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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

2 Corinthians 3

Verses 1-99

Ch. 3:1 6. St Paul’s Ministry no self-assumed task, but the communication of the Spirit

1. Do we begin again to commend ourselves? ] A charge had been apparently brought against St Paul that he had before (probably in 1 Corinthians 2:16 , 1 Corinthians 3:10 , 1 Corinthians 4:11-14 , 1 Corinthians 9:20-27 , 1 Corinthians 14:18 ) indulged in unseemly self-laudation. He supposes that the same charge will be brought against him for his language in ch. 2:14 17.

as some others ] The opponents of St Paul had no doubt come armed with letters of commendation from some Apostle (as the Judaizers in Galatians 2:12 ) or Church, and some of them had received similar letters from the Corinthian Churches on their departure, with a view to their reception by some other Church. St Paul appeals to the nature of his work among them as rendering such a proceeding on his part not only unnecessary but absurd.

epistles of commendation ] Tyndale and Cranmer, better, letters of recommendation , the word from its derivation signifying rather introduction than what we now understand by commendation , i.e. praise, though it would seem to have come to this meaning in New Testament Greek. See last note but one. Instances of such letters commendatory are to be found in Acts 15:25-27 , Acts 15:18 :27; Romans 16:1 ; Colossians 4:10 . They became a common, almost a necessary, feature in the life of the early Church, and were known as literae formatae .

2. Ye are our epistle ] See note on last verse.

written in our hearts ] ‘Others bear their letters of commendation in their hands, we in our consciences, being fully aware that the existence of the Church of Corinth, due, under God, to us, is a sufficient authentication of the genuineness of our ministry.’ See 1 Corinthians 9:2 . Olshausen, however, regards the words as referring to St Paul’s intercession for the Corinthians, just as the High Priest (Exodus 28:15-30 ) bore the names of the tribes of Israel on his breast when he went into the holy place to intercede with God. “The regenerate,” he adds, “are linked to the heart of their spiritual father by a spiritual bond.” See notes above, ch. 1:9, 2:3.

known and read of all men ] See note on ch. 1:13. The play upon words so characteristic of the Apostle cannot be rendered into English.

3. Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared ] The Corinthians ‘fell short in no gift,’ but were ‘enriched by Christ in all utterance and in all knowledge,’ 1 Corinthians 1:7 . These were notorious facts that could not be gainsaid, capable of being ‘known of all men.’

to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us ] i.e. brought into existence through our instrumentality. It can hardly be said that St Paul has varied the figure of speech here. The Corinthians are an epistle. Of that epistle Christ is the author; the thoughts and sentiments are His. St Paul (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:5 , 1 Corinthians 3:7 , 1 Corinthians 3:9 , 1 Corinthians 3:4 :1; 2 Corinthians 6:1 ) is the instrument by which the epistle was written. Its characters were preserved by no visible or perishable medium, but by the invisible operation of the Spirit. It was graven, not on stone, but on human hearts. And it was recognized wherever St Paul went as the attestation of his claim to be regarded as a true minister of Christ, and this equally in his own consciousness (see last verse) and in that of all Churches which he visited. Dean Stanley remarks on the number and variety of the similes with which this chapter is crowded.

ink ] A black pigment of some kind was used by the ancients for all writings of any length. For shorter writings recourse was frequently had to waxen tablets. See Jeremiah 36:18 ; 2 John 1:12 ; 3 John 1:13 , and articles Atramentum, Tabulae, Stilus, Liber, in Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities .

the Spirit of the living God ] St Paul never seems to lose sight of the fact that Christianity is a communication of life, the life of Him who alone is the fountain of life. See note on 1 Corinthians 15:1 , and Romans 8:2 , Romans 8:10 . Cf. also John 1:4 , John 1:5 :26, John 1:40 , John 1:14 :6; 2 Timothy 1:10 ; 1 Peter 2:5 .

not in tables of stone ] See Exodus 24:12 , 34:1; Deuteronomy 9:9-11 , Deuteronomy 10:1 . Here the Apostle first hints at what is to be the subject of the next section of the Epistle, the inferiority of the law to the Gospel. There is a slight incongruity thus introduced into the simile. One does not write with ink on tables of stone . But the Apostle, in the pregnant suggestiveness of his style, neglects such minor considerations when he has a great lesson to convey. Dean Stanley refers us to Ezekiel 11:19 , 36:26, 27 and also suggests that the form of the expression ‘tables of the heart,’ may be derived from Proverbs 3:3 , and 7:3, not however from the LXX., which there has a different translation of the Hebrew word.

of the heart ] Most recent editors read ‘in fleshy tables , namely, hearts .’ All the old English versions, however, follow the Vulgate here. It is extremely difficult to decide between the two readings, which depend upon the absence or presence of a single letter in the Greek. It should be noted here that the word translated fleshy does not mean carnal , i.e. governed by the flesh, but made of flesh .

