the work of Satan; and that is a perfect description of the hardened secular Israelites who engaged in every device that hell could suggest in their godless and persistent opposition to Paul throughout every moment of his apostleship.

(4) In Thessalonians there is a probable reference to the thorn in the flesh, wherein Paul said, "Satan hindered me" (1 Thessalonians 2:18); and a reference to the occasion of that remark (Acts 17:9) indicates that the Jewish opposition had contrived (through Paul’s friends) an agreement that prevented his return. Again, the thorn had impaled him; and what was it? The hardened countrymen of the apostle himself. See my Commentary on Acts, pp. 332,333.

(5) Understanding the thorn in the flesh as the savage animosity of hardened Israel explains a number of things which otherwise would have no explanation: (a) the humiliating effect of this upon Paul himself. He had even dared dispute with the Lord in his protestations that the Jews would believe him (Acts 22:19); but their stubborn refusal was a continual humiliation to Paul throughout his life. (b) No bodily infirmity could have had the counteractive effect upon Paul’s pride that was implicit in the rejection by Israel of the gospel he preached. Every town he ever entered, he went to them first, only to be despised, rejected, hated, persecuted, stoned and prosecuted by every means at Satan’s disposal. Furthermore, this was directed against him who loved Israel so much that he would have given his life if they could have been saved, declaring:

I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren’s sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites: whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises (Romans 9:3,4).

Yes, the thorn in the flesh was the rejection of Christ on the part of the chosen people; and therein lies the explanation of (c) why the Lord did not remove it. It was simply not within the purpose of God to overrule the freedom of the will of those who elected to hate the Saviour. It was with Paul, as it was with Samuel when the Lord asked, "How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him?" (1 Samuel 16:1). At the end of Paul’s third prayerful entreaty for the Lord to remove the thorn, the Saviour assured him that it was enough that he had personally received the grace of Jesus. The old and persistent dream of winning glorious Israel to Christ was most reluctantly, and yet obediently, forsaken by the apostle, as indicated by the magnificent eleventh chapter of Romans, written subsequently to this epistle.

Verses 8-9

Concerning this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me, And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Might depart from me … If the thorn is understood as advocated above, what is meant by Paul’s prayer that it might depart from him? The thorn in Paul was the humiliation, the shame and ignominy, from every earthly viewpoint, of his total and irreconcilable separation from the people he loved better than life itself; and that could have departed only by the conversion of Israel which Paul so eagerly and faithfully tried to bring about. Paul continually viewed his lack of success in winning Israel as weakness; and from the earthly viewpoint it was weakness.

My grace is sufficient … Christ only, and not Christ as an accepted and honored hero of redeemed secular Israel, was enough, not merely for Paul, but for all who ever lived on earth. Paul here accepted this, determined even to glory in his weakness.

Verse 10

Wherefore I take pleasure in weakness, injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Wherefore … This verse describes Paul’s living with the thorn unremoved; and there is not a word of sickness, disease, or near-sightedness, or anything of the kind. It is "injuries, persecutions, etc." of which he speaks; and what were these but the multiplied efforts of the hardened Israel against the gospel of Christ? Nevertheless, Paul will continue, thorn and all; even with the humiliation of his noblest personal aspirations in their rejection; even in that weakness he is strong. Furthermore the testimony of nineteen centuries proves that he was correct in this.

Verse 11

I am become foolish: ye compelled me; for I ought to have been commended by you: for in nothing was I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I am nothing.

I am become foolish … Paul says, "You have compelled me to boast of myself, whereas in truth you should have been recommending me yourselves, especially since I certainly rank as high as those super-super apostles of yours!"

Chiefest apostles … For exegesis on this, see under 2 Corinthians 11:5.

Hughes has a wonderful paragraph on this passage in which the unity of the epistle is demonstrated to be proved and strengthened by what is said here. For those interested in pursuing this further, see op. cit., p. 455. The allegations of critics on this subject are actually worthy of very little consideration.

I am nothing … Paul’s meaning is that "as a mere man" he is nothing; but as "an apostle of Christ," he possessed the mighty weapons necessary to the overthrow of every evil and the establishment of the Lord Jesus as the singular hope of all people, in all times and places.

Verse 12

Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, by signs and wonders and mighty works.

