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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

2 Corinthians 10

Verses 1-99

Ch. 10:1 6. St Paul’s intention of overcoming all opposition to the Gospel

1. Now I Paul myself ] “Until now, Paul has addressed himself preeminently to the better intentioned in the Christian Church, but henceforth he addresses himself to those who had sought to lower his dignity and weaken his authority by representing him as weak in personal influence,” as well as in bodily strength and consistency of purpose, “although courageous and full of self-commendation in his letters.” Olshausen. The word ‘myself’ is difficult to explain. Deans Stanley and Alford explain it (1) of St Paul’s intention to enter upon personal matters. St Chrysostom seems to imply (2) that it refers to the emphasis with which he speaks, and he cites Galatians 5:2 , Philemon 1:19 . But (3) it seems more probable that it means ‘I, the very man who in absence am said to be bold, shew my consistency by preferring meekness even in my letters. I am meek, not because I am afraid, but because I ought to be meek. But if meekness fails, then I must be severe.’ Cf. vv . 2, 9, 10; also 1 Corinthians 4:21 . It must be remembered that one main purpose of this Epistle is to vindicate the consistency of the Apostle. See ch. 1:17 19.

beseech ] Rather, exhort . See note on ch. 1:3.

meekness and gentleness] Myldnesse and softnesse , Wiclif. Tyndale introduced the translation meekness . The word gentleness is due to our translators. But it is not the exact equivalent of the original. Derived from a word signifying like the truth , and therefore fair, equitable , it came to be the equivalent (see Aristotle, Ethics v. 10, and vi. 11) for the habit of mind engendered by the practice of regarding the rights of other people as well as our own. Aristotle describes it as the principle which underlies justice and tempers it, and as resulting in sympathy. Its nearest equivalents in English are fairness, considerateness, reasonableness . It and the cognate word occur in the N. T. only in Acts 24:4 ; Philippians 4:5 ; 1 Timothy 3:3 ; Titus 3:2 ; James 3:17 ; 1 Peter 2:18 . For meekness cf. Matthew 11:29 , Matthew 11:30 ; Isaiah 42:2 , Isaiah 42:3 , 53:7.

in presence ] Some translate by in personal appearance . See v . 7, and margin here. But the word seems in this verse to be opposed to absence . See v . 11. Also the Greek of Acts 3:13 , Acts 25:16 .

base ] See note on ch. 7:6, where the word in the Greek is the same as here. The word base signifies originally low in position . Cf. the word basement and the French bas . See also Acts 17:5 . So Spenser, in his View of the State of Ireland , distinguishes between the “lords and chief men,” and the “peasants and baser people .”

2. I beseech you, that I may not be bold ] Literally, I entreat the not being bold . Compliance or non-compliance with this request rested entirely with the Corinthians. The word here translated beseech is not the same as the one used in the last verse.

with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold ] It does not clearly appear from this passage what St Paul meant to do when he arrived at Corinth. He speaks of ‘pulling down of strongholds,’ of ‘casting down whatever exalteth itself’ against Christ. But he never says what he intends to do. Calvin (1) interprets the passage of excommunication. Others (2) of bodily punishments, such as those inflicted on Elymas (Acts 13:6-11 ), or on Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10 ). Or (3) we may regard it as referring to the authoritative proclamation of the Gospel by one fully inspired, which must of necessity bring about in the end the disappearance of error. This is thought to be implied by v . 11, which implies the immediate exercise when present, of the same power which when absent is exercised by letter. But a comparison of v . 11 with 1 Corinthians 4:21 , 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 would lead to the idea of a formal delivery over to Satan of those who wilfully corrupted the doctrine of Christ, and gainsaid the authority of His Apostle. See note on 1 Corinthians 5:5 . The word rendered ‘bold’ here is not the same as that in the former part of the verse. It implies (1) to dare, (2) to bear oneself boldly, i.e. to others , while the former word seems to imply confidence in oneself .

against some ] i.e. the false teachers.

according to the flesh ] See ch. 5:16; Romans 8:1 .

3. in the flesh ] To walk in the flesh is to possess the fleshly nature with its many infirmities (see Romans 7:0 ). To walk after the flesh is to neglect the dictates of the higher spiritual nature, and to live as though the desires of the body were the only ones that needed satisfying.

war after the flesh ] The metaphor of a warfare, as applied to the Christian life, is a common one with St Paul, though it is more usually used of the internal conflict of the Christian soul than of the external warfare waged against the evil around. See 1 Corinthians 9:26 ; Ephesians 6:10-17 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:8 ; 1 Timothy 1:18 , 1 Timothy 1:6 :12; 2 Timothy 2:3 , 2 Timothy 2:4 , 2 Timothy 2:4 :7. Bp Wordsworth remarks on the fact that “the armies of Imperial Rome, her camps and her campaigns,” and the rest, were “objects that presented themselves to St Paul in his travels, and were very familiar to his readers.” Cf. ch. 2:14 16.