4. such trust ] Better, perhaps, with the Rhemish version, confidence (Vulgate and Calvin fiducia ), i.e. the confidence which St Paul had above expressed (ch. 2:14 17) in the reality of his mission and work, or in the fact that the Corinthian Church is in itself a sufficient guarantee of his Apostolic mission ( vv . 2, 3). See also 1 Corinthians 15:10 .

through Christ to God-ward ] So Tyndale and Cranmer. Calvin and Erasmus erga Deum . The Vulgate, which is followed by Wiclif, the Genevan and the Rhemish version, has, more literally, ad Deum . The words have been interpreted to mean (1) which will stand the test of God’s trial. (2) Which will be proved and rewarded in the judgment of God. (3) In our relation to God. Or the analogy of John 1:1 (“has His face continually directed towards the Eternal Father,” Liddon, Bampton Lectures ) may lead us to conclude (4) that our eyes are directed towards God, the source of our confidence, and that it is through Jesus Christ alone that we possess the right thus to rely on Him. This interpretation is strengthened by a reference to Matthew 19:8 , where the preposition is equivalent to in regard to .

5. Not that we are sufficient ] We here return to the idea touched upon in ch. 2:16, but then passed over on account of St Paul’s eagerness to assert the purity of his motives.

of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves ] The two prepositions translated ‘of’ here are not the same in the Greek. The former signifies ‘ from ’ simply, but not excluding the idea of origination in some source outside us. The latter signifies ‘ out of ’ as from an original source.

but our sufficiency is of God ] Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9 .

6. Who also hath made us able ministers ] None of the old English versions have given the threefold repetition of the word by St Paul, who writes, ‘Who hath made us sufficient ministers.’ The word St Paul uses signifies the having reached a certain standard of ability.

of the new testament ] We must dismiss all notions here of the book called the “New Testament.” The word in the original (see note on 1 Corinthians 11:25 ) signifies both testament and covenant . The latter should be the rendering here. St Paul is contrasting the Mosaic with the Christian covenant. There is also no article. The Apostle’s meaning may be thus paraphrased: ‘Who hath endowed us with qualifications sufficient for us to become the ministers of a new covenant.’ It is not to the covenant, but to its newness , that the Apostle would here ask our attention.

not of the letter, but of the spirit ] See Jeremiah 31:31-34 , and Ezekiel 11:19 , before cited. There is an obvious reference to these passages in the text. The difference between the old covenant and the new was that the former prescribed , the latter inspired ; the former gave written precepts, the latter the power to fulfil them; the former laid down the rules, the latter brought man’s heart into the condition in which such rules became a part of his nature. “The old form was superseded by the principle . Instead of saying, ‘Thou shalt not say Fool, or Raca,’ Christ gave the principle of Love.” Robertson. The words ‘of the letter,’ and ‘of the spirit,’ however, depend not on the word covenant , but on the word ministers . See also Romans 1:16 ; 1 Corinthians 1:18 , 1 Corinthians 1:24 and notes. Also, for the expression, Romans 2:27 , Romans 7:6 . “What then, was not that law spiritual? How then did he say, ‘We know that the law is spiritual?’ Spiritual indeed, for it came from God, but it bestowed not a spirit ” Chrysostom.

for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life ] Quykeneth , Wiclif. Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:45 . The formal enactment, whether positive or negative, can only kill . For while it makes no difference whatever in the condition of the man who fulfils it, it condemns him who disobeys or neglects to perform its precepts. See St John 3:17 , John 3:18 ; Romans 3:20 , Romans 4:20 , Romans 5:13 , Romans 7:10 . The spirit , the breath or influence proceeding from God, can only give life , since it comes from Him who is life , and by breathing into man a new heart, enables him to perform naturally, without the aid of any enactments, the things that are pleasing to God. “The law, if it lay hold of a murderer, putteth him to death; the Gospel, if it lay hold of a murderer, enlighteneth and giveth him life.” Chrysostom. Cf. John 6:63 ; Romans 8:11 ; 1 Corinthians 15:45 ; Galatians 6:8 ; 1 Peter 3:18 . Calvin remarks on a singular misconception of the meaning of this passage by Origen and others, who supposed that the reading of Scripture would be useless or even injurious, unless it were allegorically expounded. “Sensus ad Origenis damnata dogmata rejiciendus.” Estius.