Jesus Christ had promised his holy apostles that they would be able to perform miracles and that God would work with them, "confirming the word" (Mark 16:20); and Paul enjoyed that prerogative along with the other apostles. Paul laid hands on the sick, and they recovered (Acts 28:8); he was bitten by a poisonous viper without harm (Acts 28:5); he raised the dead (Acts 20:9ff); he spoke with other tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18); and there were countless other miracles not recorded (Romans 15:19); furthermore, the first three cited above were attested and certified by a competent physician in the person of Luke. Scholars who talk about being "reasonable" should be reasonable about these apostolic miracles. Paul was writing to a congregation that contained bitter and unscrupulous enemies of the truth; yet Paul dared to call attention to his miracles in this letter. Could he possibly have done such a thing unless they were indeed legitimate, accepted and proved miracles? Every logic on earth answers, NO.

Signs, wonders and mighty deeds … are not three classes of miracles, but three characteristics of all genuine miracles, the same having been given for "signs," that is, confirmatory signs of the truth of what the apostles taught. In fact, miracles never had any other purpose.

Signs of an apostle … Filson’s comment on this is precious:

Writing to churches that would have challenged him if he had falsified facts, Paul unhesitatingly refers to such miracles; he knows that even his enemies cannot deny their occurrence. The study of miracles must begin by accepting the fact that many such remarkable events happened. Moreover this verse implies clearly that other true apostles were doing similar mighty works, Frank V. Filson, op. cit., p. 411.

Were wrought … By this Paul disclaimed personal credit for his mighty miracles, regarding himself "only as the instrument of the power of God." Frank G. Carver, op. cit., p. 631.

Verse 13

For what is there wherein ye were made inferior to the rest of the churches, except it be that I myself was not a burden to you? forgive me this wrong.

Forgive me this wrong … "The statement is ironical." J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 942.

Verse 14

Behold, this is the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be a burden to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.

The third time … Although these words may properly be construed as a reference to planning a third visit, McGarvey said, "Evidently it was to be his third visit." J. W. McGarvey, op. cit., p. 237. This leads to the conclusion that a second visit, in between the two canonical epistles, was made, the one usually referred to as "the painful visit." While this appears to be true enough, a warning should be sounded against all of the nonsense that has been written about what occurred on that visit, if it really happened. There is not one word of authentic record nor a single hint in any tradition as to what took place. None may deny that a third visit automatically means there had been two others; but not even the approximate time of when it took place may be affirmed from the basis of the scanty references to it here, in 2 Corinthians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 13:1; and 2 Corinthians 12:21. See notes on those references.

I will not be a burden to you … Paul will not alter his purpose of preaching in Corinth without their financial support.

Not yours, but you … Paul wanted more than money from them; he wanted them.

Children ought not to lay up for parents … This teaching should not be misunderstood. As Carver said:

The apostle made use of this analogy only as an illustration of why he did not take advantage of his right as a minister in the gospel. He does not mean by this that grown children have no obligation to their elderly parents when they are in need. Frank G. Carver, op cit. p. 634.

Verses 15-16

And I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more abundantly, am I loved the less? But be it so, I do not myself burden you; but, being crafty, I caught you with guile.

If I love you more abundantly, am I loved the less … Paul’s sacrifices in not receiving their money were actually founded in his abundant love for them; and surely that should not have caused them to love the apostle less.

But be it so … Far from changing his mind about it, Paul here revealed that at that very moment the allegations against him were being circulated to the effect that he was taking them "by guile." The slander was that, whereas Paul did not take money personally, he was getting the big collection being raised for the poor saints. This, of course, meant that if he took money, it would be playing into the hands of the false teachers.

Verse 17

Did I take advantage of you by any of them whom I have sent unto you?

Paul’s reply here indicates the nature of the "guile" in 2 Corinthians 12:16.

As David Lipscomb interpreted this:

His contemptible enemies not only stated that Paul did not dare accept support, but insinuated that there was something suspicious about the collection he was taking, and that perhaps he had a secret personal interest in it. David Lipscomb, op. cit., p. 165.

Also in this same vein, many commentators have remembered the words of John Calvin: "It is customary for the wicked impudently to impute to the servants of God whatever they themselves would do, if they had it in their power." Philip E. Hughes, op. cit., p. 465.

Verse 18

I exhorted Titus, and I sent the brother with him. Did Titus take any advantage of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?

Tasker convincingly affirms that "I sent" as used here should not be translated in the past tense, but as "epistolary," and translated in English as the present tense; because these men "had not arrived in Corinth when 2 Corinthians was written, but they will have done so by the time the Corinthians receive the letter." R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 183. This is an important distinction, having the impact of proof that "2 Corinthians 12 was not written before 2 Corinthians 8." Ibid. This, of course, refutes any notion of these last chapters being part of a previously written "severe letter." The argument is simple enough. Titus is standing by, here in 2 Corinthians 12, just as he was in 2 Corinthians 8, to bear this epistle to the Corinthians.