4. carnal ] See note on v . 2. Also on 1 Corinthians 3:1 .

mighty through God ] Either (1) as in the text, or (2) mighty to God, i.e. in His sight, or (3) mighty for God, i.e. on behalf of Him, or perhaps (4) an Hebraistic construction, like the one in Acts 7:20 , where it is equal to exceeding , just as Nineveh is called ‘a great city of God’ (Jonah 3:3 and notes).

strong holds ] or fortifications , from a Greek word signifying to fortify .

5. casting down ] This is not spoken of the weapons , but of the Apostles .

imaginations ] Rather, as margin, reasonings ( consilia , Vulgate, counceilis , Wiclif).The rendering ‘imaginations’ comes from Tyndale. St Paul refers to the efforts of human reason to deal with things beyond it, the best corrective of which is and always will be the simple proclamation of God’s message to man.

exalteth itself ] Or, is exalted .

against the knowledge of God ] For this phrase see Proverbs 2:5 ; Hosea 6:6 ; 1 Corinthians 15:34 ; Colossians 1:10 , and the kindred phrase in Isaiah 11:9 ; 2 Peter 2:20 . Here it signifies that by which we know God, i.e. the Gospel. See 1 Corinthians 2:10 , 1 Corinthians 2:13 :12; Galatians 4:9 .

bringing into captivity ] Another military metaphor. See note on v . 3.

every thought ] The word is the same as in ch. 2:11, 3:14, 4:4. It occurs only in Philippians 4:7 and in this Epistle.

6. and having in a readiness ] The expression is equivalent to our holding ourselves in readiness .

to revenge ] Better, to avenge . Literally, to do justice, execute sentence upon.

when your obedience is fulfilled ] St Paul was ready to wait until his exhortations and rebukes had had time to work. He would not ‘come to them in heaviness’ (ch. 2:1). He called ‘God to witness that if he did delay to come to Corinth it was to spare them’ (ch. 1:23). He wrote while absent that he might not have to use sharpness when present (ch. 13:10). But when all had been done that could be done, it was his intention to come and ‘not spare’ those who refused to listen to his voice (ch. 13:2).

7 18. Caution to those who judge by outward appearance

7. Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? ] The words here translated outward appearance are translated when I am present in v . 2. They may be rendered in three ways, (1) as in the text, (2) ye look on things after the outward appearance , or (3) as some interpreters prefer to render, look at what lies plainly before your eyes , i.e. the genuineness of St Paul’s Apostolic mission. The Vulgate and Rhemish versions render thus. So also Wiclif, See ye the thingis that ben aftir the face . Either (1) or (2) is preferable to (3), which not only does not suit the context (cf. also 1 Corinthians 2:5 , 1 Corinthians 3:21 , and St John 7:24 , where however the Greek is not the same as here, and 8:15), but is contrary to the spirit of St Paul’s writings, which invariably glorify what does not lie on the surface, at the expense of what does so. The meaning of the last of the three renderings is that if the Corinthians regard their teachers from an exclusively fleshly point of view, St Paul has no need to shrink from the comparison. Cf. ch. 11:18 33.

as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s ] St Paul proceeds to give four proofs of this. He shews (1) that he was unquestionably the founder of the Corinthian Church ( v . 13 18, cf. 1 Corinthians 4:15 , 1 Corinthians 9:2 , and ch. 3:2, 3); (2) that if he refused to be maintained by them, it was for no other reason than his desire for their benefit (ch. 11:1 15, cf. 1 Corinthians 9:12 , 1 Corinthians 9:15 , 1 Corinthians 9:18 ); (3) that his life was a sufficient proof of his sincerity (ch. 11:21 33); and (4) that the supernatural revelations vouchsafed to him were vouchers for his inspiration (ch. 12:1 6).

8. boast ] The word is translated ‘glory,’ ‘rejoice,’ elsewhere. See note on ch. 1:12.

somewhat more ] Literally, somewhat in excess .

edification ] Literally, building up . The English word comes from two Latin words signifying to build a house . See note on 1 Corinthians 8:1 , and cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12 , 1 Corinthians 6:10 :23, 33, 1 Corinthians 6:14 :5, 1 Corinthians 6:6 , 1 Corinthians 6:12 .

and not for your destruction ] The word is translated pulling down in v . 4, and the verb from which it is derived casting down in v . 5. Cf. ch. 2:2, 7:8 11.