7 18. The Ministration of the Spirit superior to that of the Law

7. But if the ministration of death ] He does not say ‘which causeth,’ but ‘the ministration of death,’ for that which caused death was sin, while the Law made the sin manifest, but did not cause it. Chrysostom. See Romans 7:7 ; 1 Corinthians 15:56 ; Galatians 3:10 , Galatians 3:21 . As St Paul was the minister of Christ when he proclaimed the good tidings of salvation to mankind, so the law was the minister of death when it proclaimed the sentence of death to the soul that had sinned. See Ezekiel 18:4 .

written and engraven in stones ] Wiclif, nearer to the original, writun lettris in stones . The reference is to the two tables of the law, Exodus 31:18 . Some editors read ‘the ministration of death in the letter , engraved in stones.’

was glorious ] Perhaps rather, was constituted, came into being , in glory, i.e. accompanied by glory. Exodus 19:16-20 , Exodus 24:6-11 , Exodus 34:4-8 .

so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold (literally, gaze at ) the face of Moses ] The brightness of God’s glory was reflected upon the face of Moses (Exodus 34:29 , Exodus 34:30 ) to such an extent that the children of Israel dared not approach him. See note on v. 13. The Hebrew word used for the rays of light emitted by Moses’ face is derived from a word signifying a horn , according to a simile common among Eastern writers by which the first rays of the sun are called horns, and even the sun itself a gazelle by the Arabs. This the Vulgate renders by cornuta , a rendering which, as Dr Plumptre reminds us, has been the cause why the celebrated Moses of Michael Angelo, familiar to all who have visited Rome and to many who have not, is represented with beams of light in the shape of horns upon the head.

which glory was to be done away ] Rather, was being brought to nought . The original meaning of the word rendered ‘ done away ,’ which (see note on 1 Corinthians 13:8 ) is rendered in various ways in the A. V. is to make thoroughly useless or unprofitable , and hence to do away with, abolish, bring to nought . The Apostle does not mean to say here that the brightness on Moses’ face was destined to fade, but that it was fading .

8. How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious ?] Literally, how shall not the ministration of the spirit rather be in glory, i.e. if the brightness which was actually fading was so glorious that the Israelites could not bear to look at it, how much more shall the ministration of the spirit, which is not destined to be transitory, be and remain glorious. The preposition ἐν denotes the permanency of the glory, the future tense of the verb indicates that whatever the glory of the Gospel dispensation now, there are greater glories in store. All this glory proceeds from the fact that it is the spirit of a Living God that the new dispensation ministers. See v . 3.

9. For if the ministration of condemnation be glory ] Dampnacioun , Wiclif, and similarly the Rhemish version. The law must be understood to be a ministry of condemnation, “not in itself and in its own nature, but accidentally, in consequence of man’s corruption,” Turretin. So St Paul explains in Romans 7:12-14 ; Galatians 3:23 ; and 1 Timothy 1:8-10 . Cf. also Hebrews 12:18-21 and note on v . 7.

much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory ] Or, abound . See last note but one. The Gospel was the ministration of righteousness because righteousness was imparted by the indwelling of the Spirit of the Living God ( v . 3). See notes on v . 6; also Rom. 3:21, cf. ch. 5:21.

10. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth ] Rather, For even that which has been glorified (i.e. the face of Moses, typical of the Law) has not been glorified in this respect (i.e. in comparison of the New Covenant. The Geneva Version renders ‘in this point ’ see ch. 9:3, where the expression occurs again, also the received text in 1 Peter 4:16 ) on account of the glory (i.e. of the New Covenant) which surpasses (it). Other explanations of the passage have been given, but Bp. Wordsworth, who places this passage and the LXX. of Exodus 34:0 in parallel columns, shews how St Paul throughout this chapter is using the very words of the LXX., which must therefore be the index to his meaning. He paraphrases thus: “that was glorified , but glorious as it was, it was not glorified in one respect that is, it was not glorified relatively to and in comparison with the Evangelical Ministry, which far transcends its glory, and absorbs it.”

