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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 13

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-14

XIII 1. The first words are again ambiguous, and mean either ’This is my third visit’, or ’For the third time I am on the point of setting out to visit you’. In the latter case the point would be: I have not been hasty in coming: the sinners have had time to reflect, cf. 1:23 (’It was to spare you that I put off my visit to Corinth’), §884g.’Every charge must be proved by the evidence of two or three witnesses’. This was the rule of Jewish criminal procedure, and is quoted from Deuteronomy 19:15. Here St Paul means that he is going to use the same fair procedure in deciding which of the Corinthians deserve excommunication, cf.1 Timothy 5:19.2. ’To former sinners and to all the rest I gave notice and I give it now, as present the second time so now while absent, that when I come again I shall not spare’ (i.e. shall act severely). An involved sentence, but it seems to indicate that he had already paid them a second visit, and during the recent troubles. It therefore appears to contradict 1:15 (see note there) and is the strongest evidence for such a visit, cf. § 884g. The Greek may be corrupt. If there was no recent visit, the words ’I gave notice’ would probably refer to what he has said in 1:23 or 10:2. For ’former sinners’, see note on 12:21. 3. ’For you seek a proof . . .’ ’In you’, i.e. among you. He says he must be severe with the defiant members because they have asked for evidence that Christ speaks through Paul, i.e. they have denied that he is an apostle in the full sense, as the

Twelve are. How will his severity prove that they are wrong? It seems clear that it must be severity wielding a miraculous power of punishment, such as Paul had used when he inflicted temporary blindness on the sorcerer Elymas (Acts 13:8-11). Only the Apostles seem to have had such. From 1 Corinthians 5:3-5 we gather that physical suffering (intended only to bring repentance) was a frequent consequence of excommunication. If Paul’s excommunication of these rebellious Corinthians were immediately followed by some bodily affliction, he would have furnished all the ’proof’ that they could have desired.

4. ’Weakness’, i.e. the weak nature and humble condition which he assumed at his incarnation, cf.Hebrews 2:14-18; Hebrews 5:2. ’Weak in him’: weak with and for Christ, in union with Christ, joining our infirmities to his and accepting ours for his sake. The verse again recalls that thought of strength-in-weakness which underlies the whole epistle. By his own weakness Paul here meant everything that would make the world despise him, as a poor Jewish worker, unpolished and physically afflicted. ’We shall live . . . towards you’—yet by the same union he would give evidence of divine life and power in his dealings with the rebels.

5. He asks them to search their consciences which will at once tell them that they are in the wrong: ’Test your own selves to see if you are sound in your religion (i.e. in a state of grace)’. For ’faith’ must be taken in a wide sense here. He has twice commended their faith in the strict sense (1:23; 8:7) and can hardly be casting doubt on that now. Another translation is possible: ’If you are sound in faith (as you are), test your own selves’, etc. ’That Christ’, etc., i.e. that you are in the state of grace. The opposite to this is meant by ’reprobate’ (lit.: rejected by God)—in a state of mortal sin. Their self-examination would in fact show them that they were reprobate and lead to their repentance. In all other passages of St Paul the word ?d???µ?? has this sense of ’rejected by God’ and therefore it seems very unlikely that it has any other sense here. But most commentators prefer in these three verses (5-7) to interpret it as ’failing to give the proof’—the visible proof of divine power mentioned in 3. This gives a good meaning but seems a hazardous departure from Paul’s regular use. 6. Either their self-examination or (failing that) his divinely enforced sentence would prove to them that God was on his side.

7-10 Last Appeal —The menacing tone changes to one of touching appeal. He protests that to win them back to Christ would be worth almost any sacrifice of personal honour or reputation.

7. ’do no evil’, i.e. cease from doing wrong. For the moment he ignores past wrongdoing. It is just possible however that he said: ’Would to God that you had done no evil’. ’Not that . . .’ i.e. ’My prayer and desire is, not that we may be clearly vindicated (by God’s evident act) but that you may do right even at the cost of our appearing no better than reprobates (i.e. sinners)’, cf.Romans 9:3 (’I could wish hat I myself were accursed and cast away from Christ for the sake of my brethren (the Jews) ’).

8. ’The truth’: he means either the Gospel (the whole Christian revelation) or the rules of truth and justice as far as they applied to the case now before him.

9. ’For we rejoice’ that we should count for little (should be despised) provided you are great (i.e. in holiness). ’This also’, etc: this is our very prayer (the very desire of our hearts) 10. Omit ’more’. The last half of the verse is repeated exactly from 10:8.

11-13 Conclusion —Probably written with his own hand.

11. ’For the rest’: ’In conclusion’ Take comfort (or courage)’: very natural after this stormy letter. ’Have peace’: ’live in peace’.

12. ’Holy kiss’ as in several other letters, always probably refers to the kiss of peace at Mass. ’The saints’, i.e. the Christians at the Macedonian city from which he wrote, cf. § 883c.

13. This benediction is unique. There is no other short passage in St Paul where the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is so clearly indicated. ’Grace’: the root-meaning is mercy or favour. ’the charity of God’: ’God’s love’ (for men). This seems to be the regular meaning of ’love of God’ in St Paul. ’Communication of the Holy Ghost’. Many shades of meaning are suggested. Perhaps the most probable are: (1) Participation in the Holy Ghost, parallel to 1 Corinthians 10:16 (’partaking of the body of the Lord’). (2) Union with the Holy Ghost, parallel to 1 Corinthians 1:9 fellowship of his son Jesus Christ ’).

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 13". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/2-corinthians-13.html. 1951.
 
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