Did Titus take advantage of you … is a reference to Titus’ having begun the business of the collection at the time of the delivery of the first epistle. It does not refer to an interim visit of Titus between the canonical epistles. The understanding of the epistolary tense in this verse is crucial in the interpretation of it. Filson also testified that "The visit meant here is perhaps the first one." Floyd V. Filson, op. cit., p. 414. Paul’s question affirms in the accepted idiom of that day the absolute integrity, honesty and sincerity of Titus and the unnamed Christian brother.

Verse 19

Ye think all this time that we are excusing ourselves unto you. In the sight of God speak we in Christ. But all things, beloved, are for your edifying.

The first sentence here carries the thought that the Corinthians ought not to consider Paul’s words as a mere defense of himself; on the contrary, he was speaking "in Christ," that is, by the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and every word he has written is for the purpose of their edification.

Beloved … This word is the grave of every opinion to the effect that these chapters are a thundering condemnation of the whole Corinthian church. Despite Filson’s affirmation that "these chapters cannot be taken as directed only to a rebellious minority," Ibid., p. 412. it is absolutely impossible to take them any other way. The precious word "beloved" is here directed to the great faithful majority, by whose loyalty Paul displaced and expurgated the church of its false teachers.

Verse 20

For I fear, lest by any means, when I came, I should find you not such as I would, and should myself be found of you such as ye would not; lest by any means there should be strife, jealousy, wraths, factions, backbitings whisperings, swellings, tumults.

Carver, with many other eminent commentators, properly saw this verse as "No doubt applicable only to a minority of the church." Frank G. Carver, op. cit., p. 637. It should also be noted that the four pairs of disorders are exactly those which existed at the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians, making this letter a logical sequel to that, and not to some supposed "severe letter" written later. The problem was that, despite the good news brought by Titus, "there was still a minority of Christians in the city who were still carnally minded and undisciplined in the school of Christ." R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 185. It was that faction still impressed with the false apostles against whom these warnings were directed.

Verse 21

Lest again when I come my God should humble me before you, and I should mourn for many of them that have sinned heretofore, and repented not of the uncleanness and lasciviousness which they have committed.

Paul was determined that nothing would prevent his cleaning up the mess in Corinth. Neither the displeasure of the sinners to be rebuked, nor his own pathetic grief over the fallen, nor any humiliation before God that would come of dealing with such wickedness would deter the effective steps contemplated. There was no way then, nor is there now, for the holy teachings of Christ to be accommodated to the lustful sins mentioned here. The magnificent Paul would meet the challenge frontally; there would be no compromise; and either the sinners would renounce their sins or the church of God would renounce them.

Filson identified these last two verses (2 Corinthians 12:20-21) as "one of the strongest arguments" Floyd V. Filson, op. cit., p. 416. for repudiating these last four chapters as part of this epistle. If these verses are the "strongest" arguments in favor of such a hypothesis, the hypothesis has practically no support at all; because, as we have seen, there is nothing here which is required to be interpreted in any such manner.

Uncleanness, fornication, lasciviousness … These are not mere synonyms for one sin, but are a general description of all kinds of profligate living. "Uncleanness" means luxurious impurity and profligacy; "fornication" refers to promiscuous sex indulgence and prostitution; "lasciviousness" describes all kinds of misconduct and defiance of public decency.

Lest again when I come my God should humble me … Clines insisted that "again" modifies "humble" instead of "when I come." David J. A. Clines, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 440. Likewise Hughes commented that "What Paul fears here is a second humiliation." Philip E. Hughes, op. cit., footnote, p. 472. If that is so, why does the word "again" in the Greek text stand at the head of the sentence, prior to and adjacent to the verb (a participle) "coming," and further removed by the pronoun "me" from that which it is alleged to modify?" The Interlinear Greek-English Testament, The Nestle Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), p. 739. This is clearly another case of scholars bolstering their subjective opinions by tampering with the text. The King James Version and the English Revised Version (1885) both have properly placed "again" as a modifier of Paul’s coming, and not of any anticipated humiliation. Even the RSV refused to go along by changing it, leaving it as it is here. Of course, what is intended by the change is to make this a comment of Paul on that "painful visit." We do not deny that there was another visit; but this verse may not be pressed into service to prove it.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/2-corinthians-12.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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