11. For if that which is done away ] Rather, is (or was) being done away. See note on v . 7.

was glorious ] Literally, was by means of , or through glory, i.e. was accompanied with, or seen through a haze of glory. See note on v . 7.

much more that which remaineth is glorious ] Literally, is in glory , i.e. as a permanent attribute. Some, however, think that the Apostle often uses different prepositions (see last note) to express the same meaning. The passages, however, to which they refer, though they render this view probable, do not establish it as a fact beyond the reach of doubt.

12. Seeing then that we have such hope ] i.e. the hope that the Christian covenant is one of which the glory is permanent.

we use great plainness of speech] Trist (i.e. trust) Wiclif. Boldness , Tyndale and Cranmer. The translation boldness of speech we owe to the Geneva version. The word means originally (1) fulness or frankness of speech . Hence it comes to mean (2) openness, frankness generally, and hence (3) boldness, intrepidity. The former is the meaning here. St Paul contrasts the fulness and frankness of the Gospel on all matters relating to the future of man with the mysterious silence of the Law (i.e. the books of Moses), which hardly in the most distant manner allude to a future life. It may be remarked that even Jesus Christ himself used much reserve (Matthew 8:4 , Matthew 9:30 , Matthew 12:16 , Matthew 13:10-13 , Matthew 16:20 , Matthew 17:9 ) until His work on earth was finished. Then (Matthew 28:19 ; Mark 16:15 ) He decreed that this reserve should cease for ever. “We speak everywhere with freedom, keeping back nothing, concealing nothing, suspecting nothing, but speaking plainly.” Chrysostom. “A ministry whose very life is outspokenness and free fearlessness which scorns to take a via media because it is safe in the eyes of the world.” Robertson.

13. And not as Moses ] i.e. we do not act as Moses did, who put a veil on his face.

that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished ] The Greek implies that Moses placed the veil on his face after speaking to the people that they might not see the glory on his face fading. The LXX. of v . 33 implies the same thing, and the Vulgate still more explicitly. The Hebrew is ambiguous, from the want of a pluperfect tense in that language. But the LXX. in vv . 34, 35, as well as the Hebrew, imply that Moses veiled his countenance on account of the terror with which its brightness inspired the Israelites. The latter says expressly that he kept his face unveiled until he came forth from speaking to God. So St Paul seems to imply himself in v . 7. The fact seems to be that St Paul, as is extremely common with him, and as occurs several times in this chapter (as in v . 3 and v . 18) gives the simile he is employing another direction. He has been contrasting the glory of the Mosaic with that of the Christian dispensation. He adduces the latter as a reason for the transparent sincerity of which he had boasted in ch. 2:17. He proceeds to contrast that absence of reserve with the reticence of Moses in the law. The figure of the veil once more occurs to him as an illustration of the fact that the Jews were not, for reasons which are obvious enough, encouraged to look upon the Law as a transitory dispensation (though sometimes hints of this kind were vaguely thrown out, as in the celebrated passage in Deuteronomy 18:15 , Deuteronomy 18:18 , Deuteronomy 18:19 ); not allowed to see the gradual extinction of that glory which had seemed to them so great, and whose greatness was the surest guarantee of their obedience. Many commentators have supposed here an allusion to Christ as the end of the law (Romans 10:4 ). But Olshausen pertinently asks, “How could St Paul say that Moses covered his countenance in order that the Israelites should not behold Christ?”

is abolished ] Literally, was being brought to nought . See note on v . 7.

14. But their minds were blinded ] They neither obeyed the Law when it was given, nor would cease to obey it when it was superseded. The word rendered blinded properly signifies hardened, and is so translated in Mark 6:52 , Mark 6:8 :17; John 12:40 ; and in the margin of Romans 11:7 (where the text gives the same translation as here). See also Ephesians 4:18 . The rendering blinded is justified by the fact that many cases of what is called cataract are attributable to the hardening of the crystalline lens of the eye into a chalky substance, a process for which the Greek word here used is a proper equivalent. Our version here follows Tyndale. Wiclif has but the wittis of hem ben astonied , and the Rhemish but their senses were dulled . For the word translated minds see note on ch. 2:11. Cf. Isaiah 6:9 , Isaiah 6:10 ; Matthew 13:14 , &c., and ch. 4:4. The word but implies that in consequence of the condition of the Israelites the Apostle’s plainness of speech was, to them at least, of no avail.