I should not be ashamed ] Literally, I shall not be ashamed , or perhaps shamed , i.e. brought to shame. “Shall not be pointed out as a liar or a vain boaster.” Chrysostom. See note on last verse.

9. that I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters ] Literally, by means of the letters, i.e. this and the two former. See note on 1 Corinthians 5:9 . The connection of thought is not clear at first sight, but a little consideration will serve to bring it out. St Paul is about to boast of his authority. This boast is no brutum fulmen . He means to act upon it in all seriousness when he comes to Corinth. He wishes them to understand that it will not be confined to words, but will be shewn in deeds when he arrives. See note on v . 6.

10. his bodily presence is weak ] The bodily weakness of the Apostle seems clearly indicated by many passages in Scripture. We may perhaps gather from Acts 14:12 (though this is doubtful) that he was of less dignified presence than St Barnabas. He refers to his infirmity in 1 Corinthians 2:3 . It was probably the thorn in the flesh of which he speaks in ch. 12:7 (see Introduction), and the ‘temptation’ which was ‘in his flesh’ in Galatians 4:13 , Galatians 4:14 . There is an admirable note on St Paul’s personal appearance at the end of Dr Plumptre’s Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles in the Bishop of Gloucester’s New Testament for English Readers .

and his speech contemptible ] Literally, despised . Rude , Tyndale . Wiclif, worthi to be dispisid . This is the proper meaning of the word contemptible . Whatever St Paul’s fervour and mental and spiritual power may have been, it is evident that he lacked the conventional gifts of the orator, the powerful voice, the fluent and facile delivery, the arts whereby to enchain attention. It was not the manner of his speech, but its matter, which attracted his hearers to him.

11. such a one ] i.e. the man who speaks in this way. See note on ch. 2:7.

that, such as we are in word by letters ] It is evident that St Paul’s opponents were not very measured in their opposition to him. Not only did they deny his Apostolic authority (1 Corinthians 9:1 , 1 Corinthians 9:6 ), not only did they ridicule his appearance, but they even charged him with the grossest cowardice. For nothing is more contemptible than to utter loud threats when at a distance, and to subside into silence and meekness when confronted with an adversary. See note on. v . 1.

12. For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves ] i.e. ironically, we dare not venture to number or compare ourselves with certain persons who have of late been claiming great authority among you. After St Paul’s manner (see ch. 1:13, 3:2) there is a play upon words here, which is difficult to translate.

commend themselves ] As has been said, the Greek word here used has in the N. T. the sense of praise ; but probably here the leading idea as in ch. 3:1 is of recommending themselves, by such means as are indicated in chapters 1 3 of the first Epistle, and of having their own selfish objects in view in so doing.

but they measuring themselves ] The idea suggested by the A.V. is of men whose motives are centred in self. They judge themselves by their own standard, they take advantage of other men’s labours, they even, St Paul seems to hint ( v . 16), boast of other men’s labours, they give other men no credit for what they have done. And all this, like the Galatian teachers (Galatians 4:17 ), that they may occupy the principal place in the Corinthian Church. There is another reading here, however, which is accepted by many editors and preferred by Dean Stanley, which gives an entirely different turn to the sentence. Omitting the words ‘ are not wise, but we ’ the passage runs, ‘ but measuring ourselves by ourselves, and comparing ourselves with ourselves, we do not boast beyond measure .’ This reading may have been caused by the transcriber’s eye passing from ΟΥΣ to ΟΥΚ in the Greek, and omitting the intervening words, while it is difficult to see how St Paul can describe himself as avoiding the danger of boasting beyond measure by the very process which experience shews to be the commonest mode of causing such boasting, namely by taking oneself as the sole standard of comparison. And the testimony of MSS. and versions is much in favour of the received text. See however next note but two.

by themselves ] Literally, in themselves, i.e. if we accept the A.V., having their thoughts perpetually turned inwards in complacent self-contemplation. Meyer quotes the expression Metiri suo modulo from Horace Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 1:7 . 98.

amongst themselves ] Rather, with themselves.

are not wise ] These words are omitted by the Vulgate and Wiclif. It must be confessed that they are not in the Apostle’s manner, and that they have a suspicious appearance of having been inserted to fill up some supposed deficiency in the sense. But see last note but two. If we omit them, together with the words ‘But we’ in the next verse, the Apostle’s meaning will be, ‘We do not compare ourselves with some who have lately appeared among you. We keep within the bounds of our own labours, of the work that God has marked out for us. We do not ‘build on another man’s foundation’ (Romans 15:20 ) or challenge comparison by intruding into another man’s sphere of work.’ See also vv . 15, 16. The balance of probability, in spite of the difficulties enumerated above, is in favour of this reading. St Paul seems to imply that he avoids all comparison by keeping within his own bounds. See Analysis, Introduction, ch. 11.