remaineth the same vail untaken away ] Most modern commentators, and some ancient ones, e.g. Chrysostom, take the words rendered untaken away with what follows, and translate the same veil remaineth at the reading of the old covenant, it not being discovered that it is done away in Christ . The reasons for this rendering are (1) that it is not the veil but the old covenant with its glories which is ‘done away in Christ,’ (2) that St Paul uses another word in the original to signify the taking away of the veil, and (3) that the hardness of the hearts of the Israelites, and not the doing away of the veil in Christ, is the reason the veil is not removed. This hardness of heart prevented them (1) from seeing that the Mosaic was a temporary covenant, and (2) that it was rendered unnecessary by the coming of Christ. See Acts 6:11 , Acts 6:13 , Acts 6:7 :57, Acts 6:13 :45, Acts 6:14 :2, 21:20, 21, &c.; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 . The word here translated ‘untaken away’ is translated ‘open,’ i.e. ‘unveiled’ in v . 18.

in the reading of the old testament ] The words old covenant (see note on v . 6) refer, as v . 15 shews, not to the books we now include in the Old Testament, but to the books of Moses. It could hardly be said that to the prophets the abrogation of the Old Testament in Christ was a thing unknown. See Jeremiah 31:31 above cited. For the regular reading of the books of the Law in the synagogue, see Acts 13:15 , Acts 15:21 . The prophets were also read, as we learn from the former passage (and also v . 27) and St Luke 4:17 .

15. the vail is upon their heart ] Literally, a veil lieth on their heart . Not upon their head. It was moral, not intellectual blindness which caused their unbelief. See Acts 6:13 , Acts 6:14 , Acts 6:7 :51, 22:18, 21, 22. We may remark on the change of figure here (see note on v . 13). The veil is no longer upon Moses’ face, but upon the Jewish heart.

16. when it shall turn to the Lord ] The A. V. makes (1) Israel’s heart the nominative to the verb in this sentence. Wiclif and the other Protestant translators (2) make Israel itself the nominative, while (3) the Rhemish version makes Moses the nominative, referring to the fact that in the narrative in Exodus 34:0 he is said in almost the same words as here, to remove the veil when he turns to God. Origen (4) would supply any one . Each rendering is defended by commentators of note, but the first seems preferable. Cf. Romans 11:23 , Romans 11:26 , Romans 11:32 .

the vail shall be taken away ] The tense in the original is present, not future, and may be interpreted, (1) with Bp. Wordsworth, ‘is in process of removal,’ or perhaps better, (2) with Dean Alford, is there and then removed , i.e. at the moment when the heart turns to the Lord, just as Moses took off the veil when he turned to speak to God. See also Isaiah 25:7 . It is to be observed that these words are a quotation of the LXX. of Exodus 34:34 , substituting, however, the present for the past tense.

17. Now the Lord is that Spirit ] Literally the spirit , i.e. the spirit which was to replace the letter. The sense is as follows: ‘The Lord (of whom I have just spoken see last verse) is the spirit of which I have said ( v . 6) that it should be substituted for the letter.’ For the Lord, even Jesus Christ, is Himself that new power that higher inspiration through which man finds what he ought to do written, no longer in precepts external to himself, but in his own regenerate heart. The new birth of the Spirit is but the implanting in man the humanity of Jesus Christ. ‘The last Adam was made a life-giving spirit.’ 1 Corinthians 15:45 . This expression like John 4:24 , refers, not to the person , but to the essential nature of God, just as in John 6:63 , the expression is applied even to the words of God, when they communicate to man essential principles of God’s spiritual kingdom. Cf. also John 1:13 , John 1:3 :3, John 1:5 ; Romans 8:2 , Romans 8:4 . Other explanations of this most difficult passage have been given. (1) ‘The Spirit is the Lord,’ (Chrysostom); and he remarks on the order of the words in the Greek of St John 4:24 in support of his translation. (2) ‘The Lord is identical with the Holy Spirit.’ (3) ‘The Lord with Whom Moses spoke is the Holy Spirit.’ (4) ‘The Lord is the Holy Ghost in so far as the Holy Ghost is the living principle of the indwelling of Christ.’ (5) ‘The Lord no dout is a sprete,’ Tyndale, whom Cranmer follows. It seems on the whole best to interpret the words as above. St Paul now boldly declares that the ‘spirit’ of which he has spoken is nothing less than Christ Himself.