13. of things without our measure ] Literally, unto the measureless things , i.e. ‘beyond the measure which God has meted out to us,’ ‘beyond the region of our own work, which was ever, save in the case of Rome, among Churches which we ourselves have founded.’ Nor was Rome really an exception. For the Church there seemed not to have been formally founded by any one, but to have grown up of itself through the gravitation of persons from all parts to the great metropolis. This is why St Paul, on his way into Spain, desires to ‘impart some spiritual gift’ to a Church which had not had the privilege of the personal superintendence of an Apostle. See Romans 1:11 , Romans 1:15 :23, Romans 1:24 .

rule ] This word is translated line in v . 16. It means (1) a measuring rod and then (2) the line marked out by such means. It has become an English word familiar to our ears (3) as a rule or precept of Ecclesiastical Law, known as a Canon . A cognate word in English is cane .

which God hath distributed to us, a measure ] Better, a measure which God apportioned , i.e. which is His work, not man’s.

to reach even unto you ] That God had done this was very evident. The Corinthians owed their existence as a Church to St Paul. See ch. 3:2, 3; 1 Corinthians 3:6 , 1 Corinthians 3:10 , 1 Corinthians 3:9 :2. The metaphor, says Estius, is derived from handicraftsmen, who have a rule prescribed to them by the master, which they are not permitted to go beyond.

14. For we stretch not ] The meaning is, For we are not straining ourselves beyond our due limits in claiming you as our charge, for it is an undeniable fact that we came (the tense is the simple past in the original and the word has the sense of anticipating others in coming) as far as you in our work of preaching the Gospel. Corinth was the farthest point the Apostle had yet reached.

15. not boasting of things without our measure ] The Apostle now repeats what he has before said in v . 13, but directs his remarks more pointedly against the false teachers by adding ‘ in other men’s labours .’ For they, as Meyer remarks, were adorning themselves with strange feathers as they intruded themselves into other men’s spheres of work. See also for St Paul’s line of conduct Romans 15:20 , Galatians 2:9 .

when your faith is increased ] Two reasons may be assigned for this reservation; (1) that as we have seen (ch. 2:12, 13), St Paul could not settle himself to any other work while the Corinthian Church was in such an unsatisfactory condition, and (2) that the consistent conduct of one Christian community was an immense help to the first missionaries of the Gospel in founding another. See Titus 2:8 ; 1 Peter 2:12 .

enlarged ] The Apostle seems to identify himself with his work as he has before identified himself with the Corinthian Church. See ch. 3:2, 7:3. He is enlarged when the Church is enlarged by his means.

by you ] Literally, in or among you. Some connect these words with ‘when your faith is increased,’ i.e. among yourselves.

abundantly ] Literally, unto superabundance .

16. to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you ] i.e. the rest of Greece, Italy and Spain. Cf. Romans 15:19 , Romans 15:24 , Romans 15:28 . St Paul here attributes his further progress in the Gospel not to his own energy, but to their faith, another instance of his identification of himself with those in whom the same life dwelt. Cf. ch. 1:11.

and not to boast in another man’s line ] Literally, and not to have boasted. Both this word and the words translated enlarged and preach the gospel are in the past tense. St Paul here again reflects indirectly, but most severely upon his opponents. Our hope is first that your faith may increase, and then that we may congratulate ourselves on having carried the good tidings of the Gospel to those who as yet have not heard them, not, as others do, on the successes which by intruding into another man’s work, we have found ready made for us.

17. But he that glorieth ] See note on v . 8. This passage occurs in 1 Corinthians 1:31 , where it is prefaced by the words ‘it is written.’ It is in fact a paraphrase of Jeremiah 9:24 . Meyer remarks that a noble example of this kind of glorying is given by St Paul himself in 1 Corinthians 15:10 . Cf. also ch. 12:10.

18. For not he that commendeth himself is approved ] St Paul’s self-commendation is only wrung from him by circumstances. The Corinthians will not judge of things except ‘after the appearance’ ( v . 7). St Paul, bearing in mind the wise man’s advice to ‘answer a fool according to his folly’ (Proverbs 26:5 ), shews that even from that point of view the new teachers could not arrogate to themselves any superiority over him. But he takes care to remark that the only true ground of approval is to do the work of God.

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"Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.