and where the Spirit of the Lord is ] Hitherto St Paul has been speaking of the Divine Nature of Him who transforms the heart of man. He now speaks of the personal agency through Whom that work is achieved. Christ does these things by His Spirit, who is also the Spirit of the Father. Romans 8:9 . Cf. also Galatians 4:6 ; Philippians 1:19 ; 1 Peter 1:11 , with St John 14:16 , John 14:17 , John 14:26 , John 14:15 :26; 1 Corinthians 2:10-12 , &c. This interpretation involves no incongruity with the rest of the passage. The Three Persons in the Blessed Trinity are one in essence, and that essence is Spirit. But the personal agency whereby God works His purpose in man’s heart is the Holy Spirit, as Scripture everywhere declares. See the passages cited above.

there is liberty ] Liberty not only to speak openly ( v . 12), but ( v . 18) to gaze with unveiled face upon the glory of God, and thus to learn how to fulfil the law of man’s being. This liberty is the special privilege assured to man by the Gospel. See John 8:32 ; Romans 6:18 , Romans 6:22 , Romans 6:8 :2; James 1:25 , James 1:2 :12; 1 Peter 2:16 .

18. But we all ] i.e. we Christians, in contradistinction to the Jews.

with open face ] i.e. unveiled. Cf. 1 Corinthians 11:7 .

beholding as in a glass ] Either (1), according to the more ordinary meaning of the word, ‘ beholding as in a mirror,’ or (2) with Chrysostom, ‘ reflecting as in a mirror.’ The latter rendering makes the rest of the verse more intelligible, and has the additional recommendation that the glory on Moses’ face was a reflected glory, which we may suppose grew more and more intense the longer he gazed on God with unveiled face. The former interpretation sets Christ before us as the mirror of the Father’s glory. See next note.

the glory of the Lord ] i.e. of Christ, Who is the beaming forth ( ἀπαύγασμα ) of God’s glory, Heb. 1:3, cf. John 1:14 , and His image, ch. 4:4 (and note) and Colossians 1:15 . Also John 17:24 .

are changed into ] This word is rendered transfigured in Matthew 17:2 ; Mark 9:2 , and no doubt the idea of the gradual beaming out of the inner glory which dwelt in Christ, producing a metamorphosis (this is the actual word used) which excited the wonder and awe of those that beheld it, was in St Paul’s mind in this passage. He uses the word in another place, Romans 12:2 , where the idea of the Transfiguration and that suggested in this passage are combined, in order to express the marvellous inward change which takes place in the man who offers his heart to the transforming influences which flow out from Christ.

the same image ] These words are emphatic in the original. It seems impossible to interpret them of any other but Christ (ch. 4:4), ‘into the same image as Christ.’ He, as man, beholding the glory of God, with infinitely more fulness than Moses under the Law, turns to speak with us. We behold Him, not, as the Jews, with veiled heart, but with unveiled face, and as we gaze, we reflect back more and more of His image (cf. 1 John 3:2 ), until it be fully formed in us. Galatians 4:19 .

from glory to glory ] i.e. from one stage of glory to another . Cf. Romans 1:17 , and note on ch. 2:16.

even as by the Spirit of the Lord ] Three renderings are given of this passage. The first, which is the Vulgate rendering and is given in the text, needs no explanation. It is open to the objection that it inverts the order of the words in the Greek. The second is the natural grammatical rendering, ‘ as by the Lord of the Spirit .’ The third, which is found in the margin of the A. V. and is adopted by St Chrysostom (who, however, interprets the passage of the Holy Spirit), ‘ as by ( of , A. V.) the (or a ) Lord, the (or a ) spirit ,’ seems to give the best sense. For it refers us back to v . 17 and to the former part of the chapter. The change that takes place in us is a spiritual change (see 1 Corinthians 2:0 , and notes on v . 6). It is not affected by formal enactments, which at best can but condemn, but it is the work of a Lord who works within, Who sends forth the beams of His light that they may transform, not the outer surface, but the heart, that so the man may reflect back undimmed thence the glorious Light that has shined on him. And so the man into whose heart the Light of Christ has entered progresses from one stage of spiritual glory to another, until at last (Romans 8:29 ) he becomes fully conformed to the image of the Son of God.

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"